When my little bird was inside my belly, rolling and hiccupping, I knew exactly how to parent. I'd done my research; I'd watched friends and family bring up lovely, capable, confident kids. I felt no fear about what to do with baby.
And then we went to the hospital and my sweet little breech bird was placed into my arms and I forgot everything I knew about parenting, everything I'd heard, everything I'd seen and I just did what my instincts told me was best for my little one.
Breastfeeding was my number one priority when I got out of an hour of recovery and finally got to hold my little redhead. My husband handed our little girl to me and I told him to kick everybody out of the room. Our first attempts were silly and awkward. Dan resisted commenting for the most part, later saying he thought we were doing it wrong... (maybe because the one time he said that I didn't even see him but said, totally focused on little bird "it'll come") and it did. After 2 attempts she showed me what she needed from me and I really felt like she was teaching me how to do it. From that first good latch we had pain, we had not enough milk coming in at first, we had supplemental formula for a day because of lack of education, and then my milk came in and we never looked back.
Whenever she cried or fussed I breastfed her and she stopped crying and fussing. My mom stayed with me for the first 2 weeks after she was born and visited frequently after and remarked how she'd never heard this baby cry. Certainly there were nights when the darkness felt too heavy and she'd cry despite our efforts to soothe. All babies have nights like that.
Our nighttime routine involved holding her while she slept and Dan and I ate dinner and watched quiet tv or read. Around 10 we'd go up to bed and she'd sleep next to my side of the bed in the pack and play. When she woke to eat, Dan would bring her to me or I'd get her out once my C-section incision was healed. I'd nurse her until she was asleep then Dan would put her back in her crib.
Around 6 months in I had a few nights where I fell asleep when Littlebird was nursing and I'd wake with her next to me and be terrified that she'd fall off our toweringly high bed or that I'd roll over and squish her.
I did my research and realized that if I put our thin mattress on the floor and got rid of our blankets co-sleeping was not only doable but the safest thing for us. The first few nights of her being in the bed between me and a bedrail our whole family's sleep improved exponentially! I learned quickly to sleep through her mid-night nursings and she learned to roll over, latch and then roll away to her area.
When I was pregnant I knew I'd never co-sleep, it was too dangerous. It only took me a few times of our little baby almost falling over the side of our bed to convince me that this was the safest option for us! Besides being safe it seemed all of our friends were talking about how many times they had to get up at night and getting baby back to sleep. I never participated because in those conversations "if you don't have anything bad to say don't say anything at all!" A dear friend who was also co-sleeping confided in me that she was sleeping great and didn't want to tell anybody else because they wouldn't understand.
For the first 4 months my little bird would not sleep unless she was on someone. In the beginning I didn't want to put her down. After a month or two I was ready for some space but she wasn't. We tried and tried but she wouldn't sleep anywhere but my arms or in the moby wrap which helped immensely when I needed to get work done. I worried and researched and complained until I realized that this little one in my arms would only be this size, this peaceful, this happy to just smell me for such a short time. It was then I resolved myself to enjoying every single second of this fleeting time. I watched her sleep, read, listened to music, enjoyed the quiet, planned her first birthday party, and soon enough she didn't want to be held during her naps anymore.
We moved her naps up to my bed where I nursed her to sleep and then detached and spent the next 2 hours getting work done and catching up on all the alone time I'd lost in those months of her only sleeping on me.
At night time I'd nurse her to sleep and my husband would put her in her crib for the first part of the night starting around 9 months. This suddenly gave us alone time! Sometimes she'd last 10 minutes, sometimes until I came upstairs for bed myself. Amazing how she could always smell me and would wake up wanting to nurse!
Somewhere in the midst of this co-sleeping, baby wearing, cloth diapering, exclusively breast feeding, no crying sleep untraining, probably around 6 months a friend asked what I thought about all the attachment parenting stuff. I had no idea it even existed. I looked at the website and found that a lot of it resonated with me just because that had seemed to be the natural way to parent.
Once I found myself identifying as a sort of attachment parent person I joined some facebook groups and found them to be kind of a turn off. There was so much defending and accusing going on I realized maybe this wasn't the best fit for me. I had my strong beliefs about why I didn't want to do cry it out with my baby but I would never presume to say what another parent should or shouldn't do, let alone to say their parenting decisions were causing their child harm. So much of what I read was negative it almost seemed to color my parenting. All of the sudden I felt I needed to defend myself. All this time my mom, my Grammy, and my mother in law saw the way we were parenting and only commented on how happy, how bright, how peaceful our child was. I never had to defend myself to my family but now I was feeling like I had to defend myself to total strangers!
When my littlebird was about a year old I met some dear friends for a playdate and they were talking about how they had been to a gathering with a bunch of attachment parent people who were completely narcissistic and judgmental. They asked if I knew anyone who did that stuff and I realized they had no idea that I was parenting very much the same way these people were. I admitted, head down, cheeks flushed, that we co slept, I made all of birdie's food from scratch, I did baby led weaning, I did cloth diapering, we did baby wearing, we didn't do sleep training, and that would put me into the attachment parenting camp. They turned to me and said
"Yeah, but you're not like them!"
This was one of the first times I felt brave enough to admit to our "unusual parenting ways" and they smiled, asked me more and were happy that it worked for us and happy that we were happy. They didn't think my way was better than theirs and neither did I. It was just better for me.
Hmm... is that what attachment parenting is? Trying to convert everyone you know to natural parenting and spreading guilt where ere you go?
Blegh! Count me out. I'll keep doing what I'm doing, nursing till she's done, picking her up when she's crying, but I refuse to tell a working mom that she is doing a bad job if she isn't up all night rocking her toddler!
I love our style of parenting, whatever it is called, and it suits our little family perfectly right now. We still co-sleep now for part of the night and our daughter is almost 2. About 3 months ago she started going down for her naps alone and awake. She didn't cry. She was ready. For about 1 month now she's gone to bed at night awake in her crib too. I nurse her before bed but make sure she's awake when I put her in her crib. I cherished nursing her to sleep for her naps and bedtime and I do miss the snuggles and listening to her breathing slow and get heavy but the joy of seeing her grow and develop overshadows this little loss. Soon we will be moving into the nightweaning phase but for now one time a night, around 3 am my little girl rolls over to me and snuggles with me and nurses briefly before falling back asleep. It's so brief and normal I rarely wake up anymore.
For me the best part of co-sleeping is waking up every morning to a little voice saying "Hi Mama!" and opening my eyes to see a little smiling face a few inches from mine. I have the cutest alarm clock ever!