The cost of denying employee accommodations for actual breastfeeding

Editor’s note: Because many parents come to Attachment Parenting by questioning the status quo, many members of Attachment Parenting International (API) become passionate advocates in their communities for this approach to parenting, such as through the API Leader and Support Group program. Some API members become parent educators, lactation consultants, birth doulas, babywearing consultants, infant massage educators, positive discipline educators or join another profession linked closely with Attachment Parenting.

kate frederickOthers, like Kate Frederick of New Hampshire, USA, find their voice in another way — advocating in the policy- and lawmaking process. Today, Kate introduces the piece of legislation that she wrote and that was debated during this year’s session of the New Hampshire Legislature. While this bill was not passed during this spring’s legislative session, its introduction and debate has made great headway in breastfeeding laws, particularly for working mothers. Thanks, Kate, for your advocacy!

If an employee requests workplace accommodations for breastfeeding, what is the financial risk for the employer if they deny the request? Simply put, it can cost more to deny the accommodation than to grant it.

With the employer’s costs incurred for unemployment insurance from the many health insurance companies that offers this service, an investigation by the Human Rights Commission, the Department of Labor and/or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the potential for a private cause of action, it’s just not cost effective to deny breastfeeding accommodations. This is something legislators, the employment sector, breastfeeding advocates and attorneys considered as they weighed in on the bipartisan New Hampshire State Senate Bill 219, relative to breastfeeding.

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New Hampshire SB 219, Relative to Breastfeeding

The 2015 bill was submitted to Prime Sponsor, Senator Martha Fuller Clark (Democrat), by myself and Kary Jencks with the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance. SB 219 was intended to address goals set for each state by the U.S. Surgeon General to achieve better breastfeeding support in the employment setting. So far, New Hampshire has not yet met those goals.

By addressing cultural obstacles to lactation, the bill also served to clarify already existing employer obligations, by putting the context of several Federal and State laws all into one place.

It also brought New Hampshire legislation up to the level that Vermont, Maine and most other states already have on the books.

Impressive savings and benefits to employers are already well documented in the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services’ Business Case for Breastfeeding. Savings on employee healthcare costs are cited. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater she can reduce her risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as diabetes. Breastfed children tend to have less illness, so an employee has less absences due to childcare.

Breastmilk has proven superior over any other alternative. It is even being prescribed to chemotherapy patients to improve their immune systems, while extreme athletes are buying breastmilk online as a performance-improving, protein-packed energy drink.

Employers may value the benefits of breastmilk, but they need to think about paying salaries and serving their customers. The costs incurred for denying workplace breastfeeding accommodations is now causing employers to think even more about these issues, as a direct result of the Federal suit filed on my behalf: Kate Frederick vs The State of New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, which addresses the need for workplace pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodations.

Notice the irony of who published the Business Case for Breastfeeding and who is named in the suit.

Supporters of the Bill

The New Hampshire Senate passed the breastfeeding bill with amendments. The New Hampshire Business and Industry Association’s senior vice president Dave Juvet testified in support of SB 219 during the bill’s public hearing on March 31 in the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, along with the bill’s prime sponsor Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D), Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (Republican) and Commerce Committee member Representative Ed Butler (Democrat). Sponsors Senator Molly Kelly (Democrat) and House Representative Karen Umberger (Republican) singed in for support. Additional testimony also in support came from the American Civil Liberties Union-New Hampshire, Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin King, The New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Rights Coalition, the New Hampshire Departments of Labor and Public Health, the NHBTF, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and New Hampshire Voices for Health.

In her testimony, Senator Fuller Clark explained the distinction between using a breast pump and actual breastfeeding. This is significant for employers, because many of them are confused or misled by unclear language to think they are not already obligated to provide accommodations for breastfeeding.

Lactation as a Medical Condition Related to Pregnancy

The EEOC has been cracking down on the prevalence of unlawful sex discrimination experienced by breastfeeding employees, for needing to breastfeed as referenced in their 1979 and 2014 enforcement guidance:

“Lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy, and it is illegal to discriminate against employees for breastfeeding activity during a workday.”

The EEOC 2014 Enforcement Guidance was referenced recently in the Supreme Court of the United States.

SB 219 would serve to clarify employer requirements and keep New Hampshire in compliance with current Federal laws and court decisions, including the March 25 Supreme Court ruling on Young vs United Parcel Service (UPS), which ruled in favor of Peggy Young to reverse the lower court’s decision and to have a trial, after she sued UPS under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, for failure to provide pregnancy accommodations.

