Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

I have thought so much about Sheri's comments about the book she read that said that for every month you breastfeed your baby past 1 year, the more dependent he/she will become and the harder it will be to wean that child. It has driven me crazy!

My last 2 children were breastfed for 24 months and 28 months, and they are both very outgoing and "independent." One is very mature for her age and can talk to adults and children alike. The other is creative and such a free-spirit. I am so close with both, but they are very comfortable with people and really, well-adjusted individuals, so far in their short lives. They were never purposely "weaned." It was just a natural process that happened. The others were 15 months and 19 months the last time they breastfed -- still respectable amount of time. None of my children are joined at my hip. They all lead pretty normal, healthy childhoods.

When I was born (1971), it was very popular to not breastfeed (I was not breastfed), to let your baby teach herself to fall asleep on her own -- even if that meant crying alone in a dark room, and feeding on a schedule and only then, and even starting solid foods when just a few days old. If you didn't do these things, you were going to spoil your baby. Who would ever want that?

I am a product of that type of parenting. So are my brother and sister. We are all extremely independent, but I don't know how "attached" we were/are. I like to think that now, at 37, I am attached, but it's taken years. My father and I never got along until I was well into my 20's. I would never have gone to him with my problems or questions while I was growing up. If I had a bad dream at night, I was angrily sent back to bed. I don't remember ever crawling into bed with my parents after a bad dream. This really wasn't their fault though. The parenting books generally said the same thing at that time.

So, yes, it fostered independence, but not attachment. Not trust. When I was 16, I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle halfway across the country because I couldn't get along with my parents (really, father). But it was a cycle that started long before my teenage years. Now that is just my story.

Imagine being a small child. No matter how much you love your brothers and sisters, it is your parents that you look to for love, support, comfort, knowledge, trust, and understanding. If you are denied comfort, you learn to not trust.

I don't know about y'all, but I'd rather have my child be attached to me than independent from me. What is wrong with some dependency anyway? What's all the fuss? Are we afraid that they'll never leave the house? They will. And we will be sad. I love to know that I can be dependent on certain people in my life. Interestingly, my aunt and uncle are at the top of that list.

David read this over my shoulder and said he was worried that this would hurt my mom's feelings. I don't know if she'll ever read this, to be honest. This is so not a pity party. I am simply commenting on how parenting philosophies have changed over the years. I've often thought of how I was raised and why I am the way I am. Don't we all? My mom is great. She has always gone above and beyond for me. My mom and I are close and really have always been. My father died 2 years ago, but the last several years were much different than they were growing up. I don't think my dad liked having small children around, and I really don't think he liked having a rebellious teenager daughter! He did much better with adult children!

So, Mom, if you are reading this, I love you! You have always let me be me, even though it has surely driven you insane sometimes. I learned that lesson from you when dealing with my own children. They are their own person and I can't make them be what/who I want them to be. You never did that to me and I am grateful for that.

I've turned this into a therapy session. I apologize. I hope this causes you to ponder your own upbringing, what it means in your life, and how you want to use it in raising your own children.

Be wary of any advice that is not good for baby, but very convenient for the parents. Attach those babies!


Sarah said...

I'm not really an "attachment" parent, but I'm not into the other extreme, either. However, I do agree with you in regard to breastfeeding and just plain sensitivity to your child. In my (very limited) observation, those parents who push their children away (especially early on) by weaning when they aren't ready, or leaving them behind when they aren't ready (nursery, babysitting) are under the assumption that "they have to learn to be without me someday, so no harm in starting now." What I notice about these children is that they are strangely dependent, and do not do well without their parents. I think that parenting philosophy does exactly the opposite of what they intend: makes their child MORE insecure and scared of being left. Like you said: the children don't TRUST the parent (to return or even say goodbye, etc.) and they are unhealthily attached.
I especially notice that the more dependent the child's personality, the more these parents try to "fight" it. In my experience (I was once that child), I branched out and took independent steps WHEN I WAS READY. Sure, I was older than some of my friends when I was comfortable without my parents, but I am so thankful my mom didn't push me away, and as an adult, I'm not scared of new situations or people like I was as a child.

Bella said...

hey donna!! Of course your post is awesome, that's the Donna I remember! Sounds like you are doing great, and I remember asking you many a questions when Hannah was born although I did do an epidural. Have a great day!!

Donna Ryan said...

This is actually from an email I got from one of my very best friends, Janet. I had to share it: "Who gets upset when they see a two year old with a bottle—not very many people! Why is it so distasteful to so many to nurse a two year old? After reading your blog last night I kissed my sweet, angel baby a few more times than usual and cuddled extra close as I took her to bed with me. I am SO THANKFUL that I got on the attachment parenting path right from the beginning. There were extra hugs and kisses for my sweet husband this morning too—for supporting this parenting-style with our kids. I am so thankful that I haven’t had to fight him on these issues."

Tam said...

HI came across your blog and was reading your thoughts on attachment parenting. I did not get to breastfeed my kids (medical reasons) but in every other way I am a champion for attachment parenting. I think also it is because of the time period that I was born...1968. I remember DR SPOCK book on my parents shelf for years but I do not think they really read it but it was a different time period and plus they were very YOUNG. I feel that we push our children quickly and it is not necssary. I have been raked over the coals about the fact that I let MY KIDS sleep in the bed with US and esp if they are scared. I NEVER let my children CRY it OUT as I was told over and over my OTHER MOMS. ALSO here SPANKING is an acceptable form of punishment (the deep south) and well I do not agree! MY kids are independent despite MY ATTACHMENT parenting and I feel that they are secure in the world that I have created for them. I know that MY world was not secure and I want those children to understand that they can trust US as their parents. OK sorry this is so long!

YOUR post was great and ATTACHMENT PARENTING is GREAT. IT works for ME and MY family.

Donna Ryan said...

I am so new to the blogging world, so here, this shows my ignorance: Tam, how did you find me and my blog?

HaleeBurch said...

Are there any books you would recommend that would explain more about attachment parenting?