10 Things You Learn About Your Baby When You Attachment Parent
If someone would have told me, even four years ago, that I would be a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing mother to a two-year-old son, I would have told them they are losing their sweet, sweet mind. I also would have been wrong, because that's exactly what I am. In four years I've grown and changed and evolved and learned so much about myself, thanks to motherhood and attachment parenting. Turns out, there are things you learn about your baby when you attachment parent, too, and those things have been just as earth shaking and life-changing as the things I have learned about myself. Motherhood. I mean, what an experience, right?
Of course, this isn't to say that the only way you can learn about (or bond with) your baby is by attachment parenting. There is no "one size fits all" way to parent another human being, and what ended up working for myself, my son and my family, might not work for you and yours. I know plenty of amazing mothers who didn't attachment parent, and they know so many things about their beautiful babies and feel just as bonded and close to them, as I do to my son. However, I do think that, for me, attachment parenting gave me the opportunity to enjoy a unique perspective that I'm not sure I would have enjoyed in any other situation. Through co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand, babywearing and other quintessential "attachment parenting cornerstones," I felt so close to my son that learning about him was not only easy, it seemed natural. Like he was someone I had known my entire life, even though we had just met.
So, if you're in the throes of attachment parenting and you're enjoying the closeness that comes along with it, I'm sure you've realized a few things about your baby, too. Of course, each babe is different just like each parent is different, but I have a feeling attachment parents have already realized the following about their little ones:
They're Not Vindictive Or Manipulative...
I understand the urge to think that your baby is somehow manipulating you by crying when they cry, pooping when they poop or simply doing their little baby things at the most inopportune time. However, your baby doesn't even know where their toes are (or what toes are) so, I promise you, they can't grasp a complex concept like manipulation or vindictiveness.
Us adults, on the other hand, can; which is why we seem hellbent on applying these very advanced concepts to tiny little humans who can't even crawl. However, when you attachment parent you realize that your baby isn't trying to manipulate you in any way or use their cuteness to get something from you; they're simply being babies. They need you. They rely on you. They are attempting to communicate with you the only way they know how: crying their little baby eyeballs out. It's not manipulation, it's nature and necessity, and when you attachment parent you can't help but realize that it's all part of the parenting deal.
...They Just Need You
Nothing made me feel closer to my son — or more needed by my son — like breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping and babywearing. My son needed me in a way that was nothing short of primal, and when I was willing to be there whenever he needed me (instead of attempting to get him on a set schedule that suited me more than it probably suited him) I was acutely aware of just how important a person I am to my son.
While I would romantically talk about my son being "my whole world," I knew he wasn't. I still had work and my partner and my friendships and the passions I have cultivated in the span of my 29-year-old life. My son, however, had none of those things. He had me, and I really, and truly, was his entire world.
So Much Of Their Life Is Completely Out Of Their Control
While it might be simple to look at your baby and think, "You really are calling all the shots, aren't you?" they truly aren't. In those early baby stages when we first started attachment parenting, I realized just how much of my son's life was completely and totally out of his control, and how scary that must feel like. He didn't get a say in where I took him; he didn't get a say in what he wore; he didn't get a say in who held him (for the most part, because when he started crying he most certainly got his way); he didn't get in a say in so many aspect of his existence.
So, attachment parenting allowed me to soothe my son through his day-to-day, completely random life. He might not have been in control of much, but he had me there to cultivate a bond that would ease any fear he may or may not have been feeling as I took him places and as he met complete and total strangers.
Their Schedules Vary, Through No Fault Of Their Own
I know that many parents are all about getting their kids on schedules (whether it be eating schedules or sleeping schedules) and, hey, more power to them. I'm not one to talk ill about what works for another parent and his or her child, as there's definitely more than one way to parent.
However, attachment parenting made me realize that my son didn't necessarily have a "set schedule," and when he did get into a feeding groove or a sleeping groove, it was bound to change in a few days or weeks. I knew that what would work best for my son and our family, is if we just followed his natural schedule and did what worked best for him. That meant breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, and not rushing my son to stick to a routine that didn't develop naturally for him.
Your Baby Can Absolutely Tell When You're Upset Or Stressed...
It didn't take me long to realize that my mood affected my son's mood. If I was stressed out, he was irritable. If I was sad, he was significantly more clingy. If I was angry or upset, he was crying on a more regular basis. I knew that my son was feeding off my energy and the energy of our home, and if I wanted him to be happy and calm, I had to be happy and calm, too.
...And They're Affected By Your Mood
In order to make sure my son was happy, I made sure I was happy. I did what I needed to do (when I was able) so that I could stay mentally and physically healthy. If I didn't take care of myself and became upset in any way, my son would become upset and I knew that both of us would be struggling to get through a significantly more difficult day because I didn't have the attitude I should have had from the very beginning.
Your Baby Trusts You More Than Anyone Else
Attachment parenting allowed me to cultivate a bond with my son that made me instantly realize that I was the person he trusted the most (even though I doubt his baby brain had a word for his obsessive need to be by my side at all times). While he bonded with my partner, his father, as well; whenever my son was scared, tired, hungry, hurt or just upset, he wanted me. Whenever we were in a new environment, I was the only one who could calm him down. If we were in a doctor's office and it was time for his vaccinations, I was the only one who could hold him while his shots were administered.
I knew that, early on, I was my son's source of comfort and strength, and he trusted me to do what was best for him, to always protect him, and to keep him out of certain situations that may upset and/or hurt him. That's a big responsibility, you guys. One I definitely wouldn't trade for the world.
Your Baby Will Instinctively Follow Your Lead
My son started mimicking me at a very young age, probably because we spent so much time together during those initial months (and even now, as he has just turned two-years-old, he still says what I say and does what I do). He learned so much of his facial expressions, words, mannerisms and everything else from simply observing me, and that meant that even when I knew he couldn't understand what I was saying or even doing, I had to be on my "best behavior."
Your Baby Can't Be "Spoiled"
Yeah, that's not a thing. Babies need love and comfort and attention. You aren't "ruining" your child by providing all of those things on a daily, frequently basis and whenever they need it. You aren't "spoiling" them by providing them with the very things they need.
Your Baby Is At Their Best, When You're At Your Best
As previously mentioned, because I knew my son was feeding off my energy and mimicking my actions, I had to be at my best so my son could be at his best. That meant prioritizing self-care. While I was willfully and gladly giving up so much of my personal space and time to attachment parent (co-sleeping isn't always a dream and breastfeeding on demand can be exhausting) I also needed my "alone time." So, I took myself to solo-dinner dates and movies and spas and sat outside and read books and made sure that I had my time away from my son when I needed it, in order to be the best version of myself when I had him the other 22 or 23 hours in the day.