Why Attachment Parenting Promotes a More Connected Society

My family and I spent most of the day yesterday in the Federal Building updating passports. It was a very long day in a crowded space and what else does one do, other than watch your kids play superheroes with other kids in their common language, except people watch.

I’ve always enjoyed people watching as a way of understanding the world and people more. It’s so easy to let the little gifts pass us by unless we take the time to look for them. Today we were surrounded by newborns. There must have been at least 20-30 of them with their parents in line and in the waiting area. At first my heart just melted and I had to ask how old they were. Most were only a week or two weeks old. Then my boys and I just stared as we viewed the miraculous sightings of these precious little angels.

I watched the mothers and fathers and it took me back to those first days and weeks. I remembered the magic, the LOVE, the fragility, the fatigue…all of it. I saw first borns, twins and siblings with their new little sidekicks. It made the day go by and I truly enjoyed being around and interacting with such a diverse group of people and witnessing my boys doing the same.

What surprised me the most in this very large crowd was the fact that not one person was wearing their baby in a wrap or carrier. It actually made me sad but I also felt fortunate as I reflected on the years I wore both of my boys in wraps and carriers. I wanted to stand up and tell everyone the joy that comes from wearing your child. The room was filled with strollers and car seats. I watched the babies drink from their bottles, get burped and then placed back into their seats, then repeat….over the course of several hours. My wish is that one day soon, I will walk into a waiting room or public setting and see a room full of parents holding and wearing their babies.

I am not judging those who bottle feed, nor am I judging you if your baby is in a car seat or stroller. What I am saying however, is that I feel our society has become and continues to promote and encourage detachment from our children. They go from car seats, to strollers to walkers, to play pens to cribs. I know they get fed and cuddled somewhere in between but I can’t help but to wish we could all connect even more. We all need to know we are loved and our babies are completely dependent on us for everything. If we are able to give them as much love, contact and warmth as possible, I believe they will feel more secure and safe which will only make them thrive even more.

In other societies and cultures throughout the world, it is normal and commonplace to wear your baby all day, sleep with your baby and spend as much time skin to skin as possible. Especially in the first year of life. I think about newborns. I imagine their world before they were delivered into this one. They are tucked in, warm, cozy, safe and comfortable within the womb of their Mother. When they enter this new realm, they are no longer tucked in tightly. The stimulation must be overwhelming and the warmth and basic necessities are all they require. Sleep, eat, burp, poop, repeat.

I know as a first time parent the responsibility of it all can be intimidating and taking care of the basics makes you feel like you made it through the day successfully.

Again, I want to make it clear that I understand we all do our best. At least I hope so. Not everyone was born to be a babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding parent. I get it. Not everyone will agree with me and in fact I realize many will disagree with me and my ways. That is okay also.

My need to express here isn’t about you or me or how we parent. It’s about the most fundamental principal in all of life. LOVE. If you aren’t wearing your baby in a wrap or carrier, I’m not saying you don’t love the same way a babywearing parent does. I’m saying, let’s do it more. All I thought about in that room all day was how happy those little babies would have been if they were wrapped up close against their Mothers.

I saw people getting frustrated and annoyed that their babies were crying. Babies cry. Don’t ever feel embarrassed or ashamed when yours does. To me though, the quickest way to ease them once you tend to their needs, is to hold them close. Let them feel your heartbeat. Let them smell your skin. Let them hear your voice. Let them feel the thousands of kisses on their little heads as you carry them throughout your day.

Yes, I support babywearing. Yes, I am an attachment parent. I am not saying I’m better. I am not saying it is all easy. What I am saying is this. This time goes by so fast. These moments need to be cherished. The sacrifices we make are worth it. I promise. The love, security, stability, warmth and connection you offer will make a difference. My wish for the New Year is for all of us to Love more. To connect more. To Accept more. To Attach more. That is my wish.

Congratulations to all of you who have already experienced the extraordinary gift of giving birth. I wish those of you expecting to have safe and healthy deliveries. Being a mother is the greatest gift and role of my life. I am so thankful for my boys and for my family and I will love with all of my heart each and every minute I am breathing.

Much Love and Support,

What is Attachment Parenting? Guest Post by Peggy O’Mara

We are thrilled to feature a guest post by Peggy O’Mara, mother, author, editor and owner of Mothering magazine. Here, she explores the foundations and history of Attachment Parenting, showing how AP became what it is today.

