Follow the Leader

Although I think we would have ‘found’ attachment parenting eventually, it was our daughter Sophia, born in Guatemala and now 5.5, who showed us the way.

As Ann and I waited for the adoption process to move through its steps we kept busy preparing for her arrival. We blindly went out and bought her a crib, a high chair, and all of the other products whose makers work hard to persuade parents-to-be that they cannot possibly parent a baby without. I enjoy shopping far too much and was only too eager to buy adorable pint-sized clothing, furniture and accessories. When the waiting felt hard, I would look into the nursery and visualize her sleeping in her crib.

Then, when she was 2.5 months old, we traveled to Guatemala to meet her. Her foster mother brought Sophia to our hotel to stay with us. She showed us how to rock her to sleep–an intricate dance with specific moves! We were able to easily rock Sophia to sleep in this way. We then gently lay her inside the crib in the hotel room. And she promptly woke up and communicated to us with her cries, “No, thank you, crib!” We tried this several times, and finally let her just lay in our arms…she slept like the proverbial baby. We mused that Sophia must co-sleep with her foster family, as this was the only way she would sleep with us.

On our last night during that first visit, I enjoyed dinner at Sophia’s foster family’s home. Poor Ann was sick in the hotel. I got to see where Sophia was living and being loved until she would come home to our family. There was a pack-n-play in Sophia’s foster mom’s room and a king-sized bed. I asked if Sophia slept in the bed with her foster mom. She sheepishly answered yes. She was hesitant to share this as it was against ‘the rules’ of the facilitator who thought American adoptive parents would expect their children-to-be to sleep in a crib.

I assured her that we simply wanted Sophia to be happy and healthy and she clearly was.

Ann and I returned home from Guatemala and immediately began looking for a new bigger bed for when Sophia came home. (New sheets, new comforter…I was on board for more shopping!) We also began exploring thoughts and ideas about co-sleeping, which led us to explore attachment parenting. Prior to this, my focus in reading and preparation as a prospective adoptive parent had all centered on adoption and transracial adoption issues. Now, I turned my attention to parenting approaches and found that Sophia had led us to the only approach that made sense for adopted children.

Adopted children endure the loss and separation from at least one family prior to their adoption, if not more than one. Sophia experienced the separation from her birth mother as a newborn and then the loss of her foster family, and all that was familiar to her, again at age 7.5 months when she came home to our family. Our next daughter, Olivia, born in a traumatic birth at 29 weeks of gestation, endured many losses including the loss of her twin sister at their birth, the loss of her birth mother, the loss of gestational time (early eviction on a 9 month lease!) and then loss of oxygen directly prior to her arrival. Even our youngest child, Walker, whom we met upon her birth, had spent nine months with her birth mother and was very suddenly without her voice and her bodily rhythms. Attaching and bonding clearly needs to be the focus for any adoptive parent upon a child’s homecoming.

Co-sleeping creates a powerful opportunity for attachment and bonding on so many visceral and primal levels. Sophia slept sandwiched between us and thus between the rhythms of our bodies. She craved skin-to-skin contact and curled up against us each night. Our bed felt and smelled like the combination of her and us.

It is in this way, night after night of cuddling and breathing in each other, that we began not only to begin identifying as an attachment parerenting family, but also how we became a family. In listening to our new daughter’s needs, she led us to an approach and parenting community that continues to help our family not only to mindfully listen to our children’s needs, but also to strive to balance those needs and create family harmony.

– Diana Robinson

Nighttime Parenting and The Anxious Child

sleeping.jpgMany people in the non-AP world are surprised when I make mention of one of my children sleeping with me. At 6.5 and 4.5 years of age, many seem to think that they are too old to be co-sleeping. Some of these parents co-slept with their infants but their children moved on to their own beds at some point. Mine did as well, but not for long.

I am truly thankful that I fell into the attachment parenting practice when my first was a newborn, thankful for many reasons. These days I am thankful that I don’t have any preconceived notions of where children should sleep. This has proven beneficial not only to my children, but also to me.

Both of my children have varying special needs but a common thread between the two of them is anxiety. My daughter, who is 4.5, is also language delayed. She doesn’t have a solid enough understanding of language for us to be able to explain the things that cause her anxiety and fears. As night comes, she quickly becomes more anxious about her surroundings refusing to leave our sides. For a family who forbids a child from sleeping with a parent, this would become a stressful time for both parent and child.

