Before I start, let me just say that however you choose to parent your kids when they are young, I support you. Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, give birth vaginally or by C-section, co-sleep or sleep train, you do you, boo. It’s all good, because whatever choices we make, it’s all about intention.
Do you shower your kids with love? Are you kind, compassionate, and try to learn from your mistakes as a parent? Awesome —that’s all it takes to be an amazing parent and to raise great kids. And there are so many valid ways to accomplish that.
All that said, for me, going down the “crunchy” parenting path — choosing to practice most of the tenets of “attachment parenting” like natural birth, co-sleeping, and long-term breastfeeding — was a clear choice I made when my kids were basically in the womb, and I have zero regrets. In fact, I could go on and on about how beneficial these choices were for me and my kids.
The reason I bring this up is that lately I’ve seen a bunch of mamas reflecting on their choice to practice attachment parenting. There’s a lot of regret expressed — moms who feel that their choices were too extreme and made them tired and miserable. Moms who put in a ton of effort to breastfeed or have a natural birth and feel like their bodies failed them. Or moms who feel like all the effort they put into attachment parenting had no point because their kids turned out exactly the same as all the other kids.
I totally get where these parents are coming from. To be honest, I think the whole “attachment parenting” term is problematic, and that parenting philosophies are kind of ridiculous to begin with. In many ways, parenting can’t be taught: we kind of all just figure it out as we go along, taking cues from our friends, our childhood memories, and whatever else we absorb as we journey through life.
Attachment parenting itself isn’t really a thing that some parents do and some don’t. Unless we totally abandon our kids, most caring parents espouse many of the principals of attachment and are constantly looking for ways to ensure that their kids become securely attached so that they can explore their growing independence with ease and trust.
Many of the characteristics that we associate with attachment parenting are just things that come instinctively to us. Most of us just want to pick up our babies whenever they cry. Most of us would prefer to spend as much time snuggling our babies as possible.
That said, many of us were raised not to respond as readily and consistently to our baby’s cries, and were taught that babies need to learn to self-soothe and become independent beings ASAP. So having a term like “attachment parenting”— which tells parents that it’s okay to hold your baby as much as you damn well please, to breastfeed as long as you want, and to allow your baby to share sleep with you — is such an important and reassuring concept to many new parents.
It can be taken to an extreme, sure. But so can anything. And yes, certain aspects of it are difficult to accomplish, especially if you think you have to practice them by the book. Modern life doesn’t allow most of us to cater to our baby’s every whimper, and moms who work or have little extra help simply can’t be there for every cry or every breastfeeding session. Many families find that bed sharing or co-sleeping doesn’t work for them at all, even if they set out to do them.
But it is totally possible to do all or most of the attachment parenting things — if doing so is what you want — in a way that works for you, is comfortable, and won’t destroy your sanity in the process.
In many ways, I was the model for attachment parenting. I gave birth to both of my babies at home, I rarely put my babies down, I co-slept with them forever, responded to all of their cries (at least the ones I heard!), and nursed them well past the baby and toddler years.
I was exhausted a lot, but I don’t think I was more exhausted than other parents I knew — being a parent to young kids is just freaking tiring. If there was some aspect to the whole attachment parenting thing that didn’t work for me, I just let it go. To me, attachment parenting more than anything else meant going with my instincts, and if my instincts said nope, I went with that.
I don’t think attachment parenting made me a better parent, or a worse one, but I do think it was the best choice for me and my family and I stand by it.
I have no regrets and I make no apologies for my choices, some of which were non-conformist, to say the least.
Having been out of the baby years for a while, I can say that attachment parenting helped me accomplish what I set out to accomplish. My two boys are blossoming into kind, secure young men. And as they grow up in this sometimes cruel, harsh world, I am glad they were brought up with a foundation of unconditional love, warmth, touch, and gentleness.
So to all the new mamas out there contemplating whether attachment parenting is right for you and worrying about the warnings of taking it an extreme, just go with your gut on it all. Take what works for you, and leave the rest behind. Remember that your sanity is important, but also that there is no amount of love and care that is “too much” for our babies.
And don’t let anyone scare you into thinking there is something wrong with making attachment parenting a priority and even making sacrifices to make it work. Our kids’ babyhoods are short in the grand scheme of things, and they need all the extra cuddles and TLC they can get.