All posts by The Attached Family

The Playgroup Altercation: Part 1 – Your Child is the Hitter

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, ProfessionalParenting.ca

Judy ArnallYou are having a lovely pleasant chat with a mom you haven’t seen in ages and suddenly you hear a loud thud, an ear-piercing scream, and then another mother appears before you clutching a sobbing preschooler with a tear-stained cheek and red eyes. Apparently, your son hit her daughter and now the mother and daughter and all eyes from the playgroup are on you as to what you are going to do about it.

It’s a parent’s worst moment, and one that is never covered in the parenting books. What is the best way to handle playgroup altercations that leaves everyone feeling content and validated?

Hear are six easy steps: Continue reading

Barbie and Disney Princesses Every Which Way: Balancing Family Values with Individual Choices

By Elaine Barrington

It used to be so much easier…

Isabelle
Isabelle

Sometimes I miss the days when my values and my daughter’s were one and the same. For the first few years of Isabelle’s life I believed I could, and actually did, shield her from Barbie’s plastic smile and Cinderella’s batting eye lashes.

Any signs of the Disney princess posse magically disappeared with a mom’s deft sleight of hand. I was on a mission to deflect and distract, determined to make sure my daughter did not fall prey to these sirens. I had the “Barbie and princess drawer,” a final resting place away from Isabelle’s watchful eye and curious nature where all gifts and goody bags bearing their likeness remained until they could be re-gifted or otherwise disposed of.

Then Isabelle turned three years old, and like Snow White’s poison apple, she tasted the forbidden fruit and has entered a deep slumber from which someday, fingers crossed, she will awake. It started with a birthday trip to the toy store with my mother-in-law. To my surprise, she came home with a Barbie. Naively, it had never occurred to me that something like this could happen. My mother-in-law has her own agenda, we all do. Hers includes a traditional notion of how girls should be raised — playing with Barbie and princesses of course! It has been a slippery slope ever since.

Let me clarify why this is a problem for me. It’s about two issues really:

  • One is the over-commercialization of our society where everything is branded and marketed. I don’t like the idea of corporate America infiltrating my daughter’s beautifully original brain and pruning down her neural pathways based on their bottom line.
  • The other is my desire for my daughter’s female role models to have more role and less model to them. My values are clearly biased toward the infinite possibilities of what Isabelle could become. Her strong, athletic body and bright, creative mind surely have more to offer the world than what Barbie and Disney represent. And when Isabelle looks in the mirror, her reflection does not match most Barbies and Disney princesses.

I could devote many paragraphs to the debate about why I believe Barbie and Disney princesses are harmful to our young girls, but rather than an academic discussion, I am most concerned with what this actually means for me and Isabelle.

Confounding matters is how I’ve raised Isabelle, who is four years old now, to think independently and figure out her tendencies based on her own ideas. She is consistently offered a lot of choices, and I encourage her to think through decisions and not go with the obvious or what others are telling her. Of course, she isn’t raised in a vacuum. Her head is filled with our family’s ideals and values, and our community and society as a whole play their important part as well. Still, Isabelle has become exactly who I wanted her to be. She is a clever and thoughtful child who, in most situations, is able to clearly identify her likes and dislikes and assert her preferences to those around her.

The Barbie and Disney princess struggle is almost a daily occurrence now. When it was time for a new toothbrush, Isabelle said she wanted one with sparkles. So we went to the store and couldn’t find any kid-sized sparkle toothbrushes. Her eye was immediately drawn to the electric Cinderella toothbrush. “That’s the one I want!” she declared confidently. I declined, reminding her she already had an electric toothbrush that she rarely used. “Plus,” I added, “you don’t need to have a princess toothbrush.” So we agreed on a set of brightly colored toothbrushes and moved on.  Score one for Mom!

The next week, a dentist came to Isabelle’s preschool and gave a talk on oral hygiene. Each child got a take-away bag filled with floss, a mask, gloves, and a toothbrush. All the boys got a blue toothbrush with a Cars character. And I’m sure you can guess what all the girls got — a pink toothbrush with Ariel. Score one for Disney!

The following week, Isabelle had her routine dental check-up. Her dentist is a friend and knows to avoid the Disney characters with our family, so after the cleaning she showed Isabelle an array of colorful toothbrushes to choose from. Alas, Isabelle’s princess sixth sense kicked in.  She picked one of those colorful toothbrushes then turned and pointed to a cabinet behind her head and said, “But I want one of those.” How she knew there were Disney princess toothbrushes in there is beyond me. We came home with Belle.

For those of you keeping score in the toothbrush arena, Disney trumped Mom two to one in a matter of weeks. So, what’s the moral of this fable? I suppose one lesson is that I am not a super mom who can and will take on the Disney giant and win, but I already knew that about myself.

I choose to believe the real lesson is the one I re-learn every day: The art of Attachment Parenting is a delicate dance where sharing your values and letting your child be free to be who they are sometimes trample on each other’s toes.

I’m not going to control what the random dentist at school passes out to my child, but I can say no when we’re at the store. And when my daughter sits through a cleaning at the dentist holding her little self together and doing what’s asked of her, I have no intention of quashing her request for a Disney princess toothbrush and the joy that it brings her in that moment, because in that moment, her joy is mine as well.

Where to Draw the Line? Exploring Boundaries, Limits, and Consequences

By Tamara Parnay

where do you draw the line?“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

~ Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr theologian

A mother was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Her child came up from behind her and hit her. “Ow!” she called out angrily. “That hurt! I’ll teach you!” She immediately turned and hit her child back. The child cried out in pain and shock. “I’m not going to raise a wild, disrespectful child!”

That child grew up and became a mother. She is now in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Her child comes up from behind her and hits her. “Ow!” she calls out angrily. “That hurt! I’ll teach you!” She immediately turns to hit her child back — but somehow stops herself… Continue reading

What Children REALLY Want: An interview with author Licia Rando

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

The Warmest Place of AllA cup of hot cocoa, a bubble bath, a cozy blanket, a cuddle with a fluffy dog, a steamy bowl of soup, a tuck into bed — all of these are warm, but none compares to a snuggle with someone we love and who loves us. And this is especially true for Sophie, the little girl whose story is told in The Warmest Place of All, a new children’s book by Licia Rando, M.Ed, illustrated by Anne Jewett. After trying comfort after comfort, Sophie climbs into bed with her mother and father and discovers a true sense of peace and wholeness.

Attached parents understand the importance of cultivating emotional attachment with their children, and use the Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting as a guide to do so. But there are many parents in the world, especially in Western society, who may be confused as to what children need. They seek out early independence through sleep training, discouragement of physical affection, punitive discipline, and other practices not consistent with Attachment Parenting (AP) — when what is most important for their child’s development is that warmest place of all: wrapped in the arms of a parent attuned to the emotional needs of that individual child, apart from any cultural influences.

Let’s turn to Rando, mother of three from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, to learn more about how she is working to help parents provide children with the warmest place of all.

RITA: Hi Licia. Your book is such a great read, really taking the reader on a journey, and has a solid AP theme: that what really matters in a child’s life is time with his or her parents. What inspired you to write this book?

LICIA: I became interested in parenting styles as I was growing up and saw kids getting hit and sworn at, and I wanted to do something about that. Then, 17 years ago, while considering adopting a child, I did a lot of research into Attachment Theory, reading John Bowlby’s studies and Harry Harlow’s studies on rhesus monkeys. Through this journey in learning about abuse and trauma and the effect on children, I realized the importance of parenting.

Then, years later, neuroscience began coming out with studies that confirmed what Bowlby had suspected, and that was a very exciting time. I became interested in, and wrote about, how parents who were neglected and abused as children can go about learning to parent in a connected way. You can read about this in one of the sections in my Caring and Connected Parenting Guide for new parents on my website, LiciaRando.com.

So, I wanted to put everything I had learned in a story form that could reach more parents, a story with a warm, fuzzy moment that could help parents realize that snuggling with a parent really is the most important thing in the world to your child.

RITA: A lot of parents really struggle with learning how to raise their children differently than they were raised – where non-AP practices were the norm.

LICIA: Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell describe this in their book, Parenting from the Inside Out, how people have emotional memories from when they were young, memories they don’t even know they have except that they have certain triggers that stir strong emotions for no apparent reason. Parents really need to evaluate what happened to them as children, first, in order to be able to connect with their own child.

RITA: Some parents don’t understand how their relationships with their children will change if they take the time to examine their parenting style and make a commitment to change. I know parents who are really struggling with connecting with their children, who have anger problems and whose children frequently act-out, yelling back at the parent the same way the parent yells at them. These parents can’t believe that there are families where conflict resolution is peaceful and children are willingly cooperative. Can you give us your top three tips for parents who are seeking this?

LICIA: First, if you have a background of trauma, abuse and neglect, or loss such as of a parent, you need to come to understand how that is affecting your life. It goes back to Parenting from the Inside Out. It’s a matter of learning why you parent the way you do, to identify your triggers, and to retrain how you interact with your child and others when your strong emotions are triggered.

I’ve heard people say, “This is just the way I am.” But it’s never too late to change, never too late to become a better parent and person.

Second is listening and speaking respectfully to your child. You need to set limits, but it should be done with respect while showing that you understand what the child wants. Say, “I understand how much you want to go see this movie, but it is a school night and you can’t be out late. The weekend would be a better choice.“ When there is an altercation, go back and talk about it after you have calmed down or burned the energy with a walk or exercise. Take responsibility for your part in the eruption. Reflect with your child about inner emotions that played a part. For example, you yelled because you were worried about where your child was, because you love him and want him safe.

Third is modeling. Your kids are constantly learning how to act from you. Modeling is the best teaching tool. If you express anger in a certain way, that’s how your child will learn to express anger. So, if you yell and scream and throw things, so will your child. And if you talk respectfully with your child during a conflict, that’s how your child will learn to deal with his anger.

What you’re doing affects more than yourself. It affects your children, too, and it’s passed through the generations and interactions with others. So, your behavior affects your grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, and all the way down the life — and other children outside your family.

RITA: Which is why AP is so important…

LICIA: It’d be a more peaceful world if we could all interact like that. I really believe that family peace is the way to world peace.

RITA: I love that quote: Family peace is the way to world peace! We should put it on a T-shirt. So, since your book came out in September 2009, what kind of response have you received?

LICIA: I’ve read the book around a lot, in libraries and bookstores. Little kids just love it. From their reactions, I feel like I just hit the nail on the head. They know! They really relate to that feeling of snuggling with Mom and Dad.

RITA: What kind of response have you received from adults?

LICIA: A lot of people are buying the book for holiday gifts. Parents like to use the word, “sweet,” when they refer to it.

I wrote the book in simile, so it can be a good teaching tool, and sent it the reviewers who recommend books for classroom use. They wouldn’t review it! They didn’t like the idea of a seven-year-old child crawling into bed with her parents. I was surprised that it was being censored, especially with the disrespectful and violent books and movies out there. They’re so worried about this one illustration — a very loving and beautiful illustration of what children long for.

But there are teachers who’ve read it and love it and are using it in their classrooms. It just won’t be formally reviewed for teachers for classroom use.

RITA: That just goes to show, unfortunately, how much more work there is to educate our culture about the importance of AP. How do you see your book furthering AP?

LICIA: From all that I’ve learned from abuse statistics and brain trauma research, the really vulnerable age for children is from infancy through four years old. The Warmest Place of All is meant to emphasize the importance of early connection for parents. Research shows that if children get that connection early in life, parents have less difficulty with that child later on. And that the earlier a child receives harsh discipline, the more likely the child will act out later on.

My book also emphasizes the importance of touch. Why touch is so important is that it releases the hormone, oxytocin, which makes us feel good. The Warmest Place of All helps parents to actually feel the experience.

RITA: You have such a vast knowledge base of how parenting affects child development, as well as how to help parents learn the importance of connection. Are there more books promoting AP in the works?

LICIA: This is my life mission. I am always writing books that link or connect people and form community. I want to help people to connect with one another, especially between generations, like older people with the young child, parents with their children.

How to Downsize the Holidays

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, ProfessionalParenting.ca

Judy Arnall, BA, is a discipline expert, parent educator, and speaker as well as the mother of five children. Learn more at  www.professionalparenting.ca or www.attachmentparenting.ca.
Judy Arnall, BA, is a discipline expert, parent educator, and speaker as well as the mother of five children. Learn more at www.professionalparenting.ca or www.attachmentparenting.ca.

Even though the economy is recovering, many families will still have to put the brakes on Christmas spending. How does one cut down? How do we break it to the kids? What will the relatives think if we don’t participate in the gift frenzy?

Families can do all three if they communicate the changes early, with loving intent and with assurances that the holidays will be about presence and not presents.

