Category Archives: 2. The Infant

From newborn to 17 months.

Caroline’s Story: Living with 25+ Food Intolerances

By Lindsay Killick

**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API

Caroline
Caroline

When our daughter Caroline joined our family, after a few rough weeks, things seemed to fall right into place. We dealt with typical newborn breastfeeding difficulties such as thrush, oversupply, and latching troubles, and we even managed to survive new-parent sleep deprivation and an intercontinental move five weeks after her birth. We thought we were surely off and running.

Caroline was six weeks old when we began to notice some mucous in her diapers. I’d read a large amount of breastfeeding information during pregnancy and knew that there were many potential causes of mucous in the stools of breastfed babies. I thought the problem would probably clear up soon. It didn’t.

Refusal to Nurse

Shortly thereafter, Caroline began refusing to nurse – even when I knew she must be very hungry. Often she would want to go five-plus hours without nursing, at only seven weeks old. Continue reading

Cora’s Story: Food Allergies in a Breastfed Baby

By Rachel Losey, co-leader of API of Norman, Oklahoma

**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API

Rachel and Cora
Rachel and Cora

Motherhood was different than I expected it to be. I never imagined that I would have an inconsolable baby. I always imagined that through Attachment Parenting (AP) principles, I would have a happy, healthy, “normal” baby. It is only those babies who are not breastfed, not co-slept, not worn in slings, and who are rarely touched who cry for hours and hours, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Cora was a peaceful newborn until day three – when my milk came in. Within hours of that first nursing with my full supply of milk, all of our lives changed forever. She cried for more hours than not, each day. She never slept for more than 45 minutes at a time and only when she was in my arms. She arched her back, held her little tummy – trying to tell us she was hurting. Bowel movements became an act of torture for her.

The Doctor Says Colic – and Co-sleeping – to Blame

We went to the doctor. I was told by our pediatrician to stop breastfeeding, put her in a crib, and read Ezzo’s baby training books, but we chose not to take any of this advice.

Additionally, the pediatrician said it was colic – and we anxiously awaited the magic three-month mark when she would get better. Three months came and went with no change in my baby’s health. Continue reading

Anna’s Story: The Importance of Hearing Screenings in Newborns

By Kathie Dolce, HBCE

**Orginally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API

Anna & her cochlear implant
Anna & her cochlear implant

When my granddaughter Anna was already over a year old, her parents began to realize she did not hear. Before this, Anna had made lots of sounds, including “mama,” “dada,” and everything else babies usually say. She seemed very tuned-in to everything around her, knew when her mom came home and made the sign to nurse before mom even came into view. But she had never startled to sound of any sort.

Her older siblings played a game of coming up behind her and tapping her shoulder, whereupon Anna would spin around and laugh hysterically. Her parents realized that she did not hear her siblings sneaking up on her. As Anna stopped vocalizing, her parents became concerned that she was losing her hearing.

Her audiogram at 15 months showed Anna to be profoundly deaf and subsequent CT and MRI imaging indicated that she was missing more than two-thirds of her cochlea – inner ear structures that form at six to nine weeks gestation. She was also missing the acoustic nerve on one side. Anna never had hearing. (There is no prenatal testing or imaging that could have shown this.)
Continue reading

Research Discourages Forward-Facing Buggies

From API’s Communications Team

A study conducted at Dundee University in London suggests that babies transported in forward-facing buggies are more likely to suffer emotional stress due to lack of face-to-face time with their parents.

“Neuroscience has helped us to learn how important social interaction during the early years is for children’s brain development,” said Suzanne Zeedyk of the university’s School of Psychology.

Specifically, the study found that 25 percent of parents using face-to-face buggies spoke to their baby, while only 12.5 percent of parents using forward-facing buggies did. In addition, the heart rate was lower in babies riding in face-to-face buggies, and these babies were more likely to fall asleep.

“Parents deserve to be able to make informed choices as to how to best promote their children’s emotional, physical, and neurological development,” Zeedyk said. In Britain, forward-facing buggies are more common.

Nearly 3,000 parent-infant pairs took part in this study.

To read the entire article, go to http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081121/wl_uk_afp/lifestylehealthbritainchildren_081121142138.

OpposingViews.com Argues Public Breastfeeding

From the API Communications Team

OpposingViews.com is holding a debate on “Should Women Breastfeed In Public?” You are invited to read and comment on the arguments on www.opposingviews.com/questions/should-women-breastfeed-in-public.

