When my oldest child was born, most people were supportive of my breastfeeding. However, many people cringed when I said I wanted to breastfeed beyond the first year. I was told co-sleeping was unsafe, and people did a double take at my slings. I was attachment parenting, and it was clearly odd.
I was told my son would have “issues” if I nursed him for too long, never walk if he was carried, and sleeping in our bed? How DARE we! Yet I knew what I was doing was right for my baby and for us, his parents. I knew he wouldn’t be scarred for life due to our parenting style. How do I know? I was attachment parented.
I was an extended nursling. My parents co-slept. Yes, I slept in my parents’ bed. And (are you ready for this?) they wore me in baby carriers. They did these things with me, and with my younger siblings.
See, contrary to what TIME Magazine would like you to believe, Dr. Sears did not invent attachment parenting. Attachment parenting has been around much longer than twenty years. My parents practiced attachment parenting — they co-slept, breastfed exclusively, and practiced babywearing and many more tenets of natural and attachment parenting. My grandparents practiced some form of attachment parenting; my grandmother once confessed that she co-slept with my father when he was a baby. This style of parenting isn’t new; the name “attachment parenting” is.
I was nursed until two and a half years old. My brother weaned around three, and my sister was also two and a half. I have only one conscience memory of my sister (eight years younger) nursing as a toddler. I don’t remember nursing, and I don’t remember my brother nursing. Why? I honestly think it is because it was such a normal, natural part of life that my brain didn’t bother to record it. Many of my mother’s friends nursed, so being around nursing children was normal and natural.
My mother taught me how to co-sleep safely. My own preschooler and toddler still climb into bed with my husband and me at night. When I tell her that they bed-hog, she commiserates and offers me some tricks for getting a better night’s sleep. She admires my baby carriers, and my father fondly recalls carrying my brother around in a baby backpack.
What happens to children who were APed? Well, none of my siblings or I currently breastfeed, although my sister is breastfeeding her own child right now! We don’t sleep in our parents’ bed but happily bed-share with our spouses, children, and occasional animal. My parents have taken to holding their grandchildren, not their children. We have or are working on college degrees. We have friends and loving partners. You could say that there is no difference between us and the children who had mainstream parents. Perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps there is.
And the parents who once APed and who now have grandchildren? They understand how their children parent. My parents have never nagged me to give my baby a bottle. When we went away for a recent trip, my toddler co-slept with my mother. She wears her grandchildren in a sling and, when they are older, lets them break all the rules. Ice cream for breakfast? Sure, at grandma’s house! In short, they become loving, supportive, attached grandparents. Perhaps there isn’t any difference between them and more mainstream grandparents. But I think there is.
Do the negative comments bother me? Well, yeah, because people say some horrible things — not only about me, as a mother, but about my parents. However, I can laugh them off because I am a living, breathing, healthy example of a child who was APed and is now an adult. And, yes, perhaps there is no difference between me and my counterparts who had more mainstream parents. But I think there is one small difference: I am confident that children who are APed grow up into healthy, loving, attached adults fully capable to function in the real world because I am one of them.
Photo credit: Likely the author’s father or grandmother
This article has been edited from a previous version on WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door.