Tag Archives: Attachment Parenting

API Reads October 2014: Parenting from the Inside Out and Parent Effectiveness Training

download (1)Have you joined the API Reads movement? If not, now is your time to do so. We are still reading Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, and Mary Hartzell, MEd for the general audience and for those with children under the school-age years. We will also be reading Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon for those with children who are in the school-age years and above.


For Parenting from the Inside Out, in the month of October we will be finishing up the book by reading chapters 7-9. The topics for these chapters will be:

  • Chapter 7 – How We Keep It Together and How We Fall Apart

  • Chapter 8 – How We Disconnect and Reconnect: Rupture and Repair

  • Chapter 9 – How We Develop Mindsight: Compassion and Reflective Dialogues


pet imageFor Parent Effectiveness Training, we’ll be reading Chapters 5-9. The topics for these chapters will be:

  • Chapter 5 – How to Listen to Kids Too Young to Talk Much

  • Chapter 6 – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen to You

  • Chapter 7 – Putting I-Messages to Work

  • Chapter 8 – Changing Unacceptable Behavior by Changing the Environment

  • Chapter 9 – Inevitable Parent-Child Conflicts: Who Should Win?


Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week, and sometimes you can’t get through the chapter and yet you’ll find you’ll still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 500+ members who are already part of the conversation!



Attachment Parenting International’s (R)Evolution: An interview with cofounders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker

By Julie Artz, originally published in Summer 2008 issue of API’s newsletter

API-Logo-20th-themeI’ve interviewed some big names in my writing life, so I was surprised at how nervous I felt at the prospect of interviewing Attachment Parenting International’s co-founders, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, about the organization’s beginnings, their book on Attachment Parenting (AP), and the challenges of founding and running a not-for-profit organization.

My anxiety couldn’t have been more displaced. Barbara and Lysa, despite their high-profile positions within Attachment Parenting International (API), are a delight to interview and tell an amazing story of how two young mothers–who were also special education teachers–went from having, as Barbara put it, “our own little support group,” to founding a global not-for-profit organization with the vision of helping parents achieve a more compassionate relationship with their children through AP.

JULIE: How did you two meet?

lysaparkerLYSA: Let’s begin at the beginning. Barbara and I met at a La Leche League (LLL) meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, in 1980. She had just moved from Texas, USA, and was a LLL leader applicant. We started talking and found out we had a lot in common. We were both special education teachers, and our husbands were singers/songwriters. Both our husbands were from Texas, so they knew some of the same people. That’s how our friendship began. Because of our friendship, Barbara shared with me what she learned through LLL and was a great support.

I remember worrying about whether or not AP was right when I was a new mother. What if it’s not right? What if I damaged my child? Because we didn’t know anyone who had kids who were APed. It helps to know someone personally who’s been there. Even moms today in our API circles want to talk to people who have raised children this way.

barbaranicholsonBARBARA: The founders of LLL are seven mothers with an average of about five children each and that was one little light at the end of the tunnel–witnessing generations of their families continuing on with what their mothers started. I always tell my boys, “I’m learning on the job,” but at least you see me reading, trying, and that’s all I ask of you is to keep trying and growing. It is wonderful to see so many of our API and LLL friends becoming grandparents and watching their adult children parent in such loving ways. We feel very confident that our sons will be great parents, too!

LYSA: In 1985, we moved to Alabama, USA, due to my husband’s new work. I became a LLL leader in 1986 and went back to teaching in 1990. It was a real culture shock for me, because I’d gone from this world of loving, caring mothers surrounded by babies and young children where everybody is nurturing toward their children and each other. I found myself stuck in a portable classroom with rambunctious seventh- and eighth-grade students with learning disabilities. Many were emotionally disturbed; they were already initiating for gangs, and one student was already a father. I remember looking in their folders and seeing the problems they had in kindergarten and wondering why no one intervened–believing in my heart that AP could have prevented so many of these problems.

BARBARA: I remember thinking as my children got older, “I can’t imagine going back in the classroom knowing what I know.” I would feel like I wasn’t really serving the students if I didn’t promote AP.

I see prevention as the answer. Maybe 10-15% of these special education children had a true learning disability, and the rest of them just needed someone to sit and hold them and read to them and give them attention. Even in the late 1970s when I was teaching, it was hard to find a parent who was taking the time to give their children special attention. Parents wanted the teachers to take care of that for them, and when the children got home from school, they sat in front of the television. And this was surburban America, not high-risk or inner-city schools; it was a middle-class area, not poor.

isabellefoxDr. Isabelle Fox (a member of API’s Advisory Board) has been telling us very similar stories. She started her practice in the late 1950s, worked through the 1990s, and the shift in the culture that she has seen during that time is profound. When she was first a young therapist, the mother usually stayed home with the children. So if something went wrong with a child, the mother could give the therapist information about the background of the child or what might have led to fears or anxieties. In the present day, Dr. Fox said the mothers don’t know what goes on in the child’s life, because they’re in substitute care with many changing caregivers. If it was a nanny, which is what she recommends for substitute care, at least it would be one stable caregiver who would know the child well. But in most situations, it’s not one stable caregiver; it’s a constant rotation, even in the best daycare situation.

JULIE: When did you realize you wanted to found API?

BARBARA: We were reading these great books, like High Risk: Children without a Conscience by Ken Magid. We actually met him later; he was a real catalyst. Then we read For Your Own Good by Alice Miller. All of a sudden, light bulbs were going on about why parents were having such a hard time learning about positive discipline with their own children: because most of us had not been parented that way. You are so deeply imprinted by the way you were treated as a child. Reactions people think of as instinctual would not be the normal reaction if you’d been raised lovingly. That was a huge “ah ha” moment for us.

I subscribed to a journal published by the National Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (NAPPSAC), and the publishers, Lee and David Stewart, had reviewed Alice Miller’s book. So there was this explosion of ideas in the late 1980s. We knew about AP from Dr. William Sears and LLL, but then you have these psychologists giving us the cultural overlay: the punishing culture we live in, that parents only knew what they learned as they were raised.

LYSA: If we had learned about Attachment Theory in college, we didn’t remember, so we’d go to the library and it was like a treasure hunt. We found out about Dr. John Bowlby (known as the “Father of Attachment Theory”) and Dr. James Clark Moloney.

“Attachment Parenting is in many ways the practical application of my father’s [John Bowlby] theory.” ~ Sir Richard Bowlby Bt, Attached at the Heart

richardbowlbyMeet Sir Richard Bowlby Bt, advocate, lecturer, member of API’s Advisory Board and speaker at the 2014 API Conference on September 27 at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, USA. Richard Bowlby, the son of Dr. John Bowlby who first developed Attachment Theory, worked as a scientific photographer in various medical research institutions where he produced visual aids for communicating research findings.

He retired in 1999 to promote a wider understanding of Attachment Theory to healthcare practitioners and interested lay people. His present concern is the psychological impact on babies and toddlers being cared for by unfamiliar people in day care who do not develop long-term secondary attachment bonds to one caregiver. He also gives lectures to a wide range of health care professionals using video material and personal insights to promote a much broader understanding of his father’s work on attachment theory. He focuses on wider audiences using video material to help communicate the emotional significance of Attachment Theory, a potentially dry academic subject with very personally challenging significance.

He supports a range of organizations that address various attachment issues and is seeking ways to help the general public benefit from a better understanding of childhood attachment relationships. His eventual goal is to find ways of “crossing the species barrier” between academics and the general public, to liberate the professional knowledge of Attachment Theory into the population at large. He is developing a broader knowledge of associated subjects, especially the emerging research about the role of fathers and the long-term significance of their early relationships with their children.

We got photocopies of a book of Dr. Moloney’s from Susan Switzer, an LLL leader in Georgia, USA. Dr. Moloney was a psychiatrist who had been sent to Okinawa right after World War II as part of a team processing folks who had suffered greatly during the war. He found that, in spite of everything that had happened to them, they had happy dispositions. They weren’t bitter but were resilient, kind, calm, and it piqued his curiosity. He observed them, and what he found was that their parenting created a culture of compassion. Moloney called it “permissive parenting” at the time, where the child is the sole occupation of the mother for the first two years, then the siblings become part of the care of the child. Okinawan parents were very respectful of the children, contrary to what he had observed in the United States. He came back to the United States to work with the Cornelian Corner (a group of progressive pediatricians at Wayne State University) and started teaching American parents how to parent like the Okinawans. Even though the program wasn’t considered a success, it ultimately had its influence through Moloney’s association with LLL International.

