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.

Who says kids don’t like curry?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 14, 2008. It provides an alternative to commercialized baby food for parents starting their infants and young toddlers on solids.

The first time a friend offered my daughter Violet a veggie “puff,” I was puzzled. “They’re healthy,” she explained. “They’re made from vegetables.” Why not, I wondered, just give her the actual vegetables instead?

Western culture has an unfortunate tendency toward dumbing-down food for kids. Whether it’s for the sake of convenience or the mistaken assumption that kids won’t like cauliflower, it’s more common to see a toddler munching on gummy fruit snacks than a fresh nectarine.

Hoping to encourage an affinity for healthy, whole foods is one reason my husband and I opted to follow an approach I’d read about, baby-led weaning, to introduce Violet to solid food. Instead of offering her the standard rice cereal and purees, we presented her with the real thing from the beginning and let her lead the way.

Baby-led weaning allows the baby to become acquainted with real food in its true form, exploring tastes and textures at her own pace.

Texture is such a pivotal part of the epicurean experience, but purees eliminate that element entirely. Learning to love pureed peas may not translate into an affection for the small, round version that bursts in the mouth.

Baby-led weaning also gives the baby the chance to choose for herself among what is offered — for example, polishing off her yam before moving on to the quinoa, black beans or kiwi — and to be in control of how much she wants to consume, which helps her learn to follow her body’s signals in determining when to stop eating, rather than relying on the person wielding the spoon to decide for her.

From bananas, Violet ventured to other soft foods like avocado, squash and very ripe pears, but she didn’t stop there.

By the time she was 1 year old, she had developed a pretty sophisticated palate enjoying all the same dishes we do: from steel-cut oats with cinnamon and raisins to vegetarian paella, baked ziti with vegetables and mushrooms, and grilled wild Alaskan salmon with rosemary roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. In a time crunch, we fall back on her favorite spinach, feta and heirloom tomato omelet.

We can’t take all the credit, of course. Violet’s willingness to sample anything we serve is in large part a product of her personality.

But we certainly hope that exposing our daughter to healthy, unprocessed fare at an early age has contributed to her developing a taste for a variety of whole foods, prepared in different ways with different flavors…and that her preference for such delicacies will persist, even in the face of the less nutritionally desirable options she’ll no doubt encounter — and occasionally indulge in, as we all do — someday.

Does Attachment Parenting pertain to me?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 15, 2008, and examines how the author has adapted Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting as her children grew out of the infant/toddler years.

1361797_student_1My kids are not babies. They sleep in their own rooms. They don’t breastfeed. If I wore them in a carrier, the sling would rip and my spine would snap. They have homework.

Does Attachment Parenting still pertain to me?

Sometimes it seems as though the API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are geared mainly toward babies and toddlers: have the family bed, use the sling, breastfeed, don’t spank your exploring toddler and it’s all good. But what happens when those babies grow up? Do the principles apply to my family?

Absolutely!

Here is how I apply the API Principles into my own life.

1.)  Prepare for Parenting

Since my child-bearing years are behind me, obviously there’s no pregnancy or childbirth to prepare for! But even though my kids are older, l:

  • Continually educate myself about developmental stages. They’re older, but they’re still growing and changing and have specific developmental needs.
  • Set realistic expectations for themselves and for me. I don’t want to set my kids up for failure by expecting tasks that they are not developmentally ready to handle!
  • Research different educational options and find the one that best suits my kids and our family. I closely monitor their schooling experience and advocate for them.
  • Learn about their individual learning style, using that knowledge to help their educational experience.
  • Nurture their natural desire to learn by helping them develop their interests. I follow their lead and explore topics they find interesting. I don’t push my own interests on to them, but help them foster their own.

2.)  Feed with Love and Respect

My kids have been weaned for quite awhile. How do I continue feeding them with respect? I:

  • Provide nutritious food that’s easily accessible, and educate my kids on the importance of eating healthy foods.
  • Am their role model for healthy eating. I don’t have a rule about “grownups can eat this, but kids can’t.” What’s healthy for one is healthy for all. I hold myself to the “5 a day” veggie rule just as the kids are held to it.
  • Make sure my kids have plenty of opportunities for physical activities. They don’t have to be organized sports or formal lessons: just running around the backyard is great for them, too!
  • Make dinnertime a formal event at my house. No TV, no books, no toys. We eat at the table, and we talk.

3.)  Respond with Sensitivity 

All kids — and adults — have emotional needs! How do I respond positively to my children, when they have the words and means to tell me what’s wrong? I:

  • Nurture a close connection and respect my child’s feelings. I can understand that instances that may have happened while I was not there — in school, for example — can impact their life at home, and is no less important.
  • Ask my children about their day using specific questions: What was the hardest question on the quiz? What funny thing happened today?
  • Respect my children when they say they need time alone. I give them time to transition from their school day to home.
  • Show interest in my child’s activities and participate enthusiastically! I attend all recitals, games and meets.

4.)  Use Nurturing Touch

I think this is the one the stays the same all throughout the child’s life! I:

  • Give frequent hugs, snuggles and back rubs. My husband wrestles and tickles but only when our kids want him to. We use playfulness and games to encourage physical closeness.
  • Hold my kids on my lap, since I find them way too heavy to carry for any length of time! We also snuggle side by side!

5.) Ensure Safe Sleep, Emotionally and Physically

The kids have their own rooms. They sleep all night, as do I — which is glorious after those baby years! Is nighttime parenting still on the table? Yes it is! I:

  • Read bedtime stories to my kids and provide extra cuddles.
  • Have a specific routine for bedtime that never wavers, which helps calm them down for bed.
  • Have regular and set bedtimes during the school year. I want my kids to be well-rested, so they can learn the next day!

