Attachment Parenting, a field guide

We here in the B household, practice Attachment Parenting. What is Attachment Parenting? In short, it is the theory of parenting that will ensure that you will never sleep or be alone again. There are many ways to practice AP but the idea is that you and your children will be securely attached so that they are able to grow and develop in a safe place. They will not be judged for their behavior or feelings even when they involve a big, fat tantrum. They will be confident little people who are able to explore their world and know they always have a safe place to return (safe place being mom and/or dad).

AP is based off of work done by Dr. Sears and is basically how parents have been parenting since the beginning of time. Dr. Sears has written about a bajillion books that are awesome and helpful. Jean Liedhoff wrote a book called THE CONTINUUM CONCEPT that offers observations about traditional societies and how they get such great kids. I highly recommend all.

However, AP comes with a lot of hazards.

Co-sleeping and/or bed-sharing are common AP practices. This is a dangerous business. You will wake up in a puddle of pee about 9 times per night. You will think that you peed in the bed but it was your child peeing on you. Peeing is not worst thing that could happen to you. You could also get thrown up on. You might spend the entire night nursing. Children also thrash a bunch. It can be painful. I think my toddler is trying to give me permanent kidney damage. Co-sleepers often brag about how much more rest everyone gets. Let me just get real with you for a minute. People don’t have children so that they can get a full night’s sleep and be well-rested. No matter where your children sleep, you will not be rested. They could sleep across town and you will still not sleep because you will be worrying about them all the way across town.

I follow a lot of AP Facebook pages and parents can submit questions. 9 times out of 10, the questions are about sleep. There are five stages of grieving for sleep: anger, denial, fear, sadness, and acceptance. Get a tablet or an iPhone and start looking for cool apps and books to read because you will be doing a lot of that.

Baby-wearing is great. BUT you must have a good carrier and be willing to have a hurty back. Some people have regular sized babies and they can baby-wear on up through toddlerhood. Other people’s children run large and weight 20 lbs. at 6 months. I recommend the Moby or other stretchy wrap for tiny babies and an expensive Ergo or similar structured carrier. The more expensive the better is a good rule of thumb. AND this is very important and I’m not making it up: Shopping carts appear to be designed to hold an infant car seat up on top. I see this every time I go anywhere with a shopping cart. It is, in fact, pretty dangerous. There have been tons of accidents involving shopping carts and infant car seats resting on top. Don’t do it. Wear your baby if you can! Or come up with a plan b. I mean it.

Breastfeeding is key. Most AP families breastfeed until the babies naturally wean or somewhere between two and four, maybe longer. This may seem totally extreme to some. Oh well. Feel that way if you must but breast milk is pretty much a magical substance that is so nutrient dense, many nutrients haven’t even been identified yet. It is the ultimate immunity booster and can change composition based on what your baby needs. Yup. Babies eventually get teeth though so be prepared for the most excruciating pain you will EVER feel.

Usually, AP families practice peaceful parenting which is a lot easier said than done. Being peaceful when your kid is being a total butt-head is really hard. It’s really, really hard. It means that instead of spanking your child and yelling at him, you try to help him navigate his big emotions while navigating your own. I do an excellent job of this at home when no one is watching but it is much harder when the little stinkers start melting down in the grocery store. People will give you ugly looks and say things like “that child needs a good spanking.” Just ignore. Ignore them like you ignore your mother’s phone calls. See? It’s super easy. Always try to parent in a way that you feel is authentic for you and not what your grandma says. And stick to your guns.

AP babies are never left to cry-it-out. It just doesn’t work for us. Hopefully, our children will know that when they cry, which is their only form of communication for a long time, they will be heard by someone that loves them and we will help them go back to sleep or listen to them while they express how pissed off they are in the only way they know how. It isn’t the popular thing to do unless you live in Berkeley. In California, you will routinely see an adult bending down in front of a screaming kid and saying “I understand that you are very angry. It is ok to be angry. That is a big feeling you are feeling.” I used to mistake that for permissive parenting before I had children. It’s not. It is, at its best, a way to help our precious, screaming angels learn how to navigate emotions in a healthy way.

That is the short version of AP. May God have mercy on us all!

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