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attachment parenting

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Attachment parenting and good mental health

5 May, 2014

I read about Peaches Geldoff’s death on Facebook and my heart felt like it had cracked a little. I knew of Peaches primarily through her defence of Attachment Parenting on morning TV and I was struck by a grief for her two children. I have admired her staunch support of quite alternative parenting practices and I was compelled by her explanation of motherhood being a “rebirth” – healing the wounds of childhood trauma.

I am not going to speculate on her death, the hows or whys. But seeing as people have used her passing as a springboard to question the healthiness of Attachment Parenting, I am going to springboard off their springboarding to stick up for the healthiness of Attachment Parenting.


(Also, I am just tapping out my thoughts while Juno sleeps in the sling, slugging back a coffee, so expect a BLOG POST here, not a thesis… Just imagine you are sitting here scoffing biscuits with me, hearing this wee collection of thoughts. Would love to hear your own thoughts on attachment parenting and mental health in the comments.)

Attachment Parenting isn’t a rigid barometer with which to judge mothers by
Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy based on the theory that children thrive when they establish a close connection to their caregiver. There are principles that have been fleshed out that support this connection such as babywearing and breastfeeding, but they are ideas, aids to nurture a strong attachment. It is entirely possible to be a fully attached parent without adhering to all of these principles.
Sometimes I wonder if people within this natural parenting world sound aggressive / judgemental of other parents as a result of being constantly harangued in the media. Being on the defensive all the time can make people pretty strident. *raises hand*
Attachment parenting isn’t a curriculum that you can pass or fail. And it shouldn’t be used to judge people. We should be wary of any journalists or experts or bloggers that trade in the currency of guilt. Guilt is not a helpful or valid currency in the parenting world.

Attachment Parenting isn’t Martyrdom Parenting
I have written in the past about how I believe a child’s happiness if knitted together with  parent’s happiness. We simply can’t expect the sure well being of our children if we are neglecting our own. If you know attachment parents who do not accept and attend to their own needs then you need to realise that this isn’t because of the attachment parent philosophy, this is because they don’t love themselves enough and they would neglect their own needs whatever parenting style they went for. Got it?

Really, you must understand that. I do know a few attachment parents who are martyrs. I also know many more attachment parents who practice radical self-love and understand that a child’s needs must fit within the whole family’s needs. For any attachment parents struggling with getting the balance of needs right please read Marshall Rosenberg on Non Violent Communication.

Attachment Parenting Recognises the Importance of Full Cups
(Hehe, I don’t mean *those* cups, although that is handy for breastfeeding parents…) You won’t find the message of  “Sacrifice your needs for the sake of your child!” in any of the Attachment Parenting textbooks. (You might come across it in blogs, but I maintain that self-neglect comes out in whatever parenting philosophy people opt for.)  Something I HAVE read a lot in those books is the sentiment of filling your own cup in order to ensure our children’s cups are full. Most attachment parents I know work really flipping hard at co-parenting– ensuring a fair split between two parents- and all of them recognise the importance of support networks which is why their are lots of forums and groups for people who are practicing it.

ALL parenting is depleting and barely any parent gets the support that we really need to do a really bloody good job of it. But attachment parents at least recognise the importance of full emotional cups.

Attachment Parenting builds resilience in a parent
This is a little hard to explain, but let me know what you think of this. The more connected I am to my child the more I am able to let frustrations roll over me. When I have a disconnect- as a result of me not meeting a need or some tension- I struggle to find empathy with my children which in turn makes me stressed, upset and angry.

If I am quick to recognise we have had a disconnection and attempt to restore it, mostly through play, than I find I am restored myself and far less likely to get annoyed and cross.

I feel that attachment parenting, by valuing CONNECTION over anything, makes us resilient – a sturdy ship that can float amongst all the volatile waves of emotion that toddlerdom can bring.

Attachment Parenting can be a Liberated Parenting
Attachment parenting and gentle or respectful parenting are intricately linked. Most attachment parents will move into gentle parenting as a label (labels are rubbish etc) once their baby becomes a toddler.

One of the central tenets of Gentle Parenting is TRUST. Trusting that a child is an individual with an existing personhood – we are not here to shape them and teach them. We are here simply to allow them to grow and develop in freedom.


We do not have to hover as (the normally wonderful) Deberoh Orr suggests attachment parents do. We let our children explore and trial without feeling the pressure to dictate their actions.

