Attached Parenting is a label but you don’t have to have heard of it, studied it, or carefully adhere to it. The heart of it is to listen to and respond to your baby. No one ever hurt, spoiled, or confused a baby by listening to and responding to them. In fact, the practice of listening to and responding appropriately to 4 year olds, 12 year olds, 30 year olds, and 80 year olds alike will be found to increase mutual affection and respect, to produce a greater amount of common ground and shared feeling, to result in more, better, happier, and clearer communication and exchange of ideas, valuable to both parties.
Listening to and responding with love has never taught an individual to expect the world to revolve around them, but it has led individual’s to expect a certain degree of caring and kindness from those they choose to share their lives with. It teaches them to expect more than shallow friends, seek out better than “fair” romantic partners, and to care for others with honesty and integrity, free from agenda.
I urge you not to let social politics dissuade you from answering the needs of the helpless infant entrusted to you. I promise you that the bawling babe has no thought to manipulate you. What depths must a society fall to that such base motives could be assigned to our babies? Our BABIES?
And I remind you that taking care of ourselves and our needs is a full time job, that those of us blessed with parenthood are given a most impossible task in caring in full for the needs of another while we are supposed to be keeping ourselves going as well. If you need to use the bathroom and close the door to get some peace for one minute before you pick up that crying baby, I will not say that you have acted wrongly. Get what help you can in this task from your partner, your siblings, your friends, your parents, your neighbors, church, or community. Don’t kick yourself when your baby has to wait. Take a deep breath and allow yourself a little peace as you do what you need to do. This way you are more likely to be able to embrace your baby with love rather than resentment and in so doing you are more likely to comfort him and still his crying and fulfill you both.
And for those who wonder if some people take Attached Parenting to the extreme, and for those who ask Are You Mom Enough?…I encourage you not to close your minds to the possibility of breastfeeding, cosleeping, or babywearing out of hand. You make your parenting choices that work for you and your family and you cannot know, cannot even imagine, until you are a parent. And those of us who are breastfeeding, cosleeping and babywearing are doing it because it works for our families.
Yes, there are tons of wonderful reasons for me to nurse my babies, but it is no small thing to a mother of three that it is easier, faster, and simpler than any other feeding method. Do I enjoy not having to mix or prepare formula, store it in and out of the house, clean or disinfect bottles, pay for the pleasure of the extra work week in and week out, or try to stall a screaming baby in the middle of the night with stories of a bottle that will be ready soon? I do. I wont judge you if you do it a different way, but I’m doing what works for my family.
Cosleeping may reduce the risk of SIDS but since I breastfeed, it also means I don’t have to get up in the night. It means everyone in my house gets more sleep. It means I don’t have to strategize against my baby or toddler, battle planning how to get him or her to sleep in their own bed, forcing them to get used to sleeping alone, tricking them into thinking that I’m still there. I don’t have to listen to my baby crying while I count out the appropriate number of seconds or minutes before my strategic plan allows me to respond… That said, my first baby only slept with us for about 4 months because we did NOT sleep better together at that point. I laid her in her own bed with as much compassion, time, and patience as I could each and every time. It was not particularly easy, but it was worth it. See how I’m just doing what works for my family? The answer for your family is probably, whatever arrangement allows everyone to get the most sleep. Parents who “don’t cosleep” may also find that they let their child into their bed, or climb into their child’s bed in the middle of the night anyway when they are too tired to enforce the house rules. Why not embrace it and look forward to waking up in a family bed, sun streaming through the windows on sleeping angels of various sizes, waking up to a cuddlefest or a tickle war, or a pillow fight, or a good book read together?
To say that extreme “APers” even let their baby into their bed is, in my opinion, disingenuous. It implies that this is new, radical, and a major sacrifice. The truth is that separate baby beds are the new fad, part of our culture of baby things that keep a baby out of a parents’ arms. I don’t condemn their use out of hand, but I cannot condone the suggestion that not using them often and regularly is some kind of a crazy, creepy, cult experience. Young babies are safest sleeping beside adult human beings (only given that you are not on drugs or pills of any kind, not under the influence of alcohol, and are otherwise healthy and capable). Our presence helps keep their new systems working, and if they do stop breathing in their sleep, we are likely to wake and find them and start them again. And can the fact that most of the families with several children are the cosleepers please put to rest the myth that cosleeping means no sex life? Becoming a parent means creative sex. No more same-time, same-place marital rut for you. Now you’re going to have to be spontaneous, seize the moment, and be willing not to “just finish up these dishes first.” I intend to get myself a bumper sticker: CoSleepers do it on the Couch.
Babywearing is one of my favorite things. That’s why I’m here (on this blog; not why I’m here on this planet—how extreme do you think I am?). I can—and do—go on about the benefits of babywearing, how it promotes babies’ development physically, mentally, and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean I think a baby that doesn’t get wrapped up is specifically at any disadvantage. Just as I think organic food is MUCH better for a child, or anyone, I cannot tell the organically fed children from the conventionally fed. We do the best we can with what we have and with what works for our families. Sometimes my family eats organic, sometimes it’s not in the budget. Babywearing, however, fits my life and budget very well. We don’t have the room or inclination for a stroller. We do a lot of hiking and climbing, and touring down cobblestone streets. We go to beaches, wade through creeks, crowd into little coffee houses, visit Rennaisance Festivals and engage in many other unpaved adventures. I have all these things to fit into my days that I cannot always schedule around naptimes—so babywearing means naps happen at the beach, or wherever we are and doesn’t keep us from pursuing the day’s activities. Besides that, I have three kids, myself and my husband to keep up with, I have all of us to feed and I need my hands free, I have my toddler’s hand to hold in parking lots, and I need to be able to chase her at a moment’s notice. No, mine is not a strolling life. Babywearing works for my family and makes my life easier.
I don’t do any of these things by way of sacrificing myself for my children. Oh, having children means a lot less me-time, and a lot of changes, and I look forward to getting a lot of personal freedom and autonomy back as they get older, but in the meantime nursing, cosleeping, and babywearing make these rough but wonderful years easier, more pleasant, more fun for all of us. Believe me, I am taking the easy road, as I need every break I can get at this point!
Responding to a crying baby is never extreme. Every time a baby cries, he or she is communicating something. They are hungry, or tired, or wet, or hot, or lonely, or even just want to be held by a parent, and is that really something bad, to be discouraged? Why? Even when you cannot figure out what a baby needs, your being there, holding, comforting, singing, whatever you do, helps that baby get through the discomfort or unhappiness with your support. If you are my friend, please don’t leave me alone to cry just to teach me a lesson.
If we are teaching lessons here, can it be that the world is full of loving people, that none of us need be alone? How about acting in the best way you know how, without judgement of others doing the best they can?