Category Archives: 2. The Infant

From newborn to 17 months.

Spotlight On: Balboa Baby

API: Tell us, exactly what is Balboa Baby?

BALBOA BABY: Balboa Baby is a relative newcomer to the juvenile industry, having been established in 2007 with the introduction of an adjustable baby sling. This was followed by other new parent must-haves, including a nursing cover, nursing pillow, and shopping cart cover. Joining president Noel Pepys at Balboa in an advisory capacity is Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha, who is a certified lactation consultant.

API: What have parents found to be most useful about Balboa Baby?

BALBOA BABY: Balboa Baby products enable parents to incorporate baby into everyday life, but more importantly, the products allow parents to bond more easily with baby. The Sling keeps baby close wherever you go, and the Nursing Cover means you don’t have to delay baby’s feeding while you look for a private spot. The Nursing Pillow, used most often at home, helps position baby properly for feeding, and the Shopping Cart Cover means you can take baby along to the grocery store without fear of germs. Continue reading

The “See One, Teach One, Do One” Approach to Teaching

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader for Portland API, Oregon USA

Teaching children practical life skills takes more time than we usually think.  It’s common for parents to get frustrated with kids who aren’t doing something we think they should know how to do, like putting on socks or shoes, preparing food, putting laundry away, or the ever-popular instruction, “Clean your room!” Tasks like these seem so straightforward to us, but for children they can be overwhelming and surprisingly complicated.

Before we get overly frustrated with our children, it helps if parents can remember the “see one, teach one, do one” approach to learning new tasks.  These are the steps it typically takes for kids to learn new things:

See One

The child should see you demonstrating the task, and will watch with the purpose of learning. You can explain what you’re doing as you go. “Watch how I do these three things to get your room clean. First, I…”

Teach One

Involve your child and do the task together. Have him help you with the various steps involved in cleaning that room. “You put all of the dirty clothes in the laundry basket, while I make your bed.” When you are working together, the job doesn’t seem so daunting for a child, and you’re also modeling cooperation, teamwork, and respect.

This also works well for older children who forget to do their jobs. A Certified Positive Discipline Trainer from Greenville, South Carolina in the USA, Kelly Pfieffer shares a story of her teenage son who would continually forget to bring in the garbage cans and recycling bins after garbage day. This was meant to be his responsibility, but it wouldn’t get done at the end of the day, nor even the next morning on his way out to school. “My husband would be especially upset because it was obvious to the neighbors that our trash cans had not been brought in,” she said.

Kelly decided to take time to teach her son and help him learn by making the job one that they would do together. She gave her son the opportunity to bring in the garbage cans when he got home, but when he didn’t, she met him at the door with a hug, a smile, and a, “We’re doing the trash together now. Let’s get it done.” It took a few weeks of this cooperative teaching, with no nagging or lecturing, and her son started going right to the garbage cans when he got home! Kelly says, “Now it’s unusual for him to forget, when it used to be unusual for him to remember. Though if needed, I will do the task with him again.”

Just as it took Kelly several weeks of teaching her son how to bring in the garbage cans, it will most likely take kids several teaching sessions before they get the hang of a job and are able to think through it on their own. Kelly even says she expects her son to forget again, as his priorities are simply different than hers. But she is ready and willing to step in and do it together with him again. Instead of labeling this step “teach one,” it would be more aptly called “teach many, many times!”

Do One

This final step is when the child is able to do the task on her own. Some children (like Kelly’s teenager) might be able to go right from cooperative learning to doing it on their own, while some children (such as younger ones) might benefit from the opportunity to do a task themselves while you’re there to supervise and help. Eventually, depending on the activity and the child, they’ll be able to do tasks on their own, unsupervised. Keep in mind, too, that even when kids seem to be capable of doing a job on their own, they may “forget how” from time to time. A refresher course given together in a calm and loving manner, without nagging or lecturing, will help kids remember what to do, while keeping your relationship positive.