We sit back at the park and let them climb, we don’t helicopter about urging them on to different ladders and slides in order to expand their horizons.

We accept their ability to self-regulate. Meal times are about providing good food and then letting them eat it or not. We don’t have to ruin our own dinner by coercing our kids to eat theirs.

We trust that children already have their character, we don’t have to shape it through reward charts and the stressful process of Time Outs.


While our babies are small there perhaps *is* a little more effort put in- we rock them when they cry- but as they grow I think attachment parents find their role much less stressful and far, far less hands on.

When I am kicking back on the grass at the playground, watching other parents chasing their kids around with coats, or urging them not to climb too high, or persuading them to say Good Bye politely to Aunty, I think GOSH my parenting style is easy. (Not in a smug way, of course, as my children in their odd socks, felt-tip pen on their faces, and knotty hair counter any of that!)

I think there is enormous potential for Attachment Parenting to promote good mental healthiness in parents (how it promotes good mental health in children is a whole other wonderful post, eh?!) and have found it to be a perfect for for my own life and well being.

As ever, would love to hear from you about your experiences!

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Authentic Parenting and the Importance of Happiness

30 May, 2013

A few weeks ago, in the late stages of pregnancy when I felt like my womb-baby and rapscallion toddler were running me a bit ragged I  had a totally indulgent, luxurious shower all by myself. (Hey, this is a big deal! Even the stealthiest of my loo breaks are interrupted by a curious “What are you doing, mummy?”)  I was tired and body-weary and even though Tim wasn’t around I just wanted to have some time to myself. I wanted to shower so hard I got WRINKLES. I left Ramona playing alone and I let the hot water run over me for what seemed like half the morning. Every so often she would pop her head in and say “Are you having a nice time, Mummy?” and would skip away, delighting in her mum’s delight.

It struck me just how knitted together a child’s joy is with her parent’s.

One of the biggest implicit myths around Attachment or Gentle Parenting is that a child’s happiness correlates directly with a parent’s sacrifice. No one really says this out loud, but sometimes it does feel like the message is “The more night time parenting you do/ the more babywearing despite back ache/ the more breastfeeding a toddler whilst cooking dinner, the more well- rounded your child will be.”

In a big way I think this really is just rubbish.

I do think there are sacrifices to be made as a parent. And I do think that for babies, those under a year, their needs should always, always, always come first. This will mean less sleep/ stopping what we are doing to respond to a cry/ tough, stretched nipples. (I think most parents can handle this for a tiny one – so many of us gather under the “They are only babies once” banner.)

I think people who appreciate attachment parenting principles can too often forget that there is a balancing of needs to be done. Sometimes this balancing of needs is easy. Often there is  massive joy in meeting our little one’s needs first;  a pleasure in night parenting and putting plans on hold to play.

And then there are other times when we need to listen to our own bodies and minds.

I’m just sure that as our little ones grow we need to grab hold of our own sense of well being. I am becoming increasingly convinced that our children are massively affected by our own happiness.

Too often I see (and become one!) a mother who has taken Attachment Parenting as an order to ignore every niggle and ambition and desire and hope of their own.

Kids take in EVERYTHING. Every grimace. Every flare of the nostrils. If we are babywearing through exhausted discontent then they will know. They will absorb an underlying resentment like the sweat from your neck. So push them in a buggy. It will be about a million times better for you both.

There is some science around this – chemicals we release when we are either joyful or annoyed. (Yeah, that is about as far as my science goes. I spent most of my science classes at school playing with the pet rabbit or dying my hair with the little vials of peroxide.) Oxycontin or adrenaline float through the air like dust, alighting on those we are with and setting off a similar mood. It is why when the plane takes off from the tarmac a palpable fear sometimes descends, or why when we giggle with our children you often end up rolling around in delirium together.

authentic parenting atta

Then I think there is also something about authenticity.  Our children need us to be real and to be honest. Yes, we ARE the adults so for the most part we do need to hold it together, take some deep breaths when we feel like yelling. But if our children never see us sad or cross, what are we teaching them about the importance of expressing emotion? We risk too much if we mask everything, if we are dishonest with ourselves and our children about what is causing us stress.

