Why Attachment Parenting Works for Our Family

Wearing my daughter in a ring sling

I realize this topic is all over the blogosphere right now, and I really don’t want to beat it into the ground. But, I was talking with some friends over the weekend, who all practice some style of attachment parenting in their own way, and I’ve just been thinking a lot about that conversation, and about my own parenting journey over the past four and a half years, and I felt the need, the urge, to talk about why my family does things the way we do.

When I was pregnant with my daughter 5 years ago, my husband and I didn’t intend to be an attachment parenting family.  I’m not even sure I knew what the term “attachment parenting” meant.

Like many parents-to-be, we talked about how we wanted to parent and had ideas of how things would be, and what we would definitely do, or not do, once our little bundle of joy arrived.

How naive we were to think we could really plan anything ahead of time!

We said no co-sleeping – we didn’t feel comfortable with sharing our bed with our baby, and had heard all of the warnings about it. I was planning to breastfeed, and we received the obligatory Baby Bjorn carrier as a shower gift. But, we also said that if we needed to, we would put our daughter in her bed and let her cry herself to sleep.

Oh, how everything changed once we actually held that precious baby in our arms and brought her home, sleep deprived and bleary-eyed, and honestly, just a little bit overwhelmed. It seemed like everything that we thought we should or shouldn’t do just flew out the window. And after just a few days of newborn bliss, we entered survival mode.

So we adapted, and changed our thinking, and tried different things, and ultimately found the way that worked best for us as parents, and also seemed best for our baby girl.

And what we found was that most of the things labeled as “attachment parenting” actually made our lives as new parents easier.

One of my friends said during our conversation this weekend, “I think of attachment parenting as the lazy parents way of parenting.” And I totally agree. It’s not that we’re actually lazy parents, it’s just that for us, it really is the easy way to do things when you have a baby.

Here’s how it happened. After a few weeks of trying to stay awake and nurse my daughter at night, falling asleep sitting up, and waking up with a stiff neck, I realized I could side-nurse her and basically go back to sleep while still feeding her, and so something we said we would never do — co-sleeping — was all of the sudden the best way for me to get much needed sleep while still feeding my daughter at the same time. I felt rested for the first time since we brought her home, and that was a huge thing for me as a new mama.

And speaking of nursing, I am a firm believer in breastfeeding, but it’s not just because I think breast is best, I also think it’s the easiest way to feed your baby. No measuring, warming up bottles, having to make sure you have enough formula when you go out, or having to mix up bottles in the middle of the night. Breastfeeding worked for me because it was easy, I could feed my kids as much as they needed, whenever they needed it, no matter where we were.

And finally, baby wearing. We started with the Baby Bjorn when our daughter was a newborn, but I also had a pouch sling and ring sling that I had received as gifts, and quickly realized that she was super content in the sling, either just being carried around, or easily falling asleep, and that it made life easier for me to have my hands free and be able to get stuff done while still caring for and soothing my baby.

I went back to working part-time when my daughter was 3 months old, and my job was so great and flexible that I could bring her with me, but wearing her in a sling made it possible for her to sleep through meetings, and even for me to feed her while working on the computer.

And what worked for us at the beginning continued to work as our daughter got older — nursing her as a toddler through the winter months meant that she got fewer colds, wearing her meant she was content and happy and cried less while I was able to do the things I needed to do, like running errands or cleaning the house.

And when those things didn’t work so well anymore, we moved on. Like when she was around nine months old, she got too wiggly to sleep in bed with us anymore, so we moved her to her crib, so we could all sleep better at night. Or when rocking her to sleep became too much of a struggle when she was 15 months old, and so we used sleep training to help her learn to fall asleep on her own.

Then, when my son arrived on the scene, we pretty much did all the same things with him, because we had already learned what worked the best for our family.  And although the transition from one to two kids was definitely hard at times, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing also made it so much easier, in so many ways.

So, I really don’t see what the big deal with attachment parenting is. And in talking to my friends, we all agreed that the aspects of attachment parenting that are coming under fire, didn’t hold us down, or make us feel like bad mothers. They actually helped make our lives easier, and helped us to be the best mothers we could be.

A quote from the Time article states, “It’s called attachment parenting, and its rise over the past two decades has helped redefine the modern relationship between mother and baby.” And while the article talks about attachment parenting as so demanding of mothers and all about parental sacrifice, did they ever consider that maybe it’s on the rise because it actually works for many parents and makes their lives easier, even better?

We don’t do attachment parenting because we worry about damaging our babies, instead, we are actually trying to fit our children into our lives and continue to do the things that we like to do – get enough sleep, be active and on the go, work on projects around the house, and take care of our older children, all with our babies in tow. I’m confused why that is such a bad thing?

I don’t feel like I have given up my life, or sacrificed some big part of me, because I follow many aspects of the attachment parenting philosophy. I mean the reality of life is, when you have children, everything changes. And in fact, attachment parenting enhanced my life in so many ways because of the bond I was able to form with my babies, while still maintaining my sense of self.

I just feel like we found the parenting approach that worked the best for me as a mother, for us as a family, and for our kids because they were happy and content, and that it all around made the transition of adding children to our family a positive experience. And really, that’s what all parents should do — find what works for you, your family and your kids, and stick with it, without ever feeling bad about the choices you are making.

I cherish the memories of snuggling my little ones in bed, of staring into their eyes as I nursed them, and feeling them close and secure as I wore them in a baby carrier. And I am really looking forward to doing all of those things once again, and I know they will help with the transition, as we welcome Baby #3 into our family in just a few short weeks!

Emily writes about green and natural living at Live Renewed.
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