Update on Attachment Parenting: Nine Months

mother babySo, Lydia turned 9 months old recently, and I thought I’d offer another update on our attachment parenting journey.

(I did a few of these on Project M, and figured I’d offer another update for those who might be curious. I know that I love to hear updates from the bloggers I follow!)

Attachment Parenting in the Media

Before I do offer my detailed update, though, I want to briefly address the Time magazine feature on attachment parenting that caused so much hullabaloo a couple of weeks ago.

So. You may or may not have come across this cover, featuring a young mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son, standing on a little chair.

I didn’t have any very strong feelings about the picture. I don’t care for the unnatural pose – nobody breastfeeds like that, no matter how old the child, and it gives a false image of what extended breastfeeding looks like – but I don’t have a problem with the fact that a mother is publicly breastfeeding a child of that age. I think mothers and their children should feel free to breastfeed for as long as they both benefit from it. I don’t intend to continue breastfeeding quite that long, just for personal reasons, but I don’t see anything essentially wrong with it. I’m sure such an image wouldn’t shock most people around the world and throughout most of human history – it’s just us uptight Westerners who think there’s something abnormal about breastfeeding beyond the first year.

What did bother me, however, was the byline: “Are you MOM enough? Why attachment parenting drives some parents to extremes…”

What a sad misrepresentation of attachment parenting.

I’ve talked about attachment parenting in terms of Dr. Sears’ “Seven B’s of Attachment Parenting” before, mostly because it’s an easy jumping-place from which to discuss how we practice attachment parenting (AP). But really, AP doesn’t boil down to a list of things you can check off a list.

You can practice AP while bottle-feeding – Dr. Sears has a chapter on it in The Baby Book.  You can practice AP without babywearing or bedsharing. You can even practice it as a working mom – Dr. Sears’ own wife, Martha, returned to work, at least with some of her later babies.

You aren’t “more mom” if you practice certain tenets of attachment parenting!

The way I understand AP is that it’s an approach to parenting based on TRUST. You trust that your baby knows when she is hungry or full, tired or alert, or has some other need, and that she will communicate her needs to you. At the same time, you teach your baby that she can trust you to help her get her needs met by responding to her cries. It’s based on the assumption that babies are equipped to express their needs, and mothers have a natural instinct to want to respond to those needs. There’s no need for scheduled feedings and rigid naptimes: your baby will tell you what she needs.

The idea behind AP is that if you just trust in these mutual instincts, keep your baby close, and respond to her cries, you will build a mutual relationship of trust that will make parenting easier.

It’s not about rules, but relationship.

There is no formula for building such a relationship (is there ever a formula for building relationships?), but there are a number of practices that can help make it easier – hence the 7 B’s.

* * *

So, that being said, I still find the 7 B’s of attachment parenting to be helpful, and so I will continue to explore some of them as I discuss our experiences with attachment parenting.


(Here’s my first post on breastfeeding).

I still breastfeed Lydia several times a day and usually at least once at night, though she sometimes sleeps through the night. I still enjoy it so much that I can’t foresee us ending our breastfeeding relationship any time soon. To be honest, the thought makes me cry a little bit, so I avoid thinking about it at all costs.

I must confess that it hasn’t always been simple and wonderful. It was hard for a while when she just got her top four teeth, giving her a complete set of chompers (she had eight teeth by eight months. Youch!). It took her a while to learn how to suck without hurting me – for a while, I experienced constant pain as she nursed. To make matters worse, she once bit me so hard she broke skin, and for a week it was so painful I had to feed her only on one side and pump on the other. I wondered if it would ever get better, and how long I could keep it up if it hurt so bad.

My worries were put to rest after a couple of weeks when it just stopped hurting. Maybe I just got calloused? Anyway, I still usually nurse her to sleep and it provides some nice cuddle time every day.

baby feeding

We’ve also been practicing baby-led weaning since she was about six months old. Until recently, she mostly just played with the food, but in the last few weeks she’s suddenly become much more intentional about putting food in her mouth, chewing, swallowing, and hollering for more. I still never have any clue how much is actually making it into her mouth and how much is falling to the floor to get snapped up by our very attentive puppy, but it doesn’t concern me. Her main source of nourishment is still breast milk, with fruits, veggies, cheese, meat, and eggs supplementing (we’re still avoiding grains).