Most importantly in this process of teaching children, parents can remember to use it as an opportunity to connect with them. When we can let go of the outcome — the focus on what our child “should” be doing — we can enjoy communicating with and helping our kids, and trust that the learning will occur.

Spotlight On: Camp Common Ground

API: Tell us, exactly what is Camp Common Ground?

CAROLE BLANE: I am a Leader of an Attachment Parenting International group in New Jersey and also the Program Coordinator at Camp Common Ground in Vermont. I was not always the program coordinator, however. Long ago I was just a practitioner of Attachment Parenting seeking a vacation spot for my family where we would be welcomed and embraced.

I don’t know about those of you who have little children now, but when ours were little we always found it difficult to take vacations with our three extended-nursing, cosleeping, and attached children. So many places in our culture are not actually all that family-friendly. I felt so lucky when I stumbled on Camp Common Ground, a family camp for adults and kids complete with arts and crafts, swimming, campfires, hiking, and cabins. Instead of sending your children away to camp, you get to go with them. What a unique idea! Continue reading

What’s the Big Deal with CIO?

By Margaret Chuong-Kim, MA

Among parents of infants these days, there is constant debate about how to respond to a baby’s cries. On one hand, there are proponents of the “cry it out” method, where the baby is left alone to cry in the hopes that he or she will eventually stop. On the other hand, there are the attachment parents who respond immediately to their crying babies and attempt to soothe them using various methods including holding and cuddling. While the cry-it-out (CIO) method has been popular in previous years, Attachment Parenting (AP) is gaining a foothold among new parents today. Results of studies in psychology indicate the AP approach to crying is most likely to result in an emotionally and physically healthy child.

The Origins of AP

Attachment Theory originated in the late 1960s, when psychologist John Bowlby postulated that a warm, intimate relationship between caregiver and infant is necessary for optimal health as well as for basic survival. As such, each individual is born well-equipped with reflexes and instincts for interacting with a primary caregiver, which is often the mother. For example, infants quickly learn to recognize and prefer both their mother’s voice and smell. As babies develop some locomotor control, they display their desire to be close to their caregivers by reaching toward their mother or father to be picked up or by crawling toward them. From an evolutionary perspective, these behaviors have survival value. Babies who lack such attachment behaviors will stray from their caregivers and are more likely to get lost, attacked, and perish. An infant’s cry is also intended to increase the likelihood of its survival, as a mother’s instinct is usually to go to her child at the first sign of distress.

We live in an age where we can know that the baby is safe in another room, despite the loudness of his cries. Does this mean we should leave babies to cry on their own? CIO proponents often advise that babies left to cry will eventually stop, and the duration of future crying bouts will decrease. What are the emotional consequences of crying for the infant when she is left unattended? Bowlby and colleagues initiated a series of studies where children between the ages of one and two years old who had good relationships with their mothers were separated from them and left to cry it out. Results showed a predictable sequence of behaviors:

  1. Protest consists of loud crying and extreme restlessness.
  2. Despair consists of monotonous crying, inactivity, and steady withdrawal.
  3. Detachment consists of a renewed interest in surroundings, albeit a remote, distant kind of interest.

Thus, it appears that while leaving babies to cry it out can lead to the eventual dissipation of those cries, it also appears that this occurs due to the gradual development of apathy in the child. The child stops crying because she learns that she can no longer hope for the caregiver to provide comfort, not because her distress has been alleviated.

AP and CIO Effects on the Amount of Crying

Do babies cry more when they are attended to? A 1986 study concluded just the opposite: The more a mother holds and carries her baby, the less the baby will cry and fuss. Cross-cultural studies also show that parents in non-Western societies are quicker than parents in Western societies to respond to their crying babies, and babies in non-Western societies cry for shorter spans of time. Caregivers in 78% of the world’s cultures respond quickly to an infant’s cries. For instance, Efe caregivers in Africa respond to a baby’s cries within ten seconds at least 85% of the time when the baby is between three and seven weeks old, and 75% of the time when the baby is 17 weeks old. !Kung caregivers respond within ten seconds more than 90% of the time during the baby’s first three months, and more than 80% of the time at one year old. In contrast, American and Dutch caregivers have been found to be deliberately unresponsive to an infant’s cries almost 50% of the time during the baby’s first three months. Infants in non-Western societies have been found to fuss just as frequently as those in Western societies, but due to the prompt response of caregivers in non-Western societies, the overall cumulative duration of crying is less than what occurs in Western societies.