When my daughter’s anxiety increased, it was simply a matter of bringing her back into our bed (she had transitioned to her own room for several months at the age of three). Now my daughter is able to get a full night’s rest without fear and so do my husband and I.

My son, at 6.5, also has major nighttime anxiety. Although he has a vast vocabulary, he doesn’t understand why he is so fearful after dark. After sleeping in his own room for years, without any problems, he has also transitioned back into our room. Unfortunately he is plagued by vivid nightmares which continue even in bed with us. It pains my heart to see him thrash about and cry out in his sleep but I am happy that I am able to be near him and provide comfort.

I know that our family’s decision to not place boundaries on our children’s ability to sleep with us is helping us all right now. If I were to insist that my children sleep in their own beds “like big boys and girls do” then no one, not a single one of us, would be getting any sleep. Nighttime parenting goes beyond the nursing years and does stretch into childhood and beyond. Knowing what your children’s needs are, and meeting those needs in a way that is optimal for everyone, helps the family’s bond grow stronger.

Melissa

Letting Go

erika-and-rabbit.jpgFrom the time my daughter Erika, now three and a half, was a few months old, I’ve been learning to let go. Learning that I can’t, and shouldn’t try, to protect her from minor bumps and bruises, from small disappointments, from making mistakes. I know that if I try to protect her from everything, I risk keeping her from growth and independence. Perhaps I even risk damaging our relationship when she sees that I don’t trust her.

But sometimes it’s hard, and I know it will only become harder as both the opportunities and risks become greater.

Recently, she had a play date at her friend April’s house. She was having trouble leaving, but we really needed to get home to meet her father for dinner. As we talked about the problem, she explained that she wasn’t done playing with April’s two plush yellow rabbits. April’s mother offered to let her have the rabbits, and although we’d never done anything like that before, I decided to let Erika take one of the rabbits home — both seemed too large a gift to accept from someone we really didn’t know very well, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the precedent of being allowed to take other children’s toys home. Rabbits аrе іnсrеdіblу intelligent аnd ѕосіаl animals, аnd they can mаkе a grеаt соmраnу. Rabbits love their food, and it’s important to ensure they are not only getting enough to eat, but also the right stuff. This means they should be eating a natural diet that consists of real vegetables and vegetation. When your rabbit eats vegetation that has grown naturally, it will be able to absorb large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients. Are you keen to know about the most asked question regarding rabbits that can rabbits eat tomatoes ?

Unfortunately, she really wanted both of the rabbits, and wasn’t able to choose one. Time was pressing, and I was having trouble talking with her about the issue while trying to keep an eye on her one-year-old brother, Karl. I finally decided that we really just needed to get moving, and took him out to the car, asking her to choose one of the rabbits while I was putting him into his car seat.

When I came back, April’s mother explained to me that Erika had come up with a novel solution. She had offered April her own pink rabbit in exchange for the second yellow rabbit, and April had accepted the trade. Thoughts flashed through my mind — did she really understand what she’d just done? Would she miss the pink rabbit, pink being her favorite color? Was it OK for her to give away a present my mother had given her only a week earlier? I figuratively took a deep breath and decided that she ought to be allowed to make decisions about her own $5 stuffed toy, that creative problem-solving is something I wouldn’t want to discourage, and that I’d just hope for the best. April’s mother assured me that if my daughter wanted to trade back later, it would be fine.

Erika played with those rabbits for the next week, until we went to April’s house again. As we were getting ready to leave, she announced that we needed to remember to take the yellow rabbits back. I realized only then that she hadn’t envisioned the entire thing as a permanent trade, but rather a temporary exchange. So we took the yellow rabbits back, April returned the pink rabbit, and both children were happy. I was relieved that the exchange had been resolved so painlessly, but I also know that if there had been conflict and disappointment, it would have been OK. She would have been able to work through it, and I would have been there to help her.

I only hope that I will have as little angst about letting her go on a band trip in high school, travel with a friend after her senior year, or go to college half way across the country. I do know that if I don’t practice letting go now, I won’t be able to then — and in the mean time, I will miss the opportunity to watch her achieve the competence and self-confidence that only comes from having had the opportunity to fail.

Sonja

Volunteer Spotlight

In It takes a village, Half Pint Pixie wrote, “I began to realise that a village doesn’t have to be a physical location.” This sentence fits with API on so many levels!

