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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is Attachment Parenting to me?

This post is part of the Attachment Parenting is for Everyone blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International.  Learn more by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.  

I consider myself to be an attachment parent and my parenting style to be very in line with "attachment parenting".

6 years ago, I didn't even know the term existed.  My friend, Melanie, enlightened me and when I started dipping my toes into the cloth diapering world, via Diaperswappers, I got fully immersed in the attachment parenting lifestyle and many other aspects of "crunchiness" that seem to lend themselves well to going hand-in-hand with attachment parenting.  Since then, I have made many choices for my children that have come under fire from family, friends, and strangers alike.  But, I rest easily at night, knowing I am doing my best to raise my children in a gentle, encouraging manner that will hopefully result in them becoming better people than myself.

There are Eight Basic Principles of Attachment Parenting, they are easily found on the API website.

1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting

For me, I was a research-aholic before Luke was born.  I was prepared mentally to go all natural, no epidural, no pain medicines, no intervention whatsoever to bring my little guy safely into the world.  I read books, joined a "due-date club" and asked TONS of questions.
Unfortunately, Luke was breech and even with all of my research and preparation, I still didn't know I could stand up to the doctor pushing a c-section.
New Mama bliss...
I did eventually come to terms with Luke's birth, though I knew there were things I would change if I was ever in that position again.  Little did I know, that day would come only 22 months later.
With Vinnie, I knew my odds of having a VBAC were low (10%) and that my doctor would prefer a repeat (scheduled) c-section.  Knowing I'd never make it to 41 weeks (I started braxton hicks and preterm labor scares at 16 weeks) I agreed to them scheduling a c-section for that date.
I did more research, I did all the exercises to make sure he was not breech (the doctor refused to do a breech VBAC) and mentally prepared myself for the VBAC.
In the end, my labor stalled and I consented to the c-section ON MY TERMS.  I feel much better about Vinine's birth, and I credit that to having the prior experience & having a birth plan that included a c-section possibility.  I made sure that I got the bonding time I needed & wanted, but lacked with Luke and that things were done in a more gentle manner.
Excuse how puffy I am from crying--our pediatrician had just berated me on the phone for my vaccine choices.
Having two children, I have an even better idea of what I want if I ever have another baby and I'm glad to say that I now know and agree that the expense of a doula is definitely worth it.  Having had 2 c-sections, I won't hold my breath on a VBA2C but I will have an advocate there to ensure a peaceful delivery for me and any future babies.
To me, being an active participant and not just a drone, doing what the doctor says to without understanding the effects on myself & the baby, is my way of meeting this aspect of attachment parenting.

2. Feed with love and respect

I am so glad that I married a man willing to support me in breastfeeding our children, because it has NOT been an easy road!
I have nursed both of my children from birth. Luke had a few preemie-like issues and was supplemented with formula for a couple days and then took 10 weeks to fully wean from the bottle, but he is 2 1/2 years old now and still happily nursing at nap time, at bed time, and once during the night.  I love nursing my toddler! Vinnie was a lot healthier (and mama was a lot better at advocating for him) and nursed like a champ, even through Mama's hard time in the recovery room.  He's 8 months old and nursing is still going great, despite his severe tongue tie that went undiagnosed for 6 months!
Nursing Vinnie at Christmas 2011
Another aspect of feeding with love & respect that I have had to fight for has been delayed solids and baby led weaning.  I knew the cues of food readiness, based on Dr. Sears and Kellymom and didn't want to start Luke until he was ready.  It was about 7 months when we gave him his first food, cereal (because I didn't realize how useless it was as a food), and he did pretty well.  Unfortunately we didn't manage his reflux well when we started introducing solids and he got to a point by 11 months old that he would not eat at all and only chewed his food up before spitting it out.  He ended up getting lots of occupational therapy to help him learn to eat again.  We never ever forced him to eat and I just continued to nurse him around the clock to keep him healthy.
With Vinnie we waited until he was ready as well and started solids at 7 months.  He has had avacado (didn't like), bananas (allergic), sweet potatoes, veggie chips (allergic), and sweet potatoes mixed with corn (allergic).  So....he only gets to eat sweet potatoes right now, and I'm not introducing anything new until we see the dermatologist next week!  The poor boy gets hives and an itchy excema rash all over his body, so I don't want to risk that.  I know he is getting enough to eat through nursing.