Young’s Supreme Court ruling directly affects SB-219 in that it makes clear the instances when employers are mandated to provide accommodations and when sex discrimination may be inferred if they don’t. If there are both Federal and State laws that exist, it is the law with the greater protection that applies. As the Pregnancy Discrimination Act includes protections to accommodate medical conditions related to pregnancy, such as lactation, employers are considering their vulnerabilities to liability.

Cost of Unemployment Insurance Benefits: $14, 500 (in New Hampshire)

It would be cautionary for an employer to consider the current federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws against pregnancy and disability discrimination, in order to avoid the expense of unemployment insurance benefits.

An employee who needs a medical accommodation, such as for lactation, may be eligible for New Hampshire unemployment even if the employer acted in compliance with current law when denying the employee’s request for accommodation and even if the employee quit, was fired or is still employed, but their hours were reduced. Employer costs for an employee receiving unemployment insurance in New Hampshire can be up to $555 per week for 26 weeks. This can increase to almost a year, if the employee is granted an extension of her unemployment insurance
benefits.

In order to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, a breastfeeding claimant must meet a number of requirements including, but not limited to, proper documentation from her medical provider and demonstrating that she is able and available to work with accommodations.

Employers should also factor in additional costs for their unemployment insurance rates going up, time spent on fact-finding interviews from adjudicators, potential hearings and a backlogged appeals process.

Cost of Replacing the Employee: $50,000

Another consideration for employers when it comes to the bottom line is the potential expenses to replace the employee. Costs for advertising, recruiting, interviewing, training and loss of production can amount to an average of $50,000, according to businessman and Patagonia Inc. founder Yvon Chouinard.

With government subsidies for on-site child care centers, tax deductions that mitigate costs incurred for lactation sites and employee retention, granting breastfeeding accommodations can even become a profit center.

Cost of Agency Investigations That Lead to Lawsuits: Thousands

What if the employee does in fact qualify for the accommodations under a State or Federal law, but the employer was unaware of their obligation or otherwise fails to comply? In this scenario, an employer can expect additional costs related to investigations and complaints under the U.S. Department of Labor, the EEOC and the Human Rights Commission. A lawsuit and a legal defense can take years to resolve, while back pay, damages and attorney’s fees accrue.

Moving Forward

With legislative bills like New Hampshire’s bipartisan SB 219 moving forward, even resistant employers are realizing that the bottom line is not just about good health for the employee and her family, but about the accounting of financial prudence.

Making a difference one leader at a time

“Reedy Hickey is one of those people who lives her beliefs and commitments in many profound ways. Her belief in the dignity and humanity of all babies inspired her and her husband to be foster parents to more than 30 newborn infants — not only nurturing them, but teaching the adoptive parents about API’s Eight Principles of Parenting and related practices that gave the new family an incredible beginning in their parenting journey. This same commitment is what we’ve experienced in her loving support to API. We have been friends since all of our children were babies, and we couldn’t imagine our journey without her!” ~ Barbara and Lysa, API’s cofounders and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

It was 21 years ago on June 6, 1994, when mothers, La Leche League (LLL) Leaders and special education teachers Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker would make a decision that would go on to influence families worldwide in raising their children more compassionately by founding the nonprofit organization Attachment Parenting International (API).

One of the major influences of API has been providing local support to parents through in-person API Support Groups. Today, there are API groups located in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. These groups regularly serve a few to more than 100 families per month in their local communities at no cost to parents, through in-person meetings and classes, online support and one-on-one sessions with the group leader.

All API Support Groups are led by accredited API Leaders, trained by API in theory, research and application of Attachment Parenting as well as compassionate peer counseling techniques and Nonviolent Communication. The entire API Leadership training process takes on average 6 months to 1 year and is coordinated through volunteers, to keep the cost to API Leader Applicants as low as possible.

Still, for some potential API Leader Applicants, the small fee for the training process is prohibitive. That’s why API established the Reedy Hickey Scholarship Fund during API’s 20th Anniversary Celebration — to support parent applicants dedicating themselves to voluntarily lead groups who cannot afford to pay application fees, leader dues or support group dues. Please consider contributing by designating your API donation to the “Reedy Hickey Scholarship Fund.” To apply for a Reedy Hickey Scholarship, contact API’s Leader Applicant Liaison Lisa Feiertag for more information.

reedyhickeyIn celebrating API’s 21st Anniversary, we want to honor the Fund’s namesake: Reedy Hickey.

