Giving thanks through presence and connection

SnowingI am grateful to be an Attachment Parent.

I don’t feel that we need to be labeled in order to define our type of parenting; however, being a part of a community with like-minded parents reminds me that I am not alone.

Yes, we are all different. We all choose to parent differently. The families we come from and the families we are raising conjure up many things around the holiday season. At least for me.

My favorite time of year is upon us, and yet, so much about it feels different. We spent Thanksgiving as a small group, and the missing pieces magnified the reality of what family looks like and what it has evolved into over time.

We all define and experience family differently.

As we come into this world, we are innocent, wide-eyed and unsuspicious. The world is uncontaminated, and our canvases are bare. We don’t know anything about pain, resentment, sadness, loss, judgement, hate. We don’t know what a label is or why anyone must define us by one. We come into this world needing and seeking a few simple things. We want to be loved, nurtured and heard.

We spend our lives wanting and needing to be heard and understood.

From the moment we first lay eyes upon our mother’s face, we feel we belong. We feel safe. We are home. From that point forward, through each experience, through all the light, through all the darkness, the ways in which we experience love and family evolve and take on lives of their own.

Decisions are made for us, separations disconnect us, rules and regulations attempt to govern us, facades deceive us, and choices divide us. Love runs through, and yet, something always seems to be missing. As we grow into adults, the need to be heard only grows stronger. We are often misunderstood and those feelings we are left with emerge into deeper cries for answers, for clarity, for truth.

Our innocence shifts at a certain point as we are exposed to the sometimes harsh realities of the world. Something happened, and we no longer felt good enough. Something else happened, and we thought we needed to be something or someone else in order to gain acceptance. We thought we needed to please and obey and squeeze ourselves into molds that the masses set before us. If you stray from that, you are different, you are weird, you are wrong.

Yes, this is what we are told and led to believe by the people who simply can’t bear the fact that we are not conforming to what makes everyone else comfortable. You are out of place, and you are displacing the system. Please get back in the queue and follow the leader, they say.

Although I never allowed myself to succumb to society’s desperate plight to mass-produce me, I was still greatly affected. I still am affected, and I know that this contributes to my quest for what this life is all about on a daily basis. Human, honest, loving, kind and meaningful connection is all I’ve ever wanted. It’s what I am most open to and in search of. In my journey through this life, thus far, I can tell you that it is through presence and connection that I experience the purest and truest love.

I am often discouraged by the highly opinionated, judgmental, divided, jump-on-the-Twitter-trend bandwagon mentality we are surrounded by. I find it difficult to even hear my own voice through all of the noise. I find it difficult to remain centered as I witness the constant debates telling you what’s right and wrong, black and white, acceptable and unacceptable. If we allow, the social media machines will infiltrate our lives with more stimulation than we can possibly process, and our connections to ourselves and those around us will be left with mere shadows and caricatures of who and what they once were.

Much research is taking place in the world of psychology and how it pertains to social media. In addition, many opinions are being shared these days, revealing narcissism as an epidemic based on those seeking acceptance via likes and feedback as they broadcast their points of view and selfies through the social network media megaphone.

I find it sad, even if data reveals it’s accuracy, that the Millennial Generation — although I don’t feel it’s limited to them — is now being labeled in this way, which only further instills the deep-seated insecurity and underlying feelings of inadequacy that so many of us struggle with.

The internet provides a stage and an audience at our daily disposal. Sadly, the constant need to be seen as the best, and the portrayal of a life that others envy and dream of, is a full-time job for many. Not much is private anymore, and nothing can really shock us. The praise and approval one thinks they are seeking often lead to emptiness and more insecurity.

This cycle continues, masked in a different face, and breeds more of what most of us struggled with growing up. We’re still working through the disharmony of it all.

There are certainly many benefits to social media. I just feel we need to take the time to encourage our youth to connect to what is true and real around us and allow for our own minds and voices to be clear amongst it all.

