We conclude our AP Month Blog Event with two posts from Anita and Bonnie, who explore the change in mindset that happens when you become a parent.
Anita writes about her shift from striving in her career to thriving as a mother. http://singaporemotherhood.com/articles/2012/10/finding-my-balance-as-a-mother/
Below, Bonnie Coffa writes about how API changed her approach to motherhood.
API-Induced Rewiring of One Mama’s Brain
by Bonnie Coffa
Although at times we feel alienated when caring for a young child, we do not parent in a vacuum. How we parent is shaped by how we were parented, family, friends, pediatricians, books and prenatal classes, to name a few. I voraciously read every parenting book I could get my hands on. This is how I fortuitously stumbled upon the books that introduced me to the world of natural childbirth and attachment parenting (AP) that would forever change my parenting style. Books such as Birthing from Within, Pushed, Spiritual Midwifery, Raising Your Spirited Child, Last Child in the Woods, Peaceful Parenting, The No Cry Sleep Solution and countless others (recalled from memory, so my apologies for title butchering).
While, helping out Samantha Gray on an API grant application, I started thinking about how my parenting strategies have evolved. Specifically how API and the Nashville attachment parenting group have changed my mindset about how children should behave, and how I react to my son, Michael. Prior to learning about AP and attending meetings, I often felt resentful of my son’s frequent night waking and always wanting to be held. I kept wondering what I was or had done wrong. I kept trying to “fix” my son, and in my attempt, I kept a meticulous diary of daily events (what he ate, what I ate (since he was avidly nursing), bathing, sunshine exposure, and other obscure items (and the order which they were performed), and how they had impacted his night-time sleeping, which bordered OCD and makes me chuckle now. I was convinced that I would find the culprit and solve the frequent night waking, without using cry-it-out (CIO) methodology.
In my attempts to find an answer, I found a group of API mothers in Nashville, TN. API rotated my parenting style 180 degrees. I threw out the daily journal and stopped trying to “fix” Michael. I started to see him in a new light. He didn’t have a problem, he was just acting like a little boy and was only asking to have his basic needs met. It turned out that I was looking for the answer to the wrong question. The answer to my problem (emphasis on my) was acceptance of Michael’s personality and a revamping of my parenting ideals. Some infants adjust better to life outside the womb, than others and I realized Michael was having a tough time.
I remember having conversations with the pediatrician regarding letting him cry himself to sleep in his crib (and other self-soothing techniques) and reducing the night feedings, so he would sleep longer and gain weight (by drinking more cow’s milk and less breast milk, which is so backwards). After learning from the API group that breast milk contains higher fat content during the night, why on earth would I try and limit those feedings, especially when he needed that extra caloric content. I remember one mama’s advice about not counting the night feedings and the moral support “that this too will pass” and “they are only little for such a short time”. My favorite quote was “no mother has ever regretted hugging and holding her child too much”. I was fortunate to find out about my local API group and have their support and the knowledge that I am not alone, which in itself was very helpful. After a while, I adopted the mindset of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it came to areas such as sleeping through the night and weaning. Most mom’s feel they are doing something wrong, if their baby isn’t sleeping through the night and needs to be nursed, or rocked to fall asleep.
Having been a part of the Nashville AP group was especially important for me, since I had been lacking support and encouraging in my attempts at peaceful parenting. Going to the pediatrician’s office was like preparing for war. I needed to make sure I was armed with data and information; to rebuttal the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations (more like restrictions). I don’t want to condemn all pediatricians that are simply trying to care for our children as they were taught in medical school and from textbooks. But, I wish more pediatricians would question information and research their stance, prior to adopting the American Association of Pediatricians stance. For example, the recent article claiming no long term damage associated with letting infants cry it out. This article was taken at face value, instead of weighing the strength of the scientific evidence prior to AAP running with it. Just because this publication provided data indicating that CIO appears to produce no long-term damage to children, did they perform a true scientific assessment of the study? Did they conduct the study appropriately, were the endpoints appropriate for their conclusions, what were the limitations and did they interpret the study findings appropriately. Moral of the story, we tend to get caught up in what pediatricians and people around us tell us regarding babies. That they will be spoiled if we do this and that. That they need to fall on a growth chart in terms of height and weight (aren’t those growth chart data points from formula fed infants). That infants should cry it out, or they’ll never learn to sleep on their own. It’s infuriating that the wellbeing of our children is being compromised. What price are we paying by forcing and molding a child into adapting to our needs, especially in the cases where the mothers are uneasy about doing such things, but everyone around them is reinforcing the concepts that your child needs to sleep through the night, eat more solids, and yada-yada. I won’t say that I don’t get stressed out, but on average, I try to see his point of view. He’s only acting like a child, and it is me that is being a baby. The closeness and warmth children receive is important for proper brain development and maturation into emotionally and psychologically balanced individuals. This is where AP groups are invaluable. They can be a resource, particularly for parents that are surrounded by anti-AP philosophies. Many parents aren’t familiar with attachment parenting and tend to parent their children similarly to how they grew up or take for fact statements made by pediatricians. I think it is critical that API gains greater exposure.
Despite having moved from Nashville, TN to Richmond, VA, I am grateful to still remain a part of the Nashville Attachment Parenting group via the yahoo group.
I cannot emphasize enough how important support groups like API are in providing a support system that helps fill this void many families encounter when raising a child. As the Canadian psychologist, Bruce Alexander stated, we live in a dislocated society (free market economies promote the dislocation from family and community). After all, it does take a village to raise a child, and in today’s society, those villages are scant and this puts a strain on the parents. I often wonder how the lack of support systems contributes to the rise in the number of bullies and drug and non-substance addictions, but that is a separate blog.
I hope that many other families too will be privileged to learn and reap the benefits of attachment parenting, and dispel the myths that negatively tinge AP.