I’ve always steered clear of parenting labels. I didn’t feel comfortable with the tribal element of picking a side and sticking with it, as if raising kids was like being a fan of a football club. In my experience, the mums I knew in real life didn’t ever describe themselves as one or the other (“attachment mum”, “tiger mum” etc), we were all just doing our best to raise our children in a way that suited our own families and babies. It was only when reading about parenting online that I came across the labels.
And then I had a second baby.
Recently it’s dawned on me that, on paper, I’m a classic “attachment parent”. I carry my baby in a sling (or “wear” her), I breastfeed on demand and we co-sleep. This realisation came as a surprise to me because, prior to baby number two, I always scoffed a bit at the idea of being an “attachment parent”. In my state of ignorance I assumed it meant you had to sellotape your baby to your face until they’re at least five years old.
I don’t know why I thought that really. I mean, it’s not like I followed a rigid Gina Ford type of approach with my first born. I breastfed her on demand too, we did Baby-led Weaning, she occasionally slept in our bed (still does) when she was struggling to settle or had a bad dream. But there, at the back of my head, was always this nagging worry of setting up “bad habits” and dealing with “consequences”.
For example, when she was the age that Baby Girl (still no blog name) is now, I spent a lot of time Googling How to get your baby into a sleep routine and When does a baby sleep through the night? My days were largely spent trying to get my reluctant baby to nap in her cot, as I tried to navigate those tricky first months of being a brand new mum. To be honest, I wasn’t aware there was even an alternative but to battle with my baby. I just assumed that, because the health visitor told me to, I needed to always put her down to sleep “awake but sleepy”. I thought that’s what everyone did, because it’s what all the websites and forums and health visitors advised. Anyone who did anything different was seen as “making a rod for their own back”. I didn’t want to be one of those mums carrying around a massive rod.
It was only later, as Frog got bigger and I felt more confident in my role as a mum, that I felt able to fully relax and be led by her. The line “It’s just a phase” became my mantra. The (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine still worried a lot about consequences and was all for taking a tougher approach, but I used to explain that I just couldn’t leave her to cry. I couldn’t do the sleep-training thing, for example, because it didn’t suit me or my personality. I needed to find my own way of getting through whatever baby challenge we were facing that week.
Now I have baby number two, I am flooded with memories of my days at this same point with Frog. I can remember trying to get her to nap in her cot, wondering if I should be implementing some kind of breastfeeding routine, and stressing about cuddling her to sleep. And I can see what wasted time that was. So this time around I’m choosing to just go with it. If that means letting the baby nap on me during the day, if she struggles to fall asleep in her cot, then so be it. If that means co-sleeping so we can all get some sleep at night, then so be it. If that means putting the baby in the sling and carrying her around at home while I’m making tea, then so be it.
So I guess that makes me an accidental attachment parent then. I mean, nothing I’m doing at the moment has been decided beforehand. It’s not like I decided “I will be an attachment parent” back when I was pregnant. I’ve just been a bit more relaxed this time around about the whole bad habits thing. I’ve realised there is another way of doing things, if the way I try first of all doesn’t work. I’ve realised bad habits are only bad habits if I’m not comfortable or happy with them. If I’m happy just going with it then they’re not bad habits, are they?
By the way, I read this brilliant post from Adele at Circus Queen recently and it really resonated with me. As Adele says, nothing lasts forever.
Oh yes, nodding to this all the way through. Ava is the same, bf on demand co sleeps. Wear her in a sling. She would much rather sleep on me during the day and I’m trying to enjoy it rather than stress about it x
It goes so quickly, make the most of it! I think another reason I find it easier to relax this time around is that I don’t have to worry about going back to work or my mat leave ending, as I’m based from home anyway. That definitely helps me just take each day as it comes.
Kirsty Wyatt says
I absolutely agree with the work comment. I took 6 months off with my first so felt like I had to get her sleeping through the night, eating well and self-settling.
This time, I’m taking the year and will go back to work on terms that suit me and our family and already I feel less under pressure and my baby isn’t here yet!
P.S – Liz Earle had an uber super deal on their Hot Cloth Cleanser and Skin Boost Tonic this week so I bought it and said I’d seen it on your blog. Hopefully you get a nice little treat from them!
