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My response to the attachment parenting segment I featured in on The Project

I featured in a segment on attachment parenting on The Project and there are a few things that I wanted to clarify about my involvement, what I do as an “attachment parent” and what “attachment parenting” (AP) means exactly. You can watch the segment below or on the The Project website.

Personally I have received a lot of positive feedback about the segment and/or my involvement. I’m aware that there has been a lot of negative comments on The Project’s social media pages, but I’ve chosen not to look at these as I don’t feel I would gain anything from doing so.

The general consensus in my local AP and babywearing communities appears to be that people were unhappy with the way that AP and babywearing were portrayed, and that there was a lot of misinformation in the segment.

I’d like to clarify a few details for anyone that is curious about my parenting style and AP and babywearing. We were interviewed and filmed for almost two hours and this was condensed into just part of a 4 minute story, so not surprisingly, a lot of information was left out. Below are a few things that I wanted to clarify:

What is the definition of “attachment parenting” exactly?

I did not agree with the segment’s definition at all. It said that AP is about “responding to your child’s every demand”. I really disliked the word “demand”. AP is based on the principle of understanding a child’s emotional and physical NEEDS and responding sensitively to these needs in a manner which is appropriate for the child’s age.

“Attachment parenting” is a phrase coined by Dr William Sears, who also wrote a book by the same name. It is also called “natural parenting” or “instinctive parenting” or just “parenting”. Because it is such an instinctive form of parenting, it is done all over the world and many people do it naturally without even knowing that there is a name for it.

Because AP is really just about following your intuition there are no strict rules, but parents may do some or all of the following:

  • Breastfeed on demand
  • Share a bedroom or bed with their baby
  • Wear their baby in a carrier or sling
  • Respond to their baby’s cries and cues.

You do not have to do all of the above in order to practice AP. You can still be an “attachment parent” if you:

  • Bottle feed
  • Leave your child in the care of others
  • Sleep in a different room to your child
  • Use a pram
  • Along with a whole host of other things!

AP is NOT babywearing 24/7!

AP is based on the principles of attachment theory in developmental psychology, thus reference to the word “attachment”. It has nothing to do with being physically “attached” to your child. Many people who practice AP choose to babywear for any number of reasons, but it is not a necessary part of AP (and they certainly don’t do it 24/7!). Likewise, those who babywear don’t necessarily practice AP.

12107498_423120007871755_1070558077_nThe co-sleeping scene

This was filmed in a hotel room next to the channel 10 studios. We weren’t sleeping in the scene – we were actually breastfeeding!

The segment failed to clarify the different types of co-sleeping. Sharing a bedroom with your child and sharing the same sleeping surface as your child (bed sharing) can both be classified as co-sleeping, but they both come with a different set of risks and benefits. SIDS and Kids recommends room sharing until 6 to 12 months of age.

From birth Charlotte slept in a co-sleeper (similar to a bassinet) in our bedroom. When Charlotte outgrew her co-sleeper we started bed-sharing. Charlotte now sleeps in her own bed (which is attached to our bed) for most of the night, but bed shares with me during the early hours of the morning. We follow the safe sleeping guidelines set out by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Yes, we do have sex

Since this question keeps coming up, I feel I have to clarify. Co-sleeping has not destroyed our sex life! It’s pretty simple. Charlotte goes to sleep in her bed in our room at 7pm. We go to bed at 10pm. So between 7 and 10pm we are free to have sex on the couch or in the shower or anywhere else that takes our fancy (but we mostly just watch Nextflix).

I DO NOT babywear 24/7!

Charlotte has most (but not all) of her naps in a carrier because I find it an easy way to get her to sleep, she tends to sleep longer, and it makes it easy for me to check on her. If we’re out for the evening, it’s a convenient way for her to go to sleep for the night without for example having to worry about fitting her pram into a crowded restaurant. When I’m out during the day, Charlotte will either be in her pram or carrier, depending on her mood and what is the most practical option. I usually find a carrier to be more convenient for me because I find many places (such as shopping centers) difficult to navigate with a pram. Charlotte likes to be in close proximity to me at all times, so I wear her when I’m cooking dinner or doing chores around the house – otherwise I’d never get anything done!

