The sweetness of Attachment Parenting

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what attachment parenting is? Parenting is very personal, and it’s not so easy to describe any approach to raising children given the amount of emotional baggage, future hopes, joys, and trials there are wrapped up in that one word, “parenting.”

But as I was contemplating today about how much Attachment Parenting International and attachment parenting means to me and my family, how it literally changed the very direction of my life — personally and professionally — not to mention, given my children the quality of lives they enjoy, I came up with a word that sums up what attachment parenting is in my home: “sweetness.”

It really is just about treating my children with the sweetness of attachment.

I received one of those fun challenges on Facebook a few days ago where you ask your children a series of questions and then post exactly what they say. The first question was, “What do you hear me say the most?” Other Facebook friend’s posts had responses like “clean your room,” “dang it,” or “supper’s ready.” More curious of what my kids would say, rather than posting their responses on Facebook, I decided to ask them the questions.

And here’s what they said:

  1. What is something I say a lot? I love you
  2. What makes me happy? When we make you food and give you wildflowers (Nathan, 6), When we don’t yell and we follow the rules (Emily, 10), When we give you hugs (Rachel, 11)
  3. What makes me sad? When you’re sick and you want to do something excited that day (Rachel), When you have to postpone something because it just won’t work out and it was going to be really fun (Emily)
  4. What’s my favorite thing to do? Spend time with us (Nathan), Pet the cat (Rachel), Cuddle with us (Emily)
  5. Do I have a favorite child? No! But if you did, it would be Rachel-Emily-Nathan-Kate (Kate is my angel baby)
  6. If I could go anywhere, where would it be? To a chocolate factory made of chocolate in a chocolate land in a chocolate world
  7. Do you think you could live without me? No! Well, I guess we could, but it would be really, really sad (Emily) Yeah, it’d be a sad life (Nathan) I mean, we could still be alive but it wouldn’t be a really happy life (Rachel)
  8. How do you annoy me? By yelling, screaming, or interrupting you when you’re doing work
  9. What scares me? If we’re quiet in the bath tub and you hear no splashing or rippling or anything
  10. How do you describe me? A nice mom, the best mom in the world! With dark hair, dark curly hair, dark short curly hair. A person who likes being warm.

Now, isn’t that sweetness? And you may think that all children would say nice things about their parents, and gosh, I hope so!

But my point is, the overall atmosphere in my home is sweetness and peace and love. My oldest is now 11, and my youngest is 6. I’m well past the early years of attachment parenting, but for all the intensity of breastfeeding, cosleeping, responding sensitively, and learning gentle discipline, attachment parenting has since become a lifestyle.

Attachment parenting has become a mindset that directs my thoughts and actions with everyone, not just my kids and husband but my friends, coworkers, and strangers. In all my interactions with others — and with myself — I strive for the sweetness of attachment.

An Open Letter to New Mamas

Dear New Mamas,

With so much unsolicited parenting advice in our information era, I encourage you to raise a red flag to advice including any of the following 6 terms:


There is no “should” with babies especially regarding breastfeeding, safe cosleeping, and milestones. Ignore anyone telling you what your baby “should” or “should not” be doing, based on age of baby. The easiest way to avoid these types of conversations is to not discuss the topics of lactation, sleep, milestones, and nutrition with family members, friends, and coworkers who may not be aligned with your gentle parenting style. Once you find your groove, a simple response of, “This works great for us,” will hopefully pacify the naysayers.

There are lots of varying parenting styles, and it’s less stressful to not compare your baby with others of similar age and to not discuss those topics listed above openly.


Babies change so frequently that there is not enough time in one consistent state of development for habits to form. If your instinct is telling you to soothe baby in a certain way or to create a safe sleeping environment, you are not forming “bad habits.”

“It works.”

You may come across defensive loved ones advising, “It worked for you,” or well-intentioned friends saying, “It worked for us.” But at what cost? Do your research. For example, the only reason sleep-training “works” is because a baby doesn’t think anyone will come get baby. As another example, putting rice cereal in a bottle adds no nutritional benefits and actually reduces the nutrition baby would otherwise receive from the breastmilk that the rice cereal displaces.

“That’s what the doctor advised.”

Pediatricians receive minimal lactation and nutrition education. Lactation advice should only be taken from a lactation specialist, preferably with the credentials of IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Many insurance companies cover their costs. Important to note, only 40% of US women successfully breastfeed after 4 months postpartum and only 20% after 6 months postpartum. If those statistics are that low, yet most infants see a pediatrician, one could assume pediatric advice is not aiding in successful breastfeeding rates.

