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.

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.

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.

No Quick Fix

barbara nicholsonBy Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

If there was ever a true maxim in parenting, this is one to remember: There is no such thing as a quick fix!

Now, that may sound sad or daunting to parents who want some simple tools to raise their children, but it’s important to step back and look at the big picture when we find ourselves opting for quick fixes. If our goal is to raise healthy, happy, compassionate, loving human beings who are responsible citizens of the community, this could be compared to creating a masterpiece in music, art or even some business endeavor.

Can we expect to create a musical masterpiece by ignoring our need to put hours into practicing our instrument, learning theory and listening to other virtuosos in developing our craft?

Each stage of our parenting journey has equal amounts of relief and new challenges. Just when we rejoice that our toddler is out of diapers, he decides to draw us a picture with permanent markers on the newly painted kitchen wall. Just when our teenager gets his driver’s license and we have him run a few errands, he gets in a fender bender in the parking lot of the grocery store.

The parents who look at the big picture can keep their cool: “Remember, this is a teachable moment. What can we all learn from this?” The quick fix answer would be to simply put the toddler in the corner or ground the teenager from driving, but how will that accomplish our long-term goal of a healthy, responsible human being?

Yes, it takes so much more time to get out the cleaning supplies and ask the toddler to help clean the walls, then set up an art corner in the kitchen with appropriate supplies for painting a picture. It also takes more time to give the teenager more instruction in parallel parking and possible restrictions on his driving until he’s more mature. But what incredible opportunities for connection, understanding and empathy!

Once, when my oldest son was a toddler, we had the experience I just described: He found some markers and joyfully created a beautiful mural all over the walls in the freshly painted main hallway of our house. Being a new mom, I was shocked at how strongly I reacted to this.

I was so angry, yet he was so proud and happy. Seeing my reaction, he dissolved into tears and I lacked the maturity and parenting skills to know what to do! I actually left him crying while I called a friend who had older children and whose parenting skills I admired. She wisely told me to get out the cleaning supplies and have him help me, thus beginning my journey into seeing these episodes as teachable moments.

Parents may fear that this is taking away their power, that if they don’t harshly chastise their children, they will not learn a lesson and will then repeat the behavior. But going back to the musical metaphor, what if you were spanked or yelled at every time you made a mistake playing your instrument? Who can learn anything by this kind of treatment?

However, if our instructor — or parent — can patiently demonstrate the correct way to play the song, or clean the wall, or drive the car, then the lesson is deeply understood, often not repeated, and everyone’s dignity remains intact. How can a quick fix compare to that?

API now reading Attached at the Heart

Attached at the Heart, 2nd editionThe API Reads program has begun the discussion of Attached at the Heart (2nd edition) by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. The  topics we’ll be discussing in July will include:

  • Principle 3: Responding with Sensitivity – Learning the Language of Love
  • Principle 4: Use Nurturing Touch – The Healing Power of Physical Closeness
  • Principle 5: Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally – The Critical Importance of Nighttime Needs
  • Principle 6: Provide Consistent, Loving Care – Keeping Baby’s Attachment Secure

Join the discussion through GoodReads. We’ll be reading Attached at the Heart for the months of June, July, and and a part of August.

Seeing API in a Whole New Light

A week ago, Friday morning, I kissed and hugged my husband and children goodbye and boarded a plane from the Lincoln, Nebraska, airport on my way toward Attachment Parenting International’s 15th Anniversary Gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. Besides a mix-up on gate numbers during my layover at the Minneapolis airport, and then being seated next to the lavatory on my second flight down (what’s that smell?), it was a good trip. It gave me several hours of reading and a great view of the earth that can’t be seen in any other way than in an airplane.

Knowing that I was going to be picked up from the airport along with Dr. James McKenna, well-known cosleeping expert and author of Sleeping with Your Baby, I made a dash to the bathroom at the Nashville airport to change out of my jeans, tank top, and sandals into an outfit in which I would be more comfortable shaking hands with a renowned parenting expert. So glad I did, too, because not only was Dr. McKenna in the vehicle but also author of Let the Baby Drive Lu Hanessian and API Co-founder and co-author of Attached at the Heart Lysa Parker!

We drove over to API Co-founder and author of Attached at the Heart Barbara Nicholson’s home for supper, where I saw the most wonderful sight of API Board of Directors president Janet Jendron and her daughter Claudia, API Executive Director Samantha Gray, and API Membership Coordinator Stephanie Petters, among others, joining together in a fury of fresh vegetables and greens, and pots of spaghetti and tomato sauce, making supper.

Throughout the night, people fresh from airport pick-up made their stop in Barbara’s beautiful home, greeting one another like everyone was old friends. I was a little overwhelmed to be in the company of so many of these parenting experts who helped to make API be what it is today – an organization working to educate and support parents worldwide in attachment-based parenting practices to benefit not only their children lives in profound ways but also their families.
Continue reading “Seeing API in a Whole New Light”