A 2009 online survey by Attachment Parenting International revealed that parents around the world are hungry for support and education in their Attachment Parenting choices. Results from the survey clarify API’s role in providing this support.
This API survey was conducted to gather anecdotal information and feedback from established API supporters. API was pleased to have more than 100 responses from busy parents in the brief timeframe.
The key point disclosed through the survey is that parents want to see API have more of a local presence. Parents very much appreciate all of API’s resources, but it is the local peer support that they crave. Moving
stories and more in-depth feedback is included in “How has API Helped You” at the end of this summary.
Q: Our neighbor’s child happily shares everything, but our children don’t. They don’t share with each other either, and every piece of a treat becomes a fight. How can help them see the gift in sharing?
In one of my workshops, a mother summed up her childhood experience of sharing by saying: “Every time I got a candy, I had to share it with my sister. Mom said it was nice to share, but I was sure it was bad because I was always left with half the candy.” Whether sharing food, toys, or the use of the slide, the result of adult-directed sharing often leaves a child with a sense of loss or a diminished experience — and not with joy. Children’s authentic generosity shows up in areas that we often don’t notice or don’t approve of. They assume that guests can stay forever and don’t see why they should leave and they see food in every home as their own. They share clothes and beds easily; they love giving gifts, hugs, and love.
Children are generous, and they also like to keep certain personal things and experiences to themselves, just like adults. Therefore, I use the word “sharing” to describe what adults wish that children would share. Continue reading Why Your Child Doesn’t Share→
By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader for East Portland API, Oregon USA
Skippyjon Jones is a Siamese cat, and he needs a timeout to think about that. Skippyjon Jones, written by Judy Schachner, is a wonderfully imaginative little kitty who likes to pretend he is a Chihuahua. This rubs his mama’s fur the wrong way, and he frequently gets put in a timeout to “think about just what it means to be a Siamese cat.”
My children and I love the Skippyjon Jones stories, but my “fur” is rubbed the wrong way by Mama Junebug Jones’s ineffective use of timeout. Does Skippyjon ever sit and think about why he is in a timeout? No. Does timeout ever solve the problem of him not acting enough like a cat? Of course not. What does Skippyjon do when he’s in his room “thinking about what he did”? Continue reading A Place for Timeout?→
By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
Having nursed one child and not the other, I can say with confidence that there is something truly magical about the breastfeeding relationship. So much more than a transfer of nutrients from mother to baby, the act of breastfeeding touches on each of the Eight Principles of Parenting from nurturing touch and safe sleep to consistent care and personal balance. Breastfeeding is, as Attachment Parenting International co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker write in their book, Attached at the Heart, the very model of an attachment bond.
And as Dr. Keren Epstein-Gilboa of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, explains through a new book intended for professionals working with new parents — Interaction and Relationships in Breastfeeding Families: Implications for Practice — the choice to breastfeed positively impacts much more than the attachment bond between mother and baby, but also among all members of the family unit, from siblings to the father, even after the breastfed baby has weaned.
A nurse psychotherapist with a long list of credentials behind her name (PhD, MEd, BSN, RN, FACCE, LCCE, IBCLC, RLC), Keren has been working with new parents and families with young children for the past 25 years as a counselor, lactation consultant, childbirth educator and birth supporter, researcher, and preschool teacher. She is also well published in scientific journals and other publications on topics ranging from pregnancy and birth to breastfeeding and early parenting. Interaction and Relationships in Breastfeeding Families was borne out of Keren’s own clinical and research experiences.
I devoured the information presented in this book. It reveals to the reader the psychological aspects of breastfeeding on the whole family, not just through the intimacy between mother and baby but how breastfeeding literally shapes family development and promotes sensitive interactions between all family members. And then, it follows up with implications for the professionals working with young families. Interaction and Relationships in Breastfeeding Families also gives another dimension to breastfeeding education for lactation consultants, counselors, and others who work with new parents in their transition to family life.
RITA: Keren, how did you first become interested in Attachment Parenting?
KEREN: My experience as a nursing mother is the basis of my interest in Attachment Parenting and interactions in breastfeeding. I parented in a style that might be defined as Attachment Parenting without knowing that there was a name associated with this behavior. My own experiences taught me the importance of mothering in tune with child needs, including cue-based breastfeeding into early childhood. I also learned how this style of breastfeeding and parenting seems to be misunderstood and is criticized by others.