I love my boys with all of my heart. I am present to them, to their needs and to who they truly are as individuals and human beings. It is this presence that allows me to support, guide and nurture them along the paths they are meant to pave in their own lives. We spend a lot of time in nature, and it is there that I find we all gain the best education and connection with ourselves. We love exploring. We love adventures. Their imaginations are endless. We are free.

I believe it is every human’s right to be given the freedom to be themselves — to fully express and shine as their unique being, whatever that looks like. You are beautiful. You are enough. You are you.

I choose to exist in a world where personal relating and human connection are more prevalent than the fabricated, manufactured images we mistake for reality.

I sat down to write a piece about the holidays and what I am thankful for. This is what came out.

I believe the holidays can be a time of wonderful joy and togetherness, and they can also magnify the imperfections within your own family and the world around us. I am filled with love and gratitude, yet the lack of unity saddens me. It triggers the facts of my existence and inspires me to initiate change again. I wish things were different in certain areas. I wish we were all closer.

I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my husband and the greatest gift and honor of being a mother to our two sons. I am thankful for the food I eat and the roof over my head. I am thankful for my health and each breath I take. I am thankful for the depth of love and compassion I feel and am connected to. I am thankful to be a source of love for others. I am thankful for the service my family and I provide to those in need.

I am thankful for connection and for the many advantages the internet provides us with each day. Through this medium, I am able to relate openly and honestly. As I often say: When you hear me, I feel understood. I feel connected to the world. I believe this is all any of us want.

The name-calling, the labels, the fear instilled upon us, the animosity. Through it all, we will only grow stronger and continue to evolve into who and what we are meant to. I choose love and truth. Today and always.

Wishing you a delightful and compassionate holiday season.

sandy-signature

Cloth

Cloth NewJ

As I carefully held you, my little parcel, I remember wishing the cloth away, wishing that there was nothing between us. You see, we had been linked your whole life. I had felt every hiccup and every stretch.

As soon as I had the strength to sit up, I threaded you gently in between the lines attached to my IV sites and pressed you against my chest. But the clean crisp cloth felt like thick cold walls between us.

As the weeks went on, I wrapped you in cloths of many different colours and custom ties. You were fashionable, cute and cuddly. You were pink, blue and green. Yet amid the colours and patterns, I saw only your eyes, the soft sweep of your brow and the curl of first smiles.

Then we found stretchy cloth and it seemed never-ending. It took a hundred times of wrapping and unwrapping, tightening and loosening, before one day, I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror and realised that I hadn’t even noticed completing our cloth origami. And that is where you stayed. Snuggled into me and listening to my pulse, just as you had from your very first heartbeat.

In time, I could wrap you against me with my eyes closed…with both of our eyes closed.

We would face the winter like this, snuggled together, cosy and warm.

We would breeze through outings, walks and errands in exactly this position.  You, me and our cloth.

As you grew, the stretch seemed to shrink and new cotton was bought. This cloth was bright and strong…more supportive for a sleepy head to rest in. This was the first cloth that you asked for, that you spoke about and that you wrapped around your teddies.

What was once a barrier, cold and unknown, has become a link between us. It is handlebars for our journey, a shawl for warmth. It is easy. It is fun. It joins us as one, even though we are now separate, little one.

When you were born, they wrapped you in cloth, but you’ll be wrapped in my love forever.

 

Signed…Better Late Than Never

Hello all,

I wanted to share this letter below that I received today. I am deeply touched that this person, identity unknown, took the time to express himself so openly and honestly. I hope we can all read it and take something from it, whether we are parents or not.

 

Dear Sandy,

I’m probably not your average reader. I’m a single man without kids.

I take responsibility for the path I have chosen to follow in life and the dreams that have never come to pass because I have never followed them to see where they would lead. Still, there is a part of me that wonders how much different my life would be today if I had a mother who had loved me, the way you love your boys.

