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Mom to Mom: My Take on Attachment Parenting

Posted by Becca on 3/4/2013 to Mom Madness

I didn't know anything about attachment parenting, natural parenting, or being a crunchy mom when I gave birth to my daughter. I hadn't even fully committed to using cloth diapers at that point. But in the warm, low lighting of the hospital room where my daughter was born a friend gave me three bumGenius! diapers and my crunchy journey began.

It started with the diapers. I loved them, I wanted more, so I began to research how to get more for as little money as possible. As I delved into this research I found myself at blogs and websites that embraced a less mainstream style of parenting. That's when I saw all these awesome babywearing options and I knew that it was just the key to calming my colicky daughter. I bought the Moby Wrap the moment I'd saved up the money and it became the one thing I couldn't live without as a parent. Suddenly, my hands were free to fold laundry and do dishes as my daughter snuggled up to me all day long, happily sleeping. Gone were the days when I paced and bounced around the house for hours just praying she would fall asleep for the ten minutes I needed to grab something to eat, fold her laundry, or put a new load of dishes in the washer. It was great. I never went anywhere without the Moby Wrap after that, and even used it occasionally when she was really distraught as a two and three year old. Also, because of the Moby my daughter spent a lot less time in carriers than her peers. In fact, we stopped bringing the infant car seat into our destinations with us unless she'd fallen asleep and we didn't want to wake her because it was so much easier just to put her in the Moby, and we found that owning a stroller was a superfluous, bulky hassle and really only good for carrying her diaper bag. Honestly, I liked wearing her most when I grocery shopped because people were less likely to touch her with their germy hands when she was close to my chest as opposed to in the baby carrier on the cart.

Co-sleeping always made me nervous as a parent. I mean, I fully endorse it as a wonderful and sometimes best option for well-informed parents, but it was only a part-time practice in our house for two reasons:

  1. I don't sleep well with my daughter in our bed. I think God programmed moms to not be able to sleep fully with a baby in their arms because I never did. I rested somewhere between sleep and consciousness, but I didn't sleep, so if I wanted the rest I needed to work part time and be a part time stay-at-home-mom, I needed to put her in her own bed for at least part of the night.
  2. I was always nervous that something would go wrong and we'd accidentally suffocate her, despite the fact that I never slept when she was in my arms.
But co-sleeping definitely happened unoffiicially, and I allowed it to happen because of all the positive research and feedback I read on the natural parenting sites to which my cloth diaper research led me. It happened because my daughter nursed one or two times during the night, and I was often too tired to put her back in her bed when she was done, and it happened any time she was sick so that we could monitor her temperature, and her every cough throughout the duration of her virus or infection.

Another thing that I fully embraced as a parent was trying not to ever let my daughter cry. I wanted to establish that bond and that knowledge that Mommy would always be there as early as possible, so for the first year or so when she cried, we dropped everything if we could to hold her. Now, this isn't to say I'm not a proponent of the cry-it-out method, I just don't endorse it in kids younger than a year old. That first year is so important in letting your child learn that you are always in their corner and always going to come when they need you. An infant cries because they have a need so I never felt that there was a reason to let my daughter wait at all. She cried, I came running as fast as I couldthough with the colic, I often had to make her wait 30 seconds to a minute or two while I finished peeing or microwaving that hot pocket. I mean, a girl's gotta pee and eat. I did, however, start wearing her to the bathroom when I got the Moby. Maybe it's gross to you, and you can feel free to judge if you find it necessary, but I'm not sorry. It meant she was happy and safe.

I breastfed. I didn't really breastfeed because I started getting into natural parenting, though. That was sort of a given for me after watching my mom nurse all six of my younger siblings. Actually, in the small church that I attended, I rarely ever saw a bottle. Everyone nursed, and I realize now that it was out of the norm for the time, but for me, it was the norm. Of course, the research that followed this observation helped immensely. What I planned on following the research was to nurse my daughter until she was a year. I didn't intend on nursing her through her toddler years until I read more crunchy articles and points of view that suggested that doing so was better for the child. So I nursed her until 25 months, and only then I weaned her so we could try to get pregnant, as it wasn't working while she nursed.

I found myself doing other crunchy things such as making my own baby food, giving my daughter regular chiropractic care, attempting natural healing methods when she was sick, and striving to keep as many chemicals out of our food as I could manage. I hand make anything I possibly can, and we have embraced many environmentally sound practices in our home, such as shunning paper towels, gardening, and composting much of our waste. I also love upcycling old clotheshers or oursinto virtually free outfits or toys for her. In fact, almost all of her fitted cloth diapers were made of old T shirts that I recycled. Now, I don't subscribe to all the fundamentals of crunchy living or attachment parenting. I have only grabbed onto those things that suit my family's needs and help form my daughter into the kind of well-rounded human being I feel she should be, but I'm definitely off the grid enough that I've heard things like, She's never going to learn to sleep if you don't stop picking her up, or Are you really going to continue to breastfeed her? She can talk for goodness sake! or Don't cloth diapers cause diaper rash? All things people seem to say because they simply haven't heard the facts from both ends of the parenting spectrum. I chose to believe that these remarks are well-intentioned and I try not to take offense to them, but to simply educate with a smile and as I did and do so, most people are like, Oh, I never knew that! Most people are actually really receptive to this new take on parenting. They only react oddly to it at first because they know nothing different.

Now that my daughter is a toddler, there is very little of attachment parenting that we still adhere to. She sleeps in her own bed and we've encouraged lots of independencelately, because I've been so sick with my pregnancy that independence is absolutely necessary. Bunny has learned that Mommy and Daddy will always give her all the love and snuggles that she needs, but that there are also some boundaries we choose to keep as well, such as our own sleeping quarters. Again, it's not that we're against co-sleeping, but as a family we sleep better when we're separated. I have noticed, however, that Bunny has a her own style of attachment parenting when it comes to her dollies. She ties them to herself with scarves, or tucks them under her shirts, she breastfeeds them, and she is totally and completely in tune with any needs that she perceives that they have. All of her babies have names and personalities and she is always concerned for their well-being. She even puts them in cloth diapersthough that's only because those are the only doll diapers with which I've supplied her. I have to say that I'm really happy that cloth diapering turned us on to this new style of looking at parenting because I'm happy with the nurture and care my daughter has received because of it, and I feel that the reward of that approach to parenting is a child who is secure in herself and our love for her, and who is also very nurturing to others.

Now that we're onto a second child, I credit my somewhat crunchy parenting journey with the fact that I knew enough to research natural childbirth. I'm so happy that this time around we're going to go with a midwife rather than the OB/GYN because, though Bunny's birth was a miraculous experience, there are definitely some interventions that happened that I'd like not to have happen again. Here I can't say that it was all cloth diapering that brought me to this decision. We get regular chiropractic care as a family from a chiropractor that is very holistic in his approach to health, and I also happened upon the movie The Business of Being Born as I perused Netflix for something to watch during my daughter's nap one day a year or two ago. In any case, I am really looking forward to being able to raise a second baby with a more attached approach right from the beginning rather than just learning as I go. I mean, I already have the Moby wrap and the cloth diapers already, and this time the baby has an older sister who is more than willing to do her share of lavishing love. How blessed is my little man to have not just two people but three to love him with all their hearts?

So, how about you? Do you consider yourself a part of the attachment parenting movement? Are you a crunchy parent? And why? What brought you to this style of parenting? Was it purposeful or just a happy accident, like me?