Our purpose as mothers

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

The day I became a mother, I felt a sense of purpose I had never known before.

These little lives have been placed in my hands, and it is my responsibility to give them love and nourishment, all while giving them room to grow into the people they are meant to be. The responsibility can seem overwhelming, but from the beginning, I had such a strong sense of this is what I’m meant to do.

That feeling of purpose and responsibility has also led me to feel such a connection with other mothers — both past and present. Motherhood looks different for each person. So, where I followed my instincts and naturally fell into Attachment Parenting, others may take a different path. There is no one right answer, no quick-and-easy golden rules that will guarantee a perfect outcome. If there was, motherhood would be easy.

Motherhood is by far the most rewarding thing in my life, but it is not always easy — especially when it seems that everywhere I look these days, people are tearing each other down. More specifically, moms are tearing other moms down. People are so quick to pass judgment or offer “advice” on the proper way to do something: cosleeping or crib, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, homemade baby food or store-bought. It can seem like a competition, offering up your thriving baby as proof that you’re doing things right. It can also make moms feel inadequate or insecure.

While I try really hard to refrain from gossip or judgment, I’m not perfect either. It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons of who reached what milestone and when, or assigning blame when things don’t end up the way you planned. But at the end of the day, every mother is doing her very best to provide her children with the same thing: a safe and secure place to grow.

As we continue to celebrate Mother’s Day this week, I sincerely hope that we can all feel confident enough in our own parenting decisions not to knock each other down. Instead, try to remember that we are all carrying that same sense of responsibility, and we should be building each other up. The world, and our kids, will be better for it.

Breastfeeding with food sensitivities

WP_20150225_15_44_21_ProI always assumed I would breastfeed my kids, and I have. But I never anticipated the struggle I would have when one of them developed severe food sensitivities.

My son had been experiencing a variety of symptoms pretty much since birth, but I hadn’t put them together to realize they were all symptoms of a bigger problem. It wasn’t until we were still struggling to get his reflux under control and he stopped putting weight on did the pediatrician suggest we consider the possibility of food sensitivities.

Editor’s note: Breastfeeding research shows that infants do not typically develop food sensitivities until at least 3 weeks of age, and common types of food sensitivities depend on what geographic region you reside. Moreover, there are many possible causes with the same signs and symptoms as food sensitivities. If you are encountering a challenge with feeding your infant, contact your local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), La Leche League Leader, WIC Breastfeeding Counselor or another accredited breastfeeding specialist.

I felt strongly that, if possible, breastmilk was the best option for our son and am fortunate to have a pediatrician that agrees with me. Even when our son was having issues putting weight on, she never wavered on her support of breastfeeding exclusively. Since it was not a supply issue on my end, supplementing with formula wouldn’t fix the problem, she said. My son has been exclusively breastfed, so it was determined that the culprit was something he was ingesting through my milk.

It took some trial and error, but we finally figured out that our son has a severe sensitivity to milk and soy protein. It’s called Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). To manage it, I have removed any trace of milk and soy products from my diet. Once eliminated, it still takes up to 4 weeks for all traces to be out of my system. However, within a week, we saw such an incredible change in our son.

Almost all his symptoms have disappeared completely: no more congestion, the eczema on his face is gone, the reflux is under control, he gained weight, and he’s eating and sleeping better!

I don’t want to say it’s been difficult, but managing the food sensitivity has been a lot of work. I am constantly scanning labels to look for hidden dairy and soy and have started making almost everything we eat at home. Some days, I make multiple meals since my husband and daughter have no restrictions on their diet. Eating out has also become virtually impossible, and when we go somewhere, I always bring food for me and him to eat. You should have seen me sitting down to Easter dinner and taking out my own loaf of bread!

Regardless of the amount of planning, extra work or restrictions, it has absolutely been worth it. He is still experiencing the nutritional benefits and emotional connection that breastfeeding provides. Our son is thriving.

I’d be happy to share more information we have learned about this food sensitivity or share some allergy-friendly recipes we’ve discovered if you are having similar issues. Just write it in the Comments; I’d love to chat!

A nod to my husband

WP_20150101_08_34_11_Pro (2)Often times it seems — at least to me — that dads don’t get a lot of recognition, especially when their kids are babies. So in honor of my husband’s milestone birthday this month, I thought I’d take a moment to tell the world why he is so invaluable to my children and me:

To my children, he’s their whole world.

He’s their confidante, their tickle monster, their tent builder.

He’s the one they watch for out the window, unable to contain their excitement that he’s home from work.

