Cuddling therapy, anyone?

Babies are born with needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement — urgent and intense — and yet, depend completely on others to meet them.

Nurturing touch is a way to meet all of these needs at once.

Mothers and fathers are encouraged to provide ample nurturing touch from birth on to promote the healthiest child development. But what about newborns born premature or ill, who must remain in the hospital long-term?

Some hospital units, like St. Michael’s in Toronto, Canada, featured in the video below, train and provide volunteers who hold, sing to, and love on in-patient babies. These volunteers are aptly called Cuddlers.

The newborns may have been born premature or have medical needs that require them to stay in the NICU. Or, these babies may have been born to mothers with mental health or addiction issues. Some of these babies may be suffering from drug withdrawal or fetal alcohol syndrome.

But all of these babies benefit from nurturing touch and affection. The medical community notes that hospitalized babies gain weight faster, have improved infant mental health, and typically shorter hospital stays.

Understanding sensory processing difficulties in our children

Many families discover Attachment Parenting in their quest for how to raise their “spirited” children.

All children, evident from birth on, have their own unique temperament. For some children, their temperament traits may be challenging for their parents or teachers. Common among these possible traits are sensory processing difficulties.

Children with difficulty in processing sensory experiences — sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell — connect to regions in their brain and/or nervous system that may be overly or under-sensitive to that particular sense. For example, my daughter has great difficulty with the feeling of water — her nervous system is hypersensitive to certain touch experiences. I even have sensory difficulties with certain sounds, touch experiences, and light brightness.

In my family’s case, our sensory processing difficulties have likely a genetic component. But children can also develop sensory processing difficulties from sensory deprivation experienced early in life, especially those in the foster care system, those who’ve been adopted, and those who’ve experienced a traumatic early childhood such as in cases of overt abuse or neglect.

However your “spirited” child came to develop sensory processing difficulties, this video from Empowered to Connect gives an excellent overview of what sensory processing is and how difficulties with sensory experiences can impact child behavior:


Photo source

The gift of opening my heart

Attachment matters

Ideally, all children would be able to experience a secure attachment with every meaningful adult in his life.

Attachment Matters, the latest ebook from Attachment Parenting International (API), was written specifically to help you — the parent — share the importance of Attachment Parenting to other meaningful adults in your child’s life.

Attachment Matters is now available with your donation of $25 or more to API.

Learn more about secure and insecure attachment, read touching personal stories of how Attachment Parenting helped families, and share your copy with a grandparent, mother’s helper, childcare provider, teacher, or another of your child’s caregivers.

Attachment Matters is also appropriate for health care providers, school administrators, mental health therapists, child custody attorneys, adoption agents, and other professionals who work regularly with children and parents.


  • Foreword: An Attachment Crisis
  • Why Attachment Matters
  • Can Insecure Attachment Be Healed?
  • How Secure Attachment Happens
  • Attachment-Promoting Behaviors
  • Attachment Parenting Stories, Real Life
    Why Attachment Matters to Me
    -Attachment Parenting Can Heal Intergenerational Hurts
    -Saved by Attachment Parenting, and Now 8 Kids Later (3 with Autism)
    -A Father Reflects on His Introduction to Attachment Parenting
    -Helping My Young Child Adjust to a Change in Caregivers
    -Protecting Attachment During Divorce
    -The Challenges of Becoming an Attached Father
    -Attachment Parenting Restores Security in Adopted Children
    -The Heart of Attachment Parenting
    -Was Attachment Parenting Worth It?
    -Generation AP

Cultivating a peaceful family: 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorThere’s that saying you’ve probably heard — “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I first saw it, framed, in the kitchen of my high school friend and it made me slightly afraid of her mom. It seemed like it had been hung there as a warning.

But parents, let’s be honest: We wake up a little sleep deprived from a late-night session catching up on a project, and the tension during breakfast is going to be thick.

On such mornings, I recognize this possibility looming in our kitchen when I notice how my daughter is looking at me. Just the other day, I caught that look and said with spatula in hand, “OK, yeah, I admit that I am too tired to be reliably nice this morning. Sorry in advance.”