I wasn’t yet in the first grade and I remember going to bed at night, looking forward to the hugs and kisses my mom would give me. I loved her so much and couldn’t tell her enough times or kiss her cheek often enough. Then a moment would come, before bed, when she would tell me that she’d had enough and it was time for bed. I would ask her to tell me just one more time that she loved me and she would refuse, telling me that it was getting to be a bit much.

I would begin by asking nicely and when she refused to tell me that she loved me, just one more time, I would begin to beg, “mom, please tell me that you love me, please.” “No”, she would say. “Now go to bed and quit being a baby.”

I remember the feeling of going to bed wondering if I had upset my mom and if she even still loved me at all. In the morning, I would wake up and look for a smile on my mother’s face or a hug to reassure me that she did in fact still love me.

It was this one event that continually reoccured. She quit tucking me in at night because of the fuss it would cause and this is what began the deterioration of my self confidence. From that point forward I remember that I would never hear her say, “I love you” often enough. Even when she did say it, I doubted whether she really meant it or was just saying it so that I would behave.

The feeling of insecurity that comes from believing you must earn your mother’s love, is damaging beyond belief to a child. When I made this observation last week, I began crying uncontrollably.

I just want to say, “Thank you for showing me what love looks like.” From this one observation I have been able to take back control of my emotions and I have a confidence in myself that I have never had before. Now, for the fist time in my life I truly feel comfortable in my own skin.

Signed,
Better late than never.

Thank you, Mr. single man without kids, for your kind words and for allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I respect you for looking at yourself, and your upbringing, and for being open to learning and growing. I am so happy you are comfortable within your own skin and I wish you so much love and happiness in this life. We all deserve to be loved and I do believe that the need for LOVE begins at birth and continues on always. I am so delighted that you get to move forward and live your life from a different perspective and with a newfound confidence. Much Love and Respect.

Please always tell the ones you LOVE that you LOVE them. Please do your best to show it by being patient, respectful, loving and kind. We all need to hear it and feel it. I choose Love always and I am sending my Love to all of you.

Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

Today, guest blogger Ariadne Brill shares how she gently and sensitively transitioned her children to their first drop-off activity. 

Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

Lap Pool
flickr/jmamelia

by Ariadne Brill

Drop off activities can be such a fun and rewarding experience for preschoolers and school children. From dance camp to cooking class to swim team, most children love such activities.  Yet, sometimes children feel some anxiety surrounding the drop off and the time away from mom and/or dad.  The anticipation of separating from a parent can sometimes lead children to resist the transition time from home to the drop off activity, making the simple tasks like putting on shoes, to entering the building really difficult.  Some children are very verbal and may yell, others may cry, others may simply plant themselves stiff as a tree and simply not budge!

So what to do? I was once told to take the Band-Aid approach, set them off and walk away no matter what, but that just did not sit right with us as a family. So it got me thinking, how can I help my children gently but confidently transition from home to a drop off activity?

Listen

When my children were about ready to start swimming classes they were a bit apprehensive.   During our regular special time we had a chat to prepare for this new activity. In this time both boys told me some things they were worried about.  They didn’t know the pool, didn’t know the teacher, didn’t know where I was going to be and they were pretty sure they were going to be “way too hungry” when the class is over.  Armed with this information we made a plan and this is how it worked:

Preview

Knowing my children really wanted a chance to see what this pool was all about I set up a preview day with the swim center. We were able to see the locker room, the showers, the swimming pools, meet the teachers and just calmly take our time to see the place. In having a chance to look around, both boys were able to become familiar with the pool and on the first day of class it wasn’t all new and scary.

Meet-and–Greet

Aside from having a preview of the actual location, I made sure to set up a quick meet and greet with the swim teacher. Often for school and preschool students have a chance to meet their teacher ahead of time or use some sort of transition time attending school with mom/dad a few hours before braving it alone. Yet with drop off activities it’s often the case that children are expected to dive right in. I knew it would be important for us to trust and know the teacher before walking away from me. I explained this to the teacher who was very accommodating and more than happy to meet with us.

