Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Have Attached Baby, Will Travel

Attachment parenting is not as difficult as some people make out. It is so natural, and it makes life with a baby easier in many ways. For example, when a baby is carried or worn, a parent can go wherever they like as long as it is accessible on foot. There are loads of jobs around the house, like vacuuming and mowing the lawn, that a baby in a sling will really enjoy. Breastfeeding can be tough to establish but in time offers ultimate convenience. There is no bottle cleaning, no sterilising, no waiting for the milk to warm. A breastfeeding mother does not need to worry about being caught out with nothing for her baby to eat. And co-sleeping is the bedtime arrangement that, for thousands of years, has allowed mothers to get enough sleep. Without the disturbance of getting out of bed in the night, adults do not fully wake up so they can get back to sleep much more quickly after a night feed.

But attachment parenting practices come into their own when the family travels away from home. This is when the advantages really begin to stack up. And here they are:

Public transport is so much easier without a pushchair that car-free holidays become feasible. Travelling with just a sling or two cuts down on the amount of luggage you need to take, and makes it simpler to use buses, trains and planes. Getting through airport security is much more straightforward when you are not wielding a pushchair. The sling also provides a familiar haven for a child in unfamiliar surroundings, which can be a godsend when trying to get a baby to go to sleep.

There are so many advantages to breastfeeding when travelling that I don't know where to start. On long journeys, breastmilk is a permanently available foodstuff that needs no preparation and cannot be accidentally forgotten. Even older babies who eat solids will be satisfied with breastmilk until some solid food can be found. Suckling on a plane is useful to help babies' ears adjust to pressure changes, and the other passengers might be grateful for the breasts' quietening powers. A breastfeeding mother does not need to pack bottles, sterilising equipment or formula - this means she can travel lighter and has more flexibility in the types of accommodation she can use. Mum Kay McFerrin says:
"Thanks to breastfeeding, our little girl was a delightful travel companion. Monica was six months old [when she travelled], and still on just mother's milk. All she needed for the trip was her mother, some diapers, and a bathing suit... I had no worries such as what to do if the room doesn't have a refrigerator, or what if I don't take enough formula, or how will I warm the bottles, or how to take formula and feed baby away from the hotel." (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, p86)

For any baby, home is wherever mum and dad are. But at night, in a strange cot in a strange room, it must be very frightening for a baby on holiday. Put that baby in bed with its parents and a night away from home becomes the same as any other night, and a welcome retreat into familiarity after the excitement of the day. Co-sleeping is so convenient for the parents as well. There is no need to worry about finding accommodation with a cot, or carrying a travel cot. As long as there is somewhere for the adults to sleep, there is somewhere for the baby to sleep too. Deborah Jackson has written:
"A child who sleeps with his parents at home can sleep with his parents anywhere. Strange surroundings do not prevent him dozing off, because his parents are not strange, and they are the most important constant in his life." (Three in a Bed, p240)

So there you have it - attachment parenting and travel are eminently compatible. Though I came to attachment parenting as a way to calm my fretful, demanding baby, I am utterly convinced that it is the most practical way for me to bring up my baby.

I fully intend to make the most of the advantages of attachment parenting when I take our family on holiday next week. If you're an old pro at this travelling-with-baby thing, I'd love your tips in the comments.

Photo credit: blogs.babiesonline.com


Liz said...

