By Sonya Fehér, contributing editor for the API Speaks blog, leader for API of South Austin, Texas, USA, and blogger at www.mamatrue.com
Curled into a periwinkle micro-plush blanket under a fluffy down comforter, I had the rare option of sleeping in. My husband took the day off work for my birthday and was downstairs playing with our three-year-old son. But my lower back ached, as did the insides of my shins, and I had an urgent need to pee. I was sure before I saw the cloudy urine that I had another kidney infection, the fourth in 15 months. I have also been fighting a hacking cough for weeks.
Besides kindness, I believe my body is asking me for attention, in the sense of needing to be attended to. My body has been asking for this since my son was born in November of 2006, maybe decades longer than that. Mostly, I have not answered the call.
Instead I have stayed up too late at night writing, reading, or watching television because I desperately needed some time and space for myself after mothering all day (and in between nursing and bedsharing at night). Continue reading →
By Joe Diomede, author of Cycles of a Traveler and owner of Cloughjordan Cycle Co-op in Tipperary, Ireland, CloughjordanCycleCoop.com
Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting is an approach to childrearing that is defined by Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting. Alternative parenting styles, such as that practiced by the author, and which include natural parenting and instinctual parenting choices, may include Attachment Parenting but do not define Attachment Parenting. API takes no position on homebirth, vaccinations, elimination communication, non-consumerism, and other choices made by this particular family. For more information on Attachment Parenting, visit www.attachmentparenting.org.
When my wife, Angie, and I became parents, a whole new world was opened up to us. We had read books and talked to friends as everyone does, but in the same way that you cannot learn what a good Indian curry really tastes like until you experience it for yourself, being a parent and all that that entails was still only conceptual until the day our son arrived.
On that day our world changed — and not just because we now were three. Just five weeks after Louis was born, we moved to a tiny village in the Loire Valley of France and, in doing so, found ourselves in the situation of being cut off from friends, family, and such networks in a way that rarely happens to new parents in today’s world. It was during this time that we came to deeply connect with a part of ourselves that is buried within all of us and continually trying — sometimes even screaming — to be heard: our instincts.
As parents, we are generally not allowed the space to be able to connect with our inner feelings. There is constant bombardment from all sides telling us what a baby and mother need to be happy, well adjusted, and healthy. While many of these sources may be well-meaning, none of them are without an agenda: Governments, in conjunction with the powerful medical/pharmaceutical industry, want us to raise our children a certain way within their system of medicating and vaccinating our children to excess; baby food and formula manufacturers discourage breastfeeding so we spend on all the accessories to complicate a totally natural process. As new parents we are so vulnerable. We instinctively want to do everything right for our child, but with powerful influences like these, many of us are left shell-shocked and blind to what feels instinctively right. If somehow we could pull away from all of the people trying to sell us and tell us, we would be able to reconnect with ourselves and realize that we are the experts, and that is exactly how nature intended it to be.
A couple of months before the birth, a friend of Angie’s offered us her empty house in the Loire Valley of France — an opportunity we didn’t pass up: house sit and redecorate for her, both of us be there for our child’s first months of life, grow our own veggies, and have a totally different beginning as a family. It wasn’t going to cost much and we had some money saved, so there was not much to lose. We felt it was a perfect move.
It soon transpired, though, others felt very differently: “Your baby will be a newborn. What about a doctor, a phone, a car, your family and friends – your support network?” I can honestly say we didn’t listen to a word. Yes, it’s true our decision to move was made before the little guy arrived. We had not held that small baby and felt his warm fragile body. We had not known what protective instincts would come over us when our child was out of the womb. All we could do was be strong and go with what felt right.
Louis arrived after a 14-hour drug-free labor. The first part of the day was spent walking on the beach connecting with nature and each other. Angie was determined that if she could keep in touch and go with the feelings that were happening to her rather than panic and try to get away from them, then everything would be fine. She also had me to remind her and keep her grounded when things became a bit too much. With labor now behind her, Angie constantly tells people of her belief that a normal labor is about 75% mental and 25% physical and that all the negative programming we hear, often in the guise of education, before giving birth can only disempower and weaken the inbuilt ability that women have to give birth naturally.
A Life-Changing Move
So when Louis was five weeks old, the move was made down to France. Angie’s college-level French came into its own, and with our neighbor’s help and a few borrowed tools, we had some beautiful, weed-free, brown earth ready to be planted.
Louis seemed quite content to lie near us on a shaded blanket and watch the birds and insects fly by as we worked in the garden. We were enjoying every minute of our lives. We had all day and night to spend with our son, no pressures, and the best thing we actually had was time to really get in touch with ourselves. We were able to make so many decisions without any interference. It’s true that we were miles from any social support systems, such as friends and family, and there were certainly times when we might have liked a word of reassurance or a home-cooked meal from a friend or relative, but Angie and I discovered depths of strength we never dreamed existed and the three of us developed a bond beyond anything we had ever known before.
