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All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Why I Ditched Detached Parenting - A Mother's Story

When I read this letter to Dr Sears entitled "Why I choose detached parenting" - I actually said a silent thank you to my first born.  Believe it or not I started out parenting with ideas not a million miles away from those voiced by ex nanny turned author Nicola Kraus; perhaps not quite as hardcore, but then I was never a nanny!

I've learned so much in 9 years, but yet I can remember the difficulty I originally had letting go of what society had deeply ingrained; it's a massive paradigm shift for some.  You see unlike Nicola's child, my first baby had other ideas, and they definitely didn't fit the mainstream model (despite my endless attempts at trying).  Instead my daughter dragged me down an entirely different path - albeit at that point kicking and screaming.

Years of reading, learning and growing later, I'm now grateful to her  - because it's from that I've learnt so much about the emotional, psychological and physical impact of how we care for our infants. The downside?  You want to share it!

And therein lies the problem.  How do we effectively convey the importance of responsive parenting to those who have been suckered by the mainstream baby industry in to believing it doesn't matter?  It's like that part of the matrix where he can choose the red or blue pill
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
The trouble is whilst your eyes are wide open in Wonderland, the majority of society are still wired up - and a lot want the blue pill.  I can remember how resistant I was to what I perceived as permissive parenting, toddlers that never slept and parents shattered, controlled by the child with a stroppy toddler wedged between them at night (the reality by the way is nothing like how articles such as the above describe!) so what can we say that actually makes a difference?

This week on Facebook during a chat about infant sleep, one mum shared her heartfelt story about why she changed the way she parented.  It felt like a polar opposite to the article above, which is what prompted the title of the blog.  The mum wasn't a detached parent - but she did make the massive mental shift that has turned her parenting style on its head.  Perhaps this will at least provoke thought...

Name removed as mum wants to remain anonymous on the blog:
For various reasons my eldest child was a "Gina Ford baby", who I fed to a strict schedule (breastfed until she was 1) and who I kept very separate from me to 'foster her sense of independence'. We also used controlled crying. She was a fabulous sleeper, doing 12 hours a night without making a peep from 16 weeks old. I thought I had the perfect Contented Little Baby and recommended Gina to all my friends and anyone else who'd listen. I was horrified by all these parents making a rod for their own backs by co-sleeping, feeding to sleep and carrying their babies everywhere. How horrible it must be to never have any adult time, and as for their poor children! They're going to grow up to be clingy and insecure and not understand that there are rules that we, as a civilised society, need to abide by. Fast forward 2.5 years and whilst Gina is now a distant memory...
I have an extremely insecure, jealous, aggressive toddler who suffers the most horrendous separation anxiety and WILL NOT SLEEP. And do you know what breaks my heart the most?
A few months ago I put her up for her daytime nap and for the whole two hours she refused to sleep, she just kept playing with her toys and running around her room. She wasn't upset or crying, she just wouldn't sleep! I was annoyed - she had to have her lunchtime nap; I had stuff to do! So I decided that she could stay there for the full time and eventually she'd fall asleep, I was sure of it! After two hours all went quiet. She was finally asleep - I knew I was right all along, she needed that sleep! After all, mummy knows best, right?! A further two hours passed and I thought I'd better check on her as it'd been four hours since she'd gone up to her room...
So up I went and there I found my little girl, just sat on her bed, wide awake, staring at her door. Not making a sound. I asked her if she'd had a lovely sleep and she said "No mummy, I didn't sleep. I'm sorry mummy. That was not good 'haviour".
In that instant my world came crashing down. I'd left my poor girl alone in her room for FOUR HOURS, thinking I'd won the battle. I thought that, because she wasn't making a sound, she was happily asleep. When I was faced with reality; that she'd been wide awake for that entire time but hadn't made a peep because she knew mummy wasn't coming, and she was apologising to ME, I broke down. I questioned all those months where I'd thought I had a wonderfully content baby, who slept perfectly.
Was she really asleep? Or did she just give up all hope of her mummy coming for her? Of course I'll never know, but I have my suspicions, and I'm sure that the way I raised her until that point was in no small way responsible for her crippling separation anxiety and her challenging behaviour.
In that instant I set about changing how I parent and it has resulted in a fundamental shift in who I am.
I immediately dropped any sort of routine for my then 12 week old (who yep, had been sleeping through the night 12 hours from 9 weeks). I read up on Attachment Parenting; I read Sears, I read ‘The Continuum Concept’. I bought a sling, made my youngest's cot into a co-sleeper and adjusted everything about how I parent my eldest: no more ‘naughty step’ and she's welcome in our bed whenever she gets scared of elephants at night.
It's a long old road, but we're slowly seeing an improvement in my eldest's behaviour - and in my youngest (now nearly 6 months) because guess what? She does feed off and on all night now. But I barely register it because I'm not fully awake and I don't believe that she's using me as a dummy, I believe that other babies use dummies as breasts. I know which is more natural and normal and I know which I prefer."

