Transformation of being a father

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) continues with APtly Said’s celebration of fathers through the theme of “Fathers’ Inspiring Reflections,” June 19-21. We value and honor you, Dads, for all your love, dedication, and involvement in your children’s lives — you inspire us!

Father Daughter HandSometimes I start thinking about the man I used to be before having kids, and I always get so amazed at how much I have changed during this short period of time.

Considering that I am 33 years old, being a father for 3 years means that I have much more non-father time of life experience. However, I can tell with certainty that these last 3 years have been the most transformative years of my life.

When my first son arrived to this world, I didn’t know much about fatherhood — just like most other fresh fathers. Fatherhood invited me to become aware of my own sensitivity — and I said yes to it. I jumped into this giant pool of uncertainties called fatherhood, and while I was swimming there, I got in touch with my own sensitivity.

I was observing my child’s needs and feelings, and I started responding to them — which allowed me to build a loving bond with my son. In the meantime, I was learning so much about myself and my own feelings. I stopped hiding them and started exploring them, listening to myself and getting to explore and know a whole new person.

It didn’t stop there!

I realized this transformation was also affecting my relationships with other people, mainly because I was finally seeing their feelings as well. I have grown to understand what empathy is and that completely changed how I relate to my partner, friends, family, and everybody around me.

A couple years later, my second son was born — just to remind me that love isn’t something you split, but something that gets multiplied. It’s a reminder that one of the things I love the most about being a father is how such small and young beings can teach you the most valuable lessons about life.

So, if you ask me what being a father means to me, I would say it’s jumping into a life experience that will transform you for the better — into a more sensible human being.

Thiago Queiroz, father of 2 boys and an API Leader for API Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offers his support for parents with his YouTube videos about Attachment Parenting, including positive discipline, Nonviolent Communication, and fatherhood.

In this video, Thiago discusses temper tantrums and how parents help their children deal with strong emotions.


Photo Credit:,Canada

How has being a dad changed me?

Editor’s note: Welcome to Attachment Parenting International‘s celebration of fathers! For this Father’s Day, APtly Said Assistant Editor Effie Morchi has put together a moving series of essays with the theme of “Fathers’ Inspiring Reflections” for June 19-21. We value and honor you, Dads, for all your love, dedication, and involvement in your children’s lives — you inspire us! 

Brett BevellI come from a story, as we all do. Some of it is real, some imagined or interpreted, and part of it remains a mystery as well. Never did I imagine in examining my own story that I would so deeply relish the experience of being a dad.

My son Dylan was born 14 months ago, and though certainly there have been times that are challenging — including many sleepless nights — his presence in my life is the best thing ever to happen to me.

Why is this so?

In part, it is the depth of love I feel for him, whether he is acting cute, sleeping, or in need of a diaper change. The love is there and the same regardless, an infinite expression of the life force of love pouring through me. And a human heart cannot help but be changed when the love pouring through it is that grand. That love has softened me and made me more compassionate to others, including myself.

Beyond this new infinite wave of love, there is more to the profound and positive change of being a dad. I also feel more of a sense of purpose. As a writer, healer and artist, I have always been driven and tend to thrive on meeting goals, deadlines, seeing an accomplishment come into full bloom.

Father Son LightBut this is a different kind of purpose, a through line of presence that flows through me having nothing to do with a goal, and simply wanting a wonderful future for my child, hoping his dreams come to fruition — whether or not mine ever do.

Most importantly perhaps is a new definition of responsibility. I now feel responsible for the welfare of another human, which is quite daunting, yet also very fulfilling. I notice how it impacts him when I am in a challenged mood, as well as when I am happy and joyful.

This has heightened my own consciousness of taking responsibility for how my emotional state impacts others. I have always done that on some level, since as an energy healer, that is part of my life’s work. Yet, now even the smallest nuances of emotion are highlighted in my consciousness. I do my best to embrace all of who I am, and also be aware how my own emotional energy impacts my son.

I would never trade being a dad for anything.

The greatest gift of life that I have known so far is being a parent. And the amazing thing is that had anyone asked me before my son’s birth how I would feel about being a dad, I never would have imagined it would be this wonderful, including the challenges. It has made me a new human, one that is more aware, more alive — even when exhausted — and more open-hearted to the experiences of others.

