Attachment Parenting and What I'd Do Differently


When I was pregnant with Johnny and when he was newly born I had this very specific vision of the attachment parenting mother I wanted to be. Her long, natural hair blowing in the wind as she bends over her back yard garden gathering greens for dinner, baby contently nursing in the sling, bare arms toned from constantly holding a child. This mom is un-phased by no sleep, looks great when not showered, always gives of herself without complaining, and is always gracious to her husband.

News flash: I am not that mom. And I am so painfully aware of that fact as I sink down on the floor next to Alex, crying big, fat, ugly tears. "If we ever have more babies, I'm going to make sure they take a pacifier."

It's not uncommon for moms to feel a little touched-out from time to time. It's happened to me for sure. But I reached a new level of touched-out during Johnny's recent bout of croup, cold, and ear infection when he would only sleep in our bed, attached to me. The very summit of this touched-out-ness happened during a nap that I couldn't sneak away from no matter how many times I tried to unlatch the baby and he bit me in his sleep and it hurt like something torturous. That's when the ugly crying happened.

Long before I was pregnant with Johnny I was aware of the parenting style known as attachment parenting. For those less familiar, this parenting philosophy is centered around the idea of forming a bond of trust with your baby by following your instincts and his cues, rather than relying on parenting fads, sleep training, or feeding schedules. Attachment parenting often manifests itself in the form of on-demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing. Of course there's more to it than that, but those three characteristics are the easiest to spot.   

My first successful baby-wearing attempt.  Johnny was 11 days old.
We felt very strongly about practicing attachment parenting. And for the most part we have had no regrets. Following my instincts about Johnny needs and keeping him close to me when he was a newborn felt so natural and gave me a great sense of peace as I got my bearings as a mother. I do however, have only two regrets.

1. I wish we had made some effort to get him to take a bottle and pacifier. Johnny is just about 20 months old, and he has never taken a pacifier and only took a bottle a handful of times when we were in the NICU with him. When we got home we didn't keep up bottle feeding and he hasn't taken one since. Everything I had read about attachment parenting and breastfeeding discouraged bottles and pacifiers until a good breastfeeding relationship was established. I just focused on breastfeeding, then when Johnny was older and I needed him to take a bottle it was too late. He just won't take them.

2. I wish we had tried harder to get Johnny to sleep on his own sooner. It didn't bother me that he wouldn't sleep unless he was being held or lying in bed with me when he weighed only 9 lbs. I could wear him for hours without throwing out my back, and I could co-sleep with him without getting a round-house kick the face every morning.  He was a little squishy baby, in the "4th trimester"; I was everything he needed, and I liked it that way. I never imagined I would want it any other way.

Johnny is now 20 months old. He will not go to sleep for for anyone other than Alex and myself, so we can't ever go on a date the goes past bedtime. Because he never took a bottle I couldn't be away from him longer than 3 hours until he finally started eating solids at around a year old. He doesn't take a pacifier or have a lovie, so when he is sick, or upset, I'm the pacifier. Up until we got his floor bed he was still nursing during the night, so we have never done a night away from him. It takes me about 45 minutes to put him down for a nap in our bed and the stealthy acrobatics I have to do to sneak away from him when he finally falls asleep look a little something like this.

The result is that I am sleep deprived and often feel very touched out. I feel like I'm not getting the kind of break I need to really be refreshed. I become short tempered. I start to resent people who are able to leave their kids for a little get away. I wish I had released myself from the expectation that I had to be the only one meeting Johnny's needs. I wish we had laid the ground work earlier that would have made it possible for someone other than me fulfill Johnny's needs. And I wish that I hadn't beat myself up and made myself feel guilty for the few times I did let other people fulfill Johnny's needs. 