RITA: What led you to write your book?
KEREN: Insights from my personal experience influence my clinical work and research interests. My aim is to increase the understanding and respect for physiologically based nursing and associated parenting through research. I use recognized theories of development to clarify and validate behaviors in my writing. The material in Interactions and Relationships in Breastfeeding Families reflects my first study on maternal-infant interaction during breastfeeding that was published in a peer-reviewed journal of psychology in 1993. Later training as a family therapist demonstrated to me how important it is to look at the entire family in order to understand more about the interchanges between the nursing mother and child. In 2006, I completed a study that used a family systems approach to describe the entire nursing family. The results of this study are described in my book.
RITA: How do you hope for your book to benefit families?
KEREN: I hope to help families in two ways:
By providing them with information about themselves that will hopefully normalize their experience and fortify their behaviors
By enriching families’ interactions with professionals by describing physiologically based breastfeeding patterns and associated parenting to services providers.
I talk about the feelings that might arise for those providing services to families whose lifestyles and attitudes might differ from their own view of family life. Many services providers in Western contexts criticize cue-based nursing, nursing into early childhood, and ongoing respect for children’s needs for closeness. I believe that helping services providers’ recognize their bias may enrich their ability to listen to and to provide optimal information to families.
RITA: How does your book fit into API’s Eight Principles of Parenting?
KEREN: I think that the work Attachment Parenting International does is very important!
My book demonstrates how families apply many of the Principles of Attachment Parenting to real life and also discusses the implications of this style of parent-child interaction for parent development, positive child outcome, and family function:
Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting — The book demonstrates that parents’ attitude toward birth affects their nursing behaviors.
Feeding with Love and Respect — Most of the families described in the book see birth and breastfeeding as a part of a physiological continuum, and this seems to facilitate cue-based nursing. Physiologically and cue-based nursing implies that parents respect and respond to infants’ and older nursing children’s needs and signals for nursing. The practice that parents get responding to infants and children’s cues for nursing seems to enhance the development of a parenting style that respects children’s needs and focuses on responding to children’s signals.
Responding with Sensitivity — This responsive style of interaction is called sensitive or attuned parenting in the literature and appears to contribute to healthy child development. Cue-based and child-focused parenting also implies that parents suit their interactions to children’s individual characteristic and evolving capacities.
Using Nurturing Touch and Ensuring Safe Sleep — The sensitive parenting style associated with cue-based actions through nursing in infancy carried on into other behaviors, including children’s needs for proximity and touch at all hours. Most of the families respond to their children’s needs for closeness by holding, carrying, and sleeping with or near their children. Children’s changing needs for proximity are respected and responded in an individual manner.
Practicing Positive Discipline — Open communication, sharing, and parents’ capacity to tolerate children’s unique needs, including in difficult situations, seems to be the central means that parents use to guide children.
Providing Consistent and Loving Care — Sensitive tactile interactions evolve into a warm communication style that helps parents meet their children’s changing developmental needs. Parents see their children as individuals, enabling them to suit interventions to the specific needs of each child.
Striving for Personal and Family Balance — Open communication and reverence for all of their children’s needs seem to help parents establish and also restore balance to the family system. Parents share joint values and alter couple interactions to reflect infants and children’s changing needs. Older children’s experiences of being heard seem to help them tolerate younger siblings’ needs and also enrich their capacity to understand others – an important tool contributing to family function.
RITA: What tips do you have for parents seeking a closer bond with their baby?
KEREN: Parents should use nursing as a method of learning how to read and respond to babies’ signals. The physiological and psychological meaning of nursing for infants prompts them to cue frequently to nurse. Parents may learn about their child and parenting by observing, interpreting, and responding to children’s cues for nursing. Cues include signs of readiness to commence and finish a nursing session. In addition, women in particular learn how to mother by interacting with their babies during the nursing sessions. Men internalize sensitive fathering by participating in cue reading for nursing, by observing mothers, and also by matching their supportive actions to the changing needs of the nursing dyad. Both parents may use the touch associated with nursing to learn more about sensitive parenting.
