Healthy infant sleep, Part 3: Combining adult structure with infant sleep needs

Editor’s note: In observance of Get Better Sleep Month this May, Attachment Parenting International brings you a 4-part series on normal, healthy infant sleep. Here is part 3:

Adult structure helps by recognizing and providing the time, space, and conditions for an infant to sleep and rest, but doing any more would be akin to trying to force teeth to appear in different places in the mouth at different times.

Cross-cultural studies of sleep have demonstrated time and again what we already know about biologically normative infant and child sleep patterns. Why do we continue to ignore it? Cosleeping and breastfeeding have been species-biological norms from time immemorial.

Light bulbs, alarm clocks, factories, and offices are new cultural inventions that require a whole new sleep-industrial complex to maintain. Taking it all into consideration, there is no question of adaptation. Listening to our babies causes us to take pause and ask ourselves: At what cost to our health and well-being do we continue to believe that our sleep is adaptive, and at what cost to our child’s health and well-being are we forcing them to do the same? What growth do they forgo?

Attachment parenting resists a one-sleep-fits-all solution and instead offers a multitude of potential sleep solutions that can accommodate working parents and infant development. All-inclusive sleep solutions with an infant will necessarily change and will necessarily be unconsolidated if we remain responsive to our babies in a healthy way.

Finally, part 4, we’ll encourage parents who are confronted with the conflicting infant sleep advice of our culture.

Healthy infant sleep, Part 2: The dependence of healthy infant sleep patterns

Editor’s note: In observance of Get Better Sleep Month this May, Attachment Parenting International brings you a 4-part series on normal, healthy infant sleep. Here is part 2:

If we take a holistic view of the sleep question, we have to ask how successful and beneficial it is when we discover the “normal” situation of medicated sleep and the reach of adult sleep difficulties into so many lives.

Is it “normal” that we should let our babies cry to sleep at a point when they most need short-interval feedings and physical contact with us to stimulate growth hormones? What’s the cost to them when we force them to adapt to our needs versus us to their needs?

Infants are notorious for explosive growth and, as most parents know too well, developmental stages are each marked by corresponding, changing sleep patterns. Like the children they are a part of, no 2 sleep patterns are identical.

Healthy infant sleep patterns — like teething, crawling, bipedal movement, and language acquisition — are the very biological developments that unfold independently over time.

Being helpless, infants necessarily must adapt to their environmental conditions. Their dependent state is augmented by a nifty alarm system they use effectively to call for help: their cry.

Ignoring a crying baby is akin to letting the battery go dead in a smoke detector. What would be the point? It’s true that the reason for some cries for help is not as urgent, but our response should never be that we give up looking for smoke.

Babies have their own unique sleep needs that change and respond to their unique needs in a period marked by the most rapid biological growth and development across the human lifespan. Why would we dream of forcing them into our own inappropriate sleep patterns for the sake of our own cultural maladaptions? What is lost when we do?

In part 3, we’ll learn about how we can combine adult sleep needs with our infant’s sleep needs for better sleep.

Healthy infant sleep, Part 1: Are modern sleep patterns healthier?

Editor’s note: In observance of Get Better Sleep Month this May, Attachment Parenting International brings you a 4-part series on normal, healthy infant sleep. Here is part 1:

I’m awake writing this during the biologically normative and healthy stages of first and second sleep. Research has revealed that right up until the advent of electric light, humans normally experienced 2 distinct segments of sleep.

Factory work, made possible with light, further compressed and consolidated work and sleep hours in industrialized nations. Normal sleep biology has been affected by these modern trends, so it should be little surprise that millions of adults now rely on medicated solutions for sleep to accommodate modern concepts of productive time.

It’s also little surprise that to achieve our quota of sleep, our babies must go along with these modern trends. It’s no longer acceptable for babies to literally sleep like babies. Most parents can attest that this phrase is an ironic fallacy, but nevertheless, there is a distinct infant and young child sleep pattern that fosters health and our society has co-opted that, too: Instead of allowing infants to sleep like they should, our modernized society has notions about the way infants “should” sleep.

The infant sleep-training industry has been happy to “help” parents train babies to adapt to this biologically foreign sleep pattern, just as we parents have adapted to our own unnatural sleep habits.

