Creating secure attachments through parental leave

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker

APM 2015 logoEditor’s note: This post was originally published through Parent Compass, an occasional message from API’s cofounders looking in-depth on how Attachment Parenting (AP) intersects with wider society. In celebration of AP Month this October, the latest Parent Compass explores this year’s theme: “Parental Presence: Birthing Families, Strengthening Society.” Sign up to receive future issues of this API newsletter, and we hope you are inspired this AP Month to continue striving to balance parental presence with work responsibilities.

“We have decades of research that tells us how important it is that a bond is established between parents and young children beginning at birth,” says Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. “The  need for time to form secure attachments is critically important. It’s one of the most important things you can do to build a foundation for a lifetime of healthy development.”

This quote was in reaction to the announcement that Netflix is offering up to 1 year of paid parental leave for its employees who give birth or adopt. Of course we rejoice at such progressive policies, but the sad truth is that few companies currently see the long-term benefit to their employees to instigate such policies.

Dr. Shonkoff went on to say in his remarks: “Babies need a sense of safety, predictability and responsiveness. We know from research that all areas of development — whether it’s cognitive development, emotional well-being or social development — has its foundation in this secure relationships. We do a lousy job as a society supporting parents after the birth of their babies. It’s unconscionable with all the deep scientific understanding we have now. It makes no sense to not offer more of that flexibility and support.”

Because of the overwhelming research, and our advocacy for infants and toddlers, Attachment Parenting International is in full support of strong parental leave policies, similar to those in many countries around the world. Sweden’s policy is probably one of the most generous, with 480 days of paid parental leave.

In the meantime, we are amazed at the creativity and dedication of parents to find solutions that will keep their bond with their children strong. From tag-teaming work schedules to enlisting grandparents and other invested family and friends, and creating cooperative childcare with trusted caregivers, many parents are finding solutions to keep their attachments strong. Some parents obtain loans to stay home longer: Many credit unions and banks will give loans in support of a family need, just like they would finance a car. But later this loan can cause a problem if you are not financially secure to repay. And unless you have scotland debt help near you which can help you in repaying the finances over a period of time with the help of their deeds, I don’t think it is a good plan taking such loan.

Lysa helps a lot with the care of her 2-year-old granddaughter, and I am often on-call for family friends that are juggling young children and work schedules. We feel so much compassion for these children who need consistency and trusting relationships — not a constantly changing cast of caregivers who may love children but who are also looking for higher paying jobs and less stress. We are amazed that even in the best university daycares, there is a large turnover every semester of childcare providers. There is such disconnect with the research and its application!

API Support Groups can be a wonderful resource for parents who do not have extended families nearby. Finding friends that have the same parenting values is another critical component in deciding on a non-parental caregiver.

As we move into another election cycle, we encourage all of you to pay attention to candidates who seem to have a particular understanding and compassion for babies and young children, and strong supportive policies. A strong mayor or city council member can have a tremendous impact on community awareness and progressive policies. Look into your state’s policies, too, as they vary tremendously. You might be pleased to know that your state has stronger leave policies then your place of work, and you can stagger the leave of each parent, allowing for more time at home.

Good luck to all parents who are looking for creative solutions! Talk to your local API Leaders, API Support Group members and Attachment Parenting families from around the world on API’s online Neighborhood forum for ideas, too.

Inspired to better balance parental presence with the busyness of our lives?

e4aee175-1115-4d03-bb68-c3009e6c4d4fAPI announces a special API Live teleseminar event on October 19 at 9:00 pm EST/6:00 pm PST as part of AP Month. Call in from the comfort of your home or while on the go to listen to and learn about Simplicity Parenting from Kim John Payne. Register today! Can’t make it that day? Everyone who signs up gets a recording of the teleseminar to listen to on their own time.

Kim John PayneKim John Payne helps families recognize the importance of parental presence, even more so in this day and age when so many pressures are taking the focus away from connected parenting. Through this teleseminar, you’ll walk away with a renewed focus for yourself and your family. To get a taste of his message, follow along on the API Reads discussion of his book, Simplicity Parenting.api reads logo




partners logo - with WYSH

Breastfeeding for healthy immunity

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

barbaranicholsonThe big parenting news lately centers on childhood vaccinations. It is an area of parenting that we do not take a stance on. Rather, API advocates for informed choice. We encourage parents to make careful decisions based on their own research. We know that there is no one right answer for every family, as we all have different health histories, environmental challenges and family dynamics that affect our decisions.

lysa parkerNo matter what the outcome of our choices, we can all agree on the importance of building a strong immune system for our children, and one of the best ways to do this is through API’s Second Principle of Parenting: Feed with Love and Respect — specifically breastfeeding. Breastmilk is so valuable that hospitals seek out donated breastmilk in the event that a mother cannot provide her own breastmilk to her premature or ill newborn staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Whether in the NICU or at home, any amount of breastmilk imparts benefits to baby.