“Breathe, Mama,” she reminds me, “I won’t fight today when you braid my hair.”

Here’s the thing: Our children are keenly tuned in to us. They know very well how to read the signs that serve as the early warning system indicating the likelihood of an impending mom-meltdown. Over time, they have become skilled at rating the level of threat like rangers adjusting those Smokey the Bear fire danger signs in the national forests: “Today’s Mom-fire threat level is Green.” (Whew, we’re OK.)

Your Brain on Stress

Researchers in the field of neuroscience are making exciting discoveries these days about the ways the body and mind are intimately connected. This gives us more insight into how it is that what we think and what thoughts we rehearse over and over actually change our brains. As our biochemistry is so changed, this has the power to affect the expression of our genes.

These findings also give us insight to why it is that when stress starts generating pressure and heat inside of us, our best intentions get vaporized.

The physiological responses that kept our ancestors safe do not help us in modern situations when we are not required to jump out of the way of a charging animal. What we perceive today as the danger that switches on our stress response is much different. Nonetheless, the nervous system still responds by shutting off the thinking and planning part of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — in order to send blood to the body so we can fight or run away.

But that is not a helpful response when it’s getting late in the morning and someone whines about losing their shoe or the garbage truck is blocking the driveway. While it might sharpen our reflexes so that we can deftly speed through traffic to get the kids to school, it is likely why the road rage happens since the part of our brains that inhibit undignified behavior is offline. (“Mom, you said a bad word to that guy!”)

Stress makes it more likely we will yell at our kids in spite of our best intentions to be the Zen-Mommy who guides her children serenely through the morning routine as if her mind is naturally infused with calming lavender essential oil. No parent wants to be the source of stress or bad times in the family, no matter how much responsibility, worry, or fatigue we are grappling with. But the truth is: When we get triggered, it affects our children. When that happens, we feel regret and add a black mark to our list of our failures.

harmony-balanceCreating Stress Resilience

What if there is a way to naturally achieve resilience to stress and to be easily able to access our inner resources? The good news is, it is not that hard to achieve if you can take steps to give your inner life the attention required. Your family life will improve in delicious ways if you do.

We show up to the parenting journey carrying the baggage of our own histories: the fears, traumas, limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and those less-than-elegant, knee-jerk reaction tendencies. When the time comes to settle down, we unpack all that and then go about our business of creating a family.

If physical clutter in the home produces stress, how about all the emotional clutter of past regrets, hurts, sorrows, and traumas that we stuffed into the overfilled drawers of our minds? Imagine what a relief it would be to have the inner spaciousness that would allow us to breathe before we speak, or to listen mindfully so we can perceive the heart of the matter instead of reacting to what triggers us.

Fortunately, there are now several highly effective self-help techniques that are great tools to eliminate the internal clutter and create more emotional freedom and space, including these 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony for a happier home:

  1. Meditation — Research is finally catching up to the wisdom traditions that have long known the value of sitting quietly. Owing to the brain’s capacity to form new neural pathways, called neuroplasticity, scientists have found measurable differences in the brains of meditators. Higher brain functioning in the prefrontal cortex is enhanced, cortical tissue is made thicker — that’s really good — and parts of the brain that engender calm also become larger and more active. The good news for busy people is that according to the research, it is better to practice just a little each day versus half an hour every once in a while. Even taking just 1 minute every day to calm your physiology by taking mindful, slow breaths is going to help you. A dedicated meditation practice has the power to help you release burdens and create real calm.
  2. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) — Also known as Meridian Tapping, EFT is a form of counseling intervention. It is a powerful way you can dramatically reduce your suffering quickly. It consists of tapping with your fingers on specific acupuncture points on the head and torso. Research has shown that EFT causes lasting improvements by alleviating trauma physiology. Tapping has even been shown to cause immediate changes to blood chemistry, which is truly remarkable.  There are many resources on line to help you learn how to do EFT. TAT also engages the energy system of the body to release strong feelings, negative beliefs, and trauma. Unlike EFT, TAT does not require you to talk about what is bothering you.
  3. Yoga — It’s not just exercise. According to trauma researcher Bessel Van der Kolk, PhD, when practiced regularly, yoga can profoundly help heal trauma and stress, especially when practiced along with mindfulness meditation.
  4. The Forgiveness Challenge/Opportunity — Psychologist Jack Kornfield, PhD, describes how, when he was training to become a Buddhist monk, his teacher gave him the practice of spending 5 minutes forgiving someone, 2 times a day for 6 months. In my experience, this has been helpful to effectively get through all the emotions that an episode of forgiving requires. This powerful practice liberates one from the need to keep inventory of past betrayals and disappointments.