My Job

I work from home as a freelance graphic designer. I work a limited number of hours that I fit in around Charlotte’s sleep times. I often work while she’s asleep in her carrier, but I do not sit at my computer with her attached to me all day! At the moment this arrangement is working for us, but when it becomes unmanageable Charlotte will be attending daycare.

The reason I do AP

AP is not something that I set out to do from the beginning. I just started doing what worked for me and Charlotte and those things happen to fall under the banner of AP.

In the past I have worked in childcare and been a foster carer, so before Charlotte was born I felt pretty confident that I would be well equipped to parent her. I read a couple of general parenting books, but I didn’t giving much thought to my parenting “style” (I didn’t even realise that parenting was even categorised in such a way!)

But after Charlotte was born I was completely thrown off track. She was like no child I had ever encountered before! I started to read every parenting book I could get my hands on, trying to understand why settling techniques I had used successfully on literally hundreds of babies in the past, didn’t work on her. After learning about the fourth trimester theory, I started to babywear and found it to often be the only way I could get her to sleep or settle her when she was crying.

But all those baby books I read convinced me that when the fourth trimester finished at 3 months, I was going to have to “sleep train” and follow a time table. I sent myself slightly mad trying to implement all the techniques that I read about in those books. But absolutely nothing worked! I tried putting Charlotte in her cot while she was sleepy so she could learn to “self settle” but she would just scream. I couldn’t pat her to sleep. I couldn’t rock her to sleep. My attempts at “controlled crying” were a complete disaster. I refused to let her “cry it out”. She woke up hourly over night and I fed her back to sleep each time because it was the only thing that worked. I applied to attend sleep school.

I didn’t end up attending sleep school because I discovered that Charlotte had tongue and lip ties that were causing her to only consume a small amount of milk each time she nursed. There was a reason she was waking hourly overnight – she genuinely needed to breastfeed that frequently. If my “sleeping training” attempts had have been successful I would have ended up starving her! At around the same time I discovered The Milk Meg (who also appeared in the segment) and devoured her website and book. I also started reading about attachment theory and discovered that I have what Dr Sears called a “high needs baby”. It was so comforting to know that there was an explanation for why Charlotte was so different to all the other babies I had cared for.

I know that AP isn’t for everyone and I certainly would never judge a parent for not doing it, but it saves my sanity and is what works for me and my family.

love-miss-flik

Epic Month-Long Road Trip With a 5-6 Month Old! Are We Crazy?!!

All dressed up ready for the wedding. This kid has managed to go to two wedding before her 6 month birthday!
All dressed up ready for the wedding. This kid has managed to go to two wedding before her 6 month birthday!

At the beginning of this month, DH and I decided to embark on an ambitious road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne. Were we crazy? I thought so. But it actually ended up being fine, but it took a LOT of strategic planning!

Charlotte doesn’t like car rides (she basically hates doing anything that doesn’t involve being with a centimeter of me, so she hates being in her car seat!) but she will sleep in the car, so we just had to strategically plan our driving so that we left when she was due for a nap. Then we had a maximum of 2 hours of available driving time to get somewhere. Thankfully we had a lot of places we were stopping at along the way so it was pretty easy to split our driving up into 2 hour or less blocks.

The first stop was Lismore for a friend’s vegan wedding. We had a great time and Charlotte LOVED the live music.

Lismore is a great place to get vegan food! The next morning we went out for breakfast and I had amazing blueberry pancakes. We then headed to Sugarshine Sanctuary to see all the cute animals, including 11 piglets! I felt sorry for mumma pig. I’m so glad I don’t have to breastfeed 11 babies – one is more than enough for me!

Sound asleep with Dad after getting tired out by all the fun
Sound asleep with Dad
Piglets at Sugarshine Sanctuary
Piglets at Sugarshine Sanctuary

The second stop was Coffs Harbour to spend a couple of days with Charlotte’s Grandparent’s.

Then we headed to Sydney to catch up with some friends.

We went to Bondi Beach and Charlotte got to experience sand for the first time. She was fascinated!

We went out for dinner at Gigi Pizzeria, one of the few pizzeria’s in the world to be a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (The True Neapolitan Pizza Association). It recently made headlines for changing to menu to be completely vegan.

