This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Dagmar, her family, and the way she chooses to parent.
I grew up in Germany and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago. I studied acting in Hollywood and then attended UCLA. I met my husband – my yoga teacher – in Los Angeles 10 years ago and followed him back to where he grew up and his whole family still lives, in Westchester, NY.
We have a little boy, who is 7, and I work as a professional blogger, editor, and social media consultant from home. I founded my lifestyle blog, five years ago and sell my handmade soy candles and vintage treasures in local stores and at Dagmar’s Home Decor.
For those of us who don’t know, what is attachment parenting?
Attachment parenting to me means raising my son in a loving, compassionate way. I trust in my own inherent instincts as a mom and believe in making informed, gentle choices for our family. Attachment parenting can include natural birth, gentle parenting, co-sleeping or bedsharing, babywearing, (extended) breastfeeding, and child-let weaning.
After educating myself extensively about giving birth with a 12-week Bradley class, I had my son without drugs. We shared our bed with our son from the first day on until he was about 3 years old – as a new mom I wanted him close to me, and we all benefited from getting great sleep that way. I was determined to breastfeed him, and bedsharing made nursing him at night so much easier.
What are some of the common misconceptions about attachment parenting and the people who do it?
I think some people think attachment parenting is indulgent; that we let our kids run our lives. Let me tell you, I won’t have a bratty child – I find that as unacceptable as the next person. In my experience gentle parenting and being confident in making the parenting choices that feel right to me and our family even when outsiders don’t approve just works.
My son has always been an easy-going, sweet, well-liked child who is very independent. I only have one child to base my experience on, but bedsharing was the right choice for us, extended breastfeeding was a blessing considering how many moms are not able to breastfeed and in terms of all the health benefits that come with it, and babywearing was practical and another thing that fostered our closeness.
You have to figure out what works for your family, and then ignore the people who want to make you feel bad because they didn’t parent that way.
When did you become interested in it?
When we brought our son home, I wanted to have him close to me all the time – and he wanted the same. My doula gave me the best advise, to stay in bed with my new baby for at least three days to heal and to really get to know him and learn how to breastfeed before we had visitors.
So we learned how to safely sleep in the same bed and I so cherished falling asleep and waking up next to him. I nursed on demand and also wore him in a Maya wrap, but I only learned a couple of years later that there is a name for my kind of parenting – attachment parenting. I just followed my natural, motherly instinct – which actually takes a lot of guesswork out of parenting. Whereas other moms might be hung up on keeping a feeding schedule, it felt completely unnatural to me to be concerned with that, and I threw it away. What did feel natural was feeding my son on demand when he was hungry – babies don’t know about schedules – and he was thriving and healthy on breast milk, which is all I needed to know.
I think a lot of people are opposed to attachment parenting because it seems ‘inconvenient’ – having your child sleep in your bed might affect your own sleep patterns or your sex life, responding to your child’s every cry might affect your ability to get anything else done. Have you found that to be true? And how do you work around those needs?
Millions of moms have practiced attachment parenting because it’s convenient and feels natural – I don’t think they would if it was an imposition. I had the opposite experience of feeling inconvenienced: having my son sleep next to me let me just latch him on when he wanted to feed during the night – I never had to get up and make a bottle.
I don’t understand that argument that making a bottle is easier or less work; I was making the milk that was always the right temperature and designed for my son right there! Having my son in a different room, away from me, would have felt unnatural to me and not have honored both of our needs to be close to each other.
Because I nursed on demand and he was fed without having to wait for a bottle to be made, my son never cried much and was a very content and easy-going baby. We could take him everywhere because I always had his milk for him – what could be easier?
Bedsharing doesn’t work for every family, but it worked best for us. We all got much better sleep that way, but some families don’t and they’ll figure out the best arrangement for them.
In your opinion, how has your son benefited from this approach to parenting?
I only have one child and can only speak from that experience, but my son is a wonderful child I’m blessed to be the mother of. He is a joy to be around, he’s sweet and funny and cuddly. We have a very close relationship and I hope that will always be the case. He gets along well with other kids and makes me proud all the time. I couldn’t ask for a better son.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from doing this that any of us could use in our day-to-day life?
I always encourage moms to follow their own instincts – they are usually correct. You are the expert to parent your child – no one else is. If someone criticizes you or doesn’t agree with your choices, they probably just feel uncomfortable because they are questioning their own parenting style after seeing yours. For some reason parenting in a different way threatens their parenting skills.
My mother didn’t breastfeed me and put me in a crib – and I know for myself that that wouldn’t have worked. I’m sad that she never experienced the feeling of being able to feed her child with milk she produced and never felt the joy of falling asleep holding her child. I will cherish those moments forever. Waking up to a little arm wrapped around you – it doesn’t get much better than that.Thanks so much for sharing, Dagmar! Have any of you guys used attachment parenting methods? How have they worked for you?