When we do the inner work of unburdening ourselves, we can show up for our families in a whole new way with more resilience to face the traffic and noise of daily life and better able to “be the peace” that makes home a safe haven where our children can thrive.

Nurturing children for a compassionate world


Each day of our lives…


Editor’s pick: The best autism intervention is based in attachment

Attachment Parenting is based on more than 60 years of solid, interdisciplinary research into parent-child relationships, from infant bonding and breastfeeding to nurturing touch and discipline. We have a long line of researchers — and advocates helping to incorporate their findings into society — to thank for how we look at families today: that how parents interact with their children matter, in real time and over the lifetime, in child development.

stanley greenspanOne of those scientific greats — recognized by Attachment Parenting International (API) during our 20th Anniversary celebration in 2014 — was the late Stanley Greenspan, an American child psychiatrist who redefined child development. His work led to a change in how parents view the value of nurturing — encouraging them to cultivate connection with their children, excite their child’s interests, and value creativity and curiosity.

Dr. Greenspan also developed Floortime therapy, a treatment approach for children with autism and developmental disabilities that addresses the speech, motor and cognitive skill delays of affected children holistically, via emotional development and interpersonal communication, through the parent-child attachment relationship.

Very simply, Floortime happens when parents get down on the floor and engage with their children through play. Key to Floortime is that the parent enters the child’s games at the child’s development level and follows the child’s lead in those games. A therapist is then able to guide the parents on how to encourage their child to increasingly complex interactions. For example, if the child is tapping an object, the parent could join in by tapping the object in the same manner. To encourage interaction, the parent might then introduce a new object and eventually add a language element.

In observance of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, this week’s featured article is “What We Know About Autism: Separating the Science From the Scandal” in Vogue, written by health journalist Lauren Mechling.

In the article, we learn that autism is no rare medical condition. In fact 1 in 68 American children — more often boys — is on the spectrum. While it appears that the disorder is much more prevalent than it was 40 years ago, high detection rates rooted in being better informed of early signs is at least partly behind this trend.

While the cause of autism remains largely unknown, researchers agree that it is likely a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors.

Treatment options seem just as vague, with no drug treatments developed specifically for core autism symptoms. The article continues on, identifying that the most effective treatment currently is early detection combined with intervention therapies aimed at helping young children build neural pathways through face-to-face interaction with a caregiver during Floortime.

And that’s thanks to Dr. Greenspan.

API Resources for Parenting & Autism

Many parents of children on the spectrum find attachment-based parenting choices to be critical to developing positive relationships with their children. API has many resources for parents of children with autism, including:

Personal stories on APtly Said, API’s blog —

Mothering autism

Attachment Parenting and autism

Today is World Autism Awareness Day 2010

Saved by Attachment Parenting

How not to practice positive discipline

Professional insight and a few more personal stories on The Attached Family, API’s online magazine —

An Attachment Parenting approach to autism

Autism: Interview with pediatrician Dr. Robert Sears

From heartache to hope: Interview with Leisa Hammett of The Autism Society of Middle Tennessee

A boy brought back from autism

Different, not disordered: Interview with Dr. Barbara Probst

Additional resources from API —

bob searsAudio recording with Dr. Robert Sears about treating autism — only $9

kidswithcamerasThe documentary, “Kids with Cameras,” following children with autism as they learn how to express themselves through films, poems, painting and music — now just $15