Reedy is the mother of a son and a daughter and son-in-law, and the grandmother of two grandchildren, as well as the foster mother to 32 babies as they awaited adoption, one at a time. She practiced Attachment Parenting with all of her children and now grandchildren.

API is grateful to Reedy and her 20 years of guidance and service, and her contributions to establish this Fund will continue the work of API to make a difference in families worldwide by supporting future generations of leaders.

“Over the years, she has helped us not only financially but as a member of API’s Board of Directors. Her insights as an a foster mom, LLL Leader including serving as Area Professional Liaison for LLL of Georgia, IBCLC and grandmother have been invaluable! We are thrilled to honor her in this way, as she is a treasure to API, and of course a treasure to us as a true soul sister.” ~ Barbara and Lysa

Reedy is an inspiration to us all, as a tireless advocate for Attachment Parenting, and we are privileged to be able to honor her in this lasting way.

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “Daily Tips”

“We believe in parents. We believe that every parent deserves free access to complete information about parenting and childhood. It need not be overwhelming, just complete and accurate. And leave the blame behind. …We believe it so strongly that we do what few, if any other organizations, do: We provide free support to all parents.” ~ API cherishes parents” on AP Month 2014

apm logoI hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s AP Month daily tips that have been publishing throughout October. There are still a few days left, and by subscribing, you can get a daily tip emailed directly to your inbox each year during October when a new, timely AP Month theme is observed.

Here are a few of my favorite 2014 daily tips so far, but there are a lot more to be found on AP Month’s website:

From October 4’s “Parenting and child health:

Parenting is probably the most important public health issue facing our society. It is the single-largest variable implicated in childhood illnesses and accidents; teenage pregnancy, substance misuse; truancy, school disruption and underachievement and vehicle accidents. Teens are more likely to get into a car accident when they are barely learning how to drive. Making sure they are OK in every situation is important, especially when their health is involved. If you child is every in a car accident make sure to get the best medical and legal assistance you can find. For legal services you can visit https://www.edwardspattersonlaw.com/accidents/motorcycle-accident-lawyer/.

Parenting is a buffer against adversity and a mediator of damage. Parenting has three essential components:

  1. Care protects children from harm. Care also encompasses promoting emotional as well as physical health.
  2. Control involves setting and enforcing boundaries to ensure children’s and others’ safety in ever-widening areas of activity.
  3. Development involves optimizing children’s potential and maximizing the opportunities for using it.

How can you increase these components in your family’s life?

From October 5’s “Parenting stress and its effects:

High parenting stress has been connected with negative consequences for both parent and child. Within the examined age range — 6 months to 3 years — child gender or age did not relate to parenting stress.

Older, less educated and single mothers reported more stress. A higher stress experience was also associated with more care-taking hassles, psycho-social problems, high work load and low social support.

Mothers with high stress reported more depressive mood and were judged to be more unresponsive to their children. They also regarded their children as more temperamentally difficult. Social support was shown to have both a direct and a moderating influence on parenting stress.

What can you do to reduce stress?

From October 7’s “Everyone needs a little help:

Studies suggest that a parenting style characterized by warmth, inductive reasoning, appropriate monitoring and clear communication fosters a child’s cognitive functioning, social skills, moral development and psychological adjustment.

In contrast, parenting practices involving hostility, rejection and coercion have been shown to increase the probability of negative developmental outcomes such as delinquency, psychopathology, academic failure and substance abuse.

These findings point to the importance of studies concerned with identifying the determinants of parental behavior. This chapter presents our model for integrating theory and research on this topic. The model identifies social support as an important cause of variations in quality of parenting.

How can you reach out and lend a hand to those who need the support?

From October 11’s “Cherishing parents, flourishing children:

The AP Month theme this year of “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” is intended to bring to a wider audience an awareness of the findings about early life experience and its effects on brain structures and functioning over the long term.

In order to help reverse current negative trends in well-being, we need to foster a widespread understanding of our evolved capacities and the types of brain systems that are a human evolutionary birthright.

API Board of Directors member Darcia Narvaez, PhD, of the University of Notre Dame, has written extensively about the evolved developmental niche for young children, which includes frequent, infant-initiated breastfeeding for two to five years, frequent positive touch, multiple adult responsive caregivers, free play with multi-age playmates and positive social support as well as natural childbirth.

