Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom?

The experience of being a mom can be  challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and inspirational. There are plenty of trained experts and professionals who lend their guidance on ways to navigate through the complex web of motherhood, but oftentimes, the most grounded support comes from those who have been down in the trenches — so to speak: everyday mothers.

Today, we bring you words of advice from mothers who shared with us the wisdom and insight they acquired along the way, on their motherhood path.

What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom? 

Kassandra Brown: “My best parenting advice is to allow your perspective to broaden, your heart to soften, and your mind to notice how lucky you are to have exactly the children you have. What we believe, we perceive. By believing it, you will see evidence more and more often that proves how true it is that you are lucky to have your children.” 

Lisa Feiertag: “The advice that I would share with other moms is how important it is to remain flexible and to know that everything will change even when you think it is all static. Growth naturally causes things to shift, and it is a lot easier if you are moving in that flow instead of resisting it. Also, try to not take anything personally or to personalize your child’s actions and emotions. When you find yourself feeling upset look into why that is. What is being triggered internally? Parenting is an opportunity to heal all our unmet childhood wounds, which is one of the reasons why it is not an easy job.”

Megan Bell: “Let go of ‘should’ and truly connect with and listen to your children. They are our best teachers. Offer them what they need when they need it, and know they won’t need it forever.” 

Rochelle Kipnis: “Our children grow up so fast, so cherish every moment you get with them. Make memories and know that they grow up too quickly. Hold on to the moments and take it slow. Enjoy every day that you’re blessed to be here on earth with your children.”

Effie Morchi: “Above all, listen to your heart and trust your instincts; they are there for a key reason. When you are faced with a challenging moment, take a deep breath and think, ‘that too shall pass…’ and when you are faced with a blissful moment, take a deep breath, and let it wash over you — it will serve as nourishment for the road ahead.” 

Jillian Amodio: “Honestly, there’s a lot of advice floating around. Five different people will give you 5 different answers. The best advice I can give you is truly none at all. Just follow your heart, it will never lead you wrong. Mamas, you are wiser than you will ever know, more important than you will ever realize, and cherished beyond measure. Hug those little ones and love yourself, because even when you don’t feel like it, I’ll bet that you are doing an AMAZING job.”

Kelly Shealer: “My advice to other moms is to trust your instincts. Trust what feels right for you and your children. You know your child best, so you can give them a unique gife that make them really happy.”

Inga Bohnekamp: “It is a lot about connection and trust. Find ways to over and over again connect with your child — and yourself. Try to see her with fresh, curious eyes every day and try not to make too many preconceived assumptions. She will continue to surprise, to amaze, and to challenge you in her very own unique ways as she grows up and faces the challenges of the world she lives in. Connect with yourself, with your intuition, with your very own inner wisdom. Most of the answers you will ever need are already inside of you, somewhere — you might just need to uncover them and then listen to them, which can be scary. And while, of course, trusted sources of support are always important — repeat after me: We cannot do it all by ourselves! — always remember that every child, every parent, every situation, and every relationship is different and changes from moment to moment, which makes it highly unlikely for a ‘one size fits all’ approach to actually be a good fit.” 

Katelynne Eid: “Trust your gut. With each little one, I’ve learned to trust myself even more. There are endless information and opinions out there, but nothing beats a mother’s intuition. Even if you don’t think you have it, I promise you do!” 

Shoshana Hayman: “Although modern society has devalued the role of mothers, know that your role as a mother is of paramount value in the world. No one can be for your children what you are to them — their primary attachment figure, which gives the optimal context for healthy human development. Teach them lovingly, both your boys and your girls, that the most important roles they will fulfill one day will be to parent their own children. Mothers need to be confident in believing that nurturing their children, throughout the years that they are growing up, helps shape a healthy and peaceful society more than any daycare, school, or educational program ever can.”


A Mother’s love is a gift that gives forever and her legacy is life

In gratitude, consider a tribute to a Mother in your life while helping a mother in need of support at the same time.

It’s a gift that that keeps on giving because you help mothers receive much needed information and support.

This is the heart of API.

We invite you to share a gift of love that gives on in her honor.

  Happy Mother’s Day from Attachment Parenting International




Have guilt? Find your parenting anchor point

pixabay-anchorGuilt seems to be inherent in parenting. It doesn’t really matter how you parent, it’s so tempting to compare ourselves to others and how they are relating to and raising up their children.

