Warning: Attachment Parenting may lead to emotional breakdown

Warning: Attachment Parenting may lead to emotional breakdown | diary of a bewildered mother

What is attachment parenting?

Oh how I hate labels. They start out innocently enough, but then you involve people, and then those people apply that label to so many different things, it ends up becoming either an extreme caricature or becomes completely meaningless. Take “attachment parenting,” for example, or AP for short.

From the Ask Dr. Sears website:

Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents.

Well, how can you disagree with that? So, either you adhere to attachment parenting, or you are a terrible parent and your baby will be incredibly screwed up. But if you take attachment parenting to the extreme, indulging your child and becoming a wishy-washy parent…you are a terrible parent and your baby will be incredibly screwed up.

Attachment parenting starts with the idea of being attentive to your child. That’s all that it should be. That’s what it’s supposed to be. But many people, out of confusion, or oversimplification, or fear, or something else, think that attachment parenting is 1) breastfeeding, 2) carrying your baby around all the time, 3) never, ever, ever letting your child cry. Ever.

Here’s what Dr. Sears’ website says, emphasis mine:

Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting. You may hear or worry that being nurturing and responsive to your baby’s needs might spoil your baby and set you up for being manipulated by your baby. This is why we stress that attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby’s needs, which means knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Sometimes in their zeal to give children everything they need, it’s easy for parents to give their children everything they want.

Attachment parenting is a question of balance—not being indulgent or permissive, yet being attentive. As you and your baby grow together, you will develop the right balance between attentive, but not indulgent. In fact, being possessive, or a “smother mother” (or father) is unfair to the child, fosters an inappropriate dependency on the parent, and hinders your child from becoming normally independent. For example, you don’t need to respond to the cries of a seven-month-old baby as quickly as you would a seven-day-old baby.

Note that in order to respond to a child’s cries, that implies the baby started crying in the first place.

Crying isn’t evil, or even bad.

This can be looked at two ways. One, babies cry, and babies should cry. It’s how they communicate with their parents. To think that crying is evil is to think that writing or speaking any language is evil. Two, allowing your child to cry for a few minutes does not make you a bad person.

Like many other new mothers, when I was pregnant with Champ, I read a lot of blogs and had been convinced that no-cry parenting is the way to go. How could a loving mother let her child cry? How could a good person ignore the cries of a helpless baby? The more a baby cries, the more insecure he becomes, and the more he will end up crying in the future! It’s a vicious cycle!

In a perfect world, babies wouldn’t cry, because we’d understand immediately what they wanted. They’d be talking straight from the womb and using “please” and “may I” and “thank you very much.”

Sometimes babies just cry. Now there’s even a term for it—PURPLE Crying.

Sometimes, you can’t respond to them right away.

Sometimes, you need a break.

I always try to think historically when I parent. Did you know that pacifiers (aka “dummies”) have been around for centuries? I try to think of how moms soothed their children before they had swings and car rides and white noise machines. I constantly remind myself that babies used to be raised by “the village”—it’s really unusual for one woman to take care of a baby. Historically, women raised children with the help of family members, neighbors, or nannies (or, yes, slaves). Personally, I don’t think it’s natural for a woman to be home alone with her children, and yet here I am, a stay-at-home mom. Just last year I was a military wife thousands of miles away from any family members.

All of this is to say, sometimes, we have to make sacrifices. Sometimes, you need to put your baby down (in a safe place, like a bassinet or crib) so you can pee, or shower, or just have a minute to yourself. And chances are, some of those times, your baby will cry. During those times, just take a deep breath, finish what needs to be finished, and then go back to your baby a little more refreshed, and comfort her. The baby won’t care that she cried—what she will care about is that you comforted her after the fact.

the emotional breakdown

As a new parent, and especially as a breastfeeding mom, I was terrified to give Champ a pacifier. I feared “nipple confusion.” I thought of those three-year-olds who still have their Nuks hanging out of their mouths and shuddered. So I didn’t give him one. I was his pacifier. And that actually led to a ton of problems. One, no one else could comfort him, ever. So I couldn’t go anywhere without him, and I never got a break without condemning him to be inconsolable and whoever was taking care of him to be miserable. Two, constant nursing caused milk overproduction, which led to him getting too much milk, which led to reflux, which led to more crying, which led to burping and massaging and cuddling and throwing up and then nursing some more. Three, he wouldn’t take a pacifier or a bottle.

