“Nothing is more important in the world today than the nurturing that children receive in the first three years of life, for it is in these earliest years that the capacities for trust, empathy, and affection originate.” ~ Elliott Barker, M.D
How could you disagree with this statement? For me, I completely agree with the first few years of life being the foundation for a well adjusted child. I know Kevin and I are big believers in what is called Attachment Parenting.
If you had told me before I had children I would be a big believer in babywearing, nursing, co-sleeping, not letting our children cry it out, etc, I may have said, "yeah, right". My baby will cry it out, she'll never be in our bed and she'll be fine. When we brought Mairead home, she and I would fall asleep in bed together. We all slept better, and to be honest, it just felt right. For 9 months my child had been snuggled up inside of me with every need being met. She never felt hunger, cold, or alone; I was always there to meet every need before she even felt it. All of a sudden, she was born, and she started to feel hunger, cold and without her mommy. I certainly couldn't expect my child to all of a sudden be okay without me, she needed her mommy to be close with her.
I wanted to make sure I was sensitive to my children's cues. When my baby cried, it was for a reason, and I wanted to make sure we responded promptly to those cries. I firmly believe that a baby cries for a reason. I read the first 12 weeks an infant does not know they are now separate from their mother, so when they are put down (especially in a bassinet, etc), they may feel as though something is missing from them. It completely makes sense, and I think after having Clara, this was particularly true for her. She hated to be put down or away from me, and it is only until very recent that she can ride in the car without screaming, now, once she hears my voice, she knows she is okay.
I never believed I would be an advocate of co-sleeping either. Like I mentioned above, it was after Mairead was born that I started to be a believer in it. Once Kevin and I realized how much better life was with more sleep, and a happy infant, we were sold. This is what people did hundreds of years ago; they slept with their baby. Mairead slept in our bed until recently (just in the morning), Lilah slept in our bed until about 10-12 months old (when she wanted to be in her own bed), and Clara currently sleeps with us. She falls asleep in her bed next to mine, and when she wakes the first time, she comes into our bed and spend the rest of the night there. It just feels right to us, and if it helps our child feel more secure, we are 100% on board with it.
We also love babywearing! We love our fleece and cotton adjustable couch from Kangaroo Korner, and have used it with all three girls. Whenever our girls were fussy and couldn't settle, all we had to do was place them in the pouch, and immediately they would settle down. It was our lifesaver. Not only did it help with a fussy baby, but it also gave you your hands back, which it vital when you have other little ones to take care of, too! When our girls got bigger, we used the Ergo Baby Carrier, it is awesome. Babywearing felt so natural for me (and Kevin). It was a way our baby could feel safe and secure, and for us, that was important.
Nursing is a vital part of raising my girls. I had always been a supporter of breastfeeding moms, but now that I am nursing, and have been nursing for almost 4 years consecutively, there is so much more to just feeding your baby. For me, nursing isn't just feeding my baby, it is bonding with them, and allowing them to feel secure. It is the most natural thing, and I feel so lucky to have been able to nurse my babies for so long. Nursing has been and is a very important part of my girls life thus far. Mairead nursed for close to 30 months, and even though she got little nutrition from my milk at that point, she was getting love and learning affection and trust. I love that Mairead has such fond memories of nursing, and now, with two younger sisters who are nursing, she is so supportive and loving. She nurses her babies, and talks about how good it makes them feel. It's an amazing feeling for me to hear her talk like that.
There have been some tough times where I had felt like I wanted to let my baby cry it out, or not sleep with us, but I took a deep breath, and asked myself what was important. I thought about all the people in our life who were trying to have babies, or who lost babies, and I started to feel lucky. I had beautiful children, and if all they wanted was their mommy or daddy to hold, rock or nurse them, I felt lucky I could give them that, and we did.
I feel as though this style of parenting will give my children the extra boost to be caring, compassionate, connected, and confident children. I want my children to know that me and Kevin are always there for them. I know we cannot take all the credit for who our girls become, but I do know the way our children were raised in the first years of their life will help them become strong, independent individuals.