32 comments:

  1. That is such a heart warming story. I love to hear/read things about Moms who realize they need to change something....wether they AP or not, when you know better you do better! I get soooo sick of people telling me my 12 month old should be in his own bed, sleeping thru the night, off the breast....he enjoys all those things, these are his constants, his comforts, why would I tear them away from him? To fit into the "model" child? My child is his own person and if he is comforted by the fact that he has mommy & daddy with him at night, that he knows the booby will be there when he wakes and that he wakes every morning to his mommy and daddy right next to him then that is what I will continue to do. When he was born I had no intention on him sleeping in my bed...but the first few days home were restless nights of endless crying, from him & me. I finally decided to take him to bed so we could all just get some sleep and guess what, it worked! He refused to nap during the day, so i bought a carrier and wore him....it worked!!! In ny eyes AP has helped my family...it really helped us through!

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    1. All of those thngs - being off the breast, sleeping alone, sleeping through the night... increase risk of SIDs/Cot death... It's not just the wrong thing to say, it's actually dangerous.

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  2. Having a little sob at this. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Me too. Broke my heart imagining her little girl sitting there, patiently waiting.

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  3. Great post, it really touched me! I was always against AP. To being with I was very much like you with my first. Now I do everything AP wise, bar breast feeding because my MS meds make it impossible. Its amazing the things you learn as you go on x

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  4. This was so sad, yet so uplifting at the same time. What a fantastic mother you are to recognise your mistakes, and learn from them.

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  5. My mum in law and I don't really get on but one thing she said has always stuck with me: whenever I mention things I've read on websites or in books & compare to my 2 little ones she always says "K hasn't read the book, don't hold it against her". My kids choose how attached they want to be & I can say we have no problems with either of them. Mum always knows best & no book or "expert" can ever come close to what we know and feel. Good on you for following your heart :-)

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  6. I worked in childcare when my first son was little. I too felt the pressure to "run a tight ship." Nine years later, my second bubba is 14months. He nurses through the night, is caried and cuddled and rocked. I feel calmer and so much more at ease as a mother. For me I am doing what feels right for my baby, and he is a content and happy little guy. Thank you for sharing... I think through our journey as mama's we will each continue to change and grow. Thank heavens I followed my heart, realised what was not working, had the strength of voice to challenge the so called 'Norm'. We are doing what is best for our babies and that is what this journey is all about.
    happiness...

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  7. It is so encouraging to read these stories as I'm surrounded mostly by people who completely disagree with AP, gentle discipline, etc.
    My parents...who I'm staying with for the next two months while waiting for our apartment to be ready, are ok with AP but completely against gentle discipline, no-punishment parenting. And it is HARD raising your kids under the very disproving nose of your parents. So yeah these stories and others are so encouraging. Help me get through another day.

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  8. It's all completely anecdotal. Nobody can say that because they parent in a particular way, their baby is happier. The more kids you have, and the older you get, the more you realise that there are so many factors at play. For every person who says their AP baby is happier than non-AP babies, there are the same number to say the opposite.

    What's the most important factor in a happy, successful, flourishing child? One that is raised in a happy home with (preferably two) loving parents. If the parents are at their wits end trying to AP and suffering terribly from sleeplessness, their baby is going to pick up on that stress and feel the anxiety they feel. Happy Mummy = Happy Baby.