What is Attachment Parenting?

by Peggy O’Mara

Baby slinger
flickr/happykatie

The recent furor in the press over attachment parenting stems from an inherent misunderstanding. Attachment parenting is not permissive parenting. It is not about abdicating authority as a parent, but about responding to the legitimate biological needs of a baby. It is firmly based in the sciences of anthropology and psychology and specifically on the theory of attachment.

THE THEORY OF ATTACHMENT

The theory of attachment originated with psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907-1990) whose influential 1951 report to the World Health Organization set the first standard for infant and child care:

“The infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment.”

Bowlby and others identified the first three years of life as a critical period during which the foundation is set for attachment to self and others. Qualities secured during this period include: trust, empathy, dependency, affection, conscience and optimism. According to Maggie Scharf in Unfinished Business (Ballantine: 1981)

“The ancients well knew that the experience of being in love recapitulates the mother-child relationship in its intimate physical attachment, trust and dependency. It has been shown even in the animal realm that adequate sexual functioning in adulthood depends on satisfactory relations with the mother in infancy.”

LOOKING FOR SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT

When breastfeeding rates doubled between 1972 and 1982, mothers were looking for ways to reconcile the needs of their babies with the popular wisdom of the day. Breastfeeding moms were finding, for example, that their babies wanted to be held a lot while popular wisdom warned that holding was spoiling. Attachment theory reassured these early breastfeeding pioneers that touching and holding were good for babies.

John Bowlby, for example, observed during WWI that babies in orphanages died if they were neither touched or talked to.

Eric Ericksen identified the first year of life as a stage during which we learn to have faith in other people and in the environment. During this time of total dependency, if we receive adequate physical care that is warm, loving and demonstrative, we will learn to trust. On the other hand, if our care is cold, indifferent and rejecting we will learn to mistrust.

Margaret Mead, whose seminal book Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) informed the sexual revolution, observed in her field studies as an anthropologist that the most violent tribes were those that withheld touch in infancy.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, was a medical researcher who observed that the indulgence of early dependency needs leads to independence and self-reliance. According to Ainsworth, it is the sensitive responsiveness of the mother that enables the child to explore the environment.

Adult social behavior is related to early experiences in significant ways, according to neurologist Richard Restak. Restak says:

“Physical holding and carrying of the infant turns out to be the most important factor responsible for the infant’s normal mental and social development”

THE CONTINUUM CONCEPT

Further evidence that touch is good for babies came in 1975, from Jean Leidloff’s book The Continuum Concept. In the international best seller, Leidloff describes her expedition to the South American jungle, where she observed the way of life of indigenous natives.

She noticed, for example, that the mothers maintain nearly 24-hour-a-day bodily contact with their young infants, as they go about their daily tasks. Leidloff also observed that the native children are unusually self-possessed and secure and concluded that close physical contact in infancy is beneficial.

DR. BILL SEARS

While doing research for his book The Fussy Baby, Bill Sears, MD, discovered that the more babies were carried, the less they cried. He also found that carrying babies eases breastfeeding and high-need situations.

Sears tells the story of how his wife, Martha, instinctively tried to fashion a baby carrier from a piece of cloth in order to soothe one of their babies. Sears went on to design a baby carrier of his own, The Original Baby Sling.

In response to concerns that holding your baby can lead to an overly dependent child, Sears says that it’s the opposite:

“On the contrary, in our experience and that of others, carried babies actually turn out to be more secure and more independent. Because they have grown through early infancy with a secure home base, these children learn to separate more easily than others and with little separation anxiety.”

ATTACHMENT PARENTING, INTERNATIONAL

Sears published his book, The Fussy Baby, with La Leche League (LLL) in 1985, at a time when he was the most well known of LLL’s physician supporters. He is widely credited with coining the term attachment parenting and wrote a book on the subject in 2001. But, Dr. Sears did not invent attachment parenting.

Two young La Leche League Leaders, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, were influenced by Dr. Sears and fascinated with attachment theory. In 1987, they heard psychiatrist Elliott T. Barker give a keynote address on “The Critical Importance of Mothering” in which he linked adult psychopathic behavior to extreme disruptions in attachment.