Kirsty @ Talking ‘Bout My Girls
Ah thank you Kirsty! It sounds like you’re going to enjoy motherhood second time around – so lovely not to have to worry about going back early. x
Natalie Bailey says
This definitely resonates with me and I have literally just been saying to my husband that I kmow I should attempt some kind of routine/sleep training, but actually, I just don’t WANT to! I, too, wasted so much time with #1 getting stressed trying to get her to nap in cot at a set time… enjoying it much morw this time, even if it does mean I’m up half the night, still, at 6 months in! Thanks for the motivation to keep going with the flow!
I think we all just do what feels right at the time and what makes us happy, don’t we? If that means ignoring a routine then go with it! I also think all babies are different. My second baby is definitely more cuddly and happier being held than my first was. They’re all so different! x
this post resonates with me too! I fell into attachment late tkne doesn’t time around but with my second the events surrounding his birth threw all my instincts out of the window. It was like being a first time mum again and I had no confidence at all. I toetired myself with needing gum to be in a routine and it was hell! When bella came along I did make a conscious decision to attachment parent once more. And it was so easy that there was no way I’d bring elsie up any differently. They r tiny babies for such a short time and I know only too well that i will soon miss all of these cuddles x x x
I think sometimes it’s easier to see how short the baby phase is once you’ve already been through it at least once before – that’s the case in our house anyway. You’re right, these days don’t last long at all. And the cuddles are rather lovely aren’t they?! x
Fritha Strickland says
lovely post Molly, I did these things with Wilf and although I was actually quite confident that they were the right things for me and my baby at the time I funny enough used to pretend I thought I shouldn’t be doing them. For example with the MIL or Tom’s family & friends I would say ‘oh I knew we should be doing this’ because I felt like that’s what everyone else thought. I would play along like I agreed even if we weren’t doing anything like that & was happy not to. I think if there is a next time round the big change will be that I will be confident enough to not pretend to others or health visitors that I’m anything other than happy with what is working for us. health visitors are funny ones aren’t they, I think the thing I will have learnt is that really only you can say what is best for you and your family x
You’re so right Fritha. And what suits one family won’t suit another. The funny thing I’ve found this time around is that no one has questioned what I’ve done or offered me advice, I guess because she’s my second baby and they just assume I know what I’m doing! Also, when I’ve been open about the way I’ve done things people have said they do the same.
Oh this is so funny, it could have been me writing – except that we don’t co sleep with Pip because we’ve got his two big sisters climbing in in the middle of most nights! I kept thinking that I really ought to be persuading him to nap in his moses basket but I just can’t leave the big girls alone long enough to make that work so the sling it is; he’s happy, we’re happy! I think I always knew I’d be on the gentler end of the parenting scale though, though I’m not sure I ever had a word to put to it, and I doubt I’d fit any precise description now!
I am the same!
Katie @mummydaddyme says
I found this post really interesting Molly- with Mads I was very much governed by routine- I needed to get her into a routine for our sanity, bar the early days I didn’t let her sleep in our bed (although she does a bit now!) and I was very much not feeding her in the night from six months so she would ‘learn’ to sleep through, although she was breastfed on demand in the day. With LL all our routine slipped out the window- we co slept for a lot longer, she slept on me during nap times rather than in her cot, and I breastfed her on demand. I think it was more a case of learning to cope with two and realise that routine didn’t matter so much to me. xx
I totally agree Katie – things are so different when you have two. For me, I simply don’t have time to persevere with routines or spend ages trying to get baby into a cot etc because a) I’m terrified she’ll wake her older sister and b) baby has to slot into the routines we already have in place. It means I’m a lot more relaxed about things this time. Hopefully it won’t come back to bite me on the bum at a later date!
You’re so right Katie – I am the same.
Hayley (@hayleyfromhome) says
I’ve found this so interesting, it’s amazing how much we learn from our first babies that maybe we don’t even realise at the time. I’m tried to be relaxed with my first but it just didn’t work for us, he wasn’t a very snuggly baby and preferred his own space to our cuddles, he is still like that now. My twins have been totally different and I would have loved to have relaxed a little more with them but practically it couldn’t happen as much as I would have liked. I still can see the difference though, I’ve felt like whatever I’m doing with the twins I’m doing because I want to and because I know that it works for us. I don’t feel the need to defend my actions like I did with Lucas. It would be great if we could look at each others parenting and just say they are doing a fantastic job rather than labelling it all. You are obviously doing a fantastic job
You’re so right Hayley. I think so much affects the way we raise our second babies – from our previous experience to our new daily routines and family set-up that the baby needs to slot into.