May 12, 2012

I Never Set Out to Be an Attachment Parent.

She was just 2 weeks old and he was still afraid to touch her.

My kids, on the other hand, had other plans.

I intended to breastfeed my son, at least until he sprouted teeth.

The idea of little teeth gnawing on my nipples freaked me out.

Then his birth didn’t go as planned. The au-natural birth center birth, turned into a hospital c-section. In a post-surgery, morphine induced haze, it took us 36 hours to figure out how to breastfeed.

I had one nurse tell me one thing and another nurse tell me something else. A third nurse, sometime in the middle of the night strapped a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to my body and attempted to drip formula into my son’s mouth. All it did was make a huge mess and make me cry.

Finally, I had a nurse grab my breast and squeeze it while she held my son’s head, forced his mouth open, shoved him onto my boob and held him there until he started sucking. He didn’t let go for two and a half years.

That was not my plan. Teeth remember?

It was also not my plan to have my son in my bed, ever. I was not going to co-sleep (bedshare). He had a beautiful new four-in-one convertible crib which his granddad bought him. There was the cute matching sheet set and teddy bear. Not my plan, but babies have a way of letting their will be known. My son would not sleep anywhere but on my body. At all. Ever. Not my plan. Certainly not for 18 months.

I’m an unintentional attachment parent,

and I love it.

With my second—my daughter—four years later, I knew I was going to breastfeed until she self weaned. Her birth was beautiful – my all natural, no-nothing, quite-a-lot-of-swearing-while-pushing, Vaginal Birth After Caeserean (VBAC).

Per my husband’s insistence, I knew she was going to sleep in her own fancy crib with the matched sheets… until her reflux with projectile vomiting (think Linda Blair from “The Exorcist”) proved that she couldn’t sleep flat, that she had to be upright or she would aspirate the vomit. That it was best if I lifted her, and tipped her just a bit forward as she spewed.

It’s very scary seeing your little baby’s eyes roll back in her head, vomit spraying from her nose and mouth and watching her struggle to breathe. So, yes, she slept in our bed, on my body so I could save her life every time she vomited.

Once we figured out she couldn’t tolerate soy in my diet, many months later, her vomiting stopped and she eventually moved into her own bed. Much sooner than her brother did, in fact.

She is, at three, still nursing, with no signs of weaning and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t like the way her brother had weaned. He had a horrific head cold. He was so stuffed up he couldn’t suck and breathe at the same time. So, he didn’t nurse for five days. When he was well enough he asked for his “boob.” I had been convinced that it was time to wean so I told him my boobs were empty. He cried and lifted my shirt and tried to latch on. He failed and we both cried.  Within two weeks he ceased napping and his tantrums escalated.

With her, I will let her choose the time. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up my role as parent and given up control to my preschooler. On the contrary, it means I’m listening and responding to her needs.  We make mistakes with our children. I made a mistake in how and when I weaned my son. I won’t make that mistake again.

Attachment parenting is not only about breastfeeding, co-sleeping and babywearing.

It’s about listening to our children and respecting their needs, while at the same time maintaining our position of authority in the household. Our children learn to trust us when we respond quickly and appropriately to their needs, so that when we need them to do something for us, they respond quickly and appropriately as well.

It is possible to be an attachment parent without ever breastfeeding or ever having baby in the parental bed. This is the part that most people miss. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing modality. When we take the aspects that work best for us and ditch the ones that don’t, we find we are good parents. It doesn’t take breastfeeding your three year old to make you “Mom Enough.”

Sat Nam.

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Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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