This combo of breastfeeding and BLW is great for travelling – we still don’t have to pack special food for her when we go out. She enjoys a little bit of whatever we’re having at restaurants or other people’s houses, and tops it off with some breast milk.


babywearing back

(Here’s my first post on babywearing)

After a few months of slowing down with babywearing, I’ve recently renewed my enthusiasm for it since discovering how easy it is to wear her on my back in the Ergo carrier. It’s so easy to get stuff done with her there! She often falls asleep that way, which is convenient. No nursing or rocking her to sleep. Bonus!


(Here’s my first post on bedsharing)

Yeah . . . she’s still in our bed. It’s just so easy with her there. Every once in a while she’ll sleep through the night for a few nights in a row and I’ll start to wonder if we should transition her to a crib. Not because there is any pressing need to, but just because I figure we’ll want to eventually. The thought always makes me kind of sad. But then she’ll have a few restless, wakeful nights again, and I’m glad we’ve kept her so close. Helping her go back to sleep is still as simple as rolling over and lifting my shirt.

And oh, how Ben and I delight in waking up to her charming smiles and laughter every morning! I can’t imagine the day when that’s not the first thing I see when I wake up.

Elimination Communication

Enjoying some diaper-free time

(Again: this isn’t traditionally a tenet of attachment parenting, but I find it consistent with the philosophy. Here’s my first post).

First, the not-so-great: we still haven’t really gotten any better at catching pees during the day. We still only catch about five or six a day. But the number of times she pees in a day is always gradually going down, so that those catches now represents about 50% of her pees (as opposed to 15% in her earlier months).

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that for a while, she was able to sleep diaperless at night because it was so easy to catch all her pees in the potty at night.  That’s not the case anymore. We have her in a diaper again, because even though she usually doesn’t pee at all at night (until first thing in the morning), sometimes she still pees before I’m able to wake up and get her on the potty, and cleaning that up is just too much work to be worth it.

But now for the awesome: we haven’t had to change a single poopy diaper in at least three months. Now that she’s eating solids, her poop is more solid, and she gives very obvious signs that she’s about to go (getting really focused, pushing and grunting a little bit, etc).  A few weeks ago, I even got her to poop in the toilet in the Denny’s bathroom! It is SO GREAT to be able to give her bum a quick wipe and return to my meal, rather than having to deal with a big poopy mess.

Another great thing about poop-free diapers (aside from the immediate relief of not having to clean it up) is the fact that it makes laundering cloth diapers so easy.  Since it’s just urine, I just run them through a normal cycle. No multiple hot rinses, no stink, no stains.

Do practice any of things? What have been your experiences?

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  1. My baby is only 3 1/2 months old, but we are attempting all those same things you are.

    EC is what led me to your blog originally. We haven’t been as good at catching things lately with EC, because Ana can grunt and strain for a poop long before she ever poops. Pee seems hit and miss. It depends on how busy my day is not sure if it is my lack of picking up on cues, or her lack of cueing. There was a while where I was catching quite a few pees each day, but that’s changed.

    Breastfeeding goes well for us too, but no teeth yet (I’m thinking soon because she’s “bit” me with her gums a few times recently).

    We plan to start BLW when she gets to about 6 months or so, depending on her interest.

    Love, love, LOVE bedsharing. I get so much more sleep than I did when we kept her in the co-sleeper. Like you said, just roll over and lift the shirt. Plus those smiles in the morning are precious!

    Babywearing is probably the thing that has had the biggest learning curve for me. The first couple months went well with a stretchy wrap, but she quickly got bigger and wanted to look around. She didn’t like being held against my chest. I now own a stretchy wrap, a regular wrap, a sling, an Ergo (for DH), and am working on sewing a Mei Tai. I’ve found that different carries work best in different situations for us.
    Michele recently posted..M DayMy Profile

    • Hi Michele! I have never observed any kind of cues from Lydia when she pees, either, even after all these months. Those books had me convinced it would be easy. Maybe not all babies do it?