But, you live and learn, right? I don't think anyone figures out what kind of parenting works best on the first try. Johnny is finally sleeping well at night, Praise The Lord! He does really well with babysitters. I don't see any end to his nursing yet, but most days he's only nursing before bed and naps, so the touched-out feelings are becoming less and less. I know he won't be little forever and that I need to soak up his babyhood while I still can. 

But any future babies will take bottles and pacifiers!

What about you? How has your vision of parenting changed?  Have you had to rethink any philosophies or game plans? I'd love to know!


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The Perfect Anti-Sleep Storm

Every morning Johnny hits the ground running. Literally. He sits straight up in bed, in all his bed-head glory, then crawls backwards to the edge of the bed muttering "up, up, up," (up means up as well as down), and then slides off the bed feet first. Our bed is pretty high off the ground, so I have to hold onto his hands during this last part until his little feet touch the ground, and then he's off, faster than a speeding bullet, leaving a path of destruction in his wake as he pulls things off the night stand and book shelf and tosses them to the floor. Backing up a little bit. Yes, you heard that correctly, our 17 month old is still in bed with us.

You may remember some other post about my love/hate relationship with co-sleeping and trying to get Johnny to sleep through the night. Well, the struggle is real, the battling is still being waged, sleep troubles are alive and kicking.

We started night weaning Johnny in August. My idea was to cut him off slowly and gradually, but it just wasn't working. Johnny was still spending most of the night in our bed and nursing about 4 times a night. Co-sleeping with an infant is sweet and beautiful because they are small, they don't take up any space, and they stay in one place. Co-sleeping with a toddler just ends up looking like this:

photo from:

Anyway. Sleep deprivation was at an all time high. I had a day where nothing was going right and everything was making me cry, and then something clicked and I knew we had to go cold turkey on the night nursing.  I would nurse Johnny to sleep, and I would not nurse him again until morning. Alex was on board and was ready for any number of unpleasant nights in the rocking chair with Johnny. We were going to make it happen, I knew it was the right thing to do, and I had peace about it.

It turned out to be only a couple of rough nights.  Alex was such a great sport about keeping Johnny out of our bed, even if it meant spending most of the night on the couch with him. After a couple nights like that Johnny did the thing I never thought he would do- he slept through the night! He went to bed at 9:00 and slept all the way until 5:00. Now, 5:00 am is not an acceptable wake-up time, but an 8 hour stretch like that technically is sleeping through the night. And if we brought Johnny into our bed after a long stretch like that, he would nurse and sleep for a couple more hours. So we fell into a great pattern of one long stretch of sleep in the crib, then one quick nursing session and a couple more hours of sleep in our bed. Everyone was sleeping so much better, and I was still getting a couple hours of the co-sleeping closeness that my heart loves so much. Things were going great.

Then it happened. The perfect anti-sleep storm:

Daylight savings, 

Alex out of town, 

and Johnny and I sick, all in the same miserable weekend.

And just like that, all our hard work was undone. We are back to each being up a couple times in the night with Johnny, he's nursing 2-3 times a night, and usually in our bed around 2:00. I thought we had solved our sleep problems. We went cold turkey, we muscled through those few miserable nights.  Do we really have to go through them all over again? Veteran parents, is this sleeping through the night thing always going to be a cycle of learning, getting sick, forgetting, and then relearning? We know now that he can sleep through the night, we know it's not impossible, so as soon as his congestion clears up, it'll be back on the couch with papa. I'm not looking forward to it, and I can guarantee that Alex isn't looking forward to it, but I've gotten a taste of what good sleep is like, and I want it back!


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//N I G H T W E A N I N G//


I know it's what you all want to hear about.

So here goes:

Anyone who knows us knows that Johnny is not a great sleeper. He is 15 months old and has yet to sleep through the night, and he's always been a terrible napper. He sleeps great when he's nursing but aside from bueno. This past winter we started putting Johnny in his crib for the first time ever.  And this summer we finally fell into a good napping routine, but our progress in the sleep department has been slow.

