Christian Attachment Parenting

Photo Credit: Gustty

In our parenting journey, our Lord has gently led us. Our children are still small, and we’re certainly not “parenting experts.” But as we seek to simply place our lives and little ones back into His hands each day, He faithfully shapes us through His refining.

When God suddenly placed our baby girl in our arms, our parenting journey began with a step of faith.

And each step after that, still calls us to faith.

We have parented “instinctively,” clinging to our Father’s hand, desiring that our relationship with our little ones would point them to the even greater relationship with our Savior.

Even before we knew of the term “attachment parenting,” apparently, that is what we were doing.

In Dr. Dobson’s book “Seven Solutions for Burned Out Parents,” he reminisces about his own childhood. He describes the memory of living in a one-bedroom home with his parents, and sleeping in a little bed next to theirs at night.  When he would awake in the night, needing reassurance in the dark, his dad would simply hold out his hand to hold, allowing him to fall back asleep- comforted. In essence, he describes this experience as mirroring to our children the “accessibility” of Christ.

As a Christ-follower and a parent, I desire for my children to yearn for God’s voice, to call out to Him, and to know that we serve the God Who Sees. As we give Him our lives, He is always there, offering us Himself.

In keeping my children close during those early days, they eventually begin taking steps in life on their own with a secure foundation of knowing they are cared for, and have the safety of consistent boundaries.

The physical contact between parents and baby is so important. It is a sad state of affairs, that so many little ones today (at least in the US), are consistently deprived of this necessity.

It is not unusual for a new baby to be immediately scrubbed and placed in a plastic bassinet- under bright lights- directly after their birth, instead of snuggling with their mama. Soon, the family heads out, carrying their infant in a sturdy carseat “carrier”, where the child is dangled by a carseat handle, viewing the world from their parent’s knee level. After the car ride, the child often returns home to be contained in a crib, swing, seat, or even left in that carseat carrier, just brought into the home, and set on the floor. After the necessary feedings, changing, a few fun giggles & play, they are sent to bed in a crib- often in a room alone.


Does this experience sound familiar?

On some level, it is certainly tidy and convenient. But I believe it is not what God has called me to, in parenting.

Photo Credit: BabaSteve

Kat describes the ongoing years of sleepless nights as dumb. I respectfully disagree (as much as I admire this delightful lady).

No matter how much help I have available in my life, no one else can “be mama” to my little ones through the dark of the night or the wee morning hours; to offer the soothing comfort of mama’s breast.

When the blessings of children arrive at God’s designated spacing, there is often very little time to “rest up” before the next one arrives (“on demand” nursing can help with this, however). But I trust my Abba Father knows best, and He is faithful to carry me, and sustain me (even though I am certainly tired!). Better than anyone else, He knows my needs, and how to fill them.

As I pursue gentle birth, wear my little ones for at least the first two years, nursing “on demand” during those months of infancy (allowing them to self-wean/”schedule”), and sleep close, I am nurturing them during this season in a way that no one else can.

What a blessing it is, to snuggle a child close, wrapped up in my arms to offer assurance, new strength, or nourishment during their often challenging and overwhelming seasons of growth and change.

I am assisted in this intense journey
, by my incredible husband (who consistently participates in baby-wearing and co-sleeping/night-soothing), by family members who cuddle fussy, teething little ones (so that mama can have a snack, nap, or shower!), and most of all- by my Lord, who continues to speak to me about sacrificial, missional living.

Through the weary days and long nights, I am offered His true comforting rest, the satisfying living water, which God has offered to women through the ages, such as for Hagar and the Samaritan woman. During challenging seasons of mothering, I have often been refreshed by meditating upon Psalm 23.

Above all, I want my little ones to truly know the God who carries us, who hears us, who cares. As their mama, I am charged to speak with them through everyday moments “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6), regularly impressing upon their hearts to know and obey our Lord.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Join me each Thursday for our Simple Living series! This is post #104.

Photo Credits: Gustty, BabaSteve

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41 comments to Christian Attachment Parenting

  • Beautiful. I agree. And, thought it seems like forever in some ways, believe me when I say it goes by fast. I am glad you are relishing every moment!

