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AP By Surprise: My Journey to Attachment Parenting

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder babywearing her son.

Before I gave birth to my son I read all the books; What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Healthy Sleep Happy Baby. To be honest I’m not sure I am getting the names of these books correct because I threw them all out. But I’ll get to that in a minute. I was going to do this perfectly. I was going to follow each book step by step when it came to sleeping and eating and playing and discipline. I was going to follow every rule and be the best mama that ever lived. I was totally prepared. I also had a long history working in residential programs with mentally ill and aggressive teens so I had rules and structure ready to be implemented into my home. I would keep this kid on track and mold him into a productive young man that everyone would admire.

On July 30, 2011 my son Jack was born. I had never heard of Attachment Parenting and before this day probably would have laughed at it claiming that there was not enough structure, inappropriate boundaries, and chaos. I may have even called it a bit “hippie.” And that was just illegal in my book. In the hospital we did rooming in. I didn’t know that term then and did this just because it felt right. It seemed strange and old fashioned to look at my own baby, who I had just spent 9 months with, through a window. When we brought him home he slept next to us in a bassinet. It seemed wrong to have him in another room and with breastfeeding it seemed tiring to keep leaving the room. I bought a Baby Bjorn. I thought it looked really cool and how fun to have the baby hanging there right at my chest. Perfect choice for any mainstream Mom.

Soon we realized that this baby did not like to sleep very much. He was way under the “average” hours of sleep per day that doctors say newborns should get. My husband and I began to loudly complain that our baby doesn’t like to sleep. This, I know now, is seen as an invitation by other parents to provide you with long-winded and condescending advice. “You can’t allow him to sleep a lot during the day,” “You should read this book,” “You need to make the room pitch black,” “You should move him to another room.” I didn’t understand this advice. I still don’t. None of this seemed right to me. You know when my baby slept the best? When he was lying next to me. Yes, in my bed, next to me, cuddled up, whenever he wanted, safe and sound. Everything about this seemed right except for the doctors warning us that this was dangerous and would most likely lead to my son’s demise. The ad campaigns claiming that this is exactly the same as murder kept me awake. I had so much guilt. I loved sleeping next to him, but I felt bad about it.

So I went to the internet. The good old internet. I started to find out that not only was I not alone in my breastfeeding quest (as I had often felt), but I was not alone in wanting to be close to my baby 24/7. I learned that there were actually people who claimed it was safer than having him sleep alone! How wonderful. There were people who said that this fun idea of having your baby hang off your chest was actually a legitimate and intentional practice! It even had a cool name; baby wearing. I found out that by refusing to let my baby leave the room upon birth I was giving us the best start possible. I learned why rolling my baby 2 feet in front of me in this giant stroller always felt a bit strange. I no longer cared that people thought I jumped too quick when Jack cried or fussed.

I learned there was a reason why my former life as a strict rule follower and disciplinarian began to fade away. I feel more and more comfortable following his lead. It no longer feels chaotic. It feels natural and normal. I want only to give my son everything positive in this world. I no longer believe that children learn because you tell them to. I will be his role model, his cheerleader, his guide, his rock.

I made decision after decision based on the instincts I was learning to connect with. I parented the way that felt right. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea that I was an Attachment Parent. I know now that it is not exactly “hippie.” I mean let’s face it, it’s even a little Badass.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. That describes my journey exactly! I was so sure I’d be one of those structured moms. The minute I met my son I knew all my ideas about parenthood were about to get tossed out the window…

    BTW, I’m typing this response on my phone while my son sleeps in a sling on my chest. Its the only way he’ll nap longer than 10 minutes and I know one day I’ll miss it so much.

  2. They make us such softies! Glad to hear I am not the only one. That sling nap sure is hard to beat. Baby right there at the heart where they belong. 🙂

  3. I’ve had a really similar experience as well- I read EVERYthing before my first (ten years ago) and ended up being an almost accidental attachment parent, (AAAP?)while parenting instinctively. I have just started a parenting blog based loosely on the same (AAAP-ish)concept with an article on babywearing as my last post! One of the only places my 4 month old will sleep is in the Moby. (which is a close tie for me as a favorite to a simple sling) We are not alone in our almost accidental attachment parenting. Relief! I just subscribed, can’t wait to read more. 🙂

    http://theprogressiveparent.blogspot.com/

    Also, I had FB ban a breastfeeding photo and got constructively creative today and created a pro-breastfeeding site on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BoobsAreBabyFood. I’d be honored to be “Like”d by A Badass Breastfeeder! I found you via good ol’ Google looking up Lactivist folk. 🙂