How AP Works

According to Attachment Theory, many babies are born without the ability to self-regulate emotions — that is, they find the world to be confusing and disorganized, and do not have the coping abilities required to soothe themselves. Thus, during times of distress, they seek out their caregivers because the physical closeness of the caregiver helps to soothe the infant and to re-establish equilibrium. When the caregiver is consistently responsive and sensitive, the child gradually learns and believes that she is worthy of love and that other people can be trusted to provide it. She learns that the caregiver is a secure base from which she can explore the world, and if she encounters adversity, she can return to her base for support and comfort. This trust in the caregiver results in what is known as a secure individual.

Children who do not have consistently responsive and sensitive caregivers often develop into insecure individuals, characterized by anxious, avoidant, and/or ambivalent interactions. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals, compared to insecure individuals, are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals tend to be comfortable depending on others, readily develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). North American parenting practices, including CIO, are often influenced by fears that children will grow up too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.

The Dangers of CIO

It has been suggested in the past that CIO is healthy for infants’ physical development, particularly the lungs. A recent study looking at the immediate and long-term physiologic consequences of infant crying suggests otherwise. The following changes due to infant crying have been documented:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Reduced oxygen level
  • Elevated cerebral blood pressure
  • Depleted energy reserves and oxygen
  • Interrupted mother-infant interaction
  • Brain injury
  • Cardiac dysfunction.

The study’s researchers suggested that caregivers should answer infant cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively — recommendations that are in line with AP principles.

CIO or AP as a Matter of Perception

CIO supporters tend to view their infants’ cries as attempts to manipulate caregivers into providing more attention. Holding this view can be detrimental to the immediate and long-term health of the baby. In the field of cognitive psychology, there exists the premise that our thoughts underlie our behavior. Thus, if we think positively about an individual, our behaviors toward them tend to be positive as well. Conversely, if we think negatively about an individual, we will behave correspondingly. Consider people in your own life whom you consider manipulative — how does that perception influence your behavior toward them? It is unlikely that the interpretation of a manipulative personality will result in the compassionate, empathetic, and loving care of that individual. Infants, quite helpless without the aid of their caregivers, may suffer both emotional and physical consequences of this type of attitude.

When faced with a crying baby, it may be prudent to ask yourself the following questions: Why am I choosing this response? Do I want my baby to stop crying because he feels comforted and safe, or do I want my baby to stop crying for the sake of stopping crying? What is my baby learning about me and the world when I respond in this manner? If I was a baby and was upset, how would I want my caregivers to respond?

Reprinted with permission from http://drbenkim.com.

A Touch Today for a Better Tomorrow

By Danielle Buffardi, Nurturing Touch Editor for The Attached Family magazine

Beginning in the womb, your child becomes used to your touch. The swishing of the amniotic fluid and your gentle movements sway your child within the warmth of your body. This need to be touched by the infant never ceases and, if anything, becomes stronger once you deliver your child.

After delivery, mother-child bonding time is crucial. Unfortunately, some hospitals whisk baby away immediately after birth and the time is hectic rather than quiet. The good news is that baby-bonding does not rely on just the first moments after birth; it continues into adulthood.

According to Sharon Heller’s book The Vital Touch, newborns will seek comfort in their mothers immediately. “The human infant arrives hard-wired to seek contact with the mother,” Heller writes. “Take the newborn’s primitive reflexes. First, there is cuddling. When picked up and held, newborns mold their arms and legs into the cavity of our arms. Next there is clinging, the apparent purpose of which is to grasp mother and maintain contact.”

