When I had my first child (almost 6 years ago) I didn't study about what kind of parent I would be. Sure, I read parenting books. I mentally noted parents who I thought were doing things right and added their tips to my repertoire. Then I had my son and I just did what I thought was right. I didn't label my parenting style, I just started to parent. It turns out that without knowing it, I've become an attachment parent.
I first heard this term from a friend of our a few years back. Also the mother of 2 boys she was telling me about her experiences with getting her kids to sleep and used the phrase "attachment parenting thing" she had going on. Hmmm. This friend was someone whose parenting I admired and often tried to emulate. We had a lot in common when it came to our kids. Maybe I was an 'attachment parent' too?
Dr. Sears is the expert in the field of attachment parenting. He has a list of what he terms as the 7 Baby B's. Here they are and how I found myself being part of them.
1. Birth Bonding - this was something that just came naturally to me after my first son was born. I wanted to spend time with him and be as close to him as possible. Unfortunately, he was was born with the cord around his neck as was not able to room in with me that first night and most of the next day. I did get to hold him before they took him to NICU. And they did bring him back to me about an hour later so we could try breastfeeding. That didn't deter me from spending as much time with him as I could. I spent as much time in NICU as I could and once he was moved to my room we cuddled and bonded skin on skin and got to know each other. My husband and I also took what we called a "babymoon". The first few days we had him home we didn't answer the phone or the door and just spent time getting to be a family together.
I was particularly enthralled after the birth of our second child. He had no birth complications and we were able to establish a bonding time right away. We again took a "babymoon", including our older child in the experience.
2. Breastfeeding - Breastfeeding was something I chose to go at because it was cheap and seemed easy (why spend money on formula when I can get it for free?). The cheap part was true, the easy part was not. It did take a while to really get the hang of breastfeeding (with both of my kids), but I'm glad I did it in the end. Once we knew what we were doing, it was easy (but there is a definate learning curve involved). I'm very greatful that there was a mother-baby feeding clinic nearby that helped us out.
3. Babywearing - Babywearing is something I wish I'd known about with my first and so very glad I did with my second. It's been around for generations, but is still a relatively new thing to us in mainstream North America. I had a Snugli that I used on occasion with my first, but it was for the ease of travel rather than for bonding and closeness. I got a sling with my second. What I really enjoyed about this (besides the ease of travel) was that I could keep my 2nd close to me while spending time with my first. I had my hands free to make Duplo structures and still had my little one close.
4. Bedding Close to Baby - We did not intend on this one at all. Babies slept in cribs in the other room, that's it is what I thought when we first had our son. Then the reality of living this out came into play. I worry, a lot. I was in and out of that room so often checking his breathing that I wasn't getting any sleep. I was exhausted and worried (not a good combination in a new mom). So I started getting sleep the first shift of the night while my husband held our son on a pillow in the living room. They had great bonding time while baby slept and I got some sleep. When baby woke up to nurse, he was brought to me in our bed, where we both fell back to sleep. I slept better and felt my anxieties disappear. I still worried because I'd heard so many arguements against bed-sharing that I read up on it. We developed a way to do this safely. Dr. Sears has some great tips for this. With our second we started off better. We had a bassinett in the room that I kept right beside our bed. He was close enough to touch and hear and I was much more aware of what was going on as he slept. *Bedding close to baby does not mean that you have to bed-share with your baby as most people believe. It just means that you are close enough to touch. It's actually more recommended now that the best place for baby to sleep is in the same room as his parents.
5. Belief in the Language Value of your Baby's Cry - Babies don't talk. We all know that. They cry. That is how they communicate with us. They have all sorts of different kinds of cries. You won't believe how many until you have one yourself. I remember being in Wal-mart one time. My husband had the baby with him and I was a few aisles away. I heard a cry and I knew that was my kid - other cries didn't reach me they way his did.
6. Beware of Baby Trainers - As I said, I did a lot of parenting reading. I tried a lot of methods but some just didn't sit right with me. I remember trying the cry-it-out method with our boy and it just broke my heart (and my husband's too). Because we knew what his cries were telling us there was a difference between the angry to scared cry. I couldn't do it. We were the people he was depending on and trusted and I felt like we were breaking that trust at such a young age. It wasn't about letting him manipulate us (he was too young for that), it was about bonding and trusting each other.
7. Balance - Baby is not the only person around. Mom and Dad are important too. We each needed to take care of ourselves and our relationship. What good would we be our our boys if we didn't? What would they learn from that? I had to relearn this when we had our second and I felt torn between the new baby and our first child. My husband pointed out to me that me spending time with big brother could only help my relationship with both kids. Me spending the most of my time with the new baby could harm my relationship with my first.
Like any parenting style, attachment parenting works best if it is what works for you. I didn't intend on this, it's just what happened. I didn't know about Dr. Sears until I was learning about bed-sharing with my son. And I didn't know about the rest of his terms for attachment parenting until much, much later on. If you are interested in reading what he has to say check out this article from his website here.