It amazes me that when you choose to live an on-purpose life, all of the wonderful things you will learn on your journey.
I've heard of the term "Attachment Parenting" here and there, but never really bothered to look into it and see what it was. I thought it was some extreme, child-led type parenting, and didn't think I was really interested. But the term kept coming up over and over again, particularly whenever I would be reading things on natural family living. So I decided to do a little investigating.
I found a website called Attachment Parenting International, which seems to be a wonderful resource about all things related to Attachment Parenting (AP).
According to this website, the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting are as follows:
1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
2. Feed with Love and Respect
3. Respond with Sensitivity
4. Use Nurturing Touch
5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting
6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care
7. Practice Positive Discipline
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
If you actually go on the website, it gives much more detail on these 8 principals. Also, from what I've read, parents who practice AP are generally (although not exclusively) pro-breastfeeding, pro-co-sleeping, pro-baby wearing, and often cloth diaper. From what I understand, this style of parenting is about promoting attachment to people (preferably the mother and/or father) over things. This means not giving mother substitutes, like pacifiers, sookie blankets, etc., but rather giving yourself to your child. They are also very much anti-cry-it-out. And most importantly, they encourage you to listen to your instincts, and do what you feel is right.
Reading about this parenting style has been a mixed blessing for me. Although I'm drawn to it because I feel I already practice much of it, it also makes me sad. I've realized that, in some ways, I've given in to what society expects, and not listened to my instincts.
We did co-sleep with both of our kids for about the first 4 months. With my first baby, I was reluctant to tell anyone, for fear of what they might think. Then our pediatrician told us it was time to let her "cry it out" so that she would sleep on her own. And so that's what we did. After one long, painful week of letting her cry (scream) in her crib, she eventually learned to sleep on her own. We followed suit with the second baby, knowing it worked so well with the first. It took the same amount of time, about a week, and worked like a charm. Our little man has been sleeping on his own ever since. I now realize how much this totally went against my instincts - it was gut-wrenching, to say the least. My oldest child had pretty extreme colic for the first 6 months (which we found out by about 4 months was due to GER - Gastro Esophogeal Reflux), so she basically didn't sleep for the first 6 months of her life - we were desperate, exhausted, and willing to try anything. I am grateful that now my children sleep through the night on their own, but I wonder now if perhaps there was a better way to go about it.
I wish I had done more research, and had a more natural childbirth. I did the hospital birth with an epidural. If I had it to do again, I would LOVE to have a midwife and a home birth.
I wish I had not bought all of the baby gear. My kids had pretty much every gadget - a swing, a jumperoo, a playpen (which we only used for sleeping while we were traveling - but co-sleeping would have eliminated this need), a couple of different seats. I wish I had gotten nothing but a sling. I got sucked into the Wal Mart baby department and thought I needed it all. In reality, I needed none of it.
Both of my kids have sookie blankets. They sleep with them. It breaks my heart now to realize that the reason they are so attached to those blankets is because they use them as a substitute for me.
We don't really engage in nighttime parenting. If our oldest stumbles into our room in the middle of the night, we usually just take her back to bed. Now I just want to bring her into bed with us and snuggle her in between us. If the baby wakes up crying we just wait it out to see if he goes back to sleep. Now I want to go and get him and bring him into our bed.
I wish our children were never exposed to toys and marketing. We have way more toys than any child needs. What they really want to play with is us. Now they think they need all this stuff that they already have, and I would like to get rid of all of it. And turn off the tv while I'm at it.
On the positive side, there are many things that we do that do follow this approach. We decided that it was of utmost importance that I stay at home to raise our children. Having someone else raise them was not an option - I was willing to do whatever it would take in order to do that. We practice extended breastfeeding. Not intentionally - I just decided I would nurse him as long as he wanted to nurse. He's now 19 months old, and not showing any signs that he wants to quit. :) I don't broadcast it (because most people think it's weird), but if someone asks, I will proudly tell them. I believe we do use gentle discipline. At first I found myself giving into society's pressures to give our kids time-outs, and criticize their behaviour. But it never felt right to me, so I found myself hugging my kids when they were having a meltdown, because I was sure that they were feeling sad about something and just wanted me to love them. I plan to do much more of this now. I also try to prevent meltdowns instead of having to discipline them, by trying to avoid the situation that might lead to the meltdown. Signing has played a huge role in this. Whenever possible I try to forsee problems before they occur, and intervene before it becomes a problem.
Anyway, I am really just beginning to learn about this wonderful parenting style. I bought The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears, who is, apparently, the Godfather of Attachment Parenting. It was the ONLY book I could find in our area that even touched on AP. Not even our library had anything. So I plan to read through this book and learn all that I can. Although my kids are 19 months and 3 1/2 years, I don't think it's ever too late to start listening to your instincts.
Do any of you practice Attachment Parenting? I would love for you to share what you know, or point me in the direction of some good resources.