Connection after breastfeeding

One of the finer things in life is to be able to enjoy some luxury when you rest, and for human beings, rest is a necessary thing when we want our bodies to recharge and operate in an optimal capacity. That is why there really is no limit to splurging on stuff when you want to be comfortable in your bedroom. In fact, one of the things that you can splurge on is a back rest pillow that is not only practical, but luxurious in its capacity.

There are many kinds of backrest pillow available. You can take your pick among Amazon’s many choices. However, for the purpose of achieving a dual goal in comfort and therapeutic benefits, then the typical back rest pillow will have to have more features built into it.

One kind of backrest support that you can opt for is the one specifically designed to help improve your backs condition by ergonomic design to help with your posture and support your lumbar region. There are many people who suffer from chronic back pain, mainly due to poor posture, and sometimes from injury. Much of the advice a therapist or chiropractor will give to a patient will mean having to adjust previously unfitted pillows, beds, and cushions that do not provide support, to orthopedic pillows and mattresses that support the joints and the natural curvature of the body. The perfect backrest support with can mean that people can actually relax and not feel bodily pain after resting for a while, as well you can use stretches and movements to reduce you body pain, for this you can check Erase my back pain reviews and with the help of the professionals find the right technique to solved you body pain.

My 3-year-old daughter recently found our old nursing pillow from this pillow collection in the closet. It had been about a year since we finished nursing, so I was surprised when she said, “Remember I used to lay on this?”

She didn’t remember actually nursing, though, and when I told her that’s how I used to feed her, she had a lot of questions like, “Was the food on the floor?” I explained what nursing was, and she smiled and asked sweetly, “Can we do that now?”

While we couldn’t nurse, I did set the pillow on my lap and let her climb up on it. She lay there smiling up at me and started twirling my hair, her favorite relaxing activity.

I hear a lot of moms who are starting to wean worrying that they’ll be sad once they’re done nursing, or that they’ll miss this time for connection.

My daughter and I have found many other ways of bonding as she’s grown older. There are more “I love yous” and kisses from her and more time for playing her favorite activities one-on-one. We still lie together often and bedshare part of the night. While these activities aren’t quite replacements for nursing, they are wonderful ways that we can keep a strong attachment.

After she laid on the nursing pillow on my lap, we were able to play together for about 30 minutes while her brothers were playing on their own. She created a game for us where she’d pretend that it was nighttime and we would pretend to sleep, sharing a pillow and cuddling under the same blanket.

It’s nice for us to reminisce about the time we nursed and to remember that it was one of the ways that our attachment developed in her earliest years, but we’re still enjoying other opportunities for connection now. And I know that even when she’s older and these games are over, there will be other things to replace them, such as times where we can talk about her day at school or other one-on-one activities we can do together.

————-

Inspired to read more about breastfeeding?

API’s Breastfeeding Library

Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding

The Real Breastfeeding Story

A story of working and breastfeeding, and staying determined

Editor’s pick: To promote breastfeeding is to promote Attachment Parenting

4 ideas for gentle weaning

Morning cuddles: a story of child-led weaning

When Your Partner Wants You to Wean: Heart Advice for Nursing Mothers

5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

A Post We Love! I breastfed my preschooler for (somewhat) selfish reasons

Blog post we love badge jpgEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) is so grateful to the parents who share their experiences on this blog. Many of our writers have their own personal blogs where they share more about their unique brand of Attachment Parenting. We want to take the opportunity to highlight blog posts beyond API that capture the essence of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:

Today, we want to recognize a post written by Krystal Newton, a stay-at-home mom to 2 boys, on her blog, Mommy Laughs:

“I have been parenting the only way that feels right, and it just so happens to fall into the Attachment Parenting message. When I wrote this blog post, I wanted to reach out to women struggling with making the decision to breastfeed long-term. I want them to see that it’s a beautiful relationship and an opportunity to just take a step back, to settle down, and to have a few peaceful moments with your child.” ~ Krystal

krystal newton, mommy laughs, preschool post highlightI Breastfed My Preschooler For Selfish Reasons

