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By Linda Folden Palmer, DC, member of API’s Editorial Review Board and author of The Baby Bond (www.babyreference.com).
Human babies are born helpless, needing to be entirely cared for and protected. Luckily, they are born with all the necessary tools and “instructions” to attain such care for themselves, and to become a loved and loving part of their family and society. The ingrained neural and hormonal interactions provided for parent and child to assist them in this process are among the most powerful in nature. The hormonal cues are clear and compelling, and our instincts can provide us with all the appropriate responses. Without taking great efforts to avoid and ignore such urges, parents will naturally follow the advice of their neurons and hormones, nurturing their babies and maintaining physical closeness with them.
Once born, baby’s hormonal control systems and brain synapses begin to permanently organize according to the human interactions she experiences. Unneeded brain receptors and neural pathways are disposed of, while those appropriate to the given environment are enhanced.
Oxytocin and Bonding
Oxytocin is a chemical messenger released in the brain chiefly in response to social contact, but its release is especially pronounced with skin-to-skin contact. In addition to providing health benefits, this hormone-like substance promotes bonding patterns and creates desire for further contact with the individuals inciting its release.
When the process is uninterrupted, oxytocin is one of nature’s chief tools for creating a mother. Roused by the high levels of estrogen (“female hormone”) during pregnancy, the number of oxytocin receptors in the expecting mother’s brain multiplies dramatically near the end of her pregnancy. This makes the new mother highly responsive to the presence of oxytocin. These receptors increase in the part of her brain that promotes maternal behaviors.
Oxytocin’s first important surge is during labor. If a cesarean birth is necessary, allowing labor to occur first provides some of this bonding hormone surge (and helps ensure a final burst of antibodies for the baby through the placenta). Passage through the birth canal further heightens oxytocin levels in both mother and baby.
High oxytocin causes a mother to become familiar with the unique odor of her newborn infant, and once attracted to it, to prefer her own baby’s odor above all others. Baby is similarly imprinted on mother, deriving feelings of calmness and pain reduction along with mom. When the infant is born, he is already imprinted on the odor of his amniotic fluid. This odor imprint helps him find mother’s nipple, which has a similar but slightly different odor. In the days following birth, the infant can be comforted by the odor of this fluid.
Gradually over the next days, baby starts to prefer the odor of his mother’s breast, but continued imprinting upon his mother is not food-related. In fact, formula-fed infants are more attracted (in laboratory tests) to their mother’s breast odor than to that of their formula, even two weeks after birth.
By influencing maternal behavior and stimulating milk “let down” (allowing milk to flow) during nursing, oxytocin helps make the first attempts at breastfeeding feel natural. Attempts at nursing during the initial hour after birth cause oxytocin to surge to exceptional levels in both mother and baby. Mothers who postpone nursing lose part of the ultimate hormone high provided for immediately after birth. Powerful initial imprinting for mother and baby is intended to occur chiefly so that mother and baby will be able to find and recognize each other in the hours and days after birth.
Yet a lifetime opportunity for bonding and love is not lost if this initial window is missed. Beyond birth, mother continues to produce elevated levels of oxytocin as a consequence of nursing and holding her infant, and the levels are based on the amount of such contact. This hormonal condition provides a sense of calm and well-being. Oxytocin levels are higher in mothers who exclusively breastfeed than in those who use supplementary bottles. Under the early influence of oxytocin, nerve junctions in certain areas of mother’s brain actually undergo reorganization, thereby making her maternal behaviors “hard-wired.”
As long as contact with the infant remains, oxytocin causes mother to be more caring, to be more eager to please others, to become more sensitive to others’ feelings, and to recognize nonverbal cues more readily. Continued nursing also enhances this effect. With high oxytocin, mother’s priorities become altered and her brain no longer signals her to groom and adorn herself in order to obtain a mate, and thus a pregnancy. Now that the child has already been created, mom’s grooming habits are directed toward baby. High oxytocin in the female has also been shown to promote preference for whatever male is present during its surges (one good reason for dad to hang around during and after the birth). Prolonged high oxytocin in mother, father, or baby also promotes lower blood pressure and reduced heart rate as well as certain kinds of artery repair, actually reducing lifelong risk of heart disease.
Although baby makes her own oxytocin in response to nursing, mother also transfers it to the infant in her milk. This provision serves to promote continuous relaxation and closeness for both mother and baby. A more variable release of oxytocin is seen in bottle-fed infants but is definitely higher in an infant who is “bottle-nursed” in the parents’ arms rather than with a propped bottle.
Persistent, regular body contact and other nurturing acts by parents produce a constant, elevated level of oxytocin in the infant, which in turn provides a valuable reduction in the infant’s stress hormone responses. Multiple psychology studies have demonstrated that, depending on the practices of the parents, the resulting high or low level of oxytocin will control the permanent organization of the stress-handling portion of the baby’s brain—promoting lasting “securely attached” or “insecure” characteristics in the adolescent and adult. Such insecure characteristics include anti-social behavior, aggression, difficulty forming lasting bonds with a mate, mental illness and poor handling of stress.
When an infant does not receive regular oxytocin-producing responsive care, the resultant stress responses cause elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Chronic cortisol elevations in infants and the hormonal and functional adjustments that go along with it are shown in biochemical studies to be associated with permanent brain changes that lead to elevated responses to stress throughout life, such as higher blood pressure and heart rate. Mothers can also benefit from the stress-reducing effects of oxytocin: Women who breastfeed produce significantly less stress hormone than those who bottle-feed.
