Like so many of us, in my early stages of parenthood I took a very traditional, mainstream approach to caring for my first-born. I’m thrilled to say that today I’ve grown. For the betterment and health of my children, I examined new ways of doing things. By listening, not only to my heart, but to my babies, and opening my mind to those around me willing to share their wisdom and experiences, I believe I’ve created a bond with my children that will last a lifetime.
Because of this, I hope to share some of my misconceptions and solutions with others, in hope of enlightening them to truly examine their parenting options and methods, and ask themselves if they believe they are as close to their little one’s as they believe they should be. I am here to tell you that raising a baby can truly be a beautiful experience.
My son right now is sleeping. He is sick, poor little man. It’s just a cold, nothing too serious, but my heart aches to make it better, to bend over backward to provide him some relief. My old instincts with my daughter were; run to the store; buy medicine, and give her dose after dose to make the symptoms better. It’s not good for little ones to have the sniffles, right?
I was 22 when my daughter was born; I thought I knew it all. I had read the books, performed research online, taken Lamaze classes for childbirth, and completed both a “new parents” class and a breastfeeding class. I was totally prepared to have my daughter; or so I thought.
Things were tough with her. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but she had a hard time latching on. The “class” I took did me little to no good. All the “strategies” I was taught, I had forgotten. The methods that worked with the baby doll in class were in no way effective with a moving, screaming newborn. The Lactation consultant at the hospital said, “you’re fine, doing it fine, just keep it up, you’ll get it.” So, I trusted this person knew what she was talking about. And I listened. I didn’t seek more help; I didn’t even realize more help was actually available.
She could not latch. It got to the point where I was hysterical. I was crying, basically praying to God that He not let my baby wake up, because feeding her had become such a traumatic experience. It was truly a sad situation; one that I will never forget.
Well, I know now, the reason behind the difficulties was simple. Not only was I uncomfortable, I was scared. Breastfeeding was foreign to me. I had not seen it done, I personally was not breastfed, nor was my husband at the time. Having the baby there freaked me out, and having her sucking on me was almost worse.
I did know that breast milk was best, so I bought an electric Breast Pump. I then started pumping every two hours, in order to feed her the “best food” through a bottle. Though I had no idea how MUCH to pump, so I got more milk than my baby could ever drink. To give you an idea of approximately how much I pumped, after Aubrey was fed breast milk the entire first year of her life, I was still able to ship over 50 pounds of breast milk to Mothers Milk Bank in Austin Texas. (http://www.mmbaustin.org/)
The Mother’s Milk Bank is a great facility. Their mission: “The Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin is a non-profit organization whose mission is to accept, pasteurize and dispense donor human milk by physician prescription primarily to premature and ill infants.” (Provided by http://www.mmbaustin.org)
Other things I just “knew” before I had her, included babies should be laid down as much as possible, they need to become independent. Babies need to sleep on their own from the beginning and at 6 months they need to “learn” to fall asleep themselves.
Aubrey was as a baby, I am ashamed to say, Furberized (Dr. Furber’s method of parenting and getting kids to sleep is letting them Cry It Out). She was laid on the floor or placed in a swing or car seat a lot. She wasn’t connected to me at all. There were times I felt more like her nanny than her mother. Part of the reason for all of this was my now ex-husband’s belief that Aubrey needed a schedule and structure, and she needed to be in her own bed; the fact that I had read all of those books contributed to the confusion as well. I wanted to be the best parent ever, so I thought reading the books was the way to make that happen.
Frankly, I never once listened to my body, my heart or her cries. Don’t get me wrong, I was not abusive, but we did let her cry, especially after 6 months when we Furberized her to get her to learn how to sleep. I did not listen to the chemical changes in my body when my daughter cried; I did not learn her cues, and we struggled on a day-to-day basis. (“When your baby cries there is an actual chemical reaction in your body, prolactin the ‘mothering hormone’ is releised and your body physically gets ready to breastfeed.” Statement provided by: http://www.consciouschoice.com/1999/cc1210/parenting1210.html)
Then through a series of events that are not relevant, Aubrey’s father and I divorced. I started easing up a bit; I did still believe what all the books said, but I also started thinking maybe I should listen to what Aubrey was trying to say, and my heart as well.
Four years later, at 26, after being a mother for several years, I got pregnant with my son. I had always wanted to be a Mother, but I struggled with the idea of keeping my son. I was opposed to an abortion; but I was not working at the time, and I had a 4-year-old daughter to support. I did more thinking and crying in the first couple months of that pregnancy than I think I have in my entire life.
Unfortunately, within a week of knowing I was pregnant, Zachary’s father decided that he did not want to be a part of Zachary’s life, and signed away his rights to him. So it was all up to me. It was not easy, but in the end I decided to listen to my heart, trust myself and my faith in God, and know that God would never give me more than I could handle. I decided to keep him. It was one of the most frightening and difficult decisions I have ever made not because I did not want or love Zachary, but because I wanted the absolute best for Zachary!
With that decision behind me, then came the thoughts of how I would parent him. I knew that there had to be better methods than those I used with my daughter. She had been so detached from me. Again, I turned to my heart, listened, and tried to trust myself. Over time, I’ve gradually learned that trusting my own judgment is a major accomplishment.