Author Elizabeth Pantley, Lindsey Nelson of the FirstRight Advisory Council, and writer Nicki Heskin weigh in on whether women have the right to breastfeed in public and whether society needs to give more support to breastfeeding women.

Raising Kids the Hard Way

By Gaynell Payne

When it comes to raising children, a very old but true adage applies: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Who says to a contractor building a skyscraper that he’s making more trouble for himself by making sure that everything is perfect, level, all materials are up to building code, all permits are in order, and inspecting every last detail to make sure that when that building is finished, it will stand? Sure, that’s the hard way of building a building. But it’s also legally the only way. To cut corners about it will be hazardous – now or in the long run.

How much more so a child? Just like that building, if you’re goal is raising children the easy way, you’re not going to have a stable one. Yet parents still hear arguments from neighbors, languidly leaning on a fence as they pass out salted wisdom of the old wives’ club. “If you pick him up when he cries, you’re just making it harder on yourself.”

It’s illogical that “hard” and “easy” should be arguments of why you should or shouldn’t raise your child a certain way, or do things for your child, or take care of them when they cry.

My goal, my job is to raise a person – one who is secure in his place in the world, who knows he was not a mistake, who knows what it is to be loved for who he is, so he can in turn sow love in the world and not hate and destruct. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I am in fear and awe of the immensity of my job. To me, it’s not hardship but joy. His soul is beautiful. It saddens me that not everyone looks at their children and sees that in them.

Yes, Attachment Parenting is the hard way, because it’s the right way. For me, it’s always been the only way.

When I was in college (some time ago), one of my journalism professors claimed that you couldn’t find an ad with the word “easy” in it. He promised extra credit to anyone who could, because “easy” still had a negative connotation for that generation. Easy was the lazy way out.

Now we have the Easy Button. Quick and easy meals. So easy a caveman could do it. I would have never noticed this certain societal shift myself if it had not been for my old professor. Now we have shifted so much that easy is desirable, and if it’s not easy, it’s wrong. Even to the proper taking care of our children. Books that advocate crying it out could say “Raising Kids the Easy Way!”

Real love is not easy. It’s sacrifice. Few people think that is even valuable anymore. Maybe because they weren’t sacrificed for. Now they’re raising an even more broken and detached generation.

No thanks, I’ll do it the hard way.

My goal, my job is to raise a person – one who is secure in his place in the world, who knows he was not a mistake, who knows what it is to be loved for who he is, so he can in turn sow love in the world and not hate and destruct.

Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping in a Critical Culture

By Lisa Walshe

The book that gave author Lisa so much support
The book that gave author Lisa so much support

Looking back at life often brings understanding. As I look back at my life as a mother, I have more questions than answers. I don’t really know what made me mother the way I did, and I know at the time it often seemed I was swimming against the stream. However, I felt there was no other way to approach it.

Researching Parenting Approaches

It was 1981. I was living in Melbourne, Australia, and expecting my first child. My husband and I had moved back to Australia the year before. I had met my husband while he was flying to Sydney, and he was living in Papua, New Guinea. I followed him to New Guinea for six months before he decided it was no place for a young wife – just 21 at the time – and we returned to suburbia in Melbourne. Within months of being settled in a home of our own, I felt a huge need to have a baby. I was always into researching and set about finding out all I could about having babies and raising them. It was hard to find much information – sadly, no internet then – and even harder to find any books I agreed with.

Even then, I had some ideas on how it should be. Attachment Parenting (AP) had not been heard of in Australia at that time – not sure it was being talked about anywhere. Having been briefly in New Guinea, I was aware of how simple life with a baby could be if they were breastfed and being carried in some way. Even the poorest children seemed happy. It was actually illegal to sell formula in New Guinea without a prescription! This had been introduced by the World Health Organization to save the babies’ lives from a suspect water supply.

Beginning with Breastfeeding

I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I had suffered from terrible allergies as a child, and in order to reduce the chance that my child would develop allergies, I wanted to breastfeed for at least six months and hopefully longer. My mother had only breastfed me for the then-prescribed three months, and whether or not this was the cause of my allergies, I believe it may have contributed.

Armed with my well-read Nursing Mother’s Handbook and a will to succeed, I set off to hospital full of hope and expectation.

Nothing really went as planned with the birth, and once I had a healthy little boy, Guy, in my arms, I found that although the hospital was encouraging breastfeeding, it was by no means really supporting what my was told to me in the book. I found that although rooming-in was allowed, babies were whisked away if any sign of problems occurred and given complimentary formula feeds to settle them down. The nurses were much more concerned with the welfare of the new moms than the babies. I became obsessed with keeping Guy with me, only leaving for a shower if my husband was there. I escaped the hospital as quickly as I could – five days back then!

