Tough Love? No Way, Baby

This guest post is in response to a recent Time magazine article. For more information on the article and API’s response, please visit the API Advocates page.

“We’re glad to see you . . . We’re sorry you had to come.”

So says Time Magazine to our newborns, who are biologically wired to seek out responsive and caring nighttime parenting. The quote above is actually the welcoming phrase of the Tough Love International program (1); but it is appropriate, because Time Magazine has advised parents to practice “tough love” with their newborns when it comes to infant sleep concerns.

In the December 7, 2009 article “The Year in Health, A to Z,” the section entitled “B is for Babies” recommends:

When a baby has repeated problems falling asleep, Mom and Dad may need to show some tough love. Lingering with cranky babies too long or bringing them into the parents’ bedroom can make them likelier to become poor sleepers, according to psychologist Jodi Mindell, who gathered data on nearly 30,000 kids up to 3 years old in 17 countries. “If you’re rocked to sleep at bedtime, you’re going to need that every time you wake up,” she notes. Her advice: have children fall asleep 3 ft. away. “If they’re slightly separated, they sleep much better,” she says. (2)

Why is it that so many people (experts included) are quick to banish babies to separate sleeping quarters, even if the babies protest? As social creatures, isn’t it natural to want to share space with our loved ones? Unfortunately, where independence is celebrated as it is here in the United States, bed sharing has traditionally been widely practiced, but rarely discussed. (3)

cosleeping1

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Mothering Autism

When our oldest, Emily, was just shy of 3, we learned that she had Autism. It was such a stressful time in our little family’s life. Our baby, Alex was almost a year old and was crying all of the time for unknown reasons to us then and my husband’s job was rocky and unpredictable, therefore, so was our income. I just remember feeling like our world was falling apart. For days after the diagnosis, I mourned. I cried randomly, usually during one of Emily’s many meltdowns of the day.

EmilyAlexKissI had many afternoons on the floor holding Alex, laying next to Emily and all three of us sobbing in unison. They were crying because they couldn’t communicate and were in pain and I was crying because I thought I lost my daughter. Days later, I saw a glimpse of her, I saw a fighter. I saw who she really was, peaking through that Autism armor she was wearing. She wasn’t giving up and neither could I. Instead of “Why me? Why Emily? Why us?” my thoughts quickly became, “Autism? BRING IT.”

Previously, doctors all pointed their fingers at me. I wasn’t letting her grow up; I coddled her and treated her like a baby. She was 2 and shouldn’t be sleeping in bed with us. I was criticized for not sticking her in a crib and letting her cry herself to sleep. I was criticized for holding her all the time and even for not yet putting her in a preschool program. It was my fault; I was causing her to act this way. I gave her the behavior issues and caused her to not talk because I refused to withhold things until she “used her words”.
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Attachment Parenting and Autism

ap_and_autism_1The following post, Attachment Parenting and Autism, has been submitted by Amy as part of the AP Month 2009 blog carnival. If you are interested in participating in the carnival, view the AP Month 2009 blog carnival information post. If you’re like Amy and don’t have your own blog, you can email your submission to API and we will publish your post and include it in the carnival.
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I didn’t choose AP as much as Daniel chose it for me. He was a relentless child, even in the womb, who moved, rolled, hiccuped constantly. I gave in 1/3 out of love, 2/3 out of sheer desperation and need for survival. He was only happy being held, so I held him. He would only sleep next to me, so I cuddled him. I breastfed at will and watched my son thrive. He weighed well over 11 lbs at only one month old!

He grew, beautiful and perfect. He hit milestones and we celebrated. He was very attached, as was I. I couldn’t stand to be without him. I grew weary of justifying it to the world; I truly enjoy the company of my child! We enjoy co-sleeping and breastfeeding.

ap_and_autism_2I can’t tell you when he changed. Looking back, there is no particular “ah ha!” moment. I know that one day Daniel said “Hat!” and I rejoiced. It was our first new word in months. I began to notice that my child could say “hat” and little else. He moved constantly, always on the go. He was into everything and still would not talk. When his peers were making simple sentences and observations, we still only had “hat.” Words were slowly disappearing. We justified, blaming our recent moves, new baby and changes in routine.
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International Babywearing Week 2009

This week is International Babywearing Week 2009. My posts over the next week will, no doubt, be mostly related to babywearing, it’s benefits for both baby and wearer, and how to do it.

