Category Archives: 1. Pregnancy & Birth

Fertility and conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and the early postpartum period.

API Announces “Voices of Breastfeeding” Double Edition of Attached Family

New Magazine Issue Advocates for Increased Support of Compassionate Infant-Feeding Choices

Bf 2014 Challenges smIn honor of the millions of women who have come together throughout history to support one another in motherhood, Attachment Parenting International (API) is pleased to announce the latest edition of Attached Family magazine. This double “Voices of Breastfeeding” issue spotlights both the cultural explosion of breastfeeding advocacy as well as the challenges still to overcome.

“This issue of the magazine has been a long time in the making,” said Rita Brhel, Editor of the Attached Family and API Publications Coordinator. “We wanted to create a resource that is helpful to all mothers, both those who were able to breastfeed their babies and those who were unable to.”

The “Voices of Breastfeeding” edition of Attached Family is divided into an “Advocating for Acceptance” issue that identifies the ever-growing movement of mothers inspired to campaign for society’s embrace of breastfeeding, and a “Meeting Challenges with Compassion” issue that recognizes that there are circumstances when breastfeeding is difficult, if not impossible, highlighting the importance of empathetic support for all infant-feeding choices.

“Ideally, I would have liked to have breastfed all three of my children,” Brhel said. “But Attachment Parenting International supports parents in all walks of life, including mothers who are unable to breastfeed, and I was able to learn how to meet my child’s attachment needs through sensitive responsiveness beyond breastfeeding.”

This edition of Attached Family was also made in appreciation of longtime magazines like Mothering, New Beginnings and Breastfeeding Today, which paved the way to widespread support for breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting conversations among mothers, and now fathers, and by extension, contributing to the breastfeeding movement that eventually influenced the research and medical communities.

“API is pleased to give a voice to our breastfeeding struggles, those related to society’s acceptance as well as those shared by mother and baby,” said Samantha Gray, Executive Director of Attachment Parenting International. “Emphasizing healthy attachment and relationship, it is natural that we speak up collectively to further advocacy efforts and gather together regularly to give personal support. Our contributors, led by Rita’s editorial vision and passion for breastfeeding support, have captured that perspective in this double issue.”

Scattered throughout the “Voices of Breastfeeding” edition of Attached Family are parent stories, project highlights and additional resources from around and beyond API, as well as the following features:

·         “The Real Breastfeeding Story” detailing exactly how far industrial society has come in accepting breastfeeding, yet also how far we have yet to go, which includes a look at “Extended Nursing Around the World”

·         “When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work” explains the hard decisions some mothers made regarding their infant-feeding choices

·         An interview with Katrina Pavlik, founder of “Breastfeed, Chicago!” and an accompanying photo essay of breastfeeding families in Chicago, Illinois, USA

·         “Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding” featuring Attachment Parenting researcher Jeanne Stolzer from the University of Nebraska, USA

·         A recap of the past century’s infant-feeding landscape in “The History of Formula Use”

·         API’s debut of the Parent Support Deserts project with a presentation of infant-feeding support deserts within the United States

·         “Why Relationship with Your Baby Matters” by API’s Knowledge Base Coordinator Art Yuen

“This edition of Attached Family continues API’s goal of providing research-backed information in an environment of respect, empathy and compassion in order to support parents in making decisions for their families and to create support networks in their communities,” Brhel said.

API thanks cosponsors of this special edition of Attached Family: Arm’s Reach Concepts, Katie M. Berggren, Green Child Magazine, Momzelle and The Infant-Parent Institute for their generous contributions.

Access this double issue free of charge with API’s free membership.


How Parents Can Support Their Budding Performers: An Interview with Actress Elisa Llamido

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA)

elisaheadshotFrom the beginning, 20 years ago, Attachment Parenting International has been a community of parents coming together to support one another in raising their children with trust, empathy, affection, compassion and joy. We may come from very different backgrounds and cultures, but we are all alike in our approach to relationships with our children and our willingness to advocate for this in our communities around the world.

I’m excited to introduce television and theatre actress Elisa Llamido (, who lives in Los Angeles, California, USA, with her husband, 18-year-old stepson and a 4-year-old son.

RITA: Thank you, Elisa, for your time. To begin with, please tell us about your career in acting and theatre.

ELISA: I’ve had some fun roles in The Unit, Invasion and Numbers. I’m also a martial artist and acrobat, so I did stunts for the kids’ shows Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. For theatre, I did a number of shows at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre [California, USA], including the world premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s first straight play, The Doctor is Out. I’ve also been seen in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theater in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, with Los Angeles Opera in The Imaginary Invalid, with Will and Company, and with Shakespeare Festival/LA.

RITA: Many parents value involving their children in the arts, including theatre, and we’d all like our children to do well in their activities. As an actress, how can parents support budding performers?

ELISA: Children who learn how to perform on stage learn how to present themselves to the world. They learn control of their bodies, projection of their voices and how to be themselves even when someone is looking at them. No matter where a child goes in life, these are valuable skills that they can take with them.

The caveat, of course, is that these skills can only be learned in a loving environment. Parents can very easily make performing, which is an intensely personal act, into a terrible experience where children can feel as though they have done their best and been rejected. It’s important to remember that your “goal” as the parent of a performer should not be to make them the best no matter what the cost. It is highly unlikely that this is what they want or need. Your goal should be to nurture and accept your child and do what you can to help them reach their own goals. What you say makes a difference.

RITA: It sounds like theatre is a great option for Attachment Parenting-minded families seeking activities for their children. How did you first become interested in Attachment Parenting?

ELISA: My mother was a very sensitive mother who thought that children were just little people and deserved the same respect that adults did. When I became a mother, I brought that ideal with me.

When I was pregnant, my mother researched parenting books and bought me a copy of Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book, which made a huge impact on me. I had never thought of cosleeping before—I thought it was dangerous to do before I was educated—and although the idea of babywearing seemed convenient, I learned that it is very good for the baby, too.

I spent so much time when I was pregnant doing research about natural childbirth, Attachment Parenting, child brain development and pregnancy!

RITA: That is wonderful that you had a great role model in your mother and that you had the foresight to prepare for parenthood during your pregnancy, as API advocates through the first of our Eight Principles of Parenting. How has Attachment Parenting benefited your family?

ELISA: My husband and I have an extremely close relationship with our son. He’s an extremely bright, fearless boy who is endlessly creative and so much fun for us. I also got a wonderful bonus that I never expected: Through the unconditional love that I give to my son, I have finally been able to accept myself in all of my gloriously flawed humanity. I never realized how hard I was on myself before I was a parent. Now, in showing my son how to love himself, I’ve become as kind to myself as I am to other people!

My son was definitely what Dr. Sears calls a “high-need baby,” who just needed more than other babies do. He didn’t want to be on his own at all for the first few years, but because I gave him such a secure base and never forced him to be “independent,” when he was ready, he went forth on his own. Now as he approaches his fifth birthday, he is a very articulate, confident child who loves to perform on stage, go to school and do other things on his own with joy. Because we have such a strong, securely attached relationship, when he comes home, he loves to tell me all about his day and any things that happened that concern him.

Before I became a parent, I had always heard that until you have a child, you will never experience the depth of love that parenting brings. That is definitely true. But Attachment Parenting has brought so much more to us than just love: It’s brought a sense of confidence and self-worth to my son—and to me.


Every Birth is Natural

By Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, API Leader. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine

Photo: Bas Silderhuis
Photo: Bas Silderhuis

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of having a “natural” childbirth. I wanted to labor at home without pain medication, to fully experience her entry into the world. I left my obstetrician’s practice and found a midwife whom I loved and who assured me that the birth I wanted was within my reach.