… I don’t breastfeed my 3 year old for the nutritional benefits (though those are a plus) or to make a statement. I don’t breastfeed him, because it’s the only way I know to comfort him or because I refuse to let him grow up. I breastfeed my 3 year old, because in those short quiet moments, I have the ability to pause my hectic life and love him, snuggle him, and reminisce on our journey. It forces me to slow down and notice the little things: How his hair sweeps over his eyebrows, how the dimples in his hands are disappearing, how he smirks in his sleep, and how beautiful he is. These quiet snuggles are less frequent as he grows so incredibly independent. While the benefits of extended breastfeeding are endless, my reasoning for choosing to let Colton decide to wean are somewhat selfish in that I love nursing him just as much as he does…

Read the entire post here, and enjoy!

WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.

Editor’s pick: 6 evolved needs for healthy human development

“…we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.” ~ Darcia Narvaez, PhD, Notre Dame Psychologist, member of Attachment Parenting International‘s Board of Directors

The Attachment Parenting approach can be regarded as parenting guided by nature’s lead — being attuned to our own feelings and instincts as well as our child’s needs, such as following our natural instincts to breastfeed, respond to a crying baby and provide ample physical contact to a developing human baby.

Darcia Narvaez USE5Psychologist Darcia Narvaez has been conducting research on moral cognition, moral development and moral character. On her blog, Moral Landscapes at Psychology Today, she often writes about raising healthy, happy children and parenting. In her writing, she examines the importance of parenting practices that match up with our evolved needs. Narvaez refers to the Evolved Developmental Niche (EDN) as the early “nest” that humans inherit from their ancestors, which matches up with the maturation schedule of the child, emphasizing 6 components:

  1. Naturalistic perinatal experiences
  2. Responsiveness to a baby’s needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries
  3. Constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate
  4. Extensive breastfeeding
  5. Playful interactions with caregivers and friends
  6. A community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.

These evolved needs align with Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

This week’s featured article is a recent study featured in a report by WSBT Television and soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science. The study by Narvaes and colleagues Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng shows that childhood experiences that match with human evolved needs lead to better outcomes in adulthood.

In the study, adults reflected on the EDN in their childhood. The findings point out that children with parents who were affectionate, sensitive and playful developed into happier and healthier adults with better mental health — feeling less depressed and anxious — and better social capacity.

pixabay - newborn and dadAccording to Narvaez, one of the reasons that the well-being of children in the United States lags behind that of children in other advanced nations is because “we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.”

Young children’s needs and wants often get confused or misunderstood. Perhaps, with a clear understanding of the distinction between the two — needs versus wants — it may be easier for some to realize and accept the importance of meeting early childhood needs. Babies need — not merely want:

  • Their parents to respond when they cry at night.
  • Physical contact — to be held and get a lot of affection.
  • Their parents to be mindful and responsive.
  • To interact and play with their caregivers.

It is reassuring that, increasingly, scientific research shows what our instincts already know: Children need attachment, affection and sensitivity to thrive.

Learn more about how to discern between needs and wants with our infants and children with these API audio recordings — each just $9:

billsearsNeeds vs Wants: How to fulfill a child’s needs yet discern his wants in a way that preserves healthy attachment” with William Sears, MD

Jean_Illsley_Clarke_Photo“How Much is Enough? Attachment Parenting, permissive parenting and overindulgence” with Jean Illsley Clarke, PhD, CFLE

Angels on the Devil’s Backbone

I took a break from my worry and hiked the Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, Colorado. I saw a beautiful family; they were about 400 yards ahead of me, if you uncurled a track and rolled it out. This family screamed AP, although the only noises I heard were tree swallows singing, the quiet meadow hum, and the sizzle of cicadas.

The Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado
The Devil’s Backbone

 

The mother was wearing her newborn in a pink print sling, her hiking boots anchoring her strong mama legs; the father was holding his three-year-old son’s hand. They were beautiful.

