I was only 25 years old when I had my first of three children. Looking back, that is an incredibly young age to be married and starting a family! Since I was a younger parent, I really depended on reading parenting books to aid in forming my parenting style.
One of the very first books I purchased was the Dr. Sear’s Baby Book. The concepts of attachment parenting seemed foreign to me upon first reading, for I was bottle fed and certainly not carried around in a sling all day as a baby. But I have to say that the principals of attachment parenting made sense to me. They seemed natural, and I decided to go for it.
Breastfeeding my oldest child, whom is now almost 6, got off to a rocky start. To say it was easy as a first time parent would be far from the truth. I almost gave up so many times, but things got a little easier for us after a few weeks of diligence and I decided to stay the course. When it was time to go back to work, I was fortunate to be able to bring my son with me to work, which meant I could continue to breast feed him during the day with no interruptions. I wore him in a baby sling or carrier much of the day because it was just easier that way, but that’s not to say that I didn’t put him in a swing from time to time or push him in a stroller when my back needed a break. For the first 6 or so months of my children’s lives they all slept in a co-sleeper side car (for their own safety), which made it easier for me to nurse at night time. When they were ready for them to be in their own room, I gladly tucked them away in a crib so that I could finally start getting a full night’s sleep. Because that’s what worked for me and my family.
For the times that I had to be away from my son, I was armed with my breast pump. I have to say that the day a tour bus stopped in front of my car while I was double pumping at a truck stop south of Bakersfield was certainly a memorable moment for me. The people stared at my like I was some weirdo, even though I was ultimately just doing my best to take care of my child. When I had to fly, it was always somewhat embarrassing to get my pump and breast milk tested for explosives. It was a pain in the rear to do all of this, but ultimately I decided to keep doing it because it worked for me and my family. When I returned to my babies after being away from them, the bonding time that attachment parenting promotes was so very important for their sense of safety and security. I credit those principals of attachment parenting for making my work schedule and effectiveness of a parent work out for my children.
I nursed my oldest child until he was 19 months. To most people that is far too long to continue the “charade” of attachment parenting. When people found out that I was still nursing my son, even in to my 2nd trimester of pregnancy with my second child, they thought it was strange and that he was too old. To me it wasn’t a big deal, because as he got older he only nursed in the morning and at night. It all seemed natural to me, and I never once felt like it was a burden to my life or inconvenient. The relationship was mutually beneficial, and my son decided on his own when he was done.
My second and third child self-weaned by age one, which was both sad and a huge relief all at once. Sad, for we didn’t get that extended closeness that you just can’t replicate any other way, but liberating in the way that I didn’t have to drag my pump with me through airport security every time I had to go on a business trip, or pump milk while driving (hands-free, mind you!) to see a client. But just because I was no longer nursing them didn’t mean I couldn’t continue to implement attachment parenting principles in our life. To this day, I still carry my daughter (my third child, whom is 20 months) in a baby carrier wherever I go with her. Since she goes to daycare 4 days a week so that I can work, I consider the time we have together very important and precious. She loves being carried close to me, and I have to say that I love having her in the carrier canoodling with me.
I can also attest to the power of attachment parenting in that my children are strong, independent children purely out of the fact that they always have felt confident that their every need would be met, and that I was always there for them. Rather than let my kids always cry it out, or just give them a bottle to feed themselves, I was there to care for them. Naturally, on their own, with the confidence that they felt because of my parenting style they wanted to explore the world on their own, drink from a cup exclusively, and had no problem being cared for by someone else for the day should I need to be away. My children never have suffered from separation anxiety, and I credit attachment parenting for molding them in to strong children.
Every parent, given their situation, can only do their absolute best to raise their child. Whether this means they are bottle fed from the get-go at the hospital, or they choose to breast feed their child until age 4, they are choosing what works best for them as parents. Is breast best? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. Should we all sleep with our kids in our bed until they are 10? That’s debatable and ultimately the choice of the parents.
Somehow I was able to make attachment parenting work for me, and it’s possible for parents out there to take concepts of the parenting technique to make it work for them. Above all though, no one should be vilified for their parenting choices. To each their own, and if you don’t breast feed your child until age 4 that doesn’t mean you aren’t “Mom Enough.” As parent, all we can do is do our best, and no one should ever say that your best is not good enough.
Jenny K. is a mother of three children, all born before the age of 30, who lives in Orange County. Her own blog, 3 Before 30, focuses on health and fitness topics, as well as raising a child on the autism spectrum. You can also find her writing over at OCFamily.com.