So then we started scheming: What can we do? We wanted to start an organization.

BARBARA: So we wrote a letter to Dr. Elliot Barker, who founded the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (CSPCC), asking if we could found an American chapter. He had given a talk at a LLL conference that was
reprinted in Mothering (magazine). The day I moved into this house, October 1, 1992, we got the phone plugged in and it rang. It was Dr. Barker calling from Canada. I had to go hide in a closet and try to sound professional. I dropped everything to talk to him, while people were carrying in boxes downstairs. I thought he was going to tell me how to join, but actually he told us if he had it to do over again, he would do so much more than just publishing Empathic Parenting (the CSPCC’s quarterly journal published from 1978-2003). He mentored us from then on and told us to use a grassroots approach. It will start slow and it will build, he said, but that’s what’s going to change the culture.

LYSA: Dr. Barker emphasized having a strong mission and a strong vision, because he’d seen organizations get watered down over time and ultimately fold because they didn’t stay true to their mission. He wrote letters to important people asking them to send letters of endorsement, which they did, and suggested forming a strong advisory board of well-known experts. Thanks to Dr. Barker, we believe we found our spiritual calling: He made us feel that this is what
we were meant to do.

Our very first website was created in 1995 by a computer lab teacher at my school. This website became the open door to parents around the world. In 1997, we were contacted by some AP moms in Seattle, Washington, USA, who wanted to start an API group. We asked them to help us pioneer the support group model for us, which they agreed to take on, and they helped us come up with our very first support group materials.

BARBARA: About that time, we hired our first employee: fellow LLL Leader Zan Buckner, who started out just doing filing and then helped us so much with our early materials. We had a wonderful group of LLL friends who wanted to expand their horizons. They were excellent parenting resources. At the conferences, you could really expand on the philosophy of LLL and move into AP, and that’s where we heard so many fantastic speakers. So many LLL leaders were ready to do more, so they joined us.

Our first LLL conference as co-founders of API was in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, with our exhibit that looked like a science fair project: a cardboard, three-sided exhibit with magazine cutouts. We’ll always be school teachers at heart!

API returns to Indiana…Make plans to attend the 2014 API Conference on September 26 at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana! Registration is only $75 for a day packed with AP speakers and fun family activities

One of the founders of LLL, and their new executive director was there. They were so supportive of what we were doing. Since then, we have met every founder, and they have all said they wish they could have done what we were doing–expand their mission into parenting. There wouldn’t be API without the experience of breastfeeding our babies–learning to trust our bodies and ourselves as parents. Some of us were the first generation in several generations to breastfeed.

JULIE: Can you talk a little bit about the struggles of founding a not-for-profit?

LYSA: Every time we’ve gotten to the point where we were about to give up because we didn’t have enough money or resources or we were burned out, someone or something has come along and helped us out. What we’re going through right now is proof of that. If it’s meant to be, it will survive. It’s a constant miracle in our lives to see how API keeps hanging in there.

To us, it’s so important and nourishing to hear from parents and professionals. We’ve talked to people who knew John Bowlby, and they’ve said he would be proud of what we’re doing. His quote that I love is: “If a community cares for its children, it must cherish its parents.” He held support groups for parents when he was practicing medicine at the Tavistock Clinic in London. What an inspiration!

JULIE: And in 2007, you turned over API’s day-to-day operations to a small volunteer staff to work on a book about Attachment Parenting.

Attached at the HeartLYSA: The book, Attached at the Heart, is a culmination of the last 20 or more years since we had our first conversations about wanting to help children and parents. In our book, we paint the big picture and give the reader the reasons why AP is important, as well as the principles and the research to support those reasons. We’re different than most parenting books; we want to give parents the researched information and empower them to make their own informed decisions.

BARBARA: The other important message of our book is the title: Attached at the Heart. We want people to trust their heart when all else fails. When it’s the middle of the night and the baby’s crying, and the pediatrician and the mother-in-law have both said to let the baby cry, we want parents to trust their instincts. Instead of worrying, “Is my baby going to be messed up if I hold her for 15 more minutes?”, we want them to trust their heart. Mothers wouldn’t be in a cold
sweat or crying when their children were hurting, if they instinctively knew to always default to the most loving, connected thing to do.

We really wanted to have something about nurturing, or connection, in the title to capture all of these philosophical concepts we’ve been talking about.

JULIE: A lot of the philosophies you’ve discussed fault what you called a “punishing culture.” How do you go about changing culture to something more AP-focused?

LYSA: You can’t change generations of behaviors in one generation, but you can begin the change. So often, AP is blamed for troubles in a relationship or with children. But really, it has to do with the individual and collective experiences we bring to a relationship. You’ve got to raise your consciousness about yourself so that you’re more conscious with your children. Our children are grown now, but we’re still working on this with them and will be with our grandchildren.

BARBARA: Sometimes we hear of parents who say their own parents stayed together for the children, but did not work on the issues in their marriage. The children were so emotionally damaged, because they had absorbed the dysfunction in their family. They had been given a horrible model for a healthy relationship. We’re proud that our book and our organization emphasize how important it is for couples to model positive, loving interactions and ideally to work on their issues as a couple before they become parents.

LYSA: In the last 15 years, we can say without a doubt that we have seen the cultural shift begin, and AP is becoming more mainstream. It’s reflected in the media with celebrity parents in magazines wearing their babies, talking about breastfeeding and cosleeping; in television and movies where babies are worn in slings or carriers are a normal part of the scenery or with plots that include issues that are AP-oriented. AP businesses have popped up all over the Internet;
people from all over the world contact AP for advice and resources.

BARBARA: We dream of the day when the term “Attachment Parenting” is just “parenting,” and our organization isn’t needed anymore! Until then, we hope the parents who are out there setting such a good example in their communities will continue to nurture their children and each other, family by family creating a more compassionate world.

World Breastfeeding Week 2014: Parent Support Deserts in the USA

By Rita Brhel, Editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator

World Breastfeeding Week 2014What this year’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Week is really about—more than updating the status on breastfeeding acceptance or increasing understanding for mothers who are unable to breastfeed—is advocacy for parent support.

While the primary goal of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to raise awareness of the importance of a secure parent-child attachment, the organization’s overarching strategy is to provide research-backed information in an environment of respect, empathy and compassion in order to support parents in making decisions for their families and to create support environments in their communities. API extends beyond attachment education, also promoting the best practices in all aspects of parenting from pregnancy and childbirth to infant feeding and nurturing touch to sleep and discipline to personal balance and self-improvement through such innovative programs as API Support Groups, the API Reads book club and the Journal of Attachment Parenting, just to name a few.

API is a parent support organization made up of parents located around the world with a deep desire to support other parents.

Parent Support Deserts

In this spirit, API created the Parent Support Deserts project through which we mapped gaps in local parent support opportunities specific to Attachment Parenting (AP). The goals of this multi-layered project are to identify communities, regions and nations in need of conscious-minded parent support and to encourage collaboration among like-minded organizations to address these gaps.

The first part of the project was identifying key nations of the world that we feel would ideally have organized, like-minded parent support options available. We focused on developed countries, because societal advance encourages separation from the natural world, including biologically instinctual ways of living and relating to one another, as is reflected in family structure and mainstream parenting philosophies. Industrialized nations lead the world in ideas and developing, and less-industrialized and underdeveloped nations tend look to these societies for guidance. We used the World Bank’s list of Developed Countries and Territories. All of the nations included in the project are defined as high-income economies as determined by Gross National Product, per-capita income, level of industrialization, widespread technological infrastructure and high standards of living.

The second part of the project was identifying key parent support organizations. We were looking for representative organizations with local support groups or classes with an approach to parent support that closely matches that of API—advocating for conscious, informed parenting choices that challenge the status quo:

  • Attachment Parenting International
  • Babywearing International
  • Holistic Moms Network
  • International Association of Infant Massage
  • International Cesarean Awareness Network
  • La Leche League International
  • Pathways Connect

API recognizes that there are myriad local parent support opportunities in many communities that are not affiliated with these key parent support organizations, such as peer counselors, professionals, groups and classes available through hospitals, clinics, faith-based organizations, schools, etc. and that some of these may be quality, AP-minded programs. We appreciate this and welcome these independent programs to nominate themselves for inclusion in the Parent Support Deserts project through rita@attachmentparenting.org.

We have a bias toward local support groups because the research validates the importance of a parenting support network. This may be provided through family, friends, coworkers and others in an informal way, but a community of like-minded parents is an empowering environment for parents learning about and growing in their parenting approach.