Nor are fathers left out of the oxytocin equation. It has been shown that a live-in father’s oxytocin levels rise toward the end of his mate’s pregnancy. When the father spends significant amounts of time in contact with his infant, oxytocin encourages him to become more involved in the ongoing care in a self-perpetuating cycle. Oxytocin in the father also increases his interest in physical (not necessarily sexual) contact with the mother. Nature now provides a way for father to become more interested in being a devoted and satisfied part of the family picture through his involvement with the baby.
With all of its powers, oxytocin is but one of a list of many chemicals that nature uses to ensure that baby finds the love and care he needs.
Vasopressin and Protection
Although present and active during bonding in the mother and infant, vasopressin plays a much bigger role in the father. This hormone promotes brain reorganization toward paternal behaviors when the male is cohabiting with the pregnant mother. The father becomes more dedicated to his mate and expresses behaviors of protection.
Released in response to nearness and touch, vasopressin promotes bonding between the father and the mother, helps the father recognize and bond to his baby, and makes him want to be part of the family, rather than alone. It has gained a reputation as the “monogamy hormone.” Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust, says, “Testosterone wants to prowl; vasopressin wants to stay home.” She also describes vasopressin as tempering the man’s sexual drive.
Vasopressin reinforces the father’s testosterone-promoted protective inclination regarding his mate and child, but tempers his aggression, making him more reasonable and less extreme. By promoting more rational and less capricious thinking, this hormone induces a sensible paternal role, providing stability as well as vigilance.
Prolactin and Behavior
Prolactin is released in all healthy people during sleep, helping to maintain reproductive organs and immune function. In the mother, prolactin is released in response to suckling, promoting milk production as well as maternal behaviors. Prolactin relaxes mother and, in the early months, creates a bit of fatigue during a nursing session so she has no strong desire to hop up and do other things.
Prolactin promotes caregiving behaviors and, over time, directs brain reorganization to favor these behaviors. Father’s prolactin levels begin to elevate during mother’s pregnancy, but most of the rise in the male occurs after many days of cohabitation with the infant.
As a result of hormonally orchestrated brain reorganization during parenthood, prolactin release patterns are altered. It has been shown that fathers release prolactin in response to intruder threats, whereas childless males do not. On the other hand, nursing mothers do not release prolactin in response to loud noise, whereas childless females do. In children and non-parents, prolactin surges are related to stress levels, so it is generally considered a stress hormone. In parents, it serves as a parenting hormone.
Elevated prolactin levels in both the nursing mother and the involved father cause some reduction in their testosterone levels, which in turn reduces their libidos (but not their sexual functioning). Their fertility can be reduced for a time as well. This reduction in sexual activity and fertility is entirely by design for the benefit of the infant, allowing for ample parental attention and energy. When the father is intimately involved with the infant along with the mother, there should be some accord between the desires of the two, and oxytocin and other chemicals provide for heightened bonding and non-sexual interest in each other, which serves to retain a second devoted caretaker for the infant.
Opioids and Rewards
Opioids (pleasure hormones) are natural morphine-like chemicals created in our bodies. They reduce pain awareness and create feelings of elation. Social contacts, particularly touch—especially between parent and child—induce opioid release, creating good feelings that will enhance bonding. Odor, taste, activity and even place preferences can develop as the result of opioid release during pleasant contacts, and eventually the sight of a loved one’s face stimulates surges. Opioid released in a child’s brain as a conditioned response to a parent’s warm hugs and kisses can be effective for helping reduce the pain from a tumble or a disappointment.
Parents “learn” to enjoy beneficial activities such as breastfeeding and holding, and infants “learn” to enjoy contact such as being held, carried and rocked, all as a response to opioid release. Babies need milk, and opioids are nature’s reward to them for obtaining it, especially during the initial attempts. The first few episodes of sucking organize nerve pathways in the newborn’s brain, conditioning her to continue this activity. This is the reason that breastfed babies sometimes have trouble if they are given bottles in the newborn nursery: Early exposure to bottles creates a confusing association of pleasure with both bottle nipples and the mother’s breast. In fact, any incidental sensations experienced during rocking, touching and eating that aren’t noxious can become part of a child’s attachment and will provide comfort. It could be the warmth of mother’s body, father’s furry chest, grandma’s gentle lullaby, a blanket or the wood-slatted side of a crib.
Prolonged elevation of prolactin in the attached parent stimulates the opioid system, heightening the rewards for intimate, loving family relationships, possibly above all else. Just as with codeine and morphine, tolerance to natural opioids can occur, which will reduce the reward level for various activities over time. But this is not a problem for attached infants and parents, because higher levels of oxytocin, especially when created through frequent or prolonged body contact, actually inhibit opioid tolerance, protecting the rewards for maintaining close family relationships. On the other hand, consuming artificial opioid drugs replaces the brain’s need for maintaining family contacts.
Once a strong opioid bonding has occurred, separation can become emotionally upsetting and, in the infant, possibly even physically uncomfortable when opioid levels decrease in the brain, much like the withdrawal symptoms from cocaine or heroin. When opioid levels become low, one might feel like going home to hold the baby or like crying for a parent’s warm embrace, depending on your point of view. Sometimes alternate behaviors are helpful. For instance, thumb-sucking can provide some relief from partial or total withdrawal from a human or rubber nipple and can even provide opioid-produced reminiscences for a time.
