What is Attachment Parenting?


So, the hot topic recently is breastfeeding and attachment parenting (AP) compliments of the latest controversial TIME Magazine cover.  I’m not happy with the headline on the front of this cover which fuels this media driven “Mommy Wars”.  Mommy’s are amazing and strong people, even the ones that choose to parent differently then me.

I’m going to take this opportunity to clarify whatAP is in practice, at least in my house because the media is totally misrepresenting this method and also making it sound like an all or nothing sort of thing.  The methods I use to parent are often described as AP but it matches very closely to how I was parented.  My parents followed no manual but just did what naturally evolved for them.  I was the last of 6 for my mom but for her first she was very young and was forced to raise her children in a tumultuous period of her life.  I came 10 years later with a different husband that was so excited to have the child he didn’t think he could ever have. He insisted I was born all natural.  My mom breastfed me and didn’t wean me until 2.5 and I remember sleeping with parents often until I was like 10.  I grew into a very independent and confident woman that lives half way across the country yet adores both her parents.

Go forward many years and it’s my turn to have kids. For several years my husband and I agreed we wouldn’t have kids. We also agreed that if we did, one of us would stay home full time.  Then I started hearing my biological clock tick and I became happy to set myself up to be a full-time mom.  So, we started making double payments on the house while I was working and started working on that new family.  I planned to breastfeed my baby and sleep with him and then my midwife explained that there is a term and support group for the method I planned to follow called AP and API.  I attended API and LLL meetings before the arrival.  When the baby came, boy was I in for a surprise.  He was demanding and nursed 24/7.  If I put him down for 2 seconds, he’d freak.  He was lucky to arrive at a house where I was willing to listen to these seemingly extreme needs.

You see, a baby is biologically programmed to require frequent nursing to fill his tiny stomach only the size of his fist and to be held to ensure safety from predators (his DNA has no idea it’s the 21st century with monitors and solid structures to protect from the dangers of the world).  I also believe mommy is similarly programmed to keep her baby attached and quiet (I.e respond before baby gets desperate enough to cry) to ensure he’s safe from predators and to make the milk custom for the needs of her baby.  Also, human babies are made to nurse for years not months.  If you look at anthropological data human babies should wean as late as 7 years old. This is not some new concept of parenting, just the parenting our biology tells us is necessary.  The problem is that we live in a society where families live around the globe and can’t provide the village support needed to raise a child.  Parents often find themselves alone to meet the very demanding needs of our children.  Also, our cultural doesn’t value a mother who follows her heart. 

My first born had an overwhelming need to be physically attached to feel right and good in the world.  So, I carried him everywhere.  First in my Kozy Carrier then in my Ergo.  Over time he needed  it less and less and he got bigger and bigger.  Our last time to use the Ergo was at 3.5 during a trip to Baltimore and then he just got too big for me.  He also nursed on demand.  At first that meant I was living on the lounger with the remote and a good book for entertainment.  But that, too, faded over time until we ended our nursing relationship at 3.5.  He was only nursing 1-2 times per day at that point and mommy was feeling ready to wean and after he went 3 days not asking on vacation and then asking to nurse again, mommy gave him that extra nudge when we returned home with a promise of a weaning party with cake and close friends.  He nursed that morning until he said “It’s all gone”. He was convinced it ran out for good and never asked again.  He’s 6 now with lots of confidence and growing independence.

Now I have a 3 mo.  He’s less of a comfort nurser and actually enjoys laying in his bouncer or on the floor doing his own thing if he’s not hungry or tired.  He’ll nap on his own and even sleeps up to 5 hours straight at night.  I hand him over to friends at times (something his brother was never comfortable with).  I nurse on demand, sling him to get him around and have no desire to be away from him but I follow his lead.  My parenting of baby #2 is looking very different then #1 and less hardcore AP simply because his needs are different.

Here is my interview with my local news station on the topic:

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