Attachment Parenting Thirty Years Ago

My mother wearing me in a handmade baby carrier 1979

My mother wearing me in a handmade baby carrier in 1979.

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.

About The Author: Laura

Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door My NPN Posts

Laura is the mother to a herd of four small children, wife to her Engineer Husband, and owner of a pesky dog. She blogs about her life in the Midwest at Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door.

12 Responses to Attachment Parenting Thirty Years Ago

  1. Melissa  

    So cool! I love hearing about my own parents’ and grandparents’ experiences with less popular parenting decisions. While we do have far more parenting-related language now, it’s true that few parenting practices are actually new. I love that you can be a living example of “Attachment Parenting” and what it leads to :)

  2. tree peters  

    I’m so relieved to read that you and your sister are not still nursing! (that whole paragraph is so great!)
    This whole post is fantastic. Such fun to hear from an adult who’s been APed (as my daughter is).
    I envy you a bit and think your mother was wonderful. My mom is wonderful too, but did not have the wherewithall to attachment parent.

    • Laura

      Haha, thanks! My youngest weaned shortly after the orginal writing of this post but it was so nice to have my mother’s support when I nursed past a year!

  3. Ashley Allman

    I absolutely love this! Such a great article, and a great reminder that attachment parenting is about our loving, nurturing instincts, not trends.

  4. Samantha  

    My parents didn’t follow attachment parenting, but my grandparents (who died before I was born) were against vaccination, and so did go against some mainstream ideas.
    When my son was 2 I was breastfeeding him in public and a woman who was in her 60s spoke. She told me she was what they now call attachment parenting in her day too

    • Laura

      One of my happiest memories of nursing my oldest in public was at a wedding. A mother of adult children came over and told me it was wonderful that I was nursing my son and how she used to try and NIP her twins! A year later, I saw her at another wedding and thanked her for the encouragement.

  5. Christine @ African Babies Don't Cry  

    Wonderful! I can see how being APed would make you more confident in your own parenting decisions. My mom breastfed, but only till 6 months and did not co-sleep or babywear and so I often felt lost and unsure of myself when my son was a newborn even though my instincts were telling me I was right :)

  6. Ami

    Yep!

    I’m in my 30s (still can’t believe I’m THAT old!) and while my parents practiced *some* aspects of attachment parenting like co-sleeping & breastfeeding they did NOT practice other aspects of AP (like babywearing, gentle/positive discipline, etc.)

    Therefore, FWIW, the fact that they did not have as successful a result as the author of this article experienced, is NOT due to attachment parenting, and I do NOT think AP is to blame but to the contrary, is because AP was NOT practiced in its entirety along with other unforeseen factors.

    Furthermore, IMHO, I think things would’ve probably been a lot worse had my parents not even practiced the few aspects of AP that they did!

  7. Ana  

    It’s really odd the relationship my parents have with Attachment Parenting. My dad was breastfed and “coddled to death,” although he was circ’ed (ugh.. that conversation with my grandma was.. interesting…), vaccinated (although in 1958, far less than kiddos are now), and slept in his own cot. My mother wasn’t born in America, and as was standard in Europe, was breastfed (her slightly older cousin nursed until he was 5! Outrageous! lol And not only from his mother, he wet-nursed from my grandmother and at least one of her sisters as well!), wasn’t vaccinated until she came over here, co-slept, was coddled and worn, and was born at home. The concepts are so foreign to both of them, though, although my mother joked about having a homebirth at the end of my pregnancy. I was raised totally non-AP. No cosleeping, no breastfeeding, whatever the doctor ordered. They’ve lightened up a little with my son, but it’s been rough. My dad couldn’t be in the room with me if I was breastfeeding my son, and OMG when I did it until he was two and a half? Earful. (Ugh.. I have to fib now… He still comfort nurses sometimes, despite me being dried up…). My son not being circumcised is a huge area of discussion (STILL!), and neither agree with his alternate vax schedule, let alone me seeking out Chicken Pox for him (“What if he dies?!” “Did I die?” “No.” “Did you once think I was going to die when I had CP?” “No.”). Hopefully he’ll be a good father and be all sorts of into AP. I’ll certainly do my best to pass it along : )

  8. Jeanie  

    Got a laugh when I read part about you don’t breastfeed any more. It’s funny but needs to be said because by many reaction to breastfeeding past a year they sound like you will never be able to stop when all babies, animal and human do naturally stop either by the mom pushing them away or the baby just being done. I think they are both natural. I stopped at various ages depending on circumstances. All four were fed over a year. My oldest is 31 and soon to have his first. It is hard for me to see anything but baby wearing and co sleeping and nursing.

  9. scianda

    Honestly, thank you for this article. I want to tell this to many people who believe that they have discovered something wonderful and new. Honestly, I think some form of attachment parenting has been around as long as babies. And even beyond that, families used to live in extended units where there were always helping hands. I think all of this was normal to a certain extent in America right up until the concept of the nuclear family was born.

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