Even body temperature and digestion can all be easily regulated by touch. Simply by holding your baby, caressing, and cosleeping, you help your newborn ease right into her new life because your body is already regulating temperatures for the both of you. During cosleeping, the mother’s temperature fluctuates to accommodate baby and vice versa. If your infant is cold while in your arms, your temperature will rise to make baby warmer. Nature designed mothers and infants to be one, especially in the first few weeks of life.

According to Heller, “massaged babies often show greater weight gain, and fewer postnatal complications. They are more social, more alert, less fussy and restless, sleep better, and have smoother movements.” Mothers who use gentle, constant touching will soothe baby more than any pacifier ever could. Infants are constantly looking to be touched, massaged, and cuddled.

Using gentle touch techniques with your baby helps to ensure that you will also learn your baby and become fluent in his language. Thus, when your infant cries, you will know what he wants almost immediately, and the crying shouldn’t last long at all. Maternal instinct and gentle touch go hand-in-hand. The better you know your child, the better off the both of you will be. Don’t mistrust your motherly instincts; home in on them. No one in this world knows your child better than you: Never forget that. Listen to the advice of the pediatrician, but don’t be afraid to speak up and second-guess that advice. Every child is different, and what’s good for one is not necessarily good for all babies. Getting to know your child immediately during infancy will help you decide how to address any problems that arise later.

Heller states, “The arms of the sensitive mother invite. When the world looms too large, too loud, too bright, too cold, the infant knows that she will be enveloped in a warm protective embrace. This gives the baby a clear message: ‘You are safe. You are loved. You are loveable.’ And so the infant relaxes, secure against the world.” Even now, as adults, we can look back on our own childhoods and understand where our caregivers went right or wrong when it came to motherly love and gentle touching. Our mother’s love affects us from infancy into adulthood and beyond. It’s not only the tie that binds; it’s also the basis on which we form opinions of ourselves and others. The mother who really knew her child and catered to his needs most likely reared a very well-rounded and courageous individual. But the mother who let a child cry herself to sleep and always kept her guessing whether or not she really was her mother’s pride and joy may have produced an insecure and outwardly aggressive adult, afraid of taking chances. A mother’s influence, touch, and protection provides us with roots as well as wings and should not, by any means, be taken lightly.

Practicing Attachment Parenting nourishes you and helps you to meet your baby’s physical and emotional needs. With your baby so close to you, there’s no question about whether he is safe, hungry, or uncomfortable. While cosleeping, both of you get longer stretches of undisturbed sleep while continuing to forge the unbreakable mother-child bond. This utter closeness helps encourage mothers to tap into their instinctive knowledge of their infant’s needs, and it also reassures the baby that his mother is never far away, thus allowing his mental state to remain calm.

In an article entitled “The Breastfeeding, Co-sleeping Connection” on Babiestoday.com, Katherine Dettwyler, an associate professor of anthropology and nutrition at Texas A & M University, states, “Human children are designed to be sleeping with their parents … The sense of touch is the most important sense to primates. The expected pattern is for mother and child to sleep together and for the child to be able to nurse whenever they want during the night.”

Dettwyler continues, “Dr. James McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-and-Baby Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., pioneered the first behavioral and electro-physiological studies documenting differences between mothers and infants sleeping together and apart (in different rooms). He is known worldwide for his work in promoting studies of breastfeeding and mother-infant co-sleeping. ‘First and foremost, cosleeping is beneficial because it is what mothers and babies are supposed to do — what they have been biologically designed to do — as maternal proximity is expected by the baby’s body,’ McKenna explains. ‘Clinically, from scientific studies, a co-sleeping baby sleeps longer, cries less, breastfeeds more, sleeps more lightly (in stages 1 and 2) and spends less time in a more mature stage of sleep.’”