From October 17’s “Who cherishes you?:

Take five minutes today and instead of going on Facebook, write a list of 10 adults in your life who cherish you. These can be people from your past or present, from all aspects of your life.

Who are your champions? Who makes you laugh? Who do you turn to in times of need? Who remembers the time when you laughed so hard milk came through your nose? Who made you laugh that hard? Who always makes you feel welcome? Who makes you feel loved? Who hugs you when you need it? Who helps you with practical things? Who comes through? Did you count yourself?

“Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” is the theme of this year’s AP Month, but put another way , it might also read: “Cherished Parents, Flourishing Children.”

From October 18’s “Cherishing you:

What if today we all just walked around appreciating parents everywhere and validated the unknown struggles?

What if we all just smiled at each other and offered a knowing, supportive glance?

What if we all just left the “shoulds” at home for the day and embraced the messiness of it all and loved our children and each other anyway?

What if we all found a way to generously support peers who are struggling in a moment?

What if we found a way to accept the help of peers who witnessed our own struggle in a moment?

What if we forgot for a day about how “right” or “wrong” we or others are and just reveled in everything the day brings?

What if we all just did one of these?

What effects might this studious acceptance and camaraderie have on the public health? On parents? On our children?

From October 24’s “Children flourish with API Principles:

It’s true. The cat’s out of the bag. And, as a bonus, it’s for free.

Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting are really a neat little package of information that contain a significant chunk of the expert knowledge about child flourishing. And you can read it and actually use it without having a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. The really cool thing is that you might already be doing it! Without any expert training!

In fact, the API Principles are super flexible. Some of us already do most of it without even realizing it and that’s great — keep on!

Some of us like to check in with the API Principles when we hit a bump — like new parents, those of children ages 2 and 3 or any developmental stage through the teen years. Some of us check in when conventional wisdom doesn’t jive or work for us. Some of us want to parent our children differently than we were parented and feel like part or whole “renovations” are helpful in one or more area or age of development.

Whenever or however often you come to the API Principles, they’re free, based in science and they’re very often what our heart already nudges us to do anyway.

Parenting confidence in the bag. For free.

API-Logo-20th-themeAnd from October 25’s “API cherishes parents:

Attachment Parenting International (API) works to turn the parenting puzzle around.

We believe in parents. We believe that every parent deserves free access to complete information about parenting and childhood. It need not be overwhelming, just complete and accurate.

And leave the blame behind.

Moreover, we believe that information is not enough. Information oozes from every device and drowns us these days, but API believes that every parent deserves free face-to-face support as they raise their children. It really does take that village, and we think this old/new idea is one of the best ways to cherish parents. We believe it so strongly that we do what few, if any other organizations, do: We provide free support to all parents.

Gratitude

API-Logo-20th-themeI am grateful for many things big and small, grand and mundane. Today, it is the joyful shriek of my girls running in the twilight.

And this month especially, I have been thinking about how grateful I am for Attachment Parenting International (API).

I learned from the words of Gretchen Levy, a writer on habits and happiness, that to be happy I need to “feel right in an atmosphere of growth.”

When I am with my API friends, I just feel right. I see others nurturing their children with care and thoughtfulness. I hear conversations about the details of parenting from the perspective of deeply secure attachment and care. And I know it is a place where I grow.

LeyaniRedditiFrom the time I was a new mother feeling so strongly that my baby needed to be close to me and not knowing why…to now, when I step into a room filled with old friends and new who are all there to support the journey we are on to parent as we wish we were parented.

To parent to change the world.

To parent with intention and presence.

To heal ourselves and accept our shortcomings so that we can grow in and with our families.

The “atmosphere of growth” I feel in API keeps my mind searching for more and my heart coming back to connect with my community. I could not be the parent I am without this atmosphere and this community.

Taking time for self makes me a better Mommy

Kelly ShealerIt was 8:00 at night. I was putting my oldest son to bed, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner.

I had made dinner for both of my sons, had nursed my baby multiple times and had even made sure that my husband took food to work with him. But I had completely forgotten about myself.

And because of it, I was getting irritable and was on the verge of losing my patience with my son, who was doing nothing wrong except not relaxing for bed as quickly as I wanted him to.

I quickly made a decision to leave the room for a few minutes, grab something to eat and then go back to my son. I almost immediately felt better. My whole attitude shifted, not just because I finally ate but also because I felt good about taking the time that I needed for myself.