It is to be noted that not all communities identified as having a parent support option may have an active local support group at any one time, as some local leaders hold groups while others, depending on their own life stage or lack of interest from the community, opt not to lead a group but to remain available for one-on-one support. What was important in mapping communities was identifying those with an active parent support leader affiliated with one of the key parent support organizations who is either leading a group or class, or is available to provide support in this way should the interest from parents arise.

It is also to be noted that local support groups or classes unaffiliated with API may provide varying degrees of AP education that may or may not be aligned with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. However, each of these representative organizations promote an environment that empowers parents in finding their own path for intentional parenting.

The third part of the project is dissecting each nation into both parent support deserts as well as oases. The first nation we are focusing on is the United States.

Future steps include cross-examining data according to risk factors such as areas with low breastfeeding rates, high infant mortality, high Cesarean rates and other aspects of public health, as well as creating maps to illustrate parent support deserts and oases, and inviting discussion among the AP community in how to address gaps in parent support.

Infant-Feeding Parent Support Deserts

Local parent support for breastfeeding has grown at an astonishing rate since La Leche League (LLL) International was founded in Illinois, USA, in 1956. LLL groups are located worldwide in nearly all developed nations as well as other less-developed countries. LLL has expanded its resources as cultures have evolved with technology and the changing roles for mothers, assisting mothers in providing breast milk to their infants whether through exclusive or partial breastfeeding or pumping as needed.

As research pours in on the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding, evidence continues to point toward AP practices, such as using fewer interventions during childbirth, avoiding early mother-baby separation, rooming-in at the hospital, breastfeeding on demand, interpreting pre-cry hunger signals, encouraging skin-to-skin contact, room sharing, discouraging cry-it-out sleep training, helping the father in supporting the mother, and others. As a result, the vast support network that many communities now have for breastfeeding mothers—from a breastfeeding-friendly medical community to lactation consultants and peer counselors to doulas and childbirth educators and parent educators trained in lactation support—tend to direct breastfeeding mothers toward Attachment Parenting.

By contrast, there are few organized AP-minded support opportunities for mothers who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed or feed expressed breast milk. Formula-feeding parents are relatively on their own in terms of finding support that rightly points them in the direction of Attachment Parenting, as this choice or necessity to bottle-feed exclusively is seen less as part of the relationship context and more solely a nutritive option—though certainly we know, and research in sensitive responsiveness is finding, the behaviors surrounding bottle feeding are as much a part of the parent-child relationship as is breastfeeding. Unlike breastfeeding support, formula-feeding support is much less cohesive, with some information sources putting forth questionable science regarding formula versus breastfeeding benefits.

This gap in support provides an opportunity for API Support Groups and other like-minded organizations to offer acceptance, validation and support in AP practices to non-breastfeeding mothers. One program in the United States that does this is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), putting as much attention on formula-feeding mothers as those who choose to breastfeed.

For this introductory look at the Parent Support Deserts project, we examined locations of parent support groups in terms of infant-feeding in the Attachment Parenting context. We focused on LLL for breastfeeding support and API for both breastfeeding and formula-feeding support. Specifically, we were looking at:

  • Unsupported Key Communities = Communities of 100,000 or more, or state capitals, without either an LLL or an API presence.
  • Undersupported Key Communities = Communities of 100,000 or more, or state capitals, with either an LLL or an API presence, but not both.
  • Notable Communities = Communities of any population with both an API and LLL presence as well as other Attachment Parenting-minded support.

Key communities have a population of at least 100,000 or are state capital cities, because of these communities’ population density and centrality to policymaking and lawmaking.

We recognize that families in less-populated areas are as much in need of support. The Parent Support Desert project has found that LLL’s distribution worldwide and within the United States includes both urban and rural population centers, making LLL unique among like-minded organizations. API considers LLL to be an important partner in the Attachment Parenting movement, not only because of its representative size, reach and longevity but also because the parenting support provided in addition to breastfeeding education is directly in line with that promoted by API.

While this list is in flux, following are state reports of API’s Parent Support Deserts specific to Attachment Parenting infant-feeding support in the United States as spring 2014:


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Mobile, Montgomery (capital)
  • Notable Communities: Huntsville-Madison


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Anchorage, Juneau (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Tempe, Scottsdale, Surprise
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Tucson
  • Notable Communities: Phoenix (capital)


  • Notable Communities: Little Rock (capital), Searcy


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Anaheim, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Concord, Corona, Costa Mesa, Daly City, Downey, El Cajon, El Monte, Escondido, Fontana, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Hayward, Huntington Beach, Inglewood, Moreno Valley, Norwalk, Ontario, Palmdale, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Richmond, Riverside, Salinas, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Maria, Sunnyvale, Torrance, Vallejo, Victorville
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Bakersfield, Burbank-Glendale, Elk Grove, Fairfield, Fremont, Humboldt, Lancaster/Antelope Valley, Marin, Modesto, Oakland-Berkeley, Oceanside, Oxnard, Pasadena, Pittsburgh-Antioch, Roseville-Citrus Heights, San Jose, Santa Clarita, Santa Rosa, Simi Valley, Stockton, Temecula-Murrieta, Thousand Oaks, Tulare-Visalia, Ventura, West Covina
  • Notable Communities: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey, Sacramento (capital), San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Ana/Orange County


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Westminster
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Pueblo, Thornton
  • Notable Communities: Denver (capital), Parker


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Hartford (capital), Stamford
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Bridgeport, Greenwich-Stamford, New Haven, Southington-New Britain, Waterbury


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Dover (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Cape Coral, Coral Springs, Hialeah, Miami Gardens, Palm Bay, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Port St. Lucie, St. Petersburg
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Clearwater, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Hollywood, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Tallahassee (capital), Tampa
  • Notable Communities: Jacksonville


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Savannah
  • Notable Communities: Atlanta (capital)


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Honolulu (capital)


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Boise (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Elgin, Joliet
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Aurora-Montgomery-Oswego, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield (capital)
  • Notable Communities: Chicago, Naperville


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis (capital), South Bend


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Cedar Rapids
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Cedar Falls-Waterloo, Quad Cities
  • Notable Communities: Des Moines (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Olathe, Overland Park, Wichita
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Kansa City, Lenexa-Shawnee


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Frankfort (capital)
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Lexington
  • Notable Communities: Louisville


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Shreveport
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Baton Rouge (capital), Lafayette, New Orleans


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Augusta (capital)


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Annapolis (capital), Baltimore, Washington D.C. (nation’s capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Cambridge, Lowell
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Boston (capital), Worchester


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Flint, Sterling Heights
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Ann Arbor, Downriver, Grand Rapids, Lansing (capital), Warren
  • Notable Communities: Detroit, Saginaw


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Bloomington-Richfield, Rochester
  • Notable Communities: Duluth, Minneapolis-St. Paul (capital)


  • Notable Communities: Jackson (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Independence
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Columbia, Jefferson City (capital), Kansas City, Springfield
  • Notable Communities: St. Louis


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Billings, Helena (capital)


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Omaha
  • Notable Communities: Lincoln (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Carson City (capital), Henderson, Reno
  • Notable Communities: Las Vegas

New Hampshire

  • Unsupported Key Communities: Manchester/Merrimack Valley
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Concord (capital)

 New Jersey

  • Unsupported Key Communities: Elizabeth, Patterson
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Trenton (capital)

New Mexico

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe (capital)

New York

  • Unsupported Key Communities: Oyster Bay, Yonkers
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Albany (capital), Bronx, Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York City, Queens, Rochester, Staten Island, Syracuse
  • Notable Communities: Long Island, Manhattan

North Carolina

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Cary, Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, High Point, Raleigh (capital), Wilmington, Winston-Salem
  • Notable Communities: Greenville

North Dakota

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Bismarck (capital), Fargo


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (capital), Dayton, Toledo


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Broken Arrow
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Norman, Oklahoma City (capital), Tulsa


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Eugene-Springfield, Gresham, Salem (capital)
  • Notable Communities: Portland


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Allentown
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Erie, Harrisburg (capital), Philadelphia
  • Notable Communities: Pittsburgh

Rhode Island

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Providence (capital)

South Carolina

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Charleston, Columbia (capital), Grand Strand

