True Story: I Attachment Parent

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.


Tell us a bit about yourself! 

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?

14 Comments

Sarah M

I always put myself outside of the AP camp, even though I did a lot of the same things: nursing each of my kids for a year, babywearing (we still had a stroller, but sometimes this is just easier), natural birth, but I felt pretty uncomfortable with the label. There were a lot of things we did that are not considered AP at all: vaccinating our kids, sleep training, and scheduled feeds. Obviously babies go through growth spurts at certain times, when they need to be fed more, so you feed them when they're hungry, so, there's that. However, having a schedule, the baby in their own room, getting full nights of sleep without hearing every little baby squeak and squawk kept me sane, and I don't regret my parenting choices at all. They helped me enjoy my kids, and we all had fine time of infant hood. The choices and philosophies are there to serve you, not the other way around.
Sarah M

Reply
Mel

That's what "attachment parenting" is? Huh. I guess my sister-in-law (currently pregnant with baby #10) has been doing for the past 15 years. I wonder if she knows it has a name.

Reply
Mel

Ha! She's really good at being pregnant and having babies – aside from baby #1 being breech and requiring a C-section, she hasn't had any other complications. (The next 8 babies were natural births, some with a midwife, some with nurses, some with my brother. 🙂 )

Reply
Jenny O

I think the biggest misconception about attachment parenting – one I myself had – is that it's a really "crunchy-granola" type of parenting practiced by vegans living in yurts or something. I had heard of attachment parenting while reading various parenting blogs and books while pregnant, but it wasn't really until after my daughter was born that I realized that that was what we were doing! Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and extended nursing all seemed to grow naturally out of what my daughter needed and what worked best for me and my husband. She never used a pacifier or had a "lovey", so I felt OK about nursing her until she was almost three because that was her only comfort habit. She still sleeps with us most nights (or rather, most of most nights) because I work full time and need my sleep, and if I insisted on keeping her in her bed (or crib, when she was younger) I'd be getting up and soothing her back to sleep all night (my husband cannot get up in the night due to medical issues). Our sex life is fine! You just have to be creative about timing and seizing the moment – which is a good thing whether you have a kid in your bed at night or not!

In the end, I think the most important thing is not to do (or not do) specific things (except things that are actively dangerous of course), but to do what feels natural to you as a parent and what your child shows signs of needing. That's what we did, and it turned out that the attachment style was what worked. If your kid needs their own bed and prefers sleeping alone or not being held constantly, go with that!

Reply
Elizabeth O'Wheel

It's definitely not an all or nothing thing. My 4-month-old is bottle-fed (after a long struggle with breastfeeding) and mostly sleeps in her cot in our room, but we do cosleep on occasion and I wear her constantly throughout the day. I had a drug free birth but I know plenty of gentle mothers who had caesarean sections. Attachment parenting is about doing what works best for both of you and just loving your children.

Reply
Anonymous

This was very interesting! Now that your son is 7, what does your parenting style look like?

Reply
Dagmar

We are very close, but L has never really been clingy. He knows I love and adore him, and he does the same back. I still get him to sleep every night by reading to him and humming him to sleep, and I cherish that closeness. I'm pretty laid back about parenting, but that might just be because he makes it easy on me. He's just in general a really easy-going child. I don't sweat the small stuff, but I also expect manners and encourage him to try new things at least once.

Reply
Hadia Ahmadzai-Faqiri

I had a different experience with my first child, I followed what I was told by the nurses etc. The other three children, I did attachment parenting (found name out by reading this article). It seems that even the temperament of my children who are attachment parented are different than their older sibling.

Hadia
I the Mom

Reply
Anonymous

Hmh!,Now I can breath.I am weary of people criticizing me about co sleeping with my son while he was just few months old .I wish they could read this.Thanks for letting me know what maternal instinct really is,now I know what answer to give them

Reply
Dagmar

Follow YOU instincts. You know best how to parent your child, not someone else. It's not their business. Do what works for your family 🙂

Reply

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.