When I went back to my son, I exaggerated how happy I suddenly was, hugging him, tickling him and being silly with him. I told him that I knew he had wanted me with him but that I’d needed to eat so that I could be happier and be a better Mommy. I wanted him to see that it’s important for my needs to be met as well and that I’m much happier when they are.

I believe balance is one of the most important of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, because you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your children. But it’s also the hardest to put into practice.

I know so many other moms who spend all day caring for the needs of their children, giving their all to the point where they don’t have anything left for themselves.

We fail to make time for our own needs, because often our children’s needs are greater than ours. We cosleep in uncomfortable positions and wear our babies for an extended time, so our bodies are sore. We respond to our children with sensitivity and feed them respectfully, but we don’t treat ourselves with the same kindness and care.

When we do take the time to care for ourselves, we often feel guilty, even though we shouldn’t. We need it. Our children need it, too, because we’re better parents when we take care of ourselves.

With three children ages 4 and under, I generally don’t make much time for myself during the day. Lately I’ve been trying to find quick, simple ways to help me feel like I’m doing something for myself throughout the day — things I can easily do with my children present.

Some of my favorites are putting on perfume or lipstick and I use aluminum bottles for packaging so it looks more pretty, finally taking the time to brush my hair that I’d thrown into a messy ponytail at the start of the day, looking at family pictures that always cheer me up, doing some stretches or just taking a few deep breaths.

Then another top tip that we have is to shop around for low cost perfumes and beauty products, we found this online store in the UK that offers cheap beauty products and perfumes from the top designer brands so a brilliant way of getting some cheap deals.

When I need something more than this, I’ve found that putting on some of my favorite music and letting my boys have a dance party usually helps us all feel better.

And when all else fails, there’s always chocolate.

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “How to get from there to here”

“We nod our heads recognizing scientific ‘child outcomes’ as…parenting goals regardless of our style of parenting. But how do we get from there to here? What’s the parenting analogue that allows us parents to be all that, enough of the time, so that these child benefits are possible?” ~ “How to get from there to here” on AP Month 2014

apm logoOn today’s AP Month post, we’re posed the question: How do we get from there to here? How do we, as parents, raise our children to fulfill the positive child outcomes that science shows is the result of effective parenting?

How do we get from there — a child-rearing mindset that might include hostility, rejection and coercion — to here, where we are consistently responding to our children with sensitivity, trust, empathy, affection, compassion and joy?

Many parents find themselves practicing Attachment Parenting all on their own. They may naturally incorporate all or a few of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

I envy those parents a bit.

I was not one of those parents who stumbled upon Attachment Parenting International (API) and had an “aha” moment, recognizing myself and my parenting approach in API’s mission and vision.

I came to API and Attachment Parenting off a jagged path. I wasn’t looking for Attachment Parenting. I had no conscious decision that I was going to raise my children differently than how I was raised.

Before my first daughter was born, I was thrilled about the pregnancy but largely ignorant of preparing for parenting and all that entails. I remember thinking I would do cry-it-out and spanking just as I was raised, because…well, that was how I was raised, and I turned out fine, right?

Then, my first pregnancy ended in a placental abruption and preterm birth at 30 weeks gestation. And my world turned upside down.

rachelIt took me a week to get up the nerve to hold my baby girl. I felt an immense need to be close to her but was terrified of that feeling. I was terrified of giving my heart to her, lest she not survive her fragile state and my heart would break. I had to convince myself that it was better to love, and know, her than not — even if she didn’t make it.

More than that, I had to learn how to love her.

Love is a verb. It’s not a feeling. You can “feel” you love someone, but if you don’t act on that feeling — or if your actions don’t communicate that feeling — is it really love? If your significant other told you he/she felt love for you but then neglected your emotional needs, is that love?

No, love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s not something you “feel,” but something you do. And if you do it, if you build your world around “love” as a verb, your attitude and thought patterns eventually encompass what love is so that your whole self — mind, body, spirit — is loving, but even then, love is a verb, not a “feeling” that can be separated from your actions.

And more than that, “to love” isn’t some arbitrary action that you decide for another person. In order to love, the action has to be what the other person needs. If you have your baby cry it out or if you spank your child, you may feel that is “loving” them because you feel you’re teaching a life lesson, but crying it out and spanking is not perceived as loving actions by your child. It hurts.