He’s the strongest role model they could have, providing a constant example of the type of person we should all strive to be.

In his arms, they can find solace unlike any other.

Because of him, they will have a childhood filled with snowball fights and dance parties, board games and movie nights. But more importantly, they will have a childhood filled with unconditional love and security, a childhood that teaches them that all their dreams can become realities.

To me, he’s my best friend.

He’s the one who always takes care of me after I’ve spent the day taking care of the kids.

He’s the one who can make me laugh — really laugh — no matter what.

He provides constant support and encouragement in everything I do, whether it’s Attachment Parenting or pursuing writing.

He’s the provider that gives me the privilege of staying home with our children.

He’s my partner, in life and in love, as we raise our family.

Simple living by living simply

katelynne eidSometimes I feel that everywhere I turn there is something else that I as a parent or my child “needs.” But how often do we actually need that product?

Likely, its almost never.

As I navigate this world of parenting, I find myself actively trying to move away from the world of “stuff” and focus more on the things that matter most. I am far from mastering this goal, but I have come up with some guidelines that help me keep things in perspective:

Children do not need every toy they see, or that we see for them.

I am often amazed at the amount of clutter we have amassed in our playroom in my daughter’s first two years of life. We’ve had birthdays, holidays and visits from the grandparents, after each of which there seemed to be an influx of new things. While I’m sure my daughter would tell you she loves each and every toy, I find most of them sitting unused while she favors a select few.

Coming from a large family, it is hard to limit the amount of gifts received. My husband and I are a work in progress at trying to strike the right balance between gift-giving and exorbitance. A couple of examples of how we try to do this:

  • We have asked our family members to limit the amount of gifts they buy our daughter.
  • We have decided that while we want all our friends and family to celebrate birthdays each year, a gift is not necessary to attend the party with a birthday party magician.

To be fair, my husband and I provide a full life for our daughter, and she will still receive presents on birthdays and holidays, so she is by no means left wanting. We are simply trying to raise her with the understanding of what is important in life.

476129_colourful_xylophoneWith regards to toys, I have also found that the less electronics, the better.

In this world of technology, there are entire aisles filled with battery-operated toys that talk, sing and walk. Yet those are not the ones my daughter reaches for each day.

Occasionally an interactive toy is helpful, and children certainly enjoy them. However when given a choice, my daughter almost always reaches for the more basic options: colorful blocks, a picture book or a shape sorter that looks like a turtle.

It is the time we spend with our children, not the things we give them that make a difference.

Our lives are so busy, and often it seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. However, it is so important to remember to take time as a family. For us, that means family meals and dance parties.

We try to eat together as often as we can. Since my husband has a lengthy commute in the evening, and my daughter eats dinner early, family meals occur at breakfast. I have always heard that family dinners make a lasting difference in our kids’ lives. I need no better proof than to see the excitement on my daughter’s face when she yells, “Yay, we all eat together!”

Since our schedules prevent us from always eating together, we also have family dance parties. If you’re not a musical kind of family, that’s fine: Family time can be based on any activity your family enjoys, such as reading, playing outside or playing a game. My daughter has been dancing since she learned how to stand, so for us, it’s a dance party. We put on some music, turn it up loud and go crazy.

Remember to mindfully teach your children.

It is easy to forget, but our children are learning from us and the world around them each day. It is important to engage them in what you are doing, as each activity or moment provides an opportunity for growth.

It may take a little longer, but let them help you fold a load of laundry or empty their dishes from the dishwasher. Take some time to read with them, teaching them the letters and numbers they see on the page. Even something as simple as going for a walk, pointing out the trees, sky, clouds or cars you see, opens up an entire world for your kids.

Foster creativity in your children by teaching them how to use their imagination.

Teaching our kids isn’t just about the ABC’s and 123’s. It’s about remembering that part of being young is exploring the world through imaginative play.

Sometimes my daughter needs no encouragement. She will play in her kitchen, making meals for her doll and acting out her own story. Other times, she will start talking to me about a friend or a character, and after a few basic questions like “What you are going to do?” or “What does he/she want?” she has launched into an elaborate story filled with details that amaze me.

It is when I see her imagination at work that I am truly amazed by the little girl in front of me. It is in those moments that I am reminded how precious this job of parenting is and how responsible I am for her.

For me, remembering to focus on what’s important and letting the rest go allows me to keep things simple for her and our family.