Of course, life does not always turn out the way we plan. Complications arose, necessitating interventions that eventually led to a Cesarean birth. The whole birth experience was traumatic, and I was angry and disappointed. I spent the first several months of motherhood feeling inadequate and depressed, and missed a lot of the joy that new babies can bring. After much reflection, I came to recognize my two biggest mistakes:

  1. I treated my pregnancy as an impending deadline—Instead of embracing the coming transition, I used those nine months to finish up projects. I was a student, I worked full time, and I was an active and dedicated volunteer –and all these things were important to me. I struggled with the idea that once I added “mother” to my list, something else would have to give because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of them. I insisted on plowing on … when I developed gestational diabetes, when I broke my foot in the seventh month of my pregnancy, when my feet swelled so much that I couldn’t put on shoes, when my blood pressure began to rise. I refused to stop and rest.
  2. I believed that my body would be permitted to give birth as it was built to do—It is certainly true that women are built, from a biological, physiological, anatomical and evolutionary perspective, to have offspring and that most of the time this can be done safely without intervention. However, what I did not realize was that the modern medical system is not designed to allow that to happen for most women, and that it can take a great deal of education, effort and willpower to fight for a natural birth. Most birth practitioners see birth not as a natural process but a necessity to be endured and sped through if possible, using whatever means are available to move things along. Avoiding this pitfall requires a great deal of preparation and soul-searching.

Deciding on VBAC

With this in mind, I began preparing for my Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) within weeks of my first baby’s birth. I quizzed the surgeon about the location and orientation of my scar, the reasons for my daughter’s failure to descend and my chances for a future vaginal birth. He assured me that the surgery had gone well, and there was no reason I couldn’t attempt a VBAC. At the time, I didn’t know this was doctor-ese for “But your chances of success are about nil.”

I joined support groups. I read. I wrote in my journal. I entered therapy. I learned about the current medical model of obstetrics. I researched how I could take care of myself to prevent many of the complications I had experienced. I waited, and when the time was right, I became pregnant.

“By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated.” Read more by Tamara Parnay in “The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

Unfortunately, my former midwife was no longer attending VBACs, so I was forced to start from square one and find a new provider. I was frustrated that I had to tell my story over and over and face so many negative reactions from providers who were pessimistic about my chances for success, but I came to realize that this was really a gift. I had the chance to start fresh, carefully consider my options and know that I had given myself the best chance for my desired outcome. I ended up going with the first midwives I interviewed – their VBAC success rate was very high, I felt instantly at ease with them, I liked their office and their hospital, and their backup doctors were incredibly supportive of natural birth and even collaborated with most of the homebirth midwives in my area.

I also asked a close friend of mine who is a doula to be with me during my birth. During my first pregnancy, I thought a support person was an unnecessary luxury, but this time, I knew better: having a woman there who was supportive and knowledgeable, and whose only responsibility was to help me through the process, was a necessity.

A Second Chance

I spent this pregnancy resting, eating well (when I wasn’t vomiting) and preparing myself and my family for the impending arrival of my son. I was able to avoid the medical complications of my previous pregnancy, I attended Bradley classes and when the time came, I was ready.

After a few false starts, labor started on a Friday at about 11:00 p.m. Unlike many of the videos I had seen of women giving birth surrounded by family and friends, I preferred darkness and solitude. While my family slept, I paced, showered, squatted, groaned and bounced. When daylight came, I called my midwife, doula and mother and then woke my family.

By the time I got to the hospital, I was 6 centimeters dilated and was having strong and regular contractions. We were given the room with the birth tub, which I was not able to use because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and I was allowed to use a fetal monitor that worked by telemetry so I could change position, walk and even shower.

I’m not really sure how long it took, but as darkness fell, the time had come to push. I walked around, squatted, laid on my back and side, and pushed for several hours. Eventually, I looked at my midwife and said, “Check.” But I knew that my baby hadn’t moved, that he was stuck high in the birth canal, that I was headed to the operating room again.

The nurses prepared me for surgery, the surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to introduce themselves, and my midwife helped my husband and friend pack all of our belongings as I struggled against the urge to push, waiting for an operating room to open up.

A little after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Harrison “Harry” Herbert Francis was born weighing 9 pounds, 1 ounce. He was healthy and robust, and the surgery went well. As soon as I was in recovery, my doula came in to check on us, and my midwife brought my son so I could nurse him, which he did easily and with gusto. He accompanied me to our room, where he stayed for our entire hospital stay.

Every Birth is Natural

When I met my first midwife, she had told me of her disdain for the term “natural childbirth.” She prefers the term “unmedicated childbirth,” because “natural” implies that there exists an unnatural way to give birth. However it happens for you, she said, is natural for you.

“Yeah, whatever,” I thought at the time, “be that as it may, I am going to give birth naturally, like our foremothers did, with no medication, no intervention, just me having a baby.”

Now, I know exactly what she meant. My second birth was not natural in the sense in which that term is commonly used, but I feel like it was as natural as possible under the circumstances.

I am still bitterly disappointed that I will probably never know what it is like to bring new life into the world on my own power, and I regret that I could not spend my children’s first moments of life snuggling and counting digits. Sometimes I feel like a marathon runner who fell within inches of the finish line and just … couldn’t …make… it … across. I hate that I am another statistic of a failed VBAC attempt and that I was unable to support other women for whom this opportunity is becoming increasingly scarce.

On the other hand, I am incredibly grateful to live in a time and place where the medical technology was available to bring my son and me safely through labor. I am empowered to know that I was strong and determined enough to at least make it to the finish line even if I couldn’t cross. And, of course, I am thankful for my two beautiful children. I won’t say that all the rest doesn’t matter as long as we are all healthy, because I believe that our birth stories do matter and that we are entitled to mourn the loss of the birth we wanted but couldn’t have. After all, whenever a baby is born, so is a mother. But in the end, I also believe that we all have the birth we need to make us better parents and people, and I am no less a woman or a mother because of the way my children came into the world.

To read more birth stories from our growing collection–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached

The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

By Tamara Parnay. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine.


Photo: Benjamin Earwicker
Photo: Benjamin Earwicker

Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we may struggle in our attempts to tap into our collective wealth of knowledge and experience. While the purpose of this article is not to sway readers one way or another about where and how to give birth, it does intend to point out the availability of a wide range of firsthand birth stories, which—perhaps more effectively than any other form of childbirth education—encourages and enables expectant parents to inform and prepare themselves.

Cultivating an empathetic environment for the sharing of our birth stories is a first step towards returning to women the wisdom and control of giving birth. These stories are powerful and empowering. Childbirth is one of life’s most marvelous, miraculous experiences. Giving birth is not only about having babies; it’s also about motherhood. In the same light, sharing birth stories is not only about providing or collecting information; it’s also about community.

As for anything so personal, we need to start by providing a non-threatening environment conducive to open, heart-to-heart participation.

The topic of birthing is highly charged. The contention seems to arise mainly between those who have had natural births or homebirths and those who, for whatever reason, haven’t. One side may come across as patronizing, smug and self-serving. The other side may seem insecure, defensive, envious and even ill-informed.

The Best Birthing Option

Expectant parents who have researched and considered all the birthing options available to them, while taking into account their own values and beliefs, are making an informed, proactive decision. They may plan on any combination of options, such as an assisted or unassisted homebirth, a birth center birth, a natural hospital birth, a hospital birth with minimal pain relief, a hospital birth with maximum pain relief, and even a planned Cesarean section. Of course, there may be unforeseen events that could change Plan A to Plan B, and these changes may be completely out of anyone’s control. So, for instance, those planning on a natural homebirth would need to consider the possibility, remote as it may be, of ending up in a hospital having an emergency Cesarean section.

Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy through postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in having personalized birth plans and helping them to safely realize these plans. In other words, maternity care providers must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

With informed planning, financial considerations need to be taken into account: Some families may not be able to afford private care. Risk factors must also be considered: It may not be advisable to plan a homebirth for a high-risk pregnancy. Some women might desire pain relief, even considering it to be a crucial part of their birth plan. They may not want to experience the pain of birthing. Pain sensitivity may vary greatly from one person to the next, which would mean that some women may not be able to cope with pain as well as others. If pain relief wasn’t available to some women during labor, their birth experience could be overshadowed, even complicated, by their overwhelming inability to cope with the pain. We can never know what another’s experience is truly like. Parents-to-be need to be realistic about their circumstances and thus deserve to be free to make informed and unfettered decisions about their birth plan. Once they have become informed, the best combination of options for any family is that which they feel best suits them at the time.

Natural vs. Medicated Birth, Hospital vs. Home

Some mothers who have experienced a natural birth may find it difficult to understand why others have not, cannot, or do not desire to do so. Some natural birthers have described to me how they were successful at getting themselves into the right zone, pointing out that they had made the right choices; they emphasized that they hadn’t given up when the going got tough; and they described how they felt in complete control during their birth experience.

