Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting Is a Way of Life

7 Comments 11 May 2012

Attachment Parenting, often referred to as AP, is considered by many to be a parenting style.

I think of it as a lifestyle. It’s aligned with the way I live my whole life.

Attachment parenting is a way of mothering that nurtures my children. The daily practice of being an AP parent feels most natural to me.

While we’re talking definition, here it is:

Attachment parenting is a term coined by William Sears, meaning, “Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child’s socio-emotional development and well being.”

There are a few public figures that have normalized attachment parenting recently.

Mayim Bailik, wrote a book called Beyond the Sling, Angelina and Brad practice co-sleeping, Ricki Lake with home birth, Anne Heche uses cloth diapers and Alicia Silverstone considers herself a natural, attachment parenting mama (read her blog, The Kind Life).

I am so grateful that these high profile people have brought kind parenting practices into view.

Most recently, Time published a piece about AP, specificially drawing attention to extended nursing.

And the cover has everybody talking. 

 

This is my response.

What I like about the cover:

All in all, I am glad that Time Magazine is covering the topic of AP. I think more people and children can benefit from this simple way of life. Remember, the definition of attachment parenting is to be sensitive to a child’s emotions and needs.

I’m also thrilled that the cover has started a conversation about extended breastfeeding. The benefits of extended nursing are numerous. As someone who nursed one child until 3, two children for 8 months, and going strong with a 10 month old, I love to see breastfeeding in the news.

Now here’s what I don’t like about this magazine cover:

The title. Pairing ”Are You Mom Enough?” with a photo of a toddler nursing gives the impression that you must practice extended breastfeeding or you’re not mom enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every mom is mom enough, no matter how long she breastfeeds her children, or if she is able to breastfeed at all. Two weeks or two years. Statements like this create a defensive, judgmental environment between women, that separates us instead of bringing us together. That’s the last thing mothers need.

At the same time, who is mom enough? What the heck does that even mean? We all have strengths and weaknesses.

You ARE mom enough.

‘Nuff said.

Okay. Back to attachment parenting.

How I practice attachment parenting.

Attachment parenting means something different to everyone.

I’m proud of the way my partner and I parent our children and hope you are too, with whatever style works for you and your kiddos!

  • I bedshare: Lucan and Ella sleep on either side of me in a twin bed. Eric has his own twin bed in the same room. Sometimes I start out in his bed and make my way over to the other when Lucan wakes up.
  • I babywear: I prefer to carry my children rather than put them in strollers. My favorite brand is Ergo. Although Ella is old enough to walk, we sometimes put her in the Ergo on our backs during long nature hikes when she gets tuckered out. We have a second carrier for Lucan, who rides on front of my chest.
  • I breastfeed: Ella nursed from day one to just over 3. We continued our nursing relationship through my second pregnancy as well as after Lucan was born, (Ella was 2 1/2). I tandem nursed them for 8 months before slowly weaning my daughter.
  • I follow my toddler’s lead: I see “acting out” not as a behavioral problem but as an emotional issue that my daughter doesn’t know how to speak with words. My children have never cried it out to sleep. My children have worn/wear cloth diapers.

I want to stress again that I believe each person needs to walk their own parenting path.

Maybe you don’t use cloth diapers, or perhaps your little one prefers sleeping in their crib. That doesn’t mean you’re not an AP parent. It’s not black and white.

Now I want to hear from you!

#1: What do you think of the Time cover?

#2: How do you, (or don’t you) practice attachment parenting?

Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Motherhood

The Challenges and Rewards of Night Weaning

18 Comments 25 September 2011

I began the process of night weaning my two and a half year old daughter two weeks ago.

Night weaning is a bitch! Emotionally and physically painful.

However, don’t let this deter you from night weaning. There are, as  I will explain, both challenges and rewards for night weaning.

I encourage the process.

I’ll begin with the why, the  how and move on from there with the details of our experience.

 

Why night wean?

I never thought to night wean Ella until Lucan was born.

I didn’t have a strong enough reason.

Although I wasn’t a big fan of waking up several times a night to nurse Ella back to sleep, I knew cutting out breastfeeding would be tough.