Once home, I felt free to do what felt right: I put him in our bed and relaxed. Our son was thriving; he hardly slept and fed almost continually! Feeding was a challenge, as Guy decided that he would only feed from one breast at a time, and for the first few weeks, he sucked so hard that he created blisters and one breast was constantly engorged and leaking. I was constantly feeding: He would sleep for 30-minute intervals and would feed again. I just accepted this, and we slept together – when we could.

Choosing to Co-Sleep

Co-sleeping was not considered a good idea. People in those days said it was unhealthy and the child would not get over it. Also, husbands were supposed to be threatened by a baby in the marital bed; my obstetrician warned me it would break up the marriage. So, I just did not tell anyone I was doing it. The baby health nurse was of the old school and told me to put my baby into a cot and let him cry, that he would soon learn!

This nurse also suggested, at six weeks, that I should give him orange juice. When I asked why – after all, he was putting on a pound a week and was happy – she just said that is what we do! I ignored her and found another community nurse.

My husband was often flying at night, so he did not really care how I managed, so long as I did. And when he was there and sleeping in the day, my husband was happy when Guy and I would join him for naps. The rest of the time, I found that the easiest way to cope was to wear Guy in a sling. All was peaceful. If my husband came home at 4 a.m. and found a baby to play with, this pleased them both.

Other mothers around me adhered to schedules, and their babies must have read the right books, as they slept much more than mine did! Or maybe they just kept up the story to be good moms?

Encouragement from an Unlikely Source

The next year, we moved to Houston and found that people there were even more hostile about nursing babies. Most mothers nursed briefly, if at all. The fact that Guy was nearing his first birthday and still happily nursing I kept to myself. I was even told by some mothers that it was indecent to nurse babies of that age! I did not even bother to tell the doctor until Guy got pneumonia and I managed to nurse him though the whole thing, saving a trip to the hospital and an I.V. drip. The doctor said I probably saved his life!

That doctor gave me some good advice, saying: “A mother knows her child better than anyone, and if the doctor does not understand that, find another doctor!”

I nursed Guy until his second birthday, when one day, I suggested that big boys do not nurse and he promptly stopped. I was shocked and a little sad.

Guy continued to sleep with us most of the time until after his fifth birthday when his little brother arrived. In his first five years of life, we moved six times and lived in three different countries. I am not sure he would have coped with all the moves and changes to his life without the security of sleeping with his parents. He was, by this stage, an extremely sensitive, mature, and intelligent child! He had been high need and would continue to be for many years, but he was a delight to know and be with.

The Beginning of a Cultural Shift, Sort of

During my pregnancy with my second son, Dean, I found a book by Dr. William Sears, Nighttime Parenting. Finally, someone who agreed with what I had done instinctively.

This time, I was having our son in Brisbane, Australia. Everything had changed! Suddenly, my ideas were greeted with support, and I was considered an enlightened mother. Wow, it felt good to be appreciated and even better not to have to hide my beliefs.

My husband was now working in Hong Kong, and two weeks after Dean’s birth, I flew to Hong Kong with the baby and a five-year-old. Hong Kong, it turned out, was not at all friendly toward breastfeeding. The first few days there, I went to a doctor for the beginning stages of mastitis. This doctor was embarrassed by my condition, refused to look at my breasts and prescribed me Valium – even though I had explained I was nursing!

Very few mothers in Hong Kong nursed babies. There was a small group of La Leche League mothers, but they lived in another part of the country. Everyone around me bottlefed. Breastfeeding women were removed from restaurants, and there were no mothers’ rooms available anywhere.

Once again, I was back in an environment where what I was doing was considered all wrong. At least, this time, I had a book that agreed with me. If only we had had the internet back then…back when fax machines were new.

Unashamed AP

I did not really care what anyone thought. I was exhausted and prepared to do whatever I needed to do for my survival. I was lucky to find a doctor who agreed with my ideas – sadly most did not. Dean happily slept with us and fed nearly all night for more than two years.

Today, my husband and I have been married for 29 years, and we are enjoying being a couple again, although when the time comes, we would love to be involved and supportive grandparents. I am always hoping that young parents will choose to experience the joys of what is now commonly referred to as AP.

I spend my time giving young pregnant women lots of good information from my experience and through books I have collected on birth, breastfeeding, and parenting in general. There is so much more information available today, so many more studies and experts proclaiming the benefits of all that I instinctively knew was right. I like to think it is easier for mothers to follow their instincts these days, but there are so many other pressures competing for their time that I know that AP is just as big a challenge as it was in my day.