South Dakota

  • Unsupported Key Communities: Pierre (capital), Sioux Falls


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Memphis, Murfreesboro
  • Notable Communities: Knoxville, Nashville (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Abilene, Beaumont, Brownsville, Carrollton, Grand Prairie, Laredo, Mesquite, Midland, Odessa, Richardson, Round Rock
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Amarillo, Arlington, Bryan-College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Irving, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen, Pasadena, Plano, Waco, Wichita Falls
  • Notable Communities: Austin (capital), Houston, McKinney, San Antonio


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Provo, West Valley City
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Salt Lake City (capital), West Jordan


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Montpelier (capital)


  • Unsupported Key Communities: Hampton, Newport News
  • Undersupported Key Communities: Alexandria-Arlington County, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Richmond (capital), Virginia Beach
  • Notable Communities: Fredericksburg


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Bellevue, Everett, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Kent, Olympia (capital), Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver
  • Notable Communities: Port Angeles

West Virginia

  • Undersupported Key Communities: Charleston (capital)


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Kenosha, Madison (capital), Milwaukee
  • Notable Communities: Green Bay, Oshkosh


  • Undersupported Key Communities: Cheyenne (capital)
You can read more in the double "Voices of Breastfeeding" issue of Attached Family magazine, in which we take a look at the cultural explosion of breastfeeding advocacy as well as the challenges still to overcome in supporting new parents with infant feeding. The magazine is free to API members--and membership in API is free! Visit www.attachmentparenting.org to access your free issue or join API.
You can read more in the double “Voices of Breastfeeding” issue of Attached Family magazine, in which we take a look at the cultural explosion of breastfeeding advocacy as well as the challenges still to overcome in supporting new parents with infant feeding. The magazine is free to API members–and membership in API is free! Visit www.attachmentparenting.org to access your free issue or join API.

Traumatic Birth, Healing Birth: Melissa’s Story

By Melissa Brennan

imageMy name is Melissa, and I am a mama to four kiddos. I’ve been an Attachment Parenting mama since before I knew it was a phrase. For me, having the “perfect birth” with my first baby was The Most Important Thing Ever. I really can’t stress enough how tied up I was in having a perfect birth: dim lights, soft music, soft voices, at home, with just a doula and my then-husband. I would catch the baby in my arms, and we would cry and laugh, and I would heal so quickly, and life would be perfect.

Editor’s Note: As one of the Eight Principles of Parenting, Attachment Parenting International encourages parents to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting, which includes informing themselves about healthy birth and birth options. API birth stories are published for the purpose of giving parents a voice in telling their birth stories, and these stories include decisions and understandings that represent various levels of understanding about optimal birth choices. The author’s description of her experiences should not be considered medical advice or representative of API Principles. Representative of the API Principles in this birth story are the pursuit of education, knowledge, and empowerment as a parent to guide the choices that suit the well-being of one’s own family.

Then reality struck. At 20 weeks pregnant, my baby was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction, and I was told I had a placenta previa. This meant immediate bed rest with the strong possibility of a Cesarean section later. I was crushed.

At 35 weeks, though, my spirits were renewed when the doctor found that my placenta had moved, so a vaginal birth was now a possibility. However, since my little one still wasn’t growing very well, I would remain on bed rest and would not be allowed to have a homebirth. My now ex-husband was in the Marines, and “allowed” is the exact word for how pregnancies were handled by our military hospital at that time.

No one asked about my birth preferences, but I had a printed birth plan. It is my understanding that my husband was asked about circumcision, but neither of us was asked about formula, sugar water or pacifiers. My husband was aware of my feelings about circumcision, that I preferred the baby be left intact. I explicitly stated in my birth plan that I wanted to breastfeed within an hour of giving birth and that the baby was not to receive bottles or pacifiers.

Labor came on quickly one night when I was nearly 40 weeks along. I had no pain or even real discomfort, and then suddenly, BAM, full-blown labor. I managed to call my husband, who came home from his second job, saw how very in labor I was, freaked out and called the ambulance. By the time I got to the hospital 20 minutes later, I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced.

The hospital handled my birth in the same controlling way they handled my pregnancy:

“No! Of course you’re not allowed to get out of bed!”

“What? Why would you want to eat or drink right now? You’re in labor, get back in bed!”

“Yes, you HAVE to have an IV.”

“This is your first baby; you have no idea what you’re doing.”

That last line is what I heard when I said that I thought labor was going a lot faster than I thought it would, and I didn’t think it would be too much longer before baby got here.

Hearing those words was the final straw. I was 19. I was in horrific pain. I was tethered in bed with the IV, monitor and cables so I couldn’t get up or move. I was being talked down to. I started to cry. Then I started to yell. That’s when a nurse walked in and said, “The doctor says you can have this for the pain.” With that, she stabbed me with a needle and emptied a syringe of what I later discovered to be Demerol into my arm.

I remember I was on the phone with my mom, trying to tell her what was happening, but as I was speaking to her, the room became dark, and I suddenly couldn’t hear anything. I was blind, deaf, mute and in horrible, horrible pain. Pain was all I could feel. I passed out.

Then three things happened simultaneously: I awoke; my water broke, gushing green, smelly, meconium-filled fluid everywhere; and I screamed involuntarily.

Nurses came running, the doctor came in and everyone started yelling at me, “Stop pushing! Stop pushing!”

I gritted my teeth and yelled back, “I’m not pushing!” The baby was coming. I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t pushing.

At that point, I reached out for my husband, who was standing off to the side in shock. I put my hand on his arm. A nurse slapped my hand away from him. She said, “He’s your husband, don’t do that to him.” My husband just stared, his jaw agape.

Then, with one tiny push (the only one I was “allowed”), out came my beautiful baby boy. And I passed out.

When I awoke four hours later, my baby had been through the hospital’s baby assembly line: immunization, circumcision, bottle of formula. (Despite my feelings, my husband made the  decision to have the baby circumcised.)

I did eventually establish breastfeeding, but due to the lack of support and lactation services in the small town where we moved just after the birth, breastfeeding was very difficult. We dealt with a month of thrush, hyperactive letdown and oversupply issues. Eventually, Riley went on a nursing strike, and I ended up switching to formula.

I suffered severe postpartum depression lasting over eight months following Riley’s birth. I was in the last days of my marriage, only 19 years old and very much alone. I received no support and no help. I didn’t even know where to go for help.

I am still dealing with the emotional trauma of Riley’s birth. The hospital left me feeling powerless and small. Telling my story helps me feel like I’m doing something about it. I’ve had three more children since Riley, and each birth has been immeasurably better than Riley’s, which has definitely helped a lot.

My second birth was with Mason, a late baby born at just over 42 weeks. It required two procedures and three days to get labor started. I had a pretty aggressive doctor, and I was too overwhelmed to speak up and ask for the C-section I felt I needed. Mason nearly died at birth from complications of shoulder dystocia. He was in the NICU for a few hours, but luckily he recovered quickly and was back with me by the next morning.

I don’t compare Mason’s birth to others, because of the complications. The doctor had no way of knowing that there would be an issue of dystocia. That whole situation came down to what was necessary, and not what anyone “wanted.” I don’t feel bad about his birth or particularly good about it–I’m just thankful he survived.  As far as circumcision goes, Mason’s dad and I discussed it at length, and I agreed to let him make the decision. He chose to circumcise. I am at peace with that decision because I know that someone who loves my son very much made that choice with love. While I don’t think it was the best choice, it was his dad’s choice, not the hospital’s.

My fourth birth was a scheduled early induction to avoid complications, because the doctor and I both suspected that Harry was going to be a big baby. Given the situation with Mason’s birth, we felt good about proceeding with an early induction. Labor lasted just over two hours. I asked for an epidural, but it failed, so I felt every second of those two hours. Overall, I feel good about this birth, too. And I’m happy to say that Harry is an intact [uncircumcised] baby. He just turned two and is still nursing, thanks to all of the wonderful support I received from La Leche League and the local lactation consultants.

However, I think the birth I felt best about was with my daughter, my third child. On my due date, my water broke on its own at around 10 a.m., before contractions started. I took a shower, got dressed, called the sitter, cleaned the house, and just generally took my time getting everything ready for the baby. At about 3 p.m. my husband and I headed to the hospital. I was started on some Pitocin, and things moved fairly quickly after that. I labored while moving around, walking, eating freely, drinking water and juice whenever I felt like it, with my husband holding my hand and rubbing my back. We watched movies and played cards. Labor was intense but manageable, and the nurses were happy to leave me to it. I had telemetry monitoring, so I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted.