So here we are, a family of three, driving from North Carolina to Georgia for Thanksgiving weekend. It was supposed to be an 8-hour drive. It ended up taking us 16 hours. Champ would. not. stop. screaming. He wouldn’t take a pacifier. He wouldn’t drink out of a bottle. He would only be happy being held and being nursed.

And to me, his crying meant I had failed as a parent.

Have you ever felt like that? Well, it isn’t true. We can’t respond to our children the way we’d like to, 100% of the time. Especially if we have more than one child to care for! But we can acknowledge that they are crying, so they know we are there and not ignoring them. And we can comfort them afterward.

Your children will cry. But they need to know that no matter how bad things get, you will always love them and be there for them in the end.

Moms: there is freedom.

a note to new mothers about parenting styles

I encourage you to read what Dr. Sears has to say about attachment parenting so that you know what it’s really supposed to look like, as opposed to how it is portrayed on blogs and online forums. I especially recommend reading “What AP is Not.” I urge you not to judge other moms. You don’t know what their story is, and judging others destroys a possible relationship you could have with those other moms. If I’ve learned anything about motherhood, it’s that it’s messy and that moms need each other. I urge you not to compare yourselves with other moms. Their lives might look perfect on the outside, but you don’t know what goes on inside their home and inside their hearts. Lastly, I urge you not to disregard what other generations have to say. You may think older generations aren’t enlightened to the best parenting, but which generation is more experienced?

In short, make friends with other moms, have a humble heart, be open minded, take care of yourself, and take care of your children.

next time

Since being attentive to a newborn is a 24/7 job, I can’t make any promises when the next post will be up, but I can tell you what the subject will be. I’ll be posting all my secrets on calming a crying baby. When will it be posted? Oh, who knows. I’d like to start on it tomorrow, but I likely won’t be able to start it until Monday or Tuesday next week, so…keep checking back at the end of next week.

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Baby Carrier Review: wrap, front/backpack, sling

Considering I bought my third baby carrier today (and many moms don’t even have one), I figure I could do a review on the different types. Now, I won’t wear my baby 24/7, but there are great benefits to “wearing” your baby (especially skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo care). For example, wearing Champ lets me hold him, which reduces crying and helps him sleep, but also lets me be hands free, so I can actually get things done.

Anyway, I have three carriers: a wrap (Moby), a front/backpack carrier (Infantino EcoSash), and a homemade ring sling. There are other brands of wraps, front/backpacks, and ring slings. We didn’t get a Baby Bjorn, one of the highest rated and most common baby carriers, because it was too metro and European for my husband. But if you are looking for a common, solid carrier (or just one with straps and buckles), a Bjorn is highly recommended. By people who have actually used them.

Wrap Style (Moby Wrap)

Price:  Moby Wrap: $40-70. Other Wrap Carriers: $5 (make your own)–$200

Ease of use:  The wrap takes a few minutes to figure out, and there are different ways to wrap it. But once you get the hang of it (which doesn’t take long, esp. if you are watching how-to vids on YouTube), it is fairly easy.

Comfort:  This is a very comfortable carrier. The weight of the baby is spread out evenly. I felt no back or shoulder pain wearing Champ. It was basically like I was pregnant again when I was holding him in the front, in his first few weeks.

Fool-proof:  Once you figure out how to put it on, the wrap is pretty easy to get right. The biggest problem comes from twisted fabric. There are really helpful instructions that come with the Moby Wrap. If you make your own wrap, there are plenty of instructions online.

Design:  The Moby Wrap has the biggest variety in design that I have seen. A large variety of different colors and designs, including seasonal choices.

Will Dad wear it? Mine? Never. But some men will wear them.

Time it takes to put on:  The wrap definitely takes the longest, but even that isn’t much time…about 45 seconds to put on and 30-45 seconds to get the baby in.

Versatility:  The Moby Wrap is for babies and toddlers 8-35 lbs. These positions are the ones listed in the expanded Moby Instruction Booklet (here’s the PDF). I’ll bet there are even more to be found online.

