V. >> The terms “attachment parenting” used to make me cringe. I would go to my favourite mommy blogs, and read about all of these women talking about their parenting style; prolonged breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing are concepts that are “primal” to humans, yet not practiced very much by modern humans.
I have to admit that, until very recently, I had this image of women who used AP methods as over-compensating for their damaged relationships when they were kids. I could only imagine the AP-raised children once they were 5 years old – attached at the hip with their moms, unable to be independent (which is one of the most important traits in North American culture). Have I had a change of heart? I have to admit, that yes, I did!
My change of heart happened when I realized that, instinctively, I myself practice most “AP” practices. Although I do not breastfeed (not by choice), I do use a baby carrier (actually, my baby is napping in it right now as I type this blog post!), my baby does sometimes sleep in my bed with me…
I decided that I wanted to write a series on AP parenting, because it raises so many questions, and makes for such great conversations on parenting. I therefore decided to buy Dr. Sears’ book and reserve judgment until I listened to their approach completely.
What I read, I mostly agreed with. I agree that it is best not to let an infant “cry it out”. After all, if an infant is crying, it is because they need something –whether it be that they are hungry, cold, scared, or just need to feel their parents warmth. Deep within myself, I feel that letting a child cry it out when he or she is a very young baby will only lead the child to learn that his or her parents don’t care when they are crying, and lead to an insecurely attached child later on.
I believe in the practicality of baby-wearing in some (but not all) situations. If you want to go to a restaurant, bring a baby sling! You’ll be able to enjoy a quiet meal, and your baby will sleep most of the time, and will cry a lot less if he or she is nestled onto you ;). Walking with a stroller in 5 cm of snow is a pain in my butt. Strapping my baby to me when I need to walk around in winter is a good solution! Baby-wearing also allows you to do some household chores when your baby is fussy or wants to nap (don’t try unloading a dishwasher with the baby in the sling though… You’ll break your back). I remember one time where I was trying to put plastic coverings on my window, and my baby kept crying. I put her in the wrap, started the blow dryer again, and my baby went right to sleep, allowing me to finish the task at hand.
However, baby wearing isn’t a “perfect” solution – I can’t walk around all day with my 4 month-old in the wrap (even if my wrap is known as the most ergonomic around) – I get gigantic backaches if I have her in too long. Also, like I mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to empty the dishwasher with the baby in a wrap. And sometimes, a stroller is way too practical to give up. Therefore, while the book on AP parenting recommends NOT buying strollers, vibrating chairs, swings and the such, I say “go crazy”. They’ve saved my life! There is nothing more practical than putting my baby in her vibrating chair while I pump or make food. She can see me, play with her toys, and smiles the entire time.
I don’t feel too comfortable talking about the prolonged breastfeeding aspect since I myself don’t breastfeed. However, Dr. Sears advocates the use of breastfeeding as much as a tool to feed your child as to comfort them when they are feeling sad, as a way to get them to sleep, as a way to spend time gazing into each others’ eyes and bond… They advocate prolonged breastfeeding more for the emotional benefits than for the physical benefits. I have to admit being uncomfortable with the idea of a 2 year old breastfeeding. If they have teeth and can talk, maybe there are other ways of comforting them that doesn’t involved my “ninnies” as the author calls them.
Finally, co-sleeping. I feel torn on this one. There are times where I do use co-sleeping as a way to comfort my baby during restless nights. However, my main fear is that she’ll have a difficult time learning to sleep by herself. Reading the book did nothing to assuage that fear. The authors go through a few pages of recommendations on how to transition an older child into their own bed (they themselves co-slept with their children until the age of 5). All these tactics seem a lot more complicated than having your baby sleep in their own crib from the beginning… :S
Dr. Sears believes that, if you follow your instincts, you will naturally AP. I have a difficult time with this, only because sometimes it’s hard to tell between an instinct and a need to overcompensate for our own hook-ups and shortcomings. I also believe that different people have different instincts, and not all people would “naturally” fall into their recommendations. AP might have been the way that our ancestors have parented out of need, but the needs of modern humans are different, and perhaps some practices used in certain contexts aren’t best adapted for use in our society.
Note however that the authors wrote an entire chapter on boundaries, on the difference between using AP tactics with babies and with children. They do note that children and babies have different needs, and it’s important not to confuse a child’s want with his needs. They also warn that it’s important to reflect on whether you are attached to your children or fused to them because of a trauma in your past. They do advise mothers to seek counselling if this is the case.
All in all, I don’t believe that AP is a bad parenting style. I just think that some people are attracted to it because it makes them feel as though all they need to do for their children to be happy is to love them and hold them close enough. If that’s the case, I’m wondering if they grasped the book in its entirety. I would recommend that they re-read it carefully… I think that it’s sad that what we hear of AP parenting in the media, on the Internet and from parents isn’t complete. I think that it’s sad that what we hear leads a lot of parents to conclude that AP parenting is completely unhealthy.
As Dr. Sears would say, use what works for you, and put the rest aside. And like I would say, use AP techniques in moderation, and remember that, as your baby grows, your techniques will have to change along with them.