Make a Deal

Needing to know exactly where I was going to be was really important to my younger son. Having just turned four, he just needed some extra re-assurance that I would be nearby and definitely there at the end of class. We found a spot in the swim center that overlooks the pool where his class is and we made a deal. We would do hugs and kisses and he would go to his teacher. Then I would go to a spot watching over his class where he could see me. Over time, we have progressed to where I can wave to him at that spot and leave and return in time to watch “jumping” time at the end of the lesson.

Reconnect

When class is over, I make sure to be at the pick-up location right away where both boys can see me.  Even though it is evening and technically we should be in a hurry to head home, I try to make sure to greet each boy with a hug and asked them “How was class?” I like to keep the question open so they can feel comfortable telling me whatever they really think of the class. Once we have had a chance to re-connect I support the boys with whatever help they may need getting dressed (although unless there is a tricky button they do this on their own) and packing up.

Favorite Moments

One really empowering tool for both boys has been recalling favorite moments on the way to swim class.  After the first class the boys were generally happy but a bit shaky about the whole process.  We talked about how the class was and what if anything they had really liked about the class. The following week on the way to class I asked them if they remembered their favorites from the week before.  We started singing about them in the car “splashing, splashing, kicking, kicking, hello pool noodle” As the weeks progressed, the list of favorites got longer and longer and we review these in some fun way on the drive over each week.

Listening to the boys, being patient, giving the boys a chance to get to know and trust their new surroundings and new teacher has worked really well for us.  Oh, remember that the boys were worried about being hungry after class? We always make sure to bring a snack along!

So, have you tried any drop off activities with your child? How has the transition worked for your family?
Ariadne has three children, she practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne is a Certified Parenting Educator and the creator of The Positive Parenting Connection <http://positiveparentingconnection.net> She believes parents and children should try to have fun everyday and love life.

Bonding With Children at Every Age – Guest Post by Susan Stiffelman

Once past the early years, many parents come to API for information on how to continue raising children with attachment in mind. Today’s special guest blogger, Susan Stiffelman, explains how Attachment Parenting principles apply to the next phases of a child’s life.

 

Bonding with Children at Every Age

by MFT Susan Stiffelman

Most of us know that a secure attachment to an attuned parent contributes enormously to a child’s developing sense of self, emotional resilience, and capacity for intimacy. Research has shown that when a child forms a strong attachment with a stable and loving caregiver in the first five years of life, his psychological health will be influenced for the better.

But what if a healthy attachment doesn’t develop during a child’s formative years? Many parents worry that if mother was unavailable due to illness when she had her baby, or a child was adopted at age six, the window of opportunity for establishing a strong parent/child attachment will have been irretrievably lost, and their youngster will be incapable of forging deep attachments as an adult.

Alan Smoufe, Professor of Child Psychology in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota writes in March/ April 2011 Psychotherapy Networker, “Another important implication of attachment research is that it’s possible to develop a secure state of mind as an adult, even in the face of a difficult childhood. Early experience influences later development, but it isn’t fate: therapeutic experiences can profoundly alter an individual’s life course.”

In an ideal situation, the journey of attachment progresses smoothly from birth through young adulthood, empowering the child to venture forth into her ever-expanding world with a solid sense of self.

But it’s never too late to nourish a strong attachment with your child, regardless of his or her age. I have even seen profound shifts in the parent/child bond when the “child” was an adult. While there is plenty of evidence that the first years of life are critical when it comes to attachment, healing is always an option, even in a child’s later years.

Here are some tips for fortifying attachment with children as they grow up.

18 months:

Attunement is the key when bonding with an infant or baby. By letting your toddler know that you are present with him and reading his signals accurately at least most of the time, he relaxes into the safety of your presence.