Positions:

0-3 months (newborn–3 mo)—Newborn hug hold, Kangaroo hold, Cradle/ Nursing hold, twin hug hold, twin cradle hold

3-6 months(3–6 mo infants)—Hug hold, Kangaroo hold, Cradle/ Nursing hold, Lotus hold, Joey Hold, twin hug hold, twin cradle hold

6+ mo(6+ mo infants)— Kangaroo hold, Cradle/ Nursing hold, Lotus Hold, Joey Hold, hip hold, hike (back) hold

toddler (Toddlers)—Joey Hold, Hip Hold, Hike (back) hold

Front/Backpack Style (Infantino Ecosash)

Price:  Infantino Ecosash: $60. Infantino Flip: $30. Other Similar Carriers: $15–$230

Ease of use:  Not only are the instructions very easy to understand and carry out, but the instructions are also printed on the carrier, stitched onto the straps.

Comfort:  Again, a very comfortable carrier. Champ loves being vertical, too. Sometimes his legs get a bit awkward in the carrier, however, but he usually doesn’t mind, and he is easy to adjust.

Fool-proof: It’s pretty hard to mess this up. Just make sure you tie the waist band around your natural waist. Too low, and it will be uncomfortable (same goes for any carrier).

Design:  I really like the design. I like the cute pattern on the front and the black color. The fact that it ties makes it extremely easy to adjust (much more than something with buckles or straps you have to loosen and tighten), especially if more than one person will be using the carrier. The front design pattern is also reversible, to a solid black.

Will Dad wear it? Out of our carriers, LT is most likely to wear this one. But the design will be switched to all black. For a more “masculine” option, go for something with straps rather than ties. I recommend the Infantino Flip Carrier, which we were planning on getting, but was out of stock.

Time it takes to put on:  I’ll time how long it takes to get on and how long it takes to get the baby in. Because this ties, it is faster to get fitted than a buckle / adjustable strap carrier.

Versatility:  The Infantino Ecosash is for babies and toddlers 8-35 lbs. It “only” offers three positions—front facing in, front facing out, and backpack—not particularly comparable to a wrap or sling. But, considering many baby carriers only offer one or two positions, this is still an improvement.

Positions:

0-3 months (newborn–3 mo)—front facing in

3-6 months(3–6 mo infants)—front facing in, front facing out

6+ mo(6+ mo infants)— front facing in, front facing out, backpack(?)

toddler (Toddlers)— front facing in, front facing out, backpack

Sling Style (homemade)

Price:  My handmade (albeit purchased) carrier: $6 Other Similar Slings: $12–$300 (yeah. Some are made from silk. But I wouldn’t pay $300 for a sling even if it were made by silkworms who could speak Latin and dance the Sardana.)

Ease of use:  EXTREMELY straightforward when it comes to putting it on. If you have ever worn a belt with D-rings, you can wear a sling. Positioning the baby correctly was something I am still getting used to, though. Perhaps because he is so squirmy, or because I had it on wrong…

Comfort:  If you wear this too low or don’t put it on your shoulder (wearing it on your neck), it is very uncomfortable. These are pretty easy fixes, but even wearing it correctly can give you some back and shoulder strain, since it is an asymmetrical carrier. Be sure to switch sides often.

Fool-proof: It’s very easy to put on, but you will likely need instructions to figure out how to put the baby in the different holds.

Design:  This looks more fashionable than the other carriers, because you have an endless choice of fabrics, and some of them look more like a baby-carrying accessory than an uber-obvious baby carrier.

Will Dad wear it? Doubtful, unless he doesn’t mind also wearing purses, decorative scarves, or ascots.

Time it takes to put on:  To put on the sling, you just throw it over your head. Maybe 2-5 seconds to get that sucker on. Getting the baby in might take 10-30 seconds, depending on position.

Versatility:  A popular ring sling brand is the Maya Sling. They are recommended for 8-35 lbs. Slings have more versatility than fitted, formed carriers. However, they don’t have quite as much versatility as a wrap carrier, the main difference being the front-facing and twin holds (you need two ring slings for twins).

Positions:

0-3 months (newborn–3 mo)—tummy to tummy, cradle

3-6 months(3–6 mo infants)—tummy to tummy, cradle

6+ mo(6+ mo infants)— tummy to tummy, cradle, hip carry, back carry

toddler (Toddlers)— hip carry, back carry

For more information on baby carriers, checkout the Sling Station

Well, that wraps it up (bahaha. Sorry. Ahem.) I will post some photos of myself carrying my little Champ in our 3 carriers once I wash the spit up off of them…

I’ve become THAT mom

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with attachment parenting; it’s just not for me. I want my children to be independent. Plus I feel like I would take it to the extreme.