Our organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit supported by memberships, donations, and volunteers. API accomplishes a great deal with efficiency-incurring only minimal expenses by employing a small staff, engaging a large devoted volunteer base, and managing the organization in a virtual office environment. This organizational model enables API to have global impact while getting the most out of every dollar.

Each of our staff members and volunteers, located across the United States as well as in Canada and Europe, contributes greatly to the supportive village that we offer at API and we couldn’t do it without any of them. It is with this in mind that I’d like to introduce our monthly Volunteer Spotlight of an existing volunteer and Volunteer Highlight one of our many available volunteer positions.

Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Melissa

melissa-h-avatar.jpegMelissa writes, “I have been a resource leader for two years and wanted to be more active with API. When Brandy mentioned that the forum was in need of moderators and an administrator, I knew I’d found my way to give back. Having about six years of forum administration and moderation experience, this position was perfect for me. I decided to go with the administrator position and thus began a month of furious activity on my part, along with the help of everyone else from API HQ as the new Web site was being launched.

“I absolutely love being the forum administrator. Not only do I have a feeling of personal reward for having learned so much about our forum program in a short time, but I get to work one-on-one with API leaders and members from around the world. I love the way the forum has given me, and API members everywhere, the ability to connect on a daily basis. I know that the new forum and Web site is just the start of an exciting new chapter for API and I am happy to be a part of it.”

Volunteer Highlight – Events Team Members

API Events Team Members will work with a staff project manager and additional team members to organize various events that bring awareness and publicity to API. Examples of these events range from API Parent Educator Training Sessions, member conferences, a Children’s Day celebration, etc. Tasks vary greatly and time commitments are flexible.

If you believe in the value of our mission to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world, please review the Volunteer page for more information on the various volunteer positions that our organization currently has available. Please know that this list is not comprehensive. If you have talents and experience that you feel would further our mission, please email Brandy AT attachmentparenting DOT org so that we can chat about the possibilities!

– Brandy Lace, API Office Manager

Attachment Parenting with Twins?

Am I an AP parent?

Is it possible to be an AP parent with twins?

  • I don’t wear them in slings (Two babies @ 30 lbs + sling(s) = sprained back).
  • They don’t sleep in my bed (Any more. Ask me about their first 3 months.).
  • I fed them formula in their first 6 weeks of life (Before my breasts learned to count to two.).
  • I had a planned c-section.

Am I still eligible? Could I be an AP parent?

According to Julie, of course I am!

Attachment Parenting is not about what you don’t do. It’s about what you do do.

There’s a spectrum of AP parenting, if you will, and I am on that spectrum.

  • I breastfeed. Twins. On demand. (That’s a lotta milk!)
  • I’m making their solid food from scratch! (Extra points for effort!)
  • They sleep in the co-sleeper next to our bed. Well, one of them does, anyway. The one that is currently the better sleeper. This week it’s Logan while Emma gets to sleep in the fabulous room we made for them.
  • We carry them around a lot. A whole lot.
  • We snuggle them. A lot.
  • We don’t let them get eaten by sabertooth tigers. Much.

There are probably plenty more examples that I could come up with if I wasn’t so tired. The twins insist on snacks at night and I, being an Attachment Parent, comply.

The cuteness, you see, ensures it.

Emma reaches for Logan’s bib after he’s finished eating carrots. The carrots are always…errr…oranger? on the other guy.

Emma considers eating solid food. “Naaaah! I stick wif meeyulk.”

I am an AP parent. With twins.

And an almost seven year old.

Dual cheek squeezing.

Life is good.

Woman with a Hatchet

Tips for Slinging Your Newborn

Dr. Maria Blois will be doing a twice monthly babywearing Q&A on API Speaks. If you are interested in submitting a question, please do so by adding a comment to this post. Your question could be answered in Maria’s next post!

Q: I tried putting my three week old, eight pound newborn in my ring sling in the cradle position (reclined, head towards the rings), and he hated it! He cried and fussed. I really want to wear my baby not only for the convenience but also for the closeness. Do you have any suggestions?

sling1.jpgA: Sure! Here are some tips that have worked well with my own newborns as well as many others. First: Turn that baby around so that his head is away from the rings. Most newborns prefer this position for several reasons. The first is that it allows them to recline more fully. As you can see here in the photo of Heidi with five week old Remy, the back of the head is properly aligned with the spine. Make sure the sling is tightened up properly. Baby should be riding above your belly button. A sling that is too loose is not only uncomfortable for you and baby (babies often balk at the sensation of freely swinging and swaying and prefer the security of a snug sling), but there is also the risk of baby falling through the too-loose folds of fabric.