Children’s nutrition guidelines and recommendations change frequently and can be skewed by corporate sponsorship. Read labels, and get up-to-date about children’s’ nutrition information. Consider baby-led weaning once baby is starting solids as early as 6 months. MDs are not to be considered experts on parenting style advice. Various methods for baby sleep and nutrition fall under parenting styles and do not require a medical professional’s input.


You cannot spoil a baby. Creating a relationship of trust and responsiveness is your role as a mother. Terms like babywearing and Attachment Parenting do not mean you are “spoiling” your baby, but rather creating a safe and secure foundation to set up baby to be an emotionally thriving child adult.

“Good baby”

You will quickly learn the term, “good baby,” is redundant. All babies are good. Unfortunately, Western society associates a “good baby” with one who requires the least amount of caregiver attention. Instead of asking if a baby is “good” when striking up conversation, it’d be more appropriate to ask “What makes baby happy?” And when someone asks if your baby is “good,” try responding with, “We’re having fun.”


A fellow mom, meandering her own peaceful parenting journey, by surrounding herself with those who get it

Navigating sibling squabbles

Arguments between siblings are inevitable. The question many parents face, is how to best handle the situation?

I’m sharing one recent instance that unfolded in my own house in hopes of helping some of you in search of that very answer — also to show you that it can be done in a way that respects both parties and sets a foundation for growth in all involved:

Last night, we had our most violent sibling-on-sibling encounter yet. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate to that mama/papa bear instinct when you see one of your babies being hurt, even when it’s by one of your other babies. That instinct to protect our young is so strong that we may sometimes lash out on one of our own children in defense of another.

Well, last night, we were heading up to bed late. Everyone was exhausted. Everyone was dysregulated. We had been out of town for 4 days, and there were many potential triggers in play that I was well aware of. My goal was to get everyone up to bed as quickly and calmly as possible before someone — and then inevitably everyone — fell apart.

My oldest two ran upstairs to brush their teeth while I brought the baby and my husband grabbed our bags. The boys had been bickering back and forth and getting in each other’s space the entire way up the stairs. I had requested that they each give the other some breathing room and focus on keeping themselves in control while we prepare for bed.

As my husband and I began walking upstairs, we heard it. The scream that alerts you that someone is very badly hurt. My second child ran out of the room crying so hard he couldn’t breathe. My husband sat down and wrapped him up in his arms. My son took a deep breath and screamed and screamed. My husband asked him what had happened. He told us that his brother had hurt him.

With my second son securely being comforted in the arms of his daddy, I calmly and quietly walked into the bedroom, and just as calmly and quietly called out to my oldest son. He slowly walked out of the closet with his head down. I asked him what had happened and he said, “Mommy, I got so angry. I forgot to walk away.”

“I see.” I replied. “Your brother seems very hurt and upset. What do you think we should do now?”

He responded that we should go and check on him and see if there was anything he could do to help. However, once he walked up to his brother and asked, my second son screamed “no” at him and told him to go away. My oldest took this hard and ran back into the bedroom clearly upset. I followed him. He angrily told me that he was never doing that again. I explained to him that, while he felt calmer and ready to help, his brother was not yet calm and ready to accept that help.

My husband and I began getting everyone ready for bed. While he was helping my middle son into his pajamas, I looked over to see 4 very dark red, bloody streaks down at least half of his back. It literally took my breath away. Until this point, we had not known the offense or the extent of it. This truly looked like wolverine had attacked him. I had to take a gigantic deep breath and settle down that mama bear within me. I told my husband to look on his back. He looked back at me with eyes wide open.

My oldest son said, “I wonder how he got those marks on his back.”

“Your hands made those marks on his back,” I calmly responded.

He looked down at his hands turning them over and examining them, “I must have really sharp nails.”

“Yes,” I said, “and you have very strong hands.”

He looked at me for a moment. I told him, “It’s a great thing to have very strong hands like yours. But they are to be used for good things, like carrying heavy grocery bags in from the car, or holding heavy doors open so others may walk through. They should not be used to hurt others. The next time you feel so angry, I want you to walk away. When you feel so angry that you want to explode, you can go and scratch the pillow, or the mattress, or pound your fists into the ground. But you cannot hurt someone else.”