I never noticed strollers and little ones that much before. Now, it is the first thing I notice when outside the home, as I am a member of this new and amazing club called father!


Photo Credit (2nd photo): Chugh 

The latest research in nurturing touch, breastsleeping and babywearing

adele grantWhat do you get when you bring together Dr. James McKenna, Dr. Kersten Moberg, Dr. Ann Bigelow, Dr. Henrik Norholt, Dr. Charles Price and Dr. Raylene Phillips?

You get the latest research on skin-to-skin, oxytocin, “breastsleeping,” bedsharing and all things babywearing presented at the first annual Bond Conference in New York City — which I was privileged to attend.

Here is some of the research I found to be most interesting:

Nurturing Touch

  • Infants are born with immature brains and therefore need skin-to-skin and tactile stimulation for their brains to grow.
  • Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are the means whereby the immature-term infant continues gestation outside the womb.
  • Skin-to-skin promotes oxytocin release in mom and is shown to improve breastfeeding rates and improve bonding with baby.
  • With elective cesareans, no oxytocin is released. Thus, it needs to be compensated for through skin-to-skin, massage, babywearing and breastfeeding. While Pitocin injections are used to bring on labor, it is very different to natural oxytocin because it only affects the uterus and does not affect the brain, which would lead to the feel good feelings and bonding.
  • Oxytocin release is especially critical in the early days and months. If it’s missing, such as in the Ukrainian orphans that were studied, it is much harder to form secure attachments later on. When mom and baby get close after birth, there is an oxytocin release — they feel good, because dopamine is being activated; they see this happening in the context of the other; and with repeated exposure, this trains the sympathetic nervous system to expect the same response, which leads to a secure attachment.
  • Prolonged exposure to oxytocin has long-term positive effects of reduced risk of stroke and many other illnesses.
  • Some women naturally have lower oxytocin levels. But the good news is that it can be compensated for with skin-to-skin, massage and breastfeeding.
  • Nerve reflexes of the skin trigger an oxytocin release. If triggered very early on, it will have lifelong effects. The front side of the body has extra sensory nerves with the chest being most sensitive.
  • Skin-to-skin could be used as a possible alternative treatment to depression. Mothers with skin-to-skin contact reported fewer depressive symptoms in the first few postpartum weeks.

Safe Sleep

  • The further babies get from mom (non-bedsharers or solitary sleepers in separate room), the fewer feeds there are. Bedsharing babies nurse or “snack” more, because breastmilk is digested faster.
  • Bedsharing and breastfeeding are positively correlated. Dr. McKenna suggests the term “breastsleeping,” as there is no such thing as an infant — only the mother-infant dyad — so there is no solitary sleeping and breastfeeding: only breastsleeping.
  • Approximately 70% of new parents were found to bedshare at least occasionally. This would equate to 2.5-2.9 million mothers if the study were representative of the larger population.
  • Bedsharing in the absence of other hazards was significantly protective for infants older than 3 months.
  • At age 6, babies who bedshared had increased cognitive capacities. Babies who cosleep and get more touch and reassurance become happier and less fearful toddlers who make friends easier and are cognitively more advanced. Then they become less fearful and more optimistic adolescents who trust their own judgment. As adults, they become parents mimicking their own experiences with their own children.

Responding with Sensitivity

  • Infants as young as 3 months are aware that their behaviors’ impact others. When mom does not respond to baby, the infant increases vocalizations to get mom’s attention.
  • Increasingly, orthopedists are seeing more hip issues. They believe this is because of widespread swaddling. The latest recommendation is to leave hips loose until baby is 3 months old. If a baby’s hip does become dislocated and is not treated by 6 months of age, the hip may need surgical intervention for proper development.
  • Parents should also be mindful of baby’s hip development when choosing a baby carrier. In the baby’s first 6 weeks of life, the joints are very loose and the hips should not be forced into extension. Side-carrying positions are ideal for proper hip development. After 6 months of age, the position doesn’t matter that much.

This is all such reassuring information, because it backs up what I intuitively did with my first child before I even found Attachment Parenting and what Attachment Parenting International promotes for all children and families.

