Monday, June 14, 2010

A Realistic Approach to the Attachment Parenting Ideal

Watch a beautiful video about attachment parenting here

Attachment parenting is quite popular these days although it is often portrayed as an alternative or hippie way to parent.  It's called attachment parenting because it is all about keeping your baby close.  Strollers are less than ideal to the attachment parent.  Breastfeeding and cosleeping are important.  Gentle bedtimes with no "crying it out" is preferred.  Attachment parenting, made famous by Dr. Sears, is a beautiful idea.

So, what do I think about all this?  Well, it is an ideal.  Ideals are not reality.  I think many people have trouble applying all aspects of attachment parenting to real-life.  In my house, we do what is most practical and healthy for my child.  We also try to keep life relatively simple and structured.

We babywear.  We also use strollers when it is more practical to do so.  This time of year, babywearing can get pretty toasty.  Now that my daughter is a toddler, she frequently prefers the stroller or grocery cart and has for quite some time.  She also prefers to walk when she is allowed (I don't let her walk around at the store because that leads to trouble.)  She is 21 months now.  The older she gets, the less she wants to be worn.

I still breastfeed.  I've thought about weaning my daughter completely but then she looks at me and says "nursie."   I breastfeed my toddler one to two times a day - always just after she wakes up.  She refuses to breastfeed before bedtime and has for months now.  She is not the type of kid that just wants a milk snack from me at any time of the day.  On days I work, I don't breastfeed (I work three days a week from morning to night.)  Our lactation consultant said it is okay to go a two days in a row without breastfeeding and my milk supply will be fine - as is the case once a woman breastfeeds for over a year.  If I was in the early stages of breastfeeding, going a day or two without nursing would cause my milk supply to dwindle fast.

I began to wean at 4 months due to the introduction of rice cereal to my baby's diet.  Exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months did not happen for us.  Not on purpose, but when I went back to school, my breastfed baby refused a bottle.  To fill in meals when we were apart, her caregivers gave her rice cereal with breastmilk by spoon.  This was awful because she didn't gain much weight her fourth month, however, at the time it seemed necessary.  She is healthy and thriving now.  She has hardly every been sick.  My daughter has only had three ear infections, ever.  My husband and I both had frequent ear infections as babies.  I was breastfed until about 9 months and my husband was never breastfed.

I loved cosleeping with my daughter until she was nearly a year old.  Unfortunately, the older my daughter got, the less she was able to sleep with me - she was too squirmy and wanted to be awake.  At 6 months old, we also sleep trained her (aka - "cry it out" Ferber style) to fall asleep in her own bed.  In the middle of the night, if she woke, I'd bring her to bed with me (a more gentle approach than Ferber's - let her cry again.)  I didn't have the heart to let her cry in the middle of the night after she cried herself to sleep.  Sleeping on her own happened gradually.  My little sugarplum would nurse and sleep beside me frequently at five months - this has gradually decreased and by 14 months she only would come to bed with me to nurse when she woke in the morning between 6 and 8 am.  When my little one was 5 months old, I would doze off in bed with her nursing.  When I woke back up an hour or two later, I'd usually put her back in her own bed.  Our goal from quite early on was for her to start the night in her own bed.  We thought this would be a good way to get her used to her bed without forcing her to sleep in it by herself all night.  This also gave me and my husband much needed time to ourselves.  I still haven't figured out how people manage to cosleep when their 6 month old needs to be in bed by 7 pm.  What do they do between their baby's bedtime and their own?  Do their babies wait until the parents bedtime to go to sleep?  You can't exactly leave a baby unnattended in an adult bed, that just seems like an accident waiting to happen.  To me it seemed smarter to put my exhausted baby to bed, in her bed, at 7 and let her cry a little rather than keep her awake until 9 or 10 just so we could cosleep.  Furthermore, my daughter only had to "cry it out" for two to three nights in a row.  After that it got much better and only got tough again if routines were altered from vacation or illness.

I'm all for modified attachment parenting.  I refuse to be a strict attachment parent because it is too exhausting for me.  If I'm exhausted, I'm not a good mommy.  I love sleeping with my daughter but I cherish my alone time with my husband as well.  It is nice to have baby-free time together.  Strollers AND my baby carriers have come in quite handy over the past 22 months.  The small amount of formula we gave my daughter when I went back to school, allowed me to not have to pump as much (and pumping was always tough for me.)  Despite giving my daughter supplemental formula at times, I'm still breastfeeding her at 22 months - that's pretty good right?  I'm all for doing things the way they work best for my family.  I'm all for watching my child's cues and meeting her needs.  I think I'm doing a pretty decent job.  I think I have a lot to learn.

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