I’ve had many people ask me about my parenting style, mainly my attachment parenting. I’ve tried to write a post about it many times and each time I’ve stopped and started over. There are so many different parenting styles, and we each have to do what works best for us, for each baby, and for our family. Keep in mind that I am currently able to be a stay-at-home mom, and your circumstance may be very different. I’m hoping to convey my feelings without sounding prejudiced against those who parent differently.
What works best for my family falls in line with attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is defined as: a parenting philosophy that proposes methods which aim to promote the attachment of mother and infant not only by maximal maternal empathy and responsiveness but also by continuous bodily closeness and touch.
To me this means skin-to-skin contact as much as possible (especially in the early days), baby wearing, breastfeeding, responding to all my babies cries, co-sleeping, and gentle parenting. Some of these are self explanatory but I wanted to talk about how I respond to their cries. I’ve always thought of crying as the only way babies can communicate their needs and wants. I believe whole heartedly that babies cry for a reason. I’ve never thought of their crying as manipulative or deceptive. It’s their only way to tell you what they need, whether it be hunger, dirty diaper, pain or just needing comfort. I also felt that by ignoring their cries, I would be telling them their voice doesn’t matter. That their one way of telling me what they need doesn’t work.
For this reason, we’ve never considered using the Cry it Out method or sleep training. It’s important to add that neither of my babies have had any medical concerns such as colic that would cause excessive crying.
So when Maddox or Marlow cry, Josh and I comfort them. Sometimes that means picking them up, talking to them, singing, moving to a new environment, distracting with toys, but mainly just keeping them close so we can respond quickly. For example, here’s what we would do when Maddox or Marlow would wake up crying. When they were tiny babies, we always picked them up immediately and softly talked to them to comfort them (i.e. “It’s ok. Shh. I’m here”). As they got older (maybe 4-6months), we didn’t pick them immediately. We cuddle next to them, pat their backs, and talk to them using the same language we did before to reassure them and comfort them. Our goal was for them to open their eyes and realize we were right there and they were ok.
We want to provide constant, consistent nurturing and comforting, and the way we do that changes as they mature. With Maddox, we have gone from immediate comfort when he was an infant, to verbal comfort as a pre-toddler, to encouraging him to “use his words” to express his distress, as he became verbal. Now I see an independent almost-three-year-old who seldom needs the sort of comfort I now offer Marlow, but who still gets our full attention when he does need it. And one of the most amazing things, since Marlow was born, I’ve also noticed Maddox offering comfort to Marlow in the same way that we did to him!
My thought behind always comforting them is that they know we are always there and they are safe, comforted, and reassured. This is what has worked best for my children and my family so far. I would love to hear what has worked for you. We do not all parent the same, but we all want the same thing — happy, healthy, well adjusted children.