We practice a more attached style of parenting, which for us can be summed up in these 3 rules:

    1.We try to observe Johnny's needs and give him what he needs when he needs it.
    2.We believe that babies cannot be spoiled. 
    3.We follow our parental instincts.

I believe in attachment parenting. I believe it's multifaceted, and looks different from family to family. I also believe it's not for everyone, and I respect your decision to use more main stream methods of child-rearing. 

We, however, practice an attached style of parenting that has lead to do crazy things like co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. Johnny has never "cried it out" and I often sit in my bed with him while he naps to get him to sleep longer. I believe that we are giving him what he needs, and I'm so thankful for all of the bonding we've been able to do. But after 15 months (more if you count the end of my pregnancy) of sleep deprivation, after having my face poked and bladder kicked all night long, after not having time to myself, not even while sleeping for over a year, after feeling so over-touched that I snap at my husband when he tries to kiss me (sorry honey!) I'm beginning to feel that my co-sleeping days are numbered.

We decided that when we got back from vacation, and before Alex starts classes again would be the perfect time to try to night-wean Johnny. Alex doesn't have to stay up late studying, so he can get up to get Johnny back to sleep when he wakes up, and eventually he'll realize he doesn't need milkies during the night and sleep like to proverbial baby that must exist somewhere (ahem....Nell). Right?

Well, it's been one week of Alex doing night times and the latest we've made it before Johnny is in bed nursing away is 4:00 am. Are we doing sometime wrong? Are we just weak? Do we just need to muscle through one truly miserable night  of "cry it out" and then he'll be sleeping like a champ?

I so want to Johnny to be able to sleep on his own, but when I stop and consult my mothering heart I just know that I can't let him "cry it out." He's not ready for it, and I'm not ready for it! Someday I might need to cut him off, but now is not the time. I have to stick to my mama instincts.

But I would love to hear from other parents out there. I have read that attachment parenting can be very hard in the early years but pays back manifold when children get older. Has anyone had this happen yet? I believe we're doing what Johnny needs, but it's really hard right now. Someone please say that it gets easier? And if you have and good tips on how to get a major mama's boy to night-wean, I am all ears!

Now, I will spam you with pictures from the last leg of our vacation.  We made an overnight stop in Chicago to see some of my cousins and ran into down town just long enough to see the bean and get our feet wet in the fountains of Millennium Park. Next time we do Chi-Town, we'll do it right.

T H E /B E A S T/ C A L L E D/ S L E E P

If you are a parent you know that one of the most fascinating subjects on earth is your child's sleep patterns. (Or lack thereof).  If all goes well, it can make the day, but more often it breaks the day. Alex and I have had entire phone conversations just about Johnny's sleep. And now I'm doing an entire blog post about Johnny's sleep.

I know that sleep and sleep training methods are hot button topics. I think you just have to do what works best for you and your baby.  I didn't intend to co-sleep, but co-sleeping just made sense. (If you are interested in co-sleeping but feel uneasy about it, Dr. Sears' safe co-sleeping tips were really helpful for me.) I also never intended to do any sort of sleep training. I thought if we let Johnny lead the way, everything would just fall into place. But now, to a degree, we are doing some sleep training. It's was needed to be done

When Johnny was a brand new infant and we were just home from the hospital I really felt like co-sleeping helped us make up for all the hours Johnny was confined to an incubator. And being able to nurse him so easily helped all three of us to get more sleep at night. When Johnny was around 4 months old he started sleeping longer stretches through the night, only waking up once or twice to eat. That was co-sleeping heaven,  I had my baby near me and still felt well rested in the morning. Then around six month, when he started getting some major teeth and started sitting up, he started waking up more and more.  The past month he has been waking up almost every hour.  I have been so sleep deprived I knew something had to change.