To limit children’s demands at Christmas:

  • Remember that children remember good times and not toys. Create rituals around the tree decorating, baking, other activities, and family and friend visits. Children will remember a special time with Grandma baking cookies much more then the hottest gift that is tossed aside in favor of more gifts.
  • Try to get the most wanted gift on their list, if possible. It only has to be one special, coveted gift.
  • If you can’t get or can’t afford the “hot” gift, use your judgment to decide what toys and games have the best play value. Keep in mind that children are often disappointed with the advertising hype when they eventually get the “it” gift. Don’t dismiss the second-hand stores for huge bargains on consignment and gently used toys. Children do not care if the toy doesn’t come in mounds of wire and clear plastic and cardboard packaging; the toys don’t have to be new, just new to them. Make sure the toys are clean and working, though. Keep in mind that as a parent, you know which toys offer more play value than others. Many children like simple, unstructured toys that can be played with in many different ways. Continue reading

The Bedtime Challenge

By Sonya Fehér, Mamatrue.com

Sonya Fehér is a co-leader for the API of South Austin, Texas, USA. She is also a contributing editor for API Speaks.
Sonya Fehér is a co-leader for the API of South Austin, Texas, USA. She is also a contributing editor for API Speaks.

Bedtime is one of the most challenging times of day for me as a parent. I am tired from having taking care of a little person all day, ready to cuddle with my husband on the couch and watch a show, or check Facebook, or have any kind of leisure or work time that’s my own.

My son was two before we had a solid bedtime routine. We would read a pile of stories, then he’d crawl out of bed for more. He would nurse, then want to play or read and then nurse again. It didn’t bother me much at first because he was napping, and I got breaks during the day. Also, I listened to mamas all around me talk about their kids waking up at 6:00 a.m. and since my son didn’t go to sleep until 10:30 p.m., he slept until 9:00 or so in the morning. Much better for me since I’m a night owl.

Then we night-weaned and he started waking earlier. The long uninterrupted blocks of sleep meant he was more rested, too. He woke anywhere from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. When the time changed, my son rose with the sun. I’ve never been so aware of dawn. I bought new curtains at IKEA and sewed black-out material into them. Still the early mornings. I couldn’t start my day at 6:30 a.m. and still be present, attached, and nice by 10:30 p.m. I needed a break.

Even though Cavanaugh was exhausted, bedtime took a couple of hours every night. My husband and I thought we were providing a routine because we’d go upstairs an hour before we intended for Cavanaugh to be asleep so he could have quiet winding down time. We’d change him into a nighttime diaper and pajamas, read stories, and then nurse. But our routine didn’t have specific limits and Cavanaugh had no idea when it was supposed to end. It finally occurred to me that Cavanaugh loved “bed” time because he was getting undivided attention from both me and my husband. He wasn’t looking at a clock and counting the hours until morning. He was lying in between us as we cuddled him and read him story after story. So we changed our routine.

We do the playing downstairs now so that just going up to the bedroom signals that it’s time for pajamas, tooth brushing, three stories, and sleep. Before the first book, his dad or I say, “Three more books and then what?” If Cavanaugh says something other than “milk” or “sleep,” we’ll remind him where we are in the routine. And most of the time, this works amazingly well. Knowing what the parameters are means that Cavanaugh can relax and enjoy the time with us. If he wants me to read the last book, he knows when there’s only one more.

But late afternoon and evening need to occur on a timetable that allows the nighttime routine to flow smoothly. We need to eat dinner between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. We need to be upstairs by 6:45 p.m. This kind of predictability and scheduling didn’t exist in my pre-parent life. I never wore a watch. I ate cereal for dinner and went to sleep at 2:00 a.m. Some nights, I made four-course meals and was asleep by 11:00 p.m. I could do what the day called for. Those times are no more. Sure, we can make an occasional exception to the routine, but two or three nights in a row of odd circumstances mean my boy wants a little wiggle room himself. If we’re not following the schedule, why should he?

As he’s playing around, pretending to go to sleep and trying to negotiate more time with me, I’m looking at the clock thinking that for every minute he stays up later, we are in some convoluted formula that means he wakes up that much earlier the next morning. The voices in my head say it’s my fault because we weren’t home on time or I didn’t remember to start making dinner before 5:30 p.m. or…. None of this is conducive to responding to him sensitively.

Or, say, we’ve followed the routine to the letter but he isn’t going to sleep. I think back to our day full of play dates, errands, and a lot of time together though he hasn’t had much mama focus on just him. Or his dad’s working that night. Bedtime has a way of dragging out on the days when Cavanaugh most needs me and I most need a break.

On the nights when we’ve gone through the whole routine but Cavanaugh is still rolling around and bargaining for another story, index finger in the air, “Just one more,” I usually don’t want to read one more, or the one he will ask for after that. I manage to be sympathetic to his need for attention up to the point that my impatience wins out over my parenting philosophy and I end up snapping, “Cavanaugh, it’s sleeping time.” Then I give him the five-minute transition notice in an angry tone, “I will stay with you for five more minutes and then I need to go downstairs. What do you need from me to help you go to sleep?” Some nights it’s cuddle, a back rub, one more story, icy cold water. But some nights it is “five more minutes” until it’s an hour or more past his bedtime.

Playful Parenting bookThis week, though, I’ve been rereading Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. So last night when Cavanaugh was rolling around, being silly, asking for more of me than I had, I tried something — to playfully set the boundary. I told him, in a funny tone, that it was time to go to bed and wagged my index finger at him. My anger gave in to silliness, he was laughting, and the impending power struggle dissipated. After a couple more minutes of playing, he turned over to go to sleep. I got to tell him the limit was firm without having to use firm tones. And he got exactly what he needed, a reconnection as I looked into his eyes and acted a clown.

Gift-Giving from the Heart and Hands, Not the Wallet

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, ProfessionalParenting.ca

Judy Arnall, BA, is a discipline expert, parent educator, and speaker as well as the mother of five children. Learn more at  www.professionalparenting.ca or www.attachmentparenting.ca.
Judy Arnall, BA, is a discipline expert, parent educator, and speaker as well as the mother of five children. She lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Last Christmas, I had enough of shopping. With five children in the family, even with buying only one present to each other, there would have been 49 gifts to shop, pay for, and eventually add to the inevitable mound in the landfill. I announced to my family that we were going to make gifts to give to each other, rather then buy them. They all agreed (with twisted arms) and by the 20th of December, I was beginning to worry as there was absolutely no action occurring in this endeavor of mine.

I had to get Dad’s buy-in to help the smaller children with my presents and after a quick reminder to the older children, the house turned into a flurry of creative activity going on everywhere: planning, giggles, secrets, and shhhhing was taking place behind closed doors.

The kitchen, sewing room, and workshop were off limits for various periods of time, and the excitement of planning and creating helped contribute to the holiday suspense. Continue reading

Another Look at Breastfeeding with HIV/AIDS: An Interview with Marian Tompson, co-founder of LLLI

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

Marian Tompson, founder of AnotherLook and co-founder of LLLI
Marian Tompson, founder of AnotherLook and co-founder of LLLI

When we think of the Attachment Parenting International Principle of Feeding with Love and Respect, what first pops into our minds is a woman enjoying a close breastfeeding or bottle-nursing relationship with her baby or perhaps a family sitting around the dinner table engaged in a lively conversation about the day’s happenings. What many of us don’t picture are the myriad challenges many parents must encounter in order to do what seems to be such a basic part of child-rearing: feed their child.

Unless we’re experiencing a challenge at the time, we don’t think of the working mother pumping her breast milk, the parents feeding breakfast to their son via a stomach tube, or even the parents struggling with emotions toward their picky preschooler. And we certainly don’t think what it must be like for the HIV-positive mother who wants to breastfeed but is opposed by the medical community. But there remains debate about breastfeeding by HIV-positive mothers and whether the mother, particularly in developing countries where there are additional serious risks to not breastfeeding, should breastfeed or formula-feed her newborn.

Even for breastfeeding advocates, breastfeeding by HIV-positive mothers is a gray area. We want all mothers to feel welcomed to nurse their babies, but no one wants to pass HIV to their child through this naturally loving act. When going against what seems natural to us, we have to look at the research — and many of us probably do not fully understand what the studies have found.

It is because of this gap in knowledge and application of that knowledge that Marian Tompson founded AnotherLook as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2001, separate and unaffiliated with the La Leche League (LLL) International she co-founded more than 50 years ago. The opening statement on the homepage of AnotherLook’s website, AnotherLook.org, says it all: “The issue of HIV and human milk has been clouded by possibly questionable science, lack of precision concerning the definition of breastfeeding, and premature public policy statements.”

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International finds the mission of AnotherLook to be incredibly important to the HIV-positive community. However, API wants to make it clear that this contents of this article do not constitute medical advice and that all HIV-positive women should consult their health practitioners regarding breastfeeding and their child’s risk of transmission. API cannot be held liable for any personal decisions made by readers based on the contents of this article.

I first heard about the monumental hurdles HIV-positive women face in breastfeeding while attending a LLL conference in Nebraska last summer. The speaker was Tompson, and her topic that morning was the nonprofit organization called AnotherLook (at Breastfeeding and HIV/AIDS), which helps to educate both parents and professionals as to the issue of breastfeeding by HIV-positive mothers.

About AnotherLook
AnotherLookBased in Evanston, Illinois, AnotherLook is dedicated to further its mission to gather information, raise critical questions, and stimulate needed research about breastfeeding in the context of HIV/AIDS. AnotherLook questions feeding strategies based solely on the possibility of virus transmission instead of on maximizing the probabilities for good mother-infant health. The organization calls for clear, published scientific evidence as to the type and manner of feeding that will minimize infant morbidity and mortality and seeks out scientific proof that infectious HIV virus is present in breast milk and is transmitted from mother to baby through breastfeeding.

AnotherLook provides presentations, position papers, and recommendations, which can be found at its website.

Tompson spoke about the variety of information related to HIV/AIDS and breastfeeding, such as that the medical community in industrialized countries like the United States advises HIV-positive women not to breastfeed their babies. The guidance is out of fear of transmitting the virus to their child. One story told was of a woman in only the last couple years whose baby was removed from her care until she promised not to breastfeed, because the authorities called the choice to breastfeed over using formula as dangerous mothering.

It is for this reason that AnotherLook exists — to give HIV-positive mothers and health professionals factual information on what we know and don’t know about breastfeeding when a mother is HIV positive, to ask critical questions, and to stimulate needed research. Knowing the importance breastfeeding has in establishing a strong mother-child attachment relationship, you can understand what this organization means to those women with HIV/AIDS for whom AnotherLook provides a voice in exclusively breastfeeding concerns.

A Call to Action
AnotherLook has issued a Call to Action to assure the best maternal-infant health outcomes in relation to infant feeding in the context of HIV/AIDS. This call is needed because current research, policy, and practice, often based on fear, are focused on the reduction of transmission while neglecting the impact on morbidity and mortality. This not only may be misleading but may inadvertently set back critical gains already achieved in public health as a result of the protection and promotion of breastfeeding.

AnotherLook acknowledges the possibility that HIV may be transmitted through breastfeeding and that there is an urgent need for feeding guidelines.

In light of the above, AnotherLook calls for immediate action to provide:

  • Clear, peer reviewed research, with careful ongoing follow-up, which will provide sound scientific evidence of optimal infant feeding practices that lead to the lowest morbidity and mortality.
  • Concise, consistent definitions of feeding methods, testing methods, HIV infection and AIDS.
  • Development of research based infant feeding policies which are feasible to implement in light of prevailing social, cultural and economic environments; which address breastfeeding (particularly exclusive breastfeeding) as a critical component of optimal infant health; and which fully consider the impact of spillover mortality/morbidity associated with infant formulas.
  • Epidemic management from a public health perspective, with the focus on primary prevention, careful, unbiased surveillance, and the achievement of overall population health with the lowest rates of morbidity and mortality.
  • Evidence-based practices which protect the rights of both mothers and infants including education, true informed consent, support of a mother’s choice, and avoidance of coercion.
  • Funding to support the above actions and those programs which improve maternal/child health in general such as prenatal and postnatal care, nutrition, basic sanitation, clean water, and education, as well as exclusive breastfeeding until clear scientific evidence supporting the abandonment of breastfeeding is available.
  • Continued commitment by local and global researchers, policy makers, health workers, and funding bodies to basic scientific, medical, public health, and fiduciary principles in responding to this critical issue.

In summary, AnotherLook calls for answers to critical questions not currently being addressed that will foster the development of policies and practices leading to the best possible outcomes for mothers and babies in relation to breastfeeding and HIV/AIDS.

With the background laid out, let’s turn to Tompson for more information on the past, present, and future of AnotherLook.

