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.
The 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!
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.