As is not uncommon, I received an email from someone who earnestly hoped that I was an expert on attachment parenting. I’m not. I just play one on TV. Oh, no, I turned that offer down (it’s true, I was invited to come on the Dr. Phil show to talk about attachment parenting!).
More seriously, I’ve just been using an attachment parenting approach first with my children when they were young, and now as best I can as a single dad who has my kids approximately 50% of the time. It’s not easy, though Linda and I are at least in pretty close sync about what we are and aren’t okay with from a parenting perspective.
Anyway, back to the email I received. Here’s what the gal asked:
“I am new to the whole Attachment Parenting thing and I came across your blog when I googled AP. I am reading Naomi Aldort’s book Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. I agree with most of everything I have learned so far, but I am already kind of stressing myself out which in turn is going to stress my boys out, which defeats the whole point.
My problem is I have four-month-old twin boys. I read the other day that if you leave your baby crying it will increase the cortisol in the baby’s brain and could cause problems later in life. Now when I’m feeding one baby and he other baby goes off I feel bad if I can’t get to him right away. I have trouble trying to carry them both at the same time?? I tried a Moby wrap but that didn’t work to well. Right now I take turns carry them each in the sling at different times.
I still have a lot to learn about AP and I’m trying to take a deep breath and relax and do the best I can. Do you have any ideas about how I can do AP type things with both the boys???”
My response is…
First off, take a deep breath and recognize that “research” can often make it harder, not easier to parent. If there’s one aspect of attachment parenting that has helped me as a parent it’s that we need to trust ourselves to parent well.
That’s how you can eliminate the stress portion of your life: acknowledge that you are doing the very best you can and that you love your babies and want to give them every break possible as they grow up.
Now, just as an overprotective parent who never lets their child overcome frustration, learn how to entertain themselves when bored or get up again on their own volition after falling has the best of intentions but is stifling their baby out of their own fears, you too might be overly anxious and trying too hard.
If you can’t carry both babies at once, then perhaps a stroller for one and the sling for the other works, and you swap who is where on the hour or daily. If one’s asleep, they can do just fine in a crib while the other lays with you and plays with a soft toy. If you can’t nurse both, then nurse one for a bit, swap, and swap back. Both of them will learn that when they’re pulled off your breast it’s not forever, just for a few minutes, and both will sense your care and concern.
But, hey, I’m a dad, and there was only so much I could offer my babies when they were tiny and needed to be with mama 24×7, so what I’d rather do is ask you, my dear readers, what you suggest in this situation? Have you had twins, and if so, how did you deal with the extra challenges of balancing their individual needs?
Meditate… these you can do in the midst of it all (no need for any special time, place, position, nothing – just right there in the middle of it all works just fine)
You know, problems like these are exactly why the AP movement drives me nuts. Those studies about cortisol and long-term problems were based on babies who were being regularly neglected, not babies who had to wait a bit while mum was dealing with another child. But people in your situation are left feeling unnecessarily guilty because of the way that the AP movement exaggerates and distorts the research.
The main thing is to spend time with each baby separately having fun with them doing the things that babies like – tickling, blowing raspberries, talking to them, repeating their sounds back, those kinds of things. Try to have a bit of time each day when you’re focused on each baby individually, increasing this to about 20 – 30 mins as they get older. Obviously a lot of the time it’s impossible to sit down for that length of time with one baby while the other one waits, so don’t worry about not being able to do it all in one go! Just make sure you take the time as and when you can, during feeds and nappy changes and spare moments, to focus on and interact with and enjoy each baby individually. The rest of the time, cuddle them when you can. Pat them. If one is crying and you’re holding the other, see if you can spare a hand to pat and rub him. Talk to him or sing to him. And bear in mind that, no matter what the AP movement may claim, no baby has ever been emotionally scarred just by having to wait their turn now and again. If that was the case, everyone other than first-born children would be emotionally damaged. 😉
By the way, I understand someone called Karen Kerkhoff Gromada has written a good book about attachment parenting with multiples. There’s also a mailing list on Yahoo! groups.