Physical contact is a very important element in deepening attachment; cuddling and snuggling continue to help regulate a young child’s nervous system.

Your soothing voice is powerfully comforting. Sing, recite poems, or simply allow your child to bathe in the cadence of your calm words to strengthen connection.

5 years:

Play helps attachment deepen. Running, hiding, chasing and laughing all contribute to a stronger sense of connection between you and your child.

Physical contact is important, but make sure that all of you is available. Splitting your attention between your child and your Blackberry is not the same as being fully present with your child for at least a little time each day.

Seek out your child’s company (when she isn’t demanding it) with an invitation to do something unexpected, like playing a game of checkers or heading to the park. When you generously seek one on one time with your youngster, she feels liked, cherished and nourished.

10 years:

• Initiate a project that reflects one of your child’s non-academic interests, like drawing, baking or making music. This lets her feel you are genuinely interested in who she is, and who she’s becoming.

• Tell your child what—specifically—you like, love or admire about them. “No one tells a joke the way you do, sweetheart”, or “I love how patient you are with the neighbor’s little kids.” When a child feels seen by you for qualities that have nothing to do with accomplishments or achievements, it strengthens attachment.

• Listen to your child, and acknowledge the message underneath his words. If he knows you understand his emotional ups and downs—and can hear what he’s going through without jumping in with lectures or advice– it makes him feel close to you.

15 years:

Surprise your teenager with an unexpected “hookie” day, going somewhere neither of you have ever been before. Sharing new experiences is a wonderful way to fortify connection.

Shift your conversations from lectures and advice-giving to asking your teen’s opinions and ideas about a newsworthy or controversial topic, giving them the sense that you are genuinely interested in what they think and believe.

Show your teen that you are her ally, rather than adversary. If there’s a behavior or academic issue, approach it by coming alongside her, rather than at her with unwanted suggestions or demands. By feeling you’re on her side—even when things are rough—she’ll feel naturally connected to you, even if there’s conflict below the surface.

20 years:

Ask your adult son or daughter how often they’d like to be in touch, and respect their wishes, keeping in mind that frequency will change—often rapidly—depending on what they’re going through at any given time.

Stay connected with text messages or short emails with news from home that help your young adult feel close to you without feeling suffocated with long phone calls.

Don’t take a young adult’s infrequent contact personally. Make sure he hears the warmth in your voice when you do talk, and knows that you’re there in the background if he needs an emotional lift, while trusting him to rely more on himself to get through life’s ups and downs.

Every child—regardless of their age—longs to have a healthy connection with their parent. It is never too late to work on developing a deep connection with your children. My mom and I have grown enormously closer in the last few years, and she is in her eighties! So don’t give up if things between you and your child feel distant or awkward. Take one step at a time toward fortifying attachment, and you will both be richly rewarded.

 

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected, released in March, 2012 by Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. Ms. Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child therapist, a K-9 credentialed teacher, an educational therapist and a sought after parenting coach. Her approach focuses on helping parents be the calm, confident “Captain of the ship” that children naturally want to cooperate with, confide in, and respect. Susan is the weekly staff parenting expert (“Parent Coach”) for the Huffington Post where her columns have garnered an international following. Susan weighs in on issues relevant to every age group and demographic, ranging from toddler meltdowns, tweens who sass back, and teens who may be struggling with depression or substance abuse.. Susan periodically offers articles for Psychology Today, Gaiam, More.com and other sites.

 

The End of Extended Breastfeeding

A nursing 3-year-old doesn't look much different than an infant

In the attachment world, we hear a lot about the importance of breastfeeding. And lots of women breastfeed for an extended period of time.

In our culture, more than a year is considered extended breastfeeding. So that’s what we call it.

I just considered it breastfeeding. I was nursed until I was 3. My mother was a La Leche League leader when I was child, so I grew up understanding the importance of breast milk and hearing the “breast is best” message all my life.

