Unbeknownst to me, I embarked on the journey of attachment parenting the day I brought my baby home from the hospital. But if the way the evening started on the first day I brought my firstborn home was to foretell my success or failure as a mother, I would have despaired!
Once we were home all alone--no nurses, NO-BODY, to help--and then, you know...the little matter of nursing, with my pigskin-hard footballs that used to be my breasts and a screaming baby so beside himself that trying to latch on was nigh impossible...my 'flustration', my fear that it would never, ever work, that my baby would starve before morning, bordered on hysteria. But we did it, a testament to huge perseverance on both our parts. This was the 'outside-of-the-womb' introduction to our tangible connectedness-just me and baby, learning to be dance partners in this new relationship of mother-child.
The next, not insignificant, reality check--I started out with my newborn in the cute little bassinet that I had fluffed and laced oh so dreamily.
I had romantic ideas that I would nurse my baby to sleep, place him in his bassinet and we would all sleep through the night!
The first night at home, my son did sleep through the night...from sheer exhaustion! The next night not so long, the next night, hmmm, he slept even less. We evened out to where 3 hours was an accomplishment. Well, I soon discovered that lifting my son out of the bassinet, placing him on my pillow-supported arm, and nursing him was a way for me to stay in a relaxed, soporific (drowsy!) state, while not actually slumbering, until he was asleep again.
To begin with, once he seemed to be sleeping soundly, I placed him back in the bassinet. It seemed that in, oh, such a short while, he would be stirring again, and I would reach for him before the demand escalated.
You've probably already surmised that it wasn't long before there was no reason to continue the pretense with the bassinet. My son was soon sleeping nestled in my arm through the night. One night, I awoke and discovered he had rolled onto a pile of pillows stacked beside the bed. After this, thanks to his amenable dad, baby was now sleeping between mom and dad.
Before long, the romantic bassinet had completely lost its allure and was relegated to the storage bin as extraneous clutter... Oh well, one of the very good first lessons of many to follow in letting go of parenting preconceptions that were completely not supported by the way things are!!
This all just evolved, out of expedience, out of what felt natural, out of what was dictated by my impulse to stay connected with my baby. We were now one of those families who shared...whisper...a family bed.
I looked for books at the library that would bolster my gut feeling that this was oh-so right. Lucky for me, I found a couple for reassurance and reinforcement.
The way I have parented instinctively, I have since come to learn is called attachment parenting. Fortunately, when I had my first child I think I had matured enough to be more in touch with what felt right to me in my interaction with my child and to be less influenced by the theories of others.
I started making some choices that required a certain level of commitment, which resonated with me, and that sometimes went against the norm. Of course, there were those well-meaning voices that told me 'you need your sleep, let the baby cry herself to sleep'.
I'll admit that I was persuaded to try with one of my babies to put them down earlier in the evening and let them cry, in the (off)chance they would cry their little self to sleep. They fortunately were able to outdistance me. I tried and would go 10 minutes, couldn't stand it. I then thought we'll give it a go for a couple of nights, couldn't stand it. Every cell in me was in mutiny. This was NOT natural!!!
My babies all slept for longer periods of time if they were next to us. There was a period of time when there were four of us snuggled together in the king-sized bed. When Baby Number Three arrived, there were five of us!
When our youngest arrived, her dad built an extension onto the king-sized bed. This allowed for more security--no chance of baby falling off--and a little more breathing room! When their sister came along, the connection continued between my sons, as they moved into twin bunks. Before long this evolved naturally into the two of them sharing the lower bunk many nights. And, of course, they knew they were welcome back in the king-sized bed any time.
And the choices we made set the course for my 'career' in attachment parenting and I have gone on to continue to make choices which would ring true for me and my children--more about that later!
What is attachment parenting? Pediatrician William Sears came up with the term 'attachment parenting' which is ascribed to a style of parenting adhering to attachment theory in psychology that was originally described and studied by John Bowlby and then research by Mary Ainsworth gave credence to the concept.
Building a foundation of attachment parenting starts with keeping the baby close, oodles of nourishing, comforting touch, carrying your baby close to you as much as possible, eye contact, and lots of chatter as you go about your day!
I'll be talking more about the benefits of attachment parenting, how it makes discipline easier, how it keeps the lines of communication open, how you can be more at ease with their decision making, how you'll find that trust has been established as a two-way pledge, how studies show that it supports cognitive development--making those neurological connections that mean smarter (empowered, confident) kids, how they are more likely to form healthy relationships with peers, and establish healthy intimate relationships as adults.
But for starters, if someone starts remonstrating with you about the family bed, put your fingers in your ears and start humming 'row, row your boat', or something! And rest assured, I'll discuss more about whether my kids ever moved out of the family bed, (um, yes!) was it easy (quite), and address other concerns that are associated, e.g., fostering unhealthy dependence (not for our family), etc.
Site updated January 20, 2021