Tag Archives: cosleeping

How Does Your Baby Sleep?

By Pinky McKay, IBCLC, CIMI, author of Sleeping Like a Baby, www.pinkymckay.com

Sleeping babyJust 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!

Breastfeeding and Working, an Illustration

By Amber Lewis, staff writer for The Attached Family

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

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

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

Tips for Successful Pumping at Work:

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

What Fathers Can Do:

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

Breastfeeding and Extended Separations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Successful Pumping during Work-Related Travel:

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

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

By Jonna Higgins-Freese

Jonna and her children
Jonna and her children

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

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

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

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

In the Beginning

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

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

He did not.

Common Feeding Difficulties

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

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

Comfort in Breastfeeding

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

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

Reality Sets In

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

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

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

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

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline
By Becky Bailey

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

Seeking Treatment

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

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

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

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

Tips to Feeding with Love and Respect in Special Circumstances:

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

Relying on Other AP Practices, Too

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

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

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

Feeding with Love and Respect in Special Circumstances

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

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

Family Resources

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

AP is Good for Mom, Too

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

AP is Good for Your Emotional Regulation, TooExperts and parents agree – telling and retelling of a birth story is vital for a woman to overcome an emotionally traumatic birth. But there is certainly something to be said for the power of parenting in an attachment-promoting way in healing a mother’s feelings of disappointment, guilt, anger, and other strong and often confusing emotions that may surround her child’s entry into the world.

Women who are struggling with their emotions are not only grieving their lost dreams of what they had hoped for their labor and birth experience, but may also be battling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother. While we must take time to fully grieve our birth experiences, we must also find a way to move forward. It can be very fulfilling, and healing, to channel the strong emotions surrounding our child’s birth into caring for her in a loving, positive, attachment-promoting way. Just as a hobby or a phone call to a friend can give a release for our strong emotions in a healthy way, so can we heal through our parenting.

It must be noted, though, that by healing through our parenting, I do not mean that we transfer our strong emotions to our baby or that we attach onto our child in any other way than an appropriate parent-child relationship. What I’m referring to is using parenting as a healthy outlet for women to move forward. Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, explain this in their book, Giving the Love that Heals.

“In a conscious marriage, partners grow when they stretch to meet the needs of the other, and they heal when their needs are met by their partner,” they write. “The process is mutual. In marriage, it is appropriate for a partner to grow by meeting the needs of the other partner, but it is not appropriate for a parent to try to heal by having the child meet his needs. The process for parents and children is not mutual. The parent must heal his childhood wounds in an adult relationship and not in his relationship with his child.”

However, while healing through the parent-child relationship is not synonymous with the adult-adult relationship, Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt acknowledge that parenting can be a pathway to personal healing.

“The sense in which marriage can be healing is that partners restore their own wholeness when they stretch to meet each other’s needs, giving to the other what is often hardest to give,” they continue. “The sense in which parenting can be healing is that parents restore their own wholeness when they stretch to meet the needs of their children at precisely those stages at which their own development has been incomplete. Through marriage and parenting, partners and parents can recover parts of themselves that have been lost. Both marriage and parenting give people the chance to receive for themselves what they give to their partner or child. They get what they give. In this way, both marriage and parenting can be transformational, because the healing experiences these relationships can provide will change the very character of the people involved.”

Healing from birth trauma is, of course, not the same as healing from childhood wounds, but this excerpt is illustrative of the difference between a parent inappropriately leaning on her baby to provide emotional comfort and a parent appropriately using parenting her baby in an attachment-promoting way as an opportunity to heal through giving to another.

Virtually all Attachment Parenting (AP) practices can help a mother heal from her birth trauma by promoting a close, positive relationship between her and the baby, but there are a few that research has shown to be especially beneficial to the new mother – perhaps not in magically healing emotional trauma but in providing an atmosphere supportive of a mother’s own efforts in healing.


Breastfeeding is particularly powerful in jump-starting the mother-baby attachment bond. Attachment Parenting International (API) Co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker describe breastfeeding as the ideal model of attachment in their book, Attached at the Heart, for sale here. There are myriad benefits for the baby and mother, in regards to health and attachment, but what about helping mothers’ emotional well being?

Read API’s review of Attached at the Heart here.

“Breastfeeding triggers the release of the attachment-promoting hormone oxytocin into the mother’s body,” Nicholson and Parker explain. “Often called ‘the mothering hormone,’ oxytocin has a calming effect on both mother and baby. “

Futhermore, “research in depression is showing a correlation between lower levels of certain hormones in mothers who experience depression, so it appears that anything we can do to increase levels of these natural hormones may be a powerful aid in prevention,” Nicholson and Parker write.