As Nicholson and Parker became increasingly steeped in research on the critical attachment period, they wanted to educate others, and, in 1995 they formed Attachment Parenting International (API).

API’s “principal goal is to heighten global awareness of the profound significance of secure attachment” through education, support and advocacy.

Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing all foster secure attachment because they respond to the baby’s need to be touched and held.

But these are not the practices of attachment parenting and attachment parenting itself is not a practice. It is a philosophy.

There are no rules to Attachment Parenting. It’s simply about acknowledging the legitimate needs of the human baby and trying to meet them as best one can.

JUST INFORMATION

While the roots of attachment parenting are in ancient tribal society and modern science, attachment parenting has no script. It’s about trusting the baby and being responsive. It’s practical and personal. It’s not a contest. It’s just information.

 

Peggy O'MaraPeggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

Dr. Sears Comments on TIME Magazine’s Attachment Parenting Cover Article

Guest blogger Dr. Bill Sears shares his thoughts on the much talked about TIME Magazine Attachment Parenting Article, “The Man Who Remade Motherhood.”

Hello parents!  The cover was risky but a brilliant hook by Time Magazine to attract readers, and they achieved their goal.  The writer, Kate Pickert, herself a new mother and one of Time’s most diligent writers, sincerely wanted to increase awareness of the Sears’ family contribution to parenting and family health.  She lived with our family for two days, followed me in the office, and spent hours with me on the phone in an attempt to be factual.  While the cover photo is not what I or even cover-mom Jamie would have chosen, it accomplished the magazine’s purpose.  And, as some attachment dads observed, finally a magazine displays a woman’s breast for the real purpose for which they were designed – to nurture a child, not to sell cars and beer.  Cover-mom Jamie is a super-nice person and highly-educated in anthropology, nutrition and theology.  I enjoyed the several hours I spent with her family and her kids shined with the social effects of attachment parenting.

Even though I’m used to being misunderstood and misquoted, as is attachment parenting (AP), I had a few concerns.  AP is not extreme.  It’s very natural and instinctual.  It’s the oldest parenting style in the world.  Nor is breastfeeding three years extreme, at least throughout the world.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for optimal health children be breastfed for at least two years and sometimes recommends three years.

Another misconception was AP is difficult for the mother who works outside the home.  It’s just the opposite.  Women are the greatest multi-taskers in the world.  AP, modified to the parents’ work schedule, helps busy parents reconnect with their child, which actually makes working and parenting easier.  It’s attachment moms that forged the long overdue workplace-friendly breastfeeding-pumping stations and laws which respect and value the ability of a working mother to continue part-time breastfeeding.

Regarding the science criticism, it’s impossible to scientifically prove by a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized study (the gold standard in science) that AP works better than a more distant style of parenting.  You would have to take a thousand mothers who practice AP and another thousand who don’t, and see how their kids turn out.  What parent would sign up for such a study?   Yet there is one long-term effect that science does agree on: The more securely-attached an infant is, the more securely independent the child becomes.

I’m disappointed the article did not pay more attention to the bottom-line of attachment parenting: how AP children turn out – and that’s where this style of parenting really shines.  In my 40 years of studying the long-term effects of what parents do to help their children turn out well, AP kids generally are more: empathetic and compassionate, relate better to people, are easier to discipline, and are just nicer to be around.  When I walk into an exam room in my office, an AP baby, like a little sunflower, naturally turns toward my face and lights up.  I’ve yet to see an AP child be a school bully.  On the contrary, they are the ones who try to comfort a hurting child.

Attachment parenting is not an all-or-nothing, extreme, or indulgent style of parenting.  I advise moms and dads that the seven Baby B’s (birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cries, beware of baby trainers, and balance) are starter tools (remember, tools not rules) to help parents and infants get to know each other better.  And families can modify these tools to fit their individual family situation.

Over my years of mentoring attachment parents, the main two words of feedback I have heard is empowering and validating.  My “helper’s high” file is filled with thank you letters such as: “Thank you, Dr. Bill, for validating what my heart and gut tell me is right.”  “Thank you, Dr. Bill, for empowering us new parents with your personal experience to help us enjoy our children more.”

