**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API
Being a parent comes with a fair share of challenges and rewards. Being a parent to twins seems to mean twice as many challenges and twice as many rewards! One of the guiding beliefs of API is that every family is unique, with unique needs and resources. I have found this to be completely true.
I practiced Attachment Parenting (AP) before I even knew what the term meant. When my first child was born, it seemed natural to meet his needs in a way that encouraged him to trust me and fostered a greater bond between us. Over time, I found more and more benefits to this style of parenting and knew that my instincts were correct when I wanted to hold my baby and nurture him.
In April 2006, I gave birth to identical twin girls in my bedroom as my older children watched. My other children are both boys and they were ages three and one at the time. I knew that our life was going to change when the twins arrived but really had no idea what daily life would be like for our family. I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me for the next two years. Continue reading Twins Plus Two→
By Melissa Hincha-Ownby, API Resource Leader of Arizona, API’s Technology Coodinator, and API’s Forum Administrator
**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API
One of the most common questions that parents ask themselves when they are considering expanding their family is, “What is the ideal spacing between children?” There is no right answer to this question, as what is ideal to one family may make no sense to another.
The answer for our family was two years. My sister and I are three and a half years apart, and while we are the best of friends now, the age difference left us both alone in high school. Based on my personal experience with my sister, I knew that I didn’t want my children quite so far apart.
Although two years was on the maximum end of what my husband and I were hoping for, fate stepped in and had other ideas. Ultimately, my daughter was born when my son was two years and three months old. In hindsight, the 27-month difference has turned out to be great. However, in the early years, at times, things were definitely tough. Continue reading Sibling Spacing: Two Years Apart and Getting Easier with Age→
By Stephanie Petters, leader of API of North Fulton, Georgia, & API’s Membership Liaison
**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day used to be uneventful times for my husband and me. Then, my daughter Hannah was born. The New Year holidays of 2004 etched permanent and vivid memories in our brains.
We had our beautiful newborn in our arms protesting at the top of her lungs. She had just spit up for the third time in the past half hour. Beginning that New Year’s Eve, we were awake for an entire 48 hours. Hannah was either spitting up or crying. She was very uncomfortable, in pain, and exhausted. We were sleep-deprived and mentally drained. This seemed to be our routine for the next month.
Something with this situation wasn’t sitting right with me. I knew newborns spit up, and I knew it was to be expected to not get much sleep, but it seemed like this was in excess. But then again, I was a new parent. I doubted my instincts and listened to those around me who said, “It’s just normal.” Continue reading Hannah’s Story: Infant Reflux→
**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API
When our daughter Caroline joined our family, after a few rough weeks, things seemed to fall right into place. We dealt with typical newborn breastfeeding difficulties such as thrush, oversupply, and latching troubles, and we even managed to survive new-parent sleep deprivation and an intercontinental move five weeks after her birth. We thought we were surely off and running.
Caroline was six weeks old when we began to notice some mucous in her diapers. I’d read a large amount of breastfeeding information during pregnancy and knew that there were many potential causes of mucous in the stools of breastfed babies. I thought the problem would probably clear up soon. It didn’t.
By Rachel Losey, co-leader of API of Norman, Oklahoma
**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API
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.
Author Elizabeth Pantley, Lindsey Nelson of the FirstRight Advisory Council, and writer Nicki Heskin weigh in on whether women have the right to breastfeed in public and whether society needs to give more support to breastfeeding women.
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.
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.
At two years old, my son Ezra was a happy child, who seems to handle the frustrations of becoming socialized and civilized with amazing ease. If things got to be too much for him, he sought out momentary comfort at his mother’s breast, his tears were dried, tantrums were avoided, and hurts were healed.
At that time, he began the night in his own bed, and when he awakened to nurse, we took him into our bed for the rest of the night. He nursed once more before he awakened at 7 a.m., unless he is teething or ill, in which case he may nurse several times more.
By the time a child is two years old, it is appropriate to consider the approach of modified demand feeding, a technique that allows the child to nurse on demand but also allows the mother to gently nudge the child to feed on a schedule. Twos are ready to begin learning the truth that we cannot always have everything we want exactly when we want it. A child’s wants are no longer necessarily his needs.
A Budding Ability to Wait
At two and a half years old, Ezra could finally understand it when I said at 3 a.m.: “I need to sleep; no more nursing now.” Most of the time, he would roll over and go back to sleep, but occasionally his need was greater than mine and he insisted. I relented and let him nurse, but slowly I began to see that the ability to wait was developing in this little person. I recognized it as a first step toward weaning.