Norepinephrine and Learning
Breastfeeding also causes dopamine and its product, norepinephrine (adrenaline), to be produced, which help maintain some of the effects of the early bonding. They enhance energy and alertness along with some of the pleasure of attachment.
Norepinephrine helps organize the infant’s stress control system, as well as other important hormonal controls in accordance with the nature of the early rearing experiences. It promotes learning about the environment—especially learning by memorization that is carried out by oxytocin, opioids and other chemical influences.
Pheromones and Basic Instincts
How does the man’s body know to initiate hormonal changes when he is living with a pregnant female? How can an infant accurately interpret mother’s “odors” that adults often can barely detect? The answer is pheromones. Among other things, pheromones are steroid hormones that are made in our skin. Our bodies are instinctually programmed to react accordingly when we detect these pheromones around us.
Newborns are much more sensitive to pheromones than adults. Unable to respond to verbal or many other cues, they apparently depend on this primitive sense that controls much of the behavior of lower animals. Most likely, the initial imprinting of baby to odors and pheromones is not just a matter of preferring the parents’ odors but is a way nature controls brain organization and hormonal releases to best adapt baby to its environment. Baby’s earliest, most primitive experiences are then linked to higher abilities such as facial and emotional recognition. Through these, baby most likely learns how to perceive the level of stress in the caretakers around her, such as when mother is experiencing fear or joy. Part of an infant’s distress over separation may be caused by the lost parental cues about the safety of her environment. Of course, the other basic sensation an infant responds to well is touch, and coincidentally, body odors and pheromones can only be sensed when people are physically very near each other.
What the World Needs Now…
Infants universally cry when laid down alone. If we allow ourselves to listen, our neurons and hormones encourage us in the proper response. Babies are designed to be frequently fed in a fashion that requires skin-to-skin contact, holding and available facial cues. Beneficial, permanent brain changes result in both parent and infant from just such actions. Contented maternal behaviors grow when cues are followed. The enhancement of fatherhood is strongly provided for as well. A father’s participation encourages his further involvement and creates accord between father and mother. Frequent proximity and touch between baby and parents can create powerful family bonding, with many long-term benefits.
Sadly, over the last century, parents have been encouraged by industry-educated “experts” to ignore their every instinct to respond to baby’s powerful parenting lessons. Psychologists, neurologists and biochemists have now confirmed what many of us have instinctually suspected: that many of the rewards of parenthood have been missed along the way and that generations of children may have missed out on important lifelong advantages.
By Rita Brhel, Editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator, and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA)
API recognizes that breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, who are our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices. It is hard to navigate new motherhood relatively alone, compared to other cultures where family rallies together to give the mother a “babymoon”—a time when mom and baby can bond uninterrupted while housework and caring for other children are taken up by others in her life. It is hard to make the choice to return to work and then try to integrate a child care provider into our way of parenting. It is hard to pump while away from baby. And it is hard to continue to push through difficulties, whether they be a poor latch or milk supply issues or teething or night waking, when so many others in our lives are trying to convince us to just give a bottle of formula.
But breastfeeding, like any choice made through the lens of Attachment Parenting, is ultimately about responding with sensitivity to our babies (and toddlers). There are great nutritional and health benefits to feeding breast milk, but what makes breastfeeding special enough for many mothers to continue despite societal pressure and their personal hurdles is that breastfeeding is more than a way to feed their babies—it offers the beginnings of a relationship with their child that cannot be easily replicated another way.
The human mother was designed to breastfeed so that a relationship is borne from the effort—from the mother and her baby learning about each other and what will work or not, from the gaze between each other, from the oxytocin rush each receives, from the gentle discipline necessary in teaching baby not to bite or to eventually night-wean, from the mother finding her balance while caring for her baby, from the mother learning to be flexible as baby grows and needs change. We can find a bit of each of Attachment Parnting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting within the act of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding behavior is very literally the embodiment of responding with sensitivity to our babies—and responding with sensitivity is a skill and art form that all mothers need no matter their child’s age.
In this special edition of Attached Family, through the “Voices of Breastfeeding: Advocating for Acceptance” issue, we take a look at the cultural explosion of breastfeeding advocacy, as well as the challenges still to overcome. API writer Sheena Sommers begins this issue with “The Real Breastfeeding Story,” including a look at “Extended Breastfeeding Around the World” by API writer Rivkah Estrin, followed by API Professional Liaison Patricia Mackie’s interview with the founder of Breastfeed, Chicago! and finally, I present researcher Jeanne Stolzer as she makes “Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding.” Scattered throughout this issue are parent stories, project highlights and additional resources from around and beyond API.
Thankfully, the key behaviors of breastfeeding can be mimicked while giving a bottle of expressed milk or formula to a baby. A mother-baby pair unable to breastfeed, therefore, is not necessarily unable to form a secure attachment. That is the beauty of Attachment Parenting.
The reason breastfeeding is considered a key element in Attachment Parenting is because it is this very act that is nature’s best teacher for new parents in how to sensitively and consistently respond to their babies, forming the foundation of reciprocity of a healthy relationship meant to serve the parent-child dyad for a lifetime.