I was determined to breastfeed. Come hell or high water, I would breastfeed. So I started looking for help before my son was born, joining my local La Leche League (http://www.lalecheleague.org/) “The La Leche League International mission is: To help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.” The League has wonderful support groups, and great leaders, that really CARE about your breastfeeding success!!
I wrote up a plan, and on that plan I pledged that Zachary was not to have any bottles at all after birth, and I stuck to it. Again, breastfeeding wasn’t easy. Zachary had a hard time latching. I had a lot of extra milk and over active let down. We struggled hard in those first few days and weeks.
However, despite the difficulties, instead of crying and hoping my son would never wake up, I spent many nights just staring at the wonder of him. I would stroke his hair and breathe his new baby smell, soaking in every detail of who he was. I am sitting here crying as I think of this time; what an amazing experience that was.
After we left the hospital the fun began. And this time it really was fun. Though many in my family and those around me felt that Zachary was more work than Aubrey, for me, it was far less.
I held Zachary all the time
Did you know that it’s physically impossible to hold a baby too much? I nursed him on demand, and did not let him cry. If he cried, it was with in the loving wrap of my arms. Everyone told me I would spoil him, but even science says: “Attachment studies have spoiled the spoiling theory. Researchers Drs. Bell and Ainsworth at John Hopkins University studied two sets of parents and their children. Group A were attachment-parented babies. These babies were securely attached, the products of responsive parenting. Group B babies were parented in a more restrained way, with a set schedule and given a less intuitive and nurturing response to their cues. All these babies were tracked for at least a year. Which group do you think eventually turned out to be the most independent? Group A, the securely attached babies. Researchers who have studied the affects of parenting styles on children’s later outcome have concluded, to put it simply, that the spoiling theory is utter nonsense.”
Not only does science support my new way of parenting, so did my heart. And, it ended up being FAR less work than the way I had tried to parent before. I utilized new tools, that I had no knowledge of after my first pregnancy, like baby carriers. Traditional things like swings and bouncers did not work for Zachary; he wanted to be with me. So I took to slinging him daily, constantly just about, and it was far more effective as other tools we tried.
Think about it, what’s the ONE thing they tell new parents, that babies like best, learn from best and want around most? You and your face. Babies learn from the face and actually like looking at it better than anything else in the world. Why do you think a baby can see best within 6-8 inches of their face? That’s the traditional distance between their nursing face and your face! They like to look at you and love the natural sway of your body.
Attachment parenting is not something I knew about before I had my son or my daughter. My finding the phrase for it was by pure accident, though I am so glad I did. It so helps to know other mom’s like me, and know I am not alone.
For me attachment parenting is not about following a set of rules, although there are “guidelines” that reinforce the theory of “attachment parenting”. Attachment parenting can include things like Emotional Responsiveness, Breastfeeding, Baby wearing, Shared Sleep, Avoiding Prolonged Separation, Positive Discipline and maintaining a balance in your family life.
If for one reason or another sharing sleep, for example, is not for you, rest assured that would not at all imply that you’re not an attached parent or that you’re “bad” in some way. All aspects of attachment parenting are not for everyone. Being an attached parent is more or less just a general term, for loving and becoming in-tune to, and more responsive with your own baby.
All parents love their children, but many don’t “know” their children. One cry sounds like every other; one gesture is just like the rest. An attached parent is much more likely to know and understand their baby’s wants and needs and do something about them. Knowing the difference between a cry of hunger from a cry from fear would be a good example.
Babies don’t do things to manipulate us; they do things because that’s all they can do, to get the response they need from the people that love them. Until birth, all they’ve known is being in a warm, cozy place where they were never hungry or hurt. Now, all of a sudden they are thrust into the world of lights, loud noises, hunger, experiencing pain and feeling cold! How scary it must be for them. Attachment Parenting is about realizing that, and allowing ourselves to be nurturing.
In closing, be true to yourself, your marriage (or relationship), and to your baby and/or children. Trust that in the end no matter what kind of parent you are, your children are blessed to have you in their lives. There are many different ways to parent, I hope that you will open your mind to the different possibilities out there, look “outside” the mainstream line of things, and more to the natural side of things. There are many places to get awesome attachment parenting products to help you in your quest, as well as websites with a lot more information. I suggest Attachment Parenting International (http://www.attachmentparenting.org/) which has support groups, and other information, and Kelly Mom is also a great website for help with breastfeeding. (http://www.kellymom.com) to name a few.
Jennifer Sprague, is co-owner of High Top Baby Designs [http://www.hightopbabydesigns.com]. She has several years of teaching experience working with infants through adults and has a passion for helping children live happy, healthy and secure lives. Jennifer [http://www.hightopbabydesigns.com/contact.htm] has been a nanny, daycare provider, teacher, and is currently studying to become a Doula and a Lactation Consultant. She enjoys spending time with her two wonderful children, Aubrey and Zachary. Jennifer is also an advocate for peaceful parenting everywhere she goes. © 2005 High Top Baby Designs. All rights reserved.