With continued research from these and other medical and scientific professionals as well as parents providing support to other parents, Attachment Parenting practices like babywearing, keeping babies close by holding them, ensuring safe sleep by keeping babies and children close at night, and extended breastfeeding will become the new norm. This is at least my hope for all the children out there and what I strive to promote in my community.

Letting go of what you “should” do

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International (API) celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day and were able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

alexis schraderThe greatest lesson I’ve learned from Attachment Parenting (AP) is to question all assumptions. I was parented fairly traditionally, and reading about AP when I was pregnant helped me let go of certain ideas about where and when a baby should sleep, how a baby should be fed, and how a child should be disciplined.

Redefining these ideas is wonderful — and familiar to most AP families. To me, though, following API’s Eight Principles of Parenting taught me to examine standard practices and ask, Does this really work best for my family?  Does my kid really need to share her sand toys with this stranger at the park? Will my preschooler starve if she doesn’t eat her dinner? Does my toddler actually need to wear pants right now? Is any of this really worth a power struggle and a tantrum, or will my child and I be just fine if I let her keep doing her thing right now?

I often hear friends who sleep-trained claim that parents who are against cry-it-out methods are simply blessed with good sleepers. If there’s follow-up to this comment, my husband and I are too busy laughing to hear it. We were blessed with a daughter who, at 2-1/2 years old, announced that she is nocturnal — and we didn’t doubt for a second that she knew exactly what she was talking about!

At 7 months, she figured out she could fight our efforts to put her to sleep and decided that sleeping from about 8 pm-midnight was sufficient. For days, she would wake around 12 am and would not go back down until 3 am. I nursed her, we walked her, we drove endlessly around the block…but nothing was putting her to sleep. Nothing worked.

Finally, we gave her what she wanted — playtime! About an hour later, she crawled in bed next to me and went to sleep. After a couple nights of this pattern, she was back to mostly sleeping through the night.

When I gave in to my child’s natural sleep pattern, we both ended up getting more sleep than we had been — and without a power struggle. For this to happen, though, I had to let go of some preconceived notions about parenting, such as that a baby needs to sleep in a crib and that babies must be pushed toward adult sleep patterns. AP explicitly told me I could question the assumption regarding baby sleep, and led me to a place where I could question another, regarding discipline — that I didn’t need to try to coerce my daughter to sleep.

Three and a half years into my parenting journey, I have certainly faced a lot of difficult moments, but I have learned to ask myself, Does this have to be hard, or do I just have to let go of something? It’s amazing how often it is the latter.

A lesson in button pushing

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day and were able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

Shoshana-150x150When my first son transitioned into toddlerhood, I discovered that I had a lot more to learn about raising children than I realized! The most compelling question I asked myself was how to preserve our warm and loving relationship when I also had to say, “No, you can’t have that,” or “No, you can’t do that.”

I still remember the day he was able to pull out the books from the lower shelf of a bookcase in our living room, crumpling and ripping the pages with his sweet, pudgy little hands. How could I stop him without hurting or alarming him? I thought about how challenging it was going to be to guide him without provoking his defenses against me.

The more he grew and became independent, the more insight I needed to navigate the daily incidents that cropped up and compelled me to steer him in the right direction. “We have to put the toys away before taking out more,” “Bedtime is now,” and “Homework comes before television,” were only some of the daily situations that I had to take charge of.

When our children are not inclined to follow our instructions, they push our buttons and we lose our patience. For the first time, it occurred to me that parents might be pressing their children’s buttons when we don’t understand what makes them react to us the way they do.

I have 6 children. As the years went by and I became more seasoned in my parenting, I saw how easily their buttons could be pushed — how easily they could become alarmed, frustrated, and insecure.

It was easy to get the right behavior out of children by scaring them, threatening them, warning them, or taking away things from them that they cared about. “I’m counting to 3, then I’m leaving without you!” has always brought forth the right behavior in young children, but at a very high price. When you push your child’s alarm button too often or too many times, the very system that alerts him to beware of a risky situation begins to work in a distorted way and new problems start showing up.

This is an even more startling revelation when it comes to adolescents, because this same alarm system in the brain continues to harden the defenses even more when their buttons are continually pushed. They become tear-less and fearless, as they lose their caring and other vulnerable feelings altogether. This is on a continuum and can potentially lead to addictions and other problem behaviors like cutting.