Largely due to cultural pressures, even when mothers are able to get breastfeeding off to a good start, there is a sharp overall decline in breastfeeding rates in the weeks and months after delivery. If mothers do not have adequate support when breastfeeding problems arise, premature weaning often happens. There is even less support for teaching mothers who feed by bottle how to do so within the parent-child relationship framework.
This time of learning how to parent is crucial to the mother-infant relationship. Attachment Parenting helps mothers—whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding—view infant care in the context of the holistic parent-child relationship and learn how that give-and-take interaction that builds the foundation of secure attachment can be applied beyond feeding with love and respect.
Through the “Voices of Breastfeeding: Meeting Challenges with Compassion” in this special edition of Attached Family, we take a look at the “other side” of breastfeeding advocacy—championing compassion for the mother who encounters challenges in breastfeeding and who may not be able to breastfeed at all. API’s The Attached Family.com Editor Lisa Lord opens this issue with “When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work,” followed by a look at a “Mom-Inspired Milk Bank” by API writer Kathleen Mitchell-Askar and the debute of API’s Parent Support Deserts project—each with accompanying parent stories (including that of Sara Jones Rust, who graces the cover), project highlights and additional resources from around and beyond API.
While we at API wish that breastfeeding was possible, and fulfilling, for all mother-baby couples, it is as Wendy Friedlander of New York City, USA, says on page 8: “In the end, it doesn’t matter because they loved her. When it comes to a situation where you are low on reserves and low on support, there is only so much one person can do. Your children are getting served by love. That is the number-one thing that serves them.”
Attached Family magazine is free for all API members–and membership is free! Click the link to download your copy or join API today.
An interview with author Amy Wright Glenn about her book Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.
Tell us about your book.
Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a heartfelt account of my work with the birthing and dying. I am a doula. I hold space for women as they give birth. I am a chaplain. I hold space for the dying. I am drawn to life’s thresholds. I am drawn to these doorways.
Birth, Breath, and Death is also a deeply personal exploration of what it meant for me to become a mother, given the painful legacy of my mother’s mental illness. I write about the healing attachment found in cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. I weave together research on attachment and brain development, with reflections on empathy and compassion.
Finally, I share personal stories about birth and death, combined with philosophical reflections as my academic background is in the study of comparative religions and philosophy.
What inspired you to write this book?
My husband, Clark, came up with the title of this book during my training as a hospital chaplain. However, I wasn’t ready to write this book at that point in my life. It was the birth of my son–and the subsequently profound opening of my heart–that compelled me to write this book.
I didn’t want to go back to full-time academic work after holding my newborn in my arms. I knew I could use my skill as a writer to contribute financially to the family and fulfill my heart’s longing, and the longing of my young son, to stay at home and nurture him with the best of my energy and talents.
Much of Birth, Breath, and Death came to me in meditation, and I often woke up from sleep with sentences running through my mind. Writing has opened up many doors for me, and I’m grateful to find a way to work from home and share my insights, struggles, hopes and experiences.
How will this book benefit families?
All of us are born. All of us die. I write about the deepest questions we can examine in life. Within our family circles, we encounter both the miraculous and the mundane. Within our families, we most deeply encounter the transformative energies of birth and death.
I believe we all benefit from reflecting upon what it means to be born and what it means to die. These are life’s big questions. Even if one disagrees with my responses to these big questions, it is still invaluable to take the time to reflect upon them with an open heart and mind.
Parents, in particular, will benefit from reading this book as I reflect on what it means to be a parent and find one’s own way, trust one’s intuition, and draw upon best practices and scholarship to bring out the best in oneself and one’s children.
You share birth stories and reflect upon your work as a chaplain supporting the dying, but tell us more about the “Breath” part of your book.
The first thing we do upon leaving our mother’s body is breathe in, and the last thing we do before we die is breathe out. The breath is the link, the thread. It is a powerfully loyal friend throughout life’s journey between birth and death.
I practice meditation and teach yoga. Conscious breath awareness is central to these mindfulness practices. It’s central to living a mindful life. The “breath” part of the book relates to teachings drawn from many wisdom traditions that help us keep our hearts open as we live with love and seek truth.
You studied comparative religion and taught this on the college and high school level, so how does this impact your writing?
My studies of comparative religion and philosophy profoundly impact everything I do. I love making links between the particular and the universal, between the day-to-day patterns of living and the deep reflections that thinkers across time and culture bring to human life. My book is academically rigorous in the sense that I draw freely from my training as a scholar in the telling of birth, breath and death tales.
What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?
Attachment Parenting International is an organization I admire, support and celebrate. I’m very grateful for API’s commitment to link best parenting practices with research, and support families to develop secure attachments that foster the development of empathy, courage and resilience.
I found myself naturally practicing many AP styles of mothering and applied my previous research in the field of ethical development to the work of nurturing my son. I certainly want to support all parents to “raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children.” We do this best when we as parents embody these qualities ourselves.
My book chronicles my own journey of working through the pain of a difficult childhood and emerging with joy and empathy to embrace openhearted mothering.
Where can readers find more information?
Readers can visit my website www.birthbreathanddeath.com to read reviews of the book and find purchase information.
By Leyani Redditi and Cason Zarro, API Leaders of API of Greater Atlanta, Georgia
Q: I am feeling overwhelmed with household chores and parenting. I want to be present for my children, but the pressure of everything I need to get done is so stressful. How can I get everything done and have time for my kids?