As an investment banker dad once told me: “AP is one of the best long-term investments you can make in giving your child a greater chance of growing up happier, healthier, and smarter.”  Aren’t those the three main qualities we all want for our children?

TIME Magazine Shows Attachment Parenting is Going Mainstream, Not Extreme

When we, Attachment Parenting International, learned that TIME Magazine decided to take on attachment parenting in its May 21, 2012 issue, we had to ask, “TIME, are you news magazine enough?”

Beyond the incendiary attempt to pit mothers against each other asking, “Are you mom enough?,” and a strategic cover contrived to sell copies, what did TIME actually say about attachment parenting?

In case you don’t get very far past the cover, here is what TIME happened to acknowledge to the world about attachment parenting:

Dr. William Sears, with Martha Sears, deserve recognition for changing the course of parenting and giving parents The Baby Book 20 years ago. Dr. Sears is noted by TIME as “The Man Who Remade Motherhood” and author of many parenting books, including The Baby Book: “First published in 1992, The Baby Bookis now in print in 18 languages, with more than 1.5 million copies sold.”

Attachment parenting is changing how we parent: “Chances are also good that, consciously or not, you’ve practiced some derivative of attachment parenting or been influenced by its message that mothers and babies evolved to be close to each other.”

“Fans and critics of attachment parenting can agree on two things: there has been a sea change in American childrearing over the past 20 years, and no one has been a more enthusiastic cheerleader for it than Sears.”

“So many of the ideas of attachment parenting are in the culture even if you don’t believe in Dr. Sears per se,” says Pamela Druckerman , author of Bringing Up Bébé.

“[Attachment parenting] is a new common sense.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

Nurturing touch fosters security: “…it’s hard to argue with his overall message that babies who are cuddled feel secure.”

Breastfeeding promotes bonding: “He surely deserves credit for promoting breastfeeding and the idea that the bond between mother and baby is critical.”

Consistent and loving care is key: “The difference between children without consistent relationships with parents (or parental figures of any kind) and well-parented children who are fed formula (instead of breastmilk) and put in bouncy seats (instead of slings) is huge. The former, science says, are headed for developmental and emotional problems.”

Fathers are not incidental to attachment parenting:
“Much of Sears’ instruction for fathers revolves around the supportive role they can play for their wives.” “Sears also encourages “attachment fathering,” pointing out that dads can wear their babies just as well as mothers.”

Many AP moms work outside the home: “[Sears] says about 60% of mothers with children in his pediatric practice work outside their homes, and indeed, some career mothers are drawn to an attachment parenting model that helps them get close to their babies when they finally come home from work.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

Breastfeeding beyond infancy is … natural: “In 2008, the American Academy of Family Physicians did its part to try to destigmatize nursing toddlers and older children, applauding the WHO guidelines even as it acknowledged that extended breastfeeding “is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement.” The group added: It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer. There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Weaning happens naturally: “So I rarely had to contend with strangers’ stares because the older my kids got, the less they nursed. That’s the normal progression of things – it’s how weaning is ideally supposed to work.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Attachment parenting advocates societal change to accommodate family wellbeing: “More power to all of us. Let’s not blame our breasts for the other societal issues – like unequal pay, lack of daycare and having to protect our babies from toxins – that are holding us back.”
(TIME, Why Breast-Feeding Isn’t the Bugaboo, Dominique Browning)

Greater acceptance of nursing, including in public, helps families meet their babies’ needs: The world wonders what the discussion is: “But much of the world doesn’t share America’s uneasiness. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast-feeding up to a child’s second birthday ‘or beyond.’ Most U.S. mothers don’t even meet the recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General that they skip infant formula and breast-feed exclusively for a mere six months.”
(TIME, Extended Breast-Feeding: Is It More Common than We Think?, Bonnie Rochman)

Parenting with intention may be healing and address unresolved needs: “Our parenting preferences matter deeply to us – they boost our self-esteem, or perhaps soothe and heal us from having been parented in a way that didn’t meet our needs.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

There is value in being responsive to infant cries. We know responding will not spoil an infant. So if the research on “cry it out” is not conclusive, no need to support ignoring cries and the parent urge to respond, in lieu of building trust and a stronger relationship, and relying on support if needed. After finding in his research the science behind Dr. Sears’ work lacking, Jeffrey Kluger does acknowledge: “None of this means that Sears’ larger philosophy of attachment parenting is fatally flawed – as his millions of believers and their happy, well-adjusted babies would surely attest.”
(TIME, The Science Behind Dr. Sears: Does it Stand Up?, Jeffrey Kluger)