RITA: Thank you, Keren, for your time and insights. Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
KEREN: I go back to my reasons for studying and writing about breastfeeding families and issues related to an Attachment Parenting style: I want to help strengthen parents and enable them to see birth and nursing as normal, rather than medically owned events. I hope to help parents feel comfortable responding to their infants’ and children’s cues, and to feel that their role as parents is important. One might recall that an important insight that I brought from my parenting experience to my clinical and research work was that professionals misunderstood cue-based nursing and parenting. Hence, I also directed my book towards professionals and dealt with the bias that they might have toward cue-based breastfeeding into early childhood and associated parenting. I hope that parents will tell their health care and other professional services providers about the book and encourage them to read it.
Interviews by Rita Brhel, executive editor of The Attached Family
No doubt you saw the two Snuggle Me Cushions included in the Spring 2010 Giveaway through the New Baby edition of The Attached Family magazine.
Shell Rasmussen, creative director of the magazine, opted to try out the Snuggle Me Cushion for herself with her infant son. She spoke with me afterward about her impressions.
RITA: What is your opinion of the Snuggle Me Cushion?
SHELL: The cushion is a nice alternative to just laying your baby flat onto a blanket. Before I has the cushion, I would often use pillows or blankets to push around him when I laid him down so that he would feel snuggled. So this was certainly a good alternative to that!
We cosleep with our baby, but she keeps waking up every hour or two to breastfeed. I put her to sleep at 7 p.m., and she wakes up two hours later. I join her at around 10 p.m. and then she keeps waking up and nursing. Should I move her away from our family bed to help my baby sleep better?
A: I am delighted that your baby sleeps with you. If she woke up in another bed or another room, she would have had to go through anxiety and crying every time she needed to breastfeed or to feel reassured that you still exist. She would have given up half the times, and she would have learned a painful lesson, “When I need care, I have to cry loudly.” This is the early training for tantrums and anger.
When babies are carried on our bodies and sleep with us, they hardly have to make a sound to get the care they need. As they grow older, they will keep asking for what they want in gentle ways.
Waking at night is nature’s clever design. Babies grow in their sleep and can become easily hungry. Sensing the presence of the mother’s body reminds them to wake up and nurse. In addition, since their breathing is still immature, nature makes sure that they wake up often enough to avoid very deep sleep and apnea. Nature makes no mistakes.
Your expectation that she should wake up less frequently causes you undue stress. The good news is, she is thriving and you are meeting her needs wonderfully. Without your misled expectation, you can respond to the way she is with joy. I recall waiting impatiently for the sweet moments of my babies waking up at night so I can kiss, smell, breastfeed, and feel the baby. These times are heavenly, but resisting and worry steal our joy away. The more you follow your baby’s needs, the easier it becomes. Of course, make sure to eat well yourself, avoid stimulating foods, and provide a dark, quiet bedroom for your family.
The baby is always right. The baby never asks for something wrong. The basic needs she signals for are what she absolutely needs. Your job is not to alter your baby but to respond to the way she is. You only doubt yourself when under the influence of other people. Listen to your little baby and to your own heart. She is needing to sleep with you and to wake to breastfeed as often as she does. There are ways for you to get enough sleep without going against your baby’s needs.
Couple Time and Bedtime
Many couples with a first or even a second baby are still “hoping” to resume life the way it was. They want to put the baby to sleep and have time for themselves. However, more often than not, sleep proves itself far from a good babysitter. Bedtime becomes a struggle because of an unspoken goal of getting rid of the baby or child. The baby senses this intent and may become resistant to sleep or simply not wanting to be excluded. Because it seems to work for some when the baby is still young, we are fooled to believe it would keep working.
In reality, your baby needs your uninterrupted presence when sleeping. The baby has no idea of future and no sense of existing without her body being touched. She can therefore experience terror when alone. This is the reason that nature gave babies a built-in reaction of crying when away from our bodies. Nature never meant for babies to sleep away from their mothers. And, mothers naturally want to hold their babies. There is no reason to train mothers and babies out of their healthy attachment.
