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Ask Dr. Sears: Babies and Weddings

Q. My brother is getting married and I'm supposed to be in the wedding, but he told me that my 7-month-old isn't invited to the rehearsal. They don't want a crying baby there because it is an adult-only function. I'm a stay-at-home mom who breastfeeds, co-sleeps, and have never been without my baby. I've been called selfish because I won't leave her with a babysitter. No one seems to understand my feelings of attachment with my baby. How should I handle this situation?


A. You are right. Many people, including your childless brother, do not understand the feeling of oneness that occurs between a mother and her baby -- a feeling that only intensifies with attachment parenting. You and your baby feel right when you're together, and not right when apart. It's this intuitive feeling that keeps you from wanting to leave your infant with a babysitter.

Most likely you've heard advice such as "It's good for you to get away from your baby," or people have warned you, "You're spoiling your baby." People don't always understand that attachment parenting moms feel no need to get away from their babies. (And don't worry about spoiling: Research has shown that babies who go through a stage of secure dependence actually grow up to be more independent.) If you did leave your baby with a sitter, your body might be at the rehearsal dinner, but your mind would be on your baby. Your hormones would be acting up. The leaking of your milk would be a continual biological reminder that you need to be with your baby, and your baby needs to be with you.

That said, I would advise you to try to get the best of both worlds. Maybe there's a way to be in the wedding party and attend the rehearsal dinner with your baby. Here's how you might make that happen:

Play show and tell. Wear your baby in a sling around your brother a lot. Let him see how easy and quiet it is to have a "sling baby" around. When baby is about to fuss, you nurse her, and she's quiet. It's as simple as that. Tell him that during the rehearsal dinner you will be wearing your baby like this and she's likely to be quiet. If she does start to fuss -- babies will be babies -- tell your brother that you will get up and walk around with her in another room.

Have a family talk. Explain to your brother the concept of mother-infant attachment. You and your baby are part of the family. He's soon going to have to understand this concept much for himself. And besides, babies add a touch of reality to all family affairs, including weddings. After all, happy weddings usually lead to babies!

Appeal to his brotherhood. You might put it to him this way: "I'm your sister, and I want to be part of your wedding because I love you. It's important for me -- and for you -- that I am part of the wedding party and the rehearsal dinner. Please don't put me in a position of having to choose between your wedding and my baby. Please understand the biological oneness that I have with my baby and trust my mother's judgment that it will work out."

Ask your family to help. As a parent of eight children, father of the bride, and subsidizer of three weddings, I can tell you that weddings are a family affair. You can still be in the wedding party, even if your brother is reluctant to let you wear the baby during the wedding. While you walk down the aisle and during the ceremony, have grandmother or another familiar caregiver wear your baby. Be sure to nurse your baby just before the ceremony begins, to increase the likelihood that your baby will sleep through it.

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