By about 9 p.m. the pain was bad enough that I couldn’t walk or talk or move, so the nurse offered to check me. I was at a very disappointing 3 cm, so I asked for an epidural. The epidural must have made my body relax because my daughter was born less than an hour later after only two pushes.

The doctor laid her on my tummy, and they left the cord alone until it stopped pulsing. The nurses asked if they could please take her to clean her up. They had her back to me, weighed, measured, wiped down and swaddled within 10 minutes. The staff cleared the room fairly quickly, and the lactation consultant stopped by to offer support. I was given a breastfeeding kit (not formula), as well as information on renting a pump and getting an SNS (supplemental nursing system) “just in case.” After that, I was left alone with my daughter and my husband for the rest of the night.

No one questioned my authority in making the decisions regarding my care or the care of my daughter. The two interventions I had were both necessary, and I have no regrets about them. I had good friends who offered advice and assistance in the months leading up to Lana’s birth, and I had a husband who wasn’t afraid to stand up for me.

Having what I considered to be a nearly perfect birth experience gave me hope. For the first time, I stopped blaming myself for the way things went with Riley’s birth. I had always felt like somehow I was the problem in that. But I realized it was just those particular nurses and doctors.

I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d have to say that the biggest difference was that with Riley’s birth I was treated poorly and I was the least important person in the room, but with Lana’s birth I was part of the team and the person with the most input.

Saved by AP and Now 8 Kids Later: An Interview with Margie Wilson-Mars

By Rita Brhel, API’s  publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA).

photo (1)My husband and I have three children, and we consider our family to be quite busy especially as our children grow older, develop their own interests and add their own activities to the family calendar. I am thankful for Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting as I feel the foundation for secure attachment that we laid in the early childhood years has helped keep us connected in spite of our full schedules. Still, it is mind boggling sometimes to think of what it would be like to add another child to the mix.

And then I met Margie Wilson-Mars of Salem, Oregon, USA. A parenting writer, Margie and her husband of almost 20 years, Robert, have eight children ages 27, 25, 23, 21, 14, 12, 9 and 8—seven sons and one daughter, three of the boys who are on the autism spectrum. Margie and Robert also have three grandchildren ages 7, 6 and 3.

Now there’s a full household! I could hardly wait to share her Attachment Parenting (AP) story.

RITA: Thank you, Margie, for your time. To begin, how did you decide to first try out the AP approach?

MARGIE: By the time I found out there was an actual thing called AP, I had already been practicing it.

I was only 19 when I had my first son. My mother-in-law had been an oddity in the very early ’60s and breastfed her boys. My mother, who was 15 years older than my mother-in-law, was in my ear constantly with, “You just have to nurse for three weeks and then it does no good.” It was simply a reflection of her generation.

Even in 1987, I was the odd one out breastfeeding and refusing to let my son cry it out. I watched Dr. Jay Gordon on “The Home Show” on ABC—so radical then! My mom told me I was punishing myself.

RITA: Your mom didn’t agree with AP?

MARGIE: For the record, she was legitimately worried about me. It’s just what she knew. She was an amazing mom.

By the time my mother passed away, she was finally comfortable with my parenting style. Acceptance means the world to new moms, to all moms.

RITA: So who did you lean on for AP support?

MARGIE: When my daughter was born 19 months later, I found La Leche League meetings. I am a very solitary person, so in hindsight, I wish I’d participated more, but it did give me validation for what I felt.

I just got “worse” from there! I met Peggy O’Mara, went Dr. Sears happy—yeah, I was hooked.

RITA: And your husband is supportive of AP?

MARGIE: After getting remarried, my new husband instantly accepted and participated in AP. In fact, I don’t even recall discussing it. When our first son was born, he slept with us. Well, I should say he slept with his dad because he was only comfortable on Daddy’s hairy chest! Most of them did the same, but our last, preemie Adam, was partial to sleeping on his brother Mark or his “Sissy Mama,” our only daughter, Stephanie.

[Editor’s note: Visit the API website to learn more about infant sleep safety and download API’s Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines brochure.]

RITA: At one point, you mentioned to me that AP saved your life. Can you expand on this?

MARGIE: When my first baby, Steven, was born, we moved in with my parents because I was scared to death. When he was 2 weeks old, my older sister came upstairs into my bedroom and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I calmly answered, “I’m going to try and finish feeding this baby, and then I’m throwing him out the window and following.”

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up at my mother-in-law’s house where she tucked me into bed for some much needed sleep and took Steven. She would wake me up to feed him, keeping an eye on us, and then send me back to bed.

Her gentle manner just blew my mind, the total opposite from my family. Even the way she bathed him was so soft and stress free. No more watching the clock between feedings or freaking out because he didn’t poop that day.

My depression ran deep, and it took getting pregnant with my daughter Stephanie before it totally lifted. Being constantly reassured that listening to my instincts was not only OK, but good, made all the difference. I have no doubt that if I’d continued on the path I was on, I wouldn’t have made it.

RITA: The quality of parent support can really make all of the difference. I’m glad you found support when you did.

MARGIE: There have certainly been huge bumps in the road since, but my mother-in-law set the tone for my parenting. No matter how rocky things got at times, our attachment was never affected. For example, when my daughter and I clashed through her teenage years, she told me she never felt like she couldn’t crawl into bed with me and know that everything would be OK. Her grandmother is truly the one to thank for that.

RITA: I’m thankful for her, too. The world needs more parents like you—and her! So how has AP worked out for your family as it has grown?

MARGIE: I think the best thing was the ease of taking care of the babies when they were little. When the oldest four were teenagers and the babies were little, we had a gigantic cushy spot—spots are very important in our home—in the living room where I could just be with all of the boys, yet stay accessible to the older ones. It also forced my autistic boys to be social with their brothers.

People are still astonished when they see how cuddly our autistic sons are.

RITA: What is it like seeing your oldest children becoming parents themselves?

MARGIE: Even though we still have little ones at home, seeing our daughter with her children—just wow! She’s the best mother, so instinctive and giving. Our oldest son is a newly single dad and so intensely bonded to his son.

The evolution of parenting, seeing them working so hard to correct the mistakes we made and become even better, closer parents to their children: It’s a beautiful thing to see.

We’re really doing the same thing with our younger boys—improving and evolving. It can be a struggle to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move forward.

The bigger the family, the more you need Attachment Parenting.

RITA: You mentioned that AP seems to be helping in parenting your children with autism.

MARGIE: This is huge for us.

My third child, Mark, has Asperger’s syndrome. He is from the first wave of autistic children born in 1990 when it started to skyrocket. When he would nurse, he would pull his entire body away, trying so hard not to be touched any more than he had to. The more I’d pull him in, the harder he would fight. Autism wasn’t even on the radar. Mark self-weaned at 8 months old, and I was crushed. He was happy as could be as long as he was on his own.

When our sixth child, Nathan, was 3 months old, our oldest son kept saying, “Something’s wrong with him.” Teens are so subtle. We thought maybe he was just sensitive because he had suffered a birth trauma when my cervix was lipped over his head for over an hour while pushing during labor. An hour after birth, his face turned nearly black from the bruising.

Months later, while I was sick, my husband took Nathan for a checkup. We say that the baby we had died that day. Rob brought home this terrified, seemingly hollow baby we didn’t know. If there was something wrong before, it was a million times worse that day.

Having had Mark, I knew that holding Nathan, feeding him and snuggling him through his fears was the only way to go. People are amazed when they see how connected he is. If I didn’t have him, my husband did. If he didn’t have him, his big sister did. He is a little cuddle monster, and while he has full-blown autism, he shows no signs of “don’t touch me, don’t look at me.”

By the time Justin, baby number 7, came along, we knew fairly early and said, “Ah, we have another Aspie!” Sure enough, he has Asperger’s like his older brother, Mark.

The parents of autistic kids I know have them in day-long therapy, speech class, tactile class, et cetera, et cetera. There’s even one mom I met who put her 12-year-old into a group home when he hit her 4-year-old. She brings him home on Saturdays. I cried when I heard. It still breaks my heart to think about it.

The biggest difference is in how bonded we are to each other. It’s not unusual to see 140-pound, 12-year-old Nathan on his dad’s lap or mine, or finding them all in a big “puppy pile” playing video games. Our youngest, Adam, says, “My friends never sit on their mom’s laps. Isn’t that weird?”