RITA: Hi Marian. I recall hearing you say at the LLL conference that, knowing the time and energy and sheer work that goes into building up a successful nonprofit organization as LLL International is, founding another organization was a task that you never thought you would do. What made you decide to pursue the organization of AnotherLook?

MARIAN: It has always been important to me (and La Leche League) that mothers get correct information.  In 1997, when WHO [World Health Organization] changed its infant feeding recommendations when a mother was HIV-positive from one where the decision would be made on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not she should breastfeed to one where all HIV-positive women were encouraged to formula-feed if at all possible, I set out to find the studies that backed up this change.

I was looking for the evidence proving that babies who are breastfed by HIV-positive mothers are more likely or less likely to get sick and die than those fed formula mixed with possibly contaminated water, which is common in developing nations with HIV/AIDS epidemics such as parts of Africa.

RITA: What did you find?

MARIAN: We question infant feeding strategies based solely on the possibility of virus transmission instead of on maximizing the probabilities for good mother-infant health. We still don’t know if HIV virus in breastmilk is actually live (infectious), and if it is infectious, if there is enough to infect the baby. We have a team ready to research this and have been looking for a grant to cover the cost.

The challenge is that most people in this field think we already have the answers to these questions.

RITA: How has AnotherLook reached out to professionals and the HIV-positive community?

MARIAN: We have had an international focus since the beginning, calling attention to the difference in recommendations depending on where the HIV-positive mother resides.

We have a private chat list that includes researchers, health professionals, speakers on this topic, health workers working with mothers in Africa, and LLL leaders and others interested in this issue.

We were invited to do roundtable sessions at an American Public Health Association annual meeting, did a poster session at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto [Canada], and our abstract was included in the syllabus of last year’s International AIDS Conference in Mexico City [Mexico]. We have given presentations at LLL conferences, both in the United States and abroad.

We’ve had letters printed in major medical journals criticizing published research.

RITA: Do you have any success stories that stand out of how AnotherLook is able to educate mothers or professionals in a way that changed the course of establishing a breastfeeding relationship when HIV/AIDS is a factor?

MARIAN: We have helped to change recommendations on infant feeding in developing countries from one in which mothers were told to formula-feed if at all possible to one where now all mothers are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for six months.

About these Recommendations

http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/Infantfeedingbriefingnote.pdf

http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2007/9789241595964_eng.pdf

Our poster sessions have pointed out the lack of evidence in the citations used to back feeding recommendations. The research hasn’t been done that would give us the answers needed about breastfeeding when a mother is HIV-positive.

We have become a resource for women in the United States who have no support group, like drug users and gay people have if they are diagnosed with HIV virus.

We also educate professionals about the assumptions that have long been accepted as facts.

RITA: Where do you see AnotherLook heading in the future?

MARIAN: Continuing to provide information through presentations and our website, while responding to inquiries. Even school children have contacted us. Working to get the research still needing to be done accomplished. Raising funds to enable us to participate in discussions of this issue.

When a director from UNICEF, who initially questioned the need for AnotherLook, attended one of our presentations at an LLL International Conference, she said that AnotherLook should participate in all international discussions because we were including elements that others had overlooked.

RITA: Thank you for your time, Marian. Do you have any closing thoughts?

MARIAN: New online at www.anotherlook.org/updates is Rodney Richard’s letter questioning the wisdom of mandatory testing of newborns for HIV. Richards is a bio/organic chemist who worked many years for Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, specifically in the area of HIV test development.

His letter is in light of legislation passed in Connecticut, Illinois, and New York that require mandatory testing for HIV in newborns. Many states, such as Arkansas, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas, have laws requiring HIV testing of pregnant women as part of routine prenatal care and then testing of newborns if the HIV status of the mother is unknown. We will probably see this legislation being considered in other states.

Also in the works are:

  • A detailed paper on WHO’s changing recommendations on infant feeding when a mother is HIV-positive
  • A report from the session we put on at the LLL International 50th Anniversary Conference, “Breastfeeding and HIV: What Works, What Doesn’t, What Has to be Changed,” with Cathy Liles, BBA, CPA, MPH, IBCLC, a member of the LLL International Board of Directors, and Ted Greiner, PhD, coordinator for the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action Research Task Force.

About Marian Tompson
Marian was one of seven women who co-founded La Leche League as a way for women to seek out support and education in breastfeeding as the best way to feed infants. LLL’s beginnings came at a time in history, 1956, when women were advised to forgo breastfeeding as an infant-feeding option. At this time, the U.S. breastfeeding rates dropped to only 20%.

Marian had an instrumental role in the nonprofit organization of LLL, serving as president for 25 years. In 1958, she started the newsletter that eventually became the magazine we know today, New Beginnings, and in 1973, she began the annually held Breastfeeding Seminar for Physicians.

Today, besides her work with AnotherLook, Marian is involved in the LLL Founders’ Advisory Council and the International Advisory Council for the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, and is vice chair of the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She and her late husband Tom raised seven children. Marian also has 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

API’s Connection >> Reedy Hickey, IBCLC
Reedy HickeyAnotherLook and API share a member of their respective Boards of Directors. Hickey not only provides leadership to both organizations but also advocates breastfeeding as a local La Leche League leader and Georgia’s LLL professional liaison. She is the mother of two grown children and 32 foster babies, and practiced AP with each.

Working without Weaning: An Interview with author Kirsten Berggren

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

working without Weaning by Kirsten BerggrenAttachment Parenting International’s seventh of the Eight Principles of Parenting, Providing Consistent and Loving Care, explains how babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver who is interested and involved in building strong bonds through daily care and playful, loving interactions. Ideally, yes, this caregiver would be a parent. But, especially in the tough economic climate our world has experienced the past couple years, many families are finding themselves in a situation where both parents must work outside the home.

While a dual-income family may require more creativity in making the time and finding the energy to fulfill API’s Principles, it is certainly very possible to foster a secure attachment.

How does this relate to the second of API’s Eight Principles, Feeding with Love and Respect? According to Kirsten Berggren, PhD, CLC, author of Working without Weaning: A Working Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding, going back to work is the hardest obstacle an exclusively breastfeeding mother will encounter. A neurobiologist, Berggren shares her own experiences and those of others to create this handbook for mothers who want to continue breastfeeding once they return to work after maternity leave. It’s a tough balancing act — maintaining the breastfeeding relationship despite day-after-day separations — but, as Berggren reiterates in her book, one that is completely worth the effort. Continue reading

Pumping for Stay-at-Home Moms

By Sonya Fehér, leader for South Austin API (Texas, USA) and blogger at MamaTrue.com

pumping for stay-at-home momsIf we’re staying at home to be with our babies full-time, we don’t have to pump milk or offer bottles. We can delay extended separations until our children are older, take our babies with us to run errands, go to appointments, or when we meet friends. And most of the time, we do. We spread out activities, so we can avoid taking Baby in and out of the car for multiple stops. We keep the volume low on the car stereo. We prioritize what we need to get at the grocery and find ways to entertain or distract Baby, so that we can get everything on the list. And we likely plan it all around when Baby may take a nap. That’s what stay-at-home moms do.

What differs for attached moms is that we are likely also sleeping with or near our babies during the night, wearing them during the day, and nursing them every hour or so. Being an Attachment Parenting (AP) stay-at-home mom is an intense 24-hours-a-day/365-days-a-year job.

Why Stay-at-Home Breastfeeding Mothers Pump

While all of the mothers that I interviewed agreed that breastmilk from the breast is best, AP stay-at-home moms have many reasons to pump: Continue reading

Breastfeeding and Working, an Illustration

By Amber Lewis, staff writer for The Attached Family

Pumping breastmilkThe first painful hurdle I was to face as a mother was the need to return to work. After a three-month crash course in Attachment Parenting (AP), my daughter and I were well bonded, so going back to work broke my heart. I have to admit it still does — every day that I spend more time working for a paycheck than I do building a relationship with my daughter, I cry a little privately.

I have tried to make the best of this hurdle called work, and in spite of day after day away from my daughter, we are still very much an attached family. When I am home, we use attachment skills that help us best keep and build a good relationship with our daughter, including:

  • Breastfeeding — Even though my daughter is more than two years old, I still pump twice a day at work. We will practice self-weaning, because I know she needs to nurse. It’s no longer as much of a nutritional need as a psychological need that allows us to reconnect after work and to say good bye without words in the morning.
  • Cosleeping — We have a family bed. Even though we have experimented with moving our daughter into her own room, we know she’s not ready for that yet and so we allow her to lead the way, at least for the mean time.
  • Prioritizing — Our daughter is our number-one priority. While we like to have a clean and organized house, this is not always the case. Things frequently get left out or put away in a rush to maximize our time together. I am a stay-at-home mom when I’m home. We take however long we need for library story time, trips to the park in the summer, family walks, crafts, learning, religious study, and anything else I would do if I were a stay-at-home mom.

Tips for Successful Pumping at Work:

  • Start early and pump often — My breasts are fullest in the morning, so I usually pump twice in the morning. I began pumping even before I returned to work, at night for the last six weeks I was on maternity leave, my daughter would nurse on one side while I pumped on the other, it was the best thing I did to build up my supply. By the time I returned to work, I was a pumping pro and had a freezer full of milk.
  • Put pumping on your to-do list — I was the only pumping mother in my department, so if I didn’t decide to pump, no one noticed or cared. I added it to my to-do list and set an alarm with the exact time I would pump every day. My breasts got used to the schedule, and if I missed a pumping session, I could feel it. Once I set it as a priority, people knew it was important to me and they respected that.
  • Be honest and open — If your boss wants to know why you are leaving and what you are doing, be honest. Using the word “breast” in a sentence at work makes people uncomfortable and I used that to my advantage. If my boss needed to know where I had been, I told him I was pumping breastmilk. If I was using a bathroom instead of a nursing room and a busybody needed to know what that funny noise was coming from the stall, I told them it was a breast pump. Anyone who wants to make a big deal about it will usually be too embarrassed at hearing the “b” word, they will immediately back down and none of those people ever mentioned it again to me.

What Fathers Can Do:

  • Provide support — Remind your wife that she can do continue nursing and working at the same time, because you believe in her.
  • Help out — Your wife is helping to take care of financial obligations, so you should help take care of home obligations. A little cleaning goes a long way in the heart of a working mom.
  • Be patient — Your wife feels the stress of working and still wants to be a wonderful mother. Those two things tend to compete for her time, so she can and probably will lose it every once and a while. Be quick to forgive and forget those frazzled moments.
  • Encourage weekend relaxation — When your wife has a free moment, encourage her to rest or help her so she can catch up on her favorite hobby. A little rest and relaxation can go a long way to preventing those frazzled moments in the point above.

Breastfeeding and Extended Separations

The most challenging time of me was around the time my daughter turned 18 months. I am a Navy reservist and was required to serve my two-week training across the country. We didn’t have the money to fly my husband and daughter back with me, so we set about finding other ways to stay attached.

I began researching everything I could find about nursing while apart. The best information was from a few moms whose travel for work kept them apart from their babies two or three days. I was left with one question as my departure date loomed ever closer: Would my daughter want to continue our nursing relationship when I returned?

Everything I knew about breastfeeding led me to believe it was beneficial for as long as possible, so I made two decisions:

  1. We would nurse up until the moment before I left for the airport. During our last nursing session, I would try to explain to her about my leaving and where I was going and that we would nurse again when I got home.
  2. I would pump throughout the two weeks. So, if she did want to nurse again once I returned, she could.

These decisions I made concerning breastfeeding were just a couple of ways we stayed attached. Here is what I found key to keeping attached with my daughter over the distance:

  • Video conferencing and lots of phone calls.
  • Help from Grandma and aunts. This was especially important, not only for giving my husband breaks, but in a pinch, their extra love and attention filled in a bit for my absence. Every time my mother-in-law came over, my daughter was ecstatic. It was as if she needs a woman’s love, and Grandma filled that need for the two weeks.

The decision to pump, with the hope we could continue our breastfeeding relationship, was not one without consequence. Pumps are great and they can do a good job in a pinch, but without a baby to fully empty my breasts, I developed a short bout of mastitis halfway through the two weeks.

My supply did drop, mostly because I was sleeping through the night, so I had to adjust that schedule. Instead of ignoring when my full breasts woke me up during the night, I took the cue and got the pump out. Showers became another tool to help me keep up my supply and fight further infection; using warm water and massaging the milk ducts became a twice-daily routine.

While it was a very stressful and exhausting two weeks, it was well worth all the effort. My daughter immediately nursed after we were reunited at the airport.

It doesn’t matter if you are across town for the day or across the globe for the week, you can successfully continue breastfeeding and AP with a little extra work and dedication. The best part of my time apart was seeing my husband and daughter at the airport when I returned — my daughter squealed with such delight and held on to me so tight, and then that first nursing session after my return was like heaven.

