I've noticed lately on Instagram and twitter that a lot of hashtags are flying around in support of #attachmentparenting, #babywearing and #thefourthtrimester - which, if I'm right in thinking, are all part of the same trend.
I feel that by using the word trend it sounds as though I'm displaying a hint of contempt so I'll apologise now because I'm really not...but I genuinely don't know how else to term this - an ideology?
I decided that I needed to educate myself about 'Attachment Parenting' because its something I haven't really come across too much in detail, and I found that my rather primitive ideas about the concept didn't cover the full extent of it. However, in simple terms, its all about being attached to your baby, physically as much as possible, and emotionally also. Sensitive, nurturing, caring, attentive and loving parenting. Sounds good so far.
I think the sticking point with me is more specifically with the babywearing bit. I am not a babywearer. Not at all.
Before I get too much into this, please don't think for one moment that I don't love my children and show them that love. I am very affectionate and loving towards them. I believe in kissing and cuddling and holding my children. I am a tactile person and I constantly touch Ollie, pat him, stroke him, soothe him, encourage him. I hold Harry close to me, I rock him when he cries, I love it when he nuzzles in to me and I fold myself over so he is enveloped in my arms.
But I just don't like the idea of having them strapped to me- and nor do they it seems.
When Ollie was born, he was the most laid back baby in the world. He never ever cried. Ever. To the point where we were worried. It's a very normal response to pick up a baby who is crying or fussing. To hold them, jiggle them, walk with them until they are soothed. Attachment Parenting principles state that babies cannot soothe themselves and need parents to do it for them. But what about babies who don't need soothing in the first place? Ollie was always very content in his own little space. Whether that be Moses basket, his beloved bouncy chair, or just lying on a mat. I would say that the vast majority of the time that I held Ollie was because I wanted a cuddle and a squeeze of him, not because he seemed to want it. Of course I'm sure on some level he enjoyed it when I held him, but I really do believe, judging by his actions, facial expressions etc., he was equally happy in his own space. I even remember one occasion where I felt like I had barely held him all morning and I picked him up for a cuddle and he started fussing and squeaking at me so I put him back in his chair and he started giggling and smiling. So I just used to leave him to it, and sit near or opposite him and talk to him- constantly- and give him my comfort and presence that way.
Harry has not been dismilar at all, but I think that learned habits to put a baby down have meant that it's been more natural for me to refrain from carrying him around all the time- plus it's much harder to when you've also got a toddler to play with. I carried Harry a lot when we went through the colicky stage and of course if he was crying I would hold him. But Harry has turned into an equally laid back baby who doesn't demand constant picking up.
And the thing is, I think it's a good thing. I have friends who didn't put their babies down because they wanted to hold them all the time, or they felt like that was what they were meant to do, and in a very short space of time those babies became dependant on being carried around everywhere and would scream and yell if they were left alone.
I'm not saying for one moment that holding your baby and showing them love isnt crucial for their development and your relationship, but I'm a little sick of these parenting principles that demand certain behaviours, because it's based on assumed baby behaviours. Babies and children are different. Yes some babies do want to be held more and yes some toddlers are always going to be clingy whatever you do, but it's about responding to your individual child. I think a lot of pressure is put on mums to conform to an inflexible principle. Obviously another big element of attachment parenting is breastfeeding which causes SO much stress and pressure and guilt on those mums who don't want to breastfeed...or worse who can't.
I do agree that being emotionally responsive to your child is very important, I take a lot of time to speak to Ollie carefully, listen to his needs and respond to him drectly. I've written before about how important I think it is to listen to your children and take what they say seriously. I make a very conscious effort to be very responsive to his verbal and physical needs.
However I also think it's important not to become afraid of your children. To tip toe around issues or behaviours because you don't feel able to control them. Positive discipline is a successful tool and I am diligent in praising ollie when he behaves well. However I will also scold him if he behaves badly, because we live in a world where certain behaviours are not tolerable and I see it as my job to teach him what those behaviours are. I don't believe in trying to 'cushion' him too much - like telling him how I am going to leave him to go to the loo but he will be fine and safe etc. I might breezily throw into conversation that I'm going to the loo but invariably I just go. And he isn't phased, because I've never made an issue of it. Most children are only going to worry or be frightened about being left if you give them a reason to think that way.
I think there is something so positive about a child who is confident by themselves and who is happy to play in their own company. About a child who will run freely into the park without looking back (even if it scares the life out of their sweaty-mess mother chasing after them!)
My boys could not feel more secure and loved, but they do not panic if I leave the room for a moment. They are constantly cuddled and touched but they are confident in their own space. Sometimes as Ollies races off without a backwards glance I wish he was a little more 'attached' to me but when he's in a playful mood he couldn't care less where I am, although he'll always want to come and show me things.
I've noticed recently that he's becoming a little more clingy and emotional and without being too paradoxical im actually really enjoying it because I want him to need me sometimes. Because I am a nurturing caring person and I want to give myself. If he wakes in the night crying I want to rush to him and hold him in my arms until he slowly falls back to sleep and he wants me there too. I want to cuddle him and stroke his back when he wakes up from a nap and is all disorientated and sleepy and he always comes to me knowing that's what I'll give.
But I think that's all about the bond we've developed between us. The right blend of confidence and independence and attachment that suits him and that I, in return, make sure he has. It's certainly not based on a set of principles written by someone who has met neither one of us.
I think the point I want to make is that I don't think any parenting principles are full proof, or 'fit' all children. I went through a stage where I felt I needed to conform on so many levels as a parent and actually, the only thing that matters is that my child's personal needs are being met and that he is safe and happy.
I actually thing that baby slings are a fantastic idea and look really comfy for both parties. But don't be sad if you want to 'wear' your baby and they actually prefer a Mothercare bouncy chair to your warm embrace. Or don't feel guilty if they like to be held all the time and you actually just want a bloody break. Don't be disheartened if you want to breastfeed but your baby thrives on a bottle and don't feel guilty if you enjoy weeing without a toddler on your lap.
Do what works for you both, and love love love.
That's my 'ideology'.
Thanks for reading xxx