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I Never Meant to Be an Attachment Parent

Photograph by Twenty20

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was blissfully unaware of the existence of parenting philosophies. Maybe that's because I was still reading novels and gossip magazines (miss you!) and hadn't yet become a slave to mommy blogs and insane Facebook groups. So without a parenting guru to follow, most of my choices were driven by gut instinct, convenience and hormones.

For instance, once we met our newborn, my hormones and I had trouble putting her down. Like, ever. I just wanted to hold that sweet little newborn all the time. Even when her grandparents were snuggling her, I'd start to feel anxious until she was back in my arms. My baby greed led directly to babywearing. After all, nobody could steal her if she was strapped to my chest.

As far as feeding went, baby liked the boob so much that I couldn't get her to drink from a bottle. Not any of a half dozen brands. Plus, my pump terrified me and I hated cleaning the parts. Out of sheer confusion and laziness, I gave up trying to bottle-feed and became a full-time dairy cow.

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The nursing was non-stop and exhausting. I discovered quite by accident that if we breastfed laying down, I could doze off while it was happening. This was a game-changing realization, one that led to me co-sleeping, or more accurately, bed sharing. This worked beautifully for a while, and I rather enjoyed all the spooning, but by the time baby turned 7 months old, I was ready to sleep through the night, even if she wasn't.

Most of my friends swore by sleep training. But I didn't like the idea of letting my baby cry. Stalling for time and answers, I read all the classic sleep books to try to figure out why my baby woke up all night and what to do about it.

It turns out I'd been following a parenting philosophy all along—I just didn't know it.

That's when I read a Dr. Sears book about attachment parenting. I had never heard of attachment parenting before, but a lot of it sounded familiar, especially his list of Baby B's which were "Bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing and Bedding close to baby." Check, check, check, check.

I certainly agreed when Dr. Sears said you can't spoil a baby by holding them too much (and thank goodness, since holding is my happy place.)

It turns out I'd been following a parenting philosophy all along—I just didn't know it.

I was an accidental attachment parent.

Ironically, right at the moment that I realized I'd been practicing attachment parenting, I broke one of the big rules. After trying a zilllion "no cry" sleep solutions, I embraced a sleep training method that involved letting my baby cry it out, albeit with frequent check-ins. It was rough. And yet it was the only way to finally get some sleep. Baby learned to sleep through the night in her own crib and our bond was not damaged, I swear.

Now, after two kids, I can look back and say that attachment parenting is lovely, if that's your thing. But it's not everyone's. Recently, a mom.me blogger described how she suffered to be the perfect attachment parent, and I felt bad that she had put so much pressure on herself.

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Frankly, I think it's nuts that moms will bend themselves into pretzels trying to conform to a parenting philosophy that doesn't really work for them. The idea that someone would blindly follow someone else's set of rules, irrespective of their own lifestyle, personality and instincts, totally boggles my mind. How is a full-time working mom supposed to strictly follow attachment parenting? What about someone who desperately needs some alone time every day to feel sane? If attachment parenting is not for you, why force the fit?

Sleep training aside, I do continue to gravitate towards the attachment style. My second baby is coming up on her second birthday and I'm still breastfeeding her. If anyone questions my choice, I'll admit it's nice to have an official parenting philosophy backing me up. I can tell them, "Dr. Sears says breastfeeding my baby longer will actually make her smarter." But that's not why I do it. I just like it, and so does my baby.

And in the end, that's all that matters.

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