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Attachment Parenting Was One of the Hardest Things I Ever Did

Photograph by Twenty20

You know what term I hate? Attachment parenting.

Because while you may call how I parented my kids "attachment parenting," to me, I was simply following my instincts as a mom—not some trendy parenting style.

I breastfed my two boys on demand and held or wore them in baby carriers 24/7, we co-slept forever (I still have my 4-year-old in bed with me!), there was zero sleep training of any kind, we never used time-outs, and I not only breastfed my kids when they were babies—I nursed them well into their toddler and preschool years.

There are also many ways I wasn't a "true" attachment parent—I didn't cloth diaper all my kids, I let them eat junk food (it's called balance, people,) and screen time rules basically flew out the window once my second child was born. Oh, and I’ve yelled a fair amount, because I have children, and I’m human.

But none of that matters because I don’t think anyone is one kind of parent or another. We all make decisions about how to parent based on a million factors, like how we were parented, what our partners thinks (if we have one), what our life circumstances are—and of course, the particular personalities of our kids.

For me, what it all came down to is that I wanted my kids to feel secure.

I wanted them to know that I would be there for them, in body and mind, 24/7—especially in their earliest years. When they were newborns, it didn’t seem like there was any place better for them than in my arms or at my breasts, and when I put them down and they cried, my instinct was to pick them up. So I did.

Now, I know that parenting this way is hard. It’s beyond exhausting.

I will tell you point blank that my babies didn't sleep more than two hours at a time for the first year or so. And they didn’t sleep through the night until they were about 3 or 4 years old.

I think attachment parenting gets a bad rap because people think it means that you have to sacrifice your whole self for your kids.

There were times I was so freaking “touched out” I wanted to throw my breastfeeding baby or toddler square across the room. There were time when all I wanted was to eat a meal without a child sitting in my lap, or nursing. Same goes for using the toilet or taking a shower (there were years that if I showered more than twice a week, it was some kind of miracle.) And yes, I wish I’d had more time to just be, without children clinging to my body at all times.

But here’s the thing: I don’t have any regrets.

I believe that a child’s first few years of life are among the most important years for them—and building a foundation of trust, love, touch, and more trust, was crazy important to me. Would I have been able to give them that foundation had I not breastfed them as long, or used a gentle form of sleep training? Yes, maybe. Probably. I don’t know.

But the things I did were what I knew how to do best.

And I will say that although my kids are not the most perfect humans to walk the earth, they are both well adjusted kids who are generally friendly, respectful, and confident. They are actually highly independent kids as well—free-thinkers, and smart as whips.

Most of all, they continue to be really close with my husband and me. Even the sassy, eye-rolling tween still likes to cuddle up every night with me and spill his heart out in the as I lie with him and settle him into sleep. This is huge, because he barely gives me the time of day the rest of the time, and I believe all those years of closeness we had when he was little are the reason he continues to be close to me today. Our nightly ritual is one I hope we can keep up for years to come.

I think attachment parenting gets a bad rap because people think it means that you have to sacrifice your whole self for your kids. But I never quite looked at it that way. It was a conscious choice I was making, and I felt confident in it. Yes, I was so exhausted that it felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out, but I was still myself.

And in our current world—where maternity leave is a total joke in the U.S.—attachment parenting is a sacrifice, reserved for the privileged few who can find a way to make it work. For me, it didn’t always “work,” but I did it nonetheless because I knew that one day my kids would not need me this much. I knew that one day I would miss their sweet little bodies breathing so closely to mine. And I believed it was exactly what they needed, too.

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