For those who are new to Attachment Mummy, those who are wondering why 'Attachment' Mummy (a question readers ask often), those who want to know why we parent and approach life the way we do, and those who just want to know a bit more about us, here's an article I wrote last summer.
Six years ago, pregnant with my first child, I didn’t know much about birth, breastfeeding, or indeed, parenting. But, as a researcher and academic, the first thing I did was buy a tranche of books about all of it. I read and read and read.
I knew I wanted as natural a birth as possible, at odds with the accepted norm of pain and pushing, which led me to Hypnobirthing. Having ordered natural birth books, Amazon suggested Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Baby to me, a book about co-sleeping from birth. Intrigued, I ordered and read it immediately. That book changed our lives. We threw out the lengthy list of expensive baby ‘must-haves’ that the baby magazines and nursery catalogues insisted upon, and prepared to welcome our new baby into the family bed.
I wasn’t yet free from conventional thinking, so that first birth was long (26 hours; her sisters were 6 and 4 hours) and sometimes hard, but still an amazing natural birth - despite the doctor waiting in the wings, desperate to perform a C-section! From the moment she was born, Lara changed our thinking and parenting even more. She cried once, when her umbilical cord was cut, so her sisters have had Lotus births. She latched on immediately, so my ‘well, I’ll try...’ breastfeeding ambivalence was vanquished. Everything became baby-led.
Our co-sleeping journey began in the hospital where I held this precious new baby in my arms all night, much to the nurses’ horror. At home, she was held or carried all day, and the three of us cuddled up in bed together all night*. Lara was fed on demand morning, noon and night, with us quickly learning her cues, so she rarely cried. She didn’t need to. For the first few weeks we mainly stayed at home, me nesting on the sofa with baby, books, TV remote, water and nutritious snacks. Feeding on demand I was hungry ALL THE TIME.
It wasn’t always easy, especially when that initial easy latch became more difficult. With sore and bleeding nipples, I wondered all the ludicrous things that new mothers are encouraged to think: not enough milk; too much milk; colic; wrong shape/size breasts, etc etc. Then I found Dr Jack Newman’s website and everything fell into place. I trusted my body to nurture my baby, he answered all my questions, my nipples healed, and I ‘cracked on’!
Breastfeeding was convenient, free, easy, and amazing. The bond we had grew every day as baby and I spent hours gazing into one another’s eyes, feeding, cuddling and loving. Co-sleeping made breastfeeding the easiest thing in the world, and showed us that night-time parenting is just as important as day-time. Going to sleep with my precious daughter snuggled into the curve of my body, and waking up to her smiling, gurgling face every morning were some of the happiest moments of my life.
I started out thinking I would ‘try’ to breastfeed, and hoping I would make it to the 6 month mark. I have now been breastfeeding for over 5 years! That first baby, Lara, went on until just before her fifth birthday; the second, Sophia, is 3 and still feeds occasionally, and the youngest, Tatiana, is 18 months old and still going strong.*** She will be fed for as long as she wants to, through my next pregnancy and beyond. We saw no need to stop the best pain relief, medicine, nutrition, and comforter known to mankind just because some arbitrary calendar date had arrived! Breastfeeding through toddlerhood is different, but so good for both mother and child, in many ways**.
Our Attachment Parenting journey began with co-sleeping and feeding on demand, but has also encompassed babywearing, extended breastfeeding, and so much more. Following our first ‘hippy’ birth, we have also opted out of other aspects of conventional life, adopting a whole life learning or unschooling approach to home education (no curriculum, no tests, only interest-led and natural learning), and a radical unschooling approach to much of life, which values the children’s wants and needs as highly as the adults’.
As part of this we practice gentle discipline, eschewing rewards and punishments, and focussing instead on family co-operation and understanding age-appropriate reactions and behaviour. We don’t always get it right, but we love it! And our strong, independent, happy and self-confident daughters are testimony to the benefits of co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and all the other aspects of AP we have embraced.
* Safe co-sleeping guidelines:
** The benefits of breastfeeding toddlers:
*** Wow, I've actually been breastfeeding for over six years now! The 2 year old is still fed every day, the 4 year old occasionally.