When Louis was eight weeks old, we put a second-hand car seat, which Angie bulked up with comfortable padding, into a bicycle trailer. Now Louis and Angie could accompany me on my four-mile round-trip cycle ride to the nearest town with a market. Louis loved his first ride so much that we started exploring the wider area as a cycling family and became somewhat local celebrities. People were attracted by the novelty of the whole thing and became instantly smiling and friendly when they saw us. It just added to our status already as the quirky foreigners with the cotton diapers hanging on the washing line. I guess this was the reason we didn’t get any strange looks from the olive and cheese stall holder the first time we asked him to weigh Louis on his scale. It was almost expected.
Our veggie patch prospered, Louis was healthy and seemed happy, and our nights were basically calm with him in our bed. Each decision — like co-sleeping and long-term breastfeeding — was less a choice and more an obvious path.
We stayed in that tiny village for ten months. Louis was such a healthy boy that we never needed to call on the services of the local doctor, who also happened to be our next-door neighbor.
Finding Other Attached Families
In March, we were heading back to New York for a year. It was a great opportunity for Louis to be introduced to his large Italian American family and for us to come to New York for the first time as parents.
It was when we got to New York that we went to our first La Leche League meeting and met other attached parents. The instinctive way of bringing up a baby that Angie and I had followed actually had a name, a legion of followers, and libraries of books attesting to its virtues! We were relaxed with ourselves as parents and now had some like-minded friends. We were also introduced to baby sign language, which benefited all of us. Our choices spoke for themselves, and some of my family were actually enjoying the world we were opening up for them as well. Louis’ fruit-eating capacity and his love of ethnic foods gained him two nicknames: “Mr. Spicy” and “The Goat.”
I had to defend our decision not to vaccinate Louis to my well-meaning cousin who is a doctor in New York. Funny enough, two years previously, Angie and I had to defend our decision to have a homebirth to the same cousin. But demonstrating by example, hearing and seeing us standing strong and confident in our position, and seeing the living proof in Louis, I believe we have possibly opened up otherwise closed subjects to his medically-orientated mind.
Back Home with a New Lifestyle
After leaving New York, we headed back to France — this time to our own house in rural Brittany. Growing gardens was becoming a major part of our life. We were getting hooked on living away from it all, and our instincts were taking us down a path towards a simple lifestyle of non-consumerism: Our bike riding had never diminished as much as grown, as we tried as much as possible not to get into the car we had purchased for the further afield shopping trips. We enjoyed living in our small house in the countryside, growing our own food and being “creatively poor” as we liked to call it.
When Angie became pregnant ,we came across a book called Diaper Free. It interested us, and we thought we would give it a go. Raising Francesca diaper free proved to be a challenge, but at the same time was an incredible opening to a world that forced us to rethink some other pre-conceived ideas that, until then, we had never thought to question. It also made us realize just how much small people, even at six weeks old, are capable of, and how truly sentient a human child is.
Since we had fallen off the mainstream path in many ways, my family in America and Angie’s in England were not surprised about our new foray into alternative parenting. It was an incredible journey and humbled us in our realization that, like an onion, we have many layers to yet peel back.
Parenting by Instinct
The attachment style of parenting has always had its benefits in watching our children be a part of their own process of growth and maturation. They have taught us more about ourselves in their short time with us than any self-help course could ever do. We encourage them to safely explore their instincts and to try to work problems out for themselves.
Our instincts brought us together as a couple, then helped lead us to where we are now as individuals, parents, and a family. This is not to say that we are perfect — far from it: Angie is fond of saying that parenting is the hardest, most wonderful, frustrating, fulfilling, amazing thing that can ever happen to you, and the biggest catalyst for personal growth in the world! I whole-heartedly agree.
Instincts have been around a long time. They have helped us survive and evolve as a species, so we are pretty comfortable trusting that they will help us to tread the path of parenting in the challenging years ahead. When in doubt, we always turn to books that have inspired us in the past or new ones that find their way to us. We also look forward to reading other sources such as good magazines, websites, or words of encouragement and advice from friends and others on similar paths. These resources are invaluable as guides, but remember, the inner voice should always have the last word.
These are books that Angie and I have found, and continue to find, helpful in our parenting journey:
How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Dr. Mendelsohn
Vaccination: The Medical Assault on the Immune System by Dr. Veira Schreibner
The Vaccination Bible by Lynne McTaggart
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina Mae Gaskin
Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlisch
The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedoff
Superimmunity for Kids by Dr. Leo Galland
Yoga and Birth by Janet Balaskus
Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth by Suzanne Arms
You 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?
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.
“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 →
By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
A 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 Parentingas 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.
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 →
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.
This 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.
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 →
By Rita Brhel,managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
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 Based 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.
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 AnotherLook 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.
Connecting with our children for a more compassionate world.