For some who chose or needed medical intervention, doubts and “what ifs” may creep into their thoughts when they hear natural birthers’ stories, even if they have processed their birth experience and have come to terms with any disappointment they may have felt, assuming they were disappointed at all. I have heard comments such as, “I must not have been able to get myself into the right frame of mind,” “I think I made some bad choices,” and “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” Their insecurities and defensiveness may actually end up reinforcing and perpetuating the attitude that all women can control every aspect of their birthing experience and its outcome if they really want to.

For some who choose a homebirth, they may feel misunderstood, even humiliated, by hospital birth advocates who consider home birthers to be reckless with their baby’s and/or their own well-being. Comments such as, “It’s risky business to birth at home” or “Something could go wrong, and then your baby’s and even your own life could be in jeopardy,” may undermine the confidence of those who are considering a homebirth.

Competition at the Root of Contention?

What might cause these misunderstandings and ill feelings to develop? Perhaps the answer lies in our culturally driven need to compete.

Western society emphasizes individual competition. Competition is not only prevalent in mainstream settings, it also exists in alternative communities and social circles. Society instills in us the need to compare the many things in our lives in order to determine what’s better or what’s best. Then we generalize that “What’s best for me must be best for you, too.” In setting up a better than/worse than dichotomy, competition stifles our ability to empathize with each other.

According to the article “Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict” by Brad Spangler on “Obstructiveness and lack of helpfulness lead to mutual negative attitudes and suspicion of one another’s intentions. One’s perceptions of the other tend to focus on the person’s negative qualities and ignore the positives.”

Unspoken irrational comparisons might take place, such as: “I had the shortest and least complicated natural birth,” “Oh! My natural birth took longer than hers” and “Oh no! How can I share my birth story? I didn’t even have a natural birth!” For many reasons, everyone loses in competitive situations like this. One unfortunate consequence is that non-natural birthers may feel uneasy about sharing their birth stories. We may all lose out on their valuable input, because we don’t end up having the chance to view the bigger picture.

A competitive atmosphere that develops surrounding the sharing of birth experiences is a clear sign that on an individual level, everyone needs to reflect more on their own birthing experience. If individuals find themselves proving others wrong in order to make themselves feel right, then they need to have a look at possible reasons why. They need to give themselves—and then each other—credit where credit is due, as well as acknowledge their good fortune.

According to Spangler, cooperative conversation is characterized by “‘effective communication,’ where ideas are verbalized and group members pay attention to one another and accept their ideas and are influenced by them. These groups have less problems communicating with and understanding others. … Friendliness, helpfulness and less obstructiveness is expressed in conversations.”

Sharing with Empathy

A practical idea for encouraging a less competitive environment is to discover what we do have in common. So, it would make sense to emphasize the ways we have promoted bonding with our newborns from the time they entered into our lives. It is helpful to “fast forward” to the present time and talk about what we are doing now—and tomorrow—to remain securely attached to our children.

When we can get beyond our feelings of competitiveness, we are able to foster a healthy dialogue because we are more receptive to what others have to say. In a cooperative setting, “members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group … as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members,” writes Spangler. Through empathic listening, we are less likely to make assumptions about others’ views, motives and feelings and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are able to:

  1. Reflect on others’ birthing experiences
  2. “Try on” their situation—their “truth”—by imagining ourselves in their place
  3. Give validation and empathy, but not in the form of an unsolicited therapy session
  4. Increase our own knowledge of and sensitivity to birthing issues
  5. Help each other move on to our current parenting situations by sharing ideas for remaining as securely attached as possible to our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

In a fully accepting and flexible atmosphere, people are safe to make themselves vulnerable by sharing their feelings, needs, disappointments, triumphs and dreams. Natural birthers are able to view non-natural birthers’ experiences and concerns with sincere, unbiased interest and empathy, and they will softly share their own birthing experience. Mothers who did not experience the birth they had hoped for will feel understood because their own birthing stories are validated, and they will be able to share in the joy of other parents who had the birth experience they had hoped for. Feelings of satisfaction we derive from feeling superior are fleeting; the good feelings we receive by helping other people feel good are long lasting.

Even the most informed people can run into unplanned, and sometimes serious, complications during the birth process. By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated. Through our positive and non-judgmental contributions to this contentious topic, we create a collective harmony that enables everyone to leave the discussion feeling good. We bring these good feelings home to our families. Thus, the empathy we have given to each other touches the greatest gift we all receive in our birthing experience: our own children.

To read our growing collection of birth stories–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached

The Beauty of Breastfeeding: An Interview with Photographer Christine Santos

17c07995cc7d8d8c33150a54403b30f1_largeIn May 2013, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to raise funds for an innovative art exhibit featuring the work of photographer Christine Santos: “Nursing is Natural … Naturally Beautiful.” This exhibit was intended to revolutionize and challenge the way Americans view breastfeeding by portraying over 50 nursing mothers, inviting people to think differently about the way our society views breasts. API’s Rita Brhel asked Santos, a doula and birth photographer at Psalm 139 Studios (, to share more about the exhibit, which took place September 20-October 15, 2013, at the {Tay’-Cho} art gallery in Bartow, Florida.

Rita: Tell us about how the project began. What was the inspiration?

Christine: In February 2012, our La Leche League group sat discussing the impacts of a campaign that had been run in Texas to promote the normalization of breastfeeding and to bring awareness of the stigma associated with this act. The conversation turned to the cultural environment of the area in which we lived. We decided we needed to normalize breastfeeding for our sons and daughters. We needed to do a similar campaign in our county.

Rita: How did you become involved? What inspired you?

Christine: I offered to capture the images and be the liaison between the La Leche League group and the WIC program/Department of Health. After much conversation, it was revealed that WIC/DOH did not desire to utilize images of local women to promote breastfeeding in the area. The project stalled until an alternate option presented itself. I took part in an exhibit called “Trust Birth,” which gave me the idea that organizing an art exhibit might be a viable option for spreading awareness of breastfeeding.

After realizing an art exhibit could be the way to reach thousands of people to promote breastfeeding and challenge viewpoints, I reached out to local motherhood groups for volunteers. I knew if we were going to promote breastfeeding accurately, we would need women of all backgrounds, ethnicities and ages of children. The feedback from this model call was overwhelming.

43306b72fa87a958f96a2d8a94dac7a9_largeOver 30 ladies signed up to be photographed for the exhibit, and many more were turned away. The images and the idea of the exhibit gained momentum, and word spread through social media. It quickly became obvious this was something the breastfeeding community had been longing for. The support was phenomenal.

The event details caught the attention of a local television station, and I was interviewed. That interview spawned others, and the media attention went global. CBS, NBC, Latina magazine, Initiativ Liewensufank and Huffington Post were just a few of the media outlets that carried the story. Funding poured in, and something that began as a dream in a local La Leche League meeting became a reality.

Many local businesses helped with the sponsorship of the exhibit, but three contributed both in time and money: Punger Family Medicine, Effortless IT, and Lorrie Walker Public Relations. Their commitment to the success of the exhibit and to the promotion of the normalization of breastfeeding helped make the exhibit the success it was. Without their hard work and dedication, “Nursing is Natural” would not have been able to happen.

Rita: How will this project contribute to the breastfeeding community, parenting and other segments of society?

Christine: This exhibit has helped promote the normalization of breastfeeding in a big way. It has sparked conversation and caused people to question their previously held views about breastfeeding. It has opened the doors for other artists to promote similar work in their cities, thus opening the door for further discussion about breastfeeding. We have seen heart changes happen as open dialogue occurs between nursing mothers and skeptics. These were the goals of this exhibit, and we see them happening still, even months after the exhibit’s initial opening.   

DSC_0066Our hope is that we will be able to find other galleries in which to show the images. That we can continue to spark dialogue through open sharing and discussion. That we can normalize breastfeeding so our children can one day breastfeed their own children without fear of backlash. That the nursing that was once the norm for the care and comfort of our children will be the norm once again.

Rita: How will this exhibit benefit families?