Health psychologist and API Resource Advisory Council and API Editorial Review Board member Kathleen Kendall-Tackett echoed this research in her 2007 International Breastfeeding Journal article, “A New Paradigm for Depression in New Mothers: The Central Role of Inflammation and How Breastfeeding and Anti-inflammatory Treatments”: “…although women experience many stressors in the postpartum period, breastfeeding protects them by inducing calm, lessening maternal reactivity to stressors, and increasing nurturing behavior. …breastfeeding can protect mothers’ mental health and is worth preserving whenever possible.”

Responding with Sensitivity & Providing Consistent, Loving Care

Lack of sensitivity toward the baby is a hallmark effect of a mother who is dealing with emotional issues, but a mother who focuses on responding appropriately and quickly to her baby’s cries can improve her mood by reducing how much her baby cries. Nicholson and Parker explain that parents need to respond to their baby’s pre-cry cues; by waiting until the baby is crying, he will be much more difficult to console. Babies are not born with the ability to regulate their strong emotions – they rely on their caregivers to do this for them by responding quickly, appropriately, and consistently.

We don’t need a research study to show us how stressful it can be to listen to our child’s unrelieved cries, but I did want to share one study’s conclusion included in Attached at the Heart. According to a 1995 Pediatrics article, “Developmental Outcome as a Function of the Goodness of Fit Between the Infant’s Cry Characteristics and the Mother’s Perceptions of Her Infant’s Cry,” mothers who responded consistently and appropriately had higher self esteem than did mothers who were inconsistent in the responses to their baby’s cries.

In addition, “mothers who feel low, depressed, anxious, exhausted or angry, who have relationship problems with their partner, or who feel strongly rejected by their baby’s crying are more likely to have a baby who cries excessively,” according to Dr. Gillian Rice in his Netdoctor.co.uk article, “Why Do Babies Cry?” “This isn’t to say that the mother’s feelings caused her baby to become a frequent crier, but they may be a factor in perpetuating the baby’s crying.”

Nurturing Touch

Especially for mothers who are unable to breastfeed, nurturing touch stimulates the mother’s body to also release oxytocin.

“The good  news for a mother or caregiver who is not breastfeeding is that she can still receive oxytocin benefits from holding the baby skin-to-skin, and also by giving and receiving nurturing touch through massage and gentle caress,” explain Nicholson and Parker.

Louis Cozolino suggests through his book, The Healthy Aging Brain, that new mothers add nurturing touch as part of their regular infant care techniques, not just for the baby’s benefit but for their own mental health.

“Studies have found that teaching depressed mothers to massage their infants increased the amount of touching and bonding time between them, and decreased levels of stress hormones in both infants and mothers,” he writes. “The infants showed increased alertness, emotionality, and sociability, and they were easier to soothe. Touching their children not only activated smiles and positive expressions on the part of the infants, but also made the mothers feel happier and more effective.”


I am amazed of how healing it can be at all stages of parenting to sleep in proximity of my children. For the new mother, cosleeping reduces stress and improves sleep by having the reassurance that the baby is nearby and safe as well as the convenience of caring for the baby in the same room rather than in another part of the house.

A study detailed in Sharon Heller’s book, The Vital Touch, describes how “mothers slept slightly better and slightly longer when their babies stayed with them.” Heller goes on to explain how a mother’s instinct is to protect her baby and separation and crying is contrary to this instinct – arousing a mother’s natural impulse to correct the situation.

“From a purely practical standpoint, parents report that they get more sleep with fewer interruptions when the cosleep,” write Nicholson and Parker. “They don’t need to get up to attend to baby’s needs, which keeps parents from having to wake up fully during feedings.”

Cosleeping enhances early mother-baby bonding, because nighttime parenting allows the mother to continue responding with sensitivity around the clock through breastfeeding, nurturing touch, and consistent and loving care.

“Babies feel warm, secure, and protected; therefore, they fret and cry less,” they continue. “Mothers worry less about their infants at night when they can reach out and touch the baby.”


Striving for balance between our personal and family lives is a must when seeking ways to decrease stress on new mothers and improve mood. Though it may not seem so, AP practices are in many ways just as helpful to maintaining balance in the mother’s life as they are in being compassionate and nurturing to the baby. AP practices aren’t solely for the child’s comfort – mothers receive hormonal benefits through breastfeeding and nurturing touch, more sleep through cosleeping, and reduced stress from crying through responding with sensitivity and providing consistent, loving care.

Still, especially for the first-time mother or for mothers who are going through a difficult postpartum recovery, balance can be an elusive goal. The key is to rely on others for their help in taking care of you. Postpartum Support International names social support as one of the most effective factors in prevention and treatment of postpartum depression. This social support may come in the form of your spouse, mother, friend, local API leader and API Support Group, or even through the virtual connection through the API Forums.

Nicholson and Parker describe the crucial importance of balance in a new mother’s life in Attached at the Heart, warning that “without support and other resources, we are taking a big risk for our children and ourselves. Margot Sunderland addresses the critical issue of stress and balance from a brain chemistry perspective in her power book, The Science of Parenting. She describes the positive effects of the hormone oxytocin and its role in helping calm all human beings. We are designed to help provide emotional regulation for children and each other. When a parent is alone most of the time without other caring adults to talk to, stress hormones rise, feelings get out of balance, and irritability and anger lash out.”