Last week we started working on transferring Johnny to his crib.  I've been putting him in his crib for naps for  a while now, knowing that some day we would be making the switch. It's been hard to get him used to it, but it's been harder to get me used to it. I love co-sleeping with him, even though it can be hard.  It's really special to do some much snuggling and it gives me a peace of mind to have him so close. I wasn't planning on transitioning him to his crib until he was a year old, but I know that now is the right time.

I have often felt how blessed I am to have had 6 of my friends have babies the same year I had Johnny.  I always have someone who is going through, or has just gone through, the same developmental stage Johnny is going through. There's always someone to commiserate with, and to share ideas with. Last week a friend was telling me about her strategy to get her baby into his crib, and it was just the push I needed.

That night Alex and I decided we would start Johnny in his crib when it was bedtime, and try to keep him in there for 2 hours before coming into our bed.  The plan being that if he woke up during those two hours Alex would go in and soothe him back to sleep. We want to slowly teach him to fall asleep without nursing. Well, Johnny slept for 3 HOURS STRAIGHT! He hasn't done that in bed with us for months! And he has done that every night since we started this. Sometimes after that first stretch of sleep I feed him and put him back in his crib and he'll do another 3 hours. Sometimes we bring him back into bed with us, and then we wakes up more often.

It's hard for me to not have him in bed.  I wake up often and have to check to make sure he's ok before I can go back to sleep. But I'm thankful that it has been so apparent that he's sleeping better by himself, otherwise this transition would be much harder.

This is what's been working for us.  What's been working for you?

4 days post-op: NPO & NG

Just a quick update before Johnny and I hop into our hospital bed. (Side note: we got more sleep last night than the three previous nights combined. We did end up giving Johnny a dose of morphine because he was so uncomfortable, so I'm sure that contributed to his sleep. But I'd like to think the co-sleeping helped too!)

Johnny remained very uncomfortable for most of today. Although he was passing some gas his belly just wasn't going down in size. It was very hard to watch him try to get comfortable with no success and then finally just fall asleep with his eyebrows furrowed and the corners of his mouth turned down. They resumed the NPO order (nothing by mouth) which was fine because I don't think he had any desire to nurse. 

People keep asking me why his intestine is backed up even though he had his great big first poop, so I'll explain a little more. When they closed the ostomy they actually cut part of the intestine out (the part that was sticking out for his stoma) to have a fresh cut to sew together. That's a lot of trauma for the intestine to go through so it shut down. Since Johnny has been NPO basically since Thursday his stomach has also shut down a little.  We think the stool he initially passed was what was already in his system before surgery. And hindsight being 20/20, we now realize that we gave him too much breast milk too soon. His stomach was not ready for it, so it triggered a cycle of vomiting and backing up. Long story long, he's full of gas and can't work it out. 

Today he ended up getting an NG tube. This is a small tube that goes down his nose into his stomach. Sometimes they're used for feeding. In this case it is used to suction out the stomach.  I was initially not excited about another thing hooked up to Johnny, and he really did not like having it put in, but I'm glad we did it. As soon as the tube reached his stomach green bile started spraying out- even before they had finished hooking everything up! In the first 20 minutes about 200 ml had been collected! I thought about taking a picture to post, but then decided to spare you. His comfort level improved to quickly. He slept very soundly for a while. And then he was awake and interested in playing with toys for a little bit, that hasn't happened since before surgery! 

I'm hoping this is a turning point and that we begin to see some progress. It has been a long four days so far and we're ready to have things go well!

3 days post-op: not as bad as yesterday

Today was not as bad as yesterday. We didn't really get any sleep last night. Alex has been so great and sitting and rocking Johnny for hours during the night so we can both sleep. I mentioned to our nurse last night that we co-sleep at home so Johnny is not used to sleeping by himself. She said that we might be able to get a bed instead of the crib so that I can sleep with him. I didn't think that co-sleeping was an option in the hospital so I didn't even ask. She said they don't encourage it, and it kind of goes nurse by nurse, but that we should do what we do at home. 