It isn’t manipulative to discuss with your two year old how hard you find it when she gets naked in public. You aren’t a bad parent if you do a childcare swap (where you baby sit yours and theirs and then they look after yours and theirs another time) with your friend just so you can have an afternoon not being climbed on. If you are a parent with an ambitious mind and a brain that needs stimulation the best thing you can do for your child is get back to the workplace for at least part of the week – they don’t need to be cuddled through your bitterness.

(Also, it is kind of an aside, but while I am justifying all the things I need to do for my own sense of well being: it is natural to describe your crossness after an infuriatingly long and expensive and pointless 0844 call – just maybe don’t growl Ba$!a%ds! in a tone your toddler will find impossible to not repeat all afternoon as you hang up. Er.)

Despite me being the BIGGEST FAN EVER of cosleeping and that I always imagined the four of us would hunker down in the Family Bed, since Juno was born we have split up. Tim and my toddler Ramona in one room and Juno and I in another. Despite knowing Ramona’s needs are being met it was hard to make this decision, I felt like I was letting the world of cosleeping attachment parents down! But maximising the sleep we all get is pretty much a must right now and waking up to one kid each is more than enough!

It is a shame that as people pick up and run with parenting approaches, expert advice is often bashed all over the nuances of our personalities, cultures and families. It annoys me that Attachment Parenting is seen as extreme practice because some people see it as a set of rules to followed, rather than an encouragement for parents to simply connect, connect, connect with our little ones.  And in order to connect we need to be authentic.

I’d love to hear your honest thoughts on this. Can you believe I get annoyed with attachment parenting?! What have you found in your own parenting experience? What do you do to maintain a sense of well being as a parent? As a Gentle/ Attachment parent, do you think we can have a tendency to compromise authenticity? 

Breastfeeding, Parenting

Dear new mummy

4 January, 2013

The baby is here! In your ams! Mewing, and pooing, and screeching, and sleeping!

You can’t stop staring at the little mite in disbelief. YOU MADE THIS! You MADE this.

You want to cry at the mystery of it all… and also the sense of doom that seems to creep in at the corners, just a little, every so often… you shed a few tears at that. You want to laugh in elation… but not too much, until you really get cracking with those pelvic floor excercises. Your heart bursts with wonder… and your mind creaks a little with fear – how can I do this? You love this baby more than anyone ever in the whole world has loved a single soul… and also not quite enough.

It is, er, an emotional business, this parenthood malarkey.

I want to tell you one thing. This one thing I’m going to tell you… it is to forget everything anyone’s ever told you. And then replace it with this:

Trust yourself and your baby.

Just have this one mantra, and repeat it to yourself everyday.

I trust myself and I trust my baby.

Carry it with you and wield it like a silent shield, if need be, in front of disapproving glances, or undermining words. When you read parenting articles announcing new research that simply doesn’t fit with the rhythm the two of you have found. When experts suggest they know the pair of you better than you know yourselves. They don’t. You are the expert, the absolute expert, when it comes to the paths you are carving out together.

Settle into these instincts, be guided by your intuition, listen to your baby.

Soon enough you will gather confidence like a warm coat around you, you will delight in the trust you have developed. You will see your baby as wise, you will let them be your teacher, your lives together will be rich and deep and joyful. They’ll be angst and emotion and teething and hormones but this trust will be the surest foundation for your every parenting action and decision.Trust yourself and trust your baby

It starts now, with breastfeeding. It takes too much teethgritting, too much patience, it is not how you imagined it to be at all! You were excited about nursing your little one, but this actually just hurts.

Just trust.

Another day, maybe one more day after that, and you will feel like all the secrets of the universe have been bestowed upon the two of you.For real. It will go from feeling as if your toe blisters are being burst with pliers to feeling like sitting on a whimsical cloud being sprinkled with magical love glitter. You’ll soon cherish these milky moments, you’ll rest in the easy, blissful breastfeeding relationship you have woven together. It is JUST around the corner.

Believe in the concrete power of your intuition and the unfathomable innate ability of children, even the very youngest ones.

Your mother instincts and your baby’s voice is the most harmonious duet. Let this song guide you.

Trust yourself and trust your baby.

Love Lucy

PS- You may know… this is a letter to my new mamma self, that one that emerged late in the evening in November 2010. It is also a reminder as I contemplate another wee one arriving in the Spring…

PPS- I am actually all for reading and talking and exploring new ideas for parenting :) Books like How to Talk so Kids Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk inspire me no end. I just think it is vital first to have firm belief in your instincts and heart and what your child has to say!