Attachment Parenting holds up to scrutiny: “[Mothers] research; they seek out best practices; they join a group, form a committee and agitate for their version of feeding/disciplining/sleeping. If you don’t believe me, just visit a breast-feeding support group with former litigators, marketing executives and investment bankers.”
(TIME, How Feminism Begat Intensive Mothering, Belinda Luscombe)

Parents are actively advancing the field of parenting; the sciences of development and attachment are affirming their parenting instincts: “We’ve educated women to forge a new path. Why did we think they’d treat raising children any differently?”
(TIME, How Feminism Begat Intensive Mothering, Belinda Luscombe)

Balance and support are essential to parenting: “Sears tells mothers, “Do the best you can with the resources you have”; he tells husbands to book massages for their wives and shoo them out of the house so they can get a break from parenting.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)


This TIME magazine issue does have parents reading between the lines, pleased to discover the attachment parenting name to what they’ve been practicing.

We certainly don’t expect Attachment Parenting International promotional material from TIME magazine, so the work remains to shift culture to responsive and compassionate parenting, and to make clarifications as needed:

Attachment parenting is motivated by a desire to raise well adjusted, strong, independent children, as parents meet the trust and other emotional needs of the child from the very start and it’s not the case that: “…it’s more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

The essence of attachment parenting is loving care that features a reciprocal, relational approach that goes deeper than this simple formula: “The three basic tenets are breast-feeding (sometimes into toddlerhood), co-sleeping (inviting babies into the parental bed or pulling a bassinet alongside it) and “baby wearing,” in which infants are literally attached to their mothers via slings.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

“Attachment parenting is in many ways the practical application of my father’s theory,” writes Sir Richard Bowlby Bt., who “lectures to promote a much broader understanding of his father’s work [Dr. John Bowlby] on attachment theory,” in his endorsement of API co-founders’, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, book Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children, just to begin addressing the criticism that “The science on attachment is also easily misunderstood and misused. The father of attachment theory is John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst who in the mid – 20th century studied orphans and children abandoned by their mothers.”
(TIME, The Man Who Remade Motherhood, Kate Pickert)

There is nothing that prohibits a parent who works from incorporating the heart of relationship with attachment parenting. Perhaps they may elect to breastfeed or bottlenurse; babywear; or cosleep safely (not necessarily in the adult bed) to get more sleep; and at least nurture their child without spanking or shaming; and respond with sensitivity most of the time. Many find attachment parenting makes parenting and working more compatible, not “impossibly demanding” as Judith Warner perceives: “That’s why William Sears, for all his insistence on flexibility and admonitions to ‘do the best you can with the resources you have,’ strikes so many of us as impossibly demanding for any woman who wants or simply needs to keep out-of-home work a viable part of her life.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

Yes, the AP crowd is on average pretty well educated, but it isn’t affluence that determines their choices — many continue to make financial sacrifices based on what science (and their own hearts) say is best for their children.“The affluent, slightly older and well educated moms who are most likely perusing parenting books like those written by William Sears have already tasted financial independence, self-sufficiency and freedom of movement.”
(TIME, “Parents Do What’s Right for Them,” Judith Warner)

We welcome TIME Magazine giving attachment parenting a public platform for discussion. For many years we have been witnessing a silent transition of the mainstream culture to attachment parenting–not extremism, as parents experience the benefits of parenting compassionately and become more confident in trusting their instincts.

TIME, the blame for mother guilt does not lie with attachment parenting or with any other type of parenting philosophy or culture — the complexity and balancing act of motherhood, encompassing mommy guilt or even typical healthy doubt as we navigate our way, existed before attachment parenting resurfaced. In fact, while TIME perpetuates the idea of an epidemic of immobilizing mommy guilt, moms of every stripe are in no uncertain terms countering, “Yes, we are mom enough.” AP brings balance and self-acceptance to mothers, embracing our imperfections and even recognizing how the repairs we make with our children strengthen and grow the attachment relationship. Now, we must move past the misconceptions and myths some of the conversation is dominated by and collectively think of the future we are raising.

