Let me come straight out and say- we are an “Attachment Parenting” family. This statement feels controversial ever since the whole TIME Magazine debacle, so i feel like i have to out myself and clear the mystique around what this term even means, at least to our family. It wasn’t until the end of my pregnancy that i discovered there was an actual term for this type of parenting. We just felt naturally inclined towards the practices it promotes. We breastfeed and believe in child-led weaning, we share our bedroom with our baby, and often our bed, and we believe in the power and purpose of baby-wearing and keeping Veda close to us as much as possible. There isn’t anything my husband or i love more then wearing her close to our bodies. Attachment Parenting, as this style is called, has recently made a major mainstream debut in the media with a TIME Magazine cover piece. In my estimation, and the estimation of AP parents worldwide, it was an unflattering and highly misinformed piece about the nature of this “movement”. Because really, this “movement” isn’t so much of a movement at all. AP merely honors the way parenting has been done for centuries, and gives modern parents who want to nurse their babies until they (mama and baby) decide its time to wean, and share their bedroom, permission to do so. This form of parenting merely encourages connection and closeness as a way of cultivating a compassionate, peaceful, and independent child.
I wanted to set the record straight about AP, not because i have any affiliation with the organization itself or am trying to proselytize this form of parenting. I know that many roads lead to one place. But i believe there are too many wonderful bits of wisdom that mamas and papas might miss out on if they write AP off altogether. Honestly speaking, i don’t love being seen as an extremist for allowing my daughter to nurse until she is ready to wean (which i’m sure will be an interesting conversation with family and friends down the road). I simply wish to illuminate a path that has great merit no matter which path you chose as your main route. I wish to be better understood and respected in my choices as much as i wish to share the goods i’ve discovered with others.
Today our culture seems pretty obsessed with getting babies to become independent, almost immediately after they come out of the womb. Popular culture parenting gurus tell us that our children will not learn to be independent, or that we will spoil them, if they are held too much or kept too close. Of course all things require balance, but to me those warnings or claims seem very rooted in fear. I wonder, when did we stop trusting our natural processes, such as our human developmental stages like attachment and independence? Surely we haven’t always read books about how to sleep train our babies, or were told not to spoil them with too much attention, or that breastfeeding past 1 is somehow weird and unnatural. TIME made AP out to be an extreme form of parenting, but what is so extreme about feeding a small child from your breast when they are hungry, responding to them lovingly especially when they cry, and allowing them to remain close to you through their earliest years? This is how it’s been done for thousands of years all across the globe. AP’s “principles” are simply supporting parents in getting back to their more natural roots and encouraging mothers to trust in our intuition in a day and age where society seems to discourage some of our maternal instincts. It’s only our modern American way that is all about getting mama her identity back as soon as possible and having baby gain independence ASAP too, meaning that she sleep on her own and through the night within early infancy.
I can not tell you how many judgements i have encountered because i refuse to let Veda “cry it out” so that she will “learn to be a ‘good’ sleeper”. I think there is something to be said about the mother who lets her baby cry it out and stands in the other room crying herself, because it goes against the very grain of her instincts to have that happen. And yet she does, because understandably she wants to sleep through the night again but mostly because she is afraid that if she doesn’t “train” her child to sleep then he never will figure it out on his own. This isn’t a slight to those mamas, in case you are one of them, it’s just an example. Because i have known mamas who did that and regretted it later on, wishing she had just listened to her instinct to run in the room and soothe her baby. I know that my family and friends likely have opinions about the fact that i wear Veda everywhere all the time, that at four months old she has never been cared for by or left alone with anyone other then me or my husband, and that not only do we share our bed with her but have no definite plans of kicking her out of it anytime soon. We firmly believe that not only are we investing in her sense of security in this world and trust in us, but we’re also confident that when she is ready to sleep in her own space, she will. And when we as a family see that the time is right, we will support the transition organically. We’re not worried that she’ll still be sleeping with us at 10 or breastfeeding in grade school. We trust in her natural development. After all, this period she is in, from birth to 18 months specifically, is referred to as the “Attachment Period” in our psychological human development. We are not robbing her of independence so much as we are investing in her ability to become highly independent when the time is ripe, from a place of deep security. Deep security, self-love, and true freedom come from a place of strong and healthy attachment.
But more then attachment itself, I think trusting our intuiton is the most important point here, because when we as woman trust in our higher knowing all is well, all is right. It is my hope that we woman continue to sink deeper and deeper into our innate intuition. We all have it, and like all senses, the more awareness we bring to it the stronger it becomes. So if in your heart you want to sleep with your baby, or keep close to your baby beyond what others believe is normal, or are reaching the 6 month or 1 year mark past your babies birth and are worrying about how you are going to get them off the boob but you secretly don’t really want to quit breastfeeding… just listen to yourself. You are a powerful knower of truth. Believe in that. Trust your babies needs and trust in yourself and your ability to intuit them. If you look into your heart you will know your truth. Let that knowing always be your guiding light. Motherhood is demanding and they say there isn’t a manual, but i would say that your intuition about what is best for you, your family and your baby is the best manual out there.
As many wise men have said, “If you don’t go within, you go without.”