We wanted to share some of the amazing research in the field of immunology that many parents, even if they are making the choice to breast feed, are not aware. This research is so fantastic, we hope you’ll share it with others who may be “sitting on the fence” as whether to breastfeed or not.

Even if a mother can only nurse for a few days, colostrum — the first milk — is amazing! One of our favorite resources regarding breastfeeding is La Leche League International’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which has this to say about colostrum on pages 6-7:

“Colostrum…has concentrated immunological properties that contain high concentrations of secretory immunoglobulin A, or slgA, an anti-infective agent that coats [the baby’s] intestines to protect against the passage of germs and foreign proteins that can create allergic sensitivities. [It also has] pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (PSTI), which protects and repairs the infant intestine.”

We know that colostrum also contains white blood cells, interferon, insulin and interleukins — creating an immune system that is nearly as sturdy as an adult!

Christina PondHere’s another amazing fact, from page 382 of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:

“Your baby not only lives on your milk, she shares your immune system. By the time you know you’re sick, you’ve started passing your immunities on to your baby…The reverse is truly remarkable. If your baby picks up an illness that you haven’t been exposed to, she passes those germs to you through nursing and within the breast itself you begin making antibodies and passing them back.”

As our babies begin to take solid foods, usually the second half of the first year, we have another opportunity to establish good health through the choices we offer our young babies and children. Avoiding sugar, sweeteners and processed foods are the best place to start. There are now organic baby foods available, and many families are joining co-ops and finding less expensive ways to find fruits and vegetables grown responsibly. As a mother you need to have a good health care like Functional Medicine Associates that determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. Learn more about supplements for diabetics pregnant women like blood boost formula.

We have been amazed to see babies and toddlers eat a wide variety of healthy foods when that’s all they know! We parents must set a good example by keeping “junk food” out of sight and to work on improving habits in our own diet.

Building a strong immune system is a lifelong process, and getting our children involved in shopping, preparing and cooking meals is a fantastic way to talk about keeping a strong and healthy body, mind and spirit. We all know how much children love to help in the kitchen, so don’t lose this window of opportunity to enjoy their enthusiasm and make it fun! Some of our favorite winter memories are baking bread, making soups and healthy pancakes with our sons. Snow days were something we all looked forward to!

rising-ground-elder-1446183-mThink about planting a few vegetables with your children, even if it’s in a pot on the porch or outside a window. There’s something primal about digging in the dirt– all children love it, and it’s wonderful to have an excuse to recapture that joy! Not to mention that digging in the dirt is another way to build up immunity.

Here’s to a healthy 2015!

Editor’s note: Thank you to Christina Pond, an AP parent, for her lovely breastfeeding photo.

Reflections of AP fatherhood

By Jim Parker

Mr Parker and LaylaFirst, let me give you a little background on how I was raised, so you will have some idea why I believe Attachment Parenting (AP) has spared my family from another generation of physical and verbal abuse.

It gives me pause to consider the upbringing of this Texas latchkey kid, who was thrust into daily chaos with an absent, alcoholic father, a workaholic mother and an older, controlling sister. Are you getting the picture?

Though my mom was the primary caregiver, she had to work long hours to compensate for my father spending our rent and food money on his bad habits. She was exhausted most of the time, and it seemed my sister and I were more of an inconvenience to her at the end of the day.

In spite of all that, we must have had enough nurturing to instill a sense of right from wrong and to feel compassion for others. Fortunately, neither my sister nor I became career criminals.

Mom was raised with a razor strap and perpetuated her parenting model with us. Somewhere along the way, my sister reluctantly had to take over as primary caregiver. She was only 17 months older than I was and was usually angry and abusive to her little brother, who constantly sought love, attention and validation. As we grew to school age, she ignored me at school and told me she would deny it if I told anyone she was my sister.

That sounds humorous and fairly typical to most of you who have brothers or sisters, but to me it was a kick in the stomach. Had I had some stability at home–with someone–it may not have been so hurtful, but it was just another abandonment issue for me to deal with.

I was a performing musician when I met and fell in love with Lysa, who would eventually co-found Attachment Parenting International (API) with Barbara Nicholson, who together coauthored Attached at the Heart.

Our first son, Jesse, was about 2 years old when I began traveling on the road for long periods of time. He loved coming to the big bus to see where Daddy slept and to say goodbye.