Family hiking on trail
Family hiking on trail

 

I was visiting my mom in May of 2011. She was in the hospital, facing death.

We had had a scary close call. It came late Thursday evening at 10 p.m. from the nursing home. “Megan, this is John from Berthoud Living Center. Your mom has a high fever and is non-responsive. It doesn’t look good. You should get out here as soon as you can.”

I was on a plane Saturday.

My son had just turned one and we were actively breastfeeding. I say we because breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship. He was not only nursing, I was nursing him.

I had no choice but to pump, pray, and get on the plane.

I was desperately sad in so many hollows of my heart — cracks and fissures leaked for my mom, for myself, for my son. I had to leave my son to go to my mother.

I hated leaving abruptly. I was heartbroken that our symbiotic relationship would end. I felt as if my breast milk had tears.

We scurried around to pack my things and deal with last minute travel arrangements.

I took my shattered heart and stitched it together with my son’s laughter and my husband’s voice. My husband drove me to the airport in Raleigh. We had a forty-five minute drive. I had planned an attached good-bye — if there is such a thing. I planned what I thought was going to be our last breastfeeding session for early morning before we left. I was going to hold him closely in my arms, caress his loose curls, stare into his azure eyes, and fossilize this bond.

That didn’t happen.

What did happen was I jumped in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport and stuck my boob in his face, draining each engorged breast while he was strapped into his car seat as my husband drove ten miles above the speed limit.

This was it. I was heartbroken again. I had planned it differently.

The thing is, it doesn’t work the way we plan.

Damn it all to the Devil’s Backbone.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

***

I eventually caught up with the family on the trail at the Devil’s Backbone.

Newborn in a sling
Newborn in a sling

 

We stopped at the overlook and took in the beauty that is Northern Colorado. I had needed to get some time in just for myself. I needed to strive for balance, although it seemed in vain. I chatted with the family. They had never heard of Attachment Parenting, even though they were so very attached. The mama wore her baby, they both valued touch and responsiveness, and the mama was breastfeeding both children. We chatted some more and walked together to the lookout of the valley.

 

valley lookout

I am not saying there is a checklist or a way to qualify as an AP parent. I believe if you are trying to build and foster a connection with your children, then you are an AP parent. Many families that practice what is labeled AP have never heard of it. Sometimes a rose is a rose is a rose.

Life doesn’t happen in checklists, plans, or labels; it happens outside of those arenas — when the running track we race around is uncurled metaphorically and we just walk – we just be.

family walking back
Family walking back

 

I am thinking about this beautiful area now in Colorado — in the midst of its own natural disaster, in the midst of its own heartbreak.

Worry. Heartache. Joy. Such a cycle I live by as a mama, as a wife, as an aunt, as a sister. I am still a daughter, always will be, but my mama is in heaven now with my father. I wanted to call my mom desperately the other day, almost dialing the number I can not bear to delete on my cell phone.

My mom made it through that big scare in 2011. She was hospitalized just in the nick of time.

When we finally got her admitted to the hospital, she was hallucinating and said to me, “There are some folks from heaven here who want me to go with them.”

I said, “Tell them to take a number; I just got to town.”

She was dehydrated and had sepsis from a very bad urinary tract infection. She passed away on Christmas Eve the next year from sepsis.

My son and I continued to breastfeed for a year and half more after I returned.

We just can’t plan for it all. Life happens. As Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and had postpartum psychosis, said, “Life is a verb, not a noun.”

So I pray, smile, live, worry, pray, smile, live, and worry. I hope, wish, dream, be. I am going to harvest my worry and harvest my hope. What else can I do?

Colorado Beauty

There are ways to help Colorado. You can Google “Colorado Flooding: Ways to Help.” There are several links to various organizations, including The Red Cross. There is also Facebook group called Colorado Flood Relief.

 

 

Red Rose of St. Therese

Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week 2013For so many women, breastfeeding was the turning point for our journey into Attachment Parenting. And one organization whom many of us have to thank for our introduction to both breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting International — certainly in the case of API’s cofounders whose roots were here — is La Leche League International.

