10 Things Your Baby Wants You To Know About Attachment Parenting
Oh, what I wouldn't have given or done or paid to know what my baby was thinking. Especially during those first few weeks, when we were first figuring one another out, adjusting to our new lives and exhausted, I would have benefited immensely from knowing what my baby was thinking. Alas, it is impossible, so I'm left to wonder what my now two-year-old son was thinking when he was a newborn. I imagine there are things your baby wants you to know about attachment parenting, if attachment parenting is a parenting style you've decided to use. I imagine that when you're in the middle of doing what is considered to be a principle of attachment parenting (co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, constant skin-to-skin contact, positive reinforcement and positive discipline) you're baby has some thoughts; thoughts you would (like me) would probably benefit from if they could only articulate them.
I can vividly remember those first few weeks of motherhood, when my son was a newborn and completely terrifying. I was so afraid of failing him, in even a small way, and was trying my hardest to be the best mother I could possibly be (I still do). I remember awkwardly putting him into a babywearing sling, scared he'd fall out even though I knew better. I remember the first few nights of co-sleeping, staring at his tiny chest rising and falling and refusing to sleep. I remember breastfeeding constantly, feeling like an exhausted cow-human. I'm sure my son was just as confused as I was, but I'm sure (or, I hope) that he was also able to realize that his mother was trying her best, working her ass off and doing everything she could to be the mom he needed.
Parenthood and self-doubt seem to go hand-in-hand, and I spend a lot of my time as a mom second-guessing myself and retracing my past steps, making sure that I am doing things "right" and learning from my inevitable mistakes. If my baby could have told me what he was thinking in those early weeks of mom life, I probably wouldn't have been wondering if what I was doing was helping him. Still, we found our groove and I found my confidence and now I don't necessarily need to know what he's thinking; I can tell he is happy and healthy and thriving, and that I'm doing a great job as his mom. So, I'm happy to simply guess, and have took it upon myself to assume the things (and hope) my son was thinking about attachment parenting.
"I'm Not Trying To Manipulate You..."
I know that it can be easy to think that your baby is "out to get you," because when you're sleep-deprived and overwhelmed and frustrated, it truly does feel that way.
They're not, though.
Babies cry as a way to communicate with you. Babies want you close because you're their source of comfort. In fact, you're essentially they're entire world. Even when they poop at the worst time, cry when it's most inconvenient, and seem anything but reasonable, they aren't being manipulative because they don't even know what "manipulative" means. They don't even know where their toes are (or what toys are), you guys.
"...Or Drive You Crazy"
I'll never forget one particular night a few weeks after my son was born. I was breastfeeding on demand and essentially drenched in breast milk. I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. My son was fed, changed, clean, dry, and screaming. Nothing I did seemed to sooth him, save putting him on my chest and rocking him back and forth on our living room rocking chair. The moment I moved from that one position, he would start crying. I was miserable.
In a moment of utter desperation, I started to think that my son was literally trying to drive me crazy. Of course, he wasn't. He was a baby who wanted his mother, and I was his comfort. After he was born, he had problems regulating his body temperature, so we slept skin-to-skin the first night of his life so my body could assist his in stabilizing. Skin-to-skin contact has been a sure-fire way to calm him since, and it's just what he needs to feel safe and comforted.
"You're Not Spoiling Me"
I'm pretty open about my parenting choices and decisions, so I'm no stranger to judgmental comments as a result. For the most part, they don't bother me. Everyone has an opinion and when I can distance myself from those opinions to the point that I don't take them personally, I tend to realize that most people just want to feel validated in their own choices and decisions. We're human. It happens.
Still, I will never understand why someone thinks that attachment parenting is somehow "spoiling" a baby or a young child. You literally cannot spoil a baby. It's not a thing. Babies need your attention; need your time; need your constant devotion, and you're not "ruining" them by giving them what they need.
"You're Not Making It Harder For Me To Become More Independent In The Future"
I've used many of the parenting "techniques" that fall under the "attachment parenting" realm when raising my son, including: breastfeeding on demand and exclusively, co-sleeping, babywearing and using positive reinforcement instead of a more authoritative approach. I can tell you, without a doubt, that he doesn't have a problem wanting to be, or actually being, independent.
For example, just the other day I asked him to watch where he as going and to "be careful," while he was walking on the sidewalk. My two-year-old son's response? "Stop being a mom." So there you have it, folks. Attachment parenting doesn't stunt your kid's ability — or desire — to be an independent person.
"I'm Comforted By Your Presence"
There are very few things that can make my son feel at peace, calm, safe, understood, and valued, like the moments when we are next to one another.
"I Appreciate Your Positive Reinforcement..."
Using positive discipline techniques is one of the "seven pillars" of attachment parenting. The physical presence of an understanding and responsive caregiver can assist a child in learning right from wrong, and can encourage positive behaviors. Instead of a more authoritative approach, attachment parents usually respond with sensitivity and use positive reinforcement as a means of discipline.
Of course, different parenting "techniques" work for different parents and kids, so it's not to say that another disciplinary choice won't automatically work, but I would like to think that my son appreciates the moments when I respond with kindness and positive reinforcement and empathy, and I've seen how my responses have benefited him. For example, when I simply tell him "No!" he usually doesn't listen and will even act out intentionally and for a longer period of time. When I get on his eye level, calmly explain what he is doing, why it's not appreciated and give him options so that he can pick for himself (and then praise him for picking an option) he listens, responds and changes his behavior.
"...Because I'm Pretty Confused About The World And Life And Stuff"
I never expected my son to automatically know to self-sooth, or explain his emotions (or even know which emotions are which and why they happen) because he's a child and so much of what goes on around him (and inside him) is confusing to him. It's my job, as his parent, to help guide him through life and through the developmental phases he is going through; and I think doing so sensitively, calmly, and positively has made it all easier.
"I Trust You"
I would hope every single child can say this of their parent, regardless. However, as someone who grew up with an abusive parent, I know that's not true.
Still, if you're attachment parenting and you're providing your child with what is considered to be the "pillars" of attachment parenting (feed with love and respect, respond with sensitivity, use nurturing touch, ensure safe sleep physically and emotionally, provide constant love and care, practice positive discipline, strive for balance in personal and family life) I think it's safe to say that your child trusts you. You're the one they will depend on for comfort and safety, and it's because they know that you'll be able to provide it.
"Don't Worry About Any Label You May Or May Not Fit Into When It Comes To Parenting..."
Yes, attachment parenting is a label so I can understand how not worrying about labels might seem a little counterproductive, in this context. However, this is a baby we're talking about. Your baby has no idea if you're falling into some "parenting group" or not; he or she just knows that you're feeding them, changing them, rocking them to sleep and providing them with love. That's all they care about.
"...Because I Know You're Doing What You Know Is Best For Me, And For You"
At the end of the day, as long as you're doing your best and keeping your child happy, healthy and safe, that's all that matters. As long as you're taking care of yourself in the process (because you matter, too), you're doing an amazing job as a parent. If your baby could articulate that very sentiment to you — especially during those difficult days and nights — he or she would. Trust me.