A battle even. Frankly, I didn’t want to face the confrontation.

Ella loves her “mum-mums.”

The first month of tandem night nursing went fine.

I laid on my back and had one child on each side of my body, nursing alternatively or at the same time. I got a fair amount of sleep and didn’t view our routine as an issue.

But then…things changed.

 

Lucan was no longer content to snuggle in the crook of my arm or lay on my chest. He craved autonomy. His go-to-sleep position became laying on his side next to me.

This presented a problem.

Ella began waking-up to my back in the middle of the night.

If I was nursing Lucan back to sleep, or needed to carefully peel my skin from his baby hug hold, Ella would get restless, impatient, and ultimately break-down into a fit of hysteria.

This usually woke-up Lucan.

 

What is a mother to do with two crying babies?

Not a pretty picture. I knew something had to change (and it wasn’t Lucan).

 

The Method:

The first step was talking to Ella about our night weaning plan.

When I explained that we weren’t going to be having mum-mums at night anymore, she inquisitively asked, “whyyyy?”

Good. She was listening.

I answered, “because night time is for sleeping. You can have mum-mums when you fall asleep at night. At night we’ll cuddle and sleep. Then, when the sun comes up, and it’s morning, you can have mum-mums again!”

She may have said okay, or she may have said nothing at all. But whether or not she understood, she heard me, and that’s all that mattered. I didn’t want to spring it on her out of the blue.

The Plan:

Bedtime routine would begin normally – Ella could nurse to sleep.

When Ella woke up, I’d quietly and calmly tell her she could have mum-mums in the morning, then suggest we cuddle.

Good, in theory, but …

Not only did whining, screaming and kicking ensue, so did a head-butt to the mouth, resulting in a bloody, puffy lip (mine, not hers).

Although it was tough, we got through the night without nursing. The key was soothing Ella while not giving in.

The second, third, fourth AND fifth nights were similar to the first (save the head-butting incident).

Ella awoke in the middle of the night 2-3 times, as usual pre-weaning, asking for mum-mums. And each time she was denied, (when I calmly told her she could have mum-mums in the morning and suggested cuddling) she’d break down.

 

To prevent from waking everyone, I would take Ella into the living room.

We’d sit on the couch until she calmed down. I wouldn’t let her back in the bedroom until she could take a deep breath and stop crying. Walking back into the bedroom, I always make sure to hold her hand, saying, “we’ll cuddle in bed honey.”

 

The 3 keys to night weaning success: that mom provides a calm, assertive energy, has patience and acts consistency.

If you’re in it to win it, follow this advice.

  • Without assertiveness, you’ll be wishy-washy and won’t get the message across that you mean business. Make sure your energy remains calm.
  • Without patience, you will nearly die. Seriously.
  • And without consistency, your child will be confused. You can’t tell him/her that you don’t nurse anymore at night only to give in the next night unless you want to fail miserably.

 

Present Day:

Our nightly trials nearly mimicked each other night after night until the pattern broke. Ella woke up just after 1, 3 and 5 for the first five days.

Then she woke up at 2:30 and 5:45.

Then at 3:15 and 6:15…

and then finally, she slept through the night until 6, two nights in a row. Hallelujah!!

If we can do it, you can do it too. Follow your heart, beat to your own drum, and good luck!

p.s. this has been my experience and I in no way feel or mean to come across as “my way or the high-way.” Check out Dr. Jay Gordon for attachment parenting night weaning tips.

Attachment Parenting, Guest Writers, Motherhood

A Working Mother’s Sacrifice

12 Comments 21 September 2011

guest post by Jeremy Dyen

I want to tell you how bittersweet it is that we live in a time when the roles of men and women, of mothers and fathers, have become blurred and intermingled.

More and more I find stay at home dads at the park with their kids, while mom is off at work.

I have a number of friends who live that scenario. I lived that scenario. I still do, though it is a bit more complicated than my wife, Madhavi, going off to work while I stay home with our 18 month old Anjali (but more on that in a minute).

Why I think this role shifting is bittersweet

The sweet part is that we stay at home papas get more time with our kids than the typical working dad.

