Dr. Sarah Mitchell
About Author

How I Failed At Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting

I liked to think of myself as a bit of a granola only with better shoes.  As a Doctor of Chiropractic, helping babies sleep with attachment parenting was aligned with my beliefs.  I planned on hypnobirthing.  I had a midwife and a doula.  Dr. Sears was no stranger to my bedside table and I felt connected to the midwife Ina May, and yet I failed at attachment parenting.

These ideals and ideas all seemed achievable before my 30 hour back labour. Where I delivered a 10.4 lbs baby who got stuck at the shoulders and turned blue.  

I had some serious incisions that took 3 months to heal.  I had to take baths twice per day and couldn’t eat any sugar.

Then I had a 3-month-old who only slept in 2.5 hr stretches.  

The word exhausted didn’t even begin to describe me.

Helping Babies Sleep - Sarah Mitchell Babywearing

I had planned to be babywearing, cosleeping and nursing on demand. However wearing my son in a sling put far too much pressure on my non healing downtown areas, and co sleeping meant even less sleep than a 2.5 hour stretch.  

I was completely lost and felt like I was failing.

By the 2nd month, it was all just too much.  Our son needed to be nursed to sleep every few hours.  We could sometimes rock him, but that took longer.  My husband got tendinitis in his elbow from swinging him to sleep in the car seat.

I knew something had to change and I asked all the Moms I knew about how to get this baby to sleep.

No one had any direct answers which puzzled me at the time. Now I understand what a personal thing raising your child is.  

There is no right or wrong answer, but yet I felt shame and guilt for moving away from the attachment parenting philosophy.  

How could I be failing at something that was so popular and executed gracefully by so many mothers?

I spoke to a medical doctor friend of mine, lamenting about how fatigued I was and my sleep obsession.  Her response was “Just relax and enjoy your baby”.  

I was stunned at this response because I had expected some direction, and honestly didn’t feel it was healthy for my son or me to carry on this way.  Not to mention my relationship with my husband.

I knew I had to do something at that point since I was becoming unable to enjoy my baby.  I was exhausted, a little bit angry, very anxious and resentful.  While I loved this little guy so much it hurt, these bad feelings did NOT feel good.

I knew I had to do something because you have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of other people.

I am a well-read, take action kind of gal, so I focused all my remaining energy into reading about baby sleep and figuring out what was going on.  

Dr. Sears, Ina May and all those attachment parenting books had to move a side, because this method was NOT working for my family and me.

One of my girlfriends suggested this book.  Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant The Gift of Nighttime Sleep,  but she said, don’t google it or tell anyone, because it gets lots of bad reviews for being “inflexible”.  

Again, why should I feel shame for trying a different parenting approach, but I did.  

Basically, this book is about putting your baby on a 3-4 hr feeding schedule. Then monitoring how many feeds he needs in 24 hrs depending on age, using as few “sleep crutches” as possible, to get your baby sleeping independently and raising more independent babies.  In general, I find this rigid schedule does set a gal up to fail.  What do you do when your nap is short or she’s hungry earlier than scheduled?  Not to mention the affect on your milk supply if implemented too early. But there is always something to be learned, and I gleaned a few pearls of wisdom from this book.

Then I read,  Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Finds the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman. I wanted to call the author to thank her for presenting another view of parenthood.  A view in which parents can be fully committed to their children. Like, to teach them some independence while still be reassuring, in addition to everyone sleeping in their own rooms, and getting enough sleep to be happy and rested.

Druckerman had one trick that I had already implemented into practice and her noting it gave me more confidence that I was on the right track.  

She calls it “The Pause”.  

Which is when your child wakes in the night, wait for a moment before rushing in to rescue the baby.  

Prior to reading this book, a girlfriend had given me a great tip about nighttime waking.  She had said, wait 5 minutes when you hear your baby crying at night.  This was contrary to my initial philosophy from Ina May which said: “never make your baby wait for a feed”.  

Ina May was right, that I should never let my baby wait for a feed. I was assuming that every time he woke in the night he needed the fed.  

The Pause helped me from rushing to my baby, likely waking him up some of those times, and gave him the opportunity to settle himself here and there, rather than being completely reliant on me to do it.

Reading these two books helped me to become an observer of my child. I learned what was really bothering him, and meet his true needs.  

I was also then able to give my son the opportunity to help himself, rather than me rescuing him every time.  

Now don’t get me wrong, when he was upset, or hungry, I helped him. I wasn’t a jack in the box, jumping out of bed to offer the boob at the slightest sound like I had been doing as most nervous first-time parents do.

Feeding on demand had worked well for me those first few weeks.  I was lucky that my supply was abundant and I can thank the feeding on demand philosophy shared with me by my midwife. However, I was so relieved when I put my son on a 3-4 hour nursing schedule and used my other parenting skills, rather than nursing, to help settle him when he was fussy between feeds.  It felt so good to get my boobs back and not be a soother any longer.

What is it about attachment parenting that is so INTENSE.

Intense in the day to day and in the judgment.  I’ve had clients who were in attachment parenting circles. Who couldn’t tell their friends they were using sleep consultant because of the judgment, but yet they couldn’t carry on the way they were.  

I see mothers posting on FB groups asking how to get their toddler out of the attachment parenting bed because they are exhausted, still frequently through the night, and other mothers telling them that the child must just not be ready and that the parent must keep co-sleeping.  

Clearly, these are cries for help, and yet other mothers are minimizing the poster’s feelings for the sake of the attachment parenting philosophy. Why do we do that to one another?

There’s more than one way to live your life.  Live your life, not someone else’s.

Recently, I have stumbled upon RIE parenting and Janet Lansbury.  This parenting philosophy is about connecting with our children by being present, acknowledging their feelings, but not being thrown off by the full expression of their emotions, whether they be good or bad.  

This speaks to me.  

It’s about raising confident, independent children and being an observer. I wish I could have read her book sooner since this is the philosophy I have been using, just not having a name for it.

If you thought Attachment Parenting was for you, but are feeling overwhelmed or perhaps even resentful, maybe it is time for a change.  

YOU are an important person in the mother-baby relationship.  It is a symbiotic relationship where both parties need to be nurtured.  There are alternatives out there.  It’s okay to try different thing and see how they feel.

Keep on keepin’ on.

I have so much more I want to teach you about baby sleep and how you can help your baby!

Baby Sleep Training Step by Step

If your’re thinking about sleep training. I can teach you everything you need to know in my online course. Baby Sleep Training Step by Step

You’ll be welcomed into my private Facebook Community. Where I answer your follow up questions and you’ll get support from like minded-moms on the same journey as you.

You can learn more about my online course Baby Sleep Training Step By Step.

What are your views on attachment parenting and baby sleep? Let me know in the comments.

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