Upon hearing about co-sleeping for the first (and, during my pregnancy, subsequent) times, I decided that co-sleeping was ridiculous. I don’t want my kid in my bedroom every night—that room is for me and my husband. Of course, I knew that we would have the baby in our room for at least the first few weeks, but he would be sleeping in his seat or on the floor. Not in our bed.

The only people who talk smack about babies being in bed with their parents are people who haven’t done it. Do you know how much easier it is to nurse a baby who is lying next to you than one you have to pick up and cradle? Especially when you are so exhausted and sleep-deprived, you can’t lift your head?

So yes, my baby is in our bed sometimes. And there is 0% chance of him falling out of bed or me rolling over on top of  him. Even when we are both sleeping, I am constantly aware of him and myself—it’s like a spiritual connection. He’s actually safer sleeping with me than unattended in a crib, where a chance of SIDS is higher. That isn’t to say that we will never have him sleep in his crib, however. Once he isn’t getting up every couple of hours to feed, we will  have him sleeping in the nursery.

I have also felt more like an attachment parent lately because I had to find a babysitter for an even that is coming up in a couple of weeks (Oktoberfest…hee hee). I was absolutely terrified to think about leaving our infant with someone we don’t know. It was hard enough to leave him with my mother while she was visiting, when LT and I went out together. But Sittercity.com has free services for military families, so I was able to go online and see applications and profiles from sitters all over town. I found a couple real keepers! That won’t keep me from calling to check up on my baby once or twice while LT and I are out—I am a new mother, after all—but it was a relief to find someone that I could “profile” before hiring.

I still resist leaving Champ at the nursery during church. Even though I am pumping now, so that he can have a bottle for such occasions. By divine providence, Champ started fussing during service today, and when I picked him up, he was completely soaked, so I had to take him to the nursery to change him. The room was not supervised by texting, uninterested teenagers, nor was it filled with small children exhibiting flu symptoms and wiping boogers all over the shared toys. There were three toddlers, who seemed to have clean bills of health and were not sucking and drooling on all the toys, and they were being supervised by an elderly couple who had many grandchildren of their own. No one was even screaming or crying. And while it still might take a couple of weeks before I leave my one-month old baby in the nursery, it did put my mind at ease. Maybe I will even let him stay in the nursery before he gets all his immunizations at his 2-month check up.

I am going to be such a wreck on Champ’s first day of kindergarten, I can tell you that much.

Parenting Styles and BabyCenter.com

On my most recent post, a friend of mine brought up a book called “On Becoming Babywise,” which got me thinking about different parenting styles. You can read about the book here.

There are shelves upon shelves of books on different parenting styles, and honestly, I am not buying one of them. At least not anytime soon.

See, as I have mentioned before, I have discovered BabyCenter.com, which may not have as great of a baby calendar as ParentsConnect.com, but is an invaluable resource for Baby-raising. The website has an amazing compilation of articles which examine other resources and put them all together. Take, for example, the section on Sleep-training babies. This section refers to any sleep method I have heard of, and it introduced me to more. The website also is great about demystifying breastfeeding and different parenting methods.

For what Baby Center has to say about the different methods and studies on Baby Sleep and Feeding Schedules, you might want to start out here.

Basically, I am in the river between the two shores of attachment parenting (baby-led) and parent-led parenting. In practical terms, it means that I am going to carry the kid around in a Moby Wrap, close to my body for a good portion of the day, but I am not letting the baby sleep in bed with my husband and me. I will set a general schedule, but have flexibility and take cues from the baby. This way, I hope to give the baby the ability to develop a very close and loving relationship with my husband and me, knowledge that we as parents are the authority but are not tyrannical, and independence that does not turn into constant defiance.

Still, it might be wise to ask me what I think again in a few years, when we are onto our second baby.

If you are a parent familiar with any of these methods, I of course would be very interested in your opinion of what works or what doesn’t work! Simply leave a comment, and if it is not inappropriate, I will post it so that the whole world my readers will benefit from your opinions.