Yummy pizza at Gigi’s

The pizza was without a question the BEST pizza I’ve ever had. It was amazing. Our friends waited in line for over an hour to get in (luckily we were running late so only had to wait for 15 minutes!) but they said it was definitely worth the wait.

After Sydney we went to Canberra, which was pretty exciting because I had never been there before.

We attended the Living Green Festival and Chay and Charlotte sat on a discussion panel about raising kids plant-based.

After Canberra we went to Melbourne and the first stop was St Kilda and Luna Park. Charlotte loved Luna Park even though she was too little for any of the rides!

While we were in Melbourne we stayed at a friend’s place in Fitzroy, which made it incredibly easy to find vegan food. We were within walking distance of a vegan cupcake cafe, a vegan bakery, and loads of vegan and vegetarian restaurants including Smith & Daughters. We planned to visit Edgar’s Mission, but unfortunately our tour was cancelled due to the risk of bushfires. Thankfully Edgar’s Mission was unharmed, but it was a close call.

After a week in Melbourne we spent a week staying with Chay’s mum who lives a couple of hours out of Melbourne, and we visited another animal sanctuary and saw penguins on Phillip Island.

Then DH drove home and a flew home with Charlotte. Her first plane ride! I was very nervous but she was actually fine. I fed her during the takeoff and landing and she slept for most of the flight!

love-miss-flik

Charlotte’s Tongue & Lip Tie Revisions

I started to worry that something was wrong when Charlotte was 3 months old. She was breastfeeding hourly during the day, and her night sleep was going backwards – she’d previously slept for 4-5 hour stretches, but was now starting to wake up every 1-2 hours. Breastfeeding still hurt and my nipples were cracked and bruised.

Family, friends and professionals all assured me that she was normal and/or her problems were my fault. They said she was just a bad sleeper, I was trying to get her to sleep too much during the day, she was just comfort feeding, I needed to teach her to self-soothe, it was normal for breastfeeding to hurt, my nipples would stop hurting if I’d stop letting her comfort feed, etc. etc…

I’d heard of tongue and lip ties before, but because she was breastfeeding and gaining weight steadily, I didn’t think it was possible for her to have them. Plus I thought if there was a problem surely one of the doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, midwives or osteopath I’d already seen would have picked up on it! So I listened to those around me, ignored my mummy instincts, and watched my happy, contented baby turn into a cranky, overtired unhappy little girl 🙁

By the time Charlotte was 4 months old, she was feeding hourly around the clock and only sleeping for 10-20 minutes at a time during the day. Someone in my mother’s group suggested she might have tongue and lip ties, so I did some research and realised that we had most of the symptoms. I took her to a IBCLC who was experienced with ties, and she confirmed that Charlotte had a lip tie and posterior tongue tie. She gave me a list of providers that could revise her ties and showed me some techniques that could help with breastfeeding in the interim.

Because of Charlotte’s ties, she was having to work really hard to breastfeed, so she was falling asleep or giving up before her belly was full, so she was feeding frequently to compensate. This was why she was still gaining weight, but she was exhausted, which was actually making it harder for her to sleep. She was getting worse as she got older, because as she got bigger she needed to consume larger amounts of milk.

We decided to have her ties revised, and chose a dentist that specialised in revising tongue & lip ties using laser (rather than scissors). Here’s a breakdown of the days following her revision:

Day 1

As instructed, I fed Charlotte 2 hours before our appointment, and gave her Panadol 1 hour beforehand. When we arrived at the dental surgery, a dental assistant greeted us and took us up the hall. There were meeting rooms with frosted glass up one side of the hall and treatment rooms with clear glass windows up the other side of the hall.

We were taken into a meeting room and the dental nurse asked us a number of questions about Charlotte and my experience breastfeeding. She then showed my husband and I the stretches we’d have to do following the revision (to prevent the ties from re-attaching). Then the dentist came in and had a chat with us about the information we’d given the dental nurse, examined Charlotte, and answered our questions. She was lovely and gave Charlotte a big cuddle and made her laugh.

