Tag Archives: high-needs

Attachment Parenting Misnomers As Cued by My Attachment Baby

I’m an accidental “Natural Mama”.  When my son was born, I had no grand plan as to which parenting philosophy I would use. My only plan was to breastfeed for the first 6 months.  Well, this baby had plans for me; he may have spent the entire 9 months in utero hatching his plan. He was a classic high-needs baby, and had an undiagnosed medical problem for many months to boot. I was introduced to the AP community by a close friend and mother of 3. The community has been a huge source of support and normalization for helping me to meet my child’s needs and my own.That being said, over the course of a year, my misperceptions (or delusions) surrounding some of the AP terms have been made apparent (?) to me. Here are my tongue-in-cheek re-definitions of some of the common terms.

First let’s start with the name “attachment parent.” This term is only 50% correct.  No flack here for the attachment part, because yes, when you eat, wake, sleep, shower and beyond with your offspring, you are most definitely emotionally and moreover physically attached. My qualm is with the “parent” part of the term, because I will venture to say that there are attachment children and non-attachment children and you parent them accordingly. Some babies require that they are attached to you all of the time, and these are the attachment babies, which in turn create attachment parents.  I venture to say that Dr. Sears might agree, looking at this quote about his child here:  “After Hayden introduced us to high-need babies, we learned a whole new way to parent.” So, now the question is how to coin this term? I have an attachment baby? I’m a parent of an attachment child?  I can see the difficulty here, so we will move on.

Baby wearing: Baby wearing is a basic tenet of AP. It is  at the same time a non-negotiable and and a profound blessing if you have an attachment baby. Baby fussy? Won’t nap? Just “wear him down.” But let’s be a little clearer about who is being worn in this scenario. If you have a carrier (and you will get one if you have an attachment baby), your baby is physically strapped to you with cloth; he is being worn. After 35-40 minutes, you find baby-wearing to be physically wearing as well. For this reason it could arguably be called “parent wearing.” And after these shenanigans, you are both going to need a nap. Someone please cue the blessed event: co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping. This term suggests both mother and child are sleeping in the same space at the same time, often for naps, more-so for overnight.  In reality, one of you may be sleeping (baby) while the other feeds, re-positions, feeds again, burps, changes, feeds again and repositions, then feeds some more. Yes, it is precious and peaceful to be with in bed your little one, but you may come up short as far as actually sleep goes. Perhaps this is why the term “bed-sharing” was coined; to address the false pretenses of the above term.  It should be acknowledged that the terms bed-sharing is equally suspect.  Bed sharing is more aptly described as bed-relinquishing since somehow the littlest person takes up 90% of the prime bed real estate.

Baby-led weaning: Synonymous with extended breastfeeding. Not to be confused with cessation of breastfeeding. It could more aptly be called “toddler-led weaning” to convey how it is actually gonna go down in this situation. 15 month and going strong here!

Amber teething necklace: The baby does not teeth on this necklace. No, he does not chew on it as you might think.  Baby accessorizes with for its natural pain-killing properties from infancy through toddlerhood, and as the unofficial AP precious gem, it is functional AND stylish. It is also well-known in the community that there are counterfeits circulating. If you have taken a hair drying to your strand, you are in neck-deep! Wear it with pride!

Unbeknownst to me ahead of time, AP-ing was how I would survive the first year of my child’s life. We are thriving now still using these ideals as a touchstone, and looking back I am so glad for how I grew into being a mother. Thank you to all of mom’s out there who supported me with solid advice and understanding when the nights were long. If you have an attachment baby or you may also have the sense that some of the terms are innocently ironic or profoundly accurate. Much like all of parenthood, sometimes words are shorthand for what we all know and understand, and sometimes no words can describe it and we must define it for ourselves.

Some are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, and some have motherhood thrust upon them.

I am of the latter category. Yes, I had a cabbage patch doll or two growing up, but I was normally more interested in playing with Legos than tending to a fake baby.  I had two younger sisters, one of whom was my playmate, the other of whom thoroughly annoyed me with her babyhood through her first decade of life.  I was hired as a sitter on occasion, likely due to my older sister’s reputation as a “mother hen,” bringing crafts and all kinds of fun to the event. But even though I was still so close to childhood, I had no idea how to entertain these children a half-generation younger than me, and did not excel at it. I vaguely remember not changing a poopy diaper for the duration of a stay and eating a whole box of Nutrigrain bars that the mom had set out for her toddler while he napped. I cringe as I remember.  I was not asked back.

Fast forward about 15 years, married, finishing grad school. Lots of friends having kids, but I wasn’t the friend to ask to hold the newborn or get down on the floor to play.  I probably talked over  cries while I visited.  More likely, I made one or two of them cry with an overbearing “Helllll-Ow!.” I do not-a speak-a your language kid. “Do I want kids?” “Yes, a bunch,” was my answer, “but I will still want to work.”

Now I have my own much-desired baby. He is the joy of my life.  He has made me into a mother and made me love him.  Not the easy way. Not by the-being-cute-sleepy-newborn-meeting-milestones-cuddly-meltiness way, but the other way.  The screaming-so-hard-the-first-six-months-of-life-I-thought-he-was-possessed way. The stiff-as-a-board-back-arching-won’t-be-soothed-something-is-wrong-with- this-kid-way.  The around-the-clock-hourly-nursing-no-sleep-for-ten-months-way. The no-crib-no-bassinet-no-rock-and-play-no-swing-hold-me-upright-for-every -sleep way.  The physically-taxing-delivery-body-never-the-same way.  The so-unbelievably-difficult-daycare-wouldn’t-take-him-made-me- question-my-ability-to-be-his-mother way.

My dad used to say love is a verb, not a noun, and this baby made me LOVE him, whether I wanted to or not.  He demanded love in action. Every. Second. Of. The. Day.  And sure, “All babies are high needs,” but some are more high needs.  And some mothers are born, and it may come naturally for them, and I know and love these women. Some mothers are self-made with the arrival of their bundle of joy. But for others, motherhood is forged. Forged like steel in the fire by that tiny babe in their arms.

Through a year of sleepless nights, inconsolable colic, undiagnosed medical problems and the emotional turmoil that goes with it, my own physical pain, confusion and at times distress, my baby made me love him. Then he made me love him MORE. And in the process he made me a mother. I wasn’t born a mother, I did not achieve motherhood over the course of the past year, but, boy, was it thrust upon me in the most challenging-scary-amazing-fulfilling-how-did-I-exist-without-you way. And I am so grateful that it happened that way.

Was motherhood your calling all along, or was it your answer to the cries as they came? I want to hear your story in the comments!