What is babywearing?

From http://babywearinginternational.org:

Babywearing simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier. Holding babies is natural and universal; baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable, allowing parents and caregivers to hold or carry their children while attending to the daily tasks of living. Babywearing helps a new dad put a fussy newborn to sleep. It allows a new mom use both hands to make a sandwich. It lets an experienced parent or caregiver carry a baby on her back and wash the dishes, do the laundry, take a hike, weed the garden … all while keeping the baby safe and content

From Wikipedia:

Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby or child in a sling or other form of carrier. Babywearing is far from new and has been practised for centuries around the world. In the industrialized world, babywearing has gained popularity in recent decades, partly under influence of advocates of attachment parenting; however, not all parents who babywear consider themselves attachment parents. Babywearing is a form of baby transport.

A one-minute introduction to babywearing:

Attachment Parenting International would like to thank Amanda from The Sour B for her guest post in honor of International Babywearing Week 2009.

Mom to Mom: An interview with Jan Hunt

An interview by Wendy Cook. You can read more from Wendy at Mother Rising.

Many of you know that I read Jan Hunt’s book The Natural Child: Parenting From the Heart when I was pregnant with Satch and it changed my life. The child in me felt validated and it helped me trust my gut and feel supported about the way I wanted to mother my son. As some of you know, it’s one of several books that I give as baby shower / blessingway gifts. I believe that it has the power to change the world, one family at a time.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Jan about motherhood; unschooling and her upcoming book for 2009. It is with great joy that I introduce, Jan Hunt.

1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

It changed me in every way. It helped me realize that children are human beings and no different from adults in the ways that really matter. They are no different emotionally and react the same way we do to good or bad treatment; they are doing the best they can.

I learned a lot from my son – he’s been my teacher. Here’s an example that I’m not proud of. One day when Jason was a baby, he threw a spoon down on the floor and I reacted with an automatic response by gently tapping his hand. He gave me a look that I’ve never forgotten, even 27 years later. He gave me a perplexed look, as though to say, “Why would you do such a thing… how could you hurt me?” And right at that moment, I just grew, like the Grinch… my heart grew 100 times bigger. Because up until that point I didn’t totally get it, and from that point on I got it. And any other time when I strayed off the path of respectful parenting, he would give me a look of confusion or bewilderment. He knew from the beginning – like all babies – what he deserved and what I should be doing.
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Something to bump up against

Today, API Speaks is proud to feature a guest post by Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting. Dr. Cohen is a licensed psychologist specializing in children’s play and play therapy. Find out more at PlayfulParenting.com.

Some parents are intuitively attachment-oriented; some seek out an alternative to their childhood; and some stumble onto it. Whichever way they find attachment parenting, it can seem to many parents like the solution to every parenting situation. As the saying goes, give a child a hammer and everything suddenly looks like a nail.

But life isn’t that straightforward, is it? Just about anything in life powerful enough to provide significant solutions is also likely to create some new difficulties along the way. As a child and family therapist, I frequently recommend more attention to attachment in non-AP families.

However, when I work with attachment-oriented parents, they are typically puzzled by the problems they are facing, because they are “doing everything right” in terms of fostering attachment. I explain that they have indeed prevented many common problems, but in the process they have opened themselves up to some new and different challenges that “come with the territory.” This does not undermine the choices they have made. It’s like choosing not to vaccinate against chicken pox; it would be naïve to make that decision and not be prepared for spots, itching, and missed school days.