It would be interesting to discover a study that investigated possible links between infant sleep-training and later adult sleep difficulty. To date, there are no studies that have examined this. Are we literally setting ourselves up for maladaptive sleep patterns from birth? Maybe not — we can’t know, with the lack of research into this matter — but since we’ve had 100 or so years to adapt as a species to this new sleep pattern, we can and should ask how successful it’s been for us: Has sleeping become more healthy over this time? Of course, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has been strong and we’ve been productive — and destructive, waging a few massive wars — but are we all healthier for it? Is our sleep healthier, or even healthy, as a result? Is anyone even looking at it?

Examining trends that qualify under the creep of cultural normalcy is like trying to examine the tip of your own nose without a mirror. Our perspective is never perfectly clear.

Consolidated sleep is a cultural adaptation that’s hard to examine with sufficient perspective, because it is not obviously something we would think to examine. We take it for granted.

Adaptations are not all necessarily good or healthy ones, and there are several examples of the way we’ve accumulated unhealthy habits that don’t seem to be immediately connected. Direct and immediate connections are not the only evidence that “normal” actions are “OK.”

As a nation, we’ve suffered untold illness — much of it related to our abundant food supply and our taste for sugar. It’s hard to wrap our heads around how this happened when many of us would argue that there has “always” been this much sugar in our foods. Yet looking at food over a few generations reveals the truth of our diet shifts that match the health curve.

Not all adaptations are beneficial, nor then, are they instantly or clearly maladaptive. This is a difficult challenge.

In part 2, we’ll learn about how healthy infant sleep patterns are supposed to be.

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.

Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom?

The experience of being a mom can be challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and inspirational. There are plenty of trained experts and professionals who lend their guidance on ways to navigate through the complex web of motherhood, but oftentimes, the most grounded support comes from those who have been down in the trenches — so to speak: everyday mothers.

Today, we bring you words of advice from mothers who shared with us the wisdom and insight they acquired along the way, on their motherhood path.

What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom? 

Kassandra Brown: “My best parenting advice is to allow your perspective to broaden, your heart to soften, and your mind to notice how lucky you are to have exactly the children you have. What we believe, we perceive. By believing it, you will see evidence more and more often that proves how true it is that you are lucky to have your children.” 

Lisa Feiertag: “The advice that I would share with other moms is how important it is to remain flexible and to know that everything will change even when you think it is all static. Growth naturally causes things to shift, and it is a lot easier if you are moving in that flow instead of resisting it. Also, try to not take anything personally or to personalize your child’s actions and emotions. When you find yourself feeling upset look into why that is. What is being triggered internally? Parenting is an opportunity to heal all our unmet childhood wounds, which is one of the reasons why it is not an easy job.”

Megan Bell: “Let go of ‘should’ and truly connect with and listen to your children. They are our best teachers. Offer them what they need when they need it, and know they won’t need it forever.” 

Rochelle Kipnis: “Our children grow up so fast, so cherish every moment you get with them. Make memories and know that they grow up too quickly. Hold on to the moments and take it slow. Enjoy every day that you’re blessed to be here on earth with your children.”

Effie Morchi: “Above all, listen to your heart and trust your instincts; they are there for a key reason. When you are faced with a challenging moment, take a deep breath and think, ‘that too shall pass…’ and when you are faced with a blissful moment, take a deep breath, and let it wash over you — it will serve as nourishment for the road ahead.” 

Jillian Amodio: “Honestly, there’s a lot of advice floating around. Five different people will give you 5 different answers. The best advice I can give you is truly none at all. Just follow your heart, it will never lead you wrong. Mamas, you are wiser than you will ever know, more important than you will ever realize, and cherished beyond measure. Hug those little ones and love yourself, because even when you don’t feel like it, I’ll bet that you are doing an AMAZING job.”

Kelly Shealer: “My advice to other moms is to trust your instincts. Trust what feels right for you and your children. You know your child best.”

