I've had a number of people ask me, "so, what is attachment parenting?" or "Why do you do that?" Attachment parenting was a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears who explains it as a style of parenting that most of us would do if there were no baby books written. I'm not 100% sure about that for everyone, but for me, it's very likely true. In a nutshell, attachment parenting is making choices that help you to know your baby best and therefore be better suited to follow their cues. Some of the common choices of attachment parents are: "on-cue" feeding (breastfeeding whenever possible), co-sleeping, babywearing, child-respectful weaning, and overall just loving your baby. You don't have to do all of those things to be an "attachment parent" (well, minus the loving your baby thing!), but they really help you to know your baby. Of course, individual application advised and necessary. If you're interested in attachment parenting, your best resources is The Baby Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears.
So, why attachment parenting for me? Well, that's a little bit of a journey. My baby Hyrum was brought into this world with an epidural, a bassinet, a stroller, disposable diapers, and I was committed to breastfeeding as long as it worked. I wanted to give birth without an epidural but figured I didn't have it in me. I was pretty sure co-sleeping would wreck a marriage. While I had a Moby Wrap from the beginning and planned on using it extensively, I was turned off by comments I'd read about "sling wearing" parents who were basically destroying their children's lives. And, I was scared about breastfeeding while in school.
Then, little by little, things changed. Breastfeeding felt like the most natural thing in the world. I had intentions of getting my baby "on a schedule" and had even been told by one of my favorite profs that my baby was "manipulating" me to be held more. What a load! At the time though, I was sure she must know more than me. So, I started to worry. I started pulling back from my baby, worrying that he was truly "manipulating" me, and moved him to the crib in the next room.
And then it hit me one day. I was sitting alone with my baby and I had this terrifying thought, "I don't know how to tell when you're hungry or tired anymore! I used to know but now I don't!" I'm not joking--I really did have this thought. One thing I did know for sure, I didn't want to let my baby cry to sleep. I just didn't have the heart for it. One day I was browsing on the internet for baby sleep books and came across one called, "The No-cry Sleep Solution." I thought, now that's my kind of baby book!
I checked it out from the library and in the section about babies under four months of age, she includes some references. Two of which were Attachment Parenting by Katie Allison Garanju and The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. I checked out The Baby Book from the BYU library and began learning about the principles of attachment parenting. Back up a couple months and the ONLY exposure I had to attachment parenting was from a book called On Becoming Babywise which, in short, isn't a big fan of attachment style parenting. (We should note that while I was reading this book I had two thoughts, "This attachment parenting thing sound awful" and "this attachment parenting thing sound amazing.") I was a little torn. Now what to do...
Well, I did what any sensible person would do. I put it on hold. I was in the middle of trying to finish up my graduate degree and was remarkably insecure as a new mom. I just didn't want to deal with it right then. So I didn't.
About the time that we were moving to Canada, I found myself with a lot more time on my hands. I started reading. Internet sites, child development materials, Dr. Sears's book, and talking with other moms. The main draw for me: Attachment parents were absolutely in love with their children. They had great marriages; healthy, thriving babies; and were remarkably confident in their parenting. Now that's the kind of mom I wanted to be! I was tired of worrying if I was doing things right. I was tired of worrying that my baby wasn't like all of the babies I had read in other books. I was tired of not believing that I knew what was best for my baby.
After some visits with our pediatrician, I was filled with confidence that our cue-fed baby was developing beautifully and was in excellent physical condition (isn't it great that rolly polly is great condition?) so I figured, "why not give this a shot?!"
During the move, I consistently co-slept with Hyrum because I figured it was best with all of the different living spaces to always have one constant--me! When we moved into our apartment in Calgary, we tried to put him in the crib and he just wouldn't take it. Brennan and I had some discussions about what we thought was best and we decided the following things were important to us: couple time, quality sleep, and not crying it out. So we concocted our own way of doing things--musical beds. Hyrum sleeps in his crib for the first part of the night and we bring him to bed with us after the first night feeding. It's been a glorious way for us to have the best of all worlds. Nothing is sweeter to me than seeing my husband cuddle with our baby in the morning when we wake up. Tellin' ya girls,a man is never so attractive as when he is being so wonderful and gentle with a baby.
Next up was babywearing. This one mostly came out of convenience. We have etched concrete floors in the main part of our new apartment. Even by putting a blanket down on them, they're awfully hard. I don't really like putting Hyrum down on them and if I need to do something in the kitchen, I don't like leaving him at the other end of the house by himself. The Moby Wrap became my best friend. Also, since we live in a basement apartment, I absolutely hate dragging that stroller up our narrow stairs. I do from time to time but if I don't have to, then I figure why do it?
On-cue breastfeeding was something we were already doing. I tried scheduling Hyrum when he was a new baby and it just didn't feel right so I stopped. So, not much change there.
As far as weaning goes, we're just not there yet. I thought about introducing solids at 4 months but after doing some research, we decided to wait until at least 6 months. Hyrum does show interest in solids but he basically shows interest in just about anything that could (or couldn't) go in his mouth so I figured that wasn't a good enough of a reason and by feeding on-cue, his body doesn't need solids to stay full.
There are the individual choices but added up, the main reason I "do" attachment parenting is because I feel so much more confident in my parenting. I feel like I know my baby so well and know how to make choices that are good for him and for me. Though I thought this way of parenting would feel too "baby centered" (which is definitely what it sounds like), I actually have such a wonderful relationship with Hyrum now that I feel privileged to spend this kind of time on him. In fact, applying the principles of attachment parenting has really helped with my postpartum depression. I feel much more confident and "whole."
Now here's the big question: Am I spoiling him? I don't think so. For one, across the board, child development specialists agree that you can't spoil a child in the first year of life. Needs and wants are the same thing and that by helping them to meet their needs now, they will be more independent as they grow. Also, I really like a quote from Dr. Sear's book that basically says that spoiling is something we do when we leave food on a shelf to rot. I think the only way I could spoil him is if I replace what he really needs (loving parents, human interactions, touch, etc.) with things. By spending time on him rather than relying on a ton of toys to entertain him, I feel that I'm teaching him what really matters in this world--people, relationships, and his family. And that's why I'm an attachment parent.