Thursday, October 1, 2009

Attachment Parenting

I didn't start out with a parenting philosophy at all.  I just assumed that what was true for my mom would be true for me.  I planned on breastfeeding Christina for the first year, then weaning her.  I planned on Christina sleeping in her crib the first night we were home from the hosptial, and every night after that.  I planned on Christina sleeping through the night at six weeks old.

Remember the saying : "Want to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans."  Well, God sure laughed at my plans!

I was blessed to have a great delivery nurse when I checked into the hospital January 19th, 2007 to be induced (I wish I could remember her name!).  I told her that I wanted to try and have a natural birth, with no drugs.  She was incredibly supportive, saying that she had a natural childbirth with her children.  We ended up having a while to chat, since I got checked into the hospital semi-unexpectedly (I'll explain my whole childbirth experience in a later post) and it was about an hour before Sean, my parents, or my in-laws showed up.  She explained that she followed the philosophy of Attachment Parenting, which includes co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding on demand, and overall just trusting your baby's needs and responding to her cues.  I had never heard of Attachment Parenting, so the nurse recommended that I check out The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears.

As it happened, after a few hours of very painful, Pitocin-induced labor, I decided to have an epidural.  Even though I changed my mind about natural childbirth, my nurse was totally understanding.  And as it turned out, her shift ended about an hour before Christiana was born, so I ended up with a different nurse when Christina was delivered.

Anyway, fast forward to the next evening, January 20th - Sean's and my first night at home with our baby.  I was incredibly hormonal and emotional.  While Christina was quiet during the ride home in the car, once we got home she would not stop crying.  And then I couldn't stop crying.  Sean had to comfort me while helping me to change her diaper, something I was convinced I would never get the hang of!  Mostly, the whole first few months of motherhood is a blur of sleeping when I could (which wasn't often), and trying to keep Christina happy (which wasn't easy).

Christina had colic for about the first four months of her life.  When she was awake, she was mostly crying (at least, that's what I remember).  I tried everything.  I would put her in her bouncy seat, I'd put her in her swing, I'd rock with her in the recliner...and she'd be happy for maybe 10 minutes.  Then she'd be crying again.  The thing that seemed to calm her down for the longest time was when I walked around with her in my arms or in a sling carrier.  So, I quickly became a "baby-wearing" mama.  I would wear her in the sling while I did dishes or folded laundry.  And if I had nothing else to do, I would pace back and forth across the living room while watching TV, because if I stood still she would start crying again.  Even once she was past the colic, she loved being in the carrier, close to me.  So most of the time when we went out, I put her in the sling instead of bringing a stroller.  Once she got too big for the sling to be comfortable for me anymore, I bought an Ergo Baby Carrier, which worked for us until she was about 2.

And from that very first night at home, Christina would scream whenever I would put her down in her crib.  Even if she had fallen asleep in my arms, as soon as I put her down, she would wake right back up.  So, she slept with me.  Sean and I tried sleeping in our bed with her between us, but for some reason she wouldn't fall asleep that way either.  So Christina and I ended up sleeping on the couch together, facing each other, with me on the inside and her on the outside, wedged in the crook of my arm.  I know all the baby books and doctors will tell you the couch is a terribly dangerous place for a newborn to sleep, as the baby could fall off in the middle of the night, but I slept so lightly that I woke up whenever she moved or made any noise at all.  We slept like that for about the first four months. (And yes, at one point I tried letting her "cry it out" in her crib, and I couldn't take it!)  Then she began to move around more in her sleep, and I really was afraid that she might fall off the couch.  So we slept on a spread-out sleeping bag in the living room.  I know I could have had us sleep in her room, but she woke up so frequently to nurse, and she would nurse for at least 20 minutes at a time, so I liked being somewhere I could just turn on the TV and zone out while she ate (I always had to sit up to breastfeed her, because Christina would never latch on when I was lying beside her.  And I seem to be incapable of falling asleep while sitting up.)

Around six months old, Christina somehow decided she was ok with going to sleep in her crib (I would try every now and then to put her down in there, but she usually just fussed and wanted right back out.), so that's what she did for a while.  And we've been back and forth ever since, between the crib and the floor (her bedroom floor now, not the living room).  Sometimes she's ok sleeping in her crib, and sometimes she wants to sleep next to me.  At this point, I put her down in her crib at the beginning of the night, but the first time she wakes up, I go in and cuddle with her on the sleeping bag to help her fall back asleep, and I inevitably end up staying in there until morning.  It works because Sean and I get some time to ourselves when she first goes down for the night, but I don't have to be awakened by his alarm in the morning, because by then I'm in with Christina.  Once she eventually sleeps all the way through the night, I'm sure I won't sleep in her room anymore, but for now, it's a work in progress!

And as far as food, I tried giving Christina baby food when she was six months old, and she would have none of it.  It didn't matter what flavor it was, it all made her gag.  I think it was the texture that bothered her.  So she breastfed pretty exclusively for about  the first year/year and a half.  After that the only thing she liked was crackers, cookies and other carbs (which, if you've read my earlier posts, you know hasn't changed much).  I kept nursing her as well to make up for the nutrients she wasn't getting from a balanced diet.  But she never did like baby food.

Anyway, when Christina was around 3 or 4 months old, I finally picked up The Baby Book by Dr. Sears (this was after I had read The Baby Whisperer, which I totally did not agree with).  I started reading all about Attachment Parenting, and I realized that's exactly what I'd been doing all along.  It was just instict to breastfeed on demand, rather than get Christina on some sort of schedule (I tried the schedule thing once, and it didn't work well for Christina or me.).  And I ended up baby-wearing and co-sleeping because it was the only thing that worked for me.

All this to say, I'm a big fan of Attachment Parenting, but I totally don't judge anyone who decides to do things a different way.  I know some moms who read a bunch of parenting books before they ever had kids and consciously decided what approach they were going to take.  But most parents are probably like me - just feeling things out and doing the best we can with the information we have.  We all have our different parenting "methods," but as long as we love our kids and have their best interests at heart, I think they'll turn out alright.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I love all your blog posts you're doing now! I agree with you. . . you just do what works for you as a parent and what works for your kid. I'm certainly not going to judge anyone either for doing things differently than I do!