RITA: My oldest, who was an early preemie, had major developmental delays that mimicked autism. She would’ve been diagnosed with autism if she had been born full term. The very day I received that news, I whole-heartedly dived into AP. Before that point, I was kind of wishy-washy. It took a long time to build that trust and connection with her, but today, I credit AP—along with various therapies by AP-friendly professionals—for helping her overcome her challenges. It’s validating, Margie, to hear your story. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARGIE: Recently, I’ve read a lot of parents online who have left AP. Most claim that AP parents are too militant and flip out if people stray from [API’s] Eight Principles. The parents that make these claims can scare off new moms who are maybe only breastfeeding and want to find out more, or can’t get a good night’s sleep but feel wrong letting their baby cry. I hope that parents think about these things before they make that [judgmental] comment to a new mom.

API Reads June 2014: Attached at the Heart

downloadGet ready… we are beginning the long awaited discussion of Attached at the Heart (2nd Edition) by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker.

The  topics we’ll be discussing in June will be:

  • Introduction

  • Charting a New Course: Breaking the Ties That Bind

  • Principle 1: Prepare Yourself for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting – What Every Parent Needs to Know

  • Principle 2: Feed with Love and Respect – Beginning the Attachment Process

  • Principle 3: Responding with Sensitivity – Learning the Language of Love

Our discussions happen on GoodReads. We’ll be reading Attached at the Heart (2nd Edition) for the months of June, July and August.

Generation AP: An Interview with Patricia Mackie

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA).

In celebration of Attachment Parenting International’s 20th Anniversary, we are pleased to present two series of interviews with API Leaders. This article, the first in the “Generation AP” series, recognizes today’s second-generation Attachment Parenting parents.

Joe Mackie of Naperville“When I experienced major emotions, I would just shut down. My mom would sit with me for hours and wait for me to talk.”   ~Patricia Mackie

Attachment Parenting is no one-size-fits-all child-rearing formula: It’s about having a warm, joyful relationship with our children built on the foundation of sensitive responsiveness, empathy and trust. The need for a secure attachment is instinctually programmed into each of us so that we’re continually striving toward it, whether we recognize it or not. Every parent is on their own parenting journey, and all parents are doing the best they can with the knowledge and support available.

Still, it’s reassuring to know that we’re not the first generation to practice Attachment Parenting (AP).

At the time of this interview, Patricia Mackie of Naperville, Illinois, USA, was just a few weeks away from her third baby’s birth. Patricia is a passionate API volunteer and devotes time to several API projects, including Naperville API in Illinois as an API Leader, API Professionals Program, API Editorial Review Board, API Warmline and Journal of Attachment Parenting. In addition, Patricia is a marriage and family therapist, author of the “Three’s a Crowd” course for expectant and new parents, and founder of the Connecting 1 Day at a Time program for couples with children.

RITA: Thank you, Patricia, for squeezing me into your busy schedule, especially with baby coming soon. Let’s start by reviewing how your parents practiced AP.

PATRICIA: My parents grew into it. They practiced more Attachment Parenting with me than they did with my older sister.For the most part, they followed all of the principles.

We were very involved as a family in cooking and growing our own food.

I have great pictures of my dad with me on his back. Both of my parents wore me as a baby, more so when we were out and about than when we were at home.

They were also sensitive to us during sleep. Mom said I would not sleep in her arms. She would rock and nurse me for hours waiting for me to sleep. Then, she put me in the bassinet and I was out. My sister and I had our own beds, but my parents’ bed was always open for my sister and me.

My mom tried to do as much positive discipline as she could, but she was really young when she had children and didn’t have much support. She went through trial and error as all parents do.

RITA: It sounds like you had a family-centered lifestyle growing up. Please share a couple of your favorite memories.

PATRICIA: I grew up in Alaska, and Mom’s favorite thing to do was to go to this little pull-off on the road, Beluga Point. Sometimes when we were having a hard day or a really good day, or just because, we would go for a drive, get Subway sandwiches, go to Beluga Point, and sit and eat and watch the ocean and the mountain sheep. Sometimes Mom would go with both me and my sister, sometimes it was just me and Mom, but it was a connection point for us.

When I was 4, my parents bought a cabin, and we would go up there every weekend. It was our family time—time with everybody together, to play together, to work together, another connection time.

RITA: It’s important for families to spend time together in a positive environment. How did your parents react when emotions were not so positive? How did they respond to strong emotions in you, such as anger?

PATRICIA: It was an area of growth for my parents, but my mom had a way of knowing what to do.

When I was 7, I ran my bike through a stop sign, and there as a police officer who saw me. I think I scared him as much as he scared me, but he apparently wanted to make an impression and turned on his lights and yelled at me to slow down and watch what I was doing. He scared the daylights out of me! I came home really upset. Mom knew something was going on but didn’t know what, and I wasn’t talking. So she sat down with me and encouraged me to talk about it.

When I experienced major emotions, I would just shut down. My mom would sit with me for hours and wait for me to talk.

RITA: Is this what influenced your career in counseling?

PATRICIA: Growing up, my parents thought I’d end of in one of two careers: either a lawyer, because I was really good at arguing, or a therapist. At school, there was this little hill where I liked to sit. And my friends would come and sit and talk with me when they needed someone to talk to.

It felt so good to talk and be listened to. I grew up learning that when you have a hard time, you talk about it. It’s so simple and yet the very last thing we think about.

When I was a teenager, I had a negative view on life and was difficult to be around. But every day, my mom and I would have afternoon tea. I didn’t have to drink the tea or eat cookies, but I couldn’t get up from the table until I talked about what was going on. If I had a rough day, she helped me to look at the positives and to stop dwelling on the negatives. That was her way of teaching me without making me feel worse.

My mom also encouraged me in a way that she didn’t realize My sister and I had a very hard relationship growing up. We don’t see the world through the same eyes. Mom would threaten us, but never follow through, for us to either stop fighting or she would take us to therapy. I always wanted to go to therapy, because then my sister and I could learn to talk to one another.

Another big influence was my grandmother. She died when I was 12, and this really affected me. We had a very special relationship. It was from her that I grew up with high values for marriage and that you don’t give up on marriage.

RITA: Did you ever feel that the way your parents were raising you was different than how your peers were raised?

PATRICIA: I knew when I was very young that I was very lucky to have the parents I have, though I didn’t know why. I would go to sleepovers at friends’ houses and would be shocked to hear their parents fighting in the next room or when one of the parents would ignore the other parent.

RITA: Hmm, that’s interesting. So did you find it natural to practice AP with your own children?

PATRICIA: I was practicing Attachment Parenting before I knew what it was. To me, there was no other choice.

I remember one visit to the doctor when he asked me if I was going to breastfeed. I said, “Yeah.” And he put down his notebook, turned to me and said that in all his years of practice, not one time did a mother said “yes” that they would breastfeed without a second thought. They all said they would try.

However, positive discipline has been a challenge. My mom did some spanking when I was young, and she made threats. My mom didn’t get into the groove with positive discipline until I was a teen.

All the things that make my daughter a wonderful person also make it hard during discipline, just like I was for my mom. That’s the hardest part of raising her: She’s me.

My son is very different: very laid back, go-with-the-flow. I thought my daughter was an easy baby, and then my son was born and I realized, oh, she was a high-needs baby.

RITA: Many parents are plagued by the desire to be perfect in their parenting. How do you feel about parents who struggle with AP?

PATRICIA: It’s natural to struggle. I don’t think that everything in parenting comes naturally. I think of my sister. She doesn’t have that natural instinct to pick up her babies and snuggle with them. Some people don’t. We all struggle at some points.

RITA: When did you find API and learn that what you’re doing is AP?

PATRICIA: When I needed support because my daughter wouldn’t sleep, I would go online and search the mommy boards looking for answers. I was reading all the horrible stuff that people do to their kids and was thinking, I need to find people who think like I do.

RITA: Now that you have a name for your parenting approach, how do your parents feel about Attachment Parenting?

PATRICIA: Because my sister lives closer to my parents than I do, and she does not practice Attachment Parenting, they are more familiar now with her parenting style than mine. But they are very supportive of me, and we are able to talk about our differences in parenting views.

RITA: And what about your husband—did he come from an AP family, too?

PATRICIA: No, at all. He was an only child, and he had no experience with children or babies whatsoever. But he has always been very much okay with what I do.

It’s hard with his parents. Over the years, though, they’ve grown very curious about Attachment Parenting. They’ve accepted that’s the way we do things, because clearly it’s working.

RITA: Thank you, Patricia, for your insights. One final question: What is a way that others can see the effects of Attachment Parenting?

PATRICIA: All of my daughter’s preschool teachers say they can’t believe how empathic she is. She’s not trying to please anyone. She’s just aware of everyone’s emotions and readily goes to comfort an upset child.