Tips for Successful Pumping during Work-Related Travel:

  • Bring your best pump — I asked for a second breast pump for my birthday and now I have a pump used only for travel. It stays cleaner and pumps a little more efficiently than the one I use every workday.
  • Bring lots of photos — This will help you pump more milk and stay connected to your baby. If you have a video phone, take pictures with it to play back while you pump.
  • Bring lots of batteries — Don’t expect to find a nursing room everywhere you go, especially on a plane. I bring enough batteries to last to whole trip just in case.
  • Bring a nursing wrap — If you can’t find a bathroom suitable to pump, you can sit in your car or find a secluded chair, cover up, and get to pumping.
  • Keep your lactation consulant’s number handy — I actually made an appointment just to discuss my plans with my OB/GYN before I left. When I got mastitis, I called her office and got some tips to get over it without medicine and a sympathetic ear, which helps when you are on the verge of tears with two very full and painful breasts.
  • Keep at it — The first two or three days will be the most difficult. Your body is adjusting to a new type of nursing and it can be hard to get a rhythm going, but once you get a schedule of pumping that works for you, things get easier. Mental attitude will go along way here. If you believe you can keep at this, you can and you’ll overcome any obstacle that gets in your way.
  • Stay hydrated — Drink lots of water to keep your supply up. I usually don’t drink anything but soy milk as far as dairy goes, but I found that whole milk actually helped increase my supply dramatically. So, the days I was gone, I drank two glasses each morning.
  • Bring lanolin cream — Invest in a couple tubes of lanolin cream, and don’t be shy when administering it. Pumps can be hard on nipples.

Blessings on Our Meal: Parenting a Child with Severe Feeding Issues

By Jonna Higgins-Freese

Jonna and her children
Jonna and her children

I’m making breakfast for my two-year-old son who stands on a stool next to me. Oatmeal simmers on the stove. “Lid!” Reuben says, pointing to the rattling pan and signing that he hears something. I turn off the flame, then slice an avocado, which I slide into the Vitamix blender. I add half a cup of oatmeal, an ounce of last night’s Parmesan pan-fried pork, applesauce, carrots, and milk. “Mix!” Reuben says, smiling up at me happily as I start the machine.

“Okay, buddy, let’s have breakfast,” I say, strapping Reuben into his high chair. I open the tab of his Mic-Key button, which looks like a beach ball valve on his abdomen, screw in the extension tube, and insert the tip of a syringe filled with the food I’ve just made. I sit down next to Reuben and push ten milliliters, about the volume of an oral bite, directly into his stomach through the tube. Meanwhile, I offer him banana slices and cereal, but he leaves them on his tray.

Reuben’s unusual relationship to food wasn’t always such a comfortable part of our routine.

“Oh, I know,” Other parents say, “my Jimmy is a picky eater, too.” I don’t want to be obnoxious, so I don’t say what I’m thinking: Reuben isn’t picky — it’s that he’s not an eater.

In the Beginning

Reuben’s feeding issues stem from medical complications that arose during birth. He spent 11 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, undergoing increasingly invasive treatments to save his life. I could not feed him, talk to him, or touch him. (Unlike some critically ill infants who thrive when touched, Reuben’s blood oxygen levels dropped with any stimulation). But I could pump breastmilk for him. Even though he was so ill that he received only a few milliliters of it each day through a tube into his stomach, pumping became my way of connecting with him and embodying my faith that he would recover.

The doctors warned us that feeding difficulties were often a side-effect of the treatment, but my husband and I assumed that once Reuben was allowed to eat, he would.

He did not.

Common Feeding Difficulties

Oral Aversion
Oral aversion occurs when a child is reluctant or refuses to be breastfed, bottle-fed, or eat. The child may have negative associations with food or other objects near or in his mouth, or, in some cases, a child develops oral aversion when she strongly dislikes the texture of certain foods. This often happens when a child has been tube-fed for a long time due to illness or prematurity.

Dysphagia
Dysphagia is when the swallowing of food causes it to not pass easily from the mouth to the stomach, which may cause food to get stuck in the lungs and throat. Children with this disorder may also begin to refuse food. This disorder often occurs as the result of another condition, such as prematurity, cleft lip or palate, and large tongue or tonsils.

Comfort in Breastfeeding

We started by offering to nurse him several times each day. Although he never ate enough to allow us to decrease his tube feedings, breastfeeding did give him some practice at sucking and swallowing, and provided him with positive oral experiences. Each time, he would shake his head excitedly, say “ah-ah-ah,” and dive toward me. Then, he would close his eyes and raise his eyebrows in an expression of deep contentment as he settled in. Now, at nearly three, he still asks for nummies as a way to reconnect when I return from work, or when he is particularly tired or upset. He barely latches on, but finds comfort in snuggling.

Through the time that I pumped breast milk for Reuben and he recreationally nursed, I sometimes felt criticized by people on both ends of the spectrum of parenting philosophy. Some people couldn’t understand why I would make the monumental effort to pump milk for 19 months. At other times, I felt pressure from exclusively breastfeeding mothers because Reuben used a nipple shield, didn’t get his nutrition “from the breast,” and received breastmilk calorie-enriched with formula. I had to learn to trust my own instincts, knowing that I was providing the best mix of experiences and nutrition for his unique needs.

Reality Sets In

The doctors reassured us that Reuben would learn to eat when we introduced a bottle or solids. But he did not. Months went by, and the tube remained in his nose; then, the day after his first birthday, it was replaced by one in his stomach. Some family and friends couldn’t understand why Reuben did not eat by mouth, suggesting that the problem would be solved if we simply held his tube feedings and offered only the bottle. They shared stories of breastfed babies who were forced into taking the bottle at day care. We knew this wouldn’t work, even if we had been willing to try it. Babies like Reuben have been traumatized by their oral experiences. They are so out of touch with their bodies’ signals of hunger and fullness, and so lacking in the basic motor skills needed to suck and swallow, that they will starve to death without tube feedings.

But I also understood their discomfort. Eating is central to daily life, social interaction, and celebration. Reuben’s refusal to eat felt deeply strange. More than once, even though we knew all of the medical reasons for Reuben’s behavior, Eric and I asked each other in frustration, “Why won’t he just eat?”

At each meal, I prepared a bottle and a bit of food, knowing in advance that the food would ultimately go in the garbage, and the contents of the bottle would be poured into his feeding tube. “Try to relax,” my husband advised. “Sometimes you focus on the negative, and I’m sure Reuben picks up on that.” He was right, but I wasn’t sure how to remain consistently cheerful when I prepared three meals a day for a child who refused to put them in his mouth.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey helped me realize that we can’t ever force another person to do anything; all we can do is set up the situation so it’s easier for them to choose what is safe, healthy, or polite. Or, in the words of one specialized feeding program we researched, “We teach our families the proper division of eating responsibility; it is the child’s responsibility to eat, and it is the family’s responsibility to provide the right environment, foods, and opportunities to eat.”

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline
By Becky Bailey

Easy to Love, Difficult to DisciplineEasy to Love, Difficult to Discipline provides parents with seven basic skills to turn conflict into cooperation through development of self-control and self-confidence on the part of both the parent and child. The focus of the book is to teach parents to learn to understand both their and their child’s motivations for certain behaviors and then how to help their child and themselves to improve.

Seeking Treatment

As our knowledge of feeding issues and confidence as parents increased, we became evermore frustrated with the hospital feeding specialist’s behavioral approach, which didn’t seem to work for Reuben or our family. He suggested we strive to “increase Reuben’s compliance with the spoon” and instructed us to set a timer for a three-minute “meal,” then touch the spoon to Reuben’s lips and say “bite” every 30 seconds. To our surprise, this worked well — for three meals. After that, Reuben screamed and sobbed, turning his head away from the spoon. Although we didn’t know the phrase “feeding with love and respect” at that time, we instinctively felt that seeking “compliance” was not compatible with our parenting philosophy.

When we consulted a different specialist, I immediately felt more comfortable. She approached Reuben and greeted him gently, getting to know him first as a person. She watched me feed him, then sat down to offer carrot sticks and Gerber Puffs and observe his reactions. She explained that she saw eating as a complex skill with sensory, psychological, behavioral, and biological components.

With her help, we discovered that Reuben was not comfortable with the preliminary sensory processing required for eating: He hated to have food on his face. She showed us how to work with carrot sticks and dip, as well as vibrating tools, to help him learn to tolerate sensations in and around his mouth.

She also suggested that Reuben requires strong flavors in order to locate food in his mouth. Refried beans and roasted carrot puree loaded with garlic and tahini became early favorite foods. Still, he only ate a bite or two of these foods at each meal.

Tips to Feeding with Love and Respect in Special Circumstances:

  • Let go of your sense of how things should be, and accept your child for who she is.
  • Approach your child’s doctors and other care providers as members of the team. They are experts on particular medical procedures, treatments, and diseases; you are an expert on your child. You should expect that medical professionals will listen to your experience and opinions. It is okay to ask questions like, “What other options are there for treatment?” or “What therapies are offered at other facilities?”
  • Seek out other parents and families in similar situations for support, advice, and alternative options.
  • Accept whatever is possible in your interactions with your child around food, whether it is making that food from your body or opening a can of formula with love.
  • Forgive yourself. Whatever decisions you made were based on the best available knowledge you had.
  • Trust your own intuition and your knowledge about your child. Be cautious of being influenced by those who see your decisions as either too child-focused or insufficiently pure from an ideological perspective.
  • Abandon any expectation that you will follow some perfect or pure set of principles.
  • Focus on the social, psychological, and behavioral aspects of mealtime and the possibilities for bonding they provide.

Relying on Other AP Practices, Too

Because feedings were complicated and sometimes tense, we found that other aspects of Attachment Parenting helped us maintain a secure bond with Reuben. I don’t own as many different wraps or know as many different ways to tie one as some people, but I consider myself a babywearing expert because I can get a baby into and out of a sling without dislodging a feeding tube from his nose — and have, on occasion, administered feedings while wearing the baby.

Cosleeping allowed us to ensure that Reuben didn’t become tangled in his tubes during the overnight portion of his feedings. Through soggy experiences, we learned all the ways the feeding tube could leak — once all in one night. First, I was awakened by cold wetness on my backside when the tube connected to Reuben disconnected from the bag containing his food. Two hours and a sheet change later, the medical port on the tube slipped open. This time we put a towel over the wet spot and went back to sleep, only to be awakened again when Reuben squirmed the tube extension off the button on his stomach.

People who say eating in bed is messy have no idea.

Feeding with Love and Respect in Special Circumstances

Over time, we have found ways to make Reuben’s tube feedings a nurturing and respectful experience for all of us. I choose the content of Reuben’s diet when I make his homemade blended formula (though we also use canned formula). Context is also an important part of eating, and we have learned to integrate Reuben’s tube feedings into our family meal time. We put whatever we are eating on Reuben’s plate, and he usually chews at least some of it. Eric pushes Reuben’s tube feeding while we all talk about our day. Before we start, we hold hands and say something for which we’re grateful. Then I smile at Reuben and ask, “Now what?” and he grins broadly as he says, “Blessings on our meal.”

Someday, the doctors assure us, Reuben will move to eating all of his calories by mouth and I will complain with the mothers of other teenage boys about the difficulty of keeping food in the refrigerator. Until then, we have learned that every kind of meal, whether intravenous or tube-fed, hung or pushed or pumped, eaten by mouth from the breast or the hand or the spoon – all of these are a blessing.

Family Resources

  • MealtimeConnections.com provides feeding therapy and consultation focused on developing a positive partnership between therapists and families, as well feeding in the context of a positive parent-child relationship. I especially recommend their “Mealtime Notions,” which are feeding aids based on the Mealtime Connections philosophy that “feeding is first and foremost a special relationship between the child and the feeder”; and the Homemade Blended Formula Handbook, an indispensable philosophical and practical reference for families of tube-fed children.
  • The Pediatric Encouragement Feeding Program at Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center is an intensive, interdisciplinary program focused on weaning children from tube feedings in a supportive environment.

The Family Table

By Judy Sanders, member of API’s Board of Directors and API’s Editorial Review Board

the family tableIt’s dinnertime somewhere. Families sit around a dining table, or gather around a short-legged table, or settle on a rug in a circle. A baby may be in a high chair or on his mother’s back, having food handed to him. He may be in a hammock, gently pushed every so often, dozing, not eating, and absorbing the sounds of his family enjoying their evening meal.

Why regularly share the evening meal as a family? How does this routine activity serve us beyond nourishment? Continue reading

Breastfeeding after Sexual Abuse

By Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, member of API’s Resource Advisory Council and API’s Editorial Review Board, adapted from Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Breastfeeding after sexual abuseFor survivors of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, breastfeeding can pose challenges. Unfortunately, sexual abuse and assault are relatively common experiences, affecting 20% to 25% of women. The reactions of abuse survivors to breastfeeding run the whole range of responses – from really disliking it to finding it tremendously healing.