Your child may learn, but through discomfort and fear. Do we want our children to associate love with hurt, fear and discomfort? Especially when it’s quite possible that we can teach our children through warm, safe, secure, compassionate actions?

Love, by its very definition, isn’t hurtful. So what does your child need instead?

It can be a hard concept to explain, because it does require a different way of thinking than the authoritarian model, but here’s an illustration:

Before my first daughter’s birth, I had preconceived notions that crying it out would be the best thing to do for my child. She would need to learn to sleep through the night and self-soothe, right? But then I gave birth to a very ill child, one that defied death for weeks after she was delivered, sometimes hanging on the very brink.

I had no idea how to parent such a baby! So I relied on the hospital staff to teach me how to care for my baby.

I learned that love wasn’t a feeling. It is an action. It is meeting my child’s needs, physically and emotionally. More than that, the physical needs and the emotional needs are tied together. They cannot be untied.

To love my baby, I needed to pump my breast milk. She needed that breast milk to help her grow faster and protect her against infections. Formula wouldn’t do. Premature babies fed formula are high risk of the deadly necrotizing enterocolitis.

rachel 2To love my baby, I needed to visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit frequently. She needed to hear my voice and have oxytocin-boosting, heartbeat-regulating, breathing-regulating skin-to-skin contact with me and her father to grow better.

To love my baby, I needed to allow myself to follow my biological instincts to be close to her and to bond with her. She required my adoration, attention, encouragement, warmth, compassion, trust in the process and joy in order to grow and develop.

To love my baby, I needed to attend to her cues before she cried. Crying wastes calories, and she needed every calorie she could get. Calories meant growth, and growth meant development, and development meant survival.

To love my baby, I needed to room-share. She was born with severe apnea and was on an apnea monitor for nine months. She needed my rapid action if she stopped breathing, which she did a few times.

To love my baby, I needed to take care of myself emotionally and physically. She needed my presence. I needed to find a sense of balance, and so I began writing about my experience and joined a local La Leche League group. My baby needed to be able to rely on someone who feels refreshed.

To love my baby, I needed to find a more family-friendly workplace. She was highly susceptible to infections and still had numerous problems with her breathing. So I found a job that allowed flex time and for me to work part of my hours at home when my husband was working, so we had the flexibility to care for our daughter’s health issues.

To love my baby, I met her needs. I didn’t go along with parenting choices just because I was raised that way or because my friends did it that way or because “that’s the way it always been done.”

Not everyone understood. I remember several people telling me when I brought my daughter home that I should do cry-it-it as she didn’t need the same level of care as she had in the hospital, that I needed to undo the habits that had created a baby that expected to have her needs met whenever she wanted them, that my baby was being taught to manipulate.

They didn’t understand that it is in meeting those needs whenever my baby requested them, that she was even able to come home and be with us. Babies don’t have “wants.” They only have needs. Whatever my baby wanted is what she needed. In that realization, babies only appear to be manipulative when they struggle against their physical, communicative and emotional limitations to get their needs met.

An aside: Children learn to do behaviors that appear manipulative if their needs are not met, because those needs for secure attachment are as vital to their growth and development as eating or breathing. So not meeting a child’s needs for secure attachment is like taking his/her oxygen away, and like adults, he will “fight” for his life and find another way to get those attachment needs met. The question is, what exactly do children need and how can parents go about meeting those needs? API can help.

While it was La Leche League that introduced me to Attachment Parenting, I was already searching for support to continue what I had learned in the hospital from apparently knowledgeable staff — they had saved my baby after all — amid the flood of criticism.

At some point, on some Internet search, I found Attachment Parenting International. The closest API Support Group was in another state, five hours away, so I contacted API and asked if I could volunteer with them — because I knew that if I didn’t affiliate myself with API in some way, I would not have the strength to continue on with Attachment Parenting without support at home.

API saved my family. I had a lot more to learn about child rearing than the introduction the hospital gave me and I had a setback early on regarding discipline, but through the years, Attachment Parenting has transformed the way I look at myself, my children, my spouse, my community, my world.

API got me from there to here.

All through October, AP Month has been posting daily tips based on this year’s theme: “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children.” All of these tips are written by an amazing API volunteer, Kelly Johnson, the coordinator of AP Month. You can read through all of the tips so far, as well as the tips from previous years, on the AP Month website. Or start having daily tips sent to your inbox by clicking here or “Subscribe” in the upper right corner of the AP Month website. Today’s post is especially inspirational:

How to Get There from Here

Warmth, inductive reasoning, appropriate monitoring and clear communication. We easily identify these as the parenting behaviors associated with beneficial child outcomes that include positive cognitive functioning, social skills, moral development and psychological adjustment.