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  • This was a beautiful post, and I agree with your sentiments whole heartedly. Perhaps I will get a chance to meet you at The Relevant Conference. You have a lovely blog, and your niche is similar to my own :) Bless you, sister!

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  • Hi again :) I just went back and read Kat’s post, and I felt I needed to comment that the “dumb” she mentions seems to be more related to taking the entire responsibility of “round the clock” parenting upon yourself and neglecting your own well being in the process. I am totally supportive of attachment parenting, but if your husband (and or occasionally a loving aunt or grandparent, etc) is willing to take a night here and there so you can get a good night’s sleep (once the nursing days are over, of course) this will rejuvenate and help restore the health of a busy mom. So important! I am a God fearing, spirit led woman as much as my sinful nature allows, but shortly after having our third baby within 3 years, while trusting in His timing, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I followed Nourishing Traditions principles throughout my pregnancies and while nursing, but can’t help but feeling that perhaps we should have more purposely taken my own health and time for rest between pregnancies into our own hands. Just something I felt was worth sharing, not to bring fear, but for knowledge sake. Not all bodies are created alike when it comes to handling the extreme physical demands that accompany the childbearing years.

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    Michele @ Frugal Granola Reply:

    @Leah, Thanks, Leah! I’d love to meet you at Relevant.

    I love your input on taking care of mama’s health. If you have that “gap” in between nursing seasons, it is certainly an important time to rest-up & recover, as I mentioned. (It doesn’t always happen, though. I got pregnant with our 2nd baby, when #1 was 23 months old.)

    My husband tries to be creative in helping me take care of my health needs, since sleeping through the night isn’t really an option at this point. I feel blessed.

    My heart is merely to caution that mamas can swing to the other side of the extreme, and focus so much on “taking care of themselves,” that they miss the point of sacrificial, refining, missional living that God desires of parents.

    Blessings to you!
    Michele

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  • I hear your heart and I love it. :-)

    I thought I’d offer a small clarification, though. The situation to which I was referring when I used the word dumb (which was probably a distracting word choice) was one of a woman who declared that she hadn’t had a night of sleep in 16 years. Her youngest was 6.

    16 years without a SINGLE complete night of sleep (when her husband, in laws or older children could have helped for at least one night out of 5,480) is both uncommon and unwise.

    However, I mentioned this story as more of an example of an attitude rather than exclusively a comment on her specific situation.

    The attitude being that we do not need to take pride in caring for our children to our own detriment.

    As mothers we should put our kids NEEDS before our own, but to consistently (i.e. 16 years) put their WANTS before our needs is unhealthy. It is not something in which to take pride (i.e. Play martyr). We should take pride in finding a solution that is healthiest for the whole family.

    I like to think of it like the quarterback slide. QB’s often don’t dive for extra yardage. They slide so they won’t be tacked. They are highly valuable to the team. If they get hurt, the whole team suffers. It’s a fine balance.

    If we are the best ones to comfort and love on our children, we need to make sure we remain consistently physically and emotionally able to do that to the best of our ability.

    All that to say, I think we’re on the same page, I just made a distracting word choice. :-)

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    Michele @ Frugal Granola Reply:

    @Kat @ Inspired To Action, Thanks so much for your response, Kat! :) It’s great to know more of the background of your illustration.

    Certainly, pampering to little ones’ “wants” (not needs) at mama’s detriment would not be healthy (or godly).

    My sleepless nights over the years have come from pregnancy/nursing- not something that anyone else can fill in for. If this pattern continues in our family, I may end up with quite a few years-worth of consistently not sleeping through the night- just as in your example.

    Although, the age of six *does* seem too old for that, so I would agree there! :)

    Blessings,
    Michele

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    ali @ an ordinary mmom Reply:

    “The attitude being that we do not need to take pride in caring for our children to our own detriment.”

    Amen and amen! Seriously, I know people like this, and I’ve been that woman at times, it isn’t healthy.

    I do love the heart of this post and am looking forward to those first cuddling moments again with a new little one in the spring, Lord willing!

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    Michele Reply:

    Absolutely.
    The moment we take pride in our parenting, is the moment we take our eyes off of Jesus.

    Blessings on your new little one! :)
    Michele

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  • Jennifer

    Thank you for writing this post. It is a beautiful description of godly “attachment parenting” (which is based on the research of Sigmund Freud, not exactly the best role model).