Attachment Parenting had not been heard of in Australia at that time – not sure it was being talked about anywhere. Having been briefly in New Guinea, I was aware of how simple life with a baby could be if they were breastfed and being carried in some way. Even the poorest children seemed happy.

Dear Editor: Confused By Crying Article

Dear Editor,

Crying & Comforting articleThe article “Crying and Comforting” from The Journal of API, Summer 2008 AP in a Non-AP World issue, states: “Two commonly prescribed approaches include: ignore the crying and encourage the crying,” and it offers API’s stance on responding to our crying babies by saying, “Fortunately for parents and babies alike, there is a warm and compassionate middle ground between ignoring and encouraging crying. The AP approach…involves recognizing and empathizing with a baby’s emotions and patiently working with him to uncover the unmet need causing the tears.”

I would like to offer the perspective that there are various gentle approaches for comforting a crying baby, each of which is unique – as unique as every loving and attuned mother-child relationship.

It is common for mothers who are highly attuned to their babies to know when their babies simply need to cry – and when they are crying because of an unmet need. A mother might use additional soothing behaviors for her in-arms baby, or she might not. She might continue to search for causes for the crying, or perhaps not. If she feels like bouncing her crying baby, then she does. If she feels like holding her baby in stillness, then she will. When she opens her heart and follows her baby’s cues, she knows best what to do.

About the prevalence of approaches that encourages crying: I could not find any advice on the internet that promotes the encouragement of crying in babies and children. In my experience talking with many parents, I have not known anyone who encourages their babies and children to cry. Is this truly a commonly prescribed and followed approach?

Those parents I know who have learned about the stress-release crying approach do not decide to encourage their babies to cry. Rather, they interpret the approach as saying that it’s important not to discourage their babies from crying.

To illustrate this interpretation, I’ll share a friend’s story: Her two-year-old daughter was in an accident and was seriously burned. Weeks after the accident, her daughter sometimes needed to “cry and release her fears and tensions of what she had been through.” My friend explained that when her daughter didn’t want the breast, “I’d hold her but not attempt to stop her [from crying]. Some small thing would have her in floods of tears, and I could just tell that it wasn’t about the small thing, but about the accident.”

The Benefits of In-Arms Comforting of Crying Babies

I was confused about the following statements made about the stress-release crying approach in the Journal article:

  • “The parent is unable to identify the need using her mental checklist, so she holds the baby without comforting behaviors;” and
  • “Parents are to hold their infants and let them cry, and not try to calm the baby with distractions such as toys or pacifiers. While API agrees that the parent should recognize and empathize with the crying child, we also believe parents should be available emotionally and physically to help soothe the distressed child.”

Tender holding of one’s crying baby is itself one of the most soothing, comforting maternal behaviors available to any mothers. Mother can stand, sit, or lie down with baby in her arms. The simple act of holding one’s baby includes movement, sounds, smells, and touch, as well as other comforting sensations and feelings that defy description. Baby experiences the warmth of mother’s arms and body; soothing, rhythmic bodily sounds, such as mother’s breathing and heartbeat; comforting, rhythmic movements, like the rise and fall of mother’s chest and the whoosh of air from mother’s lungs as she exhales, and the rise and fall of his own chest against hers; the familiar smells of her body; and the comforting awareness that his mother – the source of all things good and wonderful – is there with him.

A message of unconditional love is offered, and received. Baby may sometimes be able to focus better on all of these most basic comforts, some of which are reminders of the womb environment, when mother holds him in stillness and silence, without rocking, bouncing, jiggling, rocking, singing, humming, etc.

I’m guessing most mothers would not want to restrict themselves from using any key comforting behaviors along with holding. Moreover, we would want to use them in any combination that feels “right” to us in the moment. For me, that might sometimes mean holding my baby without the use of other comforting behaviors and sometimes without endeavouring to find causes for the crying. I would not want to restrict myself from simply holding my baby, because sometimes it was exactly what my baby and I needed. This still holds true for my children (now 6 and 4) and me.

The tender holding of one’s baby or young child without other comforting behaviors does not need to be associated only with the stress-release crying approach. For me, to discard the option to hold my crying baby in stillness is to throw my baby out with his tears.

Are We Generally Accepting or Unaccepting of Crying?