One night, the band was in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, when I called home to say hello. When I told him I was bringing him a surprise, he tearfully exclaimed, “I don’t want a surprise. I want you!” That was the moment when I truly understood the purpose of Attachment Parenting.

Since I had had little interaction with my own father, I was taken aback by his need for me, having blocked the need for my own father out of necessity. It was at that moment when everything in the universe was altered that allowed me to be the father I never had.

Within a year, I was a full-time real estate agent with a good opportunity to start being a father who could be home every day. As the children grew older, I showed property during the day and made it a point to be there when the boys came home from school. I didn’t want them to feel the emptiness that I had experienced, with no one to talk to about their exciting moments of the day.

My propensities to spank and verbally abuse were very strong due to my upbringing. It was a struggle to stop the urge to lash out as we had done in my family. Even today, as an adult, the slightest irritation can sometimes thrust me into “fight or flight” because of how I was treated by my family when I was an innocent, needy child.

I realized what terrible effects this had on me as a child. I understood that verbal and physical abuse is not the way to make a positive impression on a tender psyche. Yet only through my loving wife’s persistence, learning from her work with API and many years of teaching special education, have I been able to work through some of my issues to be a more loving, nurturing father.

I have to admit, I was a little resistant to Attachment Parenting at first, especially when it came to sharing our bed. However, I trusted my wife’s instincts and surrendered. Now I wouldn’t trade a thing for all the wonderful memories we have of our children sleeping with us.

I have seen the results of Attachment Parenting first hand. Attachment Parenting has been critically important in helping me develop strong emotional bonds with my sons. Because of those strong bonds, I learned a more empathic way of disciplining that doesn’t require yelling or hitting.

jim parker and familyAttachment Parenting has made a profound, positive change in me as a father and a person.

It hurts me to watch how some of my clients interact with their children. I try to model respectful behavior to all children, especially those who receive little respect from their parents. I also make a point of talking about Attachment Parenting every chance I get. In some small way, I know I’m making a difference.

Developing discipline from the inside out

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

lysa parkerChildren learn violence in their homes and in their schools from adults whose best intentions are to train them to be obedient, law-abiding citizens. To that end, corporal punishment has been used on children in many societies for hundreds of years.

Attitudes about corporal punishment are strong, but they are finally beginning to change. More than 100 countries throughout the world have banned the use of corporal punishment in schools, and 24 countries have banned it in the home as well.

Sometimes, it takes enacting laws to change people’s belief systems, especially when re-education is provided to young people. For example, recognizing the human and civil rights of African-Americans required changing laws and, as a result, great progress has been made in the last 60 years.

barbara nicholsonGovernments can no longer ignore the evidence that hitting children teaches them to be aggressive and violent. The research is unequivocal in showing the long-term negative effects of spanking and hitting children. Some of these effects include increased child aggression, increased adult aggression, increased child delinquent and antisocial behavior, just to name a few.

How does this apply to you, the parent, in terms of disciplining your children in the home? Many child development experts agree that hitting children does not teach them right from wrong; rather, it makes them obey for the short-term when a parent is present and misbehave when the parent is not present. This means we need to have a new understanding of discipline and what we can do to instill a child’s desire to be good.

Children love their parents and inherently do want to please them. When they feel good in their relationship with their parents, when they feel valued and respected, they naturally want to be good. As they grow, we can help them develop a well-developed conscience by teaching and modeling rather than relying on punishments. The following quote says it beautifully:

“When we use punishment, our children are robbed of the opportunity to develop their own inner discipline — the ability to act with integrity, wisdom, compassion, and mercy when there is no external force holding them accountable for what they do.” ~ Barbara Coloroso from Kids Are Worth It!

The goal of positive discipline is to teach children inner-discipline, which comes from a highly developed conscience rather than the use of punishments that may include external force, shame, humiliation, isolation or coercion.

We help children develop a conscience first through a strong, connected parent-child relationship and secondly, allowing them to feel remorse and teaching them how to reconcile their mistakes.

We must also teach them to be kind, respectful and compassionate toward others, and we do that best by being the example, by modeling that behavior with our children, to “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

There can be physical reasons behind a child’s behavior, too. Some children are sensitive to certain foods; wheat, dairy, eggs, food coloring and preservatives are the most common. Low blood sugar is another common culprit. Active children burn a lot of calories, so offering small, healthy snacks between meals and keeping snacks handy while traveling can help keep moods balanced.

Transitioning to a positive discipline frame of mind takes a lot of practice and re-orientation. It’s helpful to find other parents who either already practice positive discipline or need the support to transition to the positive discipline approach. Getting together frequently to support, share experiences and ideas can be valuable, affirming and empowering.

Steps toward a peaceful home and a peaceful world can begin today.