A: I have struggled with this balance myself. It is fine to say to a brand new parent not to worry about the dirty dishes, but eventually they do need to get done. I find that when my home is relatively clean and we have food in the fridge and clean clothes, my family and I are less stressed.
So how does it all get done? Well, first of all, it doesn’t ALL get done. Some things will go by the wayside. Maybe it is the folding or ironing part of laundry. A basket of clean clothes still counts as doing laundry. By all means cut corners where you feel you can while still feeling good in your space. But even then there are repetitive and time-consuming tasks that somehow need to get done.
Here is what I have found to be the most helpful for getting things done while taking care of my children: Figure out a system, do things in short increments and do something each day.
Find your system: Everyone has a different way of organizing themselves (or not), but when you sit down and list the things that need to happen in a day, you see why you are so busy (and tired) and why sometimes it feels so overwhelming. So make the list, give yourself credit for how hard you work and then get strategic.
Figure out what things need to be done each day, each week and each month. How can other family members help with these tasks? You all live in the house and can all help in some way. My 3-year-old helps set the table and picks up toys during our family 10-minute toy pick-ups. My 7-year-old puts away her own clean laundry and feeds our pets. My husband helps with dishes and home maintenance. I have found it very helpful to have a Morning List and an Evening List. And, no, we don’t get everything done each day, but we are all involved, and we know what needs to be done (most days).
Work in short increments: Having a newborn taught me to use the very short amounts of time I had with both hands free to get a lot done. Talk about learning to prioritize! I love the idea of only spending 10 or maximum 15 minutes on a task. I don’t wait until I have an hour to do chores. I do 10 minutes here, 10 there, and slowly things get done. Really it’s finding the rhythm of your day and your family. I think about fitting in little bursts of activity so that I can have the luxury of long chore-free stretches with my children.
Do something each day: Household chores are ongoing and repetitive; the plates get dirty over and over again. For me, learning to think of these activities as “life maintenance” was very helpful. Just like brushing my teeth, there are some things that need to get done every day (or at least most days). I had to give up the idea that at some point I’d find a bunch of free time to get it all done. So I do something each day. Sometimes getting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher is it. Other days, we pick up the house as a family. We put on great music and set the timer for 10 minutes. Then it is a mad dash around the house full of laughter as we pick up and put away what we can.
Most importantly, give yourself credit for whatever you get done. Feel good you are doing something rather than bad that you are not doing everything.
~ Leyani Redditi
*Scroll down to read more suggestions from our readers.
Q: My 6-week-old baby cries and cries every time he is in the car. How can I help him like the car?
A: Although many babies are put to sleep by the sound and vibration of the car, there are quite a few babes who cry and want to get out. Time will certainly make this better, but there are some things you can try in the meantime.
Some babies are simply not comfortable in their infant car seats. If you think that is the case, you may wish to try a different model car seat. Sometimes switching to a convertible seat may result in a happier baby because the seat may be more comfortable. A convertible seat is one that can be placed rear-facing for infants, and then turned around when your little one has reached the rear-facing limits for the seat. You should consult the car seat manual to determine if your infant meets the minimum weight and size requirement for a convertible seat.
Nurse or feed your baby right before you leave. Make sure his diaper is dry and that he has burped. You want him to be as comfortable as possible before strapping him in his seat.
If there are any music or radio shows that you listened to while pregnant, try listening to them in the car. The familiar noises can be very comforting for babies. Try singing some lullabies or upbeat songs, depending on what your baby prefers. Some babies are soothed by white noise. In a pinch, radio static can act as white noise.
You could also try placing a T-shirt you’ve recently worn close to your dear son. The familiar smell of Mama may help him feel less lonely. Some families have found it helpful to tape a picture of mom’s face where the baby can see it. If you are the passenger, reach back and rub his head or sit in the seat next to him.
Sometimes you may need to pull over to a safe place and nurse or otherwise comfort your baby. I have found it helpful to pull over, sit in the seat next to my baby and lean over to nurse her. She will even fall asleep occasionally, and I can sneak around and drive while she sleeps peacefully. If your son will be comforted this way, it can be helpful to keep him buckled so that he doesn’t wake up when you are trying to get him back in his seat. You can also try nursing him like this before even leaving the house.
Allow extra time, especially if you need to be somewhere at a certain time. This can reduce your stress when you do need to stop. Reduce unnecessary trips, and encourage friends to come visit you.
If all else fails, talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical reason such as acid reflux.
~ Cason Zarro
We asked readers on Facebook to tell us how they find balance with household chores and parenting. Click here to read the full conversation on Facebook.
Sunshine: Lower your expectations. Best piece of advice that was given to me!
Erin: We gave up cable and hired a housekeeper to come once every 2 weeks. Best money ever spent in our home of 2 full-time workers. It allows us to spend time with our kids after work and still get lunches packed, etc.
Ina: Prioritize–listening to your child’s idea is a “now,” folding laundry is a “later,” and cleaning the garage is a “maybe.” Downsize–don’t have too many clothes, toys and knick-knacks around. The more you own, the more you clean. Change the bottlenecks–if there is a time of crazy stress during the day, try to change it (e.g., if bathing in the evening is stressful, bathe them after lunch).
Leah: Sometimes you just have to let go of the phrases “I need to” or “I should.”