Christine: This exhibit has benefitted families in that it has helped empower women to take a stand for their babies and their right to feed their babies how they see fit. It has enabled them to find their voices, to speak up for what they believe is the best choice for their babies, and to stand up against those who would shame mothers for making that choice. It has given fathers a voice to stand up for their families’ choices and for their partners’ and babies’ rights. It has allowed dialogue to occur that puts parents and families on the same page, or at the very least with an understanding of where each of them are coming from. This exhibit has fostered solid communication for the benefit of children and families.

Rita: What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing?

Christine: There are many organizations that are helping to facilitate this type of communication. We believe Attachment Parenting International is one of those organizations. API works hard to promote the bond between care providers, families, and children. API stresses the importance of family and tribe support, and they encourage parents to take a more active role in their children’s developmental years. These concepts work hand-in-hand with what Psalm 139 Studios is trying to do in the world of bellies, birth and beyond. We are excited to see what the future has in store for both organizations.

Bf 2014 Challenges smAvailable now! The Attached Family magazine “Voices of Breastfeeding” double issue. This fantastic resources is free to API members–and membership is free. Get your copy today!

Navigating Military Life with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader. Kathryn led an API Support Group in Skagit County, WA, in 2011-2012 and then served as a Co-Leader for San Diego County API in 2012-2013. She plans to start a new API support group in Norfolk this year.

Kathryn Abbott FamilyBoth the joys and the challenges of parenting provide parents opportunities to grow and develop into our best selves. As we undergo this process, we are the model for our children, leading by example and showing them our core values.

For families in which one or both parents serve in the military, there may be a set of unique circumstances that shapes some of those joys and challenges. These circumstances may include moving (on average every two to three years), deployments or long separations, being far from family and friends, interrupted relationships with health professionals, changing schools and jobs, making new friends and finding community, just to name a few.

In my family, my husband serves in the military and I am a stay-at-home parent. We have found that using API’s Eight Principles of Parenting has helped us more easily navigate the life changes that come with serving in the military. It has also helped us maintain consistency for our children during times of change and stress in their lives, leading to more secure attachment. Many nonmilitary families also face the challenges of moving, being far from family and friends, or having to parent separately, so it is my hope that this article will be helpful to military and nonmilitary families alike.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

This principle addresses the need to be prepared for the experiences of pregnancy, birth, the postpartum period and ongoing parenting though all its stages. It encourages us to become informed about the choices we will make for our care during our pregnancy and birth, as well as to become familiar with the stages of child development.

As part of our preparation for birth, my husband and I took a birth class. During the class, we were asked to do a drawing exercise that led us into labor and birth and then from birth into the postpartum period.  When I looked up during my drawing, I saw that my husband was finished with his picture, while I was only about one quarter of the way done. We had a chance to talk about this difference. “I will be getting ready for and then going on deployment three months after our baby is born, so my postpartum experience won’t be long,” he reminded me. Oh, right. For a large part of our newborn’s life, my husband would be working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, getting ready for deployment, and then he would be gone.

As a military spouse, I am not alone in this experience; many parents are home alone for long days caring for their families or are parenting solo while a spouse is deployed. Many members of the military miss the birth of their child, or they may miss most of the pregnancy and make it home just in time for the birth.

Part of working with this challenge is being prepared for it. Talking about expectations, seeking out the support needed during these times, and finding ways to involve the physically absent partner in the experience of the pregnancy or birth are all strategies families can use to be better prepared for the many transitions to come.

In families in which one parent may be absent from the children for months, understanding child development is vital. For example, the 18-month-old a partner returns home to will be quite different from the 1-year-old he or she left. For the partner at home, sharing the development of the children through emails, letters, phone calls, texts, Skype or Facetime can be very helpful for the parent who is away.

Feeding With Love and Respect

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s need for physical nourishment throughout their lives. Preparing nourishing meals and developing mealtime rituals can be a wonderful way to provide consistency and connection even during the transitions military families must face.

Our family has used our mealtime rituals of sharing meal preparation, eating together as a family and saying a blessing at meals as a way to nurture our whole family during moves, deployments and daily life. Even if our meal is a simple one served on a paper plate while sitting on the floor of an empty house, we come back to the security of preparing meals and eating together.

Respond with Sensitivity

This principle encourages us to respond to our child with sensitivity throughout his or her life. Whether we are holding our crying infant or sharing the joys and challenges of our teenager, we are building a relationship based on trust and empathy.

For families in the military, especially for the parent who is serving, it can be hard to hear our child’s sadness at leaving their home, their friends or perhaps even a pet behind. Choosing to respond to these feelings and expressions with sensitivity only strengthens our relationship with our child.

As the parent, we might need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that we didn’t create this sadness for our child on purpose. Nor is it ours to take away. We can hold our child and say to her, “I am sorry we moved and your best friend is so far away.” And when she is finished sharing her feelings with us and is ready for a solution, we can help her write a letter or email, or make a phone call or Skype with that friend. And then we can support her through the process of making another new friend.  

Use Nurturing Touch

Using nurturing touch is a wonderful way for all parents to help connect with their children. From babywearing to hugs, tickles and massage, there are many ways to meet your child’s need for nurturing touch.

Nurturing touch can especially be of value during times of change, which can be stressful even when we are happy about them. Remembering to give children extra time for snuggles or foot rubs at bedtime can help them relax in a new home or give them time to share their fears about a parent’s absence.

When a parent returns from a time away from the family, nurturing touch, whether through snuggles or horseplay, can be a wonderful way for the family to reconnect.

In our family, my husband and children have a goodbye/goodnight ritual that includes a hug, kiss, nose rub, butterfly kiss (using the eyelash on a check) and ends with deciding who has the hardest head. Of course, it is always our children who knock him down amid much laughter. This is something they will even do over the phone or Skype, and they love hearing him fall on the floor, even if he is 3,000 miles away.  

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s needs for security, even at night. This will look different in all families and can include a variety of different sleeping arrangements. These arrangements can and should be flexible to meet the needs of the individuals of the family. Cosleeping (where the child is in the same room as the parents) or bedsharing (where the child sleeps in the bed with the parents) can be invaluable tools for the benefit of both parents and children. (Click to read more about API’s Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines.)

As a new mother, I shared a bed with my newborn to facilitate ease of breastfeeding and maximize my sleep and rest. My husband slept in the other room so he could be sure to have enough rest to fly safely the next day, and later he was on deployment. This sleeping arrangement meant I was better able to care for my infant and myself.

Bed sharing and cosleeping have continued to serve our family well, as they ease our children’s fears in new places, provide an opportunity for warmth and reconnection when my husband returns from deployments or trips, and often allow me, as the solo parent when he is gone, to get some much needed rest.

For families who find that separate sleeping places serve them best, providing assurance to a child through a bedtime ritual (and a nightlight if needed) and responding to their needs at night are ways that help children to feel secure throughout the night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

For military families in which the one consistent thing is change, this principle can provide us with a way to help ease some of the insecurities that can arise for our children and ourselves.

It our family, we planned that I would be the stay-home parent. We felt that having one consistent caregiver, especially as we moved, would be the most beneficial arrangement for our children. Since the birth of our oldest daughter eight years ago, we have moved four times. Being able to give our children consistent and loving care has truly been a gift to our family. There is no added sense of loss or insecurity that may come with changing child care as the result of a move.

For some families, both partners need or want to work, but they may also want to find consistent and loving care for their children. Some creative ways I have seen military families meet these needs include: having another family member, such as a grandparent, live with them and provide full-time care for the child; using an in-home nanny; or arranging for child care with a friend who stays home with his or her children.

For the many military parents using a local daycare as their child care option, finding ways to reconnect at the end of the day becomes essential. Taking time to spend some one-on-one time each day, giving extra hugs or having a special date with your child once a week can go a long way in creating and maintaining a secure attachment with you. Seeking out a child care provider who is consistent with your philosophy and acts as your partner in caring for your child is truly a benefit to the whole family.

Practice Positive Discipline

This principle encourages us to use discipline that is empathetic, loving, respectful and that strengthens the connection between parent and child. Positive discipline is the hardest for me when I am under stress. That stress can come, for example, at the end of a long day when there won’t be a partner coming home to relieve me, or when my children are balking at going to the dentist because they have never met this new dentist, or when my house looks like 143 boxes have just been unpacked and nothing has been put away (although really that’s just how it looks after the girls have been busy playing!).