There are at least two powerful influences that may be – but do not need to be – affecting our responses to our babies’ crying: Our upbringing and our culture. It may be helpful for parents to be mindful of these influences and start shifting their perspective, if necessary:

  • If we were raised by parents who let us cry-it-out alone as babies and/or who discouraged our crying, then quite possibly our own reactions to our babies’ crying are exaggerated by our own unresolved childhood hurts. How did my parents handle my crying? What feelings are aroused in me by my baby’s crying?
  • Crying is a behavior that is not embraced and accepted much in our society. What messages am I hearing about crying from doctors, friends, family, television, books, etc.? How much am I influenced by societal views about crying?

If a parent tends to be unaccepting of crying, she may lean towards either extreme of ignoring, or actively discouraging, her baby’s crying. I wonder, though, if it is common for parents to express their lack of acceptance in more subtle ways?

It seems to me that there is a fine line between discouraging crying and using soothing responses while searching for causes for the crying. How does my baby or child interpret my continuing efforts to search out reasons for his crying? Does he continue to sense my unconditional love for him? And what is the impact on me?

If a solution-focused mother is unable to pacify her baby, his crying may increase, which in turn may cause the mother to intensify her search for a solution. If she still isn’t able to discover the unmet need, she may understandably start becoming anxious (and mothers’ anxiety is often exacerbated when they are sleep deprived). The baby senses his mother’s growing anxiety and may become more distressed. It can become a vicious spiral.

Mother has lost touch with the moment. She isn’t paying attention to her baby’s evolving cues. Desirous of a settled baby (which isn’t the baby she has in her arms!), she may forget just how much she loves the one who is crying in her arms. She may forget to listen to him. To really listen to him. With stress levels rising, she might end up either blaming her baby or herself: “There is something wrong with my baby because he continues to cry. He’s not a good baby.” Or, “There is something wrong with me. I am failing my child because I can’t stop his crying. I’m a bad mother.” Of course, no one is to blame.

I would like to take a closer look at the toe-and-sock example given in the article: “Imagine that a baby is trying to communicate, ‘The seam on my sock is irritating my toe.’ The parent is unable to identify the need using her mental checklist, so she holds the baby without comforting behaviors.” The situation described sounds to me like a type of unobvious irritation that would likely go undiscovered by many mothers, no matter how they view their baby’s crying, whether or not they use soothing behaviors in addition to holding and whether or not they continue searching for solutions. So, in this type of situation, is it possible that the parent might find herself in a vicious spiral as she strives to find out what is causing the crying?

I also wonder whether it might be possible for any additional soothing behaviors, such as rocking, swinging, jiggling, and bouncing, to aggravate the irritation of baby’s toe? Furthermore, the parent might be in solution-oriented mode and eventually happen to take off the sock that is irritating baby’s toe, but perhaps her intuition might more readily lead her to do that when she has not been jiggling, rocking, singing to the baby, and not in search of reasons for the crying?

About the stress-release crying approach, the article states: “If the close contact alone is not enough to soothe the child…there will be further release of potentially damaging cortisol in the child’s brain and there will be no release of calming opioids. The child’s emotions may spiral out of control, leading to feelings of anger and rage and potentially toxic brain chemistry.” In light of the advice: “The AP approach…involves recognizing and empathizing with a baby’s emotions and patiently working with him to uncover the unmet need causing the tears,” I feel concerned about the impact of this statement on mothers, especially those new to mothering, and worry that this information punctuates the overall message about the importance of being solution-oriented.

The Benefits of Acceptance

It seems to me that a gentle approach to crying need not always be solution-oriented. In our busy, solution-driven society, we are admonished – or admonish ourselves – “Don’t just stand there. Do something!” Sometimes, especially in stressful situations, I find it helpful to remind myself of Buddha’s words, “Don’t do something. Just stand there!” Don’t do. Be. Be present. Be mindful. Be centered in my love for myself and my baby.

In order to provide calm and loving support to my crying in-arms baby, I found (and still find) it helpful to center myself in peaceful acceptance of the situation; to be still in my body, mind, and spirit; and not jump instantly into fix-it mode. However, that’s not always easy to do, especially when I’m tired, and given my tendency to be unaccepting of crying! So, I give myself the following reminders:

  • Focus on my breathing: Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Bathe my thoughts in the gratitude I feel for the simplest of things: Being alive, having arms and hands to hold, touch and feel, eyes to see, ears to hear. Celebrating these most basic pleasures gives me strength to deal with the challenges of this moment.
  • Connect with my love for myself and my child. I love my child so much. I love myself.
  • Answers will arrive to me when I flow with the situation, rather than resist it.
  • I am being the loving parent I wish to be.
  • My in-arms child knows that I love him just as he is now, tears and all. He knows my love for him is unconditional.
  • My child senses my inner peace, and this positive energy is soothing to him.
  • My child will not continue to cry forever. He will stop crying.