When you put your baby to sleep at 7 p.m., she is not cosleeping for a good part of her night. She is alone. Waking up to find herself without you is scary for her. She can develop into a light sleeper who wakes up frequently to guard that you are close by. Your daughter’s emotional well being, confidence, intelligence, and health depend on taking for granted that mom is always present. This may require a lot more than you thought you were ready to give, but at the end, it is the easier way and it results in a well-behaved, content child. Be gentle with yourself by avoiding guilt, and instead, learn and grow daily by listening to your baby and exploring inside of you the thoughts that drag you away from enjoying her fully.
In natural societies, parents never put their babies or children to bed. A baby sleeps when she sleeps. She is in arms at all times and regulates her own sleep. In this way, the baby learns self-awareness and self-regulation without becoming dependent on adult control. Let your baby fall asleep on the breast anywhere you are, at her own time, so she can become self-aware and develop healthy sleep.
I often say that I was a lazy mother. I wanted to do everything the easiest way. Amazingly, I found that this was also the kindest way to babies and children. I always went to sleep with my children in the same bed and the same time. They had no stress about bedtime and are terrific sleepers. I never put them to bed. Every night was a slumber party, and we always had enough sleep and sometimes I even read in bed in the morning while the children were still asleep.
We must move on and depart from old expectations. Sex and couple time don’t have to be always in the evening and in the bedroom. Trying to impose couple time in the evening, when the baby needs you the most, is a struggle against nature. Find new times and settings for your relationship and realize that being together as a family is romantic, too. It is not about sex but about love and sharing the child you are nurturing together.
Your baby needs to be in body contact with you at all times, including the first hours of her night’s sleep.
Use these principles in your own creative ways. Respond to the flow, nurture your daughter’s natural ability to recognize her own tiredness even if she fights it — it is her self-discovery — and provide constant, stress-free physical closeness. Your baby wake-ups are wonderful and healthy; without struggling against it, you can cherish each moment of cuddling with your nursing little angel.
Dad’s job is to take over the job of the lactation consultant when the family goes home from the hospital. The father is who will be available to answer questions at 3 a.m.
Many mothers struggle with confidence when breastfeeding: They doubt the baby’s desire to breastfeed, they doubt their family’s support for breastfeeding, and most of all, they doubt themselves and their ability to breastfeed. A new mother struggles with confidence almost every day, and her shaky confidence is easily destroyed by a doubting father. When you say something foolish like, “I don’t know, Honey, maybe we need to give him a bottle,” you have just damaged your family’s chances at breastfeeding success.
Just like us, each baby is unique and needs a different amount of sleep. Even within the same family, we can have “high energy” children and those requiring more sleep. While most babies fit somewhere along a spectrum of “normal” sleep requirements, it can help to realize that most infant sleep charts were compiled many years ago when breastfeeding rates were at their lowest, so these observations were based on mostly formula-fed babies sleeping in rooms by themselves under laboratory study conditions.
Settling the Cosleeping Controversy: Get the Facts About Cosleeping, SIDS, Bedsharing and Breastfeeding with special guest Dr. James McKenna
Click here to register for this API Live! Teleseminar to hear hosts Lu Hanessian and Lysa Parker talk with Dr. McKenna about:
Why the cosleeping debate?
What if the baby won’t transition out of our bed?
Can we put the baby in the middle?
Can’t there be siblings near the baby?
Until what age are the guidelines relevant?
Can I nurse lying down? How?
More recently, studies have shown that babies who are fed formula do generally sleep longer at an earlier age than breastfed babies because formula is more difficult to digest. However, if you are thinking that a bottle of formula and banishment to the nursery may be the answer to your baby’s — and your own — sleepless nights, please consider the accompanying risks of premature weaning: You could find the trade-off being hours pacing the floor with an unwell baby. Also, young babies are much safer sleeping near their parents. Since no parents would knowingly trade their baby’s well-being for an uninterrupted night’s sleep, it is better to measure normal by what is safe and healthy.
It may help – or not, if you are suffering from sleep deprivation — to realize that in most infant sleep studies, “all night” is defined as five hours. If you are thinking that even five hours of uninterrupted sleep would be a dream come true, there are some gentle strategies you can try to help your baby, and you, to get more sleep:
Learn your baby’s language — None of us like being kept awake when we are craving sleep, so rather than waiting until your baby is “past it,” help her to calm and get ready for sleep as soon as she shows sleepy signs such as becoming quiet, yawning, making jerky movements, losing interest in people and toys, and fussing. If you miss this window of opportunity, your baby is likely to become grumpy and difficult to settle.