The Truth about the Terrible Twos
It is the struggle over learning the protection of infancy and facing the real world that has earned this age the name of “terrible twos.” It is terrible to a two-year-old to realize how small and powerless he really is in the world. If it comes upon him too suddenly or intensely, he will fight against it with his whole being and his behavior may indeed be terrible. But if his parents work with him, allowing him to regress at times and setting limits with love, and if he can find refuge in his mother’s arms when he feels overwhelmed, two can be more terrific than terrible. The two-year-old who still nurses has a wonderful way to ease the tensions and difficulties of growing up.
Also at this age, the child has more sophisticated needs of his mother. In addition to nursing, it is important that she distinguish his need to engage her in play or work from the need to merge and be close. A tired mother may be tempted to offer her breast to a toddler who wants her attention, just for the chance to have a few moments off her feet. It would be unwise to do this too often since we do want to help our children to begin the process of gradually letting go of babyhood.
Weaning Gives Way to Other Types of Bonding
Many mothers of toddlers who still nurse wonder whether they will ever wean. All children give up diapers eventually and use the toilet, babyhood, and all that goes with it. Nursing slowly gives way to early childhood, and one by one, baby needs are abandoned in favor of more mature pursuits. However, if a mother wants her child to be content with less time at her breast, she must be willing to give more of herself. A weaning child needs more, not less, of his mother’s time and attention.
If a mother wants her child to be content with less time at her breast, she must be willing to give more of herself. A weaning child needs more, not less, of his mother’s time and attention.
“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.
By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
One in three women (31.8%) in America is now giving birth to their children via a Cesarean section. The highest rate in history for this nation, it is also much higher than the recommendation by the World Health Organization of 5% to 10% — not to mention that the rate of Cesarean sections in the U.S. has increased by 50% since 1996.
The U.S. began at 4.5% in 1965, the first year Cesarean section rates were measured here. At 15% or higher, Cesarean section rates indicate that this procedure is being done unnecessarily, according to a study highlighted by the article “Why the National U.S. C-Section Rate Keeps Rising” on www.childbirthconnection.org.
The article outlines several reasons for the increasing rate of this procedure. But, first, there are two widespread myths about the rise in Cesarean sections to counter:
The number of women asking for an elective Cesarean section, without a medical reason, is NOT increasing; and
The number of women who genuinely need a Cesarean section is NOT increasing.
In a 2005 survey by Childbirth Connection, it was found that only one in 1,600 respondents in the U.S. reported she had a planned Cesarean section with no medical reason, at her own request. The article cited a study that revealed this rate to be comparable with other countries.
Reasons given for the higher rates include women waiting to give birth when they’re older and more prone to developing medical complications, and more women giving birth to multiples. But the article reported that researchers show that the rate of Cesarean sections is going up for all women regardless of their age, health problems, race/ethnicity, or number of babies they are having.
What this means is that the reason behind the increasing rate of Cesarean sections is not on the part of the woman but rather lies with changing standards in the medical community. According to the Childbirth Connection survey, one in four respondents who had a Cesarean section said they received pressure from a medical professional to have the procedure.
According to the Childbirth Connection, here are the true reasons behind the increasing rates of Cesarean sections in the U.S.:
Lower priority is being given to non-surgical methods of correcting potential birthing complications, such as turning a breech baby or encouraging labor progress through positioning and movement and comfort measures.
Higher rates of labor intervention methods that make Cesarean sections more likely, including induction, getting an epidural early or without a high dose of oxytocin, and use of continuous electronic fetal monitoring.
Fewer hospitals and/or medical doctors are willing to deliver a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean section, or VBAC. In fact, only one out of ten women who have had a previous Cesarean section has access to medical facilities and/or doctors who would allow a VBAC.
The overall attitude toward Cesarean sections is that this procedure is no longer considered the major surgery that it is.
Lower awareness of the increased risks associated with Cesarean sections over vaginal births, such as infection, surgical injury, blood clots, emergency hysterectomy, and intense and longer-lasting pain in recovery in mothers in the short term. In the long term, mothers are more likely to have ongoing pelvic pain, bowel blockage, infertility, and injury during future surgeries. Future pregnancies are more likely to be ectopic, result in uterine rupture, or have problems with placenta previa, accretia, and abruption. Babies born by Cesarean section are more likely to have surgical cuts, breathing problems, difficulty with breastfeeding, and childhood asthma.
More doctors fear malpractice claims and lawsuits.
More doctors are receiving incentives to practice more efficiently. Planned Cesarean sections can organize hospital work, office work, and the medical personnel’s personal lives. In addition, average hospital charges are much greater for Cesarean sections than for vaginal births, which mean more profit is gained by the Cesarean section.
About Childbirth Connection Childbirth Connection is a national U.S. not-for-profit organization founded as the Maternity Center Association in 1918. Its mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy, and policy by promoting safe and effective, evidence-based maternity care and providing a voice for childbearing families. For more information, go to www.childbirthconnection.org.
Connecting with our children for a more compassionate world.