Surprisingly, research has shown us that abuse survivors are more likely to breastfeed. The two published studies on this topic showed that abuse survivors had a higher intention to breastfeed and a higher rate of breastfeeding initiation. Our research has also shown that a higher percentage of mothers who were abuse or assault survivors were breastfeeding compared with mothers without a trauma history. We have also found higher rates of Attachment Parenting behaviors, such as bed-sharing, among the abuse and assault survivors.

If you are an abuse survivor who wants to breastfeed, I congratulate you for making a positive life choice to overcome your past and parent well. However, there still may be some difficulties you face as you breastfeed your baby or child. If you are having a difficult time, here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Figure out what makes you uncomfortable – Is it nighttime feeding? Is it your baby touching other parts of your body while nursing? Is it when the baby attaches to your breast? Or all of the above? The intense physical contact of breastfeeding may be very uncomfortable for you. You might find breastfeeding painful, because your abuse experience lowered your pain threshold. The act of breastfeeding may also trigger flashbacks.
  • Can you address the problem? – If skin-to-skin contact is bothering you, can you put a towel or cloth between you and the baby? Can you avoid the feedings that make you uncomfortable? Nighttime feedings are often good candidates. Would you be more comfortable if you pumped and fed your baby with a bottle? Can you hold your baby’s other hand while breastfeeding to keep her from touching your body? Can you distract yourself while breastfeeding with TV or a book? Several mothers have shared with me that works well for them. Experiment, be flexible, and find out what helps.
  • Remember that some breastfeeding is better than none – You may not be able to fully breastfeed, but every little bit helps, even if you must pump milk and use a bottle or if you are only breastfeeding once a day. Some abuse survivors find that they never love breastfeeding, but they learn to tolerate it. And that may be a more realistic goal for you.

Past abuse does not have to influence the rest of your life. I know many abuse survivors who have become wonderful mothers. I’m confident that you can, too. Nurturing your baby through breastfeeding is a great place to start.

From Fear to Breastfeeding

By Grace Zell, staff writer for The Attached Family

To breastfeed or bottle-nurse?When I was pregnant for the first time, I wasn’t sure what I would do and I was actually a little afraid of committing to breastfeeding and being my child’s sole source of sustenance.

After my son was born, I decided to combine breastfeeding and bottle-nursing. I was ready with a breast pump, sterilized bottles, and formula. My son was a very alert and agitated infant, and he awakened every hour during the night in the beginning. Bottle-nursing gave me the ability to sleep for a four-hour shift while my husband took over. I had planned to fill the bottles with breast milk, but my son was such a high-needs infant that I fell behind with pumping and, after about three weeks, gave up completely and used formula in his bottles.

An Early End to Breastfeeding

I had been unable to get my son to latch on for nursing and did not get very nurturing support from the lactation staff at our hospital. They had led me to believe that I wouldn’t be able to pump and bottle-nurse. (I have since seen women who pumped for several months without their baby actually nursing and a woman who got her infant to latch on after about three unsuccessful weeks of trying.) Continue reading

Using Media Literacy in the Battle for Our Children’s Minds – and Health

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

advertising and our children's healthWho’s teaching your children about food and nutrition? As much as parents hope the answer is them, even attached children are barraged by food messages from sources you might not have even considered: the media and advertising.

“A lot of people say, ‘Media doesn’t influence me,’” said Melinda Hemmelgarn, a dietician and food journalist from Columbia, Missouri, when in fact, advertising is often the only form of “education” they may be receiving about food and nutrition. Even of those people who have heard about their nation’s nutritional programs, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, few rely on them to make their food choices, she said.

Hemmelgarn is spending her fellowship with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Society Policy Fellows Program educating parents about the dangers of letting the media make children’s nutritional decisions. Media’s influence on our children is so pervasive, she said, that most of us don’t even realize how much our children – or we – are being exposed.

Advertisers are Relentless – and Want Our Children

The amount of advertising we receive on a daily basis is staggering: television, Internet, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, cell phones, video games, at sports venues, in supermarkets, food packaging, even in schools, and the list goes on and on. Children and adults are constantly hearing where they should go to eat or what they should buy. With so much marketing coming at us constantly, it’s impossible for media not to have an influence unless we live somewhere with absolutely no contact with the outside world. Cell phones now have the capability to allow businesses to track where users go, so if your teen walked past a pizza parlor, an ad could pop up for that pizza parlor on the screen of the cell phone. It’s both awesome and frightening what technology can do.

Advertisers are also keying in on trends, which are most influential on children and teens. “Now, with regard to children especially, you got to get them when they’re young, because if you can get them when they’re young, you got them for life,” Hemmelgarn said of how advertisers think regarding children.

Study: Food Marketing Aimed at Children Influences Poor Nutritional Choices
A recent report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies shows that food and beverage marketing targeted to children 12 years old and younger leads them to request and consume high-calorie, low-nutrient products. Advertisers aim for this age group because dietary preferences and eating patterns form early in life, the study says. The report calls for manufacturers and restaurants to direct more of their resources to reshape children’s awareness of food by developing healthy foods, drinks, and meals for children. The report also calls for the government to enhance nutritional standards in school meals and offer tax incentives to companies that develop healthy foods, and for schools, parents, and the media to support the government and food industry to pursue these initiatives.

It’s the Parents’ Responsibility

Parents need to teach their children how to be smart about buying their food – to realize that the purpose of food is to provide nutrition to the body, Hemmelgarn said. Children need to learn that there’s more to buying food than convenience, price, or emotional comfort. They need to learn how food choices affect their health, not just their checking accounts or their schedules.

Parents also need to teach their children that just because an advertiser makes a claim, it’s not necessarily accurate, Hemmelgarn said. For example, 78% of people in the United States say they like to buy green brands because they want to be eco-conscious, but not all advertisers who claim to be green or sustainable or organic actually are. One fast-food restaurant claims that its chicken nuggets are green because they don’t have trans fats, but there’s no information on how the chicken was raised or any other nutritional facts about the food. Even the term “organic” can get confusing, as many companies are now diluting this label to include naturally raised, yet not organically certified, foods.

Media Literacy is a Learned Skill

The key to guiding our children’s ability to make smart consumer choices regarding food is to teach them to be media literate – using critical thinking to sort through the messages they are receiving in order to find the truth about the food being advertised and if it aligns with their own values and beliefs.

“Media literacy is not media bashing,” Hemmelgarn said. “It’s a counter-balance. It’s an antidote to the excess media of this age. But, it’s an alternative to censoring.”

Through media literacy, consumers learn that all media is constructed to deliver a specific message to consumers and to persuade them of something — in the case of food purchases: where to go and what to buy. They learn how to think beyond the plate to find “food truth,” answering questions such as: Where did this food come from? Who produced it? How was it raised? What’s in it? How might eating this affect the environment, society, my community, my family, or me?

There are seven key questions for consumers to ask themselves before basing a food purchase on a media message they received:

  1. Who paid for the message?
  2. What is the purpose of the message?
  3. Who is the intended audience?
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention?
  5. What is being sold?
  6. What is not included in the message?
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food?

Using the case of a fast-food restaurant’s ad promoting parties to schoolteachers for their classrooms during field trips, Hemmelgarn demonstrated how to use these questions:

  1. Who paid for the message? McDonald’s
  2. What is the purpose of the message? To sell food
  3. Who is the intended audience? Teachers
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention? Happy, fun character interacting with happy children
  5. What is being sold? A free event for classrooms
  6. What is not included in the message? That the food is unhealthy
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food? Children learn unhealthy food choices from the teacher’s decision, and children learn to overlook healthy food options such as homemade meals or healthier restaurants

Here’s another example using a soft drink company’s pop machines in schools:

  1. Who paid for the message? Coca-Cola
  2. What is the purpose of the message? To sell bottles of a soft drink
  3. Who is the intended audience? Children
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention? Bright colors, catchy slogans
  5. What is being sold? Easy, inexpensive drink option
  6. What’s not included in the message? That the drink is unhealthy
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food? Children learn unhealthy food choices from the school’s decision, and children learn to overlook healthy drink options such as milk or juice

Sorting through media messages can be difficult to learn and to teach to others, but says Hemmelgarn: “If we love our kids and if we’re interested in protecting them from these media messages, then we need to know how to do this.”

Cheap Food is Often Unhealthy Food
Anyone who has ever walked into a grocery store knows this is true: Healthy food is not cheap. Earlier this year, at the groundbreaking of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s home garden, CBS News reported that people going through the economic recession were more likely to opt for inexpensive, unhealthy foods over whole foods, even when they know the long-term consequences of an unhealthy diet. When it came to saving money, people are more likely to trade their $3 organic apple for a $1 fast-food sandwich rather than look for other money-saving options. As attached parents, we must keep in mind that we are raising our children to grow into healthy adults and to value health over greed. And we must model the decisions we want our children to make. Be careful when you begin cutting the family food budget.

Rescue Your Baby from Obesity

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

Rescue your baby from obesityAs attachment parents, we need to be sure that we love and accept our children no matter what – and this includes their weight. Some children are naturally, genetically, more overweight or underweight than other children, and this is OK. The reason for the national media attention on children and their weight management is because of the high rates of obesity not only among adults but among children, as well.

Obesity is defined as being 20% above the ideal weight for height. Excess body fat puts children at risk for a number of serious health concerns including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, and bone and joint disorders. Recent studies have found possible links with liver and kidney disease, and cancer. Obesity also puts kids at increased risk for low self esteem, which can later contribute to depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. Many experts and resources agree that childhood obesity is of epidemic proportions. Continue reading

Breastfeeding while Pregnant

By Debbie Page, RN, IBCLC, CEIM, director of TheNewBornBaby.com

breastfeeding while pregnantMany women find themselves pregnant while they are still enjoying a nursing relationship with their child. It doesn’t typically occur during the first six months, as long as you and your child are together most of the time and the child is exclusively nursing, but it can happen any time. Your child may be seven months or two years old when you discover you are pregnant. Should pregnancy be the reason to wean? For most mothers, the answer is a resounding no!

Babies need to breastfeed for years, not months, so continuing to breastfeed while pregnant could be the very best thing for your nursling. You will want to discuss this with your partner and your midwife/doctor. In Western cultures, the social norm is to breastfeed for a few weeks to a few months and certainly not during pregnancy. You may very likely have family members and friends pressure you to wean. Only you can make that decision. Educate yourself so you can base your decision on facts, not emotions. Embrace your freedom as a woman and mother to make the decisions you feel are best for your children and your family.

You and your family will have a lot to ponder about as you arrive at your decision. You may decide to continue nursing and set periodic goals for re-evaluating.

Is It Safe to Breastfeed While Pregnant?

There are two situations to consider:

  1. How are your pregnancies? If you carried your pregnancies to term without a threat of premature labor, then you are fine to continue breastfeeding. If not, you need to make sure your midwife/doctor is fine with your plan. If it is OK for you to have sex during pregnancy, it is safe to keep breastfeeding. Some doctors are concerned that the nipple stimulation of breastfeeding will cause premature contraction, but the medical literature does not support that theory. Nipple stimulation causes a release of oxytocin, which triggers the milk to let down. The synthetic form of oxytocin, Pitocin, is used to induce or augment labor. The amount of oxytocin released during orgasm is more than with breastfeeding, so the chances are slim to none that breastfeeding would put you into preterm labor.
  2. Are you well nourished? While you are pregnant, your body will draw from your stored nutrients to support your unborn child. You will continue to make high quality milk during pregnancy, but you will need to increase your calorie intake and your vitamins and minerals. Eat well, drink enough fluids, and make sure you gain the expected amount during your pregnancy. Women who are malnourished should not breastfeed during pregnancy. Vegan, anemic, or dairy-free moms need to pay special attention to their nutrition even if they are not pregnant, but especially if pregnant and breastfeeding.

Will My Older Child Get the Proper Nutrition?

Because your milk production may dwindle about halfway through your pregnancy, you may need to supplement a child whose sole source of nutrition is breastfeeding.

Not everyone will experience reduced milk supply, however. When Hilary Flower wrote her book, Adventures in Tandem Nursing, 30% of 200 mothers she had interviewed did not report a decrease in their production while they tandem-nursed.

What Other Ways Will Pregnancy Alter My Milk?

The taste of your milk will change, and some nurslings do not care for the new taste of Mommy’s milk.

At some point, your milk will revert to colostrum. This is still fine for your child and there is no need to worry that she will use it all up. Your breasts will keep replenishing the colostrum. Once you deliver, your production of colostrum will increase to provide plenty for the new baby.