Being intentional in holiday family traditions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the holiday season upon us, I am reminded of how important it is to keep our family’s focus on the true meaning of the season. For us, that is Christmas but no matter what your family celebrates or believes, I think everyone can agree that family is what’s most important.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of this time of year and lose focus on what’s important. While I love watching the magic of Christmas come alive for my children on Christmas morning as they open presents, I want the presents to be one part of a much bigger picture.

I have been doing a little behind-the-scenes work leading up to Christmas to ensure our family comes together to truly celebrate the holidays this year. This includes:

  • Chippy — This is the first year our family does the Elf on the Shelf tradition. We introduced the elf and named her Chippy last year, but our daughter was too young to fully grasp the concept of her. For those not familiar, the elf is sent by Santa to keep an eye on the kids; each night, he/she flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa and comes back by morning, each time hiding in a different spot. I’ve recruited Chippy to help facilitate giving back this holiday season. Some ideas Chippy will suggest include baking cookies to bring to our local police and fire departments, selecting a few gently used toys to donate and decorating Christmas cards for veterans who are away from their families.
  • Reading Basket — On December 1, we brought out a decorated box filled with wrapped books. Each night before bed, will be pick one book to unwrap and read together as a family. These books are all holiday- and/or winter-themed and are not normally on our bookshelves. This way, they all seem new. Some are just-for-fun books about snow, and some explain the meaning behind Christmas. To do this, I’ve gathered any appropriate books we already owned, combined with a number of books checked out of our local library. It’s a win-win for the family as it gets us reading together, and the kids get to unwrap something!
  • Jesse Tree — For our family, it is important to teach our children the true meaning behind Christmas. We are trying the tradition of a Jesse Tree this year to do this. The concept is that each day, the family comes together to read a passage of scripture and then puts a corresponding ornament on a special tree. We use a children’s bible designed for preschoolers to keep it understandable, and our tree and ornaments are a DIY project from felt that will adorn our kitchen wall for the month. Even if some concepts are lost on my kids, it will still serve to bring our family together with purpose each day.
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAField Trips — I have planned a handful of special family outings for the month of December. They give us a chance to step back from the craziness of everyday life and simply enjoy this magical time of year. We will be taking a train ride to the North Pole via the Essex Steam Train, visit the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and go to a tree farm to cut down our own Christmas tree, to name a few.

I know that our plans for the holiday season may not resonate with what works for your family but I hope it can inspire you to come up with something that does.

This is a magical time of year, especially for children. No matter what holiday your family celebrates, it can be a time to create precious memories and traditions that will stay for years to come.

 

I loved bringing you into this world

About two months ago, we welcomed our second child (our first son!) into the world. With all the negative stories you hear about childbirth, I think it’s really important to tell people it’s not always like that: It doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

katelynne eidI genuinely think both my birthing experiences have been really amazing.

After having a natural birthing experience with my daughter, I knew as soon as we found out we were expecting again that I wanted something similar. Except this time, I really wanted to avoid being in a hospital setting.

There is a stand-alone birth center within a hospital not far from us. For me and my husband, this offered us the best of both worlds. While not completely comfortable with a home birth, we wanted our son’s birth experience to be as similar to a home birth as possible. Yet — God forbid anything were to go wrong — we were just down the hall from the labor and delivery unit at the hospital.

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International does not take a stance on childbirth settings or health care providers, but rather encourages parents to research their options in order to make informed decisions regarding the birth of their baby. Learn more about API’s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting.

I think one of the most important aspects in planning a birth is making sure you have a provider who not only agrees to your birth plan but understands it. Instead of having to explain why keeping it as natural as possible was so important to us, we had a provider who inherently felt the same way we did. All we had to do was wait for our little man to arrive.

I had contractions irregularly for the last couple of months of my pregnancy, so we were surprised when my due date came and went. One Day 13, with no sign of labor starting on its own, my husband and I headed to the hospital for an induction. My midwife was committed to keeping the medical intervention as limited as possible and assured us that as soon as labor kicked in, we could move over to the birth center and continue as we saw fit.

At 9:00 a.m., my midwife broke my water. We fully expected this to tip my body into labor. My husband and I started doing laps around the unit to encourage contractions. We walked A LOT! Over the next seven hours, we must have lapped the unit 100 times to no avail.  This little man was comfy in there and wasn’t ready to meet us yet.

By 4:00 pm, my midwife sat down to discuss what we wanted to do. Throughout the entire experience, she was extremely knowledgeable and willing to offer her opinion, but she always left the decisions up to my husband and me, never pressuring us to go one way or the other.

