Attachment Parenting is Beautiful, Except for When It Sucks

 
Attachment parenting.  I am afraid to blog about this because I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with it.

Be forewarned, this is just MY thoughts- others probably feel really differently.  Why am I talking about this?  Well, I think sometimes all we hear from attachment type mamas is roses and hearts and babies that never cry.  We all want to sound so loving and kind all the time that we leave out the parts we struggle with.

This is fine, there is nothing wrong with staying positive.  But it can make a mother who is struggling, really feel alone and like a failure when it looks like everybody else is just sailing through Perfect Parenthood 101.

And so, these are my personal experiences with both the pros AND the cons of attached parenting.  


Baby Wearing-

What I love about it-

I loved wearing my first baby.  When I went to the store he was always so content in his little pouch sling.  Everybody thought I had the happiest baby.  I loved it so much I sold slings for a while.  I gave them to every mama I knew at their baby showers.  It does seem to facilitate breastfeeding, being in touch with your babies needs, and encouraging mothering hormones.  My babies always seem content in their slings or pouches.

BUT-

The more babies I have had, the harder baby wearing has been for me.  I often walk for miles each day and there is not a carrier on the planet that makes it comfortable to wear a 20 pound baby for two miles walking much less a three mile run while pushing a double jogger and walking the dog.  I am not ashamed to admit that my stroller is a much loved possession.  I can't fathom why people hate strollers actually.  If I didn't have one I would have gone totally bonkers and been stuck at home for the many times I have had no car.   

Another thing I learned with one of my babies is that not all babies like to be worn in a sling.  I used to think that mom was just "doing it wrong" but the truth I discovered is this:  All babies are different.  Some really do seem to enjoy their own space.  I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't had a baby like that, but it was shockingly true for me.

Plus the stroller doesn't make my back hurt.

Co-Sleeping-

People LOVE co-sleeping.  It is apparently some sign that you actually love your kids.  We have slept with all of our kids at one time or another, some for years, and others more sporadically.   It can be a wonderful relationship and can encourage some very sweet moments.

It does make breastfeeding easier, it does make it easy for nighttime bonding and for some babies it is the only way they sleep.

BUT-

I have had babies love this and others that simply will not settle next to me.  This is not a solution for every baby, in my experience.  Some of my babies didn't like sleeping with us until they were around the age of two.  Children don't always fit the books, even if they were written by Dr Sears.

Our family bed sometimes contains 6 people in a full size bed and is VERY friendly, very cramped and, frankly, pretty difficult to sleep in.  I realize that some mamas sleep better with the kids in the bed, but this isn't always the case for me.  I love the sweet cuddly moments, but I also like deep sleep and time with just my husband after a long day.

I often hear attached parents talk about how their sex life is still "great and exciting and spontaneous!!" even though there is always somebody else in their bed. 

Sex on a tile floor might sound like fun when you are 20 and newly married, but frankly, in your thirties, it is just painful.  The truth is, it CAN impact the sex life and intimacy.  My husband ends up on the couch frequently because we just run out of room on the bed.  Co-sleeping with babies can be lovely and sweet, but frankly, I sometimes miss cuddling with my hubby.  Yes, you can do both, but it isn't always as easy as some people make it out to be.     

Tandem Nursing-

I love breastfeeding and think it is worth any effort to make it work.  Really, I think it is one of the most important things you can do for your baby if possible.  The benefits are endless both for health and emotional well being. 
Photo courtesy of Mae Burke Photography in DFW

BUT-

My last pregnancy was unexpected and happened around the one year birthday of my third child.  She was still nursing like a champ and then suddenly- she wouldn't touch me.  I felt endlessly guilty.  I felt like I was taking away her babyhood.  But the more I tried the more strongly she refused.

I thought that I would be able to nurse her until she was "done" on her own, but I couldn't.  I am sure that the pregnancy changes caused her to prematurely wean.  Obviously some women are able to successfully do this- but some are not.  Also, the first week or so, when I was feeling ill and she still liked to nurse, was EXHAUSTING.  I wouldn't have quit because she was so young, but I don't blame any mom who does, especially if the baby is past a year. 