I have to say that even doing all those things, I haven't found travelling with babies easy. It may be because my eldest hated being in a sling if we weren't actively moving which made queueing, waiting for trains and buses and many other activities tricky. She also hated any kinds of noises such as trains, traffic, hoovers, lawn-mowers, and would never been worn around the house, which meant those advantages were out too.
Breastfeeding was good for all the reasons you said, though it wasn't always easy to do, on the move, especially once I had the 2 of them, and co-sleeping in a hotel was a nightmare. It's ok when you only have one relatively small baby, but once you get past about a year, a normal double bed becomes a bit crowded, and once you have 2 small co-sleepers, trying to get a big enough bed in a hotel, or a family room with enough bed-space for us to split up into 2 and 2, has often been stressful and expensive. And caravans have also been tricky as their beds are usually smaller than average to start with and also the single ones are often not easily moveable. PLus my 2 *were* disoriented by sleeping in a different room, despite sleeping with us as usual at home, and it wasn't particularly easy.
I don't want to be negative, and I'm sure Cave Baby isn't as challenging in her requirements as my daughter was at that age, but just be aware that things aren't always as smooth as they theoretically should be!

The wife of bold said...

Very informative and i'm with you on all your points except the co-sleeping, good luck with that one! I could not cope with not having a cot (travel one or not), i did the co sleeping with my first born but have learnt my lesson the hard way, the other three were staight in their cots at six months and are great sleepers - anywhere, however the same can't be said for the eldest.

Cave Mother said...

Liz - your points are exactly the reasons that I want to make the most of the time with only one, fairly small, baby. I have no doubt that travel, and the whole parenting experience, is very different when you are balancing the needs of two babies. Thanks for the input.

The wife of bold - yeah, co-sleeping is one of those things that you either love or hate. But as for trying to get my little one to sleep in a cot: it's just not gonna happen (even if I wanted to). There is just no way I could physically get her to sleep and stay asleep in a cot, and I would never consider crying it out. But we're very happy with the way things are, and we are prepared to transition her into a bed in a year or two, when she's ready.

allgrownup said...

Lovely to read this post. We didn't co-sleep with number one,and bitterly regret it. Expecting number two,and today got some pretty horrible comments from a "friend" about our plans to co-sleep, so nice to know not everyone thinks we are freaks. RE- travel, our little man is always a delight in a (moving) sling, and we have found we feel lovely and smug when traveling with slings. Ever tried hilly, busy Edinburgh with a pram/buggy? No, us neither, and I wouldn't recommend it. Baby gets to see more too, being up high!

The Dotterel said...

Fascinating post and comments. We fall somewhere in the middle - what I'm learning to call 'laid-back' parenting! Rather than taking any course of action as the 'best' we've literally gone with the flow with both kids - and with Charlie, I use a buggy sometimes (honestly, there are times when it is easier) and at other times we put him in a back-pack which he loves! It's about doing what's right for the individual child, as well as parents!

Anonymous said...

A fasinating post. I'm all in favour of attachment parenting. I'm not so sure about co-sleeping though. Doesn't that go against all th advice about babies sharing their parents' bed? I understand the principle, just unsure of the risk factors.

Foodie Laura said...

Very true! One of the joys of breastfeeding that I didn't expect was how easy it made my life and getting out and about - much less to forget!

Cave Mother said...

rosiescribble - Actually the advice about sharing the parents bed is not to do it if you smoke, drink, take drugs, are severly sleep deprived (less than 4 hours the previous night) or are on medication that could make you drowsy. If you are breastfeeding and you have the baby above the duvet, with its own blankets or sleeping bag, then it is statistically as safe as sleeping it in a cot. There is a UNICEF leaflet on co-sleeping that is supposed to be given to new mums, that explains all this.

There are also some benefits to co-sleeping that are actually supposed to reduce the risks of SIDS. Baby's breathing becomes synchronised with mum's, preventing the sleep apnoea that is believed to cause cot death.

I could write reams on this, but I won't. Basically, there is a widely held misconception that bedsharing is very very bad, and the research shows that actually it is safe when practiced correctly. This is a good article on breastfeeding and bed sharing.

Jessica said...

My advice is to bring more diapers, a change of clothes in the diaper bag, any medicines, and a stroller (eventually your back will need a break from the sling and it can be used as a highchair for feeding solids, too).

I've traveled tons with my son and it's really pretty easy (especially as an attached parent). Just do everything you normally do and Cave Baby will follow suit!