When I was attuned to my baby’s state, I was (as any attuned mother is) able to distinguish whether he was meeting a need by crying or his crying was a request for help in meeting a need. If, for instance, he wanted to breastfeed, I knew his signals and responded accordingly by offering my breast. However, on occasion I was not able to figure out what the need was. And, as far as I’m concerned, that was OK! I’m not a perfect mother! In my imperfect moments, holding my baby close to my heart, and just breathing deeply, eyes closed, was sometimes exactly what he – and I – needed.

With the conscious intention to remain present and highly attuned to my children, and aware of how my upbringing and culture influence me, I simply wish to respond lovingly to my child’s feelings and needs, be mindful and accepting of what each moment brings, and not be too anxious to bounce or sing away my child’s every tear.

~ Tamara Parnay, The Netherlands

RESPONSE

Thank you, Tamara, for your letter. API’s intention in publishing the article was to warn parents against advice regarding comforting baby’s cries that works against the parent-child bond. API agrees with you that comforting the crying should be focused on meeting the need of the child. If a baby is comforted by being held still, that would certainly be more responsive and sensitive than to try rocking or jiggling.

The caution is against refusing to soothe a child who could be soothed by noises, repetitive motion, etc. because this particular child would cry longer and harder without these soothing techniques and that this is supposed to be a good thing for the child. API does not agree with this stance on encouraging crying.

There is a difference between soothing during an emotional outpouring and trying to stifle the crying. A parent can encourage a complete release of emotion while also comforting and soothing, and if the child prefers not to be soothed, then this is the better choice for the parents to make in order to respond sensitively.

Lastly, as you pointed out, it is important that the parent stays calm while soothing and comforting, even when unable to determine the cause of the crying. The important point is that the parent continues to seek ways to soothe the child, rather than giving up.

Thanks again for your letter, as it helps API to clarify our stance and helps to answer similar questions from other AP parents.

~ Rita Brhel, editor of The Journal of API

Discipline Begins at Birth

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Rita's oldest daughter when she was a year old
Rita’s oldest daughter when she was a year old

My youngest daughter is turning one year old this month. It’s amazing how much she’s changed since she was born – she’s learning to walk, waves bye-bye and says “yeah,” and is getting her fingers into everything! She’s also learned how fun it is to pull her sister’s hair.

Each time my two-year-old cries from the hair-pulling, I come over, gently pry the baby’s hands out of her sister’s locks, and say, “No, no…We don’t pull hair. Pulling hair hurts.” Does it work? No. But that’s OK because she’s only a baby. She isn’t old enough yet to know what “no” means, to know the difference between yes and no, to know what it means that something hurts.

The best way to get the baby to stop doing something I’d rather her not do is to remove it from the picture – if I don’t want her to take all the DVDs out of the cabinet, I put a lock on the doors, and if I don’t want her to mess with the on/off button on the TV, I tape a piece of cardboard over that button and rely on the remote.

The difference here is that I can’t remove her sister from the picture. I also need to remember that I’m teaching fairness. I want my two-year-old to see that I’m treating her and her sister fairly when it comes to hair-pulling, even if her baby sister is just a little too young to know what “no” means. I don’t want jealousy brewing, and I don’t want my toddler to resent her little sister. What is she learning if I say “no” to her when she pulls someone’s hair but not do the same when the baby is the one pulling her hair?

Changing the Spanking Mindset

When my toddler was this age, I was struggling with whether to begin discipline or what kind of discipline I should do. I grew up in a household with spanking. I didn’t know that spanking wasn’t really a form of discipline until I found Attachment Parenting International.

Before, I thought discipline and punishment with synonymous, and I thought spanking was a normal reaction of angry and frustrated parents. That was something I didn’t want to do, but yet, I didn’t want my children to be spoiled and selfish, either. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to spank, but I didn’t know any other way.

It took a lot of willpower and a lot of studying and reading, before I found my “brand” of discipline, what I call the individual way each parent disciplines (within the parameters of positive discipline, that is). I learned that discipline and punishment were two very separate things: that discipline was meant to be loving while teaching the child, even when children push the limits and do hurtful things, and that punishment didn’t really teach the child to do anything but fear his parents and fear “getting caught.” I didn’t want my children fearing me; I wanted their respect. There is a difference.