That means more connection and involvement.  It has allowed me to tap deeply into my nurturing side, which I knew I had, but maybe didn’t realize how deep. Somehow I think it’s the role I always knew I would fill.

The bitter part is, especially in the early years, a sacred and beautiful bond is being broken, (at least partially).

It is my strongest belief that, at least in the first year, babies have a biological, an emotional and a physical need to be with their mothers.

Mom, after all, grew this baby for nine months and birthed her. They were physically connected for all of that time. I am reminded of this time and time again seeing Anjali’s reaction when she sees Madhavi, or when she is nursing. I am reminded of this every time Madhavi goes to work, even though she’s only going to the room on our third floor.

A Little Back Story

The short story is that Madhavi earns more than me, and therefore is the main earner in our family.

The longer story goes a little like this. I am a musician, composer and producer. I earn my living mainly from gigs and some teaching, but also from licensing, producing and CD sales. We own some rental properties, so I oversee everything related to that, including financing, bookkeeping, maintenence, etc.

My wife is a Physician…but no longer practicing clinically.

She left her job as a Headache Specialist in March in part because she no longer enjoyed clinical practice (and especially disliked being on call, which is really tough for a nursing mama), because she always wanted to work at home and most certainly to have more time with Anjali.

Since Anjali’s birth, she worked part time at her practice. But it became clear to her that it was time to take the plunge. She plunged and immediately found a job using her skills that allowed her to work part time and to be at home. She is given a few nursing breaks throughout her day, so she was able to ditch the pump.

Now, Madhavi and I are both work-from-home parents.

We recently launched the Birth Relaxation Kit which is a downloadable hypnosis for childbirth program, including affirmations mp3s, music recordings and guide book. Also, Madhavi has a thriving website at mavigupta.com, about headache relief, and where conventional and holistic medicine intersect.

The Sacrifice:

Ultimately, something has to give. Especially if a mother is working full time, either the quantity of time she spends with her kids suffers, or the quantity of her personal time suffers.

Sometimes it’s not even a choice.

On the one day of the week Madhavi works a full day, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, she gets very little time with Anjali. Often these days, Anjali is napping when Madhavi has her lunch break. And recently Anjali started going to sleep at 7:30 pm.

Also, Madhavi is breastfeeding, and plans to continue as long as Anjali wants/needs. This makes co-sleeping at night the best option. That means on difficult nights, when Anjali wakes a lot, Madhavi’s sleep suffers (she probably hasn’t had a straight 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep for 18 months!). That compounds by the fact that she has to get up and work the next day.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where food, housing, insurance and the basic cost of living is expensive.

We also live in a culture where moms are now expected, or at least encouraged, to work very shortly after giving birth.

Three months is considered a long maternity leave. Madhavi was given 6 weeks, and used vacation, sick and personal days to make up the difference.

What affect is this having on children? What affect is this having on our society in general?

Jon Kabat-Zinn says in the book, Everyday Blessings, “It is considered perfectly acceptable for people to give one hundred percent to their careers…but not to their children.”

One acquaintance of ours is reluctantly resorting to letting her baby cry it out to go to sleep at night in preparation for her return to full time work. She is in a situation where she is the main earner in her family, and she knows she cannot function well after long nights of nursing and many wake ups.

I see how Madhavi struggles with sleep. Even working part time, she feels like her brain is just being stretched. Madhavi chooses, however, to sacrifice her own sleep and her own time in order to provide our daughter with the love and nurturing she deserves. That means some rocky nights. It means putting some personal and business goals on the back burner, or letting them brew slower than we would like.

It’s All About Balance

Today, on one of Madhavi’s days off, I took Anjali to our friends’ party. This gave Madhavi a good chunk of time to reconnect with herself, to work on some of her goals, and even to start sewing a doll for Anjali, a project she has been wanting to get to but hasn’t had time. She said it felt good and it was much needed. Still, she was torn because it meant limited time with Anjali and me.

A friend of mine from college used to say, “It’s all about balance.”