Inga Bohnekamp: “It is a lot about connection and trust. Find ways to over and over again connect with your child — and yourself. Try to see her with fresh, curious eyes every day and try not to make too many preconceived assumptions. She will continue to surprise, to amaze, and to challenge you in her very own unique ways as she grows up and faces the challenges of the world she lives in. Connect with yourself, with your intuition, with your very own inner wisdom. Most of the answers you will ever need are already inside of you, somewhere — you might just need to uncover them and then listen to them, which can be scary. And while, of course, trusted sources of support are always important — repeat after me: We cannot do it all by ourselves! — always remember that every child, every parent, every situation, and every relationship is different and changes from moment to moment, which makes it highly unlikely for a ‘one size fits all’ approach to actually be a good fit.” 

Katelynne Eid: “Trust your gut. With each little one, I’ve learned to trust myself even more. There are endless information and opinions out there, but nothing beats a mother’s intuition. Even if you don’t think you have it, I promise you do!” 

Shoshana Hayman: “Although modern society has devalued the role of mothers, know that your role as a mother is of paramount value in the world. No one can be for your children what you are to them — their primary attachment figure, which gives the optimal context for healthy human development. Teach them lovingly, both your boys and your girls, that the most important roles they will fulfill one day will be to parent their own children. Mothers need to be confident in believing that nurturing their children, throughout the years that they are growing up, helps shape a healthy and peaceful society more than any daycare, school, or educational program ever can.”


A Mother’s love is a gift that gives forever and her legacy is life

In gratitude, consider a tribute to a Mother in your life while helping a mother in need of support at the same time.

It’s a gift that that keeps on giving because you help mothers receive much needed information and support.

This is the heart of API.

We invite you to share a gift of love that gives on in her honor.

  Happy Mother’s Day from Attachment Parenting International




Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What do you cherish most about being a mom?

Being a mom is like being a gardener — it’s hard labor that gets accomplished regardless of the conditions. It is the kind of work that requires fortitude, dedication, and an abundance of patience. We tend to our children, nourish them, watch them grow, and reap what we sow. All the while, we are continuously mesmerized by their essence and beauty.

Today, as we celebrate the unique and precious role of a mother, we bring to you these thoughtful expressions from mothers around the world:

What do you cherish most about being a mom?

Megan Bell, Fox Valley API, Illinois USA: “I cherish the spontaneous proclamations of love my toddler gives me, and when she shows me empathy. I love watching her grow. Our children really do learn by example. It’s beautiful and stunning to witness.”  

Rochelle Kipnis, New Jersey USA: “As a homeschooling mom of 3, I cherish the moments spent with my children. Hugging and kissing them, watching them laugh, learn, smile, grow, and play brings me the most joy in life. No matter how big they get, they will always be my babies and I will always be here for them. They are life’s greatest joy and blessings.”

Lisa Feiertag, API Leader Applicant Liaison, Maryland USA: “The unconditional love that my children shower on me is what I cherish most about being a mom. I love the snuggles, laughs, giggles as well as the long conversations that we engage in. I love watching my kids grow into the young adults that they are becoming and seeing them share their love with others.”

Effie Morchi, API Assistant Editor, New York USA: “I cherish most the growth and transformation; mine as well as my children’s. I marvel at how parenting has taught me that the simple moments and things in life are truly the profound ones: a day spent together at the park, a gentle smile, a trivial goal achieved; they are the bits that make our life wholesome.” 

Jillian Amodio, Maryland USA: “What I cherish most largely depends on the day. On a good day, it’s the smiles and laughter emanating from my children. On a bad day…bedtime and wine? No, really though, all jokes aside, what I cherish most are the memories we make each day. Every night before my children go to bed, regardless of what kind of day we’ve had, we cuddle in their beds, read books, and sing songs. We talk about what happened that day and it helps us realize that even on the days that are ‘mundane’, ‘boring,’ or just plain not very good, we have a really great thing going — we have each other, and we certainly do have a whole lot of fun together.”

Kelly Shealer, API of Frederick, Maryland USA: “My favorite moments of being a mom are when my children and I are able to take a break and relax together — like lying down together at bedtime or reading a book to my daughter while she sits on my lap. I love these times when we’re able to pause from all the busyness of our day and just be together.”

Shoshana Hayman, Israel: “Being a mom has been and continues to be the most fulfilling aspect of my life. No other role gives me the power to develop loving, deep, and lasting relationships with those who are dearest to me while at the same time helping my children bring their human potential to fruition.” 

Katelynne Eid, Connecticut USA: “The thing I cherish most about being a mom is just getting to witness as these little lives develop. I’m so grateful for being able to be a consistent and supportive presence as they figure out who they are.”