Attachment parenting has a pedigree that goes to the beginning of history, rooted in a theory that has 60 years of formal research behind it, and 20 years of reclaiming our parenting instincts from disproven constructs of baby training and ignoring infant cries. If examined without bias and preconceptions, TIME may well one day report on attachment parenting as a “new” scientific discovery. The front cover and title would hail attachment parenting as the next life-changing advancement in society that benefits children, mothers, fathers, families, and society; but it’s enough for now.

Attachment Parenting International
www.attachmentparenting.org

The Benefits of Babywearing Your Toddler

My daughter, Bella, is almost 22 months. My husband Sam and I still babywear her many times.

To some, this might seem a little crazy. She is perfectly able to walk and we own a stroller she loves. She isn’t as easy to carry anymore, and it requires some maneuvering to get her in an arrangement we’re comfortable with for a while.

But Bella had severe reflux when she was born. Because of this, she threw up for the first 6 months of her life around the clock. We tried every babywearing device we could think of to help; Moby, slings, wraps, Bjorn, Ergo – but nothing helped. I remember clearly the time Sam wrapped her forward facing in the Moby to walk around and she projectile vomited all over it and the floor so much we had to take her out and wash it. I had to use layered burp cloths when I wore her facing me – and each time she’d throw up I’d pull one out, shove it in the diaper bag and keep going.

The reflux ruined our love of wearing her. It was hard for her to enjoy it either. I felt awful that it was so difficult for us to be close. I eventually tucked most of our carriers away because it was frustrating to clean them and only be able to have them on for a few minutes at a time.

When she turned a year old and was no longer throwing up, I decided to try again. I bought a ring sling, got out the Ergo. I don’t know how to explain it, I simply felt a need to be close to her in some way that we had missed before.

It wasn’t easy. She was used to be on her own and while she loved to be carried, she wasn’t keen at first on being snuggled against us. Sam tried different ways to wear her and she came to love the Ergo with him. He was gone for 4 months with the Army, and coming home he carried her around all over in it.

The ring sling was something we both ended up loving – I could wear it for hours without it hurting my back and shoulders, Bella was up high enough she could see and use her hands to point and hold onto things, but when she grew tired it was simple for her to rest against me. I can adjust it, take her in and out of it quickly, and it’s sturdy enough I never wonder if she’s safe.

I feel as if I’ve gained back some of the time we lost with her as a baby. I love having her next to me as we walk through zoos and museums, knowing that she’s seeing what I see and I can easily talk to her about everything. I also love that I probably burn twice as many calories carrying her around 🙂 but that’s just another benefit.

There are so many benefits of babywearing an older child. For us, it proved to be the bonding experience that most people get in the early months. I’m thankful we were able to do it successfully the second time around, and for the carriers that made it possible and easy.

Totin’

A story about standing in line at CVS, baby fingertip kisses, stranger germ phobia, infertility, and magic you can share with a stranger.

Totin’

I was just at CVS and an older man was behind me in line.  I stopped to get some chocolate, specifically, Bliss chocolate Easter eggs. 

“Do you want to go ahead of me?” I asked.                  

“No, I’m in no huree.  I ain’t been in no hurree since I retired,” he purred out in a deep Southern drawl.

“Oh, alright. It’s nice not to be to be in a hurry,” I said back to him with a soft smile, warmed by the thought, I, too, am not in a hurry and have not been since I decided to stay home with Ben.

“Sure is. I just feel real old, since I turned 80.”

“Well, turning 80 is quite a something to be proud of, Sir.”

“I turned 81 last year, in fact.”

“If it makes ya feel any better, I feel old ever since I had a baby.”

I studied his red wrists and purple lined palms.  His old age reminded me of my father, long gone, up on the roof of Heaven.

“Hello there little guy,” he chuckled, as he grinned and held out his finger.  I tried not to cringe thinking of other mom friends who wear plastic circle signs on their purses that say, “Are your hands clean?” and ‘Love, Not Germs.”  I could see the dirt under his yellowed finger nails, dewed with time and wrinkles, invisible like earthquakes holding decades of history.  Those fingers are alright, I thought. I’ll let Ben decide if he wants to touch him.  Ben smiled some more, showing all eight teeth and reached out with his ET pointer finger and fingertip kissed the old man’s yellowed, storied, wrinkled, finger.