She told us that most women were in active labor within 48 hours of their water breaking and that I could continue waiting. Throughout my entire pregnancy and birthing experience, I felt strongly that I should trust myself and my body. I knew my body could do this, but at the same time, I felt that my labor wasn’t going to happen on its own in that time frame. I knew that if I waited, I would most likely need additional intervention anyway.

We decided to try Cervadil, a gel that is placed on your cervix to stimulate contractions. The plan was to leave it in for two hours, after which I would hopefully be in active labor, and could go over to the birth center and get in the tub. Within 15 minutes of it being put in, I went from having almost no contractions to full-blown, active labor.

The problem with this method is that because it unnaturally stimulates your contractions, there is no break in between them, and because of the need to monitor the baby, I had to be lying down in bed. Laying down, for me at least, is the worst possible position to handle a contraction. My husband, being the awesome birth coach that he is, kept me covered in cool washcloths and reminded me that I was strong enough to do this and that our son was almost here.

There is a point in every labor where you doubt yourself. With my first birth, it came in the last few hours before I was ready to push. The intensity can get the best of you, and even though I was committed to having a natural birth, I at least understood why people choose otherwise. It’s in those moments that my husband becomes my biggest hero. He never wavered in his encouragement, reminding me that I was strong enough to do this and that our child was almost in my arms.

This time around, I thought I was prepared for that moment. I knew it would come, but I also knew it signaled that my body was in the final stage of bringing this child to me. I was not expecting it to happen 45 minutes into labor. My husband again became the voice of sanity, reminding me to keep breathing and stay focused.

Truly feeling each contraction, feeling your baby move toward birth, gives me a true sense of what a life-changing experience this is.

Seeing the surprising progress that had been made in less than an hour, we decided to remove the Cervadil and prepared to move over to the birth center. My midwife ran ahead to get the tub filled as my husband and the nurse helped me get up and into the wheelchair. There would be no walking at this point.

As soon as I stepped into the warm tub, my body immediately relaxed. I felt comfortable and knew that our son would enter the world the way we wanted.

A few contractions later and our son entered the world. He let out a quick scream to mark his arrival and then snuggled in on top of me. I have heard stories about babies who don’t cry when they are born since the environment is so calm but part of me was always suspect. We are constantly associating a screaming baby with a sign of a healthy baby, so when our son wasn’t screaming, we had to remind ourselves that it was okay: He was content and knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

As I nuzzled our son, my husband helped me out of the tub and the three of us snuggled into bed to get to know each other. Then we introduced our daughter to her new little brother. Watching her face light up when she realized the little baby who was in Mommy’s belly was finally here was a priceless moment.

Going so far passed my due date, being induced, having a two-hour labor — these were all things that I had not planned for. However, none of them caused me to have a negative experience. We may have had to go with the flow a little more than expected, but the experience was amazing.

Instead of saying, “I love you in spite of the labor you put me through,” I can tell my son: “I love you, and I loved bringing you into this world.”

Staying attached with more than one

As my husband and I prepare for the arrival of our second child (a boy!) this summer, I find myself thinking about how different it will be compared to when our daughter was born.

With my daughter, we came across Attachment Parenting (AP) as we started exploring different ideas around giving birth and caring for newborns. Many of the AP practices were things we already planned on doing — such as natural birth and extended breastfeeding — and others evolved naturally once we became parents, including cosleeping, babywearing and gentle discipline. This time around, we plan on doing things similarly albeit with much more confidence in our decisions after seeing how well it worked last time.

However, I can’t help but wonder how it will work with more than one.

I think it’s extremely important for the initial bonding that we are physically attached to the baby. This part, I’m not worried about. I practically lived in my wrap with my daughter and don’t expect this time to be any different. I am also a stay-at-home mom, which gives me the freedom to feed on demand and hold off on any set schedule.

The part that I worry about is staying attached with my daughter. I think it’s equally important that our daughter not feel slighted by this new little addition. I want her to continue to feel attached to both mommy and daddy. She will have had almost 2 ½ years of undivided attention and will now be sharing the spotlight, so to speak. We have been prepping her for his arrival for a while now and she seems genuinely excited about being a big sister. She can rattle off a list of things she will be in charge of as the big sister – getting diapers and wipes, singing to him, helping with bath.

What I don’t think she is prepared for is sharing my time. She has always been a pretty independent kid but I wonder if that will change when she is not the only one anymore. How will she react to me breastfeeding the baby all the time? If I’m wearing the baby, will she want to be carried?

I know these concerns are not limited to AP parents, I imagine every parent has similar thoughts before welcoming another child into the family. My hope is that AP gives my husband and I the guidance needed to foster a connected and close family, no matter how large it grows.

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