Category Archives: 1. Pregnancy & Birth

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

Attachment Parenting Isn’t Asking Too Much…Our Society Is

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

There is still a lot of discussion centering on Attachment Parenting, even though the controversial TIME coverage was almost three weeks ago, which is equal to eons away in our instantaneous, cluttered, sensationalism-saturated mass media. You know that something – some issue, some news story – has made it big when it’s still being talked about this long after the buzz first began.

TIME is hardly the first to bring Attachment Parenting into mainstream light and not necessarily in a good light. In all fairness, the articles included in the TIME package on May 21, 2012, were probably the most fair, least biased of any mainstream coverage on the parenting style that I’ve seen. But it still perpetuated a lot of myths: One that particularly irks me is the claim that there is no research to back up Attachment Parenting, when in fact it is very well researched and one of the branches of research where there are very certain results, with studies all pointing in the same direction rather than some studies contradicting one another.

One of the myths that is particularly virulent – but then again, always has been – is that Attachment Parenting equals mommy martyrdom, that it asks too much of parents. I find this a little comical, because what does that say about you if you think that there is a parenting style that asks too much of you? As if your child isn’t worth it. Are there parents who think that way? I hope not.

What the argument is really, is revealing an overall lack of a sense of individual balance in our Western society. Asking us to do a little more for the betterment of our children, whom we love, wouldn’t be such a big deal if the majority of parents didn’t already feel tired and overworked and severely lacking some “me” time. If our emotional cups were already full most of the time. But they’re not. As a society, we seem to be constantly seeking contentment, chasing happiness.

There are plenty of theories abound of why this is, but I see it as our society asking too much of us. Mothers are supposed to work and raise children, and really, there are not many mothers who have a choice between working and staying at home. It isn’t a matter of selfishness but often out of necessity; rising food and fuel costs, access to affordable health insurance, debt, divorce – all these contribute to mothers’ lack of options. And at the end of the day, many mothers feel responsible for the housework as well.

What scares parents about Attachment Parenting is that it’s another thing to do, that it’s something else that they really need to do but just cannot get to, that not doing it could have real and lasting consequences and they already feel guilty of what they perceive to not be giving right now. Attachment Parenting isn’t asking too much of parents but too much of people who already have too much going on in their lives. To give our children as much time and energy that parents are imagining that we “attachment parents” give, well, it would require that they give up on something in their life – and that would probably be the only thing in their life that gives them any sense of personal balance. It would require them to completely overhaul their lifestyles and re-learn how to be content with a slower, simpler life – one where personal happiness wasn’t dependent on more, more, more.

This change in thinking would be daunting in the least – for some, impossible, unless they were willing to face and address their own unmet needs for emotional balance, and change the very way that they strive to meet that unquenchable void: by switching their priority away from materialism and instant gratification to quality relationships that require patience, commitment, sometimes hard work without meaningful results, and character strength.

That’s not the core of Western society, and that’s why Attachment Parenting isn’t yet mainstream. To “attachment parents,” it can be frustrating that attachment-promoting parenting techniques aren’t more widely accepted –shouldn’t love, that emotion that everyone desires to feel authentically, be an obvious way to raise our children? But for Attachment Parenting to become more mainstream, it couldn’t come by force or policy – that isn’t our way as “attachment parents,” anyway. It would have to come by a shift in our societal attitude.

Forget Child- or Parent-Centered…Think Family-Centered

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

Various parenting approaches are usually categorized as either child-centered or parent-centered, and there is great contention about which is better for both children and parents. Child-centered, critics say, compromises a parent’s sense of balance and may lead to children feeling entitlement. Parent-centered, critics counter, compromises a child’s need for parental attention and attunement.

But is this polarization, this black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking, reality? Should we be debating for which is the better of the two “evils”?

The fear centered on Attachment Parenting is that, because it involves a parent to be attuned to her child around the clock, that it must be synonymous with or at least bordering on permissive parenting. Scary music please… Permissive parenting is that style of parenting that conjures thoughts of dread in as many parents as abusive parenting does. Permissive parenting indicates a seriously imbalanced, child-centered parenting style where parents bend to the will of the child in everything, perhaps out of fear of rejection or out of pure indifference, without setting behavioral limits. It can lead to where the parent has no rights to her own sense of self, because the parent will forgo her own needs to satisfy her child’s wants.

