At our cultural tipping point?

By Lysa Parker, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

lysa parkerThe magnitude of what we, as an organization, are trying to accomplish in this world is at times so overwhelming and seemingly impossible — but then I remind myself that if Attachment Parenting International (API) doesn’t do the work, then who will?

If we don’t advocate for families and speak loudly and persistently, who will?

The reality is that we cannot do it alone.

I am always inspired when I meet other professionals who take to heart the message of secure attachment and who are implementing and advocating it in their own way within their communities. They alone don’t have a voice strong enough to ensure stable funding or change public policies, but they are making a difference.

On a visit to Sacramento, California (USA), I had the privilege of visiting two Crisis Nurseries. I was so impressed by the love and dedication of the staff for the children they care for and their conscious efforts to make their location as home-like as possible. Most of the families served are low- or one-income families that have few resources or family members to help them out. So if parents need a safe place for their children to stay — whether to see to the doctor or while escaping a domestic violence situation — the Crisis Nurseries are a safe place for them to go. The children that I observed were held, rocked, comforted and loved by their caregivers, and infants were carried in a soft carrier. In addition, the parents can attend weekly classes where they learn to become more attuned to their child’s needs.

The families served know they have an “extended family” or “tribe” who will be available to them both day and night if needed. While it might not be the ideal of a secure attachment-promoting situation for the children, it does provide an immensely valuable service to parents in helping them develop their parenting skills and reducing their day-to-day stressors.

Unique programs, like the Crisis Nurseries, help bolster families when they have no one else to turn to and are an invaluable resource to their communities. Programs like this only support API’s efforts to spread the message about the critical importance of secure attachment.

I think what impressed me the most was knowing that there are many quiet, unsung heroes like those at the Crisis Nurseries — working everyday out in their communities, doing the best they can to support and strengthen families.

Those of you practicing Attachment Parenting (AP) in your homes are also a part of the unsung heroes who are working on making a difference in your own families and in the world. We hear from so many of you who are AP parents and professionals, that you’re sharing API’s mission to friends and fellow colleagues or how you incorporate it into your work.

Each one of us is doing our part, and I truly believe that soon we will reach the “tipping point” in our culture where AP is just the way you raise children. People are ready: They are seeking solutions to the epidemic of violence and abuse in our culture and around the world.

We must begin simply by seeking support for ourselves and providing support to families in need. At the heart of this peaceful style of parenting grows a profound love, a deep sense of connection and compassion that is felt toward each other and our fellow human beings.

That’s the beginnings of world peace.

API post-conference: Who is Kate Frederick?

kate frederickKate Frederick.

She wasn’t a speaker at Attachment Parenting International‘s 2014 conference. She wasn’t even in the audience. But her name is stuck in my head.

As a bonus for early conference attendees, API hosted a showing of “The Milky Way” film on the evening before the weekend “Cherished Parents, Flourishing Children” conference at Notre Dame University at the end of September. As an added bonus, the lactation consultants behind the film, Chantal Molnar and Jennifer Davidson, were available for Q&A.

And during that Q&A, the name “Kate Frederick” became part of the conversation.

In the film, Kate’s part was just a brief glimpse of a 2013 newspaper article about a mother being fired from her job for breastfeeding. Her name wasn’t mentioned in the film, just a reference to the many mothers who have been discriminated against because of their choice to breastfeed.

But after several showings of “The Milky Way” film, Chantal and Jennifer received a letter that was different than other notes of support. This one was from Kate, who identified herself as an API member from New Hampshire, USA, and the woman about whom the article featured in the film for maybe a couple seconds is about.

Kate was a child support officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services at the time of her job termination due to failed negotiations with her employer regarding her right to breastfeed and her desire to leave the workplace to breastfeed during breaks.

She is now an event planner and has since founded The Rustik Baby Project, through which she advocates for breastfeeding mothers’ rights. Among her projects is a New Hampshire legislative bill that would provide greater protections to breastfeeding mothers.

It is exciting to think of what Kate’s hard work — borne of a passion ignited because of a low point in her life when she refused to give up on what was her biological right — has the potential to give all of us.

Of course, Kate — like any of us — is just one person. And each person can only do so much. But think about what amazing things all of us working together can do!

Some names, like William Sears or Ina May Gaskin, are household names in our Attachment Parenting (AP) communities. And these AP “celebrities” have done so much for the Attachment Parenting movement. But there are so many people whose names we don’t so readily know, or names we may never know — people who are all doing their own little part in their communities, even if only in their homes, to make the world a more compassionate place for their children and future generations.

Kate Frederick is one of those names that we might not otherwise know, but a person who is doing great things in her own little corner of the world — things that when added up with all of our efforts are changing culture.

Every one of us could be Kate Frederick.

2014 Conference: The Milky Way

milky wayThis has been seven years in the making.

