“You’re going to put her down now aren’t you?” a friend asks. My baby is sleeping peacefully in a carrier across my chest. “Normally I would but today she is fussy. You know teething,” I lie.
The truth is my baby naps most of the time wrapped up against me, in my arms or cuddled up next to me in bed. This is something I don’t like to confess. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I feel like I have to defend my decision to practice attachment parenting. I’m worried other parents will think I’m too lenient or I’m irresponsible for sleeping with my babies or I’m crazy for spending so much time with my kids or simply that I’m a bad mother.
As parents to a two year old and an eight month old, my husband and I accidently fell into attachment parenting. We do what feels natural to us- keeping our babies close by, sleeping with them, cuddling them, feeding them on demand and responding to their cries and needs quickly. I’m proud of our choices and believe our babies are growing in to happy and well rounded children.
Even though I’m content following attachment parenting I dodge questions about my parenting style. Often attachment parenting is misunderstood and I have to defend my parenting philosophy to others, parents and non parents.
Most mothers will feel judged or criticized for their parenting choices at some point. Judgement and shaming shouldn’t be a part of motherhood but unfortunately it is. Yet it seems attachment parents in North America have to defend their choices more frequently, from co-sleeping to extended breastfeeding.
So I secretly practice attachment parenting, to avoid nasty comments. My babies are high maintenance, I’m spoiling them, they are used to hands.
Or unsolicited lectures and advice. By co-sleeping you’re going to suffocate her, you should start baby on the bottle, let them cry themselves to sleep, they are just manipulating you, your son will never learn how to be independent.
Sometimes I half-heartedly nod or roll my eyes or gently disagree. Rarely do I challenge them.
I know I shouldn’t take these comments so personally, but as a new mother I’m still trying to figure this parenting thing out, I do. I feel guilty afterwards, why do I feel like I can’t tell the truth? Why do I bypass the fact I still cuddle my two-year-old to sleep if he wants or plan to breastfeed until my baby wants to wean?
My own insecurities as a mother leads me to overthink or be defensive when I’m met with criticism. And sometimes when exhaustion hits and my baby wants to nurse all night I do second guess my parenting decisions.
Sleep might be the most contentious issue when it comes to parenting. Everyone has an opinion, advice or horror story to tell about babies and sleeping, especially when it comes to co-sleeping.
And I’m not the only mom that feels judged for co-sleeping, researchers found that moms who decided to co-sleep for longer periods of time had higher rates of depression, not because of the sleeping arrangement but because they felt judged by other parents.
So when I meet another attachment parent a wave of calm comes over me. We talk about baby carriers, complain about being exhausted, share the joys of sleeping with our babies close by, joke about our sore backs all without judgement. As I meet more parents using attachment parenting I’m becoming more confident in my choices and less afraid to stick up for them.
My family and I spend our time between two continents, North America and Africa. In our home in Malawi, there isn’t such philosophy as attachment parenting, it’s just parenting. Mothers constantly have their babies with them strapped to their backs. Babies sleep with their families. And mothers breastfeed their babies anytime or anywhere. Mothering in Malawi is simple and straightforward. Of course Malawian parents have tough problems to deal with but mothering is not over complicated.
Attachment parenting works best for my family. And it is completely fine if it doesn’t work for yours. There are millions of moms (who do and don’t call themselves attachment parents) that are following their instincts and are doing what is right for their babies and families and that’s what motherhood is about. Motherhood is hard enough already, no matter what philosophy, style or approach you take, we don’t need the judgement.
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