Sunderland’s advice: Mothers need to seek out nurturing touch from their partners, which triggers the release of oxytocin, which then gives a warm, calm feeling. And a sense of balance.

If you’re partner isn’t available or if you’re a single parent, talking to empathic friends can provide a much-needed outlet for stress. Other activities that can give you that oxytocin release include: meditation, acupuncture, massage, physical affection, yoga, warm bath, spending time in the sun or bright artificial lighting.

Discuss this topic with other API members and parents. Get advice for your parenting challenges, and share your tips with others on the API Forum.

Striving for Balance in Family Life

By Tamara Parnay

**Originally published in the Winter 2006-07 Balance issue of The Journal of API

BalanceMany attachment parents say that the API Principle, Striving for Personal and Family Balance, is the cornerstone of Attachment Parenting (AP). We tend to be less emotionally responsive when we are struggling to achieve balance in our families, and this lack of responsiveness may impact the quality of attachment between us and our children. We may need help when our family life is out of balance, but the wide range of parenting advice can be confusing, even overwhelming.

The topic of parenting contains a wide spectrum of theories, values, ideals, opinions, and experiences. So much mainstream parenting advice seems to contradict the very essence of AP that we may sometimes feel as though we are swimming upstream against a very strong current.

Parent-Centered Parenting

We are told that extended breastfeeding is unhealthy or abnormal; that co-sleeping is dangerous; that being emotionally responsive to our children’s physical and emotional needs spoils them and fosters their dependence on us; that we need to fill our lives with activities and things rather than with each other; and so on. Continue reading Striving for Balance in Family Life

Traci’s Story: Developing an Appreciation for Bottle-feeding

By Traci Singree, leader of API of Stark County, Ohio

**Originally published in the Spring 2007 annual New Baby issue of The Journal of API

Traci and baby
Traci and baby

Before my children, I was career driven, working in retail management, which meant no family time at holiday or summer get-togethers because I was always working! And I loved it! I met my husband right out of college. We were together for about five years before we got married. In 1995, we were wed. I continued my course of 12-hour days, sometimes 6-day work weeks, and I was having a blast working in the fast-paced field of fashion retail.

About five years later, my husband and I were starting to get that something’s missing feeling, having done all the things we wanted to do. We found ourselves sitting around the house looking at each other on weekends saying, “What do you want to do?” round and round until we decided that maybe that something missing was a baby!

It took us nearly a year to conceive our first-born. We discovered I was pregnant the day of my first fertility appointment. My only knowledge of pregnancy came from what I had heard from my mother or from fellow co-workers with children. I never really researched anything to do with birthing or babies until late in my pregnancy. Continue reading Traci’s Story: Developing an Appreciation for Bottle-feeding

AP in a Non-AP World

By Sophie Aitkin

**Originally published in the Summer 2008 AP in a Non-AP World issue of The Journal of API

Sophie and children
Sophie and children

My first baby, Howard, was born in the back seat of our family car on the way to the hospital. My husband continued driving, and I had precious minutes in the back of the car alone with my new baby. As the intense pain of childbirth ceased, I was flooded with an ecstatic love for this little, naked bundle, and the natural process of bonding began.

Naturally AP

From that moment, my instincts took over, and I found myself naturally following the principles of Attachment Parenting (AP), although I was not aware of the literature in this area until later. I slept with him against my body, breastfed him on cue night and day, wore him in a sling wherever we went, allowed him to sleep when it suited him, and tried to be highly attuned and responsive to his needs. I did not leave him with anyone else until he was comfortable to be left, which was when he was nearly two years old and he said emphatically, “Go ‘way, Mama!”

A Non-AP Society

However, I was somewhat surprised to discover that this parenting style, which felt so intuitively right to me, was out of sync with the way that much of society here in Australia expected me to parent. Continue reading AP in a Non-AP World

Cora’s Story: Food Allergies in a Breastfed Baby

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

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

Rachel and Cora
Rachel and Cora

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

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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

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

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

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

Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping in a Critical Culture

By Lisa Walshe

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

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

Researching Parenting Approaches

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

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

Beginning with Breastfeeding

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

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

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

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

Choosing to Co-Sleep

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

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

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

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

Encouragement from an Unlikely Source

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

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

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

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

The Beginning of a Cultural Shift, Sort of

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

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

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

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

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

Unashamed AP

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

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

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

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

Discovering On-Demand Breastfeeding

By Deborah Bershatsky, PhD, AP mother

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

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

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

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

The Fussy Baby

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

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

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

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

A Change in Parenting Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Confidence Born

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

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

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

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

From my perspective, things have turned out fine.

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