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Semi-attachment parenting

May 21, 2012

Older parents means older grandparents, relatives, and friends with older ideas about babies. Case in point is the “back to sleep” initiative. When my sister and most of my friends were new parents, the rule was to put babies to sleep on their tummies or sides. Since then, back-sleeping has been shown to cut the risk of SIDS (cot death for UK and Australian readers) dramatically, although it feels wrong for a lot of parents. We were able to keep him sleeping on his back until he learned to roll over at 4 months, and then there was no way to prevent him from tummy-sleeping.

Decorative cloth bumpers on cribs are out, also to cut down on the risk of SIDS. I had to find a way to keep him from twisting his arms and legs through the slats of the crib and bumping his head constantly without using bumpers. I did find mesh guards that tie around the slats, which did prevent him from sticking his limbs through but did very little to prevent the head bumping.

Sleeping in the same room for a year also has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. We didn’t get a co-sleeper, but we bought a porta-crib that had three levels from newborn bassinet level to the one he is in now at almost a year. We’ve actually stopped using the full-size standard crib for every day and gone back to putting him in his porta-crib. He seems cozier in the smaller space, he does a lot less mooching, and the sides are mesh with no hard bars or slats, so he doesn’t bump his head or stick his limbs through. I highly recommend the porta-crib, at least until he gets too long to fit comfortably.

Much has been made lately of “attachment parenting,” and I have to admit I’ve never read the actual book that propounds it, so most of my familiarity came from what other people told me. My first exposure was about 10 years ago when a colleague was planning her wedding. Her brother and sister-in-law were both in the wedding party and had a new baby with whom they were practicing attachment parenting. The sister-in-law told the bride-to-be that she would walk up the aisle in her bridesmaid dress, but she would have to carry her baby in a sling up the aisle and hold him with her all during the ceremony. My colleague was outraged, and this was brewing into a major battle with the bride ready to kick her brother, his wife, and her new nephew out of the wedding party and off the guest list altogether. I’m not sure how this ever resolved, but I think grandparents might have stepped in and offered to attach themselves to the baby for the duration of the ceremony.

I have no idea if that is actually a valid example of the tenets of attachment parenting, either. As I mentioned, I’ve never read the book. I have read a little about “elimination communication,” which is a method of potty training, only more so. Proponents of EC never diaper their babies. From the first, a parent looks for signals from a baby meaning he or she is urinating or defecating and then holds the baby over the potty or toilet. Since a child really isn’t able to sit on a potty alone for 18 months or so, you can imagine that this is an extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming process, and I’m not really sure what the payoff is? Never having used a diaper? OK, I guess environmentally, that has its upside. But for the child? I don’t know what the benefit is, but I admire any parent’s commitment if this method seems beneficial.

At the other end of the spectrum is the “cry it out” method. After the first few weeks or months (our pediatrician said absolutely never before 4-months old), the baby is fed, cuddled, and comforted into a state of contentment, and then put in the crib, whether asleep or not. Then if the baby cries, you check in at ever-lengthening intervals to offer comfort, but you never pick the baby up. Eventually, the baby will stop crying (from total exhaustion?) and go to sleep. I know parents who swear by CIO, but it didn’t appeal to me at all. We still hold him and give him his night-night bottle until he is asleep. If he cries, we pick him up. It feels right to us, so it’s the right thing to do. But then again, I’m a stay-at-home parent right now. I don’t have to get up for work outside the home, so I can nap during the day when he does. I completely understand why parents who both work outside the home must sleep-train a baby using CIO. No judgement from me, honestly.

I think we ended up doing a modified version of attachment parenting. I bought a baby sling, and it was one of the best items we bought for him. The other was the Elmo ABCs app for the iPad, which cost $1.99, I think, but is PRICELESS to us. It is baby magic! All I have to do is say “Elmo” and hold up the iPad, and he is hypnotized. For all we know, there is a subliminal message embedded in this app saying “grow up and buy cigarettes and beer,” and even if it does, I think we might still use it. It is just that magically effective for quieting him down in any situation.

For a while we did end up doing “family bed” too. I never meant to, because I do worry about the risks of rolling over on him, but then in the middle of an almost sleepless night where nothing was calming him, he fell asleep breastfeeding and I was not going to risk picking him up and putting him back in the crib. And voila! An advocate of family bed was born. Turns out, he doesn’t dig it though. After a while, he started throwing his little arms around slapping us upside the head until we’d wake up and put him back in his crib. We both snore. Maybe we were causing him to lose sleep?

Here we are, almost at his first birthday. He still doesn’t really sleep through the night, but he sleeps mostly through the night. He almost always goes to sleep around 8-ish and he almost always takes 2 naps during the day. Except for when he doesn’t. We take him on frequent road trips at all hours, disrupting any semblance of a routine. And yet, he is a joy almost always. Except when he isn’t. What more can a parent ask?

My great-grandmother had thirteen children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. She was an illiterate immigrant from Ireland who was widowed while pregnant with her 13th child, my grandmother. She refused to allow any of the boys go to work in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania, although that was the norm. Some boys started working as young as 5-years-old. I bet in her day, she was considered a wild-eyed hippie, liberal, helicopter, whacko attachment parent. Times change.

Next time: The day I dreaded for six months comes….

Thanks for following and reading! I’d love to hear your story of IVF. Please leave your comments below.

© 2012

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