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.

Also, follow me on Facebook! I post there regularly. If you follow me there and make my posts show up in your newsfeed, you’ll know exactly when I post to the blog. You’ll also get to read almost daily posts about our crazy life, you can participate in exclusive coupon giveaways (when I’ve got them), and you can get links to parenting issues and videos I find entertaining.

Of course, you can subscribe by email by signing up in the right-hand column of my blog.

Avengers Assemble!

In a few days, LT and I will go see The Avengers in theaters. We prefer going on weekdays rather than weekends—it’s less packed AND cheaper!

One thing that Marvel has had around for a while is a Create Your Own Superhero activity.

My superhero is, of course, Wifosaurus.

And then, whenever I need to pull out my superpowers of cleaning and motivation, I transform into this!

Yeah, okay, maybe not. I don’t have the superpowers of cleaning or motivation, anyway.

But I do think moms are superheroes in their own way. My real super powers? I can clean the lint trap in the dryer like nobody’s business. And I make a really good cilantro dip.

Most days I don’t feel like a superhero, and I need to dress myself up in order to get the motivation to clean. Last week I pulled out the 80s prom dress and you wouldn’t believe how much I got done. The most I’ve ever felt like a superhero was right after I had given birth to my son. We were able to do a natural delivery, and I’m so glad I didn’t have drugs to numb that empowering feeling. My adrenaline was soaring, endorphins were flying everywhere. If a nurse hadn’t mentioned I’d get to eat soon, I might have jumped out of the hospital bed and run a 5K.

How about you moms? What are your super powers? What motivates you when you aren’t feeling super? When did you feel the most heroic?

Commencing Mom-dom

♫♪ I’m a mommy now! ♪♫

Well, the past 2 and a half weeks have just flown by (ish).

My little man is growing, growing! At his 2 week check up last Friday, he weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and measured 20 inches. Since he was 6 lbs 4 oz at our discharge (he was born 6 lbs 11 oz, 18.5 inches), he gained a pound and a half and grew one and a half inches!

Since he has been born, Champ has rolled over from his tummy to his back twice, which is ridiculous, since most babies don’t do that until they are 4 months old. He did it the first time at 6 days. Seriously, baby. I already love you like nobody’s business. You don’t need to show off for Mommy.

Little Champ has also accomplished peeing, pooping, and spitting up, simultaneously, when I was changing him. Now, I worked at a preschool for four years, being on potty patrol (I was always the one who ended up doing the dirty work), and I would frequently be places watching the big babies who weren’t potty-trained yet, so I have dealt with and am used to the number ones and number twos. And complete messes involving both of them.

But I just have to laugh at how unprepared I was, and still am, for how gross spitting up is sometimes. I don’t want to go into details, so I will spare you from describing the variety of consistencies this kid can produce. But man, can he launch that liquid sometimes. I had the honor of being spit up on twice—soaked—within a matter of minutes at about 5 a.m. today. Nothing like cold secretions running down your neck and chest to wake you up in the morning.

The smell makes LT nauseated, and he is a man with an iron stomach. Watching me squeeze out a baby was one thing, but seeing stuff shoot out of his son is a different story.

Speaking of stories, LT and I seem to enjoy story time infinitely more than Champ right now. We were giggling immensely when LT was reading “Mouse and the Magic Paints” to all of us. It will be lovely when Champ is old enough to enjoy his parents’ odd, corny senses of humor and laugh with us. (Though after that, I am sure he will be laughing at us instead…)

Nursing is going really well now. There have definitely been some challenges we have had to work out. I will probably blog more about breastfeeding in another post, one that my terrified male readers can skip reading.

Becoming a new mother has definitely been a life change. I haven’t gotten the baby blues or PPD, thank the Lord, but the amount? number? of hormones surging through my body did make my eyes well up a few times. I only have cried when I was extremely, extremely tired, and that was this Saturday morning. Sometimes Champ just cries. Usually he is a very content baby, and will just fuss a little when he is gassy or cold (usually I can tell when he’s hungry before he starts crying for that reason). But other times, he just wants to be held.

Physically, I have made some changes (obviously). I was 163 lbs (with clothes and shoes) at my last appointment, the day before Champ was born. That is 37 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight, and seeing the results on the scale made me feel pretty queasy. I lost 10-12 pounds just giving birth, but after delivery, the place where my baby had been was now a jelly roll of squish. While LT and I did have some amusement poking me liked the Pilsbury Doughboy, the sludge around my midsection was not something I wanted to see, especially with all the red stretch marks radiating around my navel.

Just breastfeeding has gotten me down to the 130s. I know the last 10 pounds are going to be hard to lose. It’s cooling off here in North Carolina finally, so I am looking forward to taking Champ out for walks around the neighborhood. I would have liked to have started yoga again already, but even standing sometimes has made me light-headed and dizzy in the last couple of weeks, so I am going to be easy on myself until I am fully recovered from delivery.

I have learned how to do a lot of things with one hand, like typing, and plenty of other things around the house, since most of my days right now are spent holding and/or feeding the baby. We do have a bouncy seat and a swing for him, plus a Moby wrap carrier so I can hold him hands-free, but he doesn’t like being in them for long amounts of time, he is eating constantly, and he just likes the warmth of Mom and Dad.

I’ve made some emotional changes, too, obviously. Call it Oxytocin, call it instinct, or whatever, but I would do anything for this kid. I just love him so much, and seeing and hearing him cry just breaks my heart, but being able to pick up my child and hold him close and say, “It’s okay, Mommy’s here. Mommy’s got you,” might just be the most rewarding experience of my life.

I’ve already learned a few things about motherhood:

  • Pediatricians and “baby experts” change their minds every decade. So giving my baby a pacifier before he is 1-2 months old and letting him sleep on his tummy every once in a while do not make me a bad mother.
  • You cannot spoil a newborn by holding him too much or responding to his crying. Responding to his crying allows him to trust you and know you will take care of him.
  • At the same time, babies sometimes comfort themselves. Letting him cry for 15 seconds or so before responding is just fine.
  • I am not a bad mom if I am not holding my baby 24/7. I am a good mom if I remain sane, so I can actually take care of my baby and myself.
  • My ideas and values regarding parenthood will change, and I will mess up sometimes. Little known fact: Parents are humans.

So, other mothers: what are some things you learned about being a mom? Also, did you ever have crazy mommy fears? I have a recurring fear that I am going to forget to put Champ’s car seat in the car and drive off, leaving my defenseless baby alone in a shopping cart or in a parking lot somewhere. Ah! It mortifies me just thinking about it!