    One thing that really riles me is people who think that if you don't AP, you must be leaving your baby to cry itself to sleep and somehow neglecting your child in a way AP does not. This is so not true! There is a middle ground. Just because someone doesn't carry their baby with them at all times and doesn't offer them the breast at every peep, it doesn't mean at all that they are neglecting their baby or raising an unhappy, repressed child.

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    1. Actually it isn't anecdottal. There is research linking timed feedings with breast feeding failure and lack of nutritin in infants, as well as reflux. That's why the AAP and WHO both insist pretty strongly on on-demand feeding, for as long and as much as baby wants.
      We already know formula feeding increases the chances of SIDs.
      Overnight sleeping babies are far more likely to die of unknown causes in the night; particularly babies who do not sleep in the same room as their parents.
      Babies who are held have better functioning biology. They use their parents to regulate. They also cry less.
      Happy mummy doesNOT mean happy baby. That's a myth. Yes, mum needs a break and help if she's starting tpo neglect her baby. but otherwise the baby is not automatically happier because mum is - quite the recverse, mummy is happier when the baby is... or at least when she thinks the baby is.

      A lot of the tennants of AP are well noted to have positrive outcomes for children - it's often parents wgo can't accept their lives are forever changed and try to go back to pre-baby who are the ones who suffer. Parenting should not be about making children conform to their parent's lives... it should be about doing what is best for them. And certain behaviours, like the ones detailed above, are NOT best for them.

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    2. I agree with anonymous above. Everyone thinks their parenting "style" is better than someone elses. And just because you have a name for your style...AP...doesn't mean all other parents are crappy. This just blows me away.

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    3. I'm all for attached parenting and practice it myself (wear my baby, breastfeed on demand etc.). My daughter is 3 months (was premature so 9 weeks adjusted) and she sleeps in her cot in her own room and has just recently started sleeping 8-9hrs straight. I breastfeed her to sleep and when she woke during the night I would feed her back to sleep as well and then over time she gradually slept for longer stretches - in other words I didn't force my baby to sleep all night using a 'method' such as controlled crying etc. and I am happy to get up and be with her as much as she needs me to. Does this make me a bad mother because my baby sleeps overnight in her own room? What is best for your child Erynn isn't necessarily what is best for every child and it isn't fair to judge other mothers based on a 'one size fits all' mentality.

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    4. It doesn't make you a bad mother, but baby sleeping alone in separate room is shown to increase risks of deeper sleep levels and SIDS, which is why guidance is for them to be in your room for at least 6 months. There is also evidence prem babies regulate their breathing to that of a nearby adult (or breathing teddy as may be used in NICU/SCBU units)

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  9. Anon AP isn't carrying a baby at all times, perhaps your definition of what one is/isn't is a little different?
    http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2011/08/what-attached-parent-is-and-isnt.html

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  10. I've AP my boys. Though I don't tend to label it AP.
    I cuddle when they cry, I breastfeed for as long as they wish, I wear them instead of stick them in a cold pram, we co sleep until they are ready to transition (which has always been around 2 years old) and this works for us. Seeing my boys now, who are 8, 7, 4 and 2, and seeing how loving and secure they are, and how nurturing them in the way that I did has effected the people they are, I know I made the right choice. How can I compare it? Because when my eldest was just a little bubba, I parented with CC. I was 18 and this was the way it was done (according to ever parenting role model around me) He is my only child who has anger issues. He is my only child who wets the bed still. He is my only child who is needy and fretful and 'damaged'. I regret it every day. Since changing the way I parent my other 3, I AP him too and he's improving every day but there is a lot of damage to be fixed.
    People who write such horrible articles on AP should actually talk to more than a small handful of mothers.
    I know, I for one have a little 2 year old in my bed who sleeps through the night, and I have 3 bigger boys who are in their own room in their own beds and they moved there on their own. All of my boys sleep 7-7, and go to sleep on their own now. I regularly go out and leave them with my sister or friends and I've had no problems.
    Even if you did, 2 years is a blink in life, I'd much prefer to enjoy cuddles and closeness before they hit teens and no longer want it.