Practicing positive discipline, even if you were raised with it, can be hard. For me, this is the area where parenting calls me to become better than I am right now and also calls me to be as gentle with myself as I can. When I remind myself that I value relationships over things, that I want my children to feel and know what it means to be respected, that I want to repair any disconnect my child is feeling with me, then I can help myself reframe whatever stressful situation I may be in and make the connection with my child.  

Sometimes in order to practice positive discipline, I need to give myself a break. I simply tell the children, “I am feeling angry [or frustrated or upset] and I am going to go outside and take some deep breaths. When I come back we will figure this out.” I give myself that pause and time to de-stress so I can reconnect with the love I have for my children and then reconnect with them.

For the military parent, practicing positive discipline can have an added element of challenge since much of military culture is based on giving and following orders. This is an area where both parents will need to talk through how positive discipline will be used within their family and how to support each other in this practice.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

This principle comes last on the list, but it is really the foundation all the others. If you are not able to have time for yourself and time to nurture your relationship with your partner, it will be more of a challenge to nurture your children and your family.

For military families, this principle can have an added layer of challenge. Moving often requires rebuilding community: you must all make new friends and start over in favorite activities, and there may be new schools and new jobs. When you are far from family and friends and don’t have a trusted child care provider while your partner is away, finding time to recharge can be a challenge.

To help find balance in your days, consider:

  • Attending a support group meeting. Attending (or starting) API support group meetings has been invaluable for me. My children can come, and I get some time with other like-minded parents.

  • Arranging play dates. When my oldest was younger, I had three close friends who all had same-aged children. Once a week, all the children would go to one house for play time and snacks while the other three moms went to do whatever we wanted. Anything from cleaning the floors to doing yoga was on the list! Our children were safe and happy, and we each got a much needed respite.

  • Wake up early. I don’t wake myself early on purpose, but I find that if I am awake before my children, I have time in my day to read, check email or just think.

  • Celebrate the moment. Whether I am making myself a really nice cup of tea or spending 20 minutes on the phone with my sister, I recognize this time as time for me to recharge.

  • Make a date with yourself. When my husband is home, I go on a yoga date with myself and he has a father-daughter date with our children. Many gyms also offer child care if that is something you and your child are comfortable using.

Making time to nurture your relationship is key. Though you will have seasons in which you are more  or less connected with each other, it is important to find ways to keep the relationship strong, especially when you have young children who have many needs. For military families, an added challenge to the parental relationship is the extended separations. These separations can add more stress to a couple in an already stressful situation. Again, being prepared, seeking out resources and using creative solutions can help you maintain your relationship. Simply making the time once a week (even if it is in the early morning!) to maintain your connection to your partner will support and sustain your relationship.

Practicing Attachment Parenting and striving to use API’s Eight Principles of Parenting doesn’t mean my life will be perfect. But I know that when my house is a mess, my children are adjusting to a new home with all that it entails, and my spouse has been gone for more days than I want to count, the tools we use to help maintain connection and build trust and empathy will help us through those times of challenge and those times of joy. These tools help me as I strive to be the person I want to be.


Feeding the Whole Family: An Interview with Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA). Originally published in the “Feeding Our Children” 2009 issue of Attached Family.

Cynthia LairMy mother has a PhD in nutrition, and my father recently retired after 35 years in food production research. In addition to their food-oriented careers, we lived on a sustainable farm, meaning that we grew food for our own use, as well as to sell to others, in an environmentally and socially responsible way. So I was raised with an appreciation of food—both for the work that goes into growing it and for its capabilities in keeping our bodies healthy.

I carried on this family legacy of responsibility in food production and consumption with an early journalism career in covering sustainable agriculture, connecting producers to consumers and chefs. For many years, until I became a mother and my personal and professional focus shifted to Attachment Parenting, I covered the “big names” in this genre of journalism.

Among the up and coming stars in this realm has been Cynthia Lair, a self-made whole foods chef turned author and cooking show host. This wonder woman of sorts has a lot going on, including:

·         “Cookus Interruptus,” a web-based cooking show ( that teaches consumers how to cook fresh, local, organic, whole foods despite life’s interruptions.

·         Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents, the book that started it all, and a second book, Feeding the Young Athlete: Sports Nutrition Made Easy for Players and Parents

·         Instructor at Bastyr University’s School of Nutrition and Exercise Science in Kenmore, Washington

In my discussions leading up to this interview, published originally in the Attached Family magazine’s 2009 “Feeding Our Children” issue, Cynthia revealed how much influence that practicing Attachment Parenting with her daughter helped to shape her life—and especially started her on the path to becoming the force she is in encouraging others to try to embrace whole foods.

RITA: Thank you, Cynthia, for taking the time for this interview. Let’s start with what influenced you in embracing whole foods nutrition?

CYNTHIA: It’s a little Lifetime movie-ish. My mother was a cancer patient, and I wanted to help in some way. As I was researching, I learned about macrobiotics and its role in disease prevention and healing. Part of this approach calls for people to move toward more natural foods. I decided to leave behind the strict doctrinal part of it and went on with the more spiritual and natural tenets of it.

My diet prior to that had been a “diet” diet. I was surviving on cottage cheese, diet Coke, coffee and salad—always trying to lose weight. I was in my early 20s, and I’m in my mid-50s now, so it was a long time ago. I didn’t know anything.

After college, I began putting on weight and didn’t understand why. The only information at the time was doing a calorie count.

But it was good. Having gone through that as a person—I also had quite the sugar addiction as a child—I can understand that people can change.

RITA: The most passionate people for a movement tend to be those who’ve “been there, done that” in terms of changing. What does it take to change the way we think about food?

CYNTHIA: Many emotions go into the over 200 decisions about food we make every day. I’m the last to understand all of the reasons behind our decisions. Some choices are made from fear or wanting control. Some are made in an effort to be more spiritual or to heal. You have to understand why you are choosing the foods you choose before you can change. I learned much of this from Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.

RITA: What inspired you to change specifically?

CYNTHIA: After my eyes were opened up to the nature of food and its healing potential, I went back to school in New York City at the Health and Nutrition Program to become a certified health and nutrition counselor.

During school, I focused all of my papers on maternal and infant nutrition. I was newly married, and we were talking about having a baby. This time in one’s life is such a window of opportunity to change how you eat and to learn how to eat. Every mother wants to make the right choices, the best choices they can.

After my daughter was born and it came time to start her on foods, the experiment began. I started feeding her what we were eating, instead of following the cultural rules at the time [store-bought baby food]. And I couldn’t get this book out of my head. Some of the book came from within me, but most of it came from practicality.

RITA: What do you hope to accomplish through your educational efforts in whole foods?

CYNTHIA: Through “Cookus Interruptus,” the point of the show is to demonstrate how to incorporate high quality, wholesome foods into the diet within the context of a busy family.

There’s a back story to the cooking show. The characters are Great-Grandpa, Grandpa, Grandma and the Mom, who is going through an identity crisis and is struggling to take care of her 5-year-old son so she has moved back home.

It’s an Attachment Parenting community. That’s all going on in there, during the show. It’s so subtle. It’s not a perfect family: We got problems, but the boy is being taken care of in a loving and respectful way. I’m very conscious of what kind of family values we’re presenting.

My goal is to move healthy eating away from the fringes and into the mainstream. I want ordinary people to realize that, yes, you can do this.

I thank U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle for normalizing it through their garden and personal food choices. The more normal it is, the easier it is to get some of the more important things done, like getting healthier foods into school lunches and the hospitals and getting farm subsidies in place for growers of fruits and vegetables. It all starts, I believe, at the family dinner table.

RITA: A sit-down meal shared together is a great way for families to continue practicing the second of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting: Feeding with Love and Respect. Cynthia, can you explain the importance of the family table?

CYNTHIA: Research bears out that for the family that sits down and shares a meal together, the children have a long list of benefits, including closer family ties, better vocabulary, more resilience when facing emotional crisis—wow—and as teens, not going toward drugs and alcohol as much. Sitting down and eating together is nutritious in every way possible, which is why I believe babies should eat the same foods as the rest of the family.