Elizabeth: I find a lot of comfort from a weekly chart. I do just two or three main house cleaning things per day, and then I’m not spending an entire day cleaning everything. I also remind myself that my chart is a guide, not a “to do” list. I keep my kitchen tasks for after school time since my son is in there already doing his homework. He sits up to the counter, and I help him with his homework as needed while I do the dishes and get dinner on.
Sandra: The bottom stair and a shelf at the top of the stairs are the gathering area for things that need to be put away. No wasted trips up or down the stairs. Going up anyway–take the packs of tissue to the hall closet. Coming down–bring the glasses to put in the dishwasher.
Jennifer: I take a nightly bath with my two youngest (4 months & 19 months). It’s probably the only way I can even fit in a bath at night for myself. It’s such a sweet moment and my favorite part of the day. I wash each, hand them one by one to dad to dress, then rinse off myself. Simple things make a difference!
Jane: Keep kids involved; it’s their house, too. All three of them love it when I allow them to wash the bathroom (not the toilet). We get $2 spray bottles, fill with water and either vinegar, bicarbonate or lemon, and let them go for it. Let go of your pre-kids standard.
Brittany: Just decide sometimes that it’s actually not the priority; sometimes playing with your kids, reading stories, or taking a relaxing bath while listening to jazz or opera is more important. Sometimes meditating and deciding to be grateful that it’s your life and those are your kids before you crank up the music and start working helps you keep focus.
Cathy: By just implying it should all be balanced and we should be managing it–without staff–is just unfair at times.
Savannah: Having a routine of cleaning during a certain part of the day has unintentionally given my daughter a routine for when to have “alone” play time, which she enjoys quite a bit.
Maria: If you have something you need to do without kids nagging, give them lots of attention first. Play a game, get exercise, feed them, snuggle. Then try to get your task done.
Lauren: Babywearing definitely helps!
Aimee: Honestly, I just let things go. I clean up food and big messes, but our house is not perfectly clean unless we have guests coming over, then I do a quick major overhaul! We work full time, and I’d rather spend the time I do have with my daughter. I’d love to always have healthy home-cooked meals, but we do a lot of ready-made meals from Trader Joes.
Louise: My hubby is superb and cleans the kitchen whilst balancing both kids in the mornings, so I can sleep a bit more (5-month-old feeds 2 hourly), and I do the rest of the house. Online grocery shopping is a godsend!
Elizabeth: A few tactical things we do to help keep me from being overwhelmed: hired a cleaning person, make two meals on Sunday so we have leftovers for the first half of the work week, and use a grocery list app.
Josie: While my husband is doing the bedtime routine, I take 10 minutes to pick up the toys and straighten up a bit. It’s easier to start from zero the next morning!
Melanie: I have baskets in several rooms, so when I see something that doesn’t belong in that room (comb, dog collar, Lego brick, calculator, etc.), I pop it in the basket. Then every week or so, I empty all the baskets into a pile on the lounge floor and shout, “Come and get your stuff; anything not collected goes in the charity bag.” Works every time, and we quite often have stuff there for charity, too.
Kristen: My husband shares in all chores and, in fact, probably does more than me since our daughter was born (9 months old and breastfeeding). I spent half my childhood pretending to keep house or work … just because our society tells us these things aren’t fun doesn’t have to make it true for us. For our family, housekeeping is part of the overall peace of our lives.
Judy: I am thinking about doing a home office share with another work-from-home mom so that we can trade off child care on 2 hour shifts for each other while the other gets stuff done.
Cherry: I remind myself that it isn’t my ever-so-clean carpets and clean kitchen that I will be remembering on my death bed … it will be my time spent with my DD.
An interview with author Amy Hatkoff about her book You Are My World.
Tell us about your book. What was the inspiration?
Today, more than ever before, there is a burgeoning body of scientific research confirming that babies develop on every level through the give and take of relationships. And the science is telling us that babies with secure attachments have the best outcomes in life. Study after study shows that attuned, sensitive and responsive parenting leads to optimal development.
I have always felt that parents were the last to receive critical information about babies and often make decisions based on cultural myths and misconceptions. It seems that child development is one of the best kept secrets in America! I wanted to synthesize the research into a language that was easy for parents to understand and apply to everyday interactions with their babies. I wanted to “picture” what attachment parenting looks like and communicate what it feels like from a baby’s point of view.
You Are My World provides an opportunity for parents to visually, emotionally and intellectually experience the impact they have on their babies. I also wanted to give a voice to babies and celebrate all that they do, know and are–right from the start.
How will this book benefit families?
The book is meant to resonate with the wisdom of a parent’s heart. We know how important love is for a baby–it is everything. But so much can stand in the way of our accessing or expressing our love. In my years of working with parents, I realized it takes more than information to help people make a shift or to really integrate a concept. I had been looking for a way to bypass the defenses of our minds and untie the knots created by personal experiences, cultural beliefs and historic ideas. You Are My World uses the voices and beauty of babies themselves to speak directly to our hearts.
I also believe that less is more. I think people can glaze over with too much information. I was trying to distill the information into its simplest and most readily accessible and absorbable form.
I hope the book will help parents feel more confident and empowered. You Are My World celebrates the power of a parent’s love and portrays the extraordinary impact of the ordinary acts of parenting. Every parent can hold, soothe and smile at their baby. The book shows that it is the seemingly insignificant moments with the significant people in a baby’s life that shape who that baby will become. I hope the book will encourage parents to listen to their hearts.