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  11. Actually, it's not "all completely anecdotal" and there is really good science out there on just how important attachment is to a child's development and long-term mental health. Why Love Matters is a good reference in this regard.

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    1. This is such an interesting topic. My children are 23,21 and 17. AP wasn't around, or atleast wasn't labeled when I was raising my children. What was around "big time", was parent controlled feeding and parenting. I rejected this style as harsh. I never co-slept, I tried, but I couldn't sleep! And therefore was not a happy parent the next day., which did not benefit my children. My children had regular naptimes until they naturally grew out of them. I guess I would say I was in the "middle ground". I tried to nurse, even hired a consultant, but only lasted about two months and felt like such a failure! ( judgment from those 'Parent Controlled Feeding experts) I was a strong, but gentle disciplinarian, (today I think they would call it authoritative parenting.) I am quite sure I did things wrong, but none of my children were ever anxious or had any kind of separation anxiety, even at an early age. And they are fabulous, responsible, loving adults who I am so proud of and enjoy their company immensely! My biggest take away from what I have read on this page is STOP JUDGING EACH OTHER! No two children are alike, and what one does well with, another child may not. Have grace for each other, parenting is very hard work, but in my opinion the most rewarding job on the planet!

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  12. I'd love to hear from some of your partners about how they feel about AP. Also I wonder how this kind of parenting teaches children how to live comfortably in the normal world where there are rules and disciplinary procedures and they do have to live under a set of laws. I'm not criticising AP I'm just curious. We also have a child that every other week or so decided he wants to be awake for 2 - 4 hours in the night, it's not healthy for any of us. AP doesn't deal with it nor does 'controlled crying'.

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  13. QUOTE We also have a child that every other week or so decided he wants to be awake for 2 - 4 hours in the night, it's not healthy for any of us.

    I think here the underlying question is why? I'm not sure it's about "deciding" or at least it wasn't with mine, it felt like they "fought sleep" but in hindsight sleep fought them. Neither AP nor CC will deal with the root cause if there is an underlying reason WHY, but being responsive for me is always better than ignoring/trying to train it out - especially if we consider the impact to the long term relationship. I do believe children want to naturally do the best they can, not that they strive to be naughty unless we "show them".

    I'm not sure what you mean about "I wonder how this kind of parenting teaches children how to live comfortably in the normal world where there are rules and disciplinary procedures" - do you think anyone AP doesn't have rules? Confused.

    After the hours spent trying to settle my first, my OH is probably a bigger AP advocate than I am!

    AA

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  14. I guess I was reacting to JoyfulJ's post on soft discipline. Like I said I'm absolutely not criticising, for us though there has to be a balence or me and hubby will struggle to keep our relationship happy. He deserves just as much of my attention as the kids (I have 3 boys, 18 monts, 3 and 6) if they were in our bed every night I have to say it'd put a dampner on things.
    I find there's just as much judgement on parents who strike this middle ground from AP supporters as I'm sure you get. I really appreciated anonymous's comments about no one should judge how another parent wants to raise their child.
    I'd still really like to hear how other people's partners deal with AP.

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    1. To be honest... no, he doesn't deserve *as much* attewntion. He is not in his formulative years. He is not learning what he needs to govern the rest of his relationship for his whole life. He hasn't been biologically programmed to see you as the difference between life and death. No, spouses do NOT deserve as much attention. Attention? Yes. As much? No. They will have you back eventually. And no, having them, in bed every night does not put a dampener on things unless you think the only time for sex is in bed, at night. In which case, frankly, there was already a dampener.
      My partner deals with it with love, affection, and the mutual agreement that our daughter deserves the best we can give her. Most especially concerning our time.

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    2. I'm confused why you think other people's partners "deal" with AP, AP is a choice we made together after research and consideration. My issue with modern society is that people tend to parent according to the zeitgeist without thought or consideration as to why they are told to parent that way or if it's right. Why a pram? Why a cot? Why formula? One of my friends actually chastised me for researching CIO before deciding it was a no-no and couldn't understand why I'd done that (perfect red bill / blue pill moment). As other have said regarding co-sleeping putting a dampener on things, awww bless that in a bed at night is the only place you can have sex!