How Parents Can Support Their Budding Performers: An Interview with Actress Elisa Llamido

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA)

elisaheadshotFrom the beginning, 20 years ago, Attachment Parenting International has been a community of parents coming together to support one another in raising their children with trust, empathy, affection, compassion and joy. We may come from very different backgrounds and cultures, but we are all alike in our approach to relationships with our children and our willingness to advocate for this in our communities around the world.

I’m excited to introduce television and theatre actress Elisa Llamido (www.elisallamido.com), who lives in Los Angeles, California, USA, with her husband, 18-year-old stepson and a 4-year-old son.

RITA: Thank you, Elisa, for your time. To begin with, please tell us about your career in acting and theatre.

ELISA: I’ve had some fun roles in The Unit, Invasion and Numbers. I’m also a martial artist and acrobat, so I did stunts for the kids’ shows Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. For theatre, I did a number of shows at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre [California, USA], including the world premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s first straight play, The Doctor is Out. I’ve also been seen in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theater in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, with Los Angeles Opera in The Imaginary Invalid, with Will and Company, and with Shakespeare Festival/LA.

RITA: Many parents value involving their children in the arts, including theatre, and we’d all like our children to do well in their activities. As an actress, how can parents support budding performers?

ELISA: Children who learn how to perform on stage learn how to present themselves to the world. They learn control of their bodies, projection of their voices and how to be themselves even when someone is looking at them. No matter where a child goes in life, these are valuable skills that they can take with them.

The caveat, of course, is that these skills can only be learned in a loving environment. Parents can very easily make performing, which is an intensely personal act, into a terrible experience where children can feel as though they have done their best and been rejected. It’s important to remember that your “goal” as the parent of a performer should not be to make them the best no matter what the cost. It is highly unlikely that this is what they want or need. Your goal should be to nurture and accept your child and do what you can to help them reach their own goals. What you say makes a difference.

RITA: It sounds like theatre is a great option for Attachment Parenting-minded families seeking activities for their children. How did you first become interested in Attachment Parenting?

ELISA: My mother was a very sensitive mother who thought that children were just little people and deserved the same respect that adults did. When I became a mother, I brought that ideal with me.

When I was pregnant, my mother researched parenting books and bought me a copy of Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book, which made a huge impact on me. I had never thought of cosleeping before—I thought it was dangerous to do before I was educated—and although the idea of babywearing seemed convenient, I learned that it is very good for the baby, too.

I spent so much time when I was pregnant doing research about natural childbirth, Attachment Parenting, child brain development and pregnancy!

RITA: That is wonderful that you had a great role model in your mother and that you had the foresight to prepare for parenthood during your pregnancy, as API advocates through the first of our Eight Principles of Parenting. How has Attachment Parenting benefited your family?

ELISA: My husband and I have an extremely close relationship with our son. He’s an extremely bright, fearless boy who is endlessly creative and so much fun for us. I also got a wonderful bonus that I never expected: Through the unconditional love that I give to my son, I have finally been able to accept myself in all of my gloriously flawed humanity. I never realized how hard I was on myself before I was a parent. Now, in showing my son how to love himself, I’ve become as kind to myself as I am to other people!

My son was definitely what Dr. Sears calls a “high-need baby,” who just needed more than other babies do. He didn’t want to be on his own at all for the first few years, but because I gave him such a secure base and never forced him to be “independent,” when he was ready, he went forth on his own. Now as he approaches his fifth birthday, he is a very articulate, confident child who loves to perform on stage, go to school and do other things on his own with joy. Because we have such a strong, securely attached relationship, when he comes home, he loves to tell me all about his day and any things that happened that concern him.

Before I became a parent, I had always heard that until you have a child, you will never experience the depth of love that parenting brings. That is definitely true. But Attachment Parenting has brought so much more to us than just love: It’s brought a sense of confidence and self-worth to my son—and to me.


Navigating Military Life with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader. Kathryn led an API Support Group in Skagit County, WA, in 2011-2012 and then served as a Co-Leader for San Diego County API in 2012-2013. She plans to start a new API support group in Norfolk this year.

Kathryn Abbott FamilyBoth the joys and the challenges of parenting provide parents opportunities to grow and develop into our best selves. As we undergo this process, we are the model for our children, leading by example and showing them our core values.

For families in which one or both parents serve in the military, there may be a set of unique circumstances that shapes some of those joys and challenges. These circumstances may include moving (on average every two to three years), deployments or long separations, being far from family and friends, interrupted relationships with health professionals, changing schools and jobs, making new friends and finding community, just to name a few.

In my family, my husband serves in the military and I am a stay-at-home parent. We have found that using API’s Eight Principles of Parenting has helped us more easily navigate the life changes that come with serving in the military. It has also helped us maintain consistency for our children during times of change and stress in their lives, leading to more secure attachment. Many nonmilitary families also face the challenges of moving, being far from family and friends, or having to parent separately, so it is my hope that this article will be helpful to military and nonmilitary families alike.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

This principle addresses the need to be prepared for the experiences of pregnancy, birth, the postpartum period and ongoing parenting though all its stages. It encourages us to become informed about the choices we will make for our care during our pregnancy and birth, as well as to become familiar with the stages of child development.

As part of our preparation for birth, my husband and I took a birth class. During the class, we were asked to do a drawing exercise that led us into labor and birth and then from birth into the postpartum period.  When I looked up during my drawing, I saw that my husband was finished with his picture, while I was only about one quarter of the way done. We had a chance to talk about this difference. “I will be getting ready for and then going on deployment three months after our baby is born, so my postpartum experience won’t be long,” he reminded me. Oh, right. For a large part of our newborn’s life, my husband would be working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, getting ready for deployment, and then he would be gone.

As a military spouse, I am not alone in this experience; many parents are home alone for long days caring for their families or are parenting solo while a spouse is deployed. Many members of the military miss the birth of their child, or they may miss most of the pregnancy and make it home just in time for the birth.

Part of working with this challenge is being prepared for it. Talking about expectations, seeking out the support needed during these times, and finding ways to involve the physically absent partner in the experience of the pregnancy or birth are all strategies families can use to be better prepared for the many transitions to come.

In families in which one parent may be absent from the children for months, understanding child development is vital. For example, the 18-month-old a partner returns home to will be quite different from the 1-year-old he or she left. For the partner at home, sharing the development of the children through emails, letters, phone calls, texts, Skype or Facetime can be very helpful for the parent who is away.

Feeding With Love and Respect

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s need for physical nourishment throughout their lives. Preparing nourishing meals and developing mealtime rituals can be a wonderful way to provide consistency and connection even during the transitions military families must face.

Our family has used our mealtime rituals of sharing meal preparation, eating together as a family and saying a blessing at meals as a way to nurture our whole family during moves, deployments and daily life. Even if our meal is a simple one served on a paper plate while sitting on the floor of an empty house, we come back to the security of preparing meals and eating together.

Respond with Sensitivity

This principle encourages us to respond to our child with sensitivity throughout his or her life. Whether we are holding our crying infant or sharing the joys and challenges of our teenager, we are building a relationship based on trust and empathy.

For families in the military, especially for the parent who is serving, it can be hard to hear our child’s sadness at leaving their home, their friends or perhaps even a pet behind. Choosing to respond to these feelings and expressions with sensitivity only strengthens our relationship with our child.

As the parent, we might need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that we didn’t create this sadness for our child on purpose. Nor is it ours to take away. We can hold our child and say to her, “I am sorry we moved and your best friend is so far away.” And when she is finished sharing her feelings with us and is ready for a solution, we can help her write a letter or email, or make a phone call or Skype with that friend. And then we can support her through the process of making another new friend.  

Use Nurturing Touch

Using nurturing touch is a wonderful way for all parents to help connect with their children. From babywearing to hugs, tickles and massage, there are many ways to meet your child’s need for nurturing touch.

Nurturing touch can especially be of value during times of change, which can be stressful even when we are happy about them. Remembering to give children extra time for snuggles or foot rubs at bedtime can help them relax in a new home or give them time to share their fears about a parent’s absence.

When a parent returns from a time away from the family, nurturing touch, whether through snuggles or horseplay, can be a wonderful way for the family to reconnect.

In our family, my husband and children have a goodbye/goodnight ritual that includes a hug, kiss, nose rub, butterfly kiss (using the eyelash on a check) and ends with deciding who has the hardest head. Of course, it is always our children who knock him down amid much laughter. This is something they will even do over the phone or Skype, and they love hearing him fall on the floor, even if he is 3,000 miles away.  

