This post is part of the What Attachment Parenting Is and Isn’t blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International. Learn more by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.
I’ve blogged before about how clueless I felt as a pregnant mom-to-be and how desperately I read, studied and researched, trying to get smart about this new little person growing within me and this brand new life unfolding before me. I knew this would be the biggest and best thing I’d ever do, and I wanted to do it right!
The first time I heard the term “attachment parenting” was when I was pregnant and a friend I respect updated her Facebook “About Me” description to include those words. I was not familiar with the phrase, so I Googled it and found a few pages with definitions and information. Instantly, my heart lifted as I realized there was an actual parenting style that perfectly mirrored how I was feeling and what my own instincts told me were right. Then, as I was reading the giant Dr. Sears Baby Book my husband had bought me, I saw that same parenting philosophy explained further. Somehow, it gave me more confidence and reassurance knowing that others parented this way and that there was science and research behind it. I didn’t quite trust my own parenting instincts enough on their own yet, but once I had read about attachment parenting a little more, I knew it was for us!
Attachment parenting lets you lead with your heart and do what feels right and instinctive.
All that was before our little girl was born – so it was still all just theory. Once she was in our arms, I knew we couldn’t possibly do it any other way. In our naiveté as first-time parents, we had prepared a beautiful room for our baby girl, painstakingly painting and decorating and filling it with gorgeous toys and furniture, including a crib. But when we came home from the hospital, we knew she had to stay in our room with us. How could we send her across the hall to sleep in a “cage” (lovely as it might be) when we had fought so hard to keep her by our side in the hospital each time those well-meaning nurses urged us to let them take her to the nursery so we could get some sleep? We didn’t want to sleep – we wanted to hold and comfort our baby girl!
Once home, we used a co-sleeper attached to our bed for the first few weeks, but Zoe soon made it clear that she felt her place was right in our bed with us – a baby bird inside a warm little nest with a loving, comforting parent on each side. If she was fussing or crying and we placed her between us like that, she would instantly stop and settle down. How could we not listen to her and respect her preferences, especially when we loved it so much, too? And so we stumbled into cosleeping, and it was wonderful. I read and researched even more to be sure we were doing it safely (Dr. James McKenna became my best friend from afar).
It’s been two years now and we still adore cosleeping with our daughter in her rightful place, between us in our big giant bed, a little bit closer to my side for ease of night nursing. I never would have imagined we’d become proponents of the family bed but it works for us. Often when we’re playing in her room during the day, I’ll ask our daughter “would you like to sleep in your bed in here tonight?” and she’ll grin at me and nod or say yes – but then at bedtime, she chooses our family bed every time. We’ll follow her lead and one day when she decides that nursing is no longer for her, and that she’d like to try sleeping her room, we’ll embrace that, too. For now, cosleeping and breastfeeding are at the core of how we’re teaching our young daughter about life and love. And all of this seemingly lovey-dovey attachment parenting stuff really helps when it’s time for firmness and gentle discipline, too.
Occasionally, well-meaning people will ask why she still sleeps in our bed with us, or why we are still nursing her at the age of two years old. Sometimes we answer “it just feels right for us” or “it helps us all get a great night sleep” or “it works for our family” or “it helps make up for us both being working parents and spending so many days apart.” If people seem interested in learning more, we refer them to some of the many terrific attachment parenting resources available online, including Attachment Parenting International and a whole host of brilliant blogs. I really do believe the science points to the validity of this parenting choice.
I love knowing that we’re part of a great, global community of loving parents and that we’re not alone, even when it feels that we’re in the minority parenting this way. I love knowing that we’re parenting our daughter exactly as she would choose to be parented – which is also how any of us would have chosen to be parented, if we’d had the choice. And I love knowing that after each long week day apart at our respective jobs and daycare, we all come home to roost together in our cozy, comforting nest – for cuddles, quiet time, story books and eventually sleep — together as a family. That’s what attachment parenting means to us.
Do you have a name for how you parent, and how did you come to parent that way?