RITA: You’ve told me that API’s Principle of Feeding with Love and Respect aligns so closely to your own beliefs that it could have come straight out of your book. Can you share with us a little about your journey in Attachment Parenting?

CYNTHIA: I’m not a Mother Earth-type person. I know many people who are, and some of them are good friends of mine, but I’m not. I was curious in raising a child, just like we all are.

When babies are born, their mothers have these incredible strings attached to their hearts from their child: You know when they’re going to cry before they do—that kind of thing. I was shocked by how strong that was.

I think mothers have to let go of some of those strings in order to go back to work full time. I couldn’t let go. I had all this creative energy, but I decided I didn’t have to give up one—my career or motherhood—for the other. I allowed both to nourish each other. I think that’s the heart of Attachment Parenting: allowing that bond to be. It’s not that I was giving up my life but instead I was allowing my life to shift. Once I became a teacher, I found that is a really good career for a parent. I never had to use daycare. That’s what I see as the soul of Attachment Parenting: being there.

You have to change the way you think, just like you do when learning to eat wholesome foods.

RITA: What advice would you give to someone who wants to change the way they think about food?

CYNTHIA: The most important thing is to make really small changes and to do these changes slowly. The people who clear out their cupboards are the ones who only last two weeks. For example, you could set the goal to serve dark leafy greens once a week. Do that for three, four, six months and then pick another goal.

RITA: What other goals would you recommend starting with?

CYNTHIA: The first small change I would suggest is to dump diet soda. This is mostly from personal experience, but on a related note, Walter Willett from Harvard University, author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, explains that liquid calories don’t trigger the satiety signals. If you drink 300 calories from a latte, your body still thinks you need lunch.

Second, I would try to serve a warm breakfast once time a week. The easiest breakfast to serve kids is a sweetened or unsweetened cereal. Serving warm toast and eggs is a very loving thing you can do for yourself and your child.

Third, I would learn how to cook more vegetables that are pleasing to your family. Instead of steaming kale and trying to get everyone to choke that down, try serving it in a way your spouse and children would be more likely to eat it. Serve asparagus braised in butter and seasoned. Put cheese on broccoli.

RITA: Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom, Cynthia. Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

CYNTHIA: One thing I love about the API’s Principle of Feeding with Love and Respect is the word “respect” and its far-reaching implications. That word is important and has a lot of ripples to it: We want to respect ourselves through the food we eat, we want to respect the food by presenting it attractively, we want to respect the work that goes into preparing it, and we want to respect the people who grew the food and brought it to us. Most of all, we want to respect our children by teaching them to eat good food and to respect the people who make the food.

Be Mindful When Feeding Ourselves, Our Children by Cynthia Lair

·         Let an appetite develop – Constant sipping on juices and nibbling on crackers can lead to picky eating at the table. Physical activity is important.

·         Help discover intuition about what the body needs – When your child says, “I’m starving,” ask which food sounds better: this or that.

·         Know what you are serving – not just what the ingredients are but where it came from, how thefood was grown and processed. Whenever possible, choose fresh, local, organic ingredients. Choose whole food (apple) over partial products (apple juice).

·         Instill positive energy into the food you serve yourself and your children – Cook when possible, and pay attention to presentation; create flavor and beauty.

·         Encourage sitting down to eat – In this way, the body is cued that eating and digesting are taking place and nutrient uptake is actually better. Also, most are satisfied with less food.

·         Express gratitude together – Labor was expended in order for you to eat. The miracle of growth from a seed, dirt, water and sunshine occurred.

 Shopping for Sustenance by Cynthia Lair

 This could easily be the mantra guiding whole foods eating. If you purchase a food that was grown locally and organically, and is fresh and in season, that’s as good as it gets.

 High-quality food is more expensive, but consider this: In the 1960s, American families spent 18% of their income on food and 5% on health care. Nowadays, this is reversed: We spend just 9% of our hard-earned dollars on food and 16% on health care. Which would you rather spend your money on?


Fresh is best. The chemical composition of food changes radically a few hours after harvest simply because it is cut off from its food and water supply. Fresh food, particularly fresh produce, gives us maximum nutrients and flavor.

Frozen food can be good, too. Most of the nutrients are retained in foods that are frozen; however, some of the enzymes, color and flavor will have disappeared. If purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables, the texture will have changed. The foods are much less crisp than fresh foods because the cell structure is damaged by crystallization of water.

Canned foods have most of their nutrients present, but the flavor, color and texture suffer. One exception is tomatoes, which are picked at maximum ripeness and canned the same day. Often a canned tomato will be superior in flavor than a fresh tomato purchased in February that was flown thousands of miles.


Did you know that 86% of our fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown on farms surrounding America’s cities? Most farmers who sell their food locally don’t artificially treat crops to withstand shipping and extend their shelf life. Have a conversation with some of the non-organic vendors at your local farmer’s market, and you may find out that some local farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides but lack the size or profits to go through the rigorous process to attain organic status. Many farmers will sell their eggs, beef and pork directly to the consumer. The same is true for milk and milk products from healthy cows and goats.

Check out and click on your state. Consider subscribing to a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) operation through which a box of fresh, locally grown produce is delivered or picked up every week. The site has listings.

As Barbara Kingsolver pointedly reminds us in her essay, “Lily’s Chickens”:

“Even if you walk or bike to the store, if you come home with bananas from Ecuador, tomatoes from Holland, cheese from France and artichokes from California, you have guzzled some serious gas. This extravagance that most of us take for granted is a stunning boondoggle: Transporting five calories’ worth of strawberry from California to New York costs 435 calories of fossil fuel.”

Buying locally supports your community, supports your health and supports the intention of conserving global resources.


Buying organic products is a form of voting. Your organic purchase says that you support the growers and manufacturers who are producing food without the use of the synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or pesticides that pollute your body and your world.

Buying organic produce, especially locally grown produce, also helps keep you in tune with the seasons.

Many believe that organic produce tastes better and contains more nutrients.

We have national (U.S.) standards for labeling food “organic.” A label that says “100% Organic” must contain all organic ingredients. If the label simply says “organic,” at least 95% of the ingredients are organically produced. When the label reads “made with organic ingredients,” at least 70% of the ingredients are organic. Organic produce label codes start with the number nine.

Please be aware that before there were national standards set for labeling a food “organic,” the term meant that the product had been grown according to strict uniform standards and verified by independent state or private organizations. In constructing national regulations, the standards have been watered down some. Now that super-chains, like Wal-Mart, are carrying organic produce, the standards may be changed to benefit large producers over individual consumers. The large corporations have more lobbying power to get the regulations changed to suit their need for lower prices and bigger profits. This trend may put the small, local farmers out of business, so whenever possible, buy organic produce at your local farmer’s market rather than chain supermarkets.

Make a special effort to use organic products when preparing food for pregnant or nursing moms, infants and children. Toxins found in the mother’s food can cross the placenta to the growing fetus or wind up in breastmilk. What may be tolerated by a mature adult may prove harsh to the immature system of fetus or infant. Regulatory practices used to control pesticides in foods are based on studies of pesticide exposure to the general population without regard to the special needs of infants.

Some of the most pesticide- saturated foods are ones that we routinely give children to snack on, including peanut butter, peanuts, raisins and potato chips. Non-organic apples, peaches, strawberries and celery can contain as many as 80 pesticide residues. Use your power as a consumer to demand the best for our children, our planet and the future of both.


Choosing food that is in season gives the year rhythm and ritual. It is exciting to wait for local strawberries to appear, which are sweeter and fresher than eating Mexican-grown berries in January. Anticipation is a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait for corn to be in season locally because it is so sweet it hardly needs to be cooked. By waiting for produce available locally only during windows of time, our eating has a cyclical feeling keeping us in tune with the seasons.

Eating seasonally also puts your body in tune with the climate you are living in. The stereotypical southern Californian preference for raw salads and avocados has sense to it. The lighter diet that includes lots of raw foods is perfect for living in a sunny, warm climate. Northwesterners need the density of frequent servings of salmon to survive the cold damp of rainy winters. Traveling north of our continent, an even fattier diet is appropriate for surviving the cold. Where do you live? What did the ancestors who inhabited your community grow and eat?

Excerpted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008). Reprinted with permission.

You might also enjoy the other articles in our National Nutrition Month series:

Kids in the Kitchen: An Interview with Sally Sampson, Founder of ChopChopKids

Malnourished by a Western Diet, or NDD by Dr. William Sears

Strengthening Secure Attachment Through Food by Kelly Bartlett


Peggy O’Mara: An Interview

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska).

Photo on 2013-04-01 at 15.58As it turns out with so many of the most amazing people I have been privileged to write about, Peggy O’Mara—a mother of four who was an absolutely integral force in starting and carrying the Attachment Parenting movement for 35 years through her magazine, Mothering—didn’t set out to change the world.

But, wow, she sure did.

I always pictured Peggy as a high-powered magazine executive, but it became quickly apparent that she is just like you and me—first and foremost a mother, now a grandmother, who adores her family but also has a giving heart with a passion for helping parents at all points in their parenting journey.

To begin with, when I began our phone interview and apologized ahead of time for the interruptions from my children that were sure to happen—and did, over a box of Valentine’s Day cards—Peggy recalled a memory of the magazine’s staff, including herself, bringing children into the office and attending to them while pushing out stories and putting together the lifeline that Mothering was for so many mothers. Oh, and she said that sometimes she misses that part with the children underfoot.

While for many of us, Peggy O’Mara and Mothering are synonymous—one will always be linked to the other in our minds—I want this interview to celebrate Peggy as herself, because while Mothering magazine was a large part of her life, she is so much more.

RITA: You began with Mothering at a time very different from today, more than a decade before Attachment Parenting International was founded. What inspired you to begin your Attachment Parenting journey?

PEGGY: I was a La Leche League Leader before Mothering.

I gave birth to my first child in 1974. I was living in southern New Mexico (USA), which was a pretty rural area. My husband and I had moved there wanting to get back to the land. We just had that kind of mind-set. My parents were there, too. When I became pregnant, La Leche League was the first thing I found for any kind of support.

There was a really strong culture of volunteering in those days. Women were just beginning to work more outside the home. I became a La Leche League Leader in 1975. Because there were so few leaders in the area, I quickly took on other volunteer jobs within La Leche League. I did the area newsletter for a time, and then I took on the job of coordinating leader applicants. This job is really what prepared me for Mothering, especially talking to people about their parenting philosophies and learning how to ask questions. I learned so much from La Leche League.

RITA: And then came Mothering?

PEGGY: Most people think I founded Mothering, but I didn’t. I actually found Mothering in 1976, in a health  food store in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA).

Addie Eavenson founded Mothering in southern Colorado (USA) in 1976 and then moved to Albuquerque. I moved to Albuquerque in 1978. Earlier that year, I had sent Mothering an article I wrote titled “In Defense of Motherhood.” I was reading all these bad stories of motherhood, but no one was saying about how ecstatic it was to be a mother. Addie called and asked me to be an editor! I was pregnant with my third child at the time and literally threw up because I was so excited.

Soon I found myself trying to work at Mothering with three kids under age 5.

Then Addie decided to sell the magazine. She was just ready to move onto something else in her life. She wanted a $5,000 down payment that I didn’t have. I went everywhere, talked to every banker, trying to get the money, but I couldn’t get any. So she was going to sell it to someone else, but then that fell through and I was able to buy the magazine without the down payment—though my husband and I had some pretty stiff monthly payments. It was a miracle! It really was a miracle, and that really influenced me to feel that could I do anything.

So I bought Mothering in 1980, and that was the beginning of that.

RITA: Why did you stay with the name Mothering? How do you feel about fathers?

PEGGY: Fathers are very essential. I think people didn’t think we appreciated fathers.

When I started with Mothering, I wanted to change the name to Whole Family Living. But Addie reminded me that she had named it Mothering to celebrate the act of mothering.  At the time the magazine was founded, mothering itself was really maligned. This was in the 1970s when some feminists called homemakers the family servant. I was among the first generation of mothers leaving the home to go to work.

It’s also important to recognize that fathers are more nurturing now than they were when Mothering was started. Fathers have come so far now that there is a stay-at-home dad’s conference in California (USA). That’s very different than it was in the 1970s.

A mother depends on the support of her partner at home. And here I mean same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. Regardless of sexual orientation, our partner’s support is essential; it’s everything.

RITA: What was it like in the early days of Mothering?

PEGGY: The early days were very much “learn as you go.” All I wanted to do was be able to give information. I was very intimidated by the magazine industry. I didn’t want to read anything about it because I didn’t want to know how much I didn’t know, so I just did it one step at a time. I tried to publish what I wanted to see in a magazine: stories I wanted to read, stories from interesting people, beautiful photos, ideas that moved me.

We were hesitant about new technologies at first. Our first office machine was a copy machine in 1982. I remember being pregnant at the time and standing with my belly off to the side because I didn’t know if it was safe to be around the copy machine while it was running.

Getting our first fax machine was a big deal. And, of course, computers—Mothering grew up as technology did, but we were cautious because as a health-oriented magazine, we had published articles on the risks of computer screens to pregnant women. New screens reduced those risks.

RITA: When did Mothering seem to intersect with the wider natural living and Attachment Parenting movements?

PEGGY: Mothering really caught on in 1998. President Bill Clinton was in office, and the environmental movement was really getting going. Cloth diapers were big. There was a growing interest in social justice.

It used to be that anyone looking at Mothering was very much into the natural lifestyle. Anyone reading Mothering was either all in or all out. Then in the mid-1990s, I hired a couple of editors who were different than our traditional readership—they were athletes, really into fitness, and they found that natural parenting worked well with their lifestyle. This was a big change for Mothering: People were choosing natural parenting, but it didn’t define their entire life. The culture was changing quickly from a time when natural food and natural living considered “out there” to a time now when they are now integrated fully into mainstream life.

In 1998, Mothering went from a quarterly to a bimonthly magazine. We also started going to the Natural Products Expo. By the early 2000s, we started seeing babywearing everywhere. It grew to incredible popularity because of the fashion aspect, and along with it came many of the ideas of Attachment Parenting we had been heralding since the 1970s.

We also started seeing growth in Mothering’s influence. Ideas like the family bedroom and nursing past two—I never thought they’d be so accepted by society. It used to be that no one but those of us at La Leche League meetings was talking about these kinds of things. Now they’re part of the national conversation. They’re something that everyone is talking about and most new parents are considering, and many people are doing some parts of it or all of it.

RITA: And Mothering helped to inspire Attachment Parenting International as well.

PEGGY: I first met Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker [API’s cofounders] through La Leche League. They were leaders, too, and we would attend the same conferences. I think we were all influenced by a talk at one of the conferences by Dr. Elliott Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who explained how every violent criminal he had encountered had a history of extreme separation and insecure attachment as a child.

RITA: Certainly you had more influence through Mothering than you might have realized. And yet somehow, even the best of causes seem to find opposition. How did you handle Mothering’s critics?

PEGGY: In many ways, having critics means that you are affecting people, making them think and respond. I tried to offer explanations and evidence, but often critics respond emotionally, and Mothering is not for everyone. I took on controversial topics in print because I wanted parents to have important information to make decisions about their children now. I trusted that parents would sort out their own truth from what I offered, and I never pretended to be objective.

Online, our discussion forums grew rapidly and were ranked by Big Boards as the largest for parents online. This was in the early 2000s before Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest got so popular, and we had seen other online communities go out of control and implode. We drew some criticism for our moderation policies at that time, but they were intended to keep the discussions civil and focused on natural family living. At one time, we had 80 volunteer moderators.

RITA: When did you decide to transition Mothering from print to online?

PEGGY: Well, it wasn’t so much a decision as something about which there was no choice. Mothering in print was a small magazine, a niche magazine, with a 100,000 circulation. In the mid-1990s, we founded and the boards. In the 2000s, the growth of far eclipsed the magazine. By 2010, we were seeing 750,000 unique visitors per month. Parents everywhere, within and beyond Mothering, were going to the Internet.

That growth of paralleled with what happened to the economy. We had grown the business to a $2 million-per-year business. 2009 was our best year.

In 2010, we were seeing the beginnings of the recession. Our advertising dropped and so did our subscriptions. Nearly half of our subscriptions were traditionally gift subscriptions. During the recession, people weren’t giving gifts. They weren’t buying subscriptions. Advertising in print was down.