What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?
I think API is essential and doing a fantastic job of encouraging Attachment Parenting, which is known to be so critical for healthy development.
The dedication in the book is: “To parents everywhere, whose love has the power to change the world.” While I believe this intuitively, I thought I might be going a little bit overboard in making this statement. But the more I read, the more research I find that makes a connection between Attachment Parenting and peaceful children–and ultimately, the hope for a peaceful world. My hope is that we can all continue to find ways to free our hearts from the confines of culture, history and our personal pasts and become free to truly nurture our children.
Where can readers find out more about the book and your work?
Be sure to check out the upcoming “Loving Uniquely” issue of Attached Family for a chance to win a copy of the book.
API: Tell us about how your business began. What was the inspiration? What are your goals?
Julie Zorgo: Spark of Amber was founded in early 2013, after I was introduced to Baltic amber jewelry through a friend. I did some online research and found out how Baltic amber has been used for years in children as a natural teething aid and pain reliever. The succinic acid in Baltic amber is scientifically studied and is an active ingredient for pain relief, calming properties and anti-inflammation. I discovered that adults also use Baltic amber for calming, pain relief and as a natural immune builder.
My inspiration to do this came from my husband and three children. My family is my biggest fan club.
My goals are many. First, I hope Spark of Amber grows to the point where it can be a full-time job from home for me. I believe in being there for my children, even as they get older. My other goals are to be able to donate to different charities and raise awareness for worthwhile causes through my business, and to make Baltic amber accessible and affordable to other families.
API: How does your business contribute to society?
Julie: My business currently spotlights a different charity or cause each month. For May, I picked End It, which seeks to raise awareness of and end the current blight of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. As my business grows, I would like to pick a day each month to donate a portion of sales to the cause of the month. Other charities and causes that I would love to contribute towards are breast cancer, child abuse awareness, positive parenting, breastfeeding support, and adoption awareness and help.
Another way Spark of Amber helps contribute to society is that, whenever possible, we work with different women in Lithuania to help craft our jewelry rather than buying from large factories. I feel it is important to help these women to feed and support their families by creating beautiful amber jewelry.
API: How does this business benefit families?
Julie: Spark of Amber benefits families by making beautiful amber jewelry available at affordable prices. I love promoting natural (rather than chemical) remedies for families. Several mothers have already written me about how much the jewelry has helped their headaches and pain or made them feel less stressed during the day, so they can be better mothers. We offer something beautiful and beneficial for the whole family, from children to teens to adults!
API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How can we work together with your project?
Julie: I think API is doing a very valuable service. Every day millions of children are living in abusive or very harsh environments, and this can scar them for their entire lives. We need to do so much better. I think there is such value in educating the public on natural and loving parenting practices. I am completely supportive of API and hope more families become aware of the value of attached parenting. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so API does a great job in spreading the positive message of Attachment Parenting.
My husband and I were totally unaware of Attachment Parenting when we had our first son, but we just sort of fell into it. My son hated the bassinet (I think it lasted one night), so we started cosleeping and continued for years. In fact, we have co-slept with all our children, and are now cosleeping with our 2-year-old daughter, while the boys share a bed together. I breastfed both boys until they self-weaned. I am doing the same with my daughter. Slings never worked out for us. I did try! Instead my babies preferred to be held. Both my husband and I sacrificed so one of us could be at home raising our children.
As far as how you can work together with me through Spark of Amber, I just appreciate the opportunity to share my business and a bit about my family with you. Any support I get helps me work from home so I can spend more time with my children, while still helping to contribute to our family income.
API: Anything else you’d like to share?
Julie: I’d like to encourage other moms who have a dream for a business or venture to go for it! I am really glad I started Spark of Amber. I would also encourage everyone to do what they can to make a difference in the world. Even if we can’t contribute money, we can be kind to a child, show love, and use gentle words and actions with our own children. It all helps!
API: Thank you so much! Where can people get more information?
A limited selection of items is available in the API Store
By Megan Oteri, www.memomuse.wordpress.com
My son is sleeping on my husband’s chest. Snuggled in an O against his broad shoulders in a snuggly nest. Resting easy, gently. I want my son to wake up because I haven’t seen him this morning. My husband let me sleep in, because I stayed up late last night writing and working on grad school work. I woke refreshed and awake, not my usual still-feel-like-I-need-two-more-hours-of-sleep grogginess. Dare I say refreshed. Yes, I was refreshed.
As I walked by my two darlings, my husband was singing a song and waving me off –- as in, “go away!” So you don’t wake the boy. He is almost asleep. I went to the kitchen to get my breakfast and make coffee. I toasted two slices of cinnamon-raisin bread and slowly buttered it, taking my time. I put my son’s toys in the basket that I washed yesterday, placing them in, like an organizer would, quite a difference than their daily throw-it-in-the-basket routine. I did some laundry, changing over a load in the washer to the dryer and taking the dried clothes out of the laundry room. That load is in the kitchen. Still.
I want my little one to wake up. I miss his little face, his little body. His tiny little shoulders -– how they’ve grown — yet he is still so tiny. Continue reading Love Not Always Floodlights and Fireworks, but Sometimes It Is
By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com
Q: I get a lot of advice that babies and children do better if they have a routine way of doing everything, especially sleep time. Personally, it is very challenging for me to enforce a sleep time on my baby. How important is it to have schedules and routines for sleep, food, or other activities?
