Before I had Orlaith, I always said that I would never be one of those parents who let their kids sleep in bed with them until... who knows when? I had the perceived notion that co-sleeping was a bad thing due to the social stigma attached to it. I didn't really research any parenting styles while I was pregnant. Honestly, it never occurred to me. Once Orlaith was here in my arms, I would trust my instincts and we would get by doing what felt right to our family. What felt right ended up being attachment parenting, even though I didn't really know what that was at the time. I heard the term attachment parenting being thrown around, and I decided to learn more about it. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was already doing it!
So, what exactly is attachment parenting? It seems to mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Dr. Sears has a great article called the 7 Baby B's. Here is the gist of AP:
1. Birth Bonding - This means bonding with baby immediately after birth. If there is a medical emergency that prevents this, catch-up bonding will occur as soon as you and your baby can be together.
This happened with me. I had hemorrhaging after delivery and I wasn't able to bond with O for 2 hours while they were working on me. As soon as they were done with me, I wanted my baby girl. I wanted to breastfeed her. The nurses looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn't care. It was what felt right. I needed to be close to my baby and feed her.
2. Breastfeeding - This helps you read your baby's cues and body language. You will get to know your baby better. This is also nutritionally superior.
Even though I have had difficulty with my supply, I never gave up. Orlaith is 6 months old now and we are still breastfeeding. I have no plans to stop anytime soon either. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year, while the 1st 6 months are exclusive. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first 2 years. I plan on letting O self-wean. She will give it up when she is good and ready, and not a minute sooner.
3. Baby Wearing - Carried babies learn more and fuss less. It also helps parents be more sensitive to their baby's needs.
It took us a bit to find a sling that O liked AND was comfy for me. The answer? The Balboa Baby sling designed by none other than Dr. Sears himself. I was a little amused at how much Dr. Sears kept popping up for me. We still use the sling all the time. When we go shopping, I wear O in the sling instead of keeping her strapped in a car seat in the cart. She never makes a peep. She snuggles up against me and soaks in the world around her, and all the while I have 2 free hands.
4. Bedding Close to Baby - This helps busy parents reconnect with their babies at night. It also minimizes separation anxiety and assists babies in learning that sleep is a happy, pleasant thing.
We started off using a co-sleeper bassinet. I only found out much later that Dr. Sears recommends this co-sleeper as well. It sits even with the bed and Orlaith was right there next to me all night. We used the co-sleeper until she was 3 1/2 months old. That is when we switched to co-sleeping in the bed. Even our pediatrician said that the risk of SIDS decreases dramatically around this age since babies can move easier on their own.
I could write a whole other article just on the benefits of co-sleeping. I LOVE it and will not stop just because people think I am making a stupid decision. The truth is that people don't understand the benefits. To me, they far outweigh the fact that we will have to eventually move O to her own bed. Is it possible that could be difficult? Of course, but I DON'T CARE. There is nothing more natural than snuggling my baby close to me all night. When she wakes up, Mommy and Daddy are right there to see the smile that lights up her adorable face. There is no crying, only her face lighting up when she sees us. Please stop with the comments - "You will regret that" or "That's a BIG mistake". I don't believe you.
For more detailed information on the benefits of co-sleeping (health and emotional), please read this article http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/t071000.asp.
5. Belief in the Language Value of Your Baby's Cry - In simple terms, this is how babies communicate. They are dependant on us for survival. If you respond sensitively to your babies needs, they trust in you and your ability to respond to their needs. The result is a baby who trusts you and cries less. Babies cry to communicate, not manipulate. Allowing a baby to "Cry It Out" is more harmful to your relationship than you realize, and in the end will only result in a baby that cries more often because they don't feel secure that their needs will be met.
I have never, and will never let Orlaith "CIO". I feel that this is harmful to our relationship and her trust in me. By meeting her needs and not allowing her to cry needlessly, I have a baby who is very happy and has a great temperament. She smiles non-stop and only cries if something is truly wrong. So don't tell me it is good for her lungs or that she has to learn to cry because that is a total crock of poo.
6. Beware of Baby Trainers - Stay away from the rigid baby "trainers" that want you to clock watch instead of read your baby's cues. You might have heard of them. This is the Cry It Out (CIO) crowd... Babywise, The Ferber Method or any other "method" that tries to undermine your natural instincts in caring for your baby.
As I said previously, CIO is harmful to your baby. I have not and will not partake in it. I think it is downright cruel. Studies have shown that babies who have been left to CIO have lifelong emotional scars, and it results in feelings of insecurity and abandonment. It can be stressful to the point of increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
Here is a great article that discusses the pro's and con's of both CIO and AP http://sleep-disorders.suite101.com/article.cfm/dr_ferber_versus_dr_sears. As you will notice, even though there are negatives listed under AP, none if them are emotionally or medically scarring.
Another popular sleep method, Babywise, has been linked to dehydration and failure to thrive. Read about that here http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/aneyaap.htm.
7. Balance - Do not forget to take care of yourself and your marriage. Partaking in AP does not mean saying yes to baby every time, all the time. You will learn there are times when it is appropriate to say "No" to baby and that there are times to ask for help.
In short, I fell into AP quite by accident. It was what felt right to our family. I truly believe in it's benefits as I have witnessed them first hand. I love that the style is meant to bring the parent-baby bond closer together so that you can understand each other to the fullest. It is a way to learn about and trust in one another. After all, this is my child we are talking about... not a puppy who needs to be "trained".
Just because I believe in AP, doesn't mean I look down on other parenting methods (CIO aside). I am always willing to share my experiences, but I have no need or desire to talk badly about someone else's parenting choices just because they are not the same as my own. I wrote this in order to talk about AP and our experiences with it, not as a means to say everyone should practice it. It works for our family, and it works well. If I can educate just one person who was curious about AP, or had never heard of it, then I have done my job. The power in pregnancy and parenting is educating yourself and knowing your options. Never settle. Always strive.
For the full article on the 7 Baby B's by Dr. Sears, click here http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t130300.asp.