      And babywearing was tricky for me at first, too. It got WAY easier after she had good neck and back control. I agree — different carriers work best in different situations. But I still find that the ring sling is the most versatile.

  2. “It’s not about rules, but relationship” Well said!

    We practice/d most of these things too. I breastfed until my daughter was 15 months, I thought about going longer but for several reasons I decided to stop then. It was definitely sad for me, I totally cried, but she did fine with it. We never had her in our bed on a regular basis, but now at 17 months she still ends up there sometimes. Still BWing here and there, which is great because she is much heavier these days and having her on my back is easier than carrying her with my arms.

    I never did EC, again she is 17 months and she has just started going on the toilet here and there–. I’m not trying to push it, just following her lead and for now she seems into it. I’ll be interested to read more about your experiences with EC as your daughter gets older!
    Rue recently posted..8 yearsMy Profile

    • Rue, I actually read your post on weaning, and even that made me cry! Breastfeeding is such a precious, intimate experience, it will be hard to let go.

      • I wasn’t able to breastfeed for long but I do think that if a baby is hnrugy then it’s sad for people to expect the mum to take a child to a bathroom or somewhere else to feed when the people who are complaining wouldn’t do that. I don’t think there is a right age. I think the natural wearing age of humans is around 7, when we lose our milk teeth. I think it’s sad that within our culture there are so many people who are offended at something that is so natural. Because breasts are constantly portrayed as sex objects’, it’s understandable. I just hope my son grows up to realise the difference and what it means to a mum to breastfeed her child. We all need to do our best to be supportive of other parent’s choices. I can think of far worse things a parent could be doing to their child! Time magazine have definitely chosen photos to cause controversy!

  3. I’ve done most of these things but wouldn’t say I was an “attachment parent” because I don’t like the baggage that comes along with that label. There’s a lot of judgment that tends to crop up, on both sides (APs are all dirty hippies! CIO is child abuse! etc) that I really dislike, especially because I think parents tend to overestimate their influence on their children.

    My daughter is apparently very securely attached to me now, has a lot of confidence in herself and in social situations, and is generally really happy, well-balanced, healthy and ‘easy’. But who knows why this is the case: genetics? that I could stay at home with her? that I have enough money/support/education to be an effective, patient parent? A definitive study on the subject will never be possible, so everything is conjectural.

    I think parents should therefore just please themselves, and do whatever parenting practices are easiest and less stressful for themselves and their families. It sounds like you have done this, and I think that’s great. Don’t let the ‘dirty hippie’ or ‘overprotective’ insults dim your confidence!
    Grace recently posted..Camping in SingaporeMy Profile

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Grace! And I think you’re right that parents tend to overestimate their influence on their children (myself included). Did you read Freakonomics, by any chance?

      Like you, I don’t DARE assume that the reason my daughter is so easy and healthy is because of my awesome parenting . . . I don’t want it to bite me in the butt if I ever have a difficult child. If I take the credit for my easy child now, I’ll have to take the blame for any difficult ones in the future, too!

      • Interesting, I have always felt that many parents UNDERestimate their influence on their children. (And Freakonomics has been sitting on my coffee table for years, I just never read it!) I guess I look around at all the lazy, unhealthy, unmotivated, parents and wonder why they leave it up to schools/daycare/other family to ‘raise’ their kids. I’ve always figured they didn’t fully understand just how much they influence their child’s entire life.
        Bekah recently posted..Boobs don’t need to be sterilized. (And other baby’s 1st year tips.)My Profile

        • I don’t remember the details from the book (Freakonomics), but one of the most interesting points they make is that children aren’t influenced so much by what parents DO (i.e. reading to them, taking them to museums, etc) as by what kind of people the parents ARE (educated, affluent, married). They also argue that children are ultimately more influenced by peers than parents. Of course, the only outcome they’re looking at is school performance, since you can’t really measure things like level of compassion. As Grace points out, we’ll never be able to scientifically determine how much influence parents have on other aspects.

          • I think the picture looks weird beucsae of the fact that they were posed unnaturally for shock value, and the fact that the kid is big for his age. I know MY 3 year old is like half that big. She nursed until just after her third birthday… But never standing on a chair, with both of us staring provocatively at the a camera. Lol. TIME was obviously going for something that would stir people up and make them as much money as possible.

  4. We practice everything but cosleeping. I would like to try cosleeping but Andrew isn’t up for it and husbands should definitely get a say on whether kids share the bed or not!
    Mali still nurses more than he eats solids, we both LOVE the Ergo (especially the back carry, isn’t it awesome?), and EC has its good and bad days. Like a previous poster mentioned, it usually depends on how busy I am and how much I am paying attention to his cues.
    I guess technically I do practice most all the steps of attachment parenting, but I would call myself a crunchy parent before I would call myself an AP parent. I feel like being ‘attached’ is crunchy and natural!
    Bekah recently posted..Boobs don’t need to be sterilized. (And other baby’s 1st year tips.)My Profile

  5. I have only just begun to look at my parenting in the light of AP.
    I recently finished (close to 8 years of continual and sometimes tandem) breastfeeding my youngest of 4 children, at 2 1/2 years old. My older 3 children were BF until at least 3 years old. I have to say here that the image on the cover of the magazine was not too far from my reality!! I did mostly sit to feed the older BF child, but when I needed to be standing, then the child proped themselves on whatever they could and we both just got on with it!!
    We co-slept with our babies for the first few months and now co-sleep with one of my older kids because he needs the comfort of it.
    EC never was a priority. It all seemed to unnecessary. Wear nappies until ready to go without. Washing nappies is the trade off for not having to wash the carpet.
    Baby wearing was convenient and helpful for both me and my babies and we did whenever possible.
    Baby lead weaning is a good label for how our children developed a taste for our family plate. It made sense for baby to have a taste of whatever was on my plate. (How else do you develop a childs palete for real food??)
    But my question is this. Are there AP steps beyond the baby/breastfeeding years? How does one practice AP with the older child??
    Thanks for a great post.
    nona recently posted..no sew lego matMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Nona! I guess I didn’t realize that some moms breastfeed like that. Why not, right? I guess the posture and the direct look at the camera — not to mention the fact that she looks so perfectly put-together — struck me as unnatural, but I shouldn’t dismiss it as being completely unrealistic.

      As for elimination communication — my daughter still usually wears diapers, so I’m not really cleaning carpets or furniture. Just SOME of the pee and most of the poop is going into the potty instead of the diapers.

      I’m not sure if it’s still called “attachment parenting” with older children, but AP parents tend to practice things like gentle discipline and child-led/montessori-style education as their children get older. Good question, though! I’ll have to ask around!

  6. I practiced AP strictly (because I wanted to, it resonated, and as a WAHM I could) for the first 24 months. Then I (consciously and confidently, without anything harsh) moved my boy into his own bed, weaned, and had to introduce some more discipline resources besides what I got from Dr. Sears. In fact, Mean Moms Rule! Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later, has been so helpful in my transition from AP style baby raising to working hands-on with my very brilliant and willful toddler in day-to-day life. Note that Denise Schipani (author of MMR) doesn’t endorse *any harsh practices* (thought many misinterpret her as such)…she’s just all about how to create boundaries that will serve children well into the future (like teaching them how to do chores starting as toddlers, and teaching us how to say “no” when it feels right to say no, with respect and compassion and ~ healthy boundaries~). I’d recommend it as a good read for those who are having challenges with a wild young toddler and for whom AP “as a whole” no longer really works. Of course, I keep (and recommend keeping!) the compassionate communication and gentleness and trust factors that I’ve invested in with AP. But adding some extra tools seems to be something I needed, and so did my son. A blend of two seemingly disparate worlds? :) In any case, more boundaries has translated to more feelings of safety and trust in my child. I do think Dr. Sears writes about this but I seemed to have lost it until I needed it again, and then found I needed to expand my information reservoir. AP was a great start and foundation.
    Andrea Olson @ECSimplified recently posted..Elimination Communication How-to Video #2 -Pottying Baby On-the-Go (In the Car)/ TimingMy Profile

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