What I never heard was that extended breastfeeding is hard.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I don’t regret doing it. I nursed my daughter for four years. She weaned in May on her fourth birthday. To be honest, it was my idea. I have no doubt in my mind that if it had been up to her, she would still be nursing at least once a day still.

But I was done. And for all intents and purposes, so was she. She just needed a little tiny bit of encouragement and I needed to set the boundary.

Here is a slightly edited version of the post I wrote right after we weaned. I feel it is an important one to share. Because even though I always knew I would breastfeed my child long before she was even born; and even though I never had any supply issues or trouble with latching, there were things about it that were hard. It was hard on my back. Hard on my breasts. And hard on my psyche. And it was totally worth it.

Here is the post written in May of 2012:

We are done. Finally. After four years, exactly four years. My daughter is done nursing.

We made a deal a few months ago that on her fourth birthday she would be done nursing.

It still trips me out that we nursed this long. Even for me, a kid who was nursed for at least three years, the idea of nursing a child for four years seems long to me.

Most of my attachment parenting mama friends weaned in between 2 and 3 or a little longer. But even in my circle of mama friends who nurse their babes way, way longer than the average American nursing mom, I am still an anomaly.

And, in case someone takes it the wrong way, I’m not bragging. It’s the opposite. It feels weird to think that I actually nursed my child this long, even though women around the world do it all the time and many cultures don’t think anything of it.

The truth is, I didn’t love nursing. When my daughter reached 18 months, I remember having thoughts of weaning. I was tired. But I knew that it couldn’t be done without lots of drama. I couldn’t traumatize her. This was one of those instances where some advice from another mom friend echoed in my head that said something to the effect of, “I have to remember who the adult is in this relationship.”

So the adult part of my brain pushed aside the cranky, selfish teenager and said, “You know she is not ready to wean.”

So we plugged away.

I fought it. I reveled in it. I loved it. There were moments when it was the only way I could make it through the day with sanity. And there were moments when I hated it because if I had to sit down one more time while I was in the middle of something else, I was going to scream. But then there were the moments when I was so happy that all I had to do was pop my boob out and five minutes later, heavenly sleep had descended upon my child.

And in the end, I was finally resigned to the idea that I was going to be a mom who nursed her kid way longer than most people. And I’m okay with it. I have a long, cozy relationship with being the odd woman out. It’s all good.

But we’re done. And I don’t really know what to say about it except that we’re done.

For the first week, there was a tiny part of me that whispered, “Keep going. You can do it. She’ll quit eventually on her own.”

That’s what I really wanted. But when she was an infant, which seems so very long ago, I imagined that would be sometime around the age of 2 or 3.

As time went on, I began to imagine that it would be around 3.

That birthday came and went without any signs of letting up. But for my own sanity, I had to set some limits.

She’s told me how much she loves mama milk. It tastes like ice cream, like strawberries. It’s so good, and right before she weaned, she’d been saying she wanted to nurse “forever and ever.” But she also wants to marry one of her female friends (which would be totally fine with me) and sleep at her school on the playground at night after everyone has gone home. She has no real concept of “forever and ever.”

It’s been almost two weeks since we nursed. She asked me last night if she could nurse and even begged a little. I stood firm. And for the first time since we began nursing, it felt like a solid boundary and not an arbitrary no. She didn’t like it, but she also didn’t get overly upset. It was almost like she was testing me.

So, it’s done. We are finally weaned. I don’t feel super emotional. I don’t think I’m hormonal. I’ve always heard of women who get super weepy and sad when they wean their kids. That didn’t happen to me.

I needed to just let Annika nurse as long as she really needed it. We made it. I made it. And in looking back, I’m super proud of myself for just letting it be for so long.

Baby: from Other to Teacher

If you survey mainstream Western baby-care advice from the past two centuries, you’ll see a common theme: the perception that babies are wild beings who need to be tamed in order to be incorporated into family life.

