Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept, died last month, on my daughter’s birthday actually. She is seen by many as the person who brought ‘Attachment Parenting’ to the West. Interestingly, just like her polar opposite Gina Ford, she never had children.
Attachment Parenting includes birth bonding, breastfeeding on cue, co-sleeping, babywearing and not leaving babies to cry.
My parenting approach ticks all these boxes: I prepared for the birth of my daughter and we had some skin-to-skin time, although not as much as I would have liked because things with me kind of went wrong once she was out. But she had about two hours of skin-to-skin snuggles with her dad while they were waiting for me to get out of emergency surgery. I’m still breastfeeding my two-year-old whenever she feels like it (I know you don’t get a medal, but I kind of feel you ought to!).
We’ve been co-sleeping, bed-sharing in fact, since a lovely midwife visited us on our first day at home and made me realise how silly it was to expect a tiny baby to sleep in their own bed and how much more rest I would be able to get by snuggling up with my daughter in the big bed. I’ll be forever grateful to that midwife because although I had read a lot about parenting before the birth, I only knew how dangerous it was to fall asleep while feeding your baby. The midwife showed us how to co-sleep safely so that I was firmly wedged into position and my daughter couldn’t be covered by pillows or the duvet. I can’t imagine how much more stressful life would have been without her brilliant life-changing advice. Researchers have now found out that breastfeeding co-sleeping mothers get more sleep, and more deep sleep, than mothers who get up to feed their babies.
We had quite a slow start with the babywearing as I couldn’t get on with our pouch sling and didn’t discover the benefits of a wrap sling until my daughter was already a couple of months old, but we really enjoyed it until she got too heavy, and now we have a Patapum so I can carry her on my back. We have never done any kind of sleep training because we think it is harmful for babies. I am aware I say this as the non-working mother of only one child! As with everything else, I know there are circumstances when it’s the best option to save the parents’ sanity, but my daughter is my only child so far and I know I have been very privileged to be able to spend this much time with her, so we haven’t needed to fall back on controlled crying and similar methods.
In addition, we have been big fans of baby-led weaning – Annabel Karmel’s assorted baby-feeding paraphernalia and pureed food have never entered this household. I’d say that’s probably 50% idealism and 50% laziness. I really want my daughter to understand that she can control how much she eats, so since the week after she turned six months old we have just let her get on with things. It’s worked pretty well I’d say because even when she eats cake, she stops eating fairly soon, I assume because she’s full.
So the fundamental aspects of my daughter’s life have been led by her and I’ve followed at her pace. I wonder down which paths she will lead us now she is a proper toddler. My time with her so far has been a great learning experience: I’ve learned a lot about what society expects from people, and how I can evaluate those demands. Above all, knowing about Attachment Parenting has given me the confidence to put my daughter’s needs first. So thank you Jean Liedloff.