“I will try, Mommy,” he said. “It is very hard. But I will try.”

“I know you will,” I told him, “because you are not a bad person. And you are not a mean person. You are a very kind boy with a very loving heart. And because of that, the next time you are so angry, you will remember to walk away.”

I could see the internal thoughts racing across his eyes. I could see his mind doubting, but I could also see his heart believing. And then, his body softened. At that moment, I knew he fully embraced that he is a loving and kind person — that his actions do not define him, that he is in fact capable of self-control…and of fixing things when he makes a mistake.

So often, whether because of our parental bear inside or because we are responding in the way we think we are supposed to, we yell, blame, and punish in these situations. However, what current brain research tells us is that this does zero good, but actually a great deal of harm.

You see, children do not choose these emotions or the reactions to their emotions. They aren’t developmentally capable. And if you question this, I ask you: Have you ever felt so angry that you thought you were going to snap? Or maybe you did. Maybe you punched a hole in the wall or threw something across the room or lashed out in anger screaming profanities or insults at those around you. Looking back, did you choose to feel that angry? Did you choose to lose complete control of yourself? Or did it come upon you like a sudden tidal wave and crash into you before you could realize what was happening?

Children’s brains are far less developed than ours. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid-20s! These emotions are not at all conscious on their part and actually are very frightening and overwhelming to children. They need our loving guidance and support in these moments, not an iron fist. When we come down on children in these moments, their brains interpret these emotions as unacceptable and bad.

They then internalize the idea that they, too, are shameful and bad people…and that when they have these feelings — of which they are not in control of and do not know what to do with — that they are not worthy of love. This is the last thing I wanted my son to think of himself. What good was that going to do? I’m not trying to raise a bitter and resentful adult whom feels unworthy. I am working to develop a kind and loving one.

Related: The Attached Family’s “Parenting Without Shame” issue

Is it permissive what I did? Do you wonder, how is he going to learn anything from this without punishment? Looking back on my example, you can see very clearly that I made it known that it is OK to feel angry and that there are appropriate ways for us to express and expel our anger, but I also made it very clear that it is never OK to hurt someone else in the process.

This way, my son was able to internalize the idea that he is indeed a kind and loving person, and he can therefore feel empowered to make a better decision the next time these feelings present themselves. He also is now equipped with tools to assist him in making a better decision next time. He now has other ideas of what he can do with his anger that won’t result in someone being hurt — mentally, emotionally, or physically.

Based upon his responses, both verbal and nonverbal, it’s clear to see that he felt terrible about what he had done. It was not his intent to harm his brother. He received a natural consequence — he felt what is called natural or healthy guilt. This is very different from shame. Have you ever felt very badly about something you had done? That is natural guilt. It is not taught — it is developed through the brain and the conscience. This internal guilt he felt is enough of a consequence for him. It is also going to be the driving force in helping him make better choices in the future. But in order for it to come through, he has to feel my unconditional love and calm presence supporting him through this difficult time.

Before we finished up, I said to my oldest son: “Now that your brother has calmed down, it may be a good time to try and talk to him about it again.”

I could see the hesitation on my son’s face — which could have been that he needed some more time to process what we had talked about, or it could have been nervousness of being rejected again. Either way, I quickly reassured him: “When you are ready. Listen to your body, it will tell you when you are ready to talk with your brother. And I am right here to help you if you need it.”

Sometimes, especially in kids over the age of 5, children need some time and space to process the event as well as their feelings surrounding it. It’s very important that we give them this space and time.

I observed their play throughout this morning. This afternoon, I found an opportunity to approach my oldest and ask him if he had a chance yet to talk with his brother about last night. He told me that he had, though I knew it hadn’t yet come up. I waited. About 5 minutes later, he went to his younger brother and asked if he could see the scratch marks from the night before. Consent was granted, so I helped lift up his shirt. My oldest son commented on how they were healing but the fact that they were still there.

The two of them then launched into an entire recount of the event ending with my oldest son saying, while making a scratching motion, “And I did this and that was not OK.”

His younger brother responded with, “Yeah. You hurt me. That was not OK.”

“I’m really sorry,” my oldest son said. It was genuine, and his younger brother knew it.

That was the end of it. Off they ran to play. All fear, anger, and sadness lifted; the relationship renewed and restored; and both kids with a bigger heart and deeper connection than what existed the previous day.

Related: How Secure Sibling Attachments Happen