Secondly, baby’s head is resting easily in the fabric near the surface, baby is not lost in the deep fabric of the typical cradle position. In fact, I often recommend that you try starting with baby’s head out of the sling initially. Many babies dislike the sensation of having their head tucked in. Put baby in the sling with his head slightly out, support his head in the crook of your elbow and then start the baby dance: walking, moving and gently bouncing baby until he is contently settled in the sling and then when he is asleep, you can tuck his little head in and be hands free.

I prefer newborns to be in this reversed position because mom has a clear view of baby’s nose and mouth and can easily verify that he is breathing comfortably. This is also one of the easiest positions for discrete nursing. Simply pull up on the rings to loosen the sling, move your clothing out of the way and latch baby on. You may use the tail of your ring sling to cover you and baby for added privacy. You may want to practice nursing baby in the sling at home before you attempt it in public. I certainly consider nursing in a sling to be “advanced” babywearing.

sling2.jpgIf you have a pouch style sling instead of a ring sling, you can approximate the nice shallow pouch necessary for a newborn: Just pull the excess fabric up against mom’s chest before placing baby in the pouch. This way, most of the fabric is up against mom and baby’s head is nice and high, riding near the surface of the fabric pouch.

sling3.jpgSome other tips for helping a baby adjust to a sling include: Insuring that the newborn baby boy clothing is comfortable and clean. If there are any scratchy tags left in the one-piece or an ill fitting diaper the discomfort increases in a sling, so do make sure he has comfy clothes on. Do as much adjusting of the sling as possible before putting baby in. Most babies have limited patience for fussing with the carrier and with positioning. Try to start learning when baby is rested and fed. As we all know, a crabby baby is in no mood to accept any new ideas. Practice in front of a mirror. Watch experienced babywearers. Once baby is in, get moving. The best way to become an expert babywearer is to wear your baby often!

Any one else care to chime in? What tips worked well for you when you were wearing your newborns in a ring sling?

Maria Blois, MD

Welcome to API Speaks!

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It has been an exciting month for Attachment Parenting International. At the beginning of the month, we launched our Parent Education Program (PEP). PEP dramatically expands the AP resources available to parents by establishing trained experts in communities where parents who need support can easily access them. We also launched our forums, providing real-world support, opportunities to interact with both experts and other AP parents, and age- and topic-specific areas where parents can go to get answers on everything from breastfeeding to help with baby-carriers, to using gentle discipline with teenagers.

And today we present API’s official blog, API Speaks, to the world. Posts on this blog will come from both within API and from beyond API’s borders, with blogging mavens you may well recognize submitting posts on a variety of AP-relevant topics.

Like so many of API’s other offerings in the realm of education, research, and support, API Speaks is volunteer-operated and provided as a free service to the AP community. Our mission is to capture the real stories of life as an AP family and to highlight the fact that, despite all the varied family structures, cultures, religions, and dynamics that exist in the world, there is one thing that unites us: Our love and compassion for our children.

I had the good fortune to speak with co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker about their grass-roots effort to spread the word about Attachment Parenting. What we kept coming back to is that API’s goal is nothing short of a massive cultural shift away from what Barbara called a “punishing culture” and toward compassion.

Lysa reminded us that while “…you can’t change generations of behaviors in one generation, but you can begin the change…That’s why Giving the Love that Heals by Harville Hendrix is so important. You’ve got to raise your consciousness so that you’re more conscious with your children.”

These amazing women, who began as friends who met during a La Leche League meeting and went on to found API fourteen years ago, release their book on Attachment Parenting later this summer. “The important message of our book is the title: Attached at the Heart,” Barbara said. “We want people to trust their heart when all else fails. When it’s the middle of the night and the baby’s crying, and the pediatrician and the mother-in-law have both said to let the baby cry, we want parents to trust their instincts. Instead of worrying “Is my baby going to be messed up if I hold her for 15 more minutes?” we want them to trust their heart. Mothers wouldn’t be in a cold sweat or crying when their children were hurting if they didn’t really instinctually know to always default to the most loving connected thing to do.”

It is our honor and privilege to continue their good work through API Speaks. Won’t you join us?

Julie Artz & Amy Gates
Contributing Editors, API Speaks

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