The reaction by critics of Attachment Parenting is – instead of understanding the ins and outs of what it indeed means to have a secure parent-child attachment bond – is often to recommend a complete overhaul on the parenting principles: shut the child in the bedroom and let him cry himself to sleep alone, schedule feedings, punish and shame and ignore requests. As if doing the very opposite of their perceived fears is anymore healthy? Continue reading

Attachment Parenting Beyond Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Cosleeping

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

It’s not so much that pediatrician and author William Sears, MD, has remade motherhood, as TIME magazine suggested, but rather that he has revived within mothers their own ageless intuition. He has helped women restore their own confidence in themselves as mothers, which has allowed them to live their motherhood out loud. But putting the focus on breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing have unfortunately reduced Attachment Parenting to these three practices alone. These are not the heart and soul of Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting is a concept much greater than physical closeness. A mature parent-child attachment means that the parent and child are connected at the heart: The child can share what is within his heart with his parent; the child seeks his parent’s advice and guidance and shares values. The relationship exists securely even without physical proximity. It takes years for a relationship to mature to this stage. It unfolds slowly as the parent takes the lead in providing what is needed for the relationship to develop and deepen.

In the beginning, the relationship is characterized by a drive to seek and maintain physical closeness. But physical proximity through the senses is only the first stage of this attachment relationship, and during the first year of life, it is the only way that babies can attach. Breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing certainly stimulate the senses and keep babies physically close to their primary caregiver – Mama – but they are not the only ways that a parent can provide for the child’s attachment needs. If attachment through the senses and physical closeness remain the only way of attaching, the relationship will be shallow, insecure, and prevent the child from becoming his own person. Continue reading

Attachment Parenting, Illustrated

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API Leader

“The question should not be, ‘Are you mom enough?’ The questions should be:

  • Are you responsively parenting your child in a timely way?
  • Are you attuned to his or her individual needs?
  • Are you providing a safe, protected, and predictable environment?
  • Do you understand and respond to the developmental differences between infants, toddlers, and older verbal children?
  • Are you available and empathetic when your child needs you or is under stress?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, you are practicing Attachment Parenting.  You can reasonably expect that your child will become emotionally secure, will be able to give and receive affection, and will lead a productive and successful life.”~ Isabelle Fox, PhD, author of Growing Up: Attachment Parenting from Kindergarten to College, in response to Time magazine’s feature article “Are you Mom Enough?” on May 21, 2012

What does Attachment Parenting look like? That depends on who you ask.

  • William is a stay-at-home father with his infant son. An environmental engineer, Crystal works two days in the office and three days from home. William travels with Crystal during her frequent business trips so that she can continue breastfeeding, babywearing, and bedsharing after the workday has ended.
  • Jason, a prison guard, works shifts opposite his wife, Becky, a physical therapist, so that one of them is always home with their infant son and toddler daughter. Becky is tandem-nursing, and the family cosleeps.
  • Shell is a stay-at-home mom to her toddler son. Her husband, Dusty, owns his own electrical business, so they often eat lunch at the job sites and he can take a day off here or there to spend more time as a family. Shell breastfed, coslept, and babywore their son, and she plans on homeschooling.
  • Rita is a stay-at-home mom to her three children and a full-time work-from-home mom doing communications. Because her husband, Mike, works 60-hour weeks at the factory, it’s not uncommon to see Rita bring at least one of her children in with her to a work meeting. Her two older children attend morning preschool, and her baby is her first exclusively breastfed child. Rita and Mike also cosleep regularly with the younger two children.
  • Jamie works full time at a bank, and her husband, Anthony, is a church pastor. She breastfeeds and pumps milk to be bottle-fed to her baby at the childcare center where both of her children attend. The center operates on values consistent with Attachment Parenting. At home, the baby sleeps in his parents’ room in a crib, and his toddler brother sleeps in his own room.
  • Cristin is a stay-at-home mom to four children. Her husband, Jon, travels extensively for his job as a computer technician. Their oldest two children attend public school, leaving Cristin home with a baby and a toddler. She is breastfeeding the baby who sleeps in her room in a bassinet.
  • Lindsey is a single mom who used to work at a large childcare center. She now provides childcare out of her home, in order to spend more time with her infant daughter. She breastfed until recently, when she ran into supply issues, but has enough breastmilk stored up to last another six months when her daughter will turn one.
  • Britney is a stay-at-home mom to a toddler daughter. Her husband, Steven, farms. Britney breastfed and babywore her daughter.
  • Leslie has been working as a full-time school teacher for the past ten years but has been seeking a half-time position since her daughter, now a preschooler, was born. She’s seriously considering taking a year or two off from working to spend more time with her daughter. Her husband, Spencer, a college instructor, supports her decision.
  • Traci is a stay-at-home mom during the day and spends her nights cleaning houses. When her pilot husband, Chuck, is away flying airplanes, her two school-age boys and preschool daughter sleep over at Grandma’s until Traci’s shift ends.
  • Brian and Karen both work full time. When a favorite childcare provider raised her rates, Karen spent a lot of time reviewing and interviewing potential providers for her toddler daughter before deciding on a nearby in-home daycare. When her daughter was a baby, Karen breastfed her until she returned to work at six weeks and then switched to formula. Karen never coslept, but she and Brian always got up for her daughter in the middle of the night, soothing her back to sleep by holding and rocking her.

Attachment Parenting is an approach to childrearing, independent of a parent’s lifestyle. What this means is that instead of centering on specific rules, such as that a mother must breastfeed or bedshare or stay-at-home, the Attachment Parenting approach shifts the parents’ focus to meeting the individual emotional needs of each child, interdependent with the needs of the parent and the family as a whole. It is a family-centered approach to parenting through which children are responded to consistently and sensitively, depending on their development, but treated with the same respect and value as an adult, yet without sacrificing the parents’ needs for personal balance. Continue reading

What Attachment Parenting is…and is Not

Maybe you never knew there was a name for it – the unique way you raise your child – but it’s in tune with your child’s needs and with your own needs, and your family lives it out daily. Or, perhaps, you do know there is a name for it, with many synonyms and variations, but you live it out without being defined.

It’s hit the news, blogs, social media, and forums where parenting approaches are more contentious than politics or religion.

Some may know what they know about it from a critique or a comment. But, every day, growing numbers of parents find the name and the communities that come with it – and breathe a sigh of relief to find welcome, encouragement, information, and freedom from judgment.

From professionals to media, it’s not just parents who are discussing Attachment Parenting.

The Latest Fad, or Something More? Time for some clarification and a reality check…

Connecting with Older Children during Pregnancy

By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, contributing editor to The Attached Family

When I was pregnant with my first child, I wrote in my journal nearly every day about what I felt and the changes I was experiencing. Once a week, I went to a prenatal yoga class and I listened to special meditations to connect with my baby. If I wasn’t at work or caring for the home, I used to just lie down and feel my baby sweep her elbows and knees across my belly.

Pregnancy with my second child brought an entirely different experience. In nine months, I went to one yoga class, took my older child to my prenatal visits with me, and had an extra set of hands on my belly whenever the baby kicked. And while I enjoyed the few moments before I slept, feeling the baby alone, my prime focus during pregnancy was to prepare my older child for the arrival of a new sibling.

Knowing that the nine months of pregnancy before baby’s arrival would be my last nine months of parenting a single child, I tried, like all mothers of second babies, to include my older child in preparations for the baby in a way that made her feel valuable and important.

When parents find out they will be expecting a second child, they often wonder when and how to tell their first. Experts agree that the way in which parents tell their older child the news depends on the child’s age. The nine months before baby’s arrival may be an abstract idea for a younger child that doesn’t quite understand time; in this case, it sometimes helps to connect the birth to a holiday near which the baby should arrive.

A preschooler or kindergarten-aged child is bound to ask where babies come from. A child this age doesn’t necessarily want to know about sex but about where in the body the baby literally comes from. “The baby comes from the mommy’s uterus,” might be a good answer, especially if a parent has access to a developmentally appropriate, illustrated book about the body. A family’s religious or other values might lead to another response entirely; what matters most is that the answer be respectful and genuine.

When parents decide to tell their child about the new baby may depend on a past history of miscarriage. Some families may decide to wait until the second trimester, while others may not be able to contain their excitement and decide to tell their older child immediately.

During pregnancy, maintaining a strong bond with the older child is crucial. It may seem like everybody outside the home is focused on the mother’s belly and will constantly ask the older child what he thinks about having a new baby brother or sister, which may make the older child feel excluded or replaced. To keep an older child feeling important, spend ample time focused on him as an individual, rather than as a big brother-to-be. Spend time each day doing activities the child enjoys, like trips to the park or pool, family game time, and art projects. By allowing an older child to have time with Mom and Dad, doing the things he enjoys without talking about the baby, parents will maintain their child’s sense of his vital and valuable role in the family.

To lay the foundation for a loving relationship between siblings, parents can include their older child in preparations for the baby. Kids may have fun choosing potential names for the baby, picking out furniture and clothing, and helping assemble toys and furniture.

In order to prepare an older child for the shift to life with an infant, parents and their older children can look through pictures of the older child as a baby or go through her baby book. Talk to the child about special memories, silly things he did or said as a baby, how happy his mother and father were and still are to have him. It may also make the transition easier if parents talk about the attention a new baby needs, and if parents show pictures of the older child as a baby having a bath or snuggling with Mom or Dad, she can see how fun and tender life with a new baby can be.

Most bookstores and libraries have books about becoming a big brother or sister that can help a child understand what he or she can expect, such as The Big Sibling Book: Baby’s First Year According to ME by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby or The Berenstain Bears Baby Makes Five by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain, and Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes. There are also big-brother and big-sister journals in which the child can draw pictures for his sibling and record his hopes for the fun games they can play together and what he wants to teach his little brother or sister to do. Kids may even enjoy assembling their own journals or scrapbooks from scratch.

Once the baby arrives, older siblings often enjoy helping to change diapers and give baths. Other children may prefer to have their own “baby,” a doll or animal that they diaper, bathe, and carry in a sling. There will, of course, be times when the older child asks Mom or Dad for something when the parent must feed the baby or change a particularly dirty diaper. At these times, parents should avoid saying that they will help the older child after they have helped the baby; instead, something like, “When I have a free hand in just a minute, I will help you,” may prove a more acceptable answer to an anxious older child.

There will be times, too, when the family must wait for the baby to wake up before going on an outing. In this case, blame the wait on an expected phone call or urgent load of laundry rather than on the baby’s nap. In the meantime, play a game the child enjoys, draw a picture, or bake cookies; after all, naptime may be the only time of day when an older child can have Mom or Dad all to herself.

Many parents of only children wear the baby in a sling to keep the baby close and content. When parenting an older child and a younger one, wearing a sling or carrier becomes all the more essential, because the parent can then have her hands free to push the older child on the swing or help him tie his shoes. And having children who feel happy and loved is all a parent can ask for.

Pregnancy Fun (and Mocktails)

By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, Pregnancy Editor

As your body changes during pregnancy, the activities you used to enjoy may be off limits. You may not be able to drink your morning coffee, have sushi for lunch, or indulge in a glass of wine with dinner. And a pregnant woman can forget about roller coasters, riding a bicycle, or skiing. Yet, while it may be difficult to give up favorite activities and food, you can find fun in different and new ways.

Women who were athletic before pregnancy may find it challenging to scale back their exercise routines. While light jogging and weight resistance are generally doctor-approved, swimming, walking, and yoga may prove a welcome change for a heavier belly and sore joints. Not only do such classes keep a mother fit in a safe way, but they also offer an opportunity to bond with other women and share the joys and challenges of carrying a child. It is important to make sure, however, that the instructor has had plenty of experience working with pregnant women.

Those who enjoy the arts and writing may like keeping a journal or creating a scrapbook about the pregnancy. A journal allows you to keep track of your changing body and emotions, special memories, hopes and dreams for the baby, daydreams, and feelings. A scrapbook can gather together the mementos of pregnancy. Birthing From Within by Pam England guides the mother-to-be through drawing, painting, and sculpting activities that encourage the woman to use visual arts to examine the feelings that may seem beyond verbalization about birth and her baby. These fun prompts provoke thought and engage the mind.

You could plan a picnic or day trip for yourself, with your spouse, or with family and friends. A potluck picnic takes the pressure off the planner and allows everyone to enjoy the fresh air, food, and company. If it’s too hot or rainy for a picnic, BabyCenter.com recommends “an indoor visit to a museum, art gallery, or cultural exhibition where you can spend some time in air-conditioned comfort. Even a trip to a mall you have wanted to visit, followed by lunch at the food court, can be a welcome break.”

If you are like many women who do not live in the same city or state as their mothers, pregnancy can be a wonderful time to reconnect. You can talk about your progress, compare food cravings, and make guesses about whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. Sharing this experience can bring you closer to your mother and bring out some humorous and heart-warming stories.

Once the baby is born, it can be hard to believe how much your belly expanded. A plaster belly cast can be a beautiful way to capture the true size of your belly in a way no photo could. You could also commission an artist to sketch or paint your picture or a photographer to take lovely and artistic professional photos. These mementos will be fun to look back on and share with your child as he grows.

Because pregnant women must avoid certain foods and drinks during pregnancy, you may feel left out when others order cocktails. When out with friends, you could request your favorite drink be made “virgin,” or you could order one of the following non-alcoholic mocktails:

Shirley Temple

6 ounces ginger ale

1 1/2 tsp. grenadine

Garnish: orange slice and/or maraschino cherry

Pour ginger ale over crushed ice, top with grenadine, garnish, and serve. For a Roy Rogers, substitute caffeine-free cola for the ginger ale. Continue reading

Sydney Rose’s Birthday

By Kyle Mills

Few things in life are as intense, painful, scary, and mind-blowing as the birth of your child, but I would say that excitement is probably what most people remember feeling when thinking back to the day their child came into the world. At least, that’s how it was for me and my husband when I had our daughter, Sydney Rose.

I remember beginning to feel some strong contractions around 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. I was putting some groceries away when they started, and by 6:00 p.m., they still hadn’t let up. We considered going to the hospital, but I didn’t think the timing was close enough and I didn’t want to be turned away. Besides, we had never attended a childbirth class, and we hadn’t even watched the Lamaze video we’d gotten. After dinner, we took a walk, and then settled in to attempt the video before heading to the hospital, all the while keeping a close eye on my contractions, which were getting worse by the half hour. Finally at 9:00 p.m., I said we should head to the hospital because I was definitely in more pain, the timing patterns were right on — anywhere from five to eight minutes — and I wanted to get checked before it got too late in case they were to send me back home.

We checked in around 9:30 p.m. and were told I was one centimeter dilated — one measly centimeter! They were going to monitor my contractions and check me again in an hour, and if I’d progressed another centimeter in that time, they would admit me. An hour later, I had not progressed, and although they could see my contractions were close together and acknowledged I was in active labor, it was their standard procedure to send people home and tell them to come back when the contractions were three to five minutes apart. By the time I walked in the front door of my house, my contractions were definitely closer to the three-minute mark, but I refused to get back in the car until I could barely stand it. After all, checking in, getting in a gown, waiting until the doctor can see you, getting checked, and lying around for an hour — just to be sent home — can take a lot out of an uncomfortable, nine-month pregnant woman. So I got in bed, and basically writhed in pain for five and a half hours, with minute-apart contractions until, at 4:30 a.m., I decided I was getting in the shower and then going back to the hospital. Continue reading

State of the World’s Mothers: More Qualified Health Care Workers Needed Worldwide

By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, pregnancy and birth editor

For women in our culture, pregnancy and childbirth represent a joyous time: enjoying a growing belly, fantasizing about how the baby will look, shopping for tiny layettes, and taking prenatal yoga classes. But for many women in developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth are risky and sometimes fatal for both mother and newborn.

Save the Children, a nonprofit organization that supports the health and well-being of children and families worldwide, released its “State of the World’s Mothers” report just before Mother’s Day 2010, and its findings indicate a critical need for qualified female health care workers to save the lives of mothers and children during the potentially dangerous times of pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.

The report’s findings are alarming: Every year, nearly 9 million newborn babies and young children die before reaching five years of age. Nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications, and almost 1 million babies lose their lives during the birth process itself: These infants are stillborn, but were alive in the mother’s womb just minutes or hours before birth. Continue reading

Healing Birth, The Second Time Around

By Heather Spergel

Heather during her daughter's water birthHow do you heal from a traumatic birth experience? How do you put it behind you and find the inner strength to not only move on but to decide to do it all again? Could I and should I risk another traumatic birth? I asked myself these questions so many times. After watching the mothers at the mall with their new babies and toddlers running around, mommyhood the second time around seemed like the most wonderful and amazing next step to take in my life. I pushed the memories of my son’s difficult posterior birth to the back of my mind and decided it was time.

I became pregnant in November 2008 and happily began our second pregnancy. My husband Drew used chiropractic and craniosacral therapy with me to help balance my body and keep any pains to a minimum. I also saw massage therapist and craniosacral therapist Maureen Murray to assist with healing my tailbone injury from Nathan’s birth. Carrying a big belly on my small, barely five-foot-tall frame was not easy. I had forgotten how hard it was to function with a pregnant belly! As the months went on, I became increasingly excited and anxious about the eventual birth of our second child, a daughter we would name Gabriella Faye. We prepared her room, prepared our son for the addition of another child in our lives, and happily bought up all the pink and lavender booties and onesies we wanted. Continue reading