Why I’m not into Attachment ParentingDecember 12, 2012
I can already hear the criticism and corrections about what Attachment Parenting, is and isn’t but I’m writing this anyway, from a new mother’s perspective on parenting theories.
First of all, who knew we were supposed to have a theory? Choose a religion, choose a favorite baseball team, and choose a parenting style? Huh.
This world only revealed itself during pregnancy and early motherhood when I found so much contradictory advice.
Suddenly, I realized I was sitting between the Ferbers and the Ferb-do-nots. The Formula Feeders and La Leche Leaguers.
Frankly, most of my intuition sided with the Attachment Parenting (AP) crowd. Not entirely sure what this theory was all about, they seemed to be most concerned about doing things the natural way. Yes! That made a lot of sense to me. Topics that came up most often were natural home birth, breastfeeding, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, babywearing, not circumcising and eating organic, real food.
I joined their Meetups and read their books at 9 months pregnant. I bought a ring sling and a co-sleeper. My home birth plan was meticulously laid out.
What new mom wouldn’t agree that being close to her baby is best? What mom wouldn’t want to provide comfort and create a strong bond?
I was all in. Sign me up, Dr. Sears.
Then, Danny was born.
You know the term “Born ready”? Well, Danny wasn’t quite ready. He wasn’t ready at 40 weeks, or 41 weeks, or 42 weeks. A couple good doses of Blue Cohosh from my midwife put me in labor (thankfully) but over 24 hours of unmedicated labor later I had barely dilated.
Scratch that natural home birth plan from my record. Failed. Danny was born via c-section. There was nothing attached about it – that curtain in front of my face, the numbness I felt from the anesthesia, the way he was immediately whisked off to be cleaned and suctioned. At least he wasn’t circumcised, per my request. (Do I get an AP point for that?)
I think I’m finally able to talk about the whole c-section experience without crying.
Our next attempt to do things the natural way came with breastfeeding.
I thought things were going swell until the doctors told me he was dehydrated and gave him a corn syrup-sweetened formula. Pure torture for this mama. The supplementing continued for more than a week as my milk came in to the amount some chart said I was supposed to feed him.
I often thought about the attending physician who, upon hearing Danny’s projected 10.5 lb. size looked at me in labor and told me, “That boy is going to suck you dry.”
What an asshole she was.
After a week he was off formula but breastfeeding was still the hardest task of my day, 10 times a day. We found out he had a tongue tie and had it clipped. It wasn’t done properly so 6 weeks later we had it clipped again. This is an experience I cringe to think about, but it saved our nursing relationship and he nursed like a champ after that. Never took a bottle. It was me, on call, all the time. Solids started at 6 months – real food like avocado. With a little bit of gentle prodding, he weaned just recently at 21 months.
In this aspect of AP, I think I get an A+.
Co-sleeping made a lot of sense when I read about it, especially for nursing at night. But let me tell you something. It is nearly impossible to get out of bed while healing from a c-section. Even harder when a co-sleeper is attached like a sidecar. We moved it to the wall. Still, I woke up constantly at every peep he made. Anxiety-ridden. Exhausted. I tried many different arrangements of sleep – it’s almost embarrassing to admit them all. None worked except when my husband slept with him on our spare bed and let me have the room to myself for the first few hours of the night. I simply could not relax and sleep with the baby in the room.
One day at 4 months old, Danny was in bed with me and worked his arm out of his swaddle. Flailing it in circles, he whacked me over and over until I decided I could not do this any more. I hadn’t slept in months. My husband convinced me to buy a crib and after many fights I agreed to use the Ferber method to get him to sleep in it at night. Imagine me, wine glass in hand, shaking and not having any better ideas of what to do.
I still woke every few hours to nurse him.
But co-sleeping? Failed.
Months later, when he was still waking 3 or 4 times a night, I was in the depths of postpartum depression. I was losing my mind for many different reasons but the lack of sleep compounded it all, of course.
My very holistic-minded pediatrician surprised me by recommending sleep training. My mother surprised me by recommending the same. My husband surprised me by how adament he was that we should do it. Danny did not need to nurse at night anymore for his nutritional wellbeing. But let him cry? I couldn’t bear to think about it, I refused, I was angry, I was sad, I was depressed and I was in a puddle on the floor unable to live.
I may be over the c-section but I assure you, thinking about sleep training still does bring me to tears.
Attachment Parenting fail, again.
Does your baby sleep through the night? Everyone asks and shamefully I answered, “Yes.”
But sleep gave me strength, and strength gave me my wits back and I pulled myself out of PPD.
So who’s to say.
Can you see where I’m going with this? I tried! God did I try. I can practically hear you all judging me. I wanted to do it all the most loving, gentle way but it didn’t work for us.
Was I weak? Maybe. I don’t know. I fought like hell and when nothing worked I tried another way. That’s all I can say.
Even simple things. Danny screamed bloody murder in that ring sling, the one Dr. Sears promised would make him feel comforted. AP moms abhor the Baby Bjorn for dangling babies by their crotches but let me tell you – Danny loved it. Finally hands free, I wore the damn thing and he stopped crying.
AP moms will carry their babies instead of using a stroller but Danny loved his stroller. Still does. He’d cry non-stop at home, wouldn’t nurse, wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t cuddle. Put him in that stroller and he was literally the happiest baby on the block.
And even now as he’s older, he goes to nursery school with a smile on his face, marching me right up to the door and gives me a kiss goodbye. Attachment anxiety? Nope. Everyone says he is such a happy boy.
Despite the ups and downs, I think I’ve figured out that my parenting style is a lot more mainstream than I thought it would be. And while I am a huge breastfeeding advocate and I love the idea of babywearing, and my child eats real, whole, organic food…
I’m not into Attachment Parenting.
That’s not to say I’m against it. It works for some people. I’m just not into it.
Not only didn’t it work for me, but it gave me a scorecard to grade myself with. A stick to beat myself with. And I failed, failed, failed so many times.
Mothers are hard on themselves as it is. No matter what parenting style you gravitate towards, don’t feel held to different dogmas. We shouldn’t feel guilty and have to shamefully confess our sins.
We are all (and I know this, truly) doing the best we can.
And my kid is just great, proving that a mish mashed, customized parenting style works just fine. He gives me hugs and kisses and I give him piggyback rides and he eats better than any toddler I know. So if I could go back in time and talk to myself at 4 weeks postpartum, I’d say…
Relax. You’re doing just fine. You’re doing your best because you care deeply. And it’s in the effort of caring that a child learns the meaning of love and attachment.
If anyone wants a ring sling, I’ll sell you mine.
**New mamas need non-judgmental support and community to raise their babies and nourish themselves. Have a baby in diapers or know a mom who does? New Mama Recharge starts in January. Moms everywhere in the world welcome to join us.**