Dr. Jeanne Stolzer, Professor of Child and Adolescent Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, USA, whose research is known worldwide as an intelligent challenge to the current Western medical model that seeks to pathologize normal human behaviors, including breastfeeding, too, shares her beginnings in LLL. I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago.

“Most people think that because of the research I do, I was raised in a granola-eating, breastfeeding, bare-footed family,” said Stolzer. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. The first breastfeeding baby I ever saw was when I was 18 years old, and I was mortified. Five years later, I saw a woman with a PhD breastfeeding a three-year-old, and my immediate response was, ‘What was wrong with her?’”

Some years later, Stolzer herself was expecting a baby when a friend encouraged her to attend a LLL meeting.

“I was very reluctant, but I went,” said Stolzer. “I instantly felt like I was with kindred spirits.”

LLL led Stolzer to begin educating herself about breastfeeding. As she remembers, “I was reading and reading all this stuff and was getting madder and madder: Why didn’t my mother know this? Why didn’t my friends know this? And, gosh darn it, why didn’t my doctor know this?”

Where Did the Mammal in Us Go?

“For 99.9% of our time on this earth, we have been hunters or gatherers and we have been practicing esoteric mammalian parenting,” Stolzer said, meaning non-medicalized births, breastfeeding, and staying in close proximity to our babies. “Look at what, in just 100 years, we’ve done: We’re supposed to be the top mammal on the planet, but we’ve managed to completely erase the mammalism in our lives.”

Conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are intricately linked together as one continuous process to give each baby the best start in life, Stolzer explains.

“Most people see these as separate. They’re not,” she said. “If you mess with one, you risk throwing off the whole connection.”

While there are a very small number of females in every mammal species unable to get pregnant, the United States has the highest infertility rate in the world among humans. But is there any wonder when we stop to look at what Western cultures are doing to the birthing and breastfeeding functions of this process?

Stolzer finds it comical that most mothers won’t touch a cigarette or a caffeinated drink while they’re pregnant – which is commendable – but then have no problem in going to a hospital and having powerful narcotics mainlined into their arm during labor and birth. In the United States, 38% of women are getting Cesarean sections when, naturally, only 1 to 3% of births might actually require medical intervention.

Then, mothers and their newborn babies are, more often than not, separated immediately after birth. If mothers are able to give birth vaginally, she is flooded with hormones – but by separating the mother from her baby, that hormone flow is interrupted. If the breastfeeding relationship isn’t challenged enough by separation, then it has to overcome the ordeal of a hormonally-deficient mother and a drug-affected baby. “It takes 138 muscles alone in the jaw to nurse, and if you’re drugged, they won’t work,” Stolzer said.

The truth is, most Western physicians are not educated in breastfeeding. To be so, they must go on to continuing education because medical schools don’t teach lactation.

“I think women do the very, very best they can, with the information they have at the time,” Stolzer said. “Breastfeeding decreases all forms of hospitalization, death, and prescription drug use. That’s amazing, but how many women who are formula-feeding know this?”

Introduction of Formula-Feeding

Formula was developed with the mechanization of the dairy industry, derived from whey, a byproduct of processing cow milk.

In 1910, only 2 to 13% of mothers formula-fed. After World War I, that statistic jumped to 65 to 70%, and the impression was that only the poor and the immigrants had to “resort” to breastfeeding. Formula-feeding had become a state symbol of wealth, and physicians were supporting that formula-feeding was superior to breastfeeding. The lesson learned here, says Stolzer, is to question your societal trends.

“Formulas are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “Look at who’s funding every study: If it’s a pharmaceutical company, don’t even read it – it’s propaganda.”

In reality, human milk is far better than any substitute milk. Human milk changes with each child, depending on the needs of that particular child during a particular time of the day, during a particular age of that child. Human milk – and breastfeeding, for that matter – quite simply, can’t be duplicated.

