Attachment Parenting

Wearing Henry

I wear my children.  Many people that I know, that I see regularly, have never seen Hank ‘unslung’.  I have a Baby Bjorn, an Ergo, a Mai Tai, and a Moby Wrap to assist.  I even think I also have a sling hiding somewhere.  As of his last doctor’s appointment–his six month visit–Hank weighed 20 pounds, 4 ounces, so wearing him is no light undertaking.  (puns always intended)   I have no intention of stopping anytime soon, either.

I occasionally co-sleep.  We put Hank to bed in his bassinet, which is right next to my side of the bed, and when he wakes up in the night to eat, I bring him into bed, nurse him, and we fall asleep.  Most times, I don’t wind up putting him back into the bassinet.

I breastfeed my kids.  And I do it for as long as they want.  Oliver nursed until he was 18 months old–I was about three months pregnant with Hazel, and I guess the consistency of my milk changed and he just wasn’t that into it anymore.  I nursed Hazel until she was between 18 and 20 months, and honestly, I think I should have breastfed her longer, but I let the fact that my colleagues at work were totally freaked out about it influence me to the point that I weaned her before she was ready.  I plan on nursing Hank until he decides we should be done.

Based on this, I guess I fit the definition of attachment parenting.

And, based on the Time magazine article I just read (you know, the one with the scandalous cover that swept Facebook in an uproar and got everyone’s tongues wagging), I fit the definition of attachment parenting.

And I would say that I attachment parent, and I do so proudly.

But I’m not a crazy person.  And the Time article makes us sound like we’re crazy.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who are attachment parents who become helicopter parents, who won’t let go of their kids, who sacrifice their personal relationships so they can be attached to their kids… but I don’t feel like I that’s me, and I don’t feel like most people who practice attachment parenting are probably like that either.

The article says:

Mothers seem divided into several camps. Some… attend to every whimper, stay home and happily cuddle their babies 24 hours a day… Other mothers–particularly those who work or have multiple children–endorse the idea of maternal closeness (who doesn’t?) but think that [Dr.] Sears is out of his mind. Modern parenting literature, after all, is full of advice about getting babies on manageable schedules, a Sears no-no, and baby stores are brimming with devices in which parents can park their babies to get much needed breaks.
A third category includes mothers caught in the middle. These parents try to achieve Sears’ ideal of nursing, baby wearing and co-sleeping but fall short for some reason and find themselves immobilized by their seeming parental inadequacy.

I don’t hold myself up to some ideal or some philosophy and then feel I fall short.  I don’t parent the way that I do because a doctor told me to (actually, most doctors have tried to dissuade me from the style of parenting that I do), nor because my family or friends think I should.  I am an attachment parent because it is what comes naturally to me.

When Oliver was a baby, we tried letting him cry it out… and it didn’t work.  It didn’t work for me, it didn’t work for Oliver; nobody was sleeping and nobody was happy.  When Hazel came along, I decided to follow my instincts about it.  I carried Hazel in the Moby wrap for ages, and then switched between the Ergo and the Bjorn when she was a bit older, and she would sleep all day and all night.  She hardly ever cried.  Seriously—hardly ever cried.  And the same goes for Hank.

The article sets people up to either be crazy (attachment parents), distant (non-attachment parents) or depressed (everyone else).  I feel like this is yet another example of an article that is trying to create a mommy war that doesn’t really exist.  Two of my neighbors had babies within six weeks of Hank, and all of us parent differently.  But when we bring our babies outside, we aren’t judging each other.  We’re asking for advice for our specific problems we’re having.  We’re being supportive of each other.  We are friends, and one of the things that we have in common is babies.

So, why do I parent the way that I do?  If there is anything that having three kids has taught me is that the cliché about kids growing up so fast is too true.  My first baby boy is six years old now, reads chapter books, is performing a skit in his elementary school’s variety show, and whines and tattles and makes up songs about how much he loves his mom.  He’s a kid.  My first baby girl is four, and she can’t look you in the eye for thirty seconds without making a face at you to make you laugh, who practices cartwheels every day, and who will not leave the house unless she is wearing a tutu or a dress.  How the heck did that happen?  My baby, my sweet newest baby is already more than half a year old.  He is growing up too fast.

So, right now, while he’s little, I want to have him in my bed with me—because his breath is still sweet and his cheeks are the perfect amount of kissable.  And waking up to see his face right next to mine is achingly wonderful.  While he still regards me as the most beautiful, most wonderful, most perfect person in his world, I want to live up to that—I don’t want him to cry in his bed; I want him to know that he is loved unconditionally and that I will be there for him unconditionally.  He can wait to learn that sometimes he’ll fall down and it will hurt, and sometimes he will be lonely and it will be difficult.

And breastfeeding?  Well, that’s just good economic sense, let’s face it.  Have you seen the price of formula?  Plus, it’s super convenient, a good way to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip, and on a perfect day, a way to snuggle with the little one while watching the middle one practice cartwheels and listen to the biggest one tell me all about his school projects.