It was kind of magical — in the moment’s lack of worry and judgment.  Old and new, youth and wisdom, fresh unwrinkled skin and leathered, layered skin.
Continue reading “Totin’”

Reflections on Our First Year

I entered parenthood with a crib and an epidural. I had never heard of attachment parenting, and was pretty sure the family bed was something that could wreck a marriage.

As my baby turns one, and my husband and I celebrate our eighth year of marriage, we happily (and a bit nervously) went out for our first time alone as a couple since her birth, and reflected on the highlights of our year.

In addition to watching each other blossom as parents, the way we parent was at the top of both of our lists.

I never could have guessed that our style of parenting could be equally important to us as the event of becoming parents.

While hard to explain – or even justify – to the uninitiated, the steps we’ve taken to build a deep and secure bond with our daughter have transformed us as just much as they’ve helped to ground her. Specifically, our top seven favorite steps we’ve taken as parents this year:

  1. Bringing Dalia into our bed. Not only does she fall asleep faster, and sleep longer and more soundly, but the precious time we have as a family, gazing adoringly at our beautiful baby as she sleeps, or laughing together in the morning, is priceless.
  2. Breastfeeding! While it wasn’t clear if I’d be able to at all, and then whether I’d need to supplement forever, at around the two month mark – thanks to cosleeping, in fact – we were finally able to nurse exclusively. From that point on, it’s been invaluable to nurture Dalia both nutritionally and emotionally in my arms.
  3. Letting Dalia take the lead on her feedings. Introducing solids has been fun and fulfilling for the whole family, as we let go of our expectations of how a baby should eat, put safe “adult” foods in front of her, and let her show us how and what she wants to eat.
  4. Taking our infant to the potty! Reading up on Elimination Communication before Dalia’s birth, I skipped over all the yada yada about building a deep bond through pottying. Who are they fooling, I thought! But boy, knowing when she has to go and keeping our baby dry and happy are way more intimate experiences than we could have guessed.
  5. Tossing the disposables! While at first we were afraid of the work – and stigma – of cloth diapering, it’s incredibly gratifying to know we’ve reduced our landfill contributions to about one diaper per day. I’d like to go all the way, and am actively looking for a leak-free overnight cloth diaper, so any recommendations would be appreciated!
  6. Babywearing! How wonderful to be able to strap her in snugly under my winter coat and hit the road! Especially with a baby who hates the car and squeals when we take out the stroller, our beloved collection of carriers has increased our closeness and mobility. Beyond the practical benefits, the joys of “spoiling” our baby with all the in arms time we can give has been unmeasurable.
  7. Meeting like-minded parents! Since joining a group for AP moms, Dalia and I have met some amazing moms and babies who have paved the way for larger family friendships. Having a like-minded community of friends has helped us to bask in the wonder of parenthood and lean on a haven of supporters when questions or issues arise.

While each of these experiences has cracked us wide open for more and more love and closeness in a way we had not anticipated, the sum of the effect of our practices is worth way more than the individual parts. As we close the door on babyhood and enter toddlerhood together, I am confident in my ability to navigate our future as a mom. More importantly, my baby has confidence that she is loved, that her world is stable and secure, and that she can come back to us when she needs to recharge.

While AP isn’t for everyone, for those of us who know and love its practices, it can magnify – and multiply – the rewards of the parenting experience. I am grateful we happened upon this path, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The Practice of Attachment Parenting

There are days when I think to myself, “I shouldn’t call what I do attachment parenting – because quite honestly, today was anything but.”

I never thought of attachment parenting with any interest until about a year ago, right after Bella was born. Before that, I just knew I didn’t want to spank or hit, and wanted to treat my child with respect and dignity. I fell in love with babywearing along the way, and extended breastfeeding happened because it became a joy after the horrible months of reflux and colic in her infancy.

I began to find myself drawn into the attachment line of thinking once I knew I was going to be able to be a stay at home mom. I have always had a passion for working with children, from being a nanny to teaching – I would read constantly about how to be a better caregiver and educator. So it was only natural to start to think of motherhood in that way, and to decide what kind of a mother I wanted to be on a daily/hourly basis.
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