As a working mother in a conservative area, I feel this tug of parenting guilt from time to time. A common scenario in the small, farming community where my family lives is for a mother to stay at home with her children when they are young and then get a job at the school when her youngest child enters kindergarten. It sounds like a great gig!

But that is not my choice. I did work, both from home and outside the home some days, when my children were small and continue to work year-round now that my children are in school. I love what I do and feel that I make a meaningful impact through my career. I know my stay-at-home friends don’t mean to, but sometimes I hear — whether real or perceived — overtones that what’s best for children in general is for the mother to stay at home full time, without a paycheck-yielding job.

I suspect my guilty feelings are largely perceived than actual. I trust that even if other mothers don’t agree with my career-oriented lifestyle, that they are mature enough to allow me the freedom to parent my way. Unfortunately, like all of us, I am sometimes the target of others wanting to pressure me into their way of looking at the world.

I am a stalwart proponent of informed choice. While I do believe that every child deserves to be raised in a home with secure, healthy family attachments, I know that my own “brand” of attachment parenting is not the “be all, end all.” We, all of us parents, make the best decisions at any one time with the knowledge, support, and resources we have available. Every family is unique, and even among families with the same values and goals, mannerisms and lifestyle will vary — because just as every individual is different, so is every family.

All children, all parents, all families — everyone deserves healthy, secure attachment bonds within their social groups. For parent-child relationships, API’s Eight Principles of Parenting provide 8 areas of family life, with a variety of ideas within each, as to how to form and strengthen attachment bonds within families. But that doesn’t mean we all do things the same way.

Like with nurturing touch, I didn’t do much babywearing but holding my baby and cuddling with my children is definitely my thing! Or with childbirth, I had an epidural, a cesarean, and a VBAC, and while my unmedicated birth experience definitely made it easier to bond with my newborn, the high-intervention births didn’t hinder what has turned out to be a very secure attachment with those children. I also have experience with both breastfeeding and bottle-nursing, cosleeping and crib use, and all kinds of childcare situations.

pixabay-family-supportParenting, like everything else, has different seasons. We have to change, almost constantly sometimes, it seems, to keep up with our growing infants and children — in how to match their development with our guidance and passing down of our family values, as well as renew techniques of maintaining warm, sensitive, and appropriate ways of interacting with, relating to, and staying attached with our ever-changing little ones as they mature into adolescents and finally fledged on their own.

We are all on our own parenting journeys of exactly how we will do this in our individual family. But like all parents, since probably the beginning of history — since we are all unique and so are our children and our partners — are also learning “on the job.” There are no handbooks that apply to every situation.

My home library is full of books on family relationship theory, research, and advice. Yet, my personal approach to parenting is a mix that goes well beyond the bits and pieces of these books that I found helpful — among the bits and pieces that I feel don’t apply to my family but certainly they may apply to another family — and include bits and pieces of how I was raised, the lessons learned reflecting on years of parenting already behind me, thoughts from friends and family members, my instincts, the reality of unavoidable challenges, scientific studies, blogs and websites, parenting classes and support groups, teleseminars, conferences, and so much more.

We are all doing this: gathering information from the world within and around us to figure out the best way of parenting our children and nurturing our families. Because its learning-as-we-go, there are ample opportunities for doubt to creep in. When we are stumped by our child’s behavior, especially if we are trying something new — such as breastfeeding our baby rather than resort to formula — it’s easy to think that maybe we’re doing something wrong or not good enough.

Unresolved doubt can grow into guilt. “What if…?” may fill our heads, as we compare ourselves and our children and our families to others, when those other families are likely doing the same kind of comparison maybe even to yours.

I’d like to get away from the thought that guilt is somehow unnatural and shouldn’t be felt. There are whole books written on the topic of “mothering guilt,” and there is a lot of blame being thrown around toward specific parenting approaches. But guilt is a natural human emotion, something that comes out of normal social interaction. As social beings, we will naturally feel guilt if we engage in a behavior that we perceive to have compromised our own standards.

Guilt can be helpful in that it motivates us to do better — though if unchecked, guilt can definitely be unhealthy and lead to anxiety conditions. The absence of guilt in a person, however, can be just as unhealthy: A lack of this emotion is implicated in individuals with a high degree of psychopathy.