6.)  Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Obviously since kids are in school, I can’t be in their lives as constantly as I was before. But I can still be there consistently by:

  • Being available, which makes kids feel safe, secure and cared for.
  • Avoid the “latch-key” temptation and find appropriate supervision between the time my children arrive home from school and I am home from the workday.

7.)  Practice Positive Discipline

As children age, discipline also changes. Redirection no longer works! So, I:

  • Stay emotionally connected to my children, which creates trust and love in them for their parents, making them generally easier to discipline. Quite honestly, discipline has never been a problem in our home. Connected children are internally motivated to please their parents most of the time.
  • Use natural and logical consequences to teach children, which are more effective than punishment, and doesn’t instill fear.
  • Use active listening.
  • Do not use mockery, shaming or coercion.
  • Do not bribe or offer rewards, as I want my children to develop inner self-control.

8.)  Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

It can be so tempting to sign my kids up for music lessons, sports teams, and playdates, and to send them to every single birthday party to which they are invited. It’s hard to maintain balance with older kids! We:

  • Don’t overdo extra-curricular activities. I refuse to schedule activities during dinner, and weekend extra-curriculars are very rare. Weekends are family time for us.
  • Eat dinner together, everyday.
  • Participate in our own family traditions and discuss them with the kids.
  • Take the kids out on dates with one parent or the other. A movie or lunch out with just one kid and one parent is a lot of fun and increases bonding.
  • After the kids are in bed, my husband and I watch movies or talk. Admittedly, my husband and I don’t go out much by ourselves very often. This could probably be improved for us.

As my children have grown and changed, my parenting has grown and changed. Attachment Parenting is different for us now than it was when my first was a baby.

How has it changed for you?

Up all night!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 28, 2008. As parents, we engage in nighttime parenting because we know that our children don’t stop needing our care at sunset. The author does well to validate the challenge of meeting children’s needs when they happen at a time that is not so convenient for their parents.

starry-night-1443822-mExcuse me if this post is rambling, it’s written by a very tired mammy — one who only went to bed at half past 4:00 this morning and who got up again at 9:00 a.m. But it’s nowhere near the sheer exhaustion I remember from the first few weeks of my daughter’s life. This is just regular tiredness: I feel like I was out dancing all night!

Littlepixie has just cut her first molars, four or possibly five all at once. The poor pet! Understandably, her mouth is a little sore.

Last night, she nursed to sleep and I snuck downstairs to get some Internet time in. In retrospect I should have gone to sleep, too, because as it turned out it would be a good many hours before my little head hit the pillow!

Littlepixie woke around midnight and was clearly in pain: She was banging her mouth with her hand, crying and sobbing, “Teeth. Teeth.”

We gave her some medicine, but it didn’t seem to help much. Nursing was acceptable to her but only while sitting up with the light on.

Littlepixie and I retired downstairs to the living room.

We’ve been quite lucky recently with her night-wakings. Usually she nurses straight back to sleep. But not last night.

We snuggled on the couch under a big blanket, nursing and reading her bedtime book over and over again. We found every bear, rabbit, sock and red balloon in the book, chatted about them, laughed at them, counted them and then started all over again.

I got sleepier. Littlepixie did not!

It was really just a case of watching the clock tick by and waiting for her to get sleepy. The medicine finally seemed to take effect as she was no longer complaining about her teeth, so that was good.

But I was barely awake!

So, after a while of playing with Littlepixie’s dolls, I resorted to putting on a DVD for her to watch. I know the middle of the night is not usually prime TV time, but the show was nice and calm and of course had no advertisements.

We watched the DVD for about 15 minutes while nursing and reading more books. I then brought her into our office where she often nurses for her naps, in the hopes that she would think it was nap time.

No such luck!

At 4 a.m., we went back up to bed where my husband read her another story, and she finally nursed back to sleep, with her foot lodged firmly in his face.

We were able to sleep in to 9 a.m. We’re very tired, but Littlepixie is in top form. Her teeth don’t seem to be hurting her, and she’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Attachment Parenting can be hard work! But it’s worth it. Littlepixie clearly needed some extra care last night, and I’m glad we could help her out. Fingers crossed we all sleep well tonight!

What about all of you? Do you have any particular things you like to do when you’re passing the wee hours of the night awake with your child?

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.

The time-in technique

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 27, 2008, but I love the message it offers to parents about how positive discipline dovetails with responding with sensitivity in observing what underlying needs children may be expressing when they act out.

it-must-be-love-6-138382-mRecently there has been a discussion about time-out technique on a Yahoo group. A mother was sharing about how effective she finds the time-out sessions to teach her 18 month old not to bite mommy. Lots of people were interested and wanted to learn more about the technique.

I believe in gentle discipline. I remember reading an inspirational blog post by Angela White at Breastfeeding 123:

I talked to a friend who used what she called “time in.” Time in involved getting down on my daughter’s level and holding her if she wanted that, and talking about the kind of behavior that was acceptable and not acceptable. I realized that many times when my child was acting up, she was really looking for more attention from me. It was a lot better for both of us if I gave her positive attention in the first place, and refrained from negative attention like yelling and shaming.

My daughter has recently started pulling my hair. Every time she does this, I tell her that it hurts me and that it’s not okay to pull someone else’s hair.

I also paid attention to the times when she pulls my hair. The result is obvious: She’s either tired or sleepy. She wants more attention from me. Maybe she wants me to give her a hug, maybe she wants me to breastfeed her or maybe she wants me to play with me.

Had I used the time-out technique, she’d only be more upset.

I believe that by being respectful to our little ones — by questioning why they are behaving like this — we can sort out half of the problem. Time-outs may change their behavior, but they will not resolve the underlying problem or address our children’s needs.

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?

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