How Does It Feel to Breastfeed While Pregnant?

Some women find it irritating or become restless when they nurse while pregnant. Hormonal changes are probably the culprit.

The hormones of pregnancy may also cause nipple tenderness. The tenderness may increase with the decrease of milk production.

For some women, morning sickness or nausea increase with nursing; for others, it decreases. If you experience more nausea, try altering your nursing schedule.

What About Weaning During Pregnancy?

You may decide that you want to wean before you deliver. This is fine. Giving some thought to this before you choose to breastfeed during pregnancy can help you emotionally if this does happen.

Some children will wean when the milk production dwindles or because the taste of the milk changes. Again, preparing for this possibility before it happens can ease the loss of your nursing relationship with this child.

Breastfeeding for Two: Tandem Nursing

By Debbie Page, RN, IBCLC, CEIM, director of TheNewBornBaby.com

tandem nursingDid you ever think you would be considering nursing two children at the same time? Probably most of us haven’t thought about that, but many women have done it. Known as tandem nursing, it happens all the time with twins and triplets but can be done also be done with children of different ages – for example, nursing your newborn while continuing to nurse your toddler.

Depending on where you live, tandem nursing may be looked upon as strange and done only for the mother’s sake: “She is just too attached to her children.”

Here, we go again – everyone wants to tell mothers how to mother. That’s not all bad, typically, but many of the mothering or parenting styles in the last 60 years have been all about detachment – a desire to create a completely independent child from birth: “You don’t want your children to be clingy or immature. You want strong, intelligent, mature adults and that only comes if you start teaching your babies or children to separate from you from birth.” Whoa…wait a minute. According to whom? Isn’t it really the opposite? It is the children that are held, cooed to, whispered to, nurtured, and allowed to breastfeed until they are ready to wean that blossom into these incredible adults with their emotional needs having been met.

Many women become pregnant before their nursing child has weaned. They continue to nurse throughout the pregnancy, and when the baby is born, they tandem nurse. Breasts that make milk can make more milk; therefore, you can nurse several children and have plenty of milk for each. I recently read an article written by a mother tandem-nursing all four of her children.

Why Tandem Nurse?

Tandem nursing allows your older nursling to continue breastfeeding until he weans himself, which, for humans, takes place on average at two and one-half years old, although children have been known to breastfeed naturally to seven years old.

For the mother, the longer you breastfeed, the more protection you have against breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer. Sitting or lying down to nurse during your pregnancy can also help you rest and relax for a few minutes throughout your day.

Letting a child continue nursing provides all of the huge benefits nursing affords, including:

  • Continuous supply of antibodies for protection against illnesses.
  • Healthy building of all the cells in the body and therefore all systems in the body. Breast milk is only 10-percent nutrition; the other 90 percent is designed to build every system in the body. In contrast, formula is only nutrition.
  • Ability to continue to meet the emotional needs of the older child.
  • Development of the lower jaw and palate, which means more room for teeth and may mean no orthodontia needs.
  • Fewer allergies and/or delayed reactions to allergies.
  • Nutritionally superior food.

Tandem nursing will ease the arrival of the new baby into your nursling’s life. It can help with any engorgement in those first days after your milk comes in. Nursing the older sibling at the same time as the baby will occupy her when you are feeding the baby.

What Can I Expect in the First Weeks after the New Baby Arrives?

For starters, anticipate that anytime you bring a newborn baby into your home, it is going to be intense, chaotic, and labor intensive. A new baby equals a huge adjustment for all. Fatigue, fatigue, and more fatigue is the story of all new parents, especially parents of the second, third, or so on child. With nursing two or more children, you may experience more fatigue.

There will be a learning curve of figuring out how to make tandem nursing work. Also, your older child may have more frequent stools due to the laxative effect of colostrum.

How Will Tandem Nursing Change My Current Nursing Relationship?

Siblings of the new baby, depending on their age, often regress into infantile behavior. This may still happen with your older nursling. Your older child may suddenly want to nurse all the time. You either go with the flow or set limits. The older nursling may also have temper tantrums or whininess around nursing. Having to share the “num num” may not be within the older child’s comprehension. Your older child may not want to wait for the baby to finish.

You may find yourself feeling irritated with nursing your older child. If you find yourself short of temper, you will want to revisit the idea of tandem nursing. It may be that weaning the older child is in the best interest of the family.

How Do I Breastfeed Two Children?

You will probably nurse the newborn first, although some mothers find that nursing both children at the same time works great. You may want to assign each child a breast. Try lying on your side to nurse your newborn. Your older nursling can lean over your side and nurse on the upper breast.

Something that is very important is support. Make friends with other mothers that either are or support tandem nursing. It will help if you encounter any criticism.

Relax, let the housework go, let your friends and relatives help you, and enjoy these brief periods of your children’s lives. Tandem nursing may just be your answer to letting your children wean naturally as nature intended. They grow up all too quickly. Let’s not pressure our children into premature weaning.

Good Advice for Gentle Weaning: ‘Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse’

By Grace Zell, staff writer for The Attached Family

Gentle weaning storyMy experience with weaning my daughter was very successful and non-traumatic, which was a good thing since I found it hard to imagine how I would ever refuse her.

Luckily, while reading The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, a wonderful resource as my nursing experience changed from stage to stage, I came across the slogan, “Don’t offer; don’t refuse,” which made great sense when I was ready to start the weaning process.

I let my daughter determine the pace of things. Fortunately, I am a stay-at-home mom and didn’t have any pressing need to stop nursing, so I took my cue from my precocious baby who, at a year, had already been walking for three months. She was also eating solid foods and drinking from a sippy cup and bottle.

The weaning process seemed to be harder on me emotionally, as I didn’t want to commit to ending our breastfeeding relationship. I worried about depression once my daughter was weaned, especially because I felt that the nursing hormones probably protected me against the depression that I had developed after my first child was born. Despite my sadness, I knew that I should try while it was naturally going in that direction.

One day, shortly after my daughter was about 13 or 14 months old, I took a deep breath and decided to follow the “don’t offer; don’t refuse” advice, and I went about our day without initiating a feeding. At a certain point during that day and the next few days, my daughter would come to me when I was sitting and tug at my shirt and push it up, but when I positioned her to nurse, she nipped at me. So, I gently pulled her away, closed my shirt, and put her down. To my relief, she would scamper off, laughing. It was a game to her, and she didn’t seem to need to nurse for comfort or security since I was providing those things in other ways. She still had her special blankies, and we spent time snuggling and playing and rocking in our rocking chair. I also fed her a bottle once or twice a day.

In a very short time, nursing was just a memory. It still makes me a little sad, but as I watch both of my children go through new and exciting phases, that cheers me up!

Is Organic Really Healthier?

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

Is organic scientifically healthier?Georgia Jones isn’t accustomed to addressing a crowd as knowledgeable about food as are many attached parents. An University of Nebraska-Lincoln nutrition professor, Jones spends much of her classroom time educating people about the very basics of what they put in their bodies.

“My students don’t come with an understanding of food,” she said. “Food for my students comes out of a box, a pan. If I told my students to go make a chocolate cake, they wouldn’t have a clue.”

But many families involved in Attachment Parenting are smart about their food. They understand the importance of knowing where their food comes from and how it was produced. These consumers choose to eat food without chemicals, because they realize that organic is superior to conventionally raised food. Or, is it?

Background on the Organic Food Industry

Organic food, a $14 billion industry, is the fastest-growing segment of the food industry, Jones said. National surveys show that two-thirds of Americans have purchased organic food at some point during the last 12 months.

“Organic food started as mostly a niche market, years ago,” Jones said. During especially the last decade, organic foods, farmers markets, and local food networks have spread rapidly into the mainstream consumer market. “Organic food is no longer a niche market,” she said.

Consumer demand for organic food is on the rise for a number of reasons, including food safety issues, such as an avoidance of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs); a concern for the environment; and because organic food is often fresher and tastier than conventionally grown food, Jones said. But the number-one reason is an increased awareness of the link between food and health.

“There was a time in this country when we forgot that food actually has a purpose in our health, that it is for nourishment,” Jones said. “Now, we’ve moved into an area that I call ‘beyond nutritional eating,’ where we are using food to try to prevent and heal disease.”

That organic food is free of pesticides and GMOs and comes from environmentally friendly farms and gardens are safe assumptions – each documented through federally regulated certification programs. Shocking as it may be, however, there is no certainty that organic food, while its safety is certainly more accountable, is actually more nutritious than conventionally grown food, Jones said.

A New Era in Food Science

Consumers often confuse food safety and nutrition. Food-borne illnesses, pesticides, and GMO allergens are food safety concerns. Nutrition refers specifically to the content of macro- and micronutrients within food. Traditional nutrition centers on macronutrients, which include protein, carbohydrates, and fats; vitamins; and minerals. Micronutrients include substances such as phytochemicals and phytonutrients that were long thought to have no effect on human health. Research now shows that these micronutrients, also known as secondary metabolites, are extremely beneficial in boosting the immune system, protecting the body from cancer-causing free radicals, killing disease-causing pathogens, and more. “This is a new area [for science],” Jones said.

One phytonutrient receiving a lot of attention from nutritionists are flavonoids, which are found in very high amounts in blueberries but also in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are known to protect against heart disease, cancer, and age-related diseases such as dementia. “You want to eat plenty of fruits and plenty of vegetables,” Jones said. “Something else is, you want to eat plenty of color. This is a key part of nutrition and is not getting enough attention.”

Activated by environmental stress, flavonoids are produced by the plant as a defense mechanism against UV-B radiation and disease stress. “These secondary metabolites aren’t there for us. We just reap the benefits,” Jones said. “They’re actually there to protect the plant.”

Organic Plants Contain More Secondary Metabolites

To determine whether organically raised plants are more nutritious than conventionally raised plants, science is going back to how plants are raised and focusing on the formation of secondary metabolites — the phytonutrients — which are chemicals produced by a plant grown in less-than-ideal conditions. Organically raised plants are subject to more pest and weather stress than conventionally raised plants, which are protected by chemical pesticides, GMO varieties, and commercial fertilizer application. As a result of this added stress, an organically raised plant produces secondary metabolites to provide added protection, as well as to quicken maturation and seed development.

But Theories Are Not Proof

Although organic foods do tend to contain more secondary metabolites, “there are a number of reasons why scientists aren’t coming out and saying this is the better way,” Jones said. There are still too many unknowns in the formation of secondary metabolites, including specific environmental factors, soil properties, and crop management practices that affect the formation of these micronutrients. Plus, there are two crucial questions that must be answered first:

  1. Do organic plant products contain more or less of certain nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and secondary metabolites than conventional plant products?
  2. To what extent are nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and secondary metabolites beneficial or harmful to human health?

Much of the problem with being unable to give a definite answer to the question of whether organic food is more nutrition relates to the type of research that has been conducted on the relationship between secondary metabolites and organically raised food. Most of the studies seek out theories, such as epidemiological studies that link food to health through statistics, retail food analysis, and other studies that are purely observational. Observational studies look for patterns, but they can’t prove a theory. For example, an observational study may find that people who eat oranges tend not to develop cancer but there aren’t any scientific data to prove that oranges prevent cancer. “Just because something organic is statistically different doesn’t mean it’s biologically different,” Jones said.

Below are a number of observational studies related to organic nutrition, each with promising theories:

  • Organic ketchup contains more lycopene than conventional and store brands, and fast food ketchup (Ishida and Chapman, 2009).
  • Flavanoids are significantly higher in tomatoes raised with organic practices such as crop rotation for pest control and organic matter for fertilizer, than in tomatoes raised with herbicides and pesticides and commercial fertilizer (Mitchell et al, 2007).
  • Animals fed with organic feeds have fewer stillbirths than those fed with conventional feeds (Williams, 2002; Bourn and Prescott, 2003).
  • Antioxidant compounds are higher in peaches and pears raised organically than conventionally, and vitamin E is higher in organic pears than conventional pears (Carbonaro, et al, 2002).
  • Organic food products have higher levels of vitamin C and lower levels of nitrates than conventional food products (Bourn and Prescott, 2002).

A follow-up human or animal study must be used to prove any theories found. Human studies are the most influential but are particularly difficult to do. “You can control what a rat does, but you can’t control what a human does,” Jones said. “You have to consider not only diet but lifestyle. You can’t eat organic and drink or smoke all day. … You also have to consider, with human studies, that diseases progress over a lifespan, not just one or two years.”

The Most Promising Study

By and large, the observational study most supportive of the theory that organic food is nutritionally superior to conventional foods was conducted in 2001 among Okinawans, the people living on the southern-most Japanese island of Okinawa.

“They have the longest lifespan of any group alive,” Jones said. Okinawans live to be an average of 81.2 years old, followed by the Japanese at 79.9 years, Hong Kong at 79.1 years, and Sweden at 79.0 years. The United States has the 18th longest lifespan of the world’s societies, at 76.8 years.