Then it was time to actually do the revisions. She told me not to go anywhere and be ready to breastfeed because she would be back in 3 minutes! She took Charlotte across the hall to one of the treatment rooms and we stayed in the meeting room. She preferred that parents wait in the meeting room, but we had the option of going with her to the treatment room or watching through the window if we really wanted to. We heard Charlotte crying, which was heartbreaking, but she didn’t sound overly distressed and she only cried for about 30 seconds. After about 3-5 minutes the dentist came back with Charlotte. Charlotte looked a little upset but she wasn’t crying.

I fed Charlotte immediately and it was AMAZING! Her latch was perfect and it tickled instead of hurting! However, we were warned that Charlotte might slip back into her old feeding style out of habit if I wasn’t proactive about re-training her and she advised that I go back to my IBCLC for further help.

Once the dentist was satisfied that Charlotte was feeding correctly, she said goodbye and left us alone in the meeting room. After Charlotte finished feeding we put her in our Ergo and she was asleep a few minutes later (she’s usually never that easy to get to sleep!). We drove over to my husband’s work to drop him off and Charlotte kept sleeping in the car. She slept for about 1.5 hours, which was really impressive compared to her usual 10-20 minute naps. When she woke up and I gave her another feed which once again felt great. We then headed to her next appointment.

Our dentist recommended that we see a cranial chiropractor with experience in tongue & lip ties, to help loosen up the muscles that had previously been constricted due to the ties, so we made an appointment for later in the day. When we arrived Charlotte was still in a great mood and was smiling at everyone in the waiting room. The chiropractor was lovely and very gentle. There was absolutely no bone cracking and Charlotte appeared to enjoy the treatment.

On the way home Charlotte went to sleep almost immediately, but woke up 20 minutes later when we got home. She was pretty cranky, but I’m not sure if this was because she was in pain or because she was woken up from her nap. I gave her some more Panadol and some frozen breastmilk in a mesh feeder to suck on. She was very unsettled for the rest of the afternoon. At 5pm we had a warm bath and that helped to settle her. I got her ready for bed, gave her a feed and she was sound asleep by 6pm. Getting her to sleep was so much easier than usual, I took this as a sign that we were going to have a good night!

We went to sleep at 10pm and Charlotte was still sound asleep! We were so excited! Charlotte woke up at 11pm and I fed her back to sleep. She’d slept for 5 hours! She woke up again 4 hours later. This was an incredible improvement for a little girl that had previously been waking hourly!

Unfortunately it didn’t last. I gave her another feed but this time she wouldn’t go back to sleep. I was almost constantly feeding and patting her for the rest of the night, until she finally went back to sleep at some point in the early hours of the morning. I was so disappointed – the night had started out so well!

Day 2

Charlotte slept in until 7.30am (a big sleep-in for her), she had a feed and we played for about an hour before she wanted another feed. I was a bit concerned about her wanting to feed again after only an hour, but her latch was still good and she seemed to be getting more milk, although she did keep pulling back to get back to the shallow latch position that she was used to, so I had to keep re-latching her.

Charlotte had never taken a dummy before – we’d tried a few different types but she spat them all out. We assumed it was because she didn’t like them, but after researching ties, I realised she might not be able to hold them in her mouth. So I thought I would try having another go with a dummy and this time she took it, started sucking on it, and fell asleep! I felt like I had a whole new baby!

She was in a good mood for the rest of the day, and her naps lasted for 1-2 hours. I was so happy that we were already seeing so much improvement! I did the stretches every 4 hours and Charlotte clearly didn’t enjoy them, but she didn’t cry or seem overly bothered by them. She didn’t have any Panadol or other medication all day because I didn’t want to medicate her unless she was actually in pain.

In the evening she started to get really upset. I gave her some Panadol and some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and that calmed her down pretty quickly. She feel asleep after having another feed and slept for another 2 hours. So all up she slept for over 5 hours during the day! A huge achievement for her!

She went to sleep for the night at 8pm, but then she was waking every 1-2 hours and not wanting to go back to sleep.

Day 3

At 5am she was wide awake and screamed at our attempts to try to get her back to sleep. We gave her some Panadol which seemed to help. She had a half hour sleep in the morning, a 40 minute sleep at lunch time, and then a 2 hour sleep in the afternoon. For most of the day she was very unsettled and spent a lot time screaming and crying inconsolably. I gave her some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and this seemed to help a lot.