Offer womb service — Ease the transition from womb to room by snuggling your newborn against your bare skin and heartbeat. Carrying your baby in a sling next to your body is another perfect way to help him feel secure and snug, just as he was in your womb. As well as reducing your baby’s stress levels and relieving symptoms of colic and reflux, which can cause wakefulness, carrying your baby may also help him adapt more quickly to a day/night sleep cycle.
Feed your baby — Tiny tummies don’t hold enough food to go long between feedings, day or night. Babies also have appetite increases to match growth spurts. If you are breastfeeding, remember, the more your baby sucks, the more milk you will produce. He needs to suck long enough to get the more satisfying hindmilk, which is higher in calories and will help him sleep more soundly. The best way to do this is to watch your baby, not the clock, and allow him to decide when he is finished with the first breast before you switch sides.
Respond quickly — You can’t spoil a little baby, but if you leave her to cry, she will become more upset as her crying picks up momentum. Soon she won’t even know why she was crying in the first place – she will just be crying because she can’t stop and will be much harder to settle. If you are breastfeeding, it is particularly important to respond quickly to hunger cues: A baby left to work up to a full-blown cry will have a more disorganized suck and may have difficulty latching on correctly (when babies cry, their tongues are pointed towards the roof of their mouths), or she may only suck for a short time before she falls asleep with exhaustion. Then she will wake sooner because she is still hungry.
Introduce bedtime rituals — Bedtime routines can become cues that help even tiny babies wind down and become conditioned to fall asleep. From the earliest days, give her a deep, warm relaxation bath (sharing a candle-lit bath with your baby will relax you both) just before bedtime and sing her a song (she won’t mind if you don’t have perfect pitch) or use some gentle sleepy words.
A magic touch — Silent nights could be at your fingertips: Research from Miami University showed that infants and toddlers who were massaged daily for one month, for 15 minutes prior to bedtime, fell asleep more easily by the end of the study. Gently introduce massage a few strokes at a time when baby is calm so he associates your touch with feeling relaxed. A massage and a bath will be too much for a newborn to handle at once, but when your baby can manage it, try massaging before a bath, then snuggling your baby in a warm towel so he doesn’t become cold and distressed.
Soothing sounds — The calming, repetitive sounds of traditional lullabies recall the “womb music” your baby heard before birth: your heartbeat, and fluids whooshing through the placenta. Humming to your baby will calm you both, and baby music that incorporates elements such as the rhythm of the maternal heartbeat and womb sounds can have remarkable soothing effects, especially if played continuously on a low volume through the night.
Rock-a-bye baby — The motion of a rocking chair, being carried in a sling, or gently bouncing on a fit-ball (try humming a lullaby as you rock) will lull baby to sleep. So will a special-purpose baby hammock — and as baby moves and arouses during lighter sleep cycles, her movements will start the hammock rocking.
All snuggled up — The startle reflex, a primitive survival reflex that produces spontaneous, jerky movements even in sleep, can be disturbing (literally). If your baby isn’t sleeping in a sling or with you, provide a sense of security by swaddling your newborn — wrapping him in a gauze or muslin sheet in summer, or a soft shawl in winter. Gradually swaddle more loosely and discard the wrap as this reflex disappears, at around three months.
Cut caffeine — If you are breastfeeding, caffeine can create a vicious circle: You drink coffee (or tea or cola) to give you a hit, baby gets a boost of stimulant through your milk and becomes restless. Newborns are particularly vulnerable to caffeine: A newborn may take up to 97 hours to get rid of caffeine, so the effects will be accumulative.
Food intolerance — If your baby’s wakeful, crying spells seem to be related to your diet, keep a food diary. If there appears to be a link, eliminate the suspect food for at least a week. Common culprits include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), citrus, chocolate, and peanuts. Some babies may also react to food additives in soft drinks or processed foods, or chemicals such as salicylates present in a range of otherwise healthy foods such as grapes, citrus, berries, and tomatoes.
Do not disturb — Avoid waking baby fully during nighttime feedings by keeping lights dim and talking quietly. If you need to change a diaper, do this either before or half way through a feed, not when baby is all groggy and full. If baby is falling asleep during feedings and only having a short feed, try changing the diaper half way through, then offering the breast again.
