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

The key to world peace and harmony

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorWhat is the key to promoting peace and harmony in our world?

In view of all the recent unrest and violence in our country and around the world, it’s a timely and imperative question.

It’s a question I often reflect on. As the mother of two young children, I’ve come to the realization that my role as a parent is not merely to raise my kids to be healthy, happy and successful adults — it’s much bigger than that: it is to raise kids who one day will become adult members of our society. My children and your children will one day become husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, neighbors, teachers, leaders, and lawmakers. With that realization, I feel an immense sense of responsibility.

I believe parenting practices — what parents model as an acceptable and appropriate behavior — has great consequences and implications that cascade beyond the home.

Let’s think about what it means for our children and how it shapes them when:

…a caregiver hits or spanks a child in response to a conflict or unwanted behavior. What messages is the child receiving in regards to managing anger, conflict resolution, and inflicting pain — both physical and emotional — on another being?

…we sleep-train a child — letting them cry themselves to sleep, ignoring their natural need to be soothed and comforted. How may it impact a sibling who is observing Mommy or Daddy not attending to the distressed young child? He may be learning it is acceptable to dismiss one’s need for soothing and compassion.

…the parent-child relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, and collaboration rather than control, manipulation, and fear. How does teaching collaboration and navigating together to reach resolutions prepare a child for future relationships? What does a child learn about handling disagreements when the parent is in the role of the unquestionable authority figure, as in “because I said so!” or “because I’m the boss!”?

…a child joins his mom as a volunteer at a soup kitchen to help others who are less fortunate, or he witnesses his dad stopping at the side of the road to help a stranded stranger.

It means that when we show empathy, we teach empathy; and when we show compassion, we teach compassion.

The child who has been nurtured with empathy and compassion is the child and adult who will extend his hand to another person, not swing his hand. He will be the one who lifts others, not belittles. He will grow to be the adult in society who promotes peace and harmony, not discord, because these are the values and tools imparted in him by his first and most significant role models: his parents.

Echoing in my mind is an incident that took place a few months ago: I clumsily hit the blow dryer against my left eyebrow bone. The sharp pain was agonizing. I clutched my bruise and knelt down to the floor uttering a few groans. My 8-year-old son was nearby. He came over, knelt down, and gently moved my hands and kissed my bruise. “Is it better now, Mommy?” he asked. While trying to hold back my groans, I replied: “A little. Thanks, my love.” He gave me a hug, then inspected the bruise, and said: “Maybe you can do some Reiki on it later.” I was in awe. My eyes were moist — no longer from the pain, but from experiencing the sensitivity and compassion he displayed: He sensed my pain and responded to it with tender sincerity.

In that moment, I was awash with joy and pride, and I thought, this is the kind of adult I aspire to release to this world: one that possesses empathy and compassion for others.

In that ordinary yet profound moment, I appreciated that all of the patience, compassion, responding with sensitivity, and positive discipline I have practiced raising my children. It all paid off in an extraordinary way.

The path to promoting peace and harmony may be simpler and more fundamental than we perceive it to be. It can be more effectively accomplished with the action of planting the seeds, rather than trimming the trees.

heart-and-keyParents, we are the key: Peace and harmony start with us! 

We are the peacemakers and peacebreakers of the world. If we want a more peaceful world for our children and the next generations, we ought to exemplify one for them. If as parents, we model sensitivity, empathy and harmony, our children will carry themselves through life, and react in the same manner when they encounter conflicts and adversities — for these are the tools we have been giving them.

Let’s plant those seeds and watch them grow and spread — one family, one community, one country at a time.

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.

We can do this in our sleep!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 14, 2008, but so many parents through the years since and in the future can relate well to its message.

Nighttime has confronted us with some of the most challenging parenting moments we’ve faced so far, but being present for our now 14-month-old daughter at 3:00 in the morning is just as important as it is at any more reasonable hour.

Though it isn’t always as easy, or as pleasant, as engaging her in a silly song, or reading Counting Kisses again, she doesn’t stop needing us when the sun goes down.

Our nighttime parenting has evolved in response to our daughter’s needs — and our fumbling attempts to meet them.

The day she was born, she never left our arms until after midnight, when we laid her carefully in the plastic bassinet the hospital provided before turning in ourselves. As we gazed down at our brand-new baby girl, she spit up a little — and we froze at the terrifying idea that she could choke while we slept.

Without further ado, I scooped her up and climbed into the bed, where she slept in my arms, nursing on and off the rest of the night.

When we brought her home the next day, we carefully attached an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper to our bed, eager for her to sleep close to us. We were aware of the benefits of sleeping in close proximity from reading Dr. Sears’ resources — including decreased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) — and the Cosleeper made us feel more comfortable about sleeping next to a newborn.

But the first time we lowered our sleeping infant onto its thin mattress, she awoke immediately, howling in protest. We tried again, gently easing her from our bodies to this space where we had intended for her to sleep, but she made it clear she had other ideas.

And so the Cosleeper was relegated to serving as a makeshift nightstand, until its eventual relocation to storage in the basement, and we began the process of trying to determine how to help our baby sleep.

As a newborn, she slept best semi-upright on our chests. When she was 5 weeks old, we discovered she was suffering from reflux, which explained her profound discomfort at lying flat on her back. But even after she outgrew the reflux at about 4 months, we still couldn’t seem to coax her to sleep for any significant length of time.

We made sure she wore comfortable PJs, was clean and dry, and had a belly full of breastmilk before bedtime each night. We tried putting her down in her crib and in her swing, with white noise and without, swaddled and unswaddled, on her back and on her side, with the nightlight on and off. And each time, about an hour after she succumbed to sleep, she’d wake and we would go try again.

We also tried cosleeping, hopeful that being close to us would provide her some comfort, but found that such proximity only stimulated her to fight sleep in order to nurse frantically all night. I awoke more than once to a find a puddle of my milk pooled under her head. So we’d try variations of other arrangements again, which would allow her to sleep more peacefully, if not for long.

We didn’t expect her to sleep through the night at 6 weeks, or even 6 months, understanding that night-waking is normal. We were more than willing to attend to her in the wee hours, and I was happy to nurse her more than once overnight.

But months of hourly — and occasionally more frequent — waking was wearing us down. Frustrated and exhausted, we stumbled through our days and nights, and desperately searched books on baby sleep for a solution. The mainstream consensus was clear: Our baby should be sleeping through the night by now, and if she wasn’t, we should “help” her by leaving her to cry it out.

We considered that advice but quickly concluded that cry-it-out methods weren’t compatible with the Attachment Parenting approach in which we believed.

Editor’s note: Parents, especially first-timers who are overwhelmed by the conflicting advice of well-meaning family members, doctors and popular parenting sources, need research-based safety information to help them make decisions for their family. Attachment Parenting International (API), in consultation with many experts in the area of infant sleep, has this information in the form of an Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines brochure and wants to get it into the hands of parents everywhere to ensure that all babies can be safe during sleep, at night and at naptime, regardless of whether you share sleep in the same bed, use a cosleeping bassinet, or use a crib.

At some point, we accepted that there probably wasn’t a silver bullet for our sleep struggles. The answer to the question of what to do for our daughter, a restless sleeper with high nocturnal needs, was simple and one we’d known all along: When she cried, we would respond. Every time.

Sometimes I nursed her as soon as she stirred. Sometimes her Dada snuggled with her or patted her bum softly until she drifted back into slumber. We continued to bring her into our bed, and finally, one night when she was almost 11 months old, she finished nursing, rolled over and went to sleep. It was the first night she’d actually slept next to me without nursing for a few hours, and she hasn’t been back in her crib since.

Cosleeping feels right for us.

Though she still stirs often throughout the night, just being beside us seems to lengthen each stretch of snooze. Finally we can comfort her without waking ourselves! And when she does arouse, if she isn’t easily soothed back to sleep, she nestles next to me and nurses, and we doze off together again.

Of course there are nights when we find ourselves exasperated at the fact that we haven’t enjoyed a night of unbroken sleep for over a year, but we are committed to giving her our presence even when it isn’t easy to do so. And when the sun comes up on her sweet face between my husband and me, I wouldn’t want any of us to be anywhere else.

Disclaimer: API urges parents to use good sense regarding the safety of their children. API publishes this information knowing that parents are engaged in the use of cribs and cosleeping in all its forms, and as such, API is committed to keeping children safe and healthy by providing the most current safety information available. API, its Support Groups, its sponsors and its partners assume no liability in the event of infant, child or parent harm and are held harmless from any harm, loss or legal arising from information they provide.

Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 1

by Abigail Flavin

My husband and I learned about Attachment Parenting when, after reading many, many reviews of various baby books, we selected one by William Sears, MD. We found the principles and practices intriguing. They offered us clarity for our own thoughts and hopes for ourselves as parents. Repeatedly, we discussed the principles, sharing anecdotes from our own childhoods and from what we were reading about parenting. We thought we were completely ready for our son’s arrival, since we had acquired a car seat, clothing, diapers, and parenting ideas. We were unprepared for our spirited son, Thomas, who has proven that babies can get by just fine on less than the required range of sleep time so often touted by experts.

The first month was about what we expected. Then, he stopped sleeping well and began fussing more. He never wanted to be put down, and even the sling and constant nursing never seemed to provide enough contact. Our pediatrician diagnosed him as having Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which became quite serious between his third and fourth months, requiring medication. At that point, we could understand the irregular habits and the inability to sleep well, even with cosleeping and constant nursing.  By his seventh month, however, his sleep problems could no longer be linked to GERD nor did they correlate to introducing solids. As he began sleeping less often and less regularly, we became progressively more frantic.

We were always asked by others, how is he sleeping? Is he sleeping through the night yet? Honestly, these questions need to stop. They imply that either the parent is a bad parent or that the baby is a bad baby. They amp up the pressure that already tired and insecure first-time parents feel. Let us banish these questions to the realm of etiquette hell, where they belong.

When nothing else worked, we fell off the AP wagon and tried the graduated extinction sleep-training method. Three days in, he was down to sleeping six out of 24 hours, the worst he’d ever slept. We were all exhausted and miserable. I saw a long, bleak tunnel ahead, and I am sure our son only saw pain and confusion. Where was Mommy? Her warmth? Her food? Her snuggles? Why am I alone in a crib, in the dark, and nobody is coming to me? What is wrong with me that they won’t come to me? I cannot find the words to describe how I imagine my child must have felt, for it is far darker than that. We gave up and gave up ourselves completely to our son so that he could reestablish his trust in us. We kissed and snuggled him constantly, providing one favorite activity after another: reading, peek-a-boo, snuggles, bath time, walks in the garden, singing, and of course, co-sleeping. Of course, he recovered; our little ones are far more resilient than we can imagine. And in the meantime, he taught us the value of patience.

What many sleep methods bank on is that parents want results now; we are exhausted, we sometimes miss our “old lives,” we wonder when we will have space and time to enjoy some of our independent activities, we long for a few hours where we do not have to decide whether to take an uninterrupted shower or call an old friend. What we must learn from our children is the value of patience, of delayed gratification. They teach us these lessons so that we may, in turn, teach them as they grow older.

Check back with us for Part 2, where Abigail shares tips she learned from a long and exhausting period of irregular baby sleep.

The Llama Book and Why I Still Sing My Daughter to Sleep

Ever since my daughter was born my favorite part of the day was bedtime (and not because it provided me with much needed rest.) I loved to rock my sweet baby and listen to her breath start to steady and slow as she drifted off to sleep. The fingers she had so tightly wrapped around locks of my hair would loosen and my heart would nearly burst with love as I looked down at those beautiful half-moon eyes closed so tightly.

I swear in the moment that a child drifts off to sleep, they become an angel. Nothing on Earth is more angelic than the face of a sleeping child.

Now as my daughter has grown, our bedtime routine has shifted and changed more times than I can count. My daughter is going to be two and a half next month and while she still ends up in our bed at some time around 3:00 am, she generally likes to sleep in her own bed where she can stretch out. One thing is for sure however, she loves to have her Momma and Daddy put her to sleep and we are more than happy to do it.

When friends come over and I excuse myself to put my child to bed and go missing for 45 minutes or when I schedule evening outings late so that I can be the one to put my sweet angel to bed before having a family member come over to stay with her, I often find myself once again justifying why I don’t just teach my daughter to put herself to sleep. The short answer is I am against sleep training and quite frankly I don’t want her to feel forced to put herself to sleep. She wants her Momma and it’s my job (and my pleasure) to be there for her.

Here is a more lengthy explanation which began when my daughter and I sat down to read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Now before I continue, my daughter and I both like the Llama Llama books and don’t see anything inherently wrong with these books, I just tend to disagree with some of the practices that are displayed in the story line.

Picture this…

My darling curls up on the couch as bath time approaches and says “will you read to me Momma?” The answer is always yes and I told her to go pick a book. She came back to the couch and handed me Llama Llama which had been given to us by a friend. We were both excited to read a new book and we settled ourselves on the couch for some pre-bath snuggles. I began to read.

“Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama.” So far so good.

As the book goes on however, my heart aches for baby Llama, and for all of the sweet babies who are left to put themselves to sleep.

As the story continues, Llama calls for his mama who says she will be up soon but then busies herself with dishes and an unexpected phone call. Llama begins to get increasingly upset.

When we got to the page that depicts baby llama softly crying and feeling alone and abandoned, my daughter began to get upset. “Why is he crying Momma? Where is his Momma?” she asked sympathetically. I explained that not all mommy’s sing their babies to sleep and reassured her that I would continue to do so as long as she needed me to.

The page that really broke me was when baby Llama began to fear that his mother might never come back.

Now some may find this comical or gloss over it without a second thought. But the fear associated with feelings of abandonment at nighttime are very real to a great number of children. This truly made me sad for all children who feel this way while being sleep trained.

Now once again, I am not condemning parents who do not stay with their children until they fall asleep completely. Some children don’t need them to, and some parents simply don’t realize the feelings of fear, abandonment, and panic that their children often experience.

As we continued to read, my daughter was very happy when Llama llama’s mama finally came upstairs to tend to his needs once more, but we spent a few extra minutes cuddling before bath.

At bedtime that night, I was ever more grateful for the privilege of helping my baby girl fall asleep. As she lay on her belly, I rubbed her back and sang “Tiny Bubbles.” She held on tightly to two of my fingers and 15 minutes later as her grip softened and she slept soundly, I kissed her once more on her forehead told her how much I loved her, and slipped quietly out of her room.

My baby won’t need me to do this forever. Every day I bear witness to the fact that she is growing more quickly with each passing day. She is such an independent, curious, brilliantly imaginative child. I can feel these moments slipping away and there will come a day when she won’t want me to sing to her and hold my hand each night, so I am going to be sure to enjoy and treasure every moment of it while it lasts.

Childhood is a fleeting gift. Life gets too hard too fast. I love being her mom and I adore the opportunity to be there for her whenever she needs me to.