Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Word about Attachment Parenting

Ohhhhhh, attachment parenting (AP). It's a dirty phrase to some people, even many people in my "line of work". It's equated with hippies. It's assumed to be anti-mother working outside of the home. It's seen as uneducated and old-fashioned. It's simply not what the parents of my generation are doing these days.

Or is it?

You know, it's funny how things can change in just a few short years. How, really, one's whole parenting philosophy can change. Because, sisters, that's really what happened to us.

With the kid, we were scheduled, not to specific times, but things certainly happened in a particular order. Things happened based on when WE thought they needed to. Not so much what the kid's cues were telling us he needed. What? You ate an hour ago? You can't be hungry again. It's time for sleep. Go to sleep. Now, as I've said before, he kind of scheduled himself early on, but we certainly encouraged that, probably sometimes to the point where we really did ignore his cues. We also - very briefly - tried CIO, though it absolutely didn't work.

Now, I certainly have always subscribed to the whole "babies cry for a reason, and even if that reason is the desire to be held, that need is as important as the need to be fed or have a diaper changed" thing. Also, I did a little carrying the kid around in a sling when he was really little, but there was infinitely more stroller using going on. But, other than that, we were not really what you'd call an attachment parenting kind of family.

So, what is attachment parenting? I'm so glad you asked. Here are a couple of good references for your information and reading pleasure. THIS is a general "what/how-to" of AP. And THIS is a "why" is AP important kind of resource.

AP boils down to a simple yet complex concept - being attentive and responsive to baby's cues. In my opinion, the primary aspects of AP are breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping (whether baby is actually in your bed, or just in the room), baby wearing, and responding to cries and cues immediately. Though, really, the last one pretty much says it all. If I'm aware of and responsive to all of baby's cries and cues, I will breastfeed on demand. And co-sleeping and baby wearing simply make that responding promptly easier.

I'm not sure how we ended up doing AP, but that sure is where we are now. I think it came slowly, really, and logically. It just makes sense to me. And, even more than that, it feels right to me. Though hubby was, I think, hesitant at first, I pulled him along, as is our pattern. But he's now full in. Matter of fact, we were having a conversation the other day about someone who is super Type A and very much all about scheduling everything with her now 2 month old baby. It was so funny to hear him rail against the schedule, and talk about the importance of following babies' cues, not some stupid schedule. I admit I fell a little more in love with him at that moment.

So why do we do it? Because it makes for a happy baby. And a happy baby makes for a happy momma, poppa, and family. A happy baby is one who knows that his needs will be met, even if that need is to be held. And he doesn't have to cry a lot, because he knows his parents will respond to his early cues and meet his needs. People often comment about what a happy baby E is, how rarely he cries. And that's true. He really does rarely cry. Like hardly at all during the day at least. And at night, when he does cry, it's because we're not being responsive to those cues and needs. It's because we're frustrated and not empathetic. As soon as I turn that empathy back on, the cries immediately subside. Now, obviously some of that is a nature issue, like that's just his personailty. But I like to think some of it is a nurture issue, too, that we're doing something right.

Today's lesson - Attachment Parenting is about empathy. A parent taking the time to empathetically parent her/his child. Because that empathy we show our children, it teaches them how to be empathetic to others. And unfortunately, when we don't show our children empathy, it's a skill they don't learn to use in their interactions with others. And, for the love of all things holy, wouldn't we live in a much better world if we all were a little more empathetic towards the people around us.

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