Hands TrustWhen my children grew past the years of breastfeeding and needing to be attached to me through physical closeness, I learned that I was only at the beginning of the attachment story. The work of attachment was my responsibility, so they could rest in the relationship and be free to discover their own selves.

It was not a given that the relationship would be preserved simply because it got off to a good start. The relationship was still fresh and tender, and still needed to be cultivated, secured and deepened throughout all the years ahead of us. This was to be the shield from hurtful people and environments outside of our relationship. A deeper attachment was the answer to ensuring a healthy alarm system and preserving my children’s ability to experience all of their vulnerable feelings, so they could develop meaningful and deep relationships as well as develop their individuality and the traits that characterize maturity.

I needed to keep my relationship with my children clean from wounding. Their buttons might have been pushed by their friends or even by their teachers, but I needed to be aware of not being the one to provoke their defenses. I wanted to be that safe place — a home base or haven — where they could feel rest and comfort, no matter at what age. This challenged me to find ways to stand by my rules and limitations, preserve order, and transmit values in a way that protected our relationship.

This was my greatest learning experience, so that I could do the most important work than any parent does — help my children grow up to be mature, responsible, caring, and considerate adults.

Unconditional love

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day and were able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

lisa fiertag 2My daughters are two of the most amazing teachers I have ever been around. Every day, I feel grateful to have them in my life and for the many ways they shower me with unconditional love.

My children have gifted me with the opportunity to open my heart, as I have learned that love can be felt and expressed without anything attached to it.

Before having children, I disliked change and I craved structure, schedules, and predictability. I never thought that motherhood would challenge all of these needs. Through the gift of unconditional love, I found myself willing to surrender to the present moment and to embrace change. I realized that the more I tried to control my children, the more we struggled, but when I was flexible, all the structure came down and each one of us could rest in the beauty of what we were doing.

Lisa Feiertag_Mothers DayAlong the way, I saw that there is a path that each of my daughters will take, and while I am a part of their journey, it is not mine to own nor is it static in any way, shape, or form. It is a fluid, ever-changing, and evolving road that is based on their individual needs, emotions, and wants. When I am in recognition of this, then there is a flow that allows each moment to unfold exactly as it is meant to, and I don’t have to hold the energy to make it happen, because no matter what I do it is going to happen.

I can relax. I can enjoy. I can breathe, and I can trust that what my children are experiencing is perfect and that they both know that I am available to guide, support, and witness all of it.

Both of my daughters have invited me into one of the most emotionally intimate relationships that exist between two people. What I have learned is that in order to be completely available to both of them, I have to be willing and open to look deeply inside myself — to welcome all of the good and not-so-great qualities that have made me who I am today. When I do this, then I am owning what has arisen for me on my path so that I am not projecting it onto theirs. I am examining all the hard emotions and sticky thoughts that I have held onto for one reason or another.

When I look into the eyes of my children I can see a reflection staring back at me that trusts that I will be available…that I will take care of them…that I will do the work that is needed to surrender into me, into the moment, into who they are so that I am present for each of them to blossom into the great teachers that they are and will continue to become.

Trusting that everything is happening exactly as it is going to and that I will know what to do in each moment is a lesson that I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. From the unconditional love my daughters offer me, I am at peace with who I am, and I offer this love back to both of them so that they may be held and supported in all that they do while they grow into the beautiful humans that they are.

Sometimes it is all about me

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you are enjoying your Mother’s Day and find time to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

Jillian AmodioThis year’s theme for Mother’s Day at APtly Said is “Life Lessons.” We were asked to reflect on what we have learned since becoming a mother. Well, I think the easier question to answer would be what haven’t I learned since becoming a mother?

Motherhood changes you so deeply. Every aspect of your life is transformed to reflect your new role — no part of your old life or old self is left untouched. This is simultaneously wildly exciting and unimaginably overwhelming.

If I had to choose the most prominent life lesson, the one that has most profoundly affected my day to day living, it is this: Sometimes it is all about me.

What I mean is this: In order to adequately love my children and my family, I must first love myself. I cannot give from an empty tank. When my personal reserve is depleted, there is nothing left to give to those I love.