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  • I love this. We do many attachment parenting things, like babywearing, extended nursing, tandem nursing, cosleeping, gentle birth , etc… but I frequently get frustrated because I feel like I’m doing them from such a different perspective that I don’t “fit” in the attachment parenting community. And, sadly, I often feel like a bit of an oddball in the Christian parenting community because of our parenting, in which we strive to image our loving, caring God to our children. This post makes me feel less alone. :)

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  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by frugalgranola, frugalgranola and frugalgranola, Kat @Inspired2Action. Kat @Inspired2Action said: Nine months of blogging & I have my first controversy. Ooohh. Catfight with @frugalgranola http://bit.ly/9kdpia //Not really. She's awesome. [...]

  • Kendra H.

    I think balance is truly the key. We don’t practice attachment parenting, but we do try to practice that every member of our family is a welcome member. The most common comment folks make about our children is that they are happy!

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  • You’re a braver woman than I was. When my first (now 7) was born, all ‘good’ Christian parents subscribed to the school of thought that babies needed to adapt to the parents’ life, not the other way around. You were supposed to get them on an eating/sleeping/play schedule essentially from the moment they came home from the hospital.

    When we’d been home just two days, I knew something was wrong. The doctor was concerned that he’d continued to lose weight (dropping to 7 lbs from his healthy 8 lbs 2 oz birthweight); I was more concerned about his congestion and labored breathing.

    He was hospitalized with RSV at 10 days old; one of the conditions for release was that he needed to re-attain his birthweight.

    At that point, all ideas of scheduling when out the window. I fed him whenever he seemed willing to eat. I held him if he seemed agitated. When we did get to leave a week later I needed to know that his breathing was ok, so he slept in the room with us. I didn’t know the label for a few more months, but we were on the Attachment Parenting path.

    It wasn’t a popular choice and I often didn’t speak about it in large groups of moms. It was a breath of fresh air to encounter another who did things the same way.

    That experience made me a different kind of parent–in a lot of ways it helped me to become less selfish than I would have been inclined to be. I also learned not to be critical of other’s parenting choices. I think God leads each of us down different paths based on who we are, the children he gives us, and the work He wants to complete in us. I try to extend the same grace I hoped I’d receive.

    Kudos for being specific about the path you’re on. I’ve traveled it too and it was definitely the right one for us.

    Blessings,
    Mary Hampton

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  • Perfect! I found myself ‘unexpected AP’ after the birth of my first. It just seemed so right to keep her in a sling, and keep her with me, feed on demand, etc. But I’m really bad at explaining it to others- I don’t fit in completely with the AP circle in my town, nor do I fit in with mainstream Christian parents. It took me a few years to find some like minded friends, they didn’t have to do everything the same as I did (one of my best friends is a scheduler) but I do need them to understand why I choose what I do :)

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  • This is a really interesting topic. Since I’m not a mom yet, I haven’t really formed my opinion about the schedule/on demand issue. Looks like I need to study up! :)

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  • @RefreshMom, Thanks, Mary!

    One misconception out there, is that parents often don’t understand that “on-demand” fed babies, really do develop a schedule- you’re really not constantly feeding them. Since you’re wearing them, they usually adapt very easily to the schedule of life around them.

    Dr. Sears talks about this concept in his Attachment Parenting book. He comments that “attachment parenting doesn’t mean not saying ‘no.’” :) Discipline and boundaries are very important to disciple your little one in a walk with Christ. But it can be gentle on babies. :)

    Blessings to you & your little boy!
    Michele

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  • Love this!

    Another way to think about feeding babies and “demand feeding” specifically is to take the approach–”When the baby is hungry, I’ll feed him.” Naturally, we eat when we are hungry. Why would we not do that for the littlest ones? And like you said Michele, babies do typically fall into a pattern! I don’t regret doing this with my kids, especially since it is for such a short season! I will have the rest of my life to sleep!

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  • As I sit here weary from a teething baby who hasn’t been sleeping well… I so needed this. Thank you!

    (And it is so fitting with my last blog post about being thankful for online friends!)