For me, I wouldn't get pregnant on purpose until my last baby had weaned themselves, just in case the older baby hated the milk changes that happen with pregnancy.

Attachment Parenting Past Infancy-

I don't even know what this means.  Really, I don't.  When I had a baby I thought newborns who scream for no obvious reason must be the hardest child to parent.  Then they got older.  My oldest is seven now, and I still don't know what I am doing.

Sometimes I think, "What a wonderful child!  Something is working!"

Other times I am sure I am failing all over the place.  I hear them say things I am sure they heard come out of my mouth and I worry for the future of mankind.

I don't think parenting is ever easy, but it is always changing.  No is a word I use a lot.  Time outs- done that.  Discussions- done that.  Yelling- umm.....no comment.

You know what I have found- NOTHING works all the time.  I hear people saying that peaceful parenting doesn't work and I hear people saying that spanking doesn't work.  Frankly, I can't think of anything that is 100% fool proof and  works for every child all the time.

Children are not a test and applying a "technique" isn't going to always do the trick.  Beyond that, I just can't say that what I am doing is working- because guess what- MY OLDEST IS ONLY SEVEN!  Ask me in 40 years how it worked, and I will let you know. 
***
I love my babies so much and I try to give them all the love they need.  I love the idea of the perfect attached parent.  Sadly, I have found that sometimes I just can't do it the way it seems it should be done.  Maybe this is because I have had the babies too close together, or because I don't get enough sleep, or because I need more help.  Maybe it is because I am not patient enough or because babies don't all fit in any certain box.

Whatever it is, I am trying.  I need to try harder too.  I hope that we all are and I hope we can find some balance that gives the kids a loving sense of presence, the ability to be independent and grow, and leaves time and space for a happy and healthy marriage and mother.  Good luck.  I know I need all the luck I can get.
(I need to give some love to Confessions of a High-heel Wearing Hippie Mommy whose post got me thinking.  Check her out!)


Comments

thank you, thank you, thank you...
Thank you for your very honest words. Parenting is so complex. I wish more women felt comfortable enough to express their honest feelings and experiences rather then making it seem like it is peaches and cream all the time...because it's not.
I agree with everything you've said... perfectly written! xx
Diana J. said…
Great thoughts. I'm only into some aspects of AP, and on either side of the spectrum I find that nothing works all the time. And everything has mixed results. And parenting can be incredibly frustrating and tiring.... just ask me why I have spent most of the past three years in tears over my lack of quality results in parenting, despite how incredibly hard I am trying. Still trying!
Mama D. said…
I got a surprise pregnancy after my FIRST child turned one, her latch was never good and now my nipples hurt and I am sick all the time. She hasn't given up, but sometimes I wish she would, even though I swore I would let her wean herself (hopefully after age 2). But now we are struggling so hard and sometimes I have to tell her no or unlatch her before she is ready and she cries so intensely like I am breaking her heart and its awful, no its the worst feeling in the world. We have resorted to bottles and I nurse when I can and at night and sometimes I just lay there and cry while she feeds. Thanks for the post, it felt supportive, not controversial.
Gatorhap said…
Oh, thank you so much for your perfect timing on this day that has been very challenging. I just told my husband that while I wouldn't change anything about our family now, I would advise other women to wait longer between children than we have because I just feel like right now we can NOT give everyone everything they want/need. And I'm tired of feeling guilty about that.
Tiny Footprints said…
THank you for sharing this. I couldn't have put any of it better myself. I agree with all of my heart.
newincs said…
Great post :) Wanted to offer a bit of advice.. what we do :)

We needed some time to stretch out in our bed and maybe even have sex .. alone.. IN OUR BED. So I put the boys to sleep in the living room. Sometimes they sleep on the couch, sometimes on the floor. The big one is currently stretched out on one end of the couch and his brother has nursed to sleep on me. When I go to bed little one will join his brother or go on a blanket in the floor. When they wake up they come down the hallway, the big one stops to pee on his way through, the baby gets a diaper when he comes to bed (potty training) and they will spend the rest of the night in our bed :) Co-sleeping WIN :) LOL : ) So just an idea for those who need some solo bed time but still co-sleep... it takes some time for them to learn to walk down the hall to our bedroom but now that they have it figured out.. NICE :)
Kimberly O. said…
The nursing one hit home. I got pregnant a couple months before my youngest turned one, and I made it to a year before we weaned. It was a good mixture of "mommy is going to go nuts" and baby is done nursing. I love this post so much. Thank you!
My oldest will be 17 in a couple of weeks, and my experience is that there are always rough spots and that no one is ever perfect.