So what are the “itchy spots” of attachment parenting? The ones I tend to see most frequently involve some or all of these: aggressiveness, defiance, frequent meltdowns, emotional oversensitivity; sensory oversensitivity, and inflexibility. Paradoxically, there are also sometimes problems with separation and insecurity. Often these issues arise rather suddenly, most typically between age 2.5 and 3.5. The parents, meanwhile, are often at the end of their rope, begin to have conflicts over parenting style, and may wonder if they have created a monster.

But these problems are not the result of too much attachment or of not being good enough at attachment parenting. They are simply some of the predictable challenges of this approach.

Fortunately, these issues are generally easier to resolve than the ones caused by not enough attachment. A little playful parenting goes a long way towards bringing things back into balance and harmony.

Children thrive when they have manageable challenges. Insurmountable obstacles make them shut down, but sometimes the commitment to secure attachment can mean that a child does not have enough obstacles to “bump up against.” Part of the problem is that some parents only say “no” when they really really really mean it, or when they have flipped from their usual calm state to their rare–but intense–“losing it” state. The result is that “no” gets filled with tension, and there are no good ways for the child to release that tension. So play with the word no: “Nobody better touch these pillows or else they are in BIG TROUBLE!” Make sure to smile a goofy grin when you say this, and make sure the “trouble” is funny and fun. If a child is using potty talk or obscenities, you can try saying, “Oh, that’s OK to say, but you better not say kumquat.” Again, remember to ham up the silly-fake-mad reaction when they do say the pretend-bad word.

One reason this set of problems often arises around age 2-4, is that kids this age really need something to fight against, so that they can know where they stop and the world starts, and so they can know how strong they are. So roughhousing and playful rough and tumble play are perfect games for them. Wrestle, chase, pillow fight–but keep it light and fun. Go for the giggles, which are the sign of a release of the tension and a return to their sunny (safely secure) selves.

I hope you can see that I am not suggesting “toughening up” or (heaven forbid) letting children cry themselves to sleep. I’m suggesting a playful approach that helps to balance the wonderful strengths of attachment parenting. Try it out and let me know how it works at larry@playfulparenting.com.

A Guiding Presence

My daughter is four and very angry at me.

She doesn’t know that watching too much television is not good for her, in so many ways. She doesn’t know how much better it is physically, mentally, and emotionally, for her to play outside instead. She just knows that she wants to watch Dora, and that her mommy won’t let her.

My daughter and I usually communicate well with each other. I usually don’t yell, and I never hit or spank her. Time outs and banishment to bedrooms don’t work in this house. Instead, we normally use feeling words and try to talk to each other about how we feel and come up with a compromise. However, once in a while, like today, we come up short in communication.

My daughter doesn’t want to talk. She wants to yell and cry and turn her back to me. She doesn’t want to be hugged or touched or cuddled. She just wants to be angry. This leaves me with two choices: I can threaten, yell, or punish her in some other way until she starts to “behave,” or I can use this as an opportunity to guide her.

I know that when I am angry, I get overwhelmed. It’s hard for me to stay calm, it’s hard for me to think about anything but whatever I am angry about. From my experience with anger, I know that yelling or punishing her at this time isn’t going to help; it wouldn’t work with me, so why would it work for her? It would make things worse. And so, I choose the other option.

She’s laying on the couch, crying, her back to me. I sit next to her. I don’t touch her, or hug her, or try to talk to her…I just sit quietly, letting her anger run its course. I know she can feel my presence beside her, keeping her company while she tries to sort through the powerful and overwhelming emotions that have taken over her body.

Time passes, and her crying starts to slow. Soon, she sits up and starts wiping the tears from her face. She looks at me and then climbs on my lap. I wrap my arms around her and kiss her forehead.

“Feel better?” I ask. She nods. “Want to go outside now?” She nods again, grinning, and jumps off my lap to find her shoes.

No, my daughter doesn’t know about the studies that show the harmful effects television can have on her. She doesn’t know that she is building memories of nature and animals and plants that she will look back on fondly. But, she does know that I am always there for her, no matter what. That my presence will always be in her life, ready to guide her whenever she needs it. That is one of my gifts to her.

Guest post by Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother

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