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Attachment parenting and me

28th August 2014

If I had to conform to a ‘style’ of parenting, I think I’d have to side with the so-called “attachment parenting” style.

I had no plans to do this. Before D came along, I knew (or thought I knew) the following about babies:

  • They cry a lot, but you can give them a dummy to stop this
  • They are fed with milk in bottles, or sometimes breastfed
  • They sleep in cots, are pushed in prams and eat blended food because they have no teeth

And yes, this is true of quite a lot of babies – it’s seen as the ‘normal’ way of doing things in many places, the UK being one of them.

Now I had differing ideas about the above even before D was born – oh, I bought a cot and a pram, got all the weaning bowls and spoons, bought bottles and sterilising equipment… But I hoped to breastfeed, babywear, and do without a dummy. I had no idea about weaning and decided I’d think about that later, as I’d heard about BLW but was sceptical.

But as D was born and got older, and now with E here too, I realised a lot of things didn’t make sense to me.

My baby cries in his cot but sleeps soundly cuddled up next to me.

He wants to comfort feed and will not settle for a soft toy and a plastic nipple replacement.

He cries in his pram but is happy and warm cuddled up to me in his carrier.

He cries for me at night so I cuddle him. He wakes an hour later and needs settling again. This happens throughout the night.

Browsing online or asking around will normally tell you the answers to the above are to persevere, and that babies learn. That or it’s a rod for your back if you ‘give in’ to your baby’s demands. I was encouraged to ‘sleep train’, to swap to formula and/or to set a strict routine in order to improve things.

But I wonder why we need to teach our babies to behave a certain way. There’s such a focus on getting them to eat or sleep a certain way; how many hours they’re sleeping and the number one most annoying parent question – whether they sleep through the night.

I realised early on that I am this child’s entire world. All he has known is me – he was inside me for 9 months. Why should he suddenly be away from me? I decided to do what felt right – to keep him as close as he wanted and move away at his own pace, once he felt confident enough with the world to leave my side.

D didn’t sleep through the night til he was almost 15 months old, and even then did not do it regularly until he was closer to 18-19 months. He did not self-settle til around then either. He still has issues settling if he wakes up alone.

But you know what? I don’t mind. I told myself this was normal. To some people, D’s situation sounds like a nightmare – that long without good sleep?! Of course it wasn’t easy, just look back through this blog to see me complain about it :P But he’s a confident, happy and independent child who behaves no differently to any others his age. So no, he wasn’t in a cot sleeping through by 6 weeks or whenever these things are supposed to happen. Yes, he used me as a dummy. Yes, I went to him every time he cried. Yes, I carried him everywhere and co-slept for 18 months. No, I didn’t spoon feed him. Aside from forcibly weaning him from the breast at 17 months, we mostly had no fuss doing things at his pace.

I’m repeating it all with E now. It’s interesting to see this from the opposite point of view; I’ve met mothers who intended to breastfeed, BLW, babywear and follow attachment principles, but whose babies had other ideas. E herself preferred her pram to her carrier at first (but does now seem to like the carrier, phew!). She’s happy to be spoon fed, but as I found BLW easier and more successful with D, I’m taking this approach with her as well.

This isn’t supposed to be a dig at anyone’s parenting – your baby, your choice! I’m happy with my choices, and my children are too :)