Kassandra Brown, Boulder CO: “I cherish the moments when my perspective broadens from the day-to-day busyness of eating, sleeping, school, transitions, and stuff-to-do to notice the feeling of loving my children. How my heart softens, a smile comes to my face, and I realize how lucky I am that these thoughtful, loving humans love me. Once my perspective shifts, my parenting shifts and I find myself effortlessly working-with rather than doing-to or managing.”

Inga Bohnekamp, Ontario Canada: “I think what I cherish most is the experience of this unconditional, pure, and infinite love, which I have felt for my daughter ever since she came into my life (started growing inside my belly). I am so grateful for every moment we share, the challenging ones as well as the ones filled with pure happiness, laughter, and joy. She inspires me every day; she reminds me of what really, really counts in life, and I cherish this incredibly unique and intense opportunity to continue learning and growing alongside her as she grows up. But, if I have to boil it down to one thing, it would be the LOVE.”


A Mother’s love is a gift that gives forever and her legacy is life

In gratitude, consider a tribute to a Mother in your life while helping a mother in need of support at the same time.

It’s a gift that that keeps on giving because you help mothers receive much needed information and support.

This is the heart of API.

We invite you to share a gift of love that gives on in her honor.

  Happy Mother’s Day from Attachment Parenting International



This is how my son started to enjoy reading

Editor’s note: May is Get Caught Reading Month. Founded in 1999, this campaign was launched to remind people about the joys and fun of reading. Reading can be informative for parents as they navigate through the challenges of parenting and the various stages of their child’s development. Reading can also serve as a supportive way to deepen attachment and nurture relationships:

When my son was 6 and recently started reading on his own, he didn’t enjoy reading as much as I’d hoped he would.

I was a little discouraged, because I know how important reading is for children and because I felt that I’d done everything I was supposed to do in order to instill a love of reading in my child. I’d read to him since birth, had plenty of books around the house, made sure he saw me reading frequently, and provided opportunities to go to the library since he was a baby. It seemed that he should like to read.

The Best Encouragement May Not Be Any at All

I was somewhat torn about what to do. I wanted to encourage him, because I believe that reading is important and beneficial to children. But I didn’t want to push him too much to the point where reading became something that was a chore rather than a fun hobby.

I knew I didn’t want to make a reading log, because I knew the research showed that they actually backfire and make kids less inclined to read on their own. If he was going to read, I wanted it to be because of an intrinsic desire to do so, and I didn’t want my efforts to backfire.

So, I backed off a little bit and accepted that maybe he just wasn’t going to love reading.

Like all things with parenting, even when do we everything “right” to encourage the best habits out of our children, we also know that they are their own person with their own desires, interests, and personalities. I’d done my best to encourage an interest in reading and continued to do so, but I also accepted that even if he wasn’t a book lover like me, perhaps he would instead find other ways to learn and spend his time productively.

Shortly after this shift in my mindset, he had a sudden desire to start reading more. Part of it was returning to school for the start of first grade and having a friend who enjoyed reading the Magic Tree House book series. Soon, my son was interested in these books, too, and couldn’t get enough of them.

Now, he reads most days on the way to and from school and also at bedtime, though I don’t force it and I’m fine if he wants to take a day off.

An Unexpected Connection Point

Many nights, as he’s reading, I’ll sit beside him reading my own book — he really enjoys this. Even though we’re not talking, we’re sharing this activity that we both love. Just like when I read aloud to him when he was a newborn so that he could hear my voice, it’s a great way for us to connect.

Why it matters how we are born

“The beginning of life is a very normal and natural, yet specific, event.” ~ Bettina Breunig, TEDx Talk

Much of Western society chooses to view childbirth differences as merely a matter of personal choice. Rather, Attachment Parenting International (API) encourages us to recognize this important beginning in both our child’s life and our relationship with our child. Keeping this in mind, the first of API’s Eight Principles of ParentingPrepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting — is a critical investment in our roles as mothers (and fathers).

In this TEDx Talk video, German midwife Bettina Breunig discusses the role of a birth professional during labor and childbirth — to empower the woman to give the best possible beginning to her baby’s life outside the womb.

Join us as we explore this Everest of a challenge for every new mother: