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.

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

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

rita and kids

I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

A Mother to Mother Conversation With Mayim Bialik

“…neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true.”

We know of Mayim as Blossom, the Mayim who earned a PhD in neuroscience, Mayim as Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit TV series, Big Bang Theory. She adds “author” to her impressive list of titles with her new book, Beyond the Sling, scheduled to release tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Mayim Bialik about her new book and her preferred role, Mayim the attachment mother.

First, I’d like to hear how your book came about.

I’ve been the spokesperson for Holistic Mom’s Network for a while now, and I started writing for this website called Kveller.com, and I guess sort of became this unofficial spokesperson for a style of parenting that I don’t see as particularly bizarre or strange at all. But obviously it’s really out of the norm of the way a lot of people parent. And so honestly, I was kind of just asked to write the book.

I was being interviewed by an actress named Theresa Strasser. She’s a comedian and she had just written a book about pregnancy, and she said to me, I would never want to parent the way you do and I think it sounds ridiculous in theory, but, she said, the way you talk about it makes it sound so not judgmental and it actually sounds like it makes sense even if I wouldn’t choose it. My book agent wants to talk to you. And I’m thinking, book agent? I spoke to him, and four months later we had a book proposal. Kind of an unlikely way to write a book, but I basically wrote the lifestyle that me and all my friends and everybody at Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League sort of know about but I guess once you put a celebrity name on it people will pay attention. I don’t know, I guess that’s the sad state of our culture.

It seems like it covers a lot of myth vs. fact, a lot of, the why behind outward appearances. What do you think people most misunderstand about attachment parenting?

I think people misunderstand a lot of things about the kind of children that people think you raise if you practice AP. People think that my goal, or anyone’s goal who parents this way is to raise spoiled, manipulative, whiny children who are clingy and never gain proper independence. But I think also one of the main things of the book is trying to take on is, not that you need a PhD in neuroscience to write a book about parenting or to be a parent, but that neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true. And that attachment parents don’t choose this because we’re lazy, or because we don’t know how to get our kids out of our bed, or because we don’t know how to say no to them when they keep asking to breastfeed. So I think the notion is that this is a conscious choice and parenting philosophy that is believed in. It’s not passive parenting, it’s not lazy parenting, and it’s not careless. It’s very conscious and concerted.

And there are a lot of different ways to do it! There are families with a lot of structure and discipline that also are attachment parenting families and there are families that are a lot more permissive. It’s a broad term that really describes a lot of people.

What is your biggest parenting challenge going on right now?

[Laughs] Um, how to pick? We don’t have easy kids. A lot of people think I have easy kids simply because they seem easy, but they’re high-needs kids. As anyone with a high-needs baby or child knows, it takes a lot of work to keep that going, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much more attention to give. But I’m getting clear signals that they need more attention and it’s a huge challenge and especially, my husband’s home with them when I’m working, so I’m here even less than I need to be. But there’s still so much that needs to get done. I joke with friends of mine, we say, how can they need more attention? I’m giving them all I have!

Having so much on your plate, author, blogger, neuroscientist, homeschooler,  and obviously Big Bang Theory, and with attachment parenting being the most hands-on parenting philosophy, at least the most hands-on I know of, how do you strive for balance? That’s one of the attachment parenting principles, so what do you do for Mayim?

I try and find small, not time- or money-consuming ways to kind of replenish. I think we’re in an unusual situation where I was the primary caregiver, you know, hands-on, 24/7 for years, and it’s only recently that I’m working and my husband is the one home. So I think it’s important also, for the primary caregiver which is my husband at this point to also find ways to replenish. So, I think he feels that sometimes I get to leave the house, and that’s my replenishment.

But I think that in weeks that I’m off, and all of those times that I am just me with them – I don’t do a lot of social things, I don’t go out a lot with girlfriends, I read, I study a couple times a week with a Jewish study partner, which is an intellectual exercise and also a social one. And I do small things. Like simplifying life so I can catch up on things that make me feel organized and like the house is in order. So for me, sometimes it’s relaxing to know that, like last week me and the boys, we re-did all of their little shelves where they keep their clothes. And things like that give me a sense of peace and balance because it’s one less thing that I have hanging over me.

You mentioned your husband is staying home with the kids full-time. The traditional role has the man as provider and the woman as caregiver. How does he handle that, and how does the family handle that?

It’s unusual for sure. It’s still an adjustment for him. It’s an adjustment for the whole family, but now that Fred is now out of the stage where he’s breastfeeding as much as he had been, it’s much easier. My husband has always been super supportive of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. And Fred does still nurse, but he’s not at the point where I’m pumping anymore, which I think is in some ways easier for my husband. He has more autonomy, now that he’s settling in and now that they’re both older and they can do more active field trips together and that the day is not dictated by naps, you know, for the little one.

This particular unit study is about medieval England. This unit study is called Time Capsule: Medieval England by Michelle Caskey. There are daily lessons to keep your children engaged and learning for 12 weeks (300 activities in all)! For each day you also have a variety of activity options to choose from to suit your child’s interest and needs. The unit study also includes a supplies list and suggested reading list.

In this unit study your child will experience being:

  • A Peasant in Medieval England
  • A Tradesman/Tradeswoman in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Lady-in-Waiting in Medieval England
  • A Monk/Nun in Medieval England
  • A Baron/Baroness in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Queen in Medieval England

Your child will get to create and wear peasant clothing, listen to Old English, go on a field trip to a local farm, one of my kids has dyslexia so when i try to find a place to go i make sure they have  dyslexia tutors to give to children with dyslexia where they can , learn to whittle, make a water clock, design their own castle, make a medieval battle axe, and much more.

While these activities would be fun for boys OR girls, they are especially suited to active boys. Not only will they be reading and writing, but doing lots of fun physical activities too.

I read that you’re the only parent on the cast of Big Bang Theory. What’s that like?

Many of our writers have kids, and I’ve actually done a little lactation consulting, on the side I guess, for one of our writers in particular. As it is, when you’re the only in a group of friends to be the first to have kids, it’s a little bit like being an alien species. And I think also, until you have kids, you can’t imagine how much of a part of your brain and your heart are always devoted to them, no matter what you’re doing. I can argue a lot of things about a lot of different styles of parenting, but I will say that when you choose this path, it really is a constant part of you in ways that sometimes I meet other parents who don’t feel that way. I meet a lot of people who say, I’m happy for someone else to handle them. I’m not really thinking about it, it takes a village, and I don’t want to be involved. For me, that’s not our choice. I always miss my kids in a very specific way.

What do you do when you mess up – when you’re short with your child, when you find yourself yelling and kind of losing it? What do you do to repair that relationship?

I guess I’ve been told it’s called a “mommy time out.” I need to know, literally, when to shut my mouth and walk away, meaning to stop the, you know, bad mommy behavior. And I think promptly admitting you’re wrong to your child is extremely powerful. I think I make a very very conscious effort to not make excuses when I apologize. Meaning, I don’t say, I yelled at you because, or I’m angry at you and I used harsh words because you blah blah blah. There are times to explain to a child why or how there may have been a trigger situation but when you’ve hurt a child I believe very strongly all that needs to be communicated is that your intention in life is not to hurt them, and that you feel bad and will do things to not repeat that with them.

And you cannot apologize to a child as if it’s a spouse. They’re not on the same intellectual or emotional level. That’s something I try really hard – I try to do that with adults too! To say, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, is different than, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry but, you’ve really let me down, you know?

And I think also, something I try and do is I try and, especially with our oldest son who’s six, I’m not afraid – well, I’m afraid and I’m not afraid to try and be real with him and tell him, Mama messed up. Mama doesn’t know how to be the mama of a six-year-old except through this experience and we’re trying, and I’m learning. That’s one of my favorite things I say to them. I’m learning too. And I’m not perfect.

And I’ll make a joke out of it too, I’ll say, I know you think I’m perfect because I make the best pancakes, but I’m not. So a little humor also can take the edge off, so that you can have access to them because they put up a wall when they’re hurt. It’s what people do. It’s protective.

What do you say when people negate your parenting style?

I think with my first I was very sensitive and I was defensive and I questioned a lot, and I doubted myself, but for me a big part has been to find a community of like-minded parents and that’s sort of what API and places like API are doing. Once you have that support and you can have your behavior normalized, it really can give you a lot of strength.

And now I’ve learned which battles to fight and which not to fight. And even with family members, even well-meaning friends, I’ve learned a couple key phrases, like, “it’s working for us,” or, “thanks for your thoughts,” or “I guess we all get to do it our own way,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” But I really don’t get into the complicated discussions with people, especially when I can tell that they only want you to have their opinion. Because some people want to have a healthy debate, or they’re interested in decisions and why you make them, but a lot of people really just want to be right, and I don’t always have to have that conversation.

You mentioned the organizations that support you, such as API. What individuals make up your support system? Who are your rocks?

I have a group of girlfriends, who we kind of formed a renegade mom’s group and I single them out in the book. One of them is actually my friend who took the photographs for the book. She took the cover photo and, she’s one of those people. I have one La Leche League leader and mentor in particular who I kind of go to for all things even beyond breastfeeding, and she’s sort of my attachment parenting, well, everything. That’s pretty much it. I mean, we have a small circle. I do participate in La Leche League still and Holistic Moms’ Network events and things like that, but for me to have three people, three women in my case that I know I can turn to, even if they don’t agree or do it the same, I think that’s been the most helpful.

I personally struggle with this: how do you just do your thing without making other moms feel like you’re judging what they’re doing?

I know that other people’s opinions are none of my business now. And if people have guilt, it’s not for me to either create or take away. I simply keep it within my circle of my family, and know that what’s working for us works.

I had dinner the other night next to a very prominent celebrity mom and she was there with her nanny, and her two kids and I was there alone with my two kids, and it was very friendly and very nice, but I was kind of wondering, does she look at me and think, how’s she doing it? Why am I not doing that? Why can she do it? Do I even what to do what she’s doing? And I looked at her and I was kind of wondering, wow, that would be really nice to have an extra set of hands right now!

But again, I learned early on that you never know what goes on in people’s families or what they need, or why they’re doing what they’re doing or not doing what they’re doing, so I really try to mind my own business. I mean, honestly I try to mind my own business and I also make sure to use general concepts and phrases that I do believe are true. That we all want to do the best for our kids. It may mean different things to different people, but we all want to do the best. And once you kind of level the playing field, then you can open up a conversation and then you can get away from all that stupid mommy wars stuff.

Do you remember a turning point when you decided that attachment parenting was the way you wanted to do things?

Before we had our first son, both my husband and I were both planning on research professorships. I don’t know, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding. I had a difficult, slow learning curve, as it were. And I think making the commitment to stay home for 40 days, which is something we did after both of our sons were born, I think that tuned me into a new rhythm that I decided not to fight. Because I know a lot of people fight it, and I know people who go back to work after 2 and 3 weeks, you know? But I think for me it really helped tune me into that rhythm, and help us make that decision.

Does your husband read the AP books? Does he do the research?

My husband is rarely yes dear about anything, but if he sees something for himself, that’s the proof he needs. He’s a very principled, rational, confident person, and he, honestly, he doesn’t like to read things like that. I mean, he does a tremendous amount of reading, but no, he has really become a phenomenal example of someone who is not super interested in emotional attachment or psychological development, hadn’t really given it much thought, and literally lived for himself the evolution of this beautiful, beautiful relationship that he has created with our kids and that we have in our family. Although he sees, for sure not one of the principles of attachment parenting was something he thought was totally nuts, and once he saw how it worked, totally jumped on board on his own. But he’s not the kind of person who reads up on things or says yes dear, so it’s been actually really interesting to see. It’s even worked and made sense for him.

Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?

I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?

What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.

Mayim’s new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, will be available in stores March 6th, 2012.

Photo: flickr/pennstatelive

Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Following the Principles: Parts 7 & 8 in a series of 8

Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~  23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!
Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~ 23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!

Now that we have finally welcomed our newest addition— an 11lb son named Lazlo who was born safely at our home — I can take the time to sit down and write again. The swelling and the restlessness of late pregnancy made computer time just one more form of torture in a sea of physical discomforts. Fortunately, those discomforts are behind me now (although I vow to never, ever forget the challenges of the third trimester, just in case I am ever stricken with Baby Fever again years from now) and my recovery has been a joyous time of healing, snuggling, nursing and marveling. Well…for the most part.

Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.
Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.

There, of course, is my sweet little 22-month-old T-Bird to deal with. While she is thrilled that there is breastmilk on the menu again, she is not as enthusiastic about her new little brother trying to enjoy that milk–with or without her. Nursing them together is a terrific way to get a worry-free 20-minute power-nap, but can also backfire and result in T-Bird’s numerous attempts to unlatch the baby, to poke him the eye, to cover his face with a blanket, to elbow him… fun times. So then, I will go with the other extreme and nurse T-Bird first, or nurse her in another room, or nurse her after I get Lazlo to sleep. She then proceeds to spend that time constantly unlatching and relatching asking “Where’s Lazlo? Baby wants nursie?” while pulling, scratching and patting the unoccupied breast…more fun times. Not to mention the all-new behaviors when we are not nursing—throwing, hitting, screeching, drawing on walls, stomping food into the carpets.
Continue reading “Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life”

Following the Principles: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Part 6 of a series of 8:

As we enter the last few (days? weeks?) of our pregnancy with LF#5, I have to admit that one of my biggest, most gigantic fears about having two nurslings under the age of two is “how will I EVER find a sitter for two completely attached, nursing babies AND my high-needs 6 year old???” Not that we have a need to spend a ton of time away from our kids, but having the option for some time together every few months seems like a marriage saving idea!

In  the past, with the wide age spacing of the older children, it was really never a big deal. Everyone was always happy to have the older, experienced “helper” tag along to provide invaluable care-giving advice: “Oh, that cry means she wants her blankie! or “By this time, Mom always puts her in the sling!” And even when Bug came along with her higher-needs personality, we had my parents nearby to help out when she was very tiny. After we moved further away, she had her own personal favorite nanny to provide loving care when she was a toddler. When T-Bird arrived and I had to return to work much sooner than I would have liked, we got creative and rearranged our work schedule to ensure that either Sir Hubby or I could always take care of her (and yes, that’s our picture on page 189 of Attached at the Heart!)

TBird and MommaBelly
Saying Goodbye to T-Bird before our class

Since moving away from my parents, our beloved nanny, and my flexible job, I have been a full-time homeschooler, stay-at-home-parent, and very tired pregnant lady! But being at home has also allowed me to forge many wonderful friendships in our new hometown. I adore that we share so many of the same parenting values with our new circle of friends. But, like me, they also have very full lives and busy families. We can get together and have playgroups, and homeschool groups, and ladies nights…but leaving T-Bird with someone other than Sir Hubby or Big Sister Ella has not been territory that I have delved into yet.
Continue reading “Following the Principles: Provide Consistent and Loving Care”

If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free.

Originally published on July 30, 2009 at m a m a :: m i l i e u.

Okay, yes those are lyrics to a 1985 Sting song, but they rang oh-so-true today when I came across a quote on my igoogle page. I have a daily literary quote rss feed on my google homepage. Yesterday, it featured a quote from American Poet, Mary Oliver, and all I could think about after reading it was “that lady must have kids.”

The quote went something like this:

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

I hate to reveal that it was only after watching “Benjamin Button” recently that I first had a paralyzing realization that I was indeed mortal. No, I didn’t think that I was a superhero or a downy white unicorn bathed in light before watching the film, I just hadn’t really given the dreary subject much thought.

It wasn’t until seeing poor ol’ Benji aging in reverse–from a wrinkled and crippled infant to a wrinkled and crippled old man–that I truly came face-to-face with the fact that I am nurturing the next generation–someone who will only be budding into puberty just as I will be waning into the second half of life. I will be grey and he will be pimply. I will be mom and he will be my rebellious teen. I will be Grandma and he will be Dad. I will be a memory and he will be Grandpa.

Your 20’s aren’t really a time when you waste much energy thinking about your inevitable and eventual end–you are just beginning what will hopefully be a long and successful life as an adult. Not even turning 30 this year changed all of that.

Having a baby did, however. Now, several times a day, I am saddened by the reality of time’s quick passing. At nights when I am rocking my sweet suckling baby as he drinks and sniffles at my breast, I already envision the time, not very far off from now, when those gentle quiet moments of pure raw love and mutual dependence will come to an end.

And my breast will eventually return to me. And from my breast, I will have to let him go. On to a sippy cup. On to a big boy cup. On to a fork and spoon.

While my eye is pressed to the camera’s viewfinder, I can feel time ticking each minute into the past and imagine my husband, myself and our son years from now watching what I am recording at that moment–laughing at our “dated” hair styles, cars, furniture, clothes–things which are for us now new and modern.

And, our home will return to us. And from our home, we will have to let him go. On to college. On to his own home. On to his own life.

There will come a time that I will have to let him go–let him flutter on without my constant guidance, nurturing, or intervention. And the time is coming sooner rather than later. The independence has already begun. I am preparing now for the”letting go”.

——-

Joni is a first time mommy, former teacher and lover of all things writing and cooking. She enthusiastically blogs about the pleasures and perils of natural mommying and wholesome organic cooking for your little foodie over at: www.mamamilieu.blogspot.com and www.feedinglittlefoodies.blogspot.com.

Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch

Part 4 of a series of 8: Carrying our little LF#5 (Loin Fruit Number Five) in my body is the ultimate in nurturing touch. A tiny body wrapped up inside of mine.  Bouncing. Rolling. Rocking. Swaying. Swirling. Surrounded by warmth. We are hoping to have another gentle homebirth for our new little one . We will enjoy our Babymoon as long as we can, remaining in bed and nursing for 2-3 weeks while my body heals. Of course we have made preparations (as much as anyone can prepare for the unknown at any rate) in case of an emergency need to transfer our care to a hospital and are prepared to do whatever it takes to make even the most medicalized situation a high-touch, high-compassion one. No matter what happens with our pregnancy and birth, we know that we are committed to our attached and connected parenting principles. We trust that our new baby will be lovingly connected to our family even if that means finding new ways to apply the attachment parenting principles to whatever circumstances LF#5 is welcomed into the world under.

A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella
A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella

But what about the rest of us? We are already dealing with situations which are challenging our ability to stay connected. It seems as if the past few months could be defined by one word: Distance. Distance keeps our family apart while Sir Hubby attempts to balance his business, his father’s health, and our family. Distance has my son several hours away at college.  Our older girls are both at ages where they are pulling away (in healthy ways) to explore independence, self-directed learning, and social pursuits without holding our hands. But the biggest distance I feel is the one between my little T-Bird and I. Continue reading “Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch”

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