Eliminating Anger

Lastly, I had to go through the very difficult process of removing anger from my life, not only when I needed to discipline but when I was irritated at my husband or frustrated with life in general. Interestingly, it was while trying to apply the techniques from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk that I learned how to take anger out of disagreements with my husband. The skills I was building had spilled over to the rest of my life.

Once I took the anger out of the equation, it was easy not to spank. There was no need! I learned to get my child’s attention in a different, non-violent way. I prefer to have her look at my eyes while I explain why we don’t do what she did, and if I sense a tantrum coming on, I take her to her room to do the same and for her to have a quiet place to release that emotion. Often, when upset or frustrated, she chooses on her own to run to her room and then, in a minute or so, comes out when she’s calmed down. Sometimes, I follow her; sometimes, she seems to prefer to control how she calms down, and that may mean without me.

The Power of Reconnecting

I can’t say I didn’t slip up and revert back to that default playing in my head to spank my child. I did…many times unfortunately during the first few months of trying to change. But I learned a wonderful tool from Pam Leo’s book Connection Parenting that I simply refer to as “reconnecting.” I apologize to my daughter, hug her, and let her know that I know I slipped up and that I am working on it.

Reconnecting allowed me a way out, so that I didn’t become consumed by guilt and frustration. Then I regrouped myself and started over.

Another interesting note: My husband and I have started to do the reconnecting in our relationship by holding hands and looking at each other to block out distractions, including our children at those times, to take the time to apologize and say “I love you.” This technique has greatly improved our connecting during tense moments.

Understanding the Real Reason for Acting Out

I have also found that many of the most challenging times occur when either my toddler or I need a nap. Dirty diapers, late lunches, illness, boredom, and not enough one-on-one time certainly can play a part, too. This was an eye-opener for me: My toddler wasn’t acting out because she was intentionally trying to push my buttons, but because she was physically or emotionally uncomfortable. She tends not to tell me that her diaper needs changing until it’s very full, and at the end of the day, she gets anxious for her daddy to come home from work, and sometimes, she just wants to go run in the backyard instead of playing in the living room.

Baby See, Baby Do

Learning how to change my discipline-oriented programming wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it. Discipline is no longer stressful, and deciding when to begin disciplining my second child really isn’t even a question.

Since discipline isn’t punishment and is actually teaching, we’ve all been disciplining since birth – by teaching what to do or not do by how we live our life right from the beginning. Teaching by example is the most powerful discipline tool I’ve come across, even more so than positive reinforcement.

My toddler hugs and kisses the baby like Mommy does, and she plays with the baby like Mommy does. Both of my children are learning what is normal from what I do, and if I handle my frustration in a way that promotes attachment, they surely will learn that, too.

Since discipline isn’t punishment and is actually teaching, we’ve all been disciplining since birth – by teaching what to do or not do by how we live our life.

Discovering On-Demand Breastfeeding

By Deborah Bershatsky, PhD, AP mother

“We’ll put her on modified demand feeding,” the pediatrician said confidently at Rachel’s one week visit.

I was eager to be a good mother and terrified I wouldn’t know how. I gave the doctor my worried attention. Modified demand feeding, it turned out, meant that I would nurse Rachel when she asked for it while gently nudging her into feeding every three to four hours. Also, I would eliminate nighttime feedings quickly. Babies, I learned, must be taught to sleep through the night as soon as possible, so that the whole family can sleep.

Rachel was an unusually placid and easygoing infant. She enjoyed nursing and easily waited three hours between feedings. At seven weeks old, she was moved from the bassinet in our room to the crib in her own room and had given up nighttime feedings almost entirely. A few weeks later, she slept soundly all night. My friends were green with envy. No one could believe I had such a wonderful baby. I settled into the smug feeling that I must be doing something right.

Rachel nursed exclusively until she was six months old, when the doctor recommended that she be started on solids. By eight months, she was eating well and was down to nursing four times a day. She did this for two more months, and then during the 11th month, I slowly weaned her completely. I had aimed to wean her between nine months and a year, and she had cooperated perfectly!

The Fussy Baby

I cannot adequately describe my shock and horror some years later when Ezra came, protesting vociferously, into the world. He did not think much of modified demand feeding, but he liked the demand part all right. He had to nurse every hour or so, with no regard to the time of day or night. Furthermore, he would only fall asleep in my arms, and if I got up or put him in the cradle, he would awaken instantly and cry. He had long fussy periods which began at about 10 p.m. and lasted until 3 or 4 a.m. During this time, he would be comforted only briefly by frequent nursing.

