It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I’ve started it half-a-dozen times, but always stopped after writing the first couple paragraphs. Apparently succinctly describing our parenting philosophy is much more complicated than I thought it would be!
Before Monster was born, we had never heard the term “Attachment Parenting” (typically called AP, for short). Although we hadn’t heard the term before, we were still planning on incorporating many of the AP “guidelines” into our parenting style. For instance, we were planning on breastfeeding and baby-wearing from the beginning. We were not, however, planning on co-sleeping. But then Monster was born and turned our world upside down…
We were planning a natural birth for Monster at a local birthing center, but alas – that was not to be. Instead, Monster was born in a hospital via c-section. I’ve read that c-section babies are typically very sleepy for several days after birth, often needing to be woken up to eat. Supposedly this is due to all the medicine used for a c-section, which usually makes its way into baby in a smaller amount. I don’t know if this is true – I’m sure someone, somewhere did a study on it and found a statically significant difference in the “sleepiness” of babies born vaginally via c-section. But as we all know, while statistics work well to describe a general population, they shouldn’t be applied on an individual basis. 😉 Monster came out screaming, hungry, and not-at-all tired and remained that way until…well, he’s still that way, so I guess it’s just his personality.
While we stayed in the hospital, Monster “roomed-in” with me. He only spent a few hours in the nursery the whole 3 days we were there. Most of the time during his stay there was spent in someone’s arms – often when we tried to put him in the portable crib after he’d fallen asleep, he would wake up and scream and cry until he was picked up. The temperature in our room was really cold for a day or so, so we thought maybe that was why he preferred being held.
And then we brought him home…and he continued to scream and cry every time he was put down. Soon, we found ourselves taking naps while Monster slept on our chests. After several weeks of this we began just bringing him into bed with us, because we HAD to sleep sometime. I felt so guilty about co-sleeping though. After all, doesn’t everything you hear about it tell you how unsafe it is as well as increasing the risk of SIDS?!?! I also felt really alone – none of the friends and family I talked to ever had a similar experience – all the advice they could offer was the “cry it out” method, which I didn’t have the heart to do. (Disclaimer: My mom co-slept with all of her children and has encouraged this sleep arrangement ever since I can remember. I, however, thought science was on my side when it came to NOT co-sleeping.)
One of Baby Monster’s favorite places to sleep
In desperation, I began searching the internet for alternative sleep advice, which is when I discovered the amazing Dr. William Sears and his AP philosophy. After reading through his website, I realized that Monster fit Dr. Sears definition of a “high needs” baby. It was such a relief to know that there were other parents out there who had similar babies! It was comforting to read other parent’s experiences and know that all the energy and attention Monster requires will (hopefully) pay-off in the long run.
Shortly after discovering Dr. Sears, I attended my first Le Leche League meeting, where I met a lot of lovely ladies, some of whom also co-slept and practiced AP. And it was there that I first learned of Dr. James McKenna and his sleep studies at the University of Notre Dame which proved that, when done appropriately, co-sleeping does NOT increase the risk of SIDS. By this point I was already a firm believer in both AP and co-sleeping, but it was nice to have that additional knowledge to share with others who questioned the safety of our sleep arrangement.
Sleeping wasn’t the only difficulty challenge we had with baby Monster. Aside from refusing to sleep on his own, he also wanted to be held all the time when he was awake. It was really difficult at first, but eventually I figured out how to do many household chores while holding a baby. As you can imagine though – there are many things you just can’t do while holding a baby (cleaning a bathroom, for instance). Eventually I got Monster to at least sleep in the bed without being held – which freed me up to take care of the household chores I couldn’t do while holding him. P was also great and helped out whenever he could – but since he’s going back to school part-time in the evenings, there were lots of times when it was just me and Monster at home. Just thinking about all of the benefits we were (hopefully) reaping by APing helped alleviate a lot of the stress I was feeling by not “keeping up” with household chores.
As my maternity leave began to come to a close, I started worrying about putting Monster in daycare. My mom had offered to watch him while I worked, but I knew there was no way she’d be able to handle him 5 days a week. I pictured him crying in a crib many hours of everyday and worried what that would do to his personality. I began searching for a nanny as an alternative, but the cost of a nanny just didn’t seem feasible.
After returning to work full-time for a couple of weeks, I was ready to call it quits and become a full-time stay-at-home mom. Thankfully, I was able to transition to a two-day a week work schedule (more about this another time). On the days I work, my mom is able to watch Monster for me, so I felt better about leaving him, knowing he’d have one-on-one care.
Now the big question – has AP really made a difference?
I think so, although it’s probably too soon to tell. Not much has changed now that Monster is a toddler. He still co-sleeps with us. Lately we’ve been working on transitioning him to a toddler bed during nap times. However, he moves around a lot and typically wakes up from his nap sooner when in his toddler bed (because rolls into the side and wakes himself up). At this point, it’s still TBD when he’ll make the transition to toddler bed during the night. He also likes to be carried around a lot still (even though he’s perfectly capable of walking). He loves exploring on his own though – so being carried around is hit or miss – it’s typically dependent on where we are, how tired Monster is, if he’s teething, etc.
Monster has a vivacity for life that I think can be greatly attributed to being AP’d (as well as his – ahem, persistent personality). I’m sure the same is true for all small children, but Monster is our first, so don’t have anyone else to compare him to yet. 😉 It’s so fun to watch him grow and learn. He loves exploring and learning new things and I love traveling with him on his amazing adventure through life. I’m always amazed at his powers of observation and his ability to apply his observations to similar situations/objects. Most importantly, he’s happy. Which is really what we were going for when we choose to practice AP with Monster. So far, we’re happy with this parenting lifestyle as well, which is equally important.
Toddler Monster – still happy when he’s close to Daddy
Now this isn’t to say AP is best for everyone, of course. Had Monster been a laid back, easy-going baby – we would have done everything differently. Since I wasn’t blessed with an “easy” baby this time around, I have to conclude that God was trying to tell us something and it was Providential that we stumbled upon AP. Should we be blessed with more children in the future, we’ll definitely continue to practice AP with them as well (although I hope these future children prefer their own sleep space!).
What parenting style/technique work best for you and your little one(s)?