The concept of “otherness” is familiar in the history of humankind – it’s a driving force behind the identification of the great family of people into distinct races, nationalities, religions, etc. While what makes us different is cause for learning and celebration, fear often prevails, and what’s different can be seen as a threat.

What happens when we see the baby as the “other”? Practices like seeking to tame the baby’s needs by delaying physical contact, feedings, and sleep. An effort to distance oneself from the child so as not to identify with him and be manipulated by him. Sadly, these practices, which begin at a time when the need for bonding (not just the baby’s, but equally important – the caretaker’s) is so crucial, can set up a family for a lifetime of “otherness” whether in subtle or more obvious ways.

On the flip side, what happens when we begin to view our babies as our teachers? After all, our babies are most in touch with their individual needs and temperaments, and know how best to meet their physical and emotional needs.

When we view our babies as our teachers, we allow ourselves to experience the world as students, whether having our first baby or our tenth. We can be fully in the moment, not judging our babies but flowing with them. We open our eyes and hearts to subtle cues we might otherwise miss. We lay a solid foundation for our relationship with our children, which allows for deeper levels of connection and intuition.

For me, attachment parenting was the path that allowed me to see my baby as my teacher, and not the other way around. Every day I gain greater insight about my own limitations, and use my reverence for my daughter to stretch myself, so that I can be the mother she deserves.

Making the Best Sleep Choices for my Family

This week someone got in touch with me to talk about a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which suggests that there’s no long-term harm associated with certain methods of sleep training. These methods use controlled crying in order to encourage babies to fall asleep on their own. They followed two groups of babies at seven months – one of which used sleep training techniques, and one of which didn’t. They followed up with these groups at six years old, and found no statistical differences. Their emotional health, behavior and sleep problems were the same. As well, the mothers’ levels of depression and anxiety were the same.

Many of the newspaper headlines around this article suggested that this means that sleep training is okay, or recommended. These two methods, when practiced with seven-month-olds, don’t appear to cause brain damage, so why not use them?

I have two children, who are now four and seven years old. The days of being up all night with a baby are currently behind me. I remember them all too well, though. And I remember how I handled them. One of the eight principles of Attachment Parenting International is ensuring safe sleep, physically and emotionally. I tried to do that, by keeping my babies close to me at night, and responding to their needs. I didn’t do this because I was afraid of causing them brain damage, I did this because it’s what worked best for my family.

Day 16

The truth is that many, if not most, parents go through periods where they’re not getting enough sleep. We all handle this in different ways. This is as it should be, because every baby is different, and every family is different. Each child will learn to sleep independently on a different timeline. Even with my own two children, I’ve seen very different temperaments and developmental paths. As a result, I don’t believe there’s any single answer when your baby is keeping you up at night, including sleep training.

I also don’t believe that I should do something simply because it isn’t harmful. There are many things that simply aren’t right for my family, even though they’re safe. For example, I have rules about not eating food on the couch. This isn’t because my children will be damaged if they eat on the couch, it’s because I don’t want to clean it. In the same way, I have always known that I didn’t want to let my babies cry themselves to sleep. It’s not about avoiding harm, it’s about making the choice that I feel is best for my family. Listening to my babies cry wasn’t best for me, or my family.

As well, I think it’s important to point out something about this study. It looked at two very specific sleep training methods, used with seven month olds. It did not look at all methods, and it did not look at four month olds or two month olds or even younger babies. We can say that there aren’t any apparent negative long-term effects in this case, but this doesn’t mean that would be the case for any sleep training method with any baby.

There were hard nights as the parent of an infant, but looking back I can honestly say that I’m happy I didn’t let my babies cry it out. It wasn’t for my family. And one study can’t change that.

What methods have you found effective to help everyone in your family get enough sleep, other than using “cry it out”? And do the results of this study change your opinion on the method?