A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

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