This is one of the many times I hear that phrase echoing in my head. Everything we do as parents is about balance. I think it is a prerequisite, as a parent, to sacrifice at least piece of ourselves, and usually more. It is a balancing act to give so much of ourselves, and yet maintain our individuality.

I am so grateful for the sacrifices, among many other things, that Madhavi has given for her family. I am grateful that we have struck a kind of balance, though we strive for an even better one (that’s a whole other post in itself!).

I wonder how things would have been different if Madhavi was able to take a full year of maternity leave, as is possible in Canada and many other countries. What would it have been like if she didn’t have to go back at all?

***

I’m curious how many of the Bring Birth Home readers are stay at home moms, work at home moms, working part time or working full time. What is your take on this?

*************************************************************************************************
Jeremy Dyen is a musician, father and husband who blogs at Stay at Home Papa. He and his wife Madhavi are advocates of hypnosis and affirmations for mindset shifts about birth. They recently launched the Birth Relaxation Kit, and they even offer a free hypnobirthing mp3.

Attachment Parenting, Motherhood

Why I Follow My Toddlers’ Lead

13 Comments 19 May 2011

This post has been inspired by The Real Reasons Being a Toddler is Hard and other recent (true) events.

My daughter makes a lot of her own decisions.

She is a 2 and four month old toddler.

But I’m not holding her to that. She doesn’t know how young she is. She knows that she simply “is.” My daughter is more than a toddler. She is a human being.

What drives a toddler’s decision making process? Nothing different than ours – wants and needs.

Toddlers may not have a lot of patience. Sometimes I don’t either. They may not understand reasoning. Well geeze, I think it’s hard to accept when the shoes I want really bad are too expensive!

I had no idea young children were so REAL until I loved and shared my life with one.

My daughter is so present, aware, curious, thoughtful and emotional.

It’s incredibly humbling to watch her live her little important daily life. Everything means so much. Each moment. I strive to be more like her.

Supporting Ella’s Choices

Ella decided when she wanted to use the potty. She decides what and when she wants to eat, and when to sleep (nap and nighttime).

These choices have not always been made on her own. I’ve definitely tried to impose my rules and regulations. I thought it was the “responsible parent” thing to do.

But it didn’t take me long to realize I am not the ultimate decider, Ella is.

I am simply here as a resource – to guide, nurture and support the choices she makes.

Why I’m glad I lost the nighttime battle

Let’s paint a pretty picture of bedtime, just for fun.

p.s. this is one of the biggest changes in attitude I made regarding Ella making her own choices. I’m grateful for the experience to learn how to parent my daughter better – it’s paid off for both of us.

The routine begins at 7:30. First we take a nice bath, complete with toys, songs and lavender oil. After bath, apply lotion (with more lavender oil). Pick out a bunch of books. Get snuggly in bed around 8:30 and read every book, sometimes twice. If you’re a breastfeeding mum like me, you nurse. And your child falls peacefully to sleep in a matter of minutes.

Unless of course, your child keeps nursing…

And nursing. And rolling around. Maybe even sitting up and talking to you. Before you know it,  you get resentful, want to pull out your hair and have an anxiety attack when it’s 9:45 and your child is still. not. asleep. When he/she finally does drift off, you stumble into the living room/bedroom a complete emotional wreck. Why does it have to be so hard to put down your child to bed?!

I learned it doesn’t have to be so hard when I let Ella decide when she wanted to go to bed.

Children get tired. Really, eventually they do. And when they get tired, and they want (yes, want) to go to bed, they will fall asleep pretty darn fast.

Our nighttime routine went from what I just described to crawling into bed with a few books around 9:30 at night. I’m downstairs by 9:50.

But isn’t that giving up too much authority?

Eh, maybe it is. Who knows. There is no such thing as a parenting expert.

What I do know is, I can’t force my daughter to do anything. I can teach her how to act responsibly as possible in any given situation. I can model behavior and hope she catches on.

I’m here to back her up whenever she needs help, answer questions when she doesn’t know, and generally sit back in awe and simply watch her learn about life and about herself.

When it comes down to it, I like giving Ella the opportunity to make up her own mind. I can see how she feels about making decisions. She’s empowered. She’s confident. She’s human.

Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting Rules?!

52 Comments 12 April 2011

What is Attachment Parenting?

“Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.” – Attachment Parenting International

Attachment parenting has a mission: to create strong, healthy emotional bonds and connections between parents and children. Simply put, children have needs, and it is a parent’s job to fill them. When these needs are met, babies neurological development is enhanced.

To help families fulfill these needs, Attachment Parenting International has created a guide called The Eight Principals of Parenting:

  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth & parenting
  2. Feed with love & respect
  3. Respond with sensitivity
  4. Use nurturing touch
  5. Ensure safe sleep, physically & emotionally
  6. Provide consistent & loving care
  7. Practice positive discipline
  8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life

Attachment parenting sounds really nice!

Without delving deep into the explanation of each category, I could say I would like to be that kind of parent to my child. These guidelines seem to be coming from a good-hearted place (for the record, I don’t think we need “guidelines” to know how to parent – go with your gut!).

Upon steeping in the attachment parenting community, I quickly found categorizing types of parenting isn’t very realistic.

While the premise of AP regards parenting as loving and
nurturing,the mothers who diligently practice, (and I mean to the T) attachment parenting do not always come across as such to other mothers in the community.

To put it bluntly, I have often wondered if I, or anyone for that matter, is practicing attachment parenting well enough. Based on my experiences, and the first hand accounts of friends who have felt the AP wrath, here is a different version of the eight principles.

The Dark Side of Attachment Parenting – Eight Rules to Live By (or else):

  1. Prepare for birth by planning to give birth naturally. Millions of women have done it before and so can you. Don’t be a wimp. A real attachment parent gives birth naturally in a hospital, birthing center, at home, or unassisted.
  2. Circumcision is not attachment parenting. In fact, it goes against everything AP stands for. You cannot expect a child to feel nurtured when such bodily harm is inflicted. Even if you practice other attachment parenting habits, one of the first crucial bonds between mother and child has been broken.
  3. Breastfeed you child. Breast is best! If you can’t, (which isn’t likely as breastfeeding is what we were designed to do next to give birth) rather than use formula, go to a milk bank. Or better yet, find a wet nurse. There are plenty of women out there who will gladly donate their milk or feed your baby for you.
  4. There is no need to ever become frustrated, irritable or impatient with your child. They are new to this world after all. If you find yourself losing patience, take a small time out. But remember, this is your duty and they are only young once. There is no time for negativity. p.s. time outs are bad, as is telling your child “no,” or turning on the TV for any amount of time under the age of 2.
  5. Hold and wear your child as much as physically possible. Your child doesn’t need a swing, your child needs you. So drop everything and pick that baby up. It’s the healthy thing to do.
  6. Cloth diapers are the only way to go! You care about the environment right? Our Mother Earth? Then don’t ditch your nappies! Cloth is easy, affordable, and you’ll be doing plenty of laundry anyway. What’s another load (or two)?
  7. Sleeping with your baby is safe and natural. Your baby wants to sleep with you! Bed-sharing enables a quicker response time to baby’s needs. Dad/partner may have to sleep on the couch or in the guest bedroom for a while, but trust us, you will all sleep better this way.
  8. Eat organic food whenever possible (meaning all the time). If you cannot afford organic baby food, make your own, and when baby moves on to solids, explain to your partner how important organic food is and suggest they find a way to make a second income (because you are a stay at home mom, isn’t that correct?)

Is a less “attached” parent a detached parent?

The funny thing about that list I created is, I fall neatly into each category.

I birthed at home, breastfed without difficulty, slept with my daughter since night one, have always carried and worn her, fed her organic food and I’ve stopped working to be a stay at home mom.

Time and time again, friends have shared horror stories of condemnation from those who proudly wear the “attachment parenting” label.

They have been virtually harassed for being half-assed AP by evangelists. So much so that those mothers have decided  not only to skip the joining the AP group all together, but remove themselves from several crunchy online “communities.”

The difference between how I live and the way I described, (with sarcasm) in the list above is: I don’t judge other mothers for choosing differently. And I don’t think I am better than them for what I have chosen!

