**Warning, the following post is hilarious, and also full of references to breastfeeding...just FYI!***
I’ve wanted to write about attachment parenting since Time Magazine threw us under the bus with that “Are You Mom Enough?” article on the subject (eye roll). I’m an attachment parent. Seems that according to the always sensationalizing media – as an attachment parent I must breastfeed with my boob hanging out for all to see as often as possible, sleep curled around my son while ignoring my husband, carry my son constantly and never allow him to cry which will turn him into an indulgent brat who won’t be able to handle the “real world”. Clearly, I must be one of those granola crunching, tree hugger types that will probably start him on solid foods by pre-chewing it mama-bird style. Truthfully, I’m a science nerd and I think the science behind physical and psychosocial human development backs attachment parenting. Plus it’s easy. So really, I’m just a lazy nerd…
I breastfeed because it’s easy. Now. At five months. I’m on a mission to support other moms because getting through the first couple months was downright tortuous. Books (and most breastfeeding advocates) make it sound like it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world to do. Right. Because one of the most sensitive parts of the female body LOVES being sucked on for 30 minutes every hour by a tiny little mouth that you’re convinced has sharp retractable teeth. Every fellow breastfeeding mom I talked to commiserated with me on the toe-curling need to punch something during the initial latching-on by the aforementioned shark. I had my lactation consultant mother holding the space for me, often hourly reminding me it would get better, would prove worth the effort. I also had friends who assured me it’s normal, and the routinely made me laugh. Without that kind of support, we might not have made it. Now that it has gotten easy, I can’t fathom the work it would take to carry around bottles, formula, extra burp clothes, etc. I love that all we need is each other and some kind of cover up (which often doubles as a drool catcher). Plus breastmilk is awesome. It doubles as a topical antibiotic, protects against all manner of gut bugs by coating his innards with a special kind of sugar that blocks ickies, provides him all the immunity I have, and even protects him against future chronic health problems. See? I really am a nerd.
On to co-sleeping. Again, it’s easiest and I like my sleep. Before we tried it, our son slept in fitful two hour increments. I thought I was going to go crazy, and felt terrible for my poor bleary-eyed husband who tried so hard to stay up with us and then go to work all day. My sweet mother gently suggested we tuck him in to sleep with us and reminded me about side-lying nursing. The kid slept six hours straight that first night and I cried with relief. (I’m pretty sure my husband did too, but he would never admit it.) We’ve since figured out how to nurse without sitting up, so we rarely spend much time blinking at each other in the middle of the night. Roll over toward each other, insert boob, nurse for fifteen minutes and drift happily back to sleep. Life is good. As a nurse, I know what the hospitals teach about co-sleeping. But I did my research; there ARE ways to do it safely. We don’t drink alcohol before bed, we never take anything that causes drowsiness or sedation, we don’t cover G with our blankets (although he likes to scoot down in the bed until he’s under them up to his neck), and he sleeps in between us at the top of the bed. We also enjoy the side effects of the parenting hormones that help you wake up at the slightest little peep. It works for us. Everyone sleeps and we do manage to work in “other” activities. Let’s just say there are plenty of other places for mommy and daddy time. Wink wink.
Ok so about not letting babies cry. Here’s where a lot of the science comes into play. Erik Erikson is a well-known and respected psychologist whose theories center on human development. Anyone who’s ever taken a basic human development course knows of this guy. From birth to around age two, children are learning about trust – they don’t have the ability to be manipulative. As newborns, crying is the last thing they do in an effort to get us to give them what they need. They have body language that says “I’m hungry, I’m wet, I’m tired, I need to be held, I’m hot/cold, I’m bored, etc”. If we ignore it because we either don’t know what those signs are (as many new parents don’t and spend the first few weeks learning) or are too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed, too whatever to see them, the baby cries -whimpering at first and progressing to a full on purple-faced blood curdling scream (that is often heard at diaper changing time). So MY version of not letting my kid cry is more about prevention. I try to watch his signs and help him transition from sleep-awake-play-quiet time-sleep. Of course, there are times where crying is inevitable. I can’t help that he’s bored to tears (literally) in his car seat after about 20 minutes. We sing, he has hanging toys, he has a blankey, he has the traveling Sleep Sheep and STILL there are times of crying. Now that he’s not a brand newborn, we don’t pull over the car every time this happens, we just get home. He’s fine as soon as the car stops. I don’t let him cry himself to sleep because at this point, it’s unnecessary. He nurses himself to sleep and we’re all ok with that. There’s no such thing as “spoiling” an infant with “too much” attention. Babywearing is along the same lines. New people need to be held. It makes them feel secure and loved and they are better able to deal with being outside of the womb. I don’t hold him all the time, if that were the case I’d never shower, eat, blog, etc. But when the kid’s having a hard day and all he wants is to snuggle me – the ring sling is our best friend. On to my hip he goes, he sticks his thumb in his mouth (yes, I let him suck his thumb, I know he’ll be doing it until he’s 30 for sure), and he’s happy while I cook, clean, vacuum, grocery shop, stand chatting with people, or sometimes just bounce around until he falls asleep. Whining and crying stop and we all preserve our sanity.
Bottom line, what makes us “mom enough” is that we do our own research and make the decision that best fits into our family dynamics. Regardless of the choice, someone will be judgmental, but their opinion really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we make educated choices based in love. If everything we do for our kids comes from a place of love, they’ll be just fine. That’s what I choose to believe. If I’m wrong, my son will have something to tell his therapist when he finds out that not everyone sucks their thumb at 30 years old.
***If you enjoyed this post, here are the links to Jamilla's blogs so you can follow her. The first one is her nursing/labor info blog. GREAT STUFF! The other is her personal blog, where she write about the joys and challenges of motherhood in a wonderfully relatable way!thelaborlady.blogspot.com
Thanks, Jamilla, for making a guest appearance!!!***