Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Attachment Parenting and Our Family.

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

It seems that every so often I hear the question, How did you find attachment parenting?

For our family the answer is very simple. We didn't.

I guess, in a way, it would be more accurate to say it found us.

When Beanie was born we didn't set out to parent in one particular way or another. We knew there were certain things that our parents did that we didn't want to do. We largely followed our instincts and parented in a way that seemed most logical and "right." We didn't know there was a label to how we were parenting. It wasn't until later we learned that we were following a philosophy of parenting called attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is responsive parenting, respectful parenting and instinctual parenting. It's a tool or set of ideas, not a checklist to which you must comply. Dr. Sears talks about the Seven Attachment Tools, or Baby B's, which are:

  • Birth bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Babywearing
  • Bedding close to baby (or bed-sharing or co-sleeping)
  • Belief in the language value of your baby's cry
  • Beware of baby trainers
  • Balance
All seven of the attachment tools are important to our family. Some, like breastfeeding or co-sleeping, come more naturally than others, like balance. Each attachment tool sort of fell into place for our family before we even knew there was a name to our instinctual parenting philosophy. Admittedly, some AP practices, like co-sleeping, were more instinctual for me than my husband, but we worked together to make it work well for our family.

I'd like to share in a bit more detail how each of the attachment tools, or Baby B's, has helped our family thrive.

Birth bonding -- We had amazing birth experiences with both Beanie and Bubby. We were fortunate to deliver Beanie with a naturally-minded OB and we were under the care of a midwife for Bubby's birth. Both were delivered at a baby-friendly hospital so we initiated breastfeeding early, roomed in and had visits with lactation consultants. When we got home we worked hard to make sure that we promoted bonding with lots of holding, nursing on demand, and lots of love.

Breastfeeding -- For our family, breastfeeding is more than just a way to nourish our babies (and toddlers). Breastfeeding has become the way we nuture, the way we ease frustrations or pain, and, yes, the way we nourish our children. When Beanie was born I didn't really know a lot about breastfeeding. I just knew I was going to do it. I didn't know how long. When she turned one I questioned the idea that she "didn't need my milk anymore." I wondered what magical switch happened that one day she needed it and the next day she didn't. I didn't worry that, even at one year old, she wasn't all that interested in solids; I knew she was getting what she needed from me. I didn't worry when, as a toddler, she wanted to eat blueberries and Kix all day; I knew she would get the nutrition she needed from me. Breastfeeding Bubby has been an entirely different journey, definitely more difficult with colic, thrush, elimination diets and food intolerances. I am thankful every day to be surrounded by the support I need. I hope that someday I can provide that support to someone else.  I can hardly put into words the impact that breastfeeding both my children has had on me; I've gone from a mom who knew little about breastfeeding to a strong advocate for all breastfeeding and hope-to-be-breastfeeding moms.

Babywearing -- The fact that I let a Moby sit on a closet shelf and go unused with Beanie amuses me now. Amuses me in a sort of angry I can't believe I never used that kind of way. With Bubby, babywearing is something that has made life as a mom of two easier. When Bubby's colic was really bad I would wear him in the Moby almost all day. When I take Beanie to the park I never have to worry about being able to care for both of them; Bubby is always snuggled right up next to me. We now use the Ergo most of the time. I've even gotten Glenn to try it out and he loves wearing Bubby in the Ergo too. I cannot image life as a mom of two without utilizing babywearing. I babywear every day. I love that Bubby is close to me. I love hearing his breath and knowing he is safe. I love when he looks up at me with his big blue eyes and just stares as I carry him around as we go about our day. I love that babywearing makes living life easy.

Bedding close to baby -- When we were pregnant with Beanie, Glenn & I discussed co-sleeping. I think the conversation went a little like this:

"Gosh, some people let their kids sleep in the bed with them!"

"I know. We will never do that."

And then I gave birth to my beautiful daughter and nothing seemed more natural than having her sleep right next to me. In fact, the thought of having her sleep far away in another room was something I could hardly fathom. I was comfortable. She was comfortable. We both slept better. Nighttime parenting and nursing was so much easier. As I stated before, co-sleeping was definitely an instinctual thing for me, not so much for Glenn. With Glenn's work schedule dictating that I be on solo nighttime parenting duty, co-sleeping became my decision by default. Since then, he has seen how much easier it makes things and we've worked on some compromises so everyone is happy with the situation.

