This post is about my journey and decisions as a parent trying to figure out the best way for my husband and I to raise our children. While we believe this approach is the best for our family, we do not judge anyone who chooses a different path. I will attempt to provide as many resources as I can for those of you who want to learn more about attachment parenting in addition to my own experiences. As always comments and discussions are welcomed. All respectful comments will be approved regardless of whether or not you agree with me.
Ok, now that that is out of the way... Where do I begin? I guess I'll just start at the beginning.
We found out we were pregnant a little over one year ago. It was February 13th, I was exactly one month pregnant and we were ecstatic! I wasted little time before I began researching everything from baby gear to hospital ratings and parenting advice. I read a ton of reviews and safety recalls on all kinds of baby products. I read blog post after blog post on the best gear for baby, baby survival guides and maternity and postpartum must haves. Which is why it strikes me as odd, looking back, that I so poorly neglected the actual parenting subject so thoroughly. I read exactly one book that could be considered parenting advice before my son was born called The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp M.D. I admittedly only read this book because I had an "experience" shall we call it during my pregnancy that made me fear a colicky baby and subsequently not being able to calm said baby. For what it's worth this book does provide some basic insights into the needs of a newborn and some simple techniques to calm a crying baby.
Although I had shied away from researching parenting styles I had heard about attachment parenting and even seen a segment on the Katie Couric show about it. I'll be honest, I thought it was complete crap. Without really knowing the principles, science or anything about it, I wrote it off as a hippy dippy trippy, crunchy crunchy granola, (insert favorite hippy reference here) load of malarkey. Needless to say I wasn't buying it. I should have known better considering how much I love granola. I had a pretty concrete idea in my head of how I was and wasn't going to parent my child. It included such absolutes as "my child will never sleep in my bed... That's dangerous, crazy, etc" "Our baby will sleep in it's bassinet in our room until he/she only wakes once a night for a feeding... You know around 3 months (insert eye roll here), then it's into his/her own room in the "big" crib." "I'll breastfeed as long as I can or until the baby gets teeth, there's no way I'm nursing something with teeth." Yes I actually said that last one... I could go on but I think you can already tell how painfully unaware (tragically naive, stupid, cocky) I was. If you have children you are probably having a good laugh at my expense right about now. Go ahead, get it out... feel better? You can probably all guess what happened next... The baby came, a perfect blue eyed, 8 lb 3 oz, squishy bundle of baby boy bliss. After 33 hours of labor and two days at the hospital we brought him home with a smile on our faces and a tear in our eyes...
And then shit got real.
Our perfect baby screamed the whole first night, mostly due to my milk coming in late. We supplemented for the next few days and for a few weeks after that (more on my breastfeeding woes later). We were exhausted, I was hysterical. Somewhere in the middle of the delirium and crying jags my husband took our sweet baby, snuggled him on his chest and drifted off to sleep. I woke up groggy and a little panicked. When I asked my husband what he did to get him to sleep, he was unashamed... "I let him sleep on my chest" he said. Everything was ok. The baby didn't roll onto the floor, he didn't get trapped in between my husband and the couch cushions, and SIDS didn't strike our new baby... but as you can see I was more than a little nervous about letting our baby sleep this way. The hospital and every parenting resource out there warns against letting your baby sleep on you, on it's stomach, with a blanket, etc., etc. it goes on and on. Every night I tried to put him in his bassinet, only to have him cry and pick him right back up. Not only is it damn near impossible for a new mom, or anyone with a heart, to let a baby cry, we don't believe in the "cry it out" method. Babies need us, especially when the are small. They cannot control you, or manipulate you, their wants are their needs, period. So with a guilt ridden heart I would snuggle my baby to sleep and let him sleep as long as he could right there on my chest on the living room couch. Every night that passed I thanked the heavens that nothing "bad" happened as I continued my obsession of reading every parenting book and article I could get my hands. Every one detailing just how dangerous our sleeping arrangements were, I was drowning in a sea of guilt and sleep deprivation. What I really needed was answers and support.
I can't quite remember the sequence of events or how they went about unfolding but somewhere after those first 3 weeks I started to not feel as guilty. After combing Amazon for sleep training books (convinced my son just needed some help sleeping) I found some parenting resources that were anti-CIO (cry it out) and I stumbled upon a book called Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping by James J. McKenna. I think it saved my sanity... no lie. This book got me past my guilt and shame and got me to move off the couch (which is actually unsafe for cosleeping) and tear down our bed so that I could sleep and nurse comfortably with my precious baby. That book led me to the myriad of great resources provided by the Sears family. I won't go into their life stories here but suffice it to say they are the authority on attachment parenting and they come backed with decades and generations worth of knowledge and examples from their own lives and their successful pediatric practice. If you are looking to get started with attachment parenting or just want to learn more about it, in a non-judgy or preachy format check out The Attachment Parenting Book: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears (check out the recommended reading section at the bottom of this post for more helpful resources). Their book The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family was also extremely helpful. The lingering sleep issues we had were related to a breast feeding issue so make sure you find some good breastfeeding support either online or locally. There are some great support groups on Facebook including The Badass Breastfeeder and The Leaky B@@b. The La Leche League International is also a great place to connect to people and you can search your local area to find a local support group, which I highly recommend (their website is here).
Since then I have immersed myself in this parenting style, not because it's trendy or because one of these books told me to, we parent this way because every time we read more we said "hmm, this makes sense" and when we put it into practice we said "hmm, this feels right." Our attachment parenting looks different than everyone else's and that's ok too. We do what works for us and our baby and you should too. One of the best books I've read on learning how to trust your instincts and parent in a mindful way is, Mayim Bialik's Beyond the Sling: A real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. She also has a great reference section and I am currently working my way through the few books she recommends that I haven't already read. By the way all of the above referenced books are recommended by Mayim as well (although I wish I would have read her book first).
Through all of this we have learned the most important parenting lesson of all... trust yourself and your instincts and be flexible. There is no greater disservice you can do to you or your child than to pigeon hole yourself into one parenting style or philosophy that doesn't allow for customization. Your kid is not my kid and what is best for my baby might not work for your baby at all. That's what is so great about this style of parenting, it speaks to what feels natural, it shows you how to learn and respond to your baby's needs. It's how you might have parented had you had children before the internet and a million societal pressures were placed on you as a new parent. Supporters of attachment parenting get a bad wrap from some. I think it's because they are often seen as fanatical but once you educate yourself you might be surprised to find yourself singing the praises of attachment parenting or more likely finding out that you were really an attachment parent all along.
The Attachment Parenting Book: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears
The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family by William and Martha Sears & Family
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two by William and Martha Sears
Beyond The Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bailik P.H.D.
Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Better by Harvey Karp M.D.
The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt PH.D and Frans Plooij
Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson and Lisa Parker
Le Leche League International
Attachment Parenting International