Okinawans also experience a delayed aging process and minimized debilitating diseases in the elder years. “These people are healthier longer than (Americans) are,” Jones said, despite U.S. medical advancements superior to that of the Okinawans. The average cholesterol level in the Okinawa centenarian is 102.4 mg/dL, and high blood pressure exists in only 1.5% of the centenarian population, she said.

There are several aspects of the Okinawan diet that differ dramatically from the Western diet. Okinawans have never developed a taste for salt, so “they don’t eat a lot of processed foods,” Jones said. Their flavonoid consumption is six times higher than the Japanese or Canadians, who are next on the list. And the Okinawan diet contains the highest lycopene content of all of the world’s diets. The Okinawan diet has since been called the Longevity Diet, because it improves physical strength, prevents illness, and maintains overall health.

“They look at medicine as food,” Jones said. “They’re really looking at food in a different manner than we do.”

Using the Okinawan study, consumers of organic foods can safely assume that, yes, organic is nutritionally superior to conventional foods, Jones said. But, she warned, this is only a guess until the research proves it so — although it’s a guess that many consumers are confident to say is truth.

Current Trends in the Organic Sector

Consumer interest in organic foods continued to grow last year. Highlights from 2008 consumer use surveys include:

  • Research from The Natural Marketing Institute reveals that consumers are increasingly incorporating organic products into their lifestyles. Total household penetration across six product categories has risen from 57% in 2006 to 59% in 2007. The research also showed that the number of core users has increased from 16% in 2006 to 18% in 2007.
  • Consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products and organic food remains high among Northwest natural and organic product consumers despite tough economic times and rising food and energy prices. Research by Mambo Sprouts Marketing showed that consumers in Washington and Oregon see buying “green” as a priority: 92% of consumers reported buying the same (54%) or more (38%) environmentally friendly products compared to the prior six months. Rather than cutting out such products, consumers report they are using money-saving strategies, such as coupons, stocking up on sales, and cooking meals at home to stretch their grocery dollars.
  • 69% of U.S. adult consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, according to The Hartman Group report, The Many Faces of Organic 2008. Furthermore, about 28% of organic consumers (about 19% adults) are weekly organic users. Organic categories of high interest to consumers are dairy, fruit and vegetables, prepared foods, meats, breads, and juices.
  • A Harris Interactive online survey conducted for Whole Foods Market showed that, despite rising food prices, 79% of consumers do not want to compromise on food quality and 70% continue to buy the same amount of natural and organic foods. Findings also showed two out of three adults prefer to buy natural or organic products if prices are comparable to those of non-organic products. Overall, the survey found that 74% of adults purchase natural or organic foods, with 20% saying that more than one-fourth of all the groceries they buy are natural or organic. In addition, 66% of adults would like to find ways to buy natural or organic foods within their budget.

The Best Baby Food is Homemade

By Amanda Hughes, co-leader for API of St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Make your own baby foodWhen my sister was a baby, I remember my mom had a food mill at the table and she would feed the same food to my sister that we ate for supper. It seemed easy to me, at four years old.

Years later, during my baby shower, my friends and I played a game that changed the way I would feed my children. I took ten jars of baby food, and the women had to guess what each was. They could smell, look, taste, touch – anything they wanted, to try to guess it. I look back at this and remember how we laughed when we got them wrong. I particularly remember how bad the meats smelled and how that made me nervous: What is in this stuff? Do I want to feed this to my child? Can I blame them if they don’t want to eat this? Continue reading

API’s Role in Shaping Parenting: Highlights from the 2009 API Think Tank Event in Nashville, TN

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

API's 15th AnniversaryIn an unprecedented move, Attachment Parenting International gathered eight brilliant minds in Attachment Parenting for the organization’s 15th Anniversary Celebration gathering the last weekend of August in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Never before had all these parenting experts appeared together at an event open to the public. For the hundreds of parents, students, and professionals sitting in the seats of Belmont University’s Troutt Theatre the afternoon of Saturday, August 29, 2009, the “Making an Impact Now: Creating a Sustainable Legacy for Children” Think Tank Event proved truly to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Moderator Lu Hanessian, author of Let the Baby Drive, founder of WYSH, host of API Live! teleseminars, and member of API’s Board of Directors, introduced the panel of speakers, each walking from behind the stage curtain to sit on chairs arranged in a semi circle under a six-foot banner proclaiming API’s anniversary theme: “Growing More Attached.” Making up the panel were:

  • Martha Sears, RN – nurse and lactation consultant, La Leche League leader, mother to eight children, co-author of 25 parenting books, and member of API’s Advisory Board and Editorial Review Board.
  • William Sears, MD – pediatrician and pediatrics professor at the University of California’s Irvine School of Medicine, father to eight children, and author or co-author to more than 40 parenting books, and member of API’s Advisory Board.
  • Ina May Gaskin, MA, CPM – midwife, founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee, and author of two childbirth books.
  • Mary Ann Cahill – co-founder and former director of La Leche League International, mother of nine children, and author of a parenting book.
  • Isabelle Fox, PhD – psychotherapist, author of two parenting books, mother, and member of API’s Advisory Board.
  • James McKenna, PhD – anthropologist, professor, and director at Notre Dame University’s the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, author of three infant sleep books, and member of API’s Advisory Board.
  • Barbara Nicholson, MEd – founder of API, mother to four children, co-author of Attached at the Heart, and member of API’s Board of Directors, Editorial Review Board, and Research Group.
  • Lysa Parker, MS, CFLE – founder and former director of API, certified family life educator, mother to two children, co-author of Attached at the Heart, co-leader of API of Huntsville/Madison, and member of API’s Board of Directors, Editorial Review Board, and Research Group.

“This is quite an illustrious panel!” Hanessian said. Special tribute was paid to Nicholson and Parker, for “without you two ladies sitting at the table 15 years ago and commiserating about the future, we would not be here,” Hanessian said before launching into a discussion that could have easily lasted longer than the two hours allotted.

Congratulations, Barbara and Lysa!
Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, API’s co-founders, were surprised during the Think Tank Event with recognition for API’s first Award  for Contribution to Parenting going to an AP-minded individual(s) who truly made a difference on parenting. The award was presented by Martha Sears and Dr. William Sears.

Said Dr. Sears of the award recipients: “There are few people – and we really know a lot of people – who I look back on and say, they really made a difference.”

Hanessian opened the Think Tank Event through a series of questions exploring the theme, “Making an Impact Now: Creating a Sustainable Legacy for Children.” To sum it up, she wondered on behalf of parents worldwide what parenting for the future means for the choices parents are making everyday in their homes?

But first, how did API come to be?

API in the Beginning

API, like any effective organization, was borne out a need: “I realized when I had my first child, how few supports there were,” Parker said.

She found new mother support in her local La Leche League, which described a different way of parenting than much of mainstream promoted – one that resonated with her sense of self and where she gravitated toward in her parenting approach. “I think that was a miracle moment for me,” Parker said.

Through the years, Parker and Nicholson saw a need for this parenting approach to get into the reach of more parents. As special education teachers, they encountered children labeled with emotional and behavioral issues and learning disabilities who were, rather, in need of connection with an adult attachment figure. “A lot of problems weren’t really a learning problem but an attachment problem,” Nicholson said.

Read the entire history of API’s founding in the special Attached at the Heart issue of The Attached Family magazine, available at www.attachmentparenting.org/attachedattheheart/journal_aath.pdf.

Ultimately, API came to be as a way to better educate and support attached families, but Attachment Parenting was around long before 15 years ago. Martha Sears and Dr. William Sears, called the Father of Attachment Parenting (AP), coined the term years before API was founded. But the parenting principles that make up AP didn’t start with the Sears.

“In my first year of practice, a wise professor said to me: Surround yourself with very wise mothers,” said Dr. Sears, who is celebrating his 40th year of pediatrics practice this year. “That was my first introduction to Attachment Parenting.”

Empowering Parents

“I worry most about the disempowerment of parents,”  said Dr. McKenna.

“We live in a culture of fear,” Hanessian agreed.

API strives to give the power of parenting back to the mother and father, so that they know how to make the best decisions for their children and family despite the sometimes ill-informed and biased advice offered not only by friends and family members but also by medical and other childcare professionals.

“Take back the power,” Parker said. “For far too long, people in the culture have dictated how we should raise our baby, how we should have our baby.”

Gaskin explained how this empowering of parents best happens when advocated for early – at birth. By choosing a midwife, new parents can ensure that the mother and baby can likely be together from labor and delivery forward. By starting as early as possible in keeping parents with their child, their parenting journey pushes forward with connection being considered “normal.”

Parents’ naturally gravitate toward connection, when not influenced by outside forces. What API advocates is for parents to follow that intuition.

“Our fourth child is the one who taught me about intuition,” three decades ago, Martha Sears said, adding that the first three babies were so-called easy babies – or, in other words as McKenna explained, this fourth child would be one of the babies who aren’t as convenient for parents as they wish they would be. This fourth baby required Martha Sears to cosleep in order for her to get some sleep. Although she was following her intuition, it was a scary time for her because the mainstream culture did not support this sleeping arrangement at all. Sears had to learn how to listen to her baby and trust her intuition despite what was popular in parenting advice at the time.

“Thirty years ago! Isn’t that unbelievable that we’re still plagued by that doubt?” Hanessian exclaimed.

What API does is to help parents realize that they are the experts in their child’s care and that, as humans, we are driven toward connection with one another, especially between parent and child. In Western culture, especially, this often means that how they feel toward childrearing doesn’t quite jive with the mainstream advice. API first empowers parents by allowing them the freedom to look beyond mainstream parenting advice to that connection-building that just feels good and right within themselves.

But the key to helping parents pursue this intuitive parenting style is showing the overwhelming research that support AP and API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. Martha Sears agreed, giving an example of the need to show parents the research discrediting cry-it-out sleep training.

Armed with research, API has helped to turn the tide. Parents are now able to find AP resources to support them in their parenting journey. Even in the mainstream culture, more and more experts are saying for parents to listen to their babies.

There are still challenges, though. Western culture is driven by a working population and both parents in most families work outside the home. Dr. Fox recalled a point in her practice when the family dynamic had noticeably changed – when parents were unable to describe the history of their child’s behavioral problems for which Fox had been called to assess and repair, even unable to provide basic childcare facts such as the child’s fears or the potty training technique used. What she found was that the children she most often saw with behavioral issues were those who did not have a consistent caregiver in the early years of life.

That’s why API is so important, Nicholson said – to get these observations, and complementary research, out to parents to show them the long-term effects of nurturing parenting.

This change in parenting practice among the mainstream culture takes time. As Dr. Sears pointed out, parents have been practicing AP for more than 40 years, and while Western culture is incorporating more AP principles into mainstream parenting advice than ever before, AP is still a long ways from widespread acceptance.

Cahill, one of seven women who co-founded La Leche League International 53 years ago, agreed that cultural change does take time. The reason is, parents want to be “good” parents and it can be difficult for a mother or father to sort through the advice they receive from literally every person they encounter, whether the pediatrician, a teacher, a clergyman, a family member or friend, or even by observing what other parents model at the park or grocery store.

“When I had my first baby, I wanted to be the best mother. I wanted to breastfeed,” Cahill said. “And I utterly failed.”

But what she came to realize is that she didn’t fail; instead, society failed her. She didn’t receive any support for breastfeeding. That’s the value of API – a source of support .

Dr. Fox agreed, saying that it’s common for parents to attend childbirth education classes but that they don’t often attend parenting classes until they have a problem they need help with. “Mothers need help with childbirth, but they also need help with [at least] the first year,” she said.

‘Good’ Parenting vs. Good Parenting

That “good” parent myth is also fueled by the voices parents hear in their heads from how their own parents had raised them, Fox said. “We hear our own parents’ voices, and we hear that parent’s voice be critical to us.” Without being aware of the power of those voices, parents will judge how “good” they are by how well they following their own parents’ paths.

“In the beginning, I had to overcome some deficits myself,” Martha Sears explained. Her mother had spanked and practiced other non-AP approaches. She struggled, like many parents must, against that voice in her head that conflicted with her intuition in terms of discipline and communication. In the end – at the point of decision making – all parents either make the choice to do what their parents did with them, or they change through education, support, and often intense emotional work.

Martha Sears said it’s important for parents to keep the future goal in mind: “Remember that you are raising someone else’s future mother or future father. It’s important to get yourself emotionally healthy, so that you can give that gift to your children that keeps on giving.”

Among API’s Eight Principles of Parenting is Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. Through this principle, API is able to empower people early in their parenting journey – which ultimately makes the challenges of raising children, discipline and communication, easier in the long-term, said Martha Sears. “When you can find a solid way to connect with your children early, you have fewer problems [later],” she said.