If you were to write a letter to a new mum, or to your own fresh mother self, what would you say?


Attachment parenting

A sibling on the scene

25 October, 2012

Every morning when my daughter Ramona opens her eyes, she snuggles up to my face and whispers “Hello, mummy”. These days, this tiny tradition is followed up by her scuffling down and pulling apart my pyjama top and murmuring “Hello, baby” into my tummy. With no bump to reveal my 4 month pregnancy just yet my belly button is getting all the attention.

Ramona is two and loves babies. She loves babies, imaginary babies and Things that Will Do.

Ramona Babywearing

Ramona constantly has to be either pushing a buggy or wearing a baby in the sling, and I normally have to accompany her, with a Cabbage Patch Kid tied to my front.

As I cooked dinner yesterday I could hear her singing sweet nothings “Oh, baby. Good? Baby? Oooh. Baby” and looked over my shoulder to see what she was caressing with her soft words and hands.

It was a bulb of garlic.


Minutes later, I had to help her undo the zip on her jumper because the garlic wanted “milkies.”

(Mind you, a few months ago it was me that had to nurse the obscure objects she chose so I’m quite happy she has taken on that responsibility herself. My days of breastfeeding toy cars and lego are over for a while, thanks.)

When my mum first heard our new baby news, she exclaimed “Crumbs, Ramona will have her nose put out, won’t she?!” I guess it was in reference to the intense attachment we have, and the practices that, for us, are a big part in it. When the baby comes along Ramona will have to deal with not lying starfish like along our bed between us, she’ll learn to share Mummy’s milkies (with a human and not a bit of plastic) and she’ll have to adapt to another little mite being limpet-like in the sling.

And of course, while I feel blissfully relaxed in this pregnancy and perhaps naively optimistic about a second baby, I can’t help but feel a leeetle bit intreipidly curious about what tandem nursing will be like, and keeping them both happy during the night times.

I am fairly confident that all those juicy hormones will smother everything in glazey eyed love for a while, making it all okay for me.

And hopefully Ramona’s love for babies (and I hope she loves the new one a little bit more than the ones she frequently sits on/ covers in Marmite) will help her ride out the changes. We just have 5 months to get her used to the idea that the new kid on the block will be a bit noisier than the garlic and a bit more demanding than my belly button!


Breastfeeding Olympics- Toddler Heat

2 August, 2012

Here we are in London, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2012 Games.

Taking her place in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Ramona of Camberwell, London, surely she will prove to be a legend in her time. At 22 months old she has been preparing for this moment in the limelight for well over a year and a half.

Ramona starts off steady, toddling towards the goal signalling her wish for milk. In a commitment to efficiency she has discarded all words (her favourite once being “BAPS”)  and has now streamlined it to something that takes much less effort- a mere greedy smacking of her lips.

Here we are able to witness the critical difference between an Olympian and a rubbish human- TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing will steer them off course. Ramona marks out her target from the other side of the playground and makes her way over, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing other competitors out of the way, pulling at her mother’s top with a verocity that gives her a clear advantage. With not a glance at the teenage boys huddled in the corner who may be getting ready to whip out at best a smirk, Ramona tucks in.

This is what winners are made of.

Of course, like most sports there is a team to think of here and Ramona makes sure Tiny Cat, Musical Duck, Stiff Haired Playmobil Fella, Thomas the Tank Engine all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time-trials now as Ramona shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, stronger. She hurtles in for a slurp lasting just moments before running back to the game she was previously involved in. Seconds later she is back, with yet another momentary tug and a sip and a squirt high in the air for good measure. And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over mummy’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all important endurance phase. Ramona steers quickly away from her triumph in the Swift Nursing round and as we head into the night time she reveals exactly how superior her talent for perseverance is. This tiny mite is but a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when most mere mortals have to sleep.  It isn’t just chance that Ramona’s slogan is Sleep is for the Weak.

In the final round Ramona assures her supremacy by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking mummy’s nose AND poking mummy’s tonsils AND singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

And, we get a glimpse at just how critical the apparatus are, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on and knelt on in a keen display of athletic versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT! The Champion of the World in Toddler Breastfeeding Olympics, Ramona Lily of Camberwell. Dizzying heights for a toddler of such slight stature. If she could speak she would surely thank her team and all her fans but instead she simply stares adoringly up at her mummy and her mammory glands in a profound demonstration of team effort.