“Pumped milk is infinitely better than formula,” Stolzer said. “However, it would be a scientific fallacy to say that pumped milk is the same as milk from the human breast,” because of how breastmilk changes throughout the day, not to mention that feeding by a bottle misses the intricacy of the relationship aspects of breastfeeding.

Human milk is a dose-responsive specific variable, meaning the response is specific to the dose – or that the more that a baby is breastfed and the longer a baby is breastfed, the more benefits that breastmilk affords to the child, and the mother. Research that began in the 1920s clearly shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of myriad physical and mental health conditions for both baby and mother – both through protective antibodies and enzymes, and the oxytocin and prolactin “love” hormones secreted with each breastfeeding interaction.

“Choosing not to breastfeed brings a halt to oxytocin and prolactin. This brings on the grief response in mammals,” Stolzer said. “That’s why we have 40 to 60% postpartum depression rates in this country – because the body believes that we’re grieving.”

In addition, it’s important to note the differences between cows and humans on an animal level. While both are mammals, humans and cows are not the same. Basically, there are two types of mammals on the earth:

  • Caching – i.e., cows. These mammals give birth to young who are, soon after birth, able to walk, regulate their own temperature, and be left alone for periods of time while the mother forages for food. Feedings are meant to be spaced to allow this, and therefore, the milk produced is high-protein and high-fat.
  • Carrying – i.e., humans. These mammals give birth to young who are unable to walk, regulate their own temperature, or stay quiet for long periods of time alone, and therefore must be kept in close physical proximity to the mother. Feedings are meant to be continuous and on demand, and the milk produced is low-protein and low-fat.

Quite simply, cow or soy milk formula would not be as good as human milk.

“It makes sense: We have such a different brain than a cow, and a soybean doesn’t even have a brain,” Stolzer said.

But mothers continue to treat their babies like that of caching mammals. This is evident not only in formula sales – it’s a $1 trillion industry – but also in the recent boom in sales of helmets meant to reshape the heads of babies who have flattened on one side because the baby spends more time lying down than being held.

Another important argument against formula-feeding is the increasing rate of food allergies in Western cultures. “The number-one allergen in human populations is dairy products,” Stolzer said. “The number-one ingredient in formula is dairy. Of course, we’re doing this.”

Extended Breastfeeding is Superior to Cultural Breastfeeding Standards

According to World Health Organization recommendations, babies must be breastfed at least two years to obtain optimal benefits. Developmentally, human children are designed to breastfeed well over two years of age. For example, permanent molar eruption doesn’t occur until the child is five to seven years old. In another example, a child’s sucking needs last for three to seven years – evidenced by prolonged thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and hair-sucking in older children.

The average breastfeeding weaning rate worldwide is three to four years. In the United States, weaning typically happens at only six weeks old, the time when women return to work outside the home. The breastfeeding research knowledge available clearly shows that if all women in the United States breastfed for just six months exclusively, the nation would save $3.6 billion a year, mostly in health care costs and time spent paying parents for sick time to stay home to care for their children. If they breastfed exclusively for one year, that savings would climb to $7 billion a year.

“Five thousand to 6,000 years ago, mothers were breastfeeding their children until about seven years old. They were ensuring the survival of the human species,” Stolzer said. “Not only is the human brain not done growing until the child is five to seven years old, but the human immune system is not fully developed for five to seven years.”

Breastmilk naturally has more antibodies available for the older child, because babies are designed to always be with their mothers. That’s why breastfed babies in child care centers still get sick – the antibodies in their mother’s breastmilk are designed to ward off family germs, not from the whole community. The antibody load naturally increases as the child becomes more mobile, Stolzer explains.

It’s time that Western cultures quit playing it safe when it comes to educating women about breastfeeding, Stolzer says. The benefits of breastfeeding are consistently dependent not only on the frequency and intensity of each nursing session but also on the duration.

“We used to tell women that any breastfeeding was good, but the truth is, for a baby breastfed for two weeks, his immunity looks the same as a baby never breastfed,” Stolzer said.