Using, exploring, and learning gentle touch and cosleeping techniques with your baby will undoubtedly bring the whole family closer. The parents will learn to respond to their baby’s needs with a sensitive and nurturing touch, and the baby will realize just how loved and protected she really is. There really is no substitute for a mother’s touch, and a child will never stop seeking it. Knowing that one’s needs will never go unmet instills an unparalleled sense of reassurance in children. Gentle touch gives our children the courage to grow, explore, and consume all that the world has to offer. How we respond to them now forms the basis for their later relationships and, in turn, how they will parent their children.

A Lullaby Massage Riddle

By Sybil L. Hart, PhD, author of Lullaby Massage

Who would be the last parent to get voted off the island? Would our champ be the one able to take a pair of toddlers camping and return with both still smiling? Or, would she or he be the one able to bake a birthday cake that is a perfect replica of Spider-Man or Cinderella? My vote goes to the one who can take bedtime and make it the highlight of the day, even for the most challenging toddler.

It’s no secret that for some children, bedtime is enormously problematic, and for their parents, tackling it represents the Mount Everest of parenthood. Part of the difficulty finding a solution stems from the fact that bedtime problems arise for a wide variety of reasons. Some children are fearful of the dark, being alone, being abandoned, or all the fun they’ll miss if they’re asleep. Others are tightly wound up, either physically or emotionally, but have no strategy for unwinding. Some fall into both categories, and some are just unfathomable and fall into none. With so many different kinds of causes, it’s not surprising that there are so many different kinds of solutions, and so many floundering efforts to figure out why something that worked yesterday doesn’t seem to work today.

Nevertheless, certain kinds of treatments are so compelling, they work even though we don’t exactly know why. Of course, breastfeeding comes to mind. As nursing mothers the world over know, breastfeeding works for a whole variety of reasons. But most importantly, it works, period. What many Western mothers do not know, though our Eastern sisters have known for centuries, is that massage works, too.

When I developed lullaby massage, it was with the aim of making bedtime beautiful, easy, and fun, not only for children but parents as well, even Western parents who may not be familiar with massage. The technique involves strokes for different parts of the body that children (and all of us) find relaxing, and each type of stroke goes together with a poem. So, with each soft stroke that a child feels, she also receives the sound of her parent’s voice. Some of the words offer humor, others convey warmth and reassurances of love, and underneath it all, there is a message telling parents how to conduct the massage. See if you can figure out how to do the finger massage done to the words:

Five little tubes of toothpaste
Squeeze bottom to top
Then screw on the cap
Don’t waste a drop.

The Daycare Dilemma

By Jan Hunt, founder/director of The Natural Child Project, www.naturalchild.org

Jan HuntIt’s always a dilemma for me to know just how to address the subject of substitute care, because there is such a gap in our culture between the ideal and the possible. Ideally, there would be little need to use substitute care, nor would any mother feel a strong personal need or desire to do so. The reality, of course, is that parenting — the most important job a woman can have — is not valued sufficiently.

No one should ever feel that she is “only a mother” — motherhood should be more highly valued than any other profession. No other job is as critically important; no other job has the potential for improving our world by nurturing the capacity to love and trust others. As Canadian psychiatrist Elliott Barker wrote: “We have to change a lot of established patterns or ways we do things — our priorities — so that nothing gets in the way of attachment in the earliest years. The capacities for trust, empathy, and affection are in fact the central core of what it means to be human, and are indispensable for adults to be able to form lasting, mutually satisfying cooperative relationships with others.”

Our culture not only minimizes the importance of motherhood, it maximizes the desire to consume commercial products, defining success always in economic, rarely in humane or social, terms. There is no question that a mother with a professional career who uses daycare for her children receives far more recognition and respect than the mother who has left a professional job to stay at home with her children — despite the fact that the at-home mom is in a position to contribute far more to society in the long term. If motherhood was valued as highly as it should be, more mothers would choose to stay at home, and more pressure would be put on governments to help provide the means by which this could be done.