Back over to the Aquatic Centre now where our beloved Becky Adlington is stepping into the water…

It is World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s to a world free from breastfeeding  misinformation and myths, where women can nurse their children without being mocked or derided, where breastfeeding mothers can get applauded and celebrated and supported, and where walls put up between breastfeeders and bottlefeeders are pulled down because we are all mammas, all wanting the absolute best for our little legends.  Woop woop!

Activism, Attachment parenting, Feminism

My tiny tyrant? Feminism and attachment parenting

3 April, 2012

Er. Ramona has a new thing. It involves calling my breasts baps. “BAPS! BAPS!” she yells as she pats my mammary glands.

It isn’t particularly pleasing – clearly she is spending too much time in the company of those objectifying truck drivers and sweaty sexist builders. (Must get new baby sitters.)

I am currently wrapping my aching brain around the concept of feminist motherhood. (Yeah. One who loves a dash of fashion, who staggers towards bra-off-o-clock every evening, because, shiver my timbers, I do have to wear that thing most of the day.) I am wrapping; embracing it, wrestling with it, assuming it.

For these first 17 months of Ramona’s life I sat a little uneasily- kind of comfortable on the sofa of my new mummydom, but with a pesky toy car under my thigh- this small sticky sense that being a mother was gobbling me up;  my other identity, my desires, ambitions, hobbies.

Credit: The Radical Housewife

It is AMAZING that becoming a parent does that to you- you suddenly realise that you think NOTHING of yourself in comparison to your baby, without one single doubt you would put aside everything just to love them. Knowing that you have an intrinsic goodness, an inherent ability to sacrifice all of you– that is a pretty incredible human experience.

But, in practice it is the mother that actually tends to do that. Especially so when practicing attachment parenting, I genuinely do reckon that the first year of a baby’s life is like a second gestation. They need us, they want us, to be there every moment, our nipples in mouths. For most, daddies just don’t cut it. (Although, there is one society where moobs/ daddy breasts will do – some even lactating?!)

And in practice is really does have an impact on our empowered selves. This nurse all night, lugging on backs, mothering option we choose can seem to subsume who we are, our newborn tyrants rejecting the space we have carved out as Women with Rights .

Yet at the same time, there is a freedom in it -it allows us to get on with life. To go where we need to go, heedless of nap time and nursing  schedule. Attachment parenting turns its back on normal parenting structures, built by “experts” and imposed onto already guilty and harassed parents.

Blue Milk (brilliant blog, must read!) suggests another place that attachment parenting and feminism meet. Attachment parenting is about treating your child as if they too have rights, respecting their personhood, regardless of anything (in a child’s case, them being so small) – an idea central to feminism.

There isn’t quite enough nuance involved in mothering conversations, don’t you think? I am an attachment parent, I buy whole heartedly into the principles and have practiced nothing but. However, a lot of non-nuanced attachment parenting  philosophy would despair at me going back to work. When in fact, despite it being one of the hardest decisions to make, turns out to be one of the best I have made.

I work 2.5 days a week, my husband the same, and we share work and parenting equally, an ideal situation. And something I never thought would ever, ever happen has happened I am enjoying it as much as I used to pre-Ramona. For real, I didn’t think it could happen. Maternity leave was AWESOME, I felt fulfilled mothering but had the opportunity to get involved with Occupy London and spent days hanging out with other activist mamas. Being a full time mother has huge, under rated, potential for world changeyness.

And yet here I am now, loving my days at work as much as I love my days at home. I love my colleagues, the activists I work with, the campaigns I work on.

And it allows me to be who I am- which is exactly the person Ramona needs me to be.

A recent F Word article by Jane Chelliah heralded a new groups called Outlaw Mothers – “An outlaw mother is an empowered mother who believes that her personal self-fulfilment is a key enabler of her child’s happiness”. I love that – I am so in.

I am going to be thinking about this a bit more… with some posts in the pipe line imaginatively called “Routine Schmoutine” and “Rules Schmules”. Hehe.

Meanwhile I am off to see if I can teach Ramona how to say “Mamm-a- ry gl -an ds