I think something that makes it much, much harder for all of us trying to implement this lifestyle is that our culture (industrialized, '1st world' human culture) is completely unsupportive of this normal, healthy, co-evolved way of raising children. Hopefully, the more of us that rediscover our parenting instincts, the more the culture will change and re-adapt. I really believe we would have an easier time of things if our society was oriented in a way that supported our hard-wired evolutionary norms.
Great post! I love "Children don't always fit the books, even if they were written by Dr Sears."

I actually do love co-sleeping but sometimes I want to scream when my son wants to stay latched on just because I happen to be right there. He sleeps fine in the bed alone with me in the next room but if he can smell me, he wants to comfort nurse every hour. Often I can sleep right through it but sometimes I've had a hard day and I really want to just snuggle with my husband! Sometimes *I* want to be the baby and *I* need comfort and to be held!

I'm so with you on strollers. I wish I would have worn my newborn more and with my next one I definitely will, but around the time my son could sit up on his own we got a stroller and he LOVED it. He still loves taking walks in it at 14 months - the only time he wants out is so that he can run around, not to be held. I almost didn't have a stroller. We didn't buy one because OMG I was going to wear my bibi all the time AP 4 life. My mom gave me a secondhand Graco she found and it is still my favorite piece of baby gear. I can't wear my 27-pound 'baby' out to get the mail without a sore back, let alone on a freaking walk.