It took us over an hour to get her to sleep for the night, and then she was awake again after 40 minutes, and then again after 60 minutes, and it was a battle to get her asleep again. We were prepared for a bad night, but we actually ended up having the best night ever! We went to sleep at 10pm and then I woke up at 2am and Charlotte was still sound asleep! I did her stretches (which woke her up), gave her a feed, and she went straight back to sleep and didn’t wake up again until 5am!

Day 4

Once again Charlotte was up at 5am, but at least she woke up in a great mood.

Today we went to the IBCLC again to work on improving Charlotte’s latch. The IBCLC showed me the correct way to latch her now that her ties were fixed, and she also showed me some exercises to do with Charlotte to help strengthen and re-train the muscles in her mouth that had been restricted due to the ties. She explained that Charlotte was now using muscles that she’s never used before, so she’d still find it tiring to feed until she built strength in those muscles. It was like having a newborn again in a sense because she was having to learn to feed all over again. The IBCLC said it would take about a month for her to transition through all the stages of recovery following the revisions.

For the rest of the day Charlotte was in a pretty good mood and didn’t appear to be in any pain. She didn’t have any medication and barely cried the whole day. She had two 40 minute naps in the car, and a 2 hour nap in her bed in the afternoon! Overnight she woke every 2 hours but at least she went straight back to sleep after a feed every time.

Day 5

Today was probably the worst day of the week. Charlotte was very unsettled and spent a lot of the day crying. But she also cut a tooth, so I think she probably would have been miserable anyway. Getting her to sleep for the night was a 2 hour ordeal, and when she finally went to sleep in my husbands arms he was too scared to put her down!

End of first week

A week has passed since Charlotte had her ties revised and I have definitely seen a lot of improvement. She’s sleeping for 1-2 hours at a time during the day, sleeping for 3-4 hours overnight, going straight back to sleep after a feed at night, and her tummy problems have completely vanished! I can’t believe she’s already improved so much after just one week! Feeding is now pain-free if she latches correctly, but hurts if she pulls back to the shallow latch position that she is used to, so I have to keep re-latching her (which hurts too!)

After one month

We’re now at the one month mark and I’m feeling very disappointed and questioning why we did the procedure in the first place. Charlotte’s ties are now fully healed and hasn’t been nearly as much improvement has I had hoped for. Charlotte has gone back to feeding in her shallow latch position, and no amount of re-attaching will get her to feed correctly. DH thinks I should go back to the IBCLC, but I’m sick of spending money on the problem and getting no where!

Breastfeeding is now more painful than it had ever been and I I’ve decided to switch to bottle feeding when Charlotte turned 6 months. This is going to be a nightmare to do because Charlotte really loves her boobie and often it’s the only way I can calm her or get her to sleep, and I really wanted to let her self-wean. But my nipples are cracked and bleeding, hurting all the time, and I felt like bursting into tears every time she’s due for feed. I was so determined to breastfeed for as long as possible, but I’ve reached my breaking-point now.

Her sleep has gone backwards again too so she’s waking every 1-2 hours at night, and her sleep in inconsistent during the day.

After 6 weeks

It’s now been 7 weeks since Charlotte’s ties were revised and everything has changed!

After 6 weeks (which was a couple of weeks before Charlotte turned 6 months old) Charlotte started to latch correctly (all by herself!) and breastfeeding suddenly stopped hurting. My nipples recovered from the damage quickly and I was completely pain-free! I couldn’t believe it!

Charlotte’s sleep also started to improve again and she now sleeps for 4-5 hours at night (which I am happy to live with), and she has 2x 2 hour sleeps and a 45 minute sleep during the day.

After 6 months of drama, I finally find breastfeeding enjoyable and feel like I could keep going forever!

I did the maths and worked out that I’ve spent about the same amount of money (for consultation fees, etc.) to get the problem fixed as I would have spent on formula, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything (except for maybe my sanity for a while there!). I’ve also possibly avoided the expense of speech and dental problems down the track, so overall I’m happy to have spent the money, and I’m more than happy with the improvements that we have had.