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  • Rebekah

    Thanks for your thoughts, Michele! I didn’t know the term “Attachment Parenting” when I had my daughter 19 months ago, but I just sort of instinctively fell into the things you’re talking about. My daughter was high energy – in the womb and out of it! She was a difficult nurser … a snacker, very easily distracted. She cried and fussed unless we constantly walked her around the house or took her outside. (We live in Oregon and she was a winter baby, so getting outside was TOUGH!) She absolutely HATED being in a sling or a pack, unless we wore her facing out and then she was only for a short period of time. The co-sleeping worked for a few weeks and then she suddenly refused to sleep in the same bed with us. As soon as we moved her to a bassinet next to our bed, she began sleeping much more soundly. Because my baby wasn’t acting like the cuddly, mommy’s girl I had expected, I felt like there must be something wrong with one of us. I worried and worried about her fussiness and what seemed like her desire to be as independent of me as she possibly could be.

    But then – a miracle! She learned how to crawl! The independent mobility made all the difference in her moods. Suddenly, she morphed from fussy and fretful into a happy and bubbly baby. Now, she is a happy and confident toddler – social, outgoing and although still independent, perfectly content to cuddle on mommy’s lap or come into our bed to nurse in the morning. I know that my experience was different from the classic attachement parenting model, but I think that there’s some common ground in the way I learned to tune in to my daughter’s needs and respond accordingly. I’m sure my next child will be completely different and present an entire new set of challenges for me to figure out!

    Question: In your comments, I keep seeing references to Christian parenting vs. attachement parenting. Are these two things traditionally opposed? Forgive my ignorance, I guess I need to start reading up on parenting philosophy. I’m out of the loop!

    P.S. I love your blog, it’s great!

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    Michele @ Frugal Granola Reply:

    @Rebekah, Our little girl wanted to quickly transition to her little bassinet, too. She loves her space! :) Once we adopted her, she was bottle-fed, but insisted that only Mama & Daddy could give her a bottle. By doing that, she revealed to us the need for closeness with her- just as if she was nursing.

    Our son also got fussy until he learned to crawl, too- everyone else was walking! He’s also been a “snacker” nurser.

    Both of our children have had different “phases” to their babywearing, preferring different carriers/positions at different ages. And sometimes, they just need to get down and wiggle! :)

    The main thing is to just keep that close relationship, to disciple them, and learn to live missionally together, simply living under God’s direction and wisdom. (Our children accompany us on our various ministries- whether it’s “at church” or comforting a grieving friend- they’ve been there.)

    Blessings,
    Michele

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    Sarah DJ Reply:

    @Rebekah,
    It sounds like you are describing my 4 month old daughter – our first child…thank you so much for your comment! Everything describes her (except the bassinet issue)…snacking, walking her constantly, crying and fussing, hating the carrier unless she’s facing out, extremely active, etc. Since she’s my first, I have nothing to compare her to besides everyone else’s perfect babies (haha), and I’ve been saying once she can crawl perhaps she’ll be happier… Even if it doesn’t end up being the case, your comment is encouraging :-)

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  • Parenting is such a miracle and a journey, no matter which way you choose to go! I’m so thankful for God’s grace in allowing each mother to do what she is called to do for her individual child and to do what’s best for her family.

    My husband and I definitely aren’t within the Attachment Parenting philosophy… but it wasn’t premeditated, either. We made decisions as we grew to know the needs of our little boy, and by His hand guiding us as we were being transformed to be more like Christ.

    Oh, I had dreams of being a breast-feeding and baby-wearing mama! But little did I know, all of that would change with medical complications and a boy who absolutely hated being worn! :)

    I love hearing your heart here, and I love hearing how you’re parenting your kids by His grace alone!

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  • Thank you for the beautiful post. I have found that many Christians don’t agree with attachment parenting, so it is very refreshing to read this.

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  • Thanks so much for this post! I have found great joy in attachment parenting. As the wife of a minster I cannot begin to tell you how great attachment parenting has been great in allowing me to continue ministering alongside of my husband. I have been able to attend numerous weddings, funerals, spent a week at youth camp, visits, counseled women, and even teach a middle school girls bible study all with my son in a Moby or Ergo carrier. I am amazed at how quiet he will be when I am wearing him even at 9 months. Our philosophy of parenting has included the thought: have baby will travel and continue to minister in the lives of others. I really think that attachment parenting is what God had in mind for parents (although it does look a little differently in variously families). It has been such a blessing to my family!