Not all women who consider themselves attachment parents are critical.

I wouldn’t dare to lump everyone together in one big category (ha!). I know several lovely “AP moms.”

But in all seriousness, a few rotten eggs have nearly ruined a community that could be very beautiful.

Imagine mothers who believe in informed, gentle birth and practice positive parenting. The fact that AP isn’t that is downright sad. I don’t think it would be like this if we were face-to-face with each other. I never hear such snarky and demeaning remarks in public as to the degree that I read online.

I am SICK & TIRED of the mommy wars!

We’re talking about battles within our own self-prescribed tribes.

If we cannot find unity within our own circles, we have no hope for spreading the love and positive change to the rest of the world. We will only be seen as we are: a group of petty, critical moms.

How did this happen? I understand parenting is a serious game, and we do have a great duty as parents to try to do right by our children, but why are we so harsh? Why such anger?

*** *** *** *** ***

What are your thoughts about the attachment parenting community? Have you felt judged for not practicing AP “well enough?” I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment below!

Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, BBH Dad

Portable Car Seat and Baby Wearing Question for You (please comment a response)

42 Comments 28 March 2011

a guest post by the BBH Dad, Eric Walker

Ella and I were sitting across from one another eating a muffin at the cafe when I noticed a mother enter through the doors uncomfortably lugging her baby around in a portable car seat.

I bet it was a 15-pound car seat with a baby inside. The baby couldn’t have been more than three months old. I immediately asked myself, Why doesn’t she just hold her child?

Seriously, it looked ridiculous.

And I couldn’t figure it out. She looked miserable too, and with all the evidence that proves keeping your infant close is better, why do so many moms and dads make the choice the carry their babes around in a portable car seat carrier?

She was leaning to the side to carry the portable car seat with her forearm like carrying a purse. And with each step, her weight would shift to one side –as if she had a severe limp– and then she’d shift weight to the side that the carrier was on to increase the momentum, swinging the portable car seat to ease the the burden of it’s weight.

Again, why didn’t she ditch the portable car seat carrier and just pick up her child and hold him near?

I thought to myself. That would kill my back, my shoulders, and definitely my arm.

And for what? That baby was no where near her mama. She was getting jounced back and forth like a cradle with the bow about to break.

I turned to Katie and said, “I’m not so sure having the ability to lift your car seat out of its base from the backseat and propping it into a shopping cart or carry it around as if it were the uncomfortable tote at the airport is such a good idea.

That’s when she told me about baby wearing and attachment parenting.

I said “Oh” and asked if I could write a
short blog post about this topic and ask for opinions from the BBH community.

On the one hand, you have the ultimate portable car seat carrying parents, and I am whole-heartily NOT in favor of it.

I am all for parents simply picking their child up, and putting them in a carrier that is close to ones body, or a sling, or heck… even a blanket, and just carry the kid with your arms.

But I understand that there are all sorts of occasions where having a contraption like the portable car seat carrier might be helpful. I tried to put myself in your shoes, and came up with the following scenario that might warrant the use of a portable car seat.

When I drive my older child to preschool, instead of unbuckling my baby from her car seat while stopping my older child from jumping out of the car prematurely, and then having to deal with my baby crying from the change of position while walking the older one into preschool, I just unlatch and go. And then when coming back out to the car, and putting her back in the car seat again, which would mean buckling up, dealing with her crying (again) because of another change of position (twice in five minutes), I can just latch the car seat back in and be on my way — unscathed …etc, etc. You get to bypass the whole scenario in half the time and eliminate the crying by simply leaving the happy baby in the warm, cozy portable car seat and carry her around.

I might want that portable car seat carrier in a situation like that. I bet you can think of dozens of situations where the portable car seat carrier is VERY useful. Please do leave a comment for how you use it if you do use it at all. We want to hear from you.

But how much is too much?

I don’t think there is a wrong or a right. It’s a matter of preference. Which is why I want to hear from you. You know my preference, what’s yours?

Are you Pro portable car seat carrier? Are you Pro baby wearing? Maybe some place in the middle… either way, go ahead and leave your comment that describes your stance on this topic.

Categories

Post Archives