Belief in the language value of your baby's cry -- I remember the first time someone told me I needed to let Beanie cry it out (CIO). I think she was about four months old. The thought of leaving her alone to cry broke my heart. It didn't feel right. Forget what any parenting guru tells you, the fact that it caused my anxiety to rise to even think about it told me it was not the path for us. Infants have no other way to communicate than to cry. They can't say "I'm too cold," "I just need you to hold me a bit longer," or "I'm hungry." They don't understand that you're "training" them. They need you and, in my opinion, by leaving them alone to cry it out you are letting them know that you aren't there for them when they're telling you they need it the most. When Bubby cries it's for a reason. We may not know that reason right away, but he can rest assured we will try our best to figure it out. And, even if we can't, we will hold him, nurse him, comfort him, and let him know that his parents are available when he needs them. We don't CIO with our three year-old. She has needs too and sometimes doesn't have the language to communicate them. Sure, sometimes she needs to have a good cry, but we are always there to comfort her and let her know that we are there for her.

Beware of baby trainers --  When Beanie was little, people (mostly family) would ask which method we were using to get her to sleep. They talked of different sleep "experts" and their thoughts on how we should get her to sleep better. Better, of course, is a matter of opinion. I love reading and devour information on parenting and babies left and right, but I can think of no better "expert" on my baby and his or her sleep patterns than myself (or hubby). I've found books with helpful ideas and information to guide us, but I am always leery of anyone who promises to "fix" our sleep problems, especially when we don't necessarily see our children's sleep patterns as problems in the first place.

Balance -- Surely balance is the Baby B that I struggle with the most, especially now as I am struggling with post-partum depression and anxiety. While achieving balance in our lives is a huge challenge, it isn't one that we treat lightly. Both Glenn and I struggle to maintain individual identities beyond that of mother and father, or even that of husband and wife. Somewhere there is that component that makes us individuals as well as caring partners and parents. We strive to find (and make) the time for each of us to remember what that part of us is, whether it is through Glenn's photography and love of nature or my love of writing. I think the struggle for balance is especially hard for breastfeeding mothers of infants, but it is important to get some me time even if it's only twenty minutes of reading or a long shower by yourself.

I am so glad that attachment parenting found us. For our family, attachment parenting makes life easier. It means that everyone in our family, no matter how young, is treated with respect and treated as an individual & an important part of our family. I am positive that our parenting philosophy made the transition into life as a family of four easier.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!
This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):
    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism


  1. Great post (at 4:30 am)!

    You are a great mama and those two little kiddos are very lucky to have you and your approach to parenting.

    Thanks for this - I am forwarding this post along to some of my preggo friends because it is simple, easy to understand and clear - hoping it will prompt them to follow their instincts.

  2. What a comprehensive look at how AP can work for one family! Your post mirrors mine in one big respect - AP simply wasn't a "choice" for us, it chose us. Thank you for sharing your experiences in our Carnival!

  3. I clicked away to read about "Breastfeeding Bubby," and it was so good to hear about an experience like mine! I went on an extreme elimination diet to cure my son's breast refusal and fussiness. It *worked* and I'm so happy. Missing the foods I can't eat (mainly chicken and tomatoes) is completely worth it when I see how happy he is and how he's growing and developing.

    Good carnival post, too!

  4. What a great overview of your family's journey so far! Isn't it amazing how we "fall into" an instinctual parenting style when we decide to tune into ourselves and tune out the things that just don't feel right?

  5. I love how you go through the Baby Bs! It's interesting to hear how you parented differently the second time around, and yet still offered an AP experience to both kids.

  6. I always enjoy reading about the particular experiences of families, how we each find our way, especially through listening to our hearts and feelings.

    Like you, I didn't know there was a philosophy of attachment parenting, but I did know what felt right, or rather, I knew what didn't feel right, and that set me out looking for what did.

    Thanks for such a thorough, simple, heart-felt post!


  7. Great post on how natural attachment parenting really is! I found, too, that concepts like co-sleeping are just natural and make life easier. Who needs to worry about sleep patterns when you're snuggled up with your baby and aren't worrying about being exhausted yourself? And the concept of CIO is just too heart-breaking to deal with.

  8. I feel very similarly to you on many counts. I'm not so familiar with these tenets as Bs, but this still made sense.

    Breastfeeding is so much more than nourishment for us, too. Originally my husband couldn't fathom Sasha nursing for an extended time, but now (at 1yo) I think neither of us could imagine her NOT nursing!

    I like your "switch" analogy. She still comes to me asking for milk (even signing for it now!), so why would I stop her from having it?! And the avoided stress regarding her actual food intake - priceless!

    Oh and baby trainers?! Crazy! Honestly, it would just be too much effort to enforce a schedule on her, why bother? She has nowhere she has to be. :-P

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post & can relate in many ways! :-)

  9. Your pre-baby conversation about co-sleeping sounds just about like ours. Two years of co-sleeping later, I'm not sure I remember what our objection to it might have been. And, as for you, it seems, co-sleeping didn't happen for us because a book told us to do it. It just felt right and, I should add, made life a heckuva lot easier.


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