3. Respond with sensitivity
To me, this aspect of attachment parenting is best expressed by saying, babies and children are people too.  Their feelings, emotions, and needs are just as important as mine.  When I remember that the crying, tantrums, and more are all their way of communicating and respond gently and at their level, I am better able to communicate and meet their needs.
Children DO NOT cry or have tantrums to manipulate their parents, at 8 months old Vinnie is not aware that his screaming and crying drive me crazy (I cannot stand hearing the crying) so I have to separate that part of myself and calmly figure out what my baby is trying to tell me.
I think Dr. Suess said it best, "A person's a person, no matter how small."  By remembering that, I am able to make sure my kids feel valued and lifted up, even while disagreeing with them on whatever they may be throwing a tantrum over.

4. Use nurturing touch
I LOVE this aspect of attachment parenting because it applies to the entire family!!  Just about any human I've ever met benefits from skin to skin touch.  There is nothing sweeter than snuggling a warm, soft, squishy newborn to your chest.  That is just bliss for a new mom or dad.
(Even Tim enjoys skin-to-skin...)
Snuggling Carolynn
Snuggling Luke
Beyond the newborn stage, we continue to use nurturing touch by massaging the kids as we put on their lotion (2x a day for Vinnie, after bath for Luke) and by snuggling with them.
I babywear both kids and Luke LOVES his cuddles.

5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
To me, this aspect of attachment parenting encompasses co-sleeping and a willingness to let kids build their own independence for sleeping alone.

At 2 1/2 Luke is sleeping in his own bed, but he doesn't sleep through the night.  I often fall asleep after nursing him to bed for the night and spend a couple hours sleeping in his bed.  Then, when he wakes up in the night to nurse I sleep with him some more.  He gets plenty of mama all to himself this way.  We both sleep best when we're together.
Vinnie is 8 months old and has only co-slept.  He does occasionally sleep for an hour or two in his swing, but he mostly sleeps with us.

The convenience of having my nursling in bed, snuggled up to me (he likes to hold onto my breast)  makes night nursing so easy!  I know co-sleeping is hard on my husband and that when we get our bed back to ourselves we will have more alone time as a couple, but the kids will not always be babies.  They won't always want to snuggle their mama after a bad dream and I want to cherish it while it lasts.


6. Provide consistent and loving care
For me, this meant quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home-mom.  This is the perfect role for me and I am SO happy to be at home raising my babies. I am their primary care-giver with Daddy coming in second.  They have never spent more than 6 hours with any other person and then it has only been with family.  I have had to fight a bit with my family to get them to agree to our parenting style, but I am comfortable that when we do leave our boys with my sister, mother, cousin, or mother-in-law that they are cared for in a courteous and gentle manner.

7. Practice positive discipline
I cannot stand the fact that outsiders see 'positive/gentle discipline' as spoiling our children or letting them rule the house.  It is NOT that.  Positive discipline means (for me) that we do not hit, spank, or belittle our children.  BUT, they do not get what they want 100% of the time.  We have to teach them to understand their limitations. The kids do have boundaries.  But, we try to maintain their self-esteem and self-worth and treat them as we would like to be treated.

8. Strive for balance in personal and family life
I think this aspect of attachment parenting is the one I struggle with the most, but also need the most!  For me, I always make sure my boys come first.  I have a GREAT support system that I've built by joining Facebook groups for attachment parenting, cloth diapering, and babywearing.  There are women in each of those groups that I can lean on and get advice and support from.

I am proud to be an attachment parent.  I feel good knowing that my kids have self-worth and trust in their parents.  I believe that the choices I am making for my kids are good and sound and I will continue to defend myself against naysayers.  If you'd  like more information about attachment parenting please check out any of the links in this post or join a group on Facebook. (I linked to the Hampton Roads group.)

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