I feel like the important part of attachment parenting is responding to our children and their individuality, and being available to them. Unfortunately it gets super cliquey and competitive, especially online. Trying to force families into parenting that doesn't fit their lifestyle leaves everyone feeling anything but secure.
Celery Stalks said…
Great blog!
I was so for the attachment parenting on my first (now 22 months) and read up all my dr. Sears. Then I got a high needs baby who didn't particularly like cuddles, loved stretching out in her own space (with us nearby of course), hated slings, hated being held by anyone except us,slept terribly and breastfed all the time. She was so different to my friends babies and I often wondered what I was doing wrong. Well she's now a chatty confident cuddly sociable toddler who loves nothing better than to sit and cuddle mama, or play away independently when we're doing chores. What eventually worked for us was (gasp!) a fairly strict routine and predictablity. Not what I had originally chosen for her, but rather what she chose and needed herself!
No. 2 due for Christmas so we'll be playing that one by ear. :)
Monday Tree said…
Mothers need to check why they are so hyper vigilant in following some arbitrary "attachment parenting rules" they don't exist. Creating a set agenda to follow creates no guarantees the type of adult children you will have. Your children are the judge if you are good enough, not other parents. Children need a good enough parent, an attentive, supporting loving and kind mother, that is not only done by wearing your child for years, or some perceived mandatory co-sleeping with them!
Mothers have to stop policing themselves as if they are constantly not good enough because they have to adjust as their family grows or their child needs tell them something else. All the doubting they might be harming their child by not following some invented rules about attachment parenting is not a healthy state for any mother or child to live in! Lighten up on yourself, let go of the dogma and your children will appreciate it in the long run.
I have only one dd who is 18 months, and we are ttc now. I do think its so important to stop comparing with everyone else and doing things just BC we are supposed to. Personally, I love cosleeping and baby wearing even now. I just walked around for an hour with her on my ring sling and my back does not get sore. I would be very sad if she weaned in pregnancy but I don't blame those who are not or feel they need to. I struggle with frustration sometimes as my girl frustrations very attached to only me buy I love the way we do things
I think AP is about recognizing and responding to your child's needs. Even if that means you notice your child is happier in a stroller rather than being worn or in a crib rather than a family bed. Being attached to your child does not have to take on such a literal meaning. I think everything the author of this article said is exactly what AP is all about, not what "sucks" about AP.
Megan said…
Thank you for this post! I don't think that babywearing, co sleeping, and tandem nursing is an all for nothing all the time. My baby was one who hated the carrier until she was around 5 months and could look around, she slept with us until she was 6 months then we transitioned her to the crib (she still occasionally sleeps with us), and I had so many difficulties nursing I pumped and use donor milk. So I think you can still believe in attachment parenting but you have to go with the flow. Like you said every baby is different and likes different things.
Tom and Juli said…
Not only is every baby and its likes different, but mom has different stages of her life too where she might not feel as drawn to AP practices. Maybe with her first she followed everything right down the line, but for a later child didn't feel it was as important for that time in her life. I know in the 4 short years that I've been having children (pregnant with the third now) I have personally been a completely different person with each child/pregnancy, which mean different things are important to me each time, and I feel more comfortable with some things and less with others.
This is absoulutely Great!
Perfect timing too.
I'm learning to just do the things that work with my child...with my family and not feel pressured to "fit into a style" of parenting, because it doesn't always work.
TanyaBee said…
Ilove the part where you said 'my oldest is only 7!'....everything you wrote is sooooo true and so poignant, and I was FEELING exactly this way this morning, after getting NO sleep with "only" 2 of my 7 children in our bed....I felt like crying as I read your blog, because it so perfectly expressed how I was feeling. Thank you for your honesty! God bless you on your parenting journey. You WILL see good fruit! Our oldest 2 are now 13 yrs old (twins) and are growing into amazing young adults! :) Hang in there!
kate said…
Wow, thank you for this. Perfectly said and helps m,e feel like I'm not a failure.
Tam F. said…
ive been struggling lately too this helps alot to know I am not along TY!
Connie Johnson said…
Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself. I only have 2 kids and they are so different. My oldest, my son, slept so much better in his own room and his own crib (and he still woke up 3 or 4 times a night until he was a year and a half) and my sweet baby girl at 5 months old loves sleeping in Mommy's arms after beginning the night in her own bed in our room and only wakes once or twice. I would like to think of myself as an attachment parent, I carry my babies, yet use a stroller at times, I cosleep when necessary, I breastfeed, but refused to tandem nurse and weened my son when I was pregnant with my daughter and felt like I was going to puke every time he nursed. We aren't perfect, but we do the best we can with what we've got in us. And we are all right.
Krista Eger said…
I love when people point out the difficulty of parenting. So many ap parents act like if you're not in it 100% then you're a bad parent. I try hard to do what's right for my kids, but sometimes I have to look at what's right for my family. I work from home and I can work extra hours at night but my daughter has to sleep in our room so I'd really like for her to not sleep there. But I'm also considering setting up my "office" in her bedroom. And breast feeding is wearing on me and she's only 14 months. Frankly I'm just proud of myself for making it as long as I have. Our bond is extremely strong but I'd really like for her to break away a little and be a little less dependably on me and just havent figured out how to do that in the best way possible. But I hate when ap parents judging thoughts run through my head because they are not part of my family. What is good for theirs may not be good for mine. So I've decided that I will not judge another parents choices. The best thing you can do for a child is love them. That is the basis of good parenting. If you love them you will make good choices for them. Who is really the one to say whether a choice is good anyway??