Later that day they switched out the crib for a bed and Johnny and I took a nap together and he slept so well. I'm hoping that we will all get some sleep tonight. 

Johnny was pretty irritable this morning, and I just got the feeling that he was wanting to nurse. We tried just a few swallows and I cut him off. He seemed really mad about that and just kept fussing. The surgeon said if he really wants it then his stomach can probably handle it. So I nursed him a few minutes more and he seemed content with that much. An hour went by and he was still fine. We did a second feeding and still he was fine! We did four small feedings total. After the fourth he looked like he was starting to get uncomfortable, grunting and groaning and twisting and not settling down. He threw up just a little, but his belly was looking a little distended so we decided to call it quits on feedings for today. 

Today was a little better than yesterday. Johnny threw up one more time but I think more food stayed in than came out. He get's very bloated and gassy and crampy, and has the distended belly, which is all common after undergoing this surgery.  It's hard to watch him be in a constant state of discomfort, so we ended up giving him another dose of morphine this evening. He's still a little dehydrated from all the vomiting yesterday so they have upped his Iv fluids a little more. Progress is slow, but I think we are moving in the right direction. 

Prayer requests:
-We could all use a good nights rest!

-that Johnny's belly would not be distended and that he would be able to get all his gas out. 

-that he would continue to pass stool and make more yet diapers. 

-that he would tolerate feedings tomorrow even better than today. 

Thanks guys! Now I gotta go co-sleep with my baby!

Yoga Pants and Food Network

We are halfway through our first full day in the hospital, Alex is at work, Johnny is much more alert and happy, and I am completely bored.  Johnny's surgeon was just in and said the best kind of hospital stay is a boring one, so I guess that's good.

Johnny has resumed all his normal eating and pooping activity. In fact, at 5:30 this morning we had the most epic ostomy bag leak to date.  Poop all over Johnny and poop soaked through every layer of bedding on his crib. That was the second time I had been up for over an hour with Johnny that night. Needless to say we didn't get a lot of sleep.

I am realizing that attachment parenting, which I am all for, does not work very well in a hospital setting.  We are a co-sleeping family. It took about two nights after bringing Johnny home from the NICU to realize that we would all be happier and get more sleep if Johnny was in bed with us.  I am aware of his sleeping patterns better than he is and often have him nursed and settled back into a deep sleep before he ever cries or opens his eyes.  Alex is also able to sleep through  it all.  It does have it's down sides; our queen size bed is a little cramped with three, somehow Johnny manages to take up a lot of space. I usually have a stiff neck or shoulders from sleeping in only one position, on my side, facing Johnny. But I love having him in bed with us, hearing him breathe and getting to snuggle him. I never realized how much I love co-sleeping until just a few nights ago when Johnny was doing some major teething and wouldn't stay asleep in our bed.  The only way we could get him down for the night was in a little cradle that we use for naps, so we let him sleep in there.  I thought it would be a relief  having a little more space in the bed but ended up just crying myself to sleep. *Hormones*

Anyway, co-sleeping is not something they let you do in hospitals, especially when your baby has IV's and a catheter running from him. So needless to say Johnny did not sleep well last night.  I think part of it was that he was uncomfortable, but also that he's not used to sleeping by himself. So I spent half the night leaning over his crib trying to fool him into thinking that I was sleeping with him.

Johnny is doing well! He is no longer receiving IV fluids or antibiotics, and if he continues to eat well they will take the line out all together. Then he will just have the catheter, which, as I mentioned before, has to stay in for three days so his urethra can recover from being operated on.  It's kind of annoying that there is only one little thing keeping us here, but I'm thankful that there were no complications with surgery and that Johnny is back to his squirmy, hungry, happy self.

On the up side, we have cable here in the hospital.  And there's no pressure to get ready in the mornings, so I am enjoying me some Food Network whilst lounging in my yoga pants.  Now, if only someone would bring me a latte....

someone's having fun playing with toys!

Reading stories with Auntie Amy