Worth the Work

One of the concerns of practicing Attachment Parenting is the physical work involved in the beginning, at a time when the baby’s natural sleeping and feeding schedule is so contrary to the parents’ pre-baby schedules. But Stolzer encourages parents to stick with it.

“I know it feels really intense right now – and it is really intense right now – but in the time between birth and death, this really intense time is very small,” she said. “Attachment Parenting does not ensure that babies won’t cry or make choices that will hurt you or make you so mad you could flip – but if you lay that foundation with Attachment Parenting, that path [of loving interaction] will always be there for them to find again.”

What About Bob?

I don’t know how Bob got the name.  Something about Bob wanting to break up with Ben, my son. I said it in jest and it just took. During the times I didn’t want to breastfeed, somewhere between a meltdown and bad day, I would say to myself or maybe even out loud, “Ben — Bob wants to break-up with you.”   Some days  I will be honest, I hated breastfeeding.  I wanted to slip out the back Jack, make a new plan, Stan…”  but I continued breastfeeding because I finally got to a place where I trusted my instinct and my choices.  I knew that Ben would decide when it was time to end breastfeeding.  I dropped the worry.  I dropped the internal criticism.  I just followed my heart.

Photo by Megan Oteri

I had a hard time with breastfeeding at first.  It was awful. Nipple scabs. Bloody nipples.  Pain.  PAIN. And more pain. I remember being determined to make it work, but it was awful.  Those first weeks of breastfeeding were some form of torture.  When my son latched on, it was so painful.  I felt like my nipples were rocks with the sensitivity of an ocean full of neurotransmitters right to my breasts and nipples.

We got through it.  I called La Leche League. I called friends. I called my mom.  But I felt like a failure. Nobody had told me it would be this hard.  Nobody mentioned my nipples would have scabs and bleed.  My husband came home with four different bags of candy on a particularly hard day. In his hands, he held two bags of  candy, creams, Soothies (gel like cooling pads you place over your nipples) — and kindness that can not be measured.  He was also draped in some sort of patience suit — he had to have been because I was not at my best those early weeks of breastfeeding.  He hugged me. He kissed me.  He knew this was something he could not empathize with, but he did offer sympathy.  I devoured the bags of candy.  Then I put on the cream and placed the Soothies over my breasts.  I had a sense of relief for about fifteen minutes, until the next time my son wanted to breastfeed.

My son and me.

I did it all wrong.  I had no clue what I was doing.  I had never heard of Attachment Parenting.  The lactation consultant that the hospital sent over to do a check-in at the home made a ten minute stop at my house.  I stumbled to the door and managed to say hello. She gave me a hand held breast pump, quickly explained how to use it and sat with me on the couch for five minutes watching me breastfeed.  I was desperate for information.

“Is this the right position?” I asked impatiently.

“Yes,” she offered.

“Are you sure?”   I was so desperate — so clueless.  So hormonal.  OK — I was crazy.  I hadn’t slept in a week.  As they say in the South, I was a hot mess!

“Is this the easiest way to breastfeed?” I asked, hoping to dig an answer out of her.

“Yes,” she offered again, this time checking something off on her clipboard.

“Can you please show me an easier way to breastfeed? I feel like I am doing it wrong.”

“You’re doing it right.”

She showed me the football hold, telling me this may be easier for me.  As my son fumbled in my arms, I felt foreign in my own body.  I felt clumsy, unsure, and awful.

Why does it feel like I am doing it wrong? Why does it hurt so much? I wanted to ask.

She left my house. I wanted to scream at her, “Get back over here. We’re not done here. In fact we have not even started. Cancel all your appointments — you are mine for the afternoon.”  But I said goodbye and she went on to the next home, the next mom, who was probably just as afraid and insecure as I was.

I called La Leache League immediately after she left and was hysterical, gasping into the phone.  I think I thought they too were the enemy and asked them a slue of questions, ending each one with, “You guys probably think I am doing it wrong.”

For some reason they were the enemy. My own breasts were the enemy. The nipples scabs were the shrapnel wounds.  My own son, the heavy artillery.