As mothers, it is our natural desire to serve, love, and protect our family. We tend to put our needs and our desires on hold in favor of tending to the needs of those in our care.

While this may seem admirable, noble, and selfless, it can also be self-destructive and disadvantageous to our well-being and consequently the well-being of our family. Our children’s need for us is undeniable. But they also need us at our best — they don’t need us stressed, broken, tired, and consumed…although those are sometimes unavoidable.

They simply need us.

We don’t need to be “the best” — we just need to be our best. In order to be our best, we need to take time for ourselves. This can seem like it is easier said than done, but once you commit to taking time for yourself, it becomes a part of your schedule and fits seamlessly with day-to-day living. More importantly, having been given time to re-fuel and compose our self physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are better prepared to provide for the needs of our children and partner. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, giving ourselves breathing space and time to decompress is one of the most selfless things we can do.

When parenting stops being enjoyable and starts to become a chore, that is a sure sign that you are burnt out and in need of a little “me time.” Whether it is a simple shower in solitude, 15 minutes of meditation, a fitness class, a contemplative walk, or a much-needed nap, taking time for “me” is essential to our personal well-being.

Personally, I love yoga. I love to teach yoga and I love to practice yoga. Several times a week, I make it a point to get this time to myself. Other times, I simply go to the grocery store alone, and while I am fulfilling a task for my family, I am also getting some much-deserved and much-treasured down time.

There is nothing I love more than being a wife and a mother, and there is no one I love more than my children and my husband. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is all about me. And that, my friends, is perfectly okay.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Trusting my intuition

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons.” Effie Morchi, Attachment Parenting International‘s Assistant Editor, has put together a truly inspirational series, running May 7-11. We hope you enjoy your Mother’s Day and are able to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

Stones HeartAt the age of 7 years old, I learned a lesson I truly understood and lived by when I became a mom: I learned that trusting my intuition is imperative — it can even be a matter of survival.

I narrowly escaped a dangerous situation I was in, with a man who lured me away from a bus stop to an abandoned building in a field off a main road. I vividly recall the immediate physical reaction and sickening sensation I felt when he approached me. I knew I was making the wrong choice, but I felt compelled to follow his lead as he was the adult — the authority figure — and I was the child, the subordinate. I didn’t listen to the natural feeling that signaled my body to avert the situation. Once I sensed real danger was imminent, I was determined to find a way out and I managed to run away.

Twenty-two years later, my first child was born. I didn’t have a vision in mind as to what type of parent I would like to be. Being career-oriented and driven, I surprised myself when I decided to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom. I viewed it to be the only suitable choice for me to raise my child.

I didn’t delve into parenting books or seek much advice. I cared for my baby following what made sense to me. I was task-oriented, focusing on taking care of the precious miracle-of-life I carried in me for 9 months. I put my wants on hold to attend to my baby’s needs — every minute of every day.

I followed nature’s flow, and without resistance, I swam in the direction the waves took me. Stroke by stroke, I kept on swimming — unaware of the beautiful, enlightening destination the currents of the ocean would lead me to. I was practicing Attachment Parenting, though at the time, I didn’t have a name for it, nor did I need one. It simply felt right in my body, my heart and my soul.

I was confronted by some who suggested I redirect myself and swim in the opposite direction — after all, that was the direction most others were swimming in, struggling and fighting against the waves.

There were times I felt isolated and all alone in the vast ocean, but somehow I managed to see the shoreline. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was swimming in the right direction — my body told me so. As always, my intuition was on my side — this time, I listened.

As I was in tune with my baby’s needs, I was increasingly becoming more attuned to myself, developing deep personal insight and awareness. In recent years, along with other transforming events in my life, I reflect on how motherhood transformed me, and I recognize I have been guided by my instincts and intuition in the way I have been nurturing and raising my kids. My intuition has been a guiding light — shining the way for me, always leading me on the right path.

The role of a mom has been a pivotal one for me. The importance of trusting my intuition is a life lesson I mastered with this role. My children have been the inspiration — carrying me through the ocean to the intended destination of who I am and where I am today in my life’s journey. Being their mom has taught me that, above all, my intuition is the source of much of the love and light I have been blessed with.