Krista Eger said…
Ps I broke my hand so ignore my grammatical errors and phones auto"correcting" :)
Lovely Love said…
This was an excellent post! I could not have said it better myself. I have one of those kids who didn't want to sleep with us until he was like 18 months old. Never really wanted to breast feed. likes being around me all the time, but doesn't want to be smothered or held much. He's my first and he's taught me so much! Every human being is so complex and will never fit any kind of category perfectly. These are just meant to be guidelines ya know?
Shay said…
This is all so true - love this post! We've definitely learned over the years that what works for one isn't going to always work for the other.
Unknown said…
Thank you! Sometime I feel guilty admitting to other AP families that I won't let my 2.5 year old acrobat sleep in our bed every night or that I just want her to wean already!
Can you be my new best friend? I love my girls (2, 4, 6), but parenting is EXHAUSTING and the only constant in it seems to be change. Thank you for your honesty.
Mama Birth said…
Thank you all for your thoughts- I thought I would be attacked for this post, but as it turns out, I am not the only one- Thank you-
Patti Jo said…
Thank your for writing this! I try my best to be a great mother. I tried to do natural child birth and turned to an epidural, and the next medically required a cesarean. I tried to breastfeed and my children just couldn't figure it out, all the coaching from lactation experts couldn't make my babies latch on (oh, and chemo interfered with that too). I tried sleeping with a baby in my bed, the only problem was I couldn't sleep. But I'm still a great mother. Mothering doesn't have to done a particular way to be successful, it just has to be done with love.
Natalie Grace said…
I absolutely LOVE this post! Thank you for posting it. I absolutely could not agree 100% with everything you said more. I did not do attached parenting with my first at all. He WAS one of the kind of babies that liked his own space. I never baby wore with him(except on RARE occasions) he weaned between 8-10 months and we only co-slept exclusively until about 4 months. I regret some of the things that we did regarding parenting with him. So I got pregnant with my second around the time my first weaned. I was determined to do exclusive attached parenting with him. I realized that it's NOT as easy as some make it out to be. My second happens to be in the 100th percentile for his weight and heighth and he is one FAT and heavy baby to haul around!!! I do not wear him nearly as often as I had planned. We do co-sleep and I plan on breastfeeding longer this time. Fortunately(and unfortunately) he only wants to be next to me all the time, unlike my first. HE is an attached baby, so it makes it easier. *sigh* motherhood is hard sometimes!
Aunt Annie said…
I absolutely love your honesty- and yes, it was brave to write this post; I've seen how people can be attacked for expressing simple honest doubts. I'm sharing this on my FB page.
Alice said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
scienceofmom said…
Awesome post. I'm just learning about AP and taking some parts of it and leaving others. To be honest, I'm more interested in attachment (period) than AP, because I often find that once you latch onto one parenting style you forget to a)listen to and respect your intuition; and b)listen to and respect your kid. I think it is more important to respect the child and figure out what works best for her personality and within the existing family. I also think attachment is much more about the way you interact with the child than how you carry her or where everyone sleeps. Thanks so much for your honesty and right on!
SlapItHigh said…
scienceofmom - you are more interested in "attachment" than AP? Attachment is AP, that's what the A stands for, lol! Some people mistakenly believe that AP is about following a list but it's not -- it's solely about attachment. Dr Sears has made a list of things that help facilitate attachment and communication in general but it's just a list of tools -- not something that each person has to be to achieve attachment. Communication is key as it means understanding what each child/mother needs.
Robin said…
I'm not a parent yet, but I helped parent my nine younger siblings, and I have parents. :-) I have a theory that parents who have no clue what they are doing are the BEST parents. Parents who think they know it all and are experts worry me. I know in my own case, in retrospect, my parents were FABULOUS parents when they were young and clueless and had no idea what they were doing, when I was little. It was later, after going to tons of seminars and reading books on how to be a perfect parent, that the family grew more and more dysfunctional. Just trust your mothering instincts, get to know your individual children for who they are, love and enjoy your kids the best you can every day, and I'm sure things will turn out great! Anyway, that's my theory. :-)
brandi said…
The worst thing we can do as parents is make up our minds what our kids are going to do before they even get here! It sets US up for failure and causes resentment towards our children if we're not careful.

I was so upset that I wasn't able to breastfeed my son and resented that I wasn't 'bonding'. I didn't want him having a pacifier - that went out the door, too. I expected that he would sleep through the night by two months - HAHAHAHA! Try 18 months!

Along came DD... and the two couldn't BE more different. While I didn't try breastfeeding her, she slept through the night at 2 months, had the colic he didn't, talked before him, and was a totally social baby.

Babies are people with their own likes, dislikes, quirks, and issues, just like us. The BEST parent isn't one who follows a fad, or a book, or a class - they're the one who looks at their child and realizes they are unique!
Ali Kelley said…
Thank you! There is no certain or perfect style parenting. It's just what works best for your children and your family. As a parent we need to love our children and show them how to survive and thrive in our world. We have five children and are complete now as a family. Each child has been different for many reasons. I wish we could just focus less on our neighbors and more on ourselves as independent families.