When I was a new mother, I heard all the usual reasons why I shouldn’t practice Attachment Parenting with my baby – namely, the need to teach her early independence. Now that I’ve had a few babies, people are wising up that I think that argument for early independence is bogus.
Children naturally learn independence on their own; that’s normal child development, no matter how a baby is raised. Trying to hurry something that naturally occurs on its own time, like independence or potty training or riding a bicycle, doesn’t turn out so well often; children need to learn new skills step by step, on their own.
It’s not the people have stopped offering me their unsolicited advice to cry-it-out, not cosleep, put the baby down, wean off the breast, and other common parenting techniques that lead to so-called early independence; it’s that people are now rephrasing the old argument in increasingly desperate ways. Here are a few I’ve heard recently:
- “Holding your baby so much is ruining your posture.” On the contrary, holding an extra 20 pounds of baby is strengthening my core and especially arm muscles wonderfully because I’m always doing strength-building exercises.
- “A lot of babies get hurt when their caregiver trips and falls down while holding them.” I suppose, but I think this is really probably a rare event.
- “You’d get more done if you put your baby down more.” I am an amazing multi-tasker, if I say so myself, and I have way more energy than the average person. My house is sparkling, my kids are happy, I work full-time from home and have a side business, and I help my husband manage our acreage, where we raise livestock and sell eggs. I just learn to do things one-handed and to only fill my life with as much as I can handle.
- “What if you roll over on your baby in your sleep?” I practice safe cosleeping, according to Attachment Parenting International guidelines developed by some of the top experts in the field, such as Dr. James McKenna and Dr. William Sears. Part of that is positioning myself so that it is virtually impossible to roll over on my baby as it would require my arm to bend in unnatural ways.
- “He’ll never get out of your bed!” I coslept my other children and they eventually transitioned to their own beds in their own rooms. I have no concern.
- “It’ll ruin your marriage, as you won’t be able to have sex.” Ha! I find this truly ridiculous. A happy marriage is about a lot more than having sex. Also, cosleeping requires creativity, which is super sexy. And, truth be told, when I go to bed at night, I want to sleep.
- “If you wean your baby off the breast, you will have so much more freedom.” I like to breastfeed, my baby doesn’t show any signs of weaning, breastmilk is a lot cheaper and healthier than formula and doesn’t require washing bottles and nipples.
- “Try to really enjoy your weekend – leave your baby with Grandma.” No offense, Grandma, but I don’t agree that babies should be apart from their mothers for the first few years, unless it’s for a medical reason or another equally serious event. Plus, any vacation I take, I’ll want to bring the kids with. I won’t enjoy a weekend away one bit while I’m missing my kids. I’m not saying that anyone who leaves their kid with Grandma for the weekend is a bad parent; just that that isn’t my style.
- “Doesn’t breastfeeding a baby that old make your husband uncomfortable?” Uh, no. Breasts are for feeding your baby. Plus, I am discrete when I nurse. Most people don’t even know I’m doing it unless I outright tell them; they just think my baby is snuggling in for a nap.
- “Crying is good for babies’ lungs.” Yeah, right. Can you imagine if you were in another country and didn’t know the language, and everyone was ignoring you? So, you get louder and louder and more frustrated, but your hosts just said, well, yelling is good for your lungs. Some people think this is a goofy analogy, but it’s basically the same – your baby does not know your language and rather than attend to him and try to communicate, you ignore him.
- “Babies don’t remember anything anyway.” On the contrary, every interaction or lack of interaction with your baby is wiring his brain a certain way and teaching him about his environment. They may not be able to recall memories as images in their minds from this age, but they retain what is known as emotional memories. They learn from the get-go what to expect of their home environment. I always find it ironic that a mother who ignored her baby’s cries until screaming is now trying to train her toddler not to whine; she taught her baby to cry loudly before getting attention, and as a toddler, that child then whines loudly to get attention and is reprimanded. Or, a child is never allowed to voice a contrary opinion and then doesn’t come to Mom when she’s a teenager in a bit of trouble. It’s all connected, folks.
- “You enjoy being a martyr. You think you’re a better parent than anyone else.” I do what works for me, my children, and my family. Everyone should have the freedom to do that, but I want parents to know that there’s nothing wrong with Attachment Parenting, if you choose it. We’re all striving to be the best parent we can be for our children, and no one should feel pressured to do something that doesn’t feel natural to them. For a lot of parents, Attachment Parenting feels natural but different. Different means there’s less support for it, but different doesn’t make it bad. And that’s what I want parents to know.