Our family was in an uproar, and I was nearly crazy from lack of sleep. While I was well aware of the popular “cry it out” method of solving this problem, I could not bear to listen to my little one’s screams without comforting him.

We began what later came to be known as a “game of musical beds.” I would take Ezra into the sofa bed in the living room to nurse him and hold him as he cried, occasionally phoning my one insomniac friend for support. I would doze on and off all night, and then finally we would both collapse and sleep solidly for two hours between 4 and 6 a.m. When my back began hurting from the sofa bed mattress, I took Ezra into our bed and Charles, my husband, went to sleep in the sofa bed. When his back gave out, he went to Rachel’s bed and Rachel slept in the living room. Days turned into weeks, and I grew desperate. Ezra kept nursing and crying and not sleeping, and I really felt I was beginning to lose it.

One night, Charles came into whatever room Ezra and I were in and said he wanted me back in bed with him, and if Ezra had to come with me and cry all night, so be it. During the months that followed, things settled down somewhat. Two hours of sleep turned into a tolerable three or four, modified demand feeding had become a dirty word, and Charles and I had a baby in our bed.

A Change in Parenting Style

What now? My pediatrician certainly would not approve of this. In desperation, I started reading everything I could find on the subjects of breastfeeding and calming crying babies. In the process, I made a fascinating discovery: I was not alone. There were women everywhere nursing truly on demand and sleeping with their babies. In fact, there existed a whole network of mutually supportive mothers and fathers striving to raise their children according to what their instincts told them, rejecting current social taboos.

Their philosophy included encouraging unrestricted breastfeeding, child-led weaning, cosleeping, and helping parents to accept a more modest lifestyle in favor of the privilege of spending time at home with their young children. They believed that to raise healthy, independent children, we must meet all of their dependency needs early in life and allow them to mature at their own pace.

It is interesting to realize that with the exception of Western Society, this is the way it has always been. With the Industrial Revolution came the ability to heat a large home and secure it against intruders. This made it possible to put babies off into separate quarters, as breastfeeding began to be replaced by the more scientific method of artificial feeding. The new emphasis on science led to the use of modern inventions in caring for babies – cribs, clocks, bottles, pacifiers – all of which widened the separation of mother and baby.

The germ theory of disease and the discovery that sexuality existed in children also contributed to the “hands off” method of childrearing, which peaked in the 1940s. Mothers were sternly warned of serious emotional harm. Even kissing, hugging, and snuggling were regarded as dangerous, dependency-promoting behaviors. Babies’ cries were not to be responded to, as this would lead to manipulation of the mother by the baby. Feeding was to be by the clock and never on demand.

Since then, science has proven the superiority of human milk over formula, and many benefits of breastfeeding have been documented: Immunological release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which elicit mothering behaviors. Also, the importance of mother-infant bonding through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, beginning immediately following birth, has been demonstrated – as has the need for holding, cuddling, and responding promptly to babies’ cries as they grow.

Current childrearing practices are now coming into question, and books advocating extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping are increasing in number. It appears that the tide has turned. The new wave in parenting today is to return to the old ways.

A New Confidence Born

How relieved I felt when I allowed myself to resonate with these ideas and reclaim my instincts! I experienced the ancient yearnings that had existed within my own mother’s heart, even during Rachel’s infancy, to be physically close to my baby as much as he and I desired it. Instead of the superficial feeling of competence I had with Rachel, I now had a deep sense of fulfillment and a feeling of rightness and peace.

By the time Ezra was six months old, we were all good at sleeping – and together. Rachel had joined us, in an effort to make up for lost time. She was, however, an acrobatic sleeper and hated to awaken in the night with the baby, so she returned to her own bed a few months later. She is still a welcome guest in our bed.

Ezra fed every two to three hours during the night, but I had learned the technique of nursing lying down so that I had only to roll over, let him nurse, and drift back to sleep with him. Our sleep cycles synchronized so that I would awaken just moments before he did. It wasn’t long until I felt refreshed in the mornings, although my sleep never went uninterrupted.

It was not without anxiety that I embarked on this journey with my family. There was no precedent for it in either my or Charles’ upbringing. There were warnings from many that this was a dangerous course: The baby would never leave our bed, he would be too attached to me, our sex life would be ruined. Armed with information and support that these things do not happen – rather, that children do want to sleep in their own bed eventually, that they grow up less dependent when parented this way, and that with a little bit of creativity, sex can be better than ever – we forged ahead.

From my perspective, things have turned out fine.

Science has proven the superiority of human milk over formula, and many benefits of breastfeeding have been documented.