Adventures in Attachment Parenting: Practicing Safe Sleep by Allison Silver
One thing that I have learned over the course of this past year is that everyone parents their children differently. Even people who subscribe to the same parenting philosophy can interpret or apply it differently based on their own situation. I have also learned that if you do not follow what our western culture perceives as “traditional” parenting people question your parenting style like you are coo-coo for CoCo Puffs! As I have shared before, my husband and I never intended to stray from the pack. But that’s what we did. We ended up choosing a parenting style that was almost the exact opposite from other couples we knew.
My husband and I had a baby two months before Gary and Kristy. Gary is the son of my father-in-law’s girlfriend Mary. Before we had children, Kristy and I both worked full time and we both fully expected to breastfeed our children for a few months and then go back to work. Being the breadwinner of the family, Kristy did just what we both had planned. She took her maternity leave, breastfed their daughter Grace for five months, and returned to work. I, on the hand, just couldn’t do it! I couldn’t leave our daughter. Not only did I not return to work, but over the course of this year my entire parenting philosophy has changed dramatically.
Gary and Kristy have chosen to use more of a “traditional” style of parenting, while my husband and I have chosen to follow the attachment parenting philosophy. It’s not that my parenting style is right and Kristy’s is wrong. It’s just that we are different. We all started this parenting journey on the same path. While Gary and Kristy were blessed with a very easy-going mellow baby, we were blessed with a high-needs baby who did not respond well to many of the “traditional” parenting ideals. Instead of forcing our baby into a mold that we knew she did not fit into, we discovered other ways of parenting that made a lot more sense to us.
We have never spent more than a few hours with Gary and Kristy and our different parenting styles have never really come into question, but that all changed this past weekend. This weekend we visited my father-in-law Al and his girlfriend Mary in their new home. They invited us to come spend Thanksgiving weekend with them and Mary’s family. There would be about a dozen of us staying for the weekend including Gary, Kristy, their baby Grace, and Kristy’s parents. My husband and I knew that our parenting practices might come into question but we weren’t too worried about it. My husband even joked with me that maybe we should print out a pamphlet on attachment parenting so we can just hand it to people when we are out. That might not be a bad idea.
For the most part our weekend went well. There weren’t too many uncomfortable silences and everyone was respectful of each other’s differences, that was until Saturday night rolled around. Around 7:30 baby Grace was tired and they put her to bed in the pack and play. Our daughter Charley was nowhere near tired since she had a late nap during an afternoon walk. So we stayed up with her and continued to play. After Grace went to sleep all of the adults were sitting around the dining room table while my husband, father-in-law, and I continued to play with Charley. As we played on the floor, all of the adults were looking at us. A few minutes later the questions began.
“What time is Charley’s bed time?
“When she is tired.” Dead silence.
My husband and I felt like somehow we didn’t get the memo that all babies should be in bed by 7:30. Then came the awkward question of the night.
“Where does she sleep?”
“In your bed?”
“Yep.” Again dead silence.
“Aren’t you afraid of squishing her?”
“No. We feel very safe.”
“I guess I just watch too much Dr. Phil.”
To which my husband responded, “Yeah and we read too much Dr. Sears.”
From there Gary proceeded to tell us about several accounts that he had heard of where parents had killed their babies accidentally while sleeping with them. I love that people feel that they have to tell us this whenever they hear that we co-sleep with our child. I told Gary that I had heard the same stories and in most cases the parents were under the influence of some substance and were not practicing safe co-sleeping practices. As I said this I began to laugh! Safe co-sleeping practices. This is what my life has turned into. I guess we have really become parents! We are no longer concerned about safe sex practices. Now we are all about safe sleeping! Perhaps we should create a pamphlet on attachment parenting that we can hand out to others and we can call it, “How to practice safe sleeping.” Kristy and Gary may never fully understand our parenting choices and I’m sure the awkward questions will continue but hopefully they will take some comfort in knowing that we do practice safe sleep!