A: It is best to do what brings peace and joy to you and your family. The beauty of keeping your baby in your arms is that you get to know her well; this closeness allows you to respond to her cues rather than apply external theories. Any ideas that do not come from your baby are unlikely to resonate with who she is.
You are well connected to your baby and therefore find it difficult to oppose her direction. Congratulations! Nurture this healthy attachment. There is no need for you to “attach” to ideas that oppose your baby. She is your guide. When you respond to her lead, she learns to trust and rely on herself. Self-confidence and independence are the ability of the child to rely on herself and listen to her own body and soul. Continue reading Does My Baby Need Routine Sleep Time?
By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.authenticparent.com
We cosleep with our baby, but she keeps waking up every hour or two to breastfeed. I put her to sleep at 7 p.m., and she wakes up two hours later. I join her at around 10 p.m. and then she keeps waking up and nursing. Should I move her away from our family bed to help my baby sleep better?
A: I am delighted that your baby sleeps with you. If she woke up in another bed or another room, she would have had to go through anxiety and crying every time she needed to breastfeed or to feel reassured that you still exist. She would have given up half the times, and she would have learned a painful lesson, “When I need care, I have to cry loudly.” This is the early training for tantrums and anger.
When babies are carried on our bodies and sleep with us, they hardly have to make a sound to get the care they need. As they grow older, they will keep asking for what they want in gentle ways.
Waking at night is nature’s clever design. Babies grow in their sleep and can become easily hungry. Sensing the presence of the mother’s body reminds them to wake up and nurse. In addition, since their breathing is still immature, nature makes sure that they wake up often enough to avoid very deep sleep and apnea. Nature makes no mistakes.
Your expectation that she should wake up less frequently causes you undue stress. The good news is, she is thriving and you are meeting her needs wonderfully. Without your misled expectation, you can respond to the way she is with joy. I recall waiting impatiently for the sweet moments of my babies waking up at night so I can kiss, smell, breastfeed, and feel the baby. These times are heavenly, but resisting and worry steal our joy away. The more you follow your baby’s needs, the easier it becomes. Of course, make sure to eat well yourself, avoid stimulating foods, and provide a dark, quiet bedroom for your family.
The baby is always right. The baby never asks for something wrong. The basic needs she signals for are what she absolutely needs. Your job is not to alter your baby but to respond to the way she is. You only doubt yourself when under the influence of other people. Listen to your little baby and to your own heart. She is needing to sleep with you and to wake to breastfeed as often as she does. There are ways for you to get enough sleep without going against your baby’s needs.
Couple Time and Bedtime
Many couples with a first or even a second baby are still “hoping” to resume life the way it was. They want to put the baby to sleep and have time for themselves. However, more often than not, sleep proves itself far from a good babysitter. Bedtime becomes a struggle because of an unspoken goal of getting rid of the baby or child. The baby senses this intent and may become resistant to sleep or simply not wanting to be excluded. Because it seems to work for some when the baby is still young, we are fooled to believe it would keep working.
In reality, your baby needs your uninterrupted presence when sleeping. The baby has no idea of future and no sense of existing without her body being touched. She can therefore experience terror when alone. This is the reason that nature gave babies a built-in reaction of crying when away from our bodies. Nature never meant for babies to sleep away from their mothers. And, mothers naturally want to hold their babies. There is no reason to train mothers and babies out of their healthy attachment.
When you put your baby to sleep at 7 p.m., she is not cosleeping for a good part of her night. She is alone. Waking up to find herself without you is scary for her. She can develop into a light sleeper who wakes up frequently to guard that you are close by. Your daughter’s emotional well being, confidence, intelligence, and health depend on taking for granted that mom is always present. This may require a lot more than you thought you were ready to give, but at the end, it is the easier way and it results in a well-behaved, content child. Be gentle with yourself by avoiding guilt, and instead, learn and grow daily by listening to your baby and exploring inside of you the thoughts that drag you away from enjoying her fully.
In natural societies, parents never put their babies or children to bed. A baby sleeps when she sleeps. She is in arms at all times and regulates her own sleep. In this way, the baby learns self-awareness and self-regulation without becoming dependent on adult control. Let your baby fall asleep on the breast anywhere you are, at her own time, so she can become self-aware and develop healthy sleep.
I often say that I was a lazy mother. I wanted to do everything the easiest way. Amazingly, I found that this was also the kindest way to babies and children. I always went to sleep with my children in the same bed and the same time. They had no stress about bedtime and are terrific sleepers. I never put them to bed. Every night was a slumber party, and we always had enough sleep and sometimes I even read in bed in the morning while the children were still asleep.
We must move on and depart from old expectations. Sex and couple time don’t have to be always in the evening and in the bedroom. Trying to impose couple time in the evening, when the baby needs you the most, is a struggle against nature. Find new times and settings for your relationship and realize that being together as a family is romantic, too. It is not about sex but about love and sharing the child you are nurturing together.
Your baby needs to be in body contact with you at all times, including the first hours of her night’s sleep.
Use these principles in your own creative ways. Respond to the flow, nurture your daughter’s natural ability to recognize her own tiredness even if she fights it — it is her self-discovery — and provide constant, stress-free physical closeness. Your baby wake-ups are wonderful and healthy; without struggling against it, you can cherish each moment of cuddling with your nursing little angel.