I had seen “The Milky Way” film before during a local 2014 World Breastfeeding Week event. It was powerful then, and it was no less powerful this second time around, here in South Bend, Indiana, USA, at Notre Dame University at the 2014 Attachment Parenting International conference, “Pathways to Child Flourishing.”

This time around, the producers of the film were available for discussion: Chantal Molnar and Jennifer Davidson. And that’s where I learned that it took seven — SEVEN — years for them to make their film, “The Milky Way.” During that time, Attachment Parenting has really come into its own as far as the national conversation goes…here in the United States.

We seem to be at a tipping point. There are so many people — parents and non-parents even, professionals within parent support and beyond — who are joining the Attachment Parenting movement, and the Western culture seems ripe for questioning the status quo.

The purpose behind making “The Milky Way” film is to help change the world. I believe that it could, that it is. It is getting people talking, helping members of Western society to reframe their minds around what’s supposed to be normal about infant development specific to breastfeeding.

It is empowering women to advocate for themselves. And that can change the world, one mother, one baby, at a time.

During the discussion afterwards, audience members — parents just like you and me — had the opportunity to ask questions. There was much discussion about the varying experience levels and approaches to breastfeeding support by lactation professionals, the milk bank movement, what advocacy work is happening that can help working breastfeeding moms, exactly how little medical students learn about breastfeeding in med school and the amazing things that countries beyond the United States — like Germany and Sweden — are doing to promote secure attachment from even before birth.

My husband, after watching the film and attending the discussion at the conference, said we should move from the United States to Sweden. I have to admit, it’s tempting.

It was a great start to the conference.


Making a Difference to Children

1034106_ripplesI make a difference every day, and so do you.

July is recognized as “Make a Difference to Children Month,” and many organizations and businesses took this opportunity to raise awareness of their causes or to ask for donations to a favorite child-centered charity. And that is wonderful.

But we as parents are making a difference to children in the world every single day. We may not be teachers, childcare providers, parent educators or other professionals who touch the lives of children outside our homes, but yet, we are still making a huge difference to our communities and society—through our relationships with our children.

We as parents may forget the ripple effect that Attachment Parenting has. One drop causes a small ring, rippling out from the center in successively larger rings until the rings meet the shore. That is our impact. We as parents are that drop, and by raising our children in a way that promotes secure attachment, we are creating ripples that will reverberate through our society, carried by the interactions and impressions that our children make on their partners, children, and other important relationships, as well as those interactions and impressions that our grandchildren make, our great-grandchildren, and so forth.

Sometimes we get impatient with how slowly Attachment Parenting seems to catch on in our society when in reality, the grassroots movement is on fire! Just a few years ago, Attachment Parenting was still a relatively unknown term for our solidly research-based parenting approach, and now it’s a household name. Yes, it meets resistance as it clashes with long-held assumptions that children were blank slates, could spoil with too much holding and had to be controlled and coerced and punished to be taught to be good. The Attachment Parenting Movement has grown up with the technology able to demonstrate that children’s brain development depends on the consistently loving interactions between parent and child, as well as the technology able to provide education and support to even the most rural of households.

Our society’s parenting philosophies are gradually adopting the research-based information that makes up the Attachment Parenting approach. It’s generally accepted now that breastfeeding is better for babies, that there is merit to reducing Cesarean birth rates and most hospitals allow doulas to assist with their maternity patients. We’re seeing the importance of the family sit-down meal, that holding our babies as much as possible will not spoil them, that there is no basis in the idea that crying helps a baby’s lungs to grow. Society is recognizing that the attachment quality between the parent and the child is important not only for ease of childrearing and influence with the adolescent, but also that it affects relationship quality lifelong for that child. We’re slowing getting to the point of recognizing the vital importance of parents in the early childhood years, that social-emotional development affects cognitive gain, too, that spanking and physical punishments are archaic and unneeded.

We still have a ways to go. Nighttime parenting and non-punitive discipline are still hard to grasp for society at large, as is the crucial need for parents to spend much more time with their children and that it’s possible to find personal balance while doing so. We still have more education, support, and advocacy to do.

And that’s what Attachment Parenting International’s global base of volunteers do—volunteers who are parents themselves, whose lives were touched by Attachment Parenting to the point of making miracles in their family relationships, and who dedicate a little of their time and talents to carrying the Attachment Movement forward.

We are so thankful for our volunteers, who include the API-trained leaders of local parenting support groups and resource leaders available for information in their communities.

But you are making a difference to children simply by focusing on your attachment with your child in your everyday life. You are making a difference to society by playing with your child, by learning about your child’s interests, by listening to your child and responding with sensitivity as you would with a close friend, by being there. You are making a difference by teaching your child what positive, peaceful, empathetic, HEALTHY relationships look like. And when your child goes out in the world, his or her relationships will promote this same secure attachment quality so that each relationship encountered will touch off another ripple in our society, furthering the idea of Attachment Parenting through generations to come. Thank you.

Here, through API, every day is “Make a Difference to Children Month.”