I’m a very hands-on kind of mummy. I have co-slept with both my babies, carried them whenever possible in baby slings, breast-fed for as long as possible and generally been reluctant to be parted for them for any length of time. But I had no idea until very recently that there was a name for what I was instinctively doing. It’s called Attachment Parenting and it’s the Next Big Thing.
Like all parents, I want what’s best for my baby and I’m mostly making things up as I go. If it feels right for us, we do it, which is why I wasn’t afraid to co-sleep this time around. It worked while I breastfed my now seventeen year old daughter and it made life so much easier with my son. I breastfed him for eight months and he slept very little – if I hadn’t co-slept, the sleep deprivation would have killed me. It suited us but it might not suit others. And that’s where I ran into my first problem with Attachment Parenting – some parents seem to think that because it works for them, it should work for everyone.
I’ve seen desperate mothers ripped to shreds online by other Militant (mostly) Mums simply because they asked about switching to bottle feeding or weaning before the magic six months in the hope that it will coax their baby to sleep more at night. The Militant Mums think that their way is the only way and that anyone who says differently is a Bad Parent. Breastfeeding for six months is undoubtedly best for your baby but not every woman can manage it, for a whole host of valid reasons, and I’m sure they feel bad about that. They shouldn’t be made to feel worse by other mothers, or that they have somehow failed by giving their child formula milk. Similarly with weaning before the Government recommended age of six months – until recently, this age was four months but because current advice says six, Militant Mums claim anyone who weans before then is risking their child’s health. Believe me, I’ve seen that said quite aggressively on so-called support forums.
Personally, I’m reluctant to be away from my baby for too long (although I did spend a night away from him in July and we were both fine) but I know plenty of other mums who can’t wait to reclaim a bit of me-time. There’s nothing wrong with either attitude, or anything in between, but MMs might argue there is. So I’ve come to the conclusion that some attachment parents may be in danger of giving love a bad name. Like anyone who tries to impose their view on others, they come across as rather bullying. They might not mean to but they do. I’ve started calling them Extreme Parents.
The truth is that as long as you raise your child with love, common sense and boundaries, there’s no right or wrong way to do. As I’ve said above, do what suits you and your family. If an element of attachment parenting feels instinctively right for you, embrace or adapt it. But don’t think that because it works for you then everyone else should follow. And for goodness sake, don’t judge other parents if they do things differently. Raising kids is hard enough, without being hit by friendly fire.