We were cutting expenses, but it got the best of us and Mothering developed a lot of debt to the printer and to our ad reps. The last three issues of 2010 were printing later and later because our cash flow was reduced. We were selling ads, but our January 2011 issue experienced the lowest ad sales in 10 years. We were just too far gone by then. It was all I could do to keep from going bankrupt, so I had to sell the business.

I stopped publishing the magazine in February 2011 and sold the website to pay off the print debt in July of 2011.

I became an employee of the new owners. I had a two-year contract and then was laid off in November of 2012. I was unemployed for the first time in decades but was able to get a reverse mortgage and reduce my monthly payments quite a bit.

Even though I am no longer associated with Mothering, others continue to think of Mothering and me as one and the same. I have no control over the editorial or advertising direction that Mothering is taking now, and yet I will always be associated with the business in many people’s minds.

RITA: That is so hard. I praise you for making it through.

PEGGY: Thank you. It has been hard.

RITA: And now?

PEGGY: I didn’t think I could do a digital magazine without staff, so I challenged myself to make a WordPress site. It gave me confidence after I lost so much.

I started in August of 2013. I’m doing what I did in the beginning with Mothering—really connecting with writers and people who have interesting things to say. I’ve always been motivated by social justice and can focus more on that now.

I’m really having fun. There’s a lot less pressure, so I can be more creative now. I plan to grow the site just the way I grew Mothering.

RITA: The Internet has changed so much of how everyone communicates and how information is disseminated to the public. What are your thoughts?

PEGGY: I love blogging. I love the Internet. I like what the Internet has given us in access to information and freedom from isolation.

There are a lot of voices on the Internet. You’re able to choose your own reality, your own world. You choose what you really want to know, whom you want to listen to. The evolution of the online user is such that people eventually look for the authoritative voice so that the information they’re getting is something they can trust.

RITA: Do you feel that parents can get adequate support through online sources?

PEGGY: Parents can get a lot of information online, but it’s not a substitute for in-person support. What the Internet has increased so much is advocacy and social entrepreneurship.

RITA: With your history of advocating for natural parenting and Attachment Parenting, what advice can you give others?

PEGGY: Start by acknowledging the other person’s position. For example, through La Leche League meetings, I learned that even if I had a great experience breastfeeding, another might have had a lot of difficulty or felt tied down by the frequent nursings. In order to talk to and possibly help a mom with different experiences than my own, I have to understand my own biases and practice compassion.

Start with a certain gentleness. Share your experiences, and keep it personal. Talk from your heart rather than your head. Use I-messages, just as you would to talk to your child. Talking about your own experiences is better than anything, rather than lecturing.

At the same time, in the media, too much information is presented as opinion when facts do matter. There is a difference between opinion and facts. I always try to combine my instincts with the science if I can.


Birth Story Guidelines

Share Your Birth Story


Parents, we invite you to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth.

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

A special note to expectant parents: The remarkable journey of new life is a positive, transformative experience. Pregnancy offers expectant parents an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for parenthood. Making informed decisions about childbirth, newborn care, and parenting practices is a critical investment in the attachment relationship between parent and child. You can read about API’s Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting here:

Birth Story Guidelines

As you write your birth story, we invite you to reflect on the following questions. Not all of the questions may apply to your situation. Rather than answer all of the questions, please incorporate some of your reflections within your story, if they are applicable.

  • How did you educate yourself about birth and parenting? What were helpful resources? If you read the API Principle on Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting, what did you find helpful?
  • What did you think would be a certain way, only to find out it was different after you began learning about childbirth, parenting and attachment?
  • What are your beliefs about childbirth and parenting, and how have they made an impact on your choices?
  • What impact did your previous childbirth experiences, if any, have on your thoughts, feelings and decisions?
  • Did you have any negative emotions or fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, and how did you process them before the birth?
  • What kind of health care providers and birthing options did you choose and why?
  • What did you hope your childbirth experience would be like?
  • What kind of support did you receive during pregnancy from your partner, family or others? Did you join any support groups or forums?
  • Were there times during pregnancy or childbirth when your instincts were in conflict with what your health care providers suggested or demanded?
  • The childbirth experience: what happened, how did you feel and react, what role did others play in the process?
  • Were there aspects of “routine” newborn care that you felt strongly about, such as bathing, circumcision, eye drops, blood samples, collecting cord blood, and so on? Did your health care provider honor your choices?
  • Did you want to breastfeed? If yes, were you able to? How did your health care providers help or hinder this process?
  • Were there aspects of your pregnancy or birth experience that you regret or would like to have changed? How have you processed and healed negative emotions related to childbirth?
  • What kind of support did you receive after the birth from your partner, family, friends, health care professionals or support groups?


Spotlight On: Birth, Breath and Death

Birth Breath and Death Front Cover copy

An interview with author Amy Wright Glenn about her book Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.

Tell us about your book.

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a heartfelt account of my work with the birthing and dying. I am a doula. I hold space for women as they give birth. I am a chaplain. I hold space for the dying. I am drawn to life’s thresholds. I am drawn to these doorways.

Birth, Breath, and Death is also a deeply personal exploration of what it meant for me to become a mother, given the painful legacy of my mother’s mental illness. I write about the healing attachment found in cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. I weave together research on attachment and brain development, with reflections on empathy and compassion.

Finally, I share personal stories about birth and death, combined with philosophical reflections as my academic background is in the study of comparative religions and philosophy.

What inspired you to write this book?

My husband, Clark, came up with the title of this book during my training as a hospital chaplain. However, I wasn’t ready to write this book at that point in my life. It was the birth of my son–and the subsequently profound opening of my heart–that compelled me to write this book.

I didn’t want to go back to full-time academic work after holding my newborn in my arms. I knew I could use my skill as a writer to contribute financially to the family and fulfill my heart’s longing, and the longing of my young son, to stay at home and nurture him with the best of my energy and talents.

Much of Birth, Breath, and Death came to me in meditation, and I often woke up from sleep with sentences running through my mind. Writing has opened up many doors for me, and I’m grateful to find a way to work from home and share my insights, struggles, hopes and experiences.

How will this book benefit families?

All of us are born. All of us die. I write about the deepest questions we can examine in life. Within our family circles, we encounter both the miraculous and the mundane. Within our families, we most deeply encounter the transformative energies of birth and death.

I believe we all benefit from reflecting upon what it means to be born and what it means to die. These are life’s big questions. Even if one disagrees with my responses to these big questions, it is still invaluable to take the time to reflect upon them with an open heart and mind.

Parents, in particular, will benefit from reading this book as I reflect on what it means to be a parent and find one’s own way, trust one’s intuition, and draw upon best practices and scholarship to bring out the best in oneself and one’s children.

You share birth stories and reflect upon your work as a chaplain supporting the dying, but tell us more about the “Breath” part of your book.

The first thing we do upon leaving our mother’s body is breathe in, and the last thing we do before we die is breathe out. The breath is the link, the thread. It is a powerfully loyal friend throughout life’s journey between birth and death.

I practice meditation and teach yoga. Conscious breath awareness is central to these mindfulness practices. It’s central to living a mindful life. The “breath” part of the book relates to teachings drawn from many wisdom traditions that help us keep our hearts open as we live with love and seek truth.

You studied comparative religion and taught this on the college and high school level, so how does this impact your writing?

My studies of comparative religion and philosophy profoundly impact everything I do. I love making links between the particular and the universal, between the day-to-day patterns of living and the deep reflections that thinkers across time and culture bring to human life. My book is academically rigorous in the sense that I draw freely from my training as a scholar in the telling of birth, breath and death tales.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

Attachment Parenting International is an organization I admire, support and celebrate. I’m very grateful for API’s commitment to link best parenting practices with research, and support families to develop secure attachments that foster the development of empathy, courage and resilience.

I found myself naturally practicing many AP styles of mothering and applied my previous research in the field of ethical development to the work of nurturing my son. I certainly want to support all parents to “raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children.” We do this best when we as parents embody these qualities ourselves.

My book chronicles my own journey of working through the pain of a difficult childhood and emerging with joy and empathy to embrace openhearted mothering.

Where can readers find more information?

Readers can visit my website to read reviews of the book and find purchase information.