    I am curious though what attachment parenting looks like in other families. Is there a point where a baby needs to be taught to lay down quietly and go to sleep (assuming that he is not wet or hungry)?

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  • Lynn

    Thank you so much for this! I have spent the last couple of weeks up most of the night soothing a teething baby and this was such an encouragement that I am doing the right thing!

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  • I LOVE this post!

    But I was wondering what your take on this is: We co-sleep with our children in their infancy. Our first was in our bed for 6 months, and our 11-month-old is still in our bed, with no signs of wanting her own bed any time soon! I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s wrong to do that, that it gets in the way of the marriage bed, will ruin my marriage, etc. It doesn’t do that at ALL for us (quite the opposite, actually), but I was wondering what your take on that is.

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    Michele Reply:

    @Audrey, Perhaps cosleepers become more “creative”? ;)

    I agree, that family closeness does seem to nurture marriage; to enjoy snuggling close with this little blessing, who was created in that bed together.

    We believe that it is important to nurture marriage everyday, throughout daily life, and not just “in bed.” As we seek to bless one another, have regular date nights, etc., we can invest in each other and nurture our marriage in a relational level.

    Obviously, “marital intimacy” is reserved for privacy (I’m choosing words carefully, so I don’t get yucky spammers!) :) but the additional little snuggles, kisses, etc. throughout the day show our children how much in love their parents are, and provide that security, as well as strengthening our marriage.

    Hopefully that makes sense. :)

    Blessings,
    Michele

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  • I wanted to reply to Amanda’s question about whether you should teach a baby to go to sleep on their own. Most people in attachment parenting circles probably wouldn’t agree with my ideas on babies and sleep as I have sleep-trained both my children, and they both started sleeping through the night at about two months. God designed our bodies to need sleep and I think it is important for both babies and mommies to get a good night’s sleep to be at their best. That being said, I am extremely attentive to my children’s needs, and both of my children are extremely happy – everyone comments on how happy and easy-going they are.

    Anyway, in response to that question, Amanda, just as we parents are responsible to teach and train our children in other ways, I think it is important to teach our children to be able to go to sleep on their own. A baby is not too young to learn this! Most parents would agree with the fact that it is amazing what babies can learn! Obviously, like you said, make sure the baby is not hungry or wet, but then, at the baby’s bedtime or naptime, lay him down awake. You will most likely have crying at first, but this doesn’t usually last longer than a few days – although be forewarned that your baby is plenty old enough to know his own mind and be stubborn!

    This was longer than I meant it to be, and my intent is not to disagree with everyone, as I actually agree with many attachment parenting ideas, but I did want to offer another opinion!

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    Michele Reply:

    @Annaleah, I would agree with you, that as parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children. Part of this, is helping them get enough rest.

    My first baby slept through the night very early on, the second one has not. Although baby #2 does wake up hungry at night, we have worked to help him learn to settle back down for sleeping, using gentle tips from the book “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”: http://astore.amazon.com/fruggran-20/detail/0071381392

    I certainly don’t subscribe to the “cry-it out” philosophy, although there will be times when a little one will fuss for awhile in our arms, as they learn. :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Blessings,
    Michele

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    Natalie Reply:

    @Annaleah, I agree that it is best for everyone to get a good night’s sleep. Co-sleeping has allowed all of us to get great sleep when our little ones were young. And now, my two year old happily sleeps through the night in his own bed… and I miss his snuggles! His little sister is happily in that spot now, though. :)

    One of the reasons that I have chosen not to train my children to sleep through the night (besides feeling that cry it out sleep training is not being compassionate to their weakness), is that I believe that God designed breastfeeding for ideal child spacing. Ecological breastfeeding prevents another pregnancy for 6 months in 96% of women. To me, that indicates that the ideal is to nurse that way… keeping baby close, breastfeeding on cue (day and night), using breastfeeding to comfort your baby, breastfeeding in a lying-down position for naps and at night, using no bottles or pacifiers. It is a fact that night nursing has a stronger dampening effect per session on a woman’s fertility than nursing during the day.