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s needs for security, even at night. This will look different in all families and can include a variety of different sleeping arrangements. These arrangements can and should be flexible to meet the needs of the individuals of the family. Cosleeping (where the child is in the same room as the parents) or bedsharing (where the child sleeps in the bed with the parents) can be invaluable tools for the benefit of both parents and children. (Click to read more about API’s Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines.)

As a new mother, I shared a bed with my newborn to facilitate ease of breastfeeding and maximize my sleep and rest. My husband slept in the other room so he could be sure to have enough rest to fly safely the next day, and later he was on deployment. This sleeping arrangement meant I was better able to care for my infant and myself.

Bed sharing and cosleeping have continued to serve our family well, as they ease our children’s fears in new places, provide an opportunity for warmth and reconnection when my husband returns from deployments or trips, and often allow me, as the solo parent when he is gone, to get some much needed rest.

For families who find that separate sleeping places serve them best, providing assurance to a child through a bedtime ritual (and a nightlight if needed) and responding to their needs at night are ways that help children to feel secure throughout the night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

For military families in which the one consistent thing is change, this principle can provide us with a way to help ease some of the insecurities that can arise for our children and ourselves.

It our family, we planned that I would be the stay-home parent. We felt that having one consistent caregiver, especially as we moved, would be the most beneficial arrangement for our children. Since the birth of our oldest daughter eight years ago, we have moved four times. Being able to give our children consistent and loving care has truly been a gift to our family. There is no added sense of loss or insecurity that may come with changing child care as the result of a move.

For some families, both partners need or want to work, but they may also want to find consistent and loving care for their children. Some creative ways I have seen military families meet these needs include: having another family member, such as a grandparent, live with them and provide full-time care for the child; using an in-home nanny; or arranging for child care with a friend who stays home with his or her children.

For the many military parents using a local daycare as their child care option, finding ways to reconnect at the end of the day becomes essential. Taking time to spend some one-on-one time each day, giving extra hugs or having a special date with your child once a week can go a long way in creating and maintaining a secure attachment with you. Seeking out a child care provider who is consistent with your philosophy and acts as your partner in caring for your child is truly a benefit to the whole family.

Practice Positive Discipline

This principle encourages us to use discipline that is empathetic, loving, respectful and that strengthens the connection between parent and child. Positive discipline is the hardest for me when I am under stress. That stress can come, for example, at the end of a long day when there won’t be a partner coming home to relieve me, or when my children are balking at going to the dentist because they have never met this new dentist, or when my house looks like 143 boxes have just been unpacked and nothing has been put away (although really that’s just how it looks after the girls have been busy playing!).

Practicing positive discipline, even if you were raised with it, can be hard. For me, this is the area where parenting calls me to become better than I am right now and also calls me to be as gentle with myself as I can. When I remind myself that I value relationships over things, that I want my children to feel and know what it means to be respected, that I want to repair any disconnect my child is feeling with me, then I can help myself reframe whatever stressful situation I may be in and make the connection with my child.  

Sometimes in order to practice positive discipline, I need to give myself a break. I simply tell the children, “I am feeling angry [or frustrated or upset] and I am going to go outside and take some deep breaths. When I come back we will figure this out.” I give myself that pause and time to de-stress so I can reconnect with the love I have for my children and then reconnect with them.

For the military parent, practicing positive discipline can have an added element of challenge since much of military culture is based on giving and following orders. This is an area where both parents will need to talk through how positive discipline will be used within their family and how to support each other in this practice.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

This principle comes last on the list, but it is really the foundation all the others. If you are not able to have time for yourself and time to nurture your relationship with your partner, it will be more of a challenge to nurture your children and your family.

For military families, this principle can have an added layer of challenge. Moving often requires rebuilding community: you must all make new friends and start over in favorite activities, and there may be new schools and new jobs. When you are far from family and friends and don’t have a trusted child care provider while your partner is away, finding time to recharge can be a challenge.

To help find balance in your days, consider:

  • Attending a support group meeting. Attending (or starting) API support group meetings has been invaluable for me. My children can come, and I get some time with other like-minded parents.

  • Arranging play dates. When my oldest was younger, I had three close friends who all had same-aged children. Once a week, all the children would go to one house for play time and snacks while the other three moms went to do whatever we wanted. Anything from cleaning the floors to doing yoga was on the list! Our children were safe and happy, and we each got a much needed respite.

  • Wake up early. I don’t wake myself early on purpose, but I find that if I am awake before my children, I have time in my day to read, check email or just think.

  • Celebrate the moment. Whether I am making myself a really nice cup of tea or spending 20 minutes on the phone with my sister, I recognize this time as time for me to recharge.

  • Make a date with yourself. When my husband is home, I go on a yoga date with myself and he has a father-daughter date with our children. Many gyms also offer child care if that is something you and your child are comfortable using.

Making time to nurture your relationship is key. Though you will have seasons in which you are more  or less connected with each other, it is important to find ways to keep the relationship strong, especially when you have young children who have many needs. For military families, an added challenge to the parental relationship is the extended separations. These separations can add more stress to a couple in an already stressful situation. Again, being prepared, seeking out resources and using creative solutions can help you maintain your relationship. Simply making the time once a week (even if it is in the early morning!) to maintain your connection to your partner will support and sustain your relationship.

Practicing Attachment Parenting and striving to use API’s Eight Principles of Parenting doesn’t mean my life will be perfect. But I know that when my house is a mess, my children are adjusting to a new home with all that it entails, and my spouse has been gone for more days than I want to count, the tools we use to help maintain connection and build trust and empathy will help us through those times of challenge and those times of joy. These tools help me as I strive to be the person I want to be.


API Cofounders Featured in Parenting with Presence Summit

lysaparkerbarbaranicholsonWorld peace, for many, may seem like an unattainable ideal. Not so for families finding support through Attachment Parenting International (API), whose research-backed parenting approach promotes healthy relationships rooted in nonviolent communication and respectful interactions, extending a model of peaceful living into the community.

API cofounders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker celebrated the organization’s 20th anniversary during a teleseminar hosted by parent educator and author Susan Stiffelman, as part of an online parenting conference on March 18-21. A Shift Network event, the API-cosponsored Parenting with Presence Summit gathered together 25 parenting experts and visionaries to share their perspectives on parenthood. The event was available to the public at no cost.

“Ultimately, we’re wanting world peace,” said Nicholson, who presented a session sharing the title of the book she coauthored with Parker, Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children. “The mother-father-baby: that little unit is really the core of it all.”

Stiffelman agreed, concluding that many people who are moved toward furthering world peace can make a profound impact without ever leaving home: “The fact is, under our own roofs, if we have children, we can make a dramatic difference in our world.”

Throughout their session, Nicholson’s and Parker’s core message echoed what API has promoted from its beginning—that parents can be nurturing, warm and sensitive while raising emotionally healthy, responsible children. API can provide the guidance and support for parents who need it.

“We didn’t want to spank our children,” said Parker about what inspired API’s foundation. “We wanted to practice more positive discipline, but we were still at the beginning stages. We were each other’s support. The essence of API is parent support.”

Leading up to 1994 when API was first organized, there was a budding awareness in the professional community regarding the importance of attachment research on child development. However, there were no widely circulating resources offering this information to the public.

“We felt there needed to be an organization to get all this information to parents,” Nicholson said.

Fast forward 20 years: Parent education, rooted in attachment science and neurobiology, has permeated much of Western society. API continues to educate and support parents and professionals in adopting healthier approaches to raising children, as well as to introduce new areas of research that further validates API’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

“The Eight Principles are not rules you have to follow, but there is science supporting each of them,” Parker said.

For example, the latest edition of Attached at the Heart covers new information on ultrasounds during pregnancy as well as a new scientific field called epigenetics, which intersects the nature-nurture debate to demonstrate that the choices that parents make can influence the genetic expression for their grandchildren.

“We’re now beyond learning the importance of nurture,” Nicholson said. “It’s exciting but also very daunting. Who we hang out with, what we do, how we eat—everything affects our genetic code.”

During the Parenting with Presence Summit session with API’s cofounders, Stiffelman also explored myths of Attachment Parenting and practical tips to help parents and grandparents bond with a baby beyond breastfeeding, and how API strives to empower parents in following their biological intuition, rather than going along with conflicting conventional wisdom, in raising their children.

“The message is about knowing what’s best for you and your child,” Parker said.