We nod our heads recognizing these scientific “child outcomes” as the equivalent of our AP Month “flourishing children.” We also recognize all of these benefits as parenting goals regardless of our style of parenting.

But how do we get there from here? What’s the parenting analogue that allows us parents to be all of that enough of the time so that these child benefits are possible? What are the names of the concrete resources that we parents need to have available so that we can provide all of that?

At other times, maybe we also need these resources to help extricate ourselves from situations that may involve our use, inadvertent or planned, of more or less hostility, rejection and coercion.

We can get there from here with support. Telling our stories can help unravel the stress. Taking the breaks we know we need, yet consistently ignore, provide moments of respite. Turning to a hobby, physical activity or just quiet for a brief period allows the spin cycle to slow. How else do you replenish your resources?

How can you plan five minutes (or more) this week to do so?

Why not the status quo, and instead Attachment Parenting?

By Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

API-Logo-20th-themeIt was 20 years ago when we hatched our idea to “save the world.” We were, and remain, hopelessly optimistic that we can effect change in our society.

Both of us are parents, with six sons between us, and we both were teachers with experience on the front lines, which gave us the perspective, determination and passion to begin a grassroots nonprofit organization called Attachment Parenting International (API).

Why did we do it?

When we were new mothers, we felt so insecure about our abilities. We just didn’t feel knowledgeable or prepared, even though we read just about every book we could get our hands on. We both lived far from other family members.

So, when we became friends, we glommed onto each other for support. We also found support and education from our local La Leche League breastfeeding group. Our experience with La Leche League prepared us in so many ways and provided us with opportunities to learn from other, more experienced mothers. These experiences gave us confidence and skills to be better mothers.

At these monthly meetings, we first learned about Attachment Parenting and read books by Dr. William and Martha Sears. Their books were like a buoy in the ocean — guiding our way, helping us keep our sanity by giving us reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

In time, we learned to trust our own innate wisdom and mothering instincts, which allowed us to connect with our children in ways that we would never have thought possible. Of course, we made a lot of mistakes along the way…just ask our sons. But the fact is that we are better for the experience, and our children are better for our experience.

In the early 1990s, we began to read about kids killing kids and kids killing their parents. What in the world was happening to children that would cause them to commit such heinous crimes?

Then we read a book called High Risk: Children without a Conscience by Ken Magid and Carol McKelvey. This was the first time we learned about Dr. John Bowlby and Attachment Theory, which hypothesized that the lack of emotional connection created all kinds of emotional and social problems, including violence.

The work of Dr. Alice Miller awakened our awareness of the influences of culture on the treatment of children. Until we come to terms with how we were treated as children, we will continue to perpetuate the same attitudes and treatment with our own children.

The culture in which we live has tremendous power over us, and it takes consistent and conscious effort to go upstream against the current of popular opinions. Dr. Miller, who passed away in 2010, made it her mission to abolish corporal punishment in every country because she believes that will be the only way we can begin to move forward in eliminating violence toward children.

Given all this information and from our own experiences, we knew in our heart of hearts that Attachment Parenting was the key to creating emotional connection and making families stronger.

We believed — and still do — that if parents are given good information about why it is so important to nurture children, the tools to do it and parent groups that support them in their choices, then we will have a lot of empowered mothers and fathers.

Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt a small group of committed people can change the world; it indeed is the only thing that ever has.”

We parents might just create a paradigm shift in child rearing.

We began going to the library and spending hours, days, months and years researching and reading articles, books and magazines from as far back as the 1940s. This was before the Internet was widely used. We called anyone we thought would give us advice or information, and many were more than happy to talk to us. They shared their wisdom and encouraged us all along the way.

Attached at the Heart, 2nd editionOur book, Attached at the Heart, is the culmination of more than 15 years of information gathering, investigative research and practice. We believe that it is critical for parents to have this information in order to make informed decisions for their children in our increasingly complex society.

Until recently, we have heavily relied on and trusted others to know what is best for our children. We need to educate ourselves and rely on our own knowledge of our children.