Let your baby suck up to the boss — Falling asleep on the breast is one of the easiest ways for most babies to settle. This is due to hormones released while your baby feeds, but if you are concerned about it becoming a habit, alternate feeding with other sleep cues.
Share sleep — Research shows that mothers and babies who cosleep share the same sleep cycles, so these mothers get more sleep overall.
Stop the clock — Simply knowing how long you are awake can be enough to make you too tense to get back to sleep, or it may encourage you to rush your baby and make him feel anxious. If you see your baby’s waking as a genuine need, it could help you to enjoy this precious cuddle time: feel the softness of his skin, breathe in his delicious smell, and snuggle!
As a midwife, lactation consultant, and father of seven beautiful breastfed babies, I’m often asked to share my perspectives with new parents. First, let me say, I have found through personal and professional practice that almost everything is hard the first few days or weeks with a new baby — and breastfeeding is no different.
You will do yourself a favor if you prepare for the challenges by learning all you can before your progeny is born. I encourage you to talk to your health care provider, lactation consultant, and especially friends who have successfully breastfed for more than six months. Learning from successful and experienced breastfeeding friends is a good way to get honest, accurate information and avoid the myths that make breastfeeding so very challenging. I warn you to ignore the advice of couples who failed at breastfeeding, as their perspectives, while honest, may not always be accurate.
Before we can talk about your role in breastfeeding, we have to first answer the most fundamental question: Why would anyone want to breastfeed? In the old days, we used to talk about the benefits of breastfeeding and you will still hear some people mention it, but not me. Believe it or not, breastfeeding doesn’t make your baby bigger, stronger, faster, or smarter. Breastfeeding doesn’t make him super-human, it just makes him human. Continue reading #1 on the Breastfeeding Team –> Daddy→
Before we try to get a child to behave in a certain way or learn something, we have to ask ourselves if the child himself cares enough to want to fulfill our request or expectation:
Does the child actually feel sorry?
Does he truly feel thankful?
Is he curious and interested?
Does he have inner desire?
We can make (sometimes) a child say “sorry” or “thank you” or practice the piano or do his homework. But when we force a child, we are not really instilling within him something that is lasting. We are putting form before spirit. Before a child can learn form, he must have the spirit for this behavior to be true and long-lasting.
Origin of Spirit
Where does spirit come from? What makes a child truly care? There are three ingredients of mature caring:
Right relationships — The child must be securely attached to his parent, in the dependent position. He must feel unconditional love and caring from his parent in order to be fully satiated in his need to be cared for, to matter to someone, to feel important in the eyes of someone. Only then can he feel caring toward others. You can compare this to food. If you were hungry and didn’t know where your next meal was coming from, you would not be inclined to invite others to your table. When a child’s need for unconditional caring is met, he can care for others.
Emergent energy — This comes from the child himself and moves him to learn about what he likes, what interests him, what is important to him, what has meaning and value to him. He can venture forth into the world to discover what he cares about, only if his attachment base is secure and strong.
Integrative thinking, the fruit of a nurtured spirit of caring — The ability to integrate conflicting feelings and thoughts does not even begin to develop until the child reaches five years old. This unfolding process is the root of true caring. True caring means that you remember you care when you are angry, frustrated, tired, or scared. Caring mixes together with other conflicting feelings and results in a tempered response in the child. Caring becomes part of a child’s nature when he can be angry at his brother but remember that he loves his brother and doesn’t want to hurt him. A child is truly a caring person when he doesn’t like the gift he received from his grandmother but will accept it graciously with a thank-you, because he doesn’t want to hurt his grandmother’s feelings; when he is frustrated by having too much math homework, but he does it anyway because he cares about passing the test.
When we put form before spirit, we can crush the spirit. Some of the ways we try to make children act in a caring way, such as rewarding them with prizes, actually create egocentricity in children because they are focused on acceptable behavior rather than on cultivating the desire to give. Ultimately this can create an “I don’t care! It doesn’t matter to me!” attitude.
Children are born with the potential to care deeply. It is up to us, the adults in their lives, to nurture this spirit before we try to add form.
Connecting with our children for a more compassionate world.