    More information on ecological nursing here: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/normal/fertility.html

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    Michele Reply:

    Absolutely, Natalie! :)
    In my reference to “sleep training,” I merely meant that we try to give our baby “sleep cues” (such as a blankie, “night-night” sounds, etc), letting him know that it is time to settle down and rest, and not play in the bed! :) Whether he is snuggled up with us, or in his own bed, we still do lots of night nursing. But he is now comfortable to settle himself down with his blankie after a nursing session to fall back asleep, instead of having to fall asleep at the breast. :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this great information!
    Blessings,
    Michele

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  • Love this!! Thank you for sharing from your heart. We are so blessed to have a Savior who wraps up in his unfailing arms in order to teach us to do the same with our children. Many blessings to you and know you are prayed for.

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  • Hi Michelle

    Enjoyed meeting you at Relevant!

    Just have to say… night nursing does not prevent pregnancy in many young women. I was ovulating again 6 weeks (SIX WEEKS!!!) after my daughter was born, when we were still nursing ’round the clock, and co-sleeping (she was in a bassinet, not in our unsafe high pillow-topped bed). I have other friends who’ve had the same experience– especially young, healthy women. Now, whether my cycles were “infertile” or not I don’t care to find out! I know way too many exhausted young moms who started out wanting to “let God space their kids” and had children every year until they finally stopped.

    There definitely CAN be a discrepancy between ‘attachment parenting’ and ‘Christian parenting…’ but there doesn’t HAVE to be; nor do they have to be the same thing! So much is personal discernment! We are Christian parents who do some aspects of ‘attachment parenting’ but who also love elements of scheduling (which isn’t hard or cold like some make it out to be). Reading on attachment parenting blogs I meet many non-Christian parents who are totally idolizing their children. And I have one friend who is a staunch ‘attachment parent’ and a Christian.

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  • …to clarify. My friends stopped having kids yearly because they re-thought their position on the Biblical view of conception, and left behind their previous understanding.

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  • [...] not “babywise” fans in our family. But we strive to discipline our children in this concept of Biblical obedience with consistent boundaries, using “Tomato Staking” and baby-wearing. (And they’re [...]

  • Alison P.

    What a beautiful post! I’m going to have to become a regular visitor to your blog! My husband and I also practice “Christian” attachment parenting. It is very, very hard to find other Christians who are parenting this way, which both surprises and saddens me. I love all of Dr. Sears books, and I’ve been able to find other good books and online resources, but not many from Christian moms, which is really what I’d like to find! I only have two children so far (they are 23 months apart), but we hope to be blessed with many more. My oldest still co-sleeps, and he is 2.5 years old now. And we definitely still parent him to sleep at night. To me, being a mother who parents this way is definitely utilizing more of Christ in me as I die to self daily to care for and love my little ones. I love what you wrote – thanks for sharing!

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  • [...] bonding took work. We wore our new little baby in a sling carrier constantly, and insisted on keeping her close- even taking her to work at the office! But this gradual bonding and growth of love wasn’t a [...]

  • Meg

    Thank you thank you! My husband and I feel strongly that this is how the Lord has led our family too, and we are the only ones I know of in our church who don’t use some form of Babywise etc. It can be disheartening to not have any moms to talk to, where the only advice is to just let my little ones “cry it out” or discipline them. This is very encouraging and so true – thanks again for your post!

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  • [...] way that I approach my life is a lesson plan for my children in how to live.  What am I really telling my [...]

  • Dawn

    This is absolutely wonderful….Thank you!

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  • GREAT POST! And thank you for the resource recommendations. Some of the things you’ve said are almost verbatim what I often say. I, too, want my son to LONG for God and serve Him. We are doing everything we can to give our son the foundation he needs to succeed in his faith, but we need all the help we can get. I’d like to recommend a brand new book I’ve been reading by Dr. Tony Evans. It’s called “Raising Kingdom
Kids: Giving Your Child a Living Faith.” He says, “It’s far easier to SHAPE A CHILD than to REPAIR AN ADULT. Raising kids who recognize and retain their identity as children of the King launches healthy adults who have the capacity to stand strong in their faith.” Equipping and guiding our children starts with us, parents! This is the most solid, thorough, inspirational and affirming parent book you’ll ever read! I love it and HIGHLY recommend it for all parents!

    [Reply]

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