Since the early 1990s, the world seems to have become worse, not better — even more violent and chaotic. People are looking for answers, for something they can do to change this direction, because we can no longer rely on politics and governments. Many realize that it has to begin with each individual and within each family.

API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are a blueprint for change and are discussed in Attached at the Heart. Rooted in sound science and common sense, these principles provide a framework of an overarching philosophy: Listen to your baby, and trust your instincts!

Every family is unique with unique circumstances, and there is no such thing as perfect parents. We always carry with us the legacy of those generations who went before. The way we were parented and the wounds that we carry inevitably work their way into our interactions with our children, which is why it’s so important to consciously work on those issues.

Please know that API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are not intended to be standards of perfection but rather to be used as guidelines to help you feel informed, validated, supported and confident in your child-rearing decisions.

It’s so important to base your daily decisions on what will strengthen your attachment with your child, given the current circumstances. Ask yourself: “Will this strengthen my connection with my child?”

If the situation is not ideal, but necessary, then ask yourself: “What can you do to minimize the impact of the situation for your child?” And, “What can you do to reconnect with your child?”

Enjoy your baby, knowing that the love you give will come back to you in more ways than you can imagine for generations to come.

There is no night and day

API-Logo-20th-themeAttachment Parenting International is 20 years old. Twenty years of promoting connection and spreading reassuring support to parents across the globe!

When I first became a mother, I followed every instinct to connect with and nurture my baby. I held her, I nursed her, I gazed into her eyes…regardless of the time of day. Strangely though, I met a lot of resistance to my “alternative” approach to parenting.

“Nursing AGAIN?!” became a common greeting, and although I did not waver in my approach, my confidence took a big hit. I was exhausted, and I felt alone.

This is where I thank Attachment Parenting International for showing me that I am not alone. I am so grateful to have stumbled, completely by accident, upon this wonderful concept of Attachment Parenting. It turns out that I am not alone in my approach. In actual fact, there are many, many more mothers like me, feeling the same way and taking the same approach of connecting with our children.

So many of us feel this sense of loneliness, particularly in the darker hours when exhaustion sinks in and it feels like the rest of the world is soundly sleeping. So to the mama who is feeling isolated and exhausted right now, I offer you this…

There is no night and day.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was awake throughout the day and I slept during the night. I moved throughout the day and was still during the night. The two were totally separate, as stark a contrast as light and dark.

And then baby bean was born, and all at once, light was thrown into my world in more ways than one. The edges of day and night started to merge together into a blurry grey smudge. You see, I had birthed The Great Unsleeper.

I knew nothing of tiredness before motherhood. The kind of tiredness that saps your body of strength, that throws its arms around you and just keeps squeezing, where you feel like the air is running out of oxygen and you forget which way is up, the kind of tiredness which almost makes you lose yourself.

Almost.

unnamedAlmost, because you find yourself with every touch of baby’s soft skin, cheek to cheek. Almost, because you find yourself with every gaze held in those deep, pool-like eyes. You find yourself with every smile, every gurgle, every clap of the hands and sweet “mama!”

You find yourself when you need it most. You find yourself during darkness.

Because our darkest hours are actually scattered with stars, with gems of pure love. In this time that I once termed “night,” quietness rules. There is no sound in the world besides baby bean’s soft breath and my own steady heartbeat.

In honesty, there have been moments in which I felt isolated, scared and incapable during these dark hours. But these have been momentary flashes of doubt amid the darkness.

Because when I stop and look at my beautiful girl’s profile against the shadow-like beams of light lingering in our bedroom, I understand that I have all that she needs — that I am all that she needs. I understand that I am enough.

Nestled safely in my arms, she does not need light or direction to nurse. Resting her head on my shoulder as we sway forwards and backwards in our rocking chair, she does not need daylight to feel safe and content. Little bean and I do not race through this notion of “night,” because for us, there is just light and dark, and there is beauty and connection in each.

As we sit rocking, cuddling, nursing, I imagine the hundreds of hours that we must have spent in this peaceful state. I imagine us rocking across great distances, to other countries and cultures. I imagine us meeting versions of ourselves at each destination, all these miles from home.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

I imagine us rocking through time, backwards and forwards. I imagine us glimpsing versions of ourselves wherever we land, be it hundreds or even thousands of years away from here.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

You see, in truth, little bean and I are not alone once the moon rises. We are part of a bigger picture, a louder heartbeat, a stronger pulse. Mothers. Babies. Connected in darkness.

Because for us, there is no night.

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