Parental Advisory: Attachment Overload

I’ve been really into attachment parenting ever since I found out about it (when I was pregnant). I still believe in it, but now that my baby’s getting older, I’m not sure if I can handle it! He’s so big and heavy and I’m so exhausted:and then I see other mothers with their strollers and their babies who sleep through the night in their cribs and they seem to have so much more freedom. I am thinking about trying out a crib for naps at least, and then maybe if it works out, transitioning him for nights too. I feel like it’s that or weaning him but I’m definitely not ready for that. And also, if I keep carrying him around I’m afraid I’m going to screw up my back. I am so torn though, because the books I read are so convincing. If I decide to stop will my baby be traumatized? Will I undo all the work I’ve done so far? I can’t even talk to any of my friends about this. We used to make fun of people who put their babies in cages! – Detached

Dear Detached,

Attachment Parenting is a wonderful concept: Follow these tenets, advocates say, and you’ll enjoy a bond with your baby that will transcend many of the usual troubles of childhood. The promise of everlasting love and connectedness is mighty appealing to any parent, especially a new one who’s anxious about just how to go about forging those bonds. And there are lots of very real benefits to breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, cue-reading, high parent-baby contact and other ingredients of the AP lifestyle.

Attachment Parenting works really well for a lot of people. We have dozens of friends who swear by it, and they’re happy and fulfilled and reasonably well-rested and their kids are awesome. We’ve done some AP’ing ourselves, and loved it:most of the time. But, like most things, Attachment Parenting doesn’t work for everybody all the time. Some people fall in love with the AP philosophy, but find it difficult to implement – it feels too demanding, too claustrophobic, too exhausting, or too incompatible with the other important things in their lives. And these people, like you, often feel horribly guilty because part of the pitch for Attachment Parenting is that it’s better for your baby (and eventually, your child) than other kinds of parenting. Which makes it really, really hard to switch gears without second-guessing yourself and worrying about how it might negatively affect your kid.

So here’s where you need to take a deep breath and a step back. If Attachment Parenting, as it’s written in books or practiced by your friends, isn’t working for you, it’s time to start free-styling.

As we see it, the main problem with AP lit (not the kind taught in high school) is the same as every other kind of Expert baby book: It’s too bossy, it’s too rigid, it doesn’t take into account the different circumstances of people’s lives. (Co-sleeping is one family’s heaven, and another one’s hell.) If the whole program taken to the letter works well for you – or well enough that you’re not resenting it – then great. If not, put aside what’s important to the philosophy, and think about what’s important to you. You can decide which parts of the high-touch lifestyle matter most to you and your baby, and try making changes elsewhere.

If you’re dreading going to bed at night (every night), move your baby to a crib. If your back is aching when you carry your son, put him in the stroller more often. AP advocates will be quick, and correct, to mention that there are back-sparing carriers – some are far better than others. But still, the stroller is a perfectly reasonable baby transport option. He may take a little time to get used to these changes (you might, too) but he will not be will not be scarred for life, or even temporarily.

What you’re going through right now is a common experience, if not a particularly publicized one. There are people who find a style that works and stick with it, but more often than not, parenting styles evolve. This is your baby. You don’t need to follow somebody else’s set of rules.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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