Thursday, October 6, 2011

Attaching Naturally

I'm going to talk about things that Dr. Sears suggests never bringing up to people outside of your family....

Today, my check-out-girl at the grocery store asked sweetly, "Are you practicing Attachment Parenting?".  "Something like that" I replied, smiling.

"Attachment Parenting".  Yes, it is in so many ways how we are raising Sly.  I've read many books about.  It is what we do.  But that term, something about it makes me uncomfortable.  It's actually not the term itself, but the act of labeling something that I see as simply the way we parent.  The aspects of "Attachment Parenting" to me feel just like natural parenting, going with our internal, maternal, paternal instincts.  Some of it even feels like lazy parenting, and yes, I like to be lazy where I can be.

From day 1 I felt like the most normal thing for me to do was hold my baby as much as possible.  He had grown inside me for 9 months.  It was strange for me to not be close to him. And not even just close proximity, but skin to skin.  To help matters, I don't think I wore a shirt for the first week of his life.  Hey, I had just birthed a baby.  It was late May.  The last thing I was thinking about was putting clothes on.  So naturally, with out effort, there was lots of skin to skin time in the very beginning.

Sly sleeps in our bed.  We are not afraid of rolling on him.  We are not afraid that he won't be able to sleep on his own when the time is right for him to do that.  We have an Arms Reach Cosleeper, but this serves as a space for him to lay when Papa Bear or I are not in the bed as well (and, ahem, as my oversized nightstand).  I thought we would really, really use and need the Cosleeper.  I believe that we will use it more as Sly grows.  For now though, it is easiest for all of us if he is in the bed.  I couldn't imagine in those first few weeks him sleeping anywhere but right next to me.  I slept sitting up in bed because I hadn't quite figured out how to sleep with a baby.  Now, it is so natural.  Humans are the only mammals that attempt to sleep separately from our babies.  In our family bed, Sly gets lots of snuggle time with Papa Bear who is away at work all day.  And, most importantly perhaps, this Mama doesn't have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to nurse.  See, lazy parenting.  I want to stay in bed.  Neither of us has to fully wake up in order to feed at night.  No middle of the night crying. No worrying about him waking up or not breathing because I am right there beside him to check.  Lazy parenting? Perhaps.  Also, comfy, safe, natural parenting.

Babywearing.  I knew I wanted to do this early on because I always thought it looked so cool when I saw mamas toting their babes in a sling, big and small.  I have since learned that being a mama has absolutely nothing to do with looking cool.  Major misconception here on my part.  Being a mama does have lots to do with doing what is right for you and your babe, what is necessary in the moment, and sometimes looking down right silly because of it.  My boy loves being held.  Loves it!  And I love holding him.  But there are other things to be done in the day (I wasn't sure of this in those first few weeks), and wearing him allows me to do more.  To multi-task.  He gets to be right on me while I clean, shop, cook, and walk the dog.  It lets him sleep right by my heart for his naps.  Human babies are born under-developed, because their heads can't get much bigger and still be able to come through the birth canal.  Wearing a baby is a way to extend the womb, so they have the comforts of being close to mama (or papa, or grandma, or auntie) as their brains and heads grow.
Babywearing serves other very practical purposes: it is a way that I keep strange, though well intentioned, hands off my babies face at the store.  Sly is up by my face when we walk downtown instead of down at the level of hands holding cigarrettes.  I provide a steady sense of "home", because "home" is mama's chest.  There are even studies reporting that babies who are held/worn frequently develop great language skills because they spend so much time near other's faces.
Lots of great reasons to babywear, though the most important for us is that it is natural, and it just feels right.  I have no qualms with strollers.  No feelings like this. I would like to have one in the future.  But right now, a stroller just seems like one more piece of gear to take up space that we would rarely use.  Our wraps, slings and carriers take up very little space.  They are easy for us and Sly.

And finally, my breasts are able to fulfill their highest purpose.  Through my baby, I've become a milk machine.  It is my superpower, as one friend puts it.  Breastfeeding, quite literally, attaches Sly to me.  My body makes milk that is the perfect temperature, the perfect balance of nutrition for my boy, tuning in to exactly what he needs morning and night (because a body needs different things at different times of day!).  Fascinating, this process of nursing.  The epitome of natural food.  It transports well, as I wrote about before.  It heals wounds, people! (squirt it on your little ones diaper rash, step back and be amazed.)  It is free and requires absolutely no preparation, besides the old lifting of the shirt.  Again, lazy parenting.  Incredibly beneficial to Sly's body and mind, no doubt.  But easy-peasy, because wether you nurse or not, a few days after birth that milk's comin' in.  We have to try to stop it, and the friends I know that have done this say it is a painful task to dry up milk.  I'm not ready for that kind of pain.  Instead I'll have my baby nurse and release that juicy, oh so good, oxytocin again.  Why not?

We do follow many tenants of Attachment Parenting.  And boy am I thankful that there are books out there written about all the many styles of parenting.  Every set of parents could probably write their own book.  When I read Dr. Sears books about AP I am mostly in complete agreement with him.  Though, I mother the way I mother because it is what my heart says is right.  And this is way more valuable to me than what any outside expert may say.  Attachment Parenting?  Count me in.  It works for us.  It feels natural and instinctive.  I know that it may not feel that way for others.  So I say, the real style of parenting that is best, is the style where you follow your own heart.  As parents we are asked to listen to our hearts and trust our instincts more than ever before.  We have to do what works for us even if it goes against the grain of those around us.  Natural, personalized, heart-led parenting?  That's what I'm really all about.


  1. i want to ask a question about this? im not knocking it my no means. I just wonder..are you worried in the future when you just simply can't hold him all the time, that it will really be tough as in him crying a lot when he can no longer be held, etc?? Im seriously just curious. Im not a mother, and I have read no books, so why not ask the source? I also wanted to say I really enjoy your blog, especially since I dont get to see my lil nephew. I can at least not just see him growing, but I get to read ya'lls experiences and what not.

  2. Smo- no I'm not worried about this. It's easy to assume that attatchment parenting can encourage a baby to be too attached. But really, very few young babies are "self soothers". They need a loved one close by. Responding quickly to a babies needs encourages them to trust the world and people around them. This actually helps them to grow into independent, secure individuals.
    Also, for us personally it's hard to imagine a time when I can't hold sly whenever he needs me. My work is so flexible, and I'm pretty much staying at home with him. If I'm not here, papa bear is. When he's been kept briefly by someone else, they've held or worn him too. We are incredibly fortunate hat he isn't in daycare. But even with a babe in day care you can still practice these same principles by wearing baby at home, cosleeping and/or nursing. It would be harder for me to listen to him cry than it is to comfort him. It is as simple as recognizing (and being reminded again and again) that babies are babies. They need us a lot. It's not unreasonable nor is it forever. One day they will grow up and we will miss holding them so much.
    I reccommend "The Baby Book" by Dr Sears if you're interested more. It teaches about AP in a very simple, what works for you style and is not too crunchy (read: it's not a hippy book). It's written by man. Pediatricians.
    Thanks for asking and I hope this is an adequate response. We can always talk more about it :)


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