Creative solutions can only come about through a deeply-felt need. If everyone understood the critical importance of mothering, there would be fewer daycares and more and better alternative solutions that keep mother and child together. There would be more family centers where mothers with infants and young children could get together with other parents, watching the children as they play together. Families would be given sufficient financial support by the government, and this support would be seen not as a “handout” with all the stigma that welfare has now, but as a wise and critical investment in our future. Everyone would know that motherhood is the single most important profession there is, one that deserves the highest esteem and the highest pay. What kind of society do we have where athletes, movie stars, and CEOs get the highest pay? What kind of society do we have when the professional woman with her children away from her all day enjoys higher esteem than the stay-at-home mother who has the opportunity to nurture a human being, whose personal qualities, positive or negative, will affect all future relationships? Which is the more critical job?

Our vision is too narrow, too immediate, too limited. We see only the present contribution of the professional woman and are blind to the even greater potential contribution of the mother at home. We need to value these mothers now — or our future will look no different than it does at present, with our myriad social problems.

If we really understood the importance of the mother-child bond, we would find those solutions that now seem so elusive and difficult. We would recognize that a young child who has bonded with a particular caregiver, who then disappears from the child’s world, can internalize feelings of rejection and disappointment. We would be committed to finding ways to keep mothers, babies, and young children together. We would provide whatever financial support is needed, and give extensive parenting education to all. We would give greater prestige and sufficient financial support to dedicated stay-at-home mothers. Most of all, we would recognize that repeated separations from the mother can damage the mother-child relationship and create a tragic reluctance in the child to love and trust others in the future. Close bonds of love and trust take time to develop; they take time to maintain.

We would recognize the critical importance of providing paid maternity leave. We would understand that parental care has the most stability. We would build a healthier population and fewer hospitals and prisons. We would strive to learn more about the father-child bond, and give fathers an opportunity to bond early with their child, and to support the mother in the earliest years. We would enjoy a very different and vastly improved society, where compassion and connection were valued and desired more than any other goal or commodity, where a small house filled with love, trust and joy would be valued far higher than the biggest mansion.

What do you think? Weigh in on this Attachment Parenting International poll on the Value of Motherhood

Does My Baby Need Routine Sleep Time?

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Naomi AldortQ: I get a lot of advice that babies and children do better if they have a routine way of doing everything, especially sleep time. Personally, it is very challenging for me to enforce a sleep time on my baby. How important is it to have schedules and routines for sleep, food, or other activities?

A: It is best to do what brings peace and joy to you and your family. The beauty of keeping your baby in your arms is that you get to know her well; this closeness allows you to respond to her cues rather than apply external theories. Any ideas that do not come from your baby are unlikely to resonate with who she is.

You are well connected to your baby and therefore find it difficult to oppose her direction. Congratulations! Nurture this healthy attachment. There is no need for you to “attach” to ideas that oppose your baby. She is your guide. When you respond to her lead, she learns to trust and rely on herself. Self-confidence and independence are the ability of the child to rely on herself and listen to her own body and soul. Continue reading

Helping Children Become Independent

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

Shoshana HaymanThere are some things that simply drive us parents crazy: One is when your child insists on doing something that you want to do yourself. You are trying to feed your 1-year-old mashed potatoes and carrots, and he clamps his mouth shut while squashing the mixture through his fingers. You finally finish dressing your 3-year-old so you can make it on time to work, only to find that she has undressed herself 2 minutes later because she wants to do it herself. And as you are carefully unpacking the groceries, your 6-year-old silently volunteers to put the tray of 36 eggs into the refrigerator. (These examples are just for starters. I’m sure you’ll think of many more)!

Another thing that drives parents crazy is when your child refuses to do something you know he can do by himself. Your 3-year-old will only eat supper if you feed her. Your 5-year old will only get dressed if you dress him. And your 7-year-old will only put away his toys if you do it with him. (Yes, there’s more).

Hard as we try to keep our composure, our frustration rises and we lose our patience. When our children need our help, why won’t they let us help them? And why won’t they do things for themselves when they can? Continue reading

API Parenting Support Survey: Parents Crave Local Support

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.

Read the full report here: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/pdfs/API2009ParentingSupportSurveyReport.pdf