My son, Ben

So, what did work? How did we get to a happy healthy breastfeeding relationship?  I worked at it.  I suffered through the pain.  I called my friend, Debra — who nursed all her children until they were three. She sat with me while I nursed.   She watched me.  She assured me I was doing it right.  I finally allowed myself to believe her.  She was very honest. She told me it would hurt until Ben and I got used to each other.  She said it took time.  It was something new for the both of us.  He was learning how to breastfeed, just as much as I was learning to breastfeed.

I went to a local nursing mothers support group.  We sat in a circle with our newborn babies — staring at each other and our babies.  I broke the ice by saying, “My boobs feel like they are going to explode.”  Then we all exchanged stories, fears, laughter, tears.  A good friend of mine who was in my Lamaze class suggested I switch my nursing pillow. I ditched the one I was using and took her suggestion.

During the first few weeks, I used to set the alarm for every three hours, then take my Moses Basket filled with pillows, blankets,  my safety pin (to remind me where I had nursed last), and the notebook where I wrote down every detail of how long my son nursed for. The basket held my pillows, the Boppy, and the nipple cream; it held my insecurity.  I would slather on the cream, turn on the light to the living room, and arrange my pillows so I could start nursing.  It was three AM might I add. And I insisted on turning on the living room light. I was so rigid.  I was unable to let myself flow in this breastfeeding relationship. It had to be by the book, but I had no book to follow.  I should have read more. I should have practiced.  I should have…I should have…kept ringing in my ears. I had never heard of Attachment Parenting.  I was determined to do it by the book. I even called a friend to ask her about using a pacifier.  “I don’t want him to get nipple confusion.” We had an awkward conversation, filled with frantic questions, but answers seemed so far away.  I felt alone and lost.

My friend, Debra, who came over and supported me with her smiles, tender looks, and approving nods, just said simply, “Why don’t you nurse him in your bed?  Let’s try it. It is much easier lying down.”

I said, “No way, he is NOT coming into our bed. I might roll over him and crush him.”

She just smiled.  I knew she knew something I didn’t.  I was so determined to use the football hold and the across my chest hold.

Organically, Ben found his way into our bed and we co-slept as a family.  I did not roll over him; I did not crush him. In fact, my husband commented on how protective I was of him when we slept, with my arm arching over him like a rainbow.

Photo by Megan Oteri

The truth is, I had to go back to work when my son was four months old; I was exhausted waking up in the middle of the night. I stopped setting my alarm every three hours and learned to trust the fact he would cry when he needed to be fed.  He did.  We figured it out.  Along the way, I learned to trust my own instincts. I became the gardener in our organic garden of mother and son.

Photo by Megan Oteri

We learned together and found our way.

I told my friend, Debra,  that there was no way my son would reference my breast by name. There was no way.

She told me a funny story about her three year old having a temper tantrum over wanting Ninny. Her daughter was eating spaghetti by the handful in her high chair.  Messy red clumps of sauce on the floor, on the chair, on her hair.  Her daughter called out, “Ninny, Ninny, Ninny. I want Ninny.”

Well, now that my son is two and half, he often would ask for the breast by name. In this case, “Bob.”  He would say, “Bob inside.  Can I have milk inside Bob?”  Bob became his comfort,  his nurturer, his friend.  We decided that we would stop breastfeeding when Ben was ready.   Ben has recently stopped.  He sometimes lays his head on my breast, smiling and patting Bob.

 

 

Observations in Attachment Parenting in Bangladesh – Guest Post by Annie Urban

Around the world, parents love their babies. They do what they think is best to keep them safe, to nurture them, and to help them grow into exceptional human beings. In many Western countries, attachment parenting is being celebrated as a positive choice that parents can make, while in may traditional cultures it is what they’ve been practicing all along.

In September, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Bangladesh with Save the Children Canada to visit their health and nutrition and education programs. While the main goal of the trip was to understand the needs of children in those countries and have the opportunity to observe the positive results that Save the Children’s programs are having, I found it fascinating to be able to observe similarities and differences in parenting styles and choices.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to spend enough time with families there to get an in-depth understanding of their parenting styles, there were some observations I was able to make as it relates to some of the principles of attachment parenting.

Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting: A lot of remote communities in Bangladesh haven’t had access to health workers or authoritative health information to help women in the community to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting. Women have given birth at home, on dirt floors, without a trained birth assistant present. Through Save the Children Canada’s programs, communities are able to found birth centres that act as a central point to care for midwives to care for mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. The health workers there visit mothers at home during their pregnancies to check in on them and educate them. These communities have also established community action groups and engaged community volunteers to help identify health problems that mothers and babies are facing and to find ways to address those through education and care in their communities.

Feed with love and respect: According to the WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding, 98% of babies in Bangladesh are breastfed and the average age of weaning is 33 months. Dig even deeper and you’ll see that 95% of one year olds are still being breastfed as are 91% of two year olds. I was incredibly impressed with these statistics. The idea of a mother being unable to breastfeed is foreign to them because it is so rare that significant breastfeeding problems occur. Breastfeeding is a part of their culture and formula is something that is unnecessary and unaffordable for most. Breastfeeding on cue is the norm in Bangladesh and if anything mothers there need to be taught about the importance of introducing solids at the right time instead of relying on just breast milk to meet the baby’s nutritional needs for too long.

Use Nurturing Touch: One of the ways that women around the world keep their babies close to them is through babywearing. Many traditional cultures have types of wraps or carriers that they use and a lot of those have been adapted and adopted in Western cultures. I was curious to see how the moms carried their babies in Bangladesh and was surprised to find out that they don’t use carriers at all. It isn’t that they were using strollers (they weren’t) or that the babies weren’t being held (they were). But whenever I saw babies they were being carried on a mom’s hip or sitting on a mom’s lap. When I asked why no carriers, I was told that it just isn’t part of their culture and that there are always enough hands around (grandmothers, aunts, friends, etc.) that when the mother needs to put the baby down to do something, someone else can hold the baby. That made a lot of sense to me within a home or community environment, but I have to admit I was tired just watching some of these moms walk along long paths or roads with a large baby on their hip supported by their arm.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Cribs? What cribs? In all of the homes that we visited in Bangladesh, it was a given that the mom would sleep with the baby. In fact, most homes had only one or two rooms and the whole family slept together in one bed. Educational materials around breastfeeding always picture the mom lying in bed with the baby to nurse at night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care:  In most families and in the Bangladeshi culture, it seems as though consistent and loving care is the norm. Babies are kept close and as they get older, they are given more independence and responsibility, but families remain very close with everyone living in one small space and often working together in the family business. Unfortunately, for some families, that isn’t the reality. If they cannot afford to feed all of their children, they may send some of them away to work as servants (child domestic workers) in another family’s home, often far away. Those children may be sent away as young as six years old, will have no regular contact with their families back in their village, and are often mistreated and abused by the families they are working for.

Overall, from what I saw in Bangladesh, the principles of attachment parenting are very much a part of their culture. They are very community-minded and the village steps in to help raise children in a nurturing environment, helping them to overcome some of the challenges to attachment parenting that are created by the isolation of the nuclear family in Western cultures. The challenges they face are due to the dire economic circumstances that sometimes prevent them from being able to parent in the way that they would like, creating a lot of heartbreak for families and having dire consequences for children.

The good news though is that the work that non-profit organizations like Save the Children are doing in Bangladesh is having exceptional results. The programs are designed in a way that fits with the local culture and that is sustainable, so that communities can take control of their own health, education and destiny.

For more information

Save the Children Canada

Getting Results for Maternal and Child Health in Bangladesh Through Community Empowerment.

More on breastfeeding in Bangladesh

More on child domestic workers 

Save the Children Canada’s health and nutrition programs for mothers and children

 

Annie has been blogging about the art and science of parenting on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women and children. She uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and to advocate for change, calling out the government, corporations, media and sometimes other bloggers for positions, policies and actions that threaten the rights and well-being of parents and their children

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