  4. So sorry to hear about your FB photo. The shenanigans there are amazing. I searched for your page in the search field and of course as I write the word boob there comes up a whole slew of cleavage and pornography which is perfectly OK I guess. But breastfeeding. Gross. Oh my!!! I also love the Moby. My boy is a big 8 month old and does this push off my chest thing so I switched to the Ergo so he won’t give my a heart attack all the time! But I love that too. I look forward to reading your stuff and I’m so glad a like-minded Mama found me!

  5. I always felt that people (some family members) thought I was doing everything wrong by always putting her to my breast when Sylvia would cry or fuss. I even started to think that everyone was right and that maybe I was denying her a “good cry.” Ugh…I hate that the thought ever crossed my mind! I was following my instinct! What a powerful guilt trip when you are made to feel bad for following your instincts! I am thankful to have finally found a “name” for it and to also find friends who embrace and celebrate attachment parenting!

    • That’s one application? Wow that’s super glittery. I love my glitter but this looks a bit too big and chunky. If you want a really nice glitter topcoat I recommend Revlon’s &#l820;Be8leࢭ. I think most people would like it.

  6. I also hear a lot of the “he is eating again!?” I think people don’t realize that there is so much more than eating to breastfeeding! It’s difficult to stomach some of the conversations where people encourage you to let your baby cry or say that you are making your baby clingy. Let me tell you, after many years working with abuse and neglected kids, I would recommend picking them up a million times a day! Even when they are not crying. Actually just go ahead and get wrap and never put that baby down! They will be such loving and empathetic adults.

  7. yep, baby wearing is a practice as old as whenever. Over here farmers carry their babies on their back on a sling then go to work in the farm. So we carry on holding our babies in cloth sling too though since we don’t have to work on the fields, we carry the baby in the front.

    btw, the phrase seems to strange to me it’s like your baby is an inanimate object. But that’s just the ESL in me I guess.

  8. i can see the trouble in translation there. i think if you think of the term as a verb and it is more in the action of having the baby as close as your clothing. as opposed to carrying your baby which can be done by putting them in a basket or something. not that you would put your baby in a basket. just an example, lol!

  9. This sounds like me too! My son is now 14 months and I was showing my sister how to use the sling with her newborn and I really missed the closeness of having my son in the sling so I tried it again a couple of weeks ago and he loves being front facing and help me with dinner and really cool when we go for a walk as he gets the same perspective as us when walking. Oh and still BF too as I don’t see any reason to give it up and he loves it 🙂

  10. It could have been me that wrote this. I was going to breastfeed for a while, had the separate nursery set up, advised parents against cosleeping in my role as a midwife (UK). I breastfed for over 2 years and my daughter still sleeps in our bed aged 3 and a half. She’s a well balanced, happy child (even though she sleeps quite badly) and we have an amazing bond.

  11. Wow this was good to read even the comments. I get from family “he’s eating again” also. I’m thinking my son is a cluster feeder but whatever I’m fine with it. I too thought he will sleep in his own bed, I won’t “spoil” him by picking him up and will let him cry!! FORGET IT!! I don’t like to see him cry and he is in my arm most of the time.. Trying to get him use to the sling and trying to find another option ie: mei two, wrap, ergo?? Not sure. You guys make it sound and pics make it look so easy.. So for now I carry if not in sling. And yes I have him sleep with us.. Spouse wasn’t happy but I think he’s over it now. Makes nursing easier but now learning not to make excuses why he sleeps next to me cuz I love having him close. I lost my first so I don’t want to let this one get too far from me!! If people have a problem with that too bad. This site really lets me know that I’m not “ruining” my son. Since I have been told that I have ruined him cuz he wants to be with me!! Thanks ladies!!

  12. I felt this way too! Live the post! I don’t care what anyone thinks or says anymore, we just go with our instincts.

  13. Your journey is so similar to my own. I didn’t know what attachment parenting was, but I sort of fell into it via rooming in, baby wearing, co-sleeping, etc. It just felt right…and necessary. My little guy didn’t like to sleep either, but he was comforted when he felt secure and close to us. Perhaps we didn’t intentionally choose attachment parenting, but he certainly did!

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