“This organization [API] is the only one in existence, except La Leche League, where parents can learn that and that teaches this foundation of attachment,” Martha Sears said.

It can be difficult for parents to sort out their own voice from all the other voices they hear. So, how can parents sort out which voices – whether from their own parents or another outside influence, including API – aligns best with their need for connection with their child?

Today’s Western society is the only culture in history that needs to read a book to know how to parent, said Dr. McKenna. Books are wonderful, but the best teachers are other parents – those experienced in AP. Let’s look at what the expert parents said at the Think Tank Event in response to some of the most confusing areas of parenting.

Discipline

Dr. Bill Sears offered a quick reflective question he learned from his wife, Martha, that parents can ask themselves whenever encountered with a tense situation: “If I were my child, how would I want my mother or father to react?”

“Get behind the eyes of your child. Do you yell, do you spank, do you use sarcasm, do you hug? If you ask yourself that question, and answer truthfully, you’ll always get it right.”

Sleep

Someone, at some point, decided that parenting should shut off at night, said Dr. McKenna. Instead of regarding their baby’s cries as a way of communication, they regarded it a non-communicating noise that the baby makes. What makes crying irritating is when parents fail to see the value in it. A crying baby indicates a need and opportunity for attachment-building.

“Does your baby sleep through the night yet?” is among the most frequently asked questions of the newborn period and can make parents feel guilty if their baby isn’t sleeping through the night – as if they are not “good” parents, Dr. McKenna said.

“Sleep is very relational,” Dr. McKenna said. Crying is natural; it’s a sign that attachment exists, that the baby is seeking the parent out and wants the parent close. Dr. McKenna gave this sample reply for the next time someone asks whether Baby is sleeping through the night yet: “Not only does my baby not sleep through the night, he protests and cries loudly when I’m not there – and isn’t that wonderful? He knows when he’s in danger and isn’t afraid to say so!”

If mainstream society regards a baby who wakes and cries during the night as having a sleep problem, the question is why only half the babies have “sleep problems” and not the full 100 percent, Dr. McKenna said. Why  are some of the babies not crying, when crying means there is an attachment bond?

What makes nighttime parenting so difficult is because parents want their sleep and losing sleep is hard. But, “it [parenting] isn’t always going to be easy anyway, because life is like that,” Dr. McKenna said. Even the most informative, well-practiced AP parent can have difficulties in parenting – and infant sleep – if they are caring for a high-needs baby.

Dr. Sears chimed in with a story of a couple who he first saw with their newborn baby and later saw when their baby was three months old. Shorty after birth, the baby was a healthy, happy child and the parents seemed inclined to AP. But, at the three months, the baby wasn’t gaining well and had floppy muscle tone and the parents seemed disconnected.

What had changed? The parents, overwhelmed with their baby’s erratic sleep pattern, had taken a cry-it-out sleep training class. At three months, while the baby was considered “good” in that he slept through the night, the baby’s health was failing in what Dr. Sears refers to as “shut down syndrome” – the baby’s lack of emotional connection with his parents caused him to shut down mentally and physically. It’s a rather common example of the effect that non-AP sleep practices can have on children.

“Beware of baby trainers, because I can tell you, from my practice, it’s a short-term gain by a long-term loss,” Dr. Sears said.

Balance

“This [parenting] is a tough job, and there are a lot of tired moms,” Nicholson said. “What a baby needs is a happy, rested mother.”

Fathers, she said, need to give their wives and partners support – not advice – to ensure that she doesn’t get overwhelmed and is able to find balance between taking care of the child and herself.

But balance is more than self-care; it’s also about healing the emotional wounds left from their own childhoods. “You can’t value someone unless you value yourself,” Dr. McKenna said.

In Utero Bonding

Connection begins even before the baby is born. Nicholson spoke about the importance of parents learning about conscious birth, starting their parenting journey of education and smart choices early. Mothers and babies are not supposed to be separated after birth, Gaskin agreed.

Gaskin recommended that mothers take the time to revel in the baby growing inside them. She suggested mothers focus more on the baby moving and kicking than getting caught up in the technology surrounding pregnancy, such as ultrasounds which unnecessarily distracts some parents.

Consistent and Loving Care

“Babies are ingenious in figuring out who really does what for them,” said Dr. McKenna. Whether this is the mother, father, grandparent, or childcare provider, the baby’s main attachment bond will develop with the primary caregiver. “Our species would not have been successful without significant caregivers,” he added.

That’s why, “what is so important is that mothers have to be there,” said Dr. Fox, who explained that, in all families, one parent should stay at home full-time for the first few years of the child’s life. Often, this is the mother, but more and more, the father is taking on this role in many families. “Fathers can just as well stay home, too,” Dr. McKenna said.

Lately, “fathers are taking more of a role,” Gaskin agreed. “When dads aren’t afraid of babies, I think that’s something very good because that connection is likely to continue.”

Dr. McKenna mentioned the term, “tandem parenting,” in which both the mother and the father share in the care of their child to the point where both are primary attachment figures. This is a new concept, as it has long been thought that a child can only have one primary attachment figure and that the next closest relation would be a secondary attachment figure. The primary attachment preference is based on the father’s behavior toward the baby, not a biological connection.

There is great value in tandem parenting, not only in the benefit to the child who can rely on both parents and to the mother who can take a break here and there, but also to the father himself. When fathers help with their children, their hormone levels fluctuate, Dr. McKenna said. Their oxytocin levels increase and testerone decreases. It’s an actual change in biochemistry.

But, especially with the economic pressures of today’s society, many families are unable to afford one parent to stay at home, so does this mean that they can’t AP? It’s harder for dual-income parents, but certainly possible, Parker said. What they need to do is to focus on reconnecting every day once the parent comes home from work. Hanessian recommended reconnection through cosleeping. Dr. Sears mentioned nursing mothers using breast pumps to be able to continue breastfeeding after they return to work.

“My mother was a single mother juggling two jobs, and what I remember about my mother is that she did the best she could in a less-than-ideal situation,” said Dr. Sears, explaining that while it’s best that a parent is able to stay at home with the children, if it can’t happen, the focus of the parent should be on cultivating that connection as much as possible when together with the child. Children can grow up in situations that are hard but be OK because the memories they have are of happiness and togetherness and connection.

Another way for dual-income parents and single parents is by striving for one, consistent caregiver and being careful about caregiver “roulette,” in which the child’s caregiver is frequently changing. It’s extremely important that a child is able to form a strong, long-lasting primary attachment bond with a caregiver, even if not the parent, and this can only happen with one, consistent caregiver relationship in a childcare situation. Without the formation of a primary attachment bond, as in the case of a child who has many different caregivers, that child will be unable to form healthy attachments and maintain relationships.

Although there are some families who truly cannot afford to have one parent stay at home, Dr. Fox said most families, if they made it a priority, could pull the resources together to do this. More and more jobs are allowing parents to work at home, and the Internet allows parents to more easily start an at-home business, or a family financial budget can help parents adjust to the lifestyle that goes with a lower cost of living.

“You are really needed for the first two years of a baby’s life,” Dr. Fox said. “We go out to borrow money for a house or a car; think about saving that money to stay at home with your baby. It’s not that long.”

What is Good Parenting?

The goal of what mainstream culture considers “good” parenting is how to raise children that won’t embarrass the parents. What API strives to do is to support parents in raising children who grow up connected – that is who are emotionally healthy and able to form strong relationships with others, who want to make good decisions based on their own sense of self and values, and who are empathic and compassionate.

So, how do parents go about doing this?

Dr. Fox explained that AP is based on what is known as the Three Ps:

  1. Protection – that the child feels protected and cared for.
  2. Proximity – that the child is physically and emotionally close with the parent.
  3. Predictability – that the parent is consistent in childcare.

“With protection, proximity, and predictability comes a growing sense of trust and a growing sense of the world’s a pretty good place,” said Dr. Fox.

Dr. McKenna said AP is about parents being conscious of the way they are raising their children. “We tend to think of birth as Independence Day,” he said. “Not that it’s not important, but we’ve overdone it.” Parenting cannot stop at childbirth.

The emphasis placed on childbirth in society needs to spread beyond into childhood; the reason being, babies and children are always developing, always learning. For example, the tastebuds don’t form until the last few weeks of pregnancy, which is why a child tends to like the foods his mother ate during the last part of her pregnancy. And apnea-prone babies can lose up to 70% of their apnea spells by being placed next to teddy bears with a breathing motion. “Every sensory modality that baby has is being regulated by the mother [or father],” said Dr. McKenna.

Dr. Sears said AP is about getting to the basics of relationships in a culture that where the basics can easily be lost in technology. “We’re talking about a low-tech style of parenting in a high-tech world,” Dr. Sears said. He told of a woman in saw in his practice who commented that while she couldn’t afford to buy her son everything that other children had, she could afford to give her son herself.

Dr. Sears also said AP is about parents enjoying parenthood. “Revel in it,” he said.

Highlights from Responses  to Audience Questions

Q: Does AP help autistic children?

Nicholson said that in her research, AP was definitely helpful in building connection between an autistic child and his family members .

Dr. Sears said: “If you were to ask me to write a prescription, I’d write ‘Attachment Parenting,’” because autism is a disorder of the brain and Attachment Parenting directly affects the way the brain develops.

Q: How exactly do you form an attachment bond with your child?

Cahill explained that an attachment is established and maintained by the parent meeting the emotional needs of the child. “All the things you’re doing, it creates this parental antennae,” she said and that antennae – or that sense of knowing what your child needs – develops over time.

Q: How can we change the mainstream perspective on cosleeping?

“Never be afraid to say, this is what you do and that you sleep with your baby,” said Dr. McKenna. “We really need to talk, as individuals, about our choices in positive ways.”

Q: How can we deal with the criticism of babies and toddlers not sleeping through the night?

“Here’s the deal: You’re the best sleep expert in your family,” said Dr. McKenna, adding that there are a number of reasons why young children may not be sleeping through the night but the standard that they should be sleeping through the night is unfounded. Every child is different, and comparing one child to another one isn’t effective in evaluating sleep issues.

Q: What does AP look like in an older child?

“If I had to sum up the long-term effect of Attachment Parenting in one word, it would be: empathy – kids who care,” said Dr. Sears. “If I had to sum up the long-term effect of not doing Attachment Parenting: lack of empathy – kids who don’t care.”

Q: Is there an education approach that is more AP than others?

Nicholson, whose children have homeschooled and attended public school and others, said that API does not endorse any particular education option. However, there is an AP way in selection an education option: “Look at each child and see where are their interests and where are they developmentally?” And, if there is only one option and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for your child, communicate that you share in her frustration and work to problem-solve to make the situation more ideal.

Dr. Isabelle Fox on Overnight Visitations: As Harmful as We Suspect?

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

Isabelle Fox, PhD
Isabelle Fox, PhD

Attachment Parenting International regularly fields questions from members regarding different aspects of attachment, child development, and challenging family situations. Easily the largest area of concern is among divorced and separated parents who are involved in custody cases in which the other parent is demanding overnight visitation for an infant or young child.

Parents involved in this stressful situation believe that overnight visitation is harmful not only to their individual attachment with the child but also to the child’s overall development. Isabelle Fox, PhD, a psychotherapist, author of Being There, renowned expert on API’s Principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care, and a member of API’s Advisory Board, wants to leave parents with the truth – that, yes, overnight visitations can be quite harmful to the young child…but that, unfortunately, the courts system is woefully behind on education in this arena of child development. Continue reading

Dr. Isabelle Fox on Divorce and Older Children

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

Isabelle Fox, PhD
Isabelle Fox, PhD

Ideally, marriage lasts forever, but for a variety of reasons, many families today will experience divorce – an event that is as difficult on older children and teens as infants and young children for whom psychotherapist Isabelle Fox, PhD, advocates no overnight visitations with a non-primary caregiver until the child is at least three years old. Just because an older child is able to articulate her feelings and comprehend the concept of divorce doesn’t mean the event is any less traumatic.

“Older children and divorce is also complicated,” because the child has developed a strong attachment to each parent and being forced to deny attachment with one parent is devastating, said Dr. Fox, author of Being There, renowned expert on API’s Principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care, and member of Attachment Parenting International’s Advisory Board.

Dr. Fox spoke during the second day of API’s 15th Anniversary Celebration gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, last weekend, in a special Hot Topic session, “Custody and Separation.” The session was attended by parents, therapists, and others who work frequently with attached parents dealing with marital separation.

How Divorce Affects Older Children

Parents don’t think about how difficult their divorce will be on their children. Older children and teens are more likely to blame themselves for the divorce or to wonder why their parents don’t love them enough to stay together. Continue reading