"Attached Parenting" is the new buzz word, but many people wonder what it really means. It can mean different things to different people, but the main concept, or at least my interpretation of it, is parenting by meeting your baby's needs. Not just by meeting their physical needs for food and warmth, diaper changes and baths, but their emotional needs as well.
How many times have you heard, "If you pick that baby up every time he cries, your gonna spoil him", or "Let him just cry it out"? Probably alot! And, when you do, just ignore it! When you meet your baby's needs, you are not spoiling them.
Babies are completely helpless, and their only way of communicating with you is by crying. I know you know this already, but society has ingrained in our minds that if we hold the baby too much, they will always expect it and will grow up without leaving mama's side. Not true! By holding your baby, loving them and comforting them, you are teaching them to trust you. When we give babies what they need, they learn to have confidence in you, that you will be there for them, no matter what. This leads to confident, self-assured, independent toddlers and older children.
According to Dr. Jenn Berman, author of Superbaby, "You can not spoil a child with too much love or affection. You can, however, spoil a child by giving them too many things in place of affection."
They other thing I often hear is, "If you carry that baby all the time, they are going to expect it. You don't want to be carrying around a 5-year-old". Most 5-year-old's I know don't want to be held. Even as a baby begins to walk, they have independence and enjoy doing things on their own. Maybe that 5-year-old they were talking about was starved for mama's attention and their only way of getting it was by insisting they she carry him....
My approach to "attached parenting" is being with my baby as much as possible, to learn his cues and body language, and to give him reassurance that his needs would be met. That was accomplished by co-sleeping from day one, carrying him in my arms or a sling as much as possible, co-bathing and breastfeeding exclusively and for as long as he wants.
And here are the typical questions I get:
1) "How can you sleep with a baby in your bed?" Very easy. Nolan slept right next to me so I could breastfeed him as often as he needed. Babies have their own schedule, and you need to adapt to them. Many time he would sleep in his bed, which was a "Pak'n'play" (best thing to get - loved it!), which was right next to out bed, so all I had to do was pick him up and roll right back into bed. After awhile, we learned it was just best to keep in bed with us. He slept in his bed for naps, and when he got older and slept for longer stretches of time, but he always found his way back into our bed. He has always slept in our room. And, when he learned to climb out of his Pak'n'play, we put it away and he has been in our bed ever since. It gives him comfort and security. And, it is so much easier on me to breastfeed when he is in our bed. I can not imagine getting up to go to another room in the middle of the night! Yuck!
2) "You carried him all the time?" No, but alot. Again it depends on his needs. Sometimes he is fine and enjoys being in the stroller, so I take advantage of that. Other times, he wants to be held, so I do. It is no fun to push around a screaming baby in the mall. Pull out your sling, and carry your baby!
3) "Co-bathing?" Please read Bath Time for more details.
4) "Breastfeeding exclusively? Don't you get tired of that?" If you baby was born any time before the early 1900's, you would be breastfeeding them exclusively. Why should that change now? Babies are born to breastfeed! And mothers are made to provide! Please visit any of my posts labeled "breastfeeding" for the countless ways that breastfeeding and breast milk are superior, the amazing health benefits, cost benefits, etc. In fact, the immunological benefits of Mother's Milk continues to protect your child against illnesses no matter how old they are.
Breastfeeding also provides emotional support to babies and children. According to Le Leche League's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book), "It is when we view the breastfeeding experience as a whole, when we understand that the baby has emotional needs which can easily be satisfied through the closeness of breastfeeding, that it is hard to understand why we must set a specific time for ending this important, intimate relationship. If we do not satisfy these needs when our children are small, they may be as undernurished emotionally as they would be physically if they were deprived of in important nutrient in their diet." They go on say, " Keep in mind that all children wean eventually. Young children have a tremendous desire to move onto the next stage of development. Nursing a toddler is not something you strive for, but it is a part of a very special relationship between mother and child."
Nursing is security, especially to the ever-changing and exciting world of a baby. Refer back to the post The Breastfeeding Rollercoaster, to understand why babies nurse at certain times more then others.
The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding says, "Certainly there is not evidence that extended breastfeeding makes a child more dependent or harms him in any way. On the contrary, many parents proudly tell how independent, healthy, and exceptionally bright their long-term breastfed children become. As long as you are comfortable breastfeeding your toddler, there is no reason to stop." - And I agree!
Dr. William Sears, author and pediatrician, confirms this with his observation, "Some of the most physically and emotionally healthy children in my practice are those who have been breastfed in terms of years." Please check out this link on Ask Dr Sears about what Attached Parenting is and the benefits.
Alot of people like to voice their opinion, and mostly it is out of love and true sincerity, but too many times, mothers are pressured by family, friends or society to conform to a specific routine. Just because something worked for one mother, doesn't mean it will work for you. Trust your instincts! One thing that Yoga has taught me, it to trust my body, my thoughts and my intuition to make the best possible decision for myself and my family. To think inward, instead of outward. To let go of worries, criticism and judgement. Do not be afraid to "mother" your baby. If your baby needs you to lay down with them to sleep, then lay down with them. If he likes to nurse to go to sleep or after a meal, then do that. They will not nurse forever, they will learn to go to sleep on their own in their own room, they will be able to leave you without crying and they will no longer ask to be held. When that day comes, won't you want to look back and know that you provided them with the confidence to face to world and the assurance that they can always come back for a hug from mom?
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book)
The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby
Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping
Permission to Mother: Going Beyond the Standard-of-Care to Nurture Our Children