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  15. QUOTE if they were in our bed every night I have to say it'd put a dampner on things.

    Really the bed is the only place you can give your hubby your attention?

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    1. If your husband works all day long and you both like to have sex every other night, yes, it would. Attention and personal intimacy are two different things.

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  16. The letter you are referring to and included a link for is actually titled "My Message to Dr. Sears" so I'm not sure where the mix up happened. I LOVED that article by Nicola and thought she had a lot of great, REALISTIC things to say about parenting. I don't have a specific parenting style or label myself a certain way but instead, I love my children with every part of me, take care of them to the best of my ability and at the same time, I teach them to be good people. There isn't a right or wrong way to parent if your heart is in it. AP folks can be so over the top sometimes!

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    1. KB2013 the title is that, but if you link to the piece it drops in the "why I ditched etc" as the link title...

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  17. QUOTE AP folks can be so over the top sometimes!

    Nothing like generalising, I would call leaving to a baby to cry for long periods "ott" ;)

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  18. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out

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  19. I'm seeing no one talk about letting your child cry (IN YOUR ARMS ALWAYS!) to relieve stress. my 7mo son "fights sleep" but I now know that he just needs to cry. SOmetimes he cries and then passes out and sometimes he cries and then is alert and happy afterwards! I do make sure hes fed, clean and getting comfort and if he's still fussy I let him cry instead of pacifying him with nursing or letting him CIO alone. It can become a controlled pattern and the child can become agressive and some might even say "manipulating". I started letting my son cry (in my arms) about a month ago and he sleeps better (co-sleeps) and is more happier in general. It's very easy for a child to become stressed over loud noises and other things. They may not express their stress at that moment but it does build up and eventually need to be released. I always wonder why it seems like the main goal is to make babies stop crying. I know its there only way of communicating their needs but what if the need is to just CRY?! My parents gave me whatever I wanted to get me to stop crying and it only made me be spoiled and always needing something to make me happy as a child when in reality I think I just needed my parents to accept my emotions. instead of labeling me a "good" or "bad" girl. I guess that was hard to do bc they don't even regulate their own emotions. I'm just grateful I figured all this stuff out for my son. I was detached parented/hit as a child and I suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a teen. My rents could not figure out why I turned out the way I did.... always needing others approval, wanting a guy to make me feel better low grades and low self esteem. UUGGGHH MAYBE because they taught me, (either consciously or unconsciously) to react and behave this way. Sometimes I get mad at them for how they raised me but luckily I taught myself how to love myself and to FEEL MY FEELINGS and now I have the wonderful opportunity to raise my child in a more gentle attached manor.

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    1. At 7mos "nursing to pacify" isn't nursing to "pacify", you are not going to spoil him by nursing at that age. They often will nurse for comfort as a biological cue to increase your milk production for growth spurts. You are obviously a loving and caring parent as you note that crying in your ARMS always :) I just wanted to point out the part about nursing, as it can be detrimental to full term breastfeeding :D Also, I have a 3yo who has sensory processing disorder when you said " It's very easy for a child to become stressed over loud noises and other things. They may not express their stress at that moment but it does build up and eventually need to be released." it really strikes home for my SPD kiddo. She gets so overwhelmed at times and just melts down, and of course I comfort her and hug and cuddle her if I can, if she won't let me I put her in a safe comfy place and stay nearby so she can get love and snuggles if she wishes.

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  20. I've been/am there! But first thing I want to say is, take heart, because my DD8 was raised strict schedule, and even though she was also "textbook" and it all went so easily, she has never been clingy or had major separation anxiety issues. She is a tomboy and very outgoing & active. My DS4 & 2 however were hard to schedule and so I didn't even really try with DS2, and for DS4 it didn't last long ;) and they are both obvious in their separation anxiety. But I have read, that perhaps DD did have separation anxiety, but chose not to show it. I know it's probably small comfort but at least you know what she wants. Thanks for sharing!

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