Regardless, guilt is an uncomfortable feeling and one that no one wants to be immersed in for long. Being emotionally uncomfortable, such as with guilt, can keep us from being free to parent how we want to, bogging us down into doubt and even despair, and preventing us from the joy we seek in our parent-child relationships.

The idea that certain parenting approaches create more guilt in parents than others is, I believe, unfounded. Rather, from what I have found in my experience of providing parent support in a variety of settings for more than a decade is that what creates guilt is fear — namely, fear for their child’s well-being. I have seen this in many parents, no matter their child-rearing approach — attachment parenting or no — and most often in new parents or in parents trying something new that they hope will create better results but, they realize, stepping out from the familiar carries risk and with that risk comes fear. So where does fear come from? From what I find, it’s often a lack of parent support.

Regardless of what child-rearing approach parents choose, its incredibly — crucially — important that they find support. API offers both online and local, in-person support through a variety of resources, though research finds that the most valuable support for parents is through in-person support groups — of which API has across the United States and around the world.

It’s so important to find like-minded parents who can offer their “been there, done that” stories, emotional scaffolding, and specific suggestions for when you feel confused as to what to do about your child’s behavior, or when you question whether this new thing you’re trying, like positive discipline instead of spanking, for example, is going to work out in the long term, or how exactly to keep those family attachment bonds strong as your children grow, or how to move forward when your family encounters challenging life circumstances.

pixabay-apples-and-orangesAttempting to find support among parents who do not share the same approach to child-raising is like comparing apples to oranges, and the advice you receive is likely to deepen the sense of doubt being felt, and therefore create guilt — not to mention conflict with your personal values system, which creates its own set of uncomfortable emotions.

All parents want to feel validated in their decisions, and even if they do not intentionally seek out support, unsolicited advice will come their way — from family, friends, pediatricians, teachers, strangers, and others. But without having that anchor in a group of like-minded parents to act as your sounding board, to help guide you to make parenting choices that are in line with your values, you may find yourself swaying with the advice like a bottle cork in the ocean tide.

It’s very difficult to get grounded in your self-confidence as a parent without an anchor point. I cannot overemphasize the value of parent support.

Because breastfeeding is normal

For some, breastfeeding doesn’t come easily. I, for one, have shed my fair share of tears over the challenging journey that it has been at times.

Yet, even though I have seen the negatives — even though I have been shamed, ridiculed and challenged about nursing my daughter — I support breastfeeding.

Even though there have been times that I have felt defined by nothing other than my breasts, and even though it has been one of the hardest experiences of my life, I support breastfeeding.


Because breastfeeding is normal.

I have been lucky enough to collate together many pictures from families across the globe as part of the #ISupportBreastfeeding project. With each new photograph, I see a recurring theme: the concept of connection. Breastfeeding doesn’t only connect us to our children; it also connects us to one another.

In a world where breastfeeding is so often seen as divisive, the thought that it actually unites us with other mothers is simply a revelation. I am proud to be a part of this movement; I am proud to help normalize the normal.

Introducing four generations of breastfeeding support: lucyj

 “We support breastfeeding, because it’s best for our babies, it nurtures, it bonds and is natural. It’s sometimes a real struggle and can be painful, needing even more support and encouragement. It connects and unifies us with other women worldwide from the beginning to the end of time…

This is what it’s all about, right? These breastfeeding supporters range in age from 7 months to 96 years. What an incredible testament to the concept of a journey! What a beautiful glimpse into the concept of family…into the notion of togetherness.

As I look at this picture, I feel inspired. Inspired to really own my personal journey. Inspired to create the right path forward for my family. Inspired to support those around me.

World Breastfeeding Week 2014: Parent Support Deserts in the USA

By Rita Brhel, Editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator

World Breastfeeding Week 2014What this year’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Week is really about—more than updating the status on breastfeeding acceptance or increasing understanding for mothers who are unable to breastfeed—is advocacy for parent support.

While the primary goal of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to raise awareness of the importance of a secure parent-child attachment, the organization’s overarching strategy is to provide research-backed information in an environment of respect, empathy and compassion in order to support parents in making decisions for their families and to create support environments in their communities. API extends beyond attachment education, also promoting the best practices in all aspects of parenting from pregnancy and childbirth to infant feeding and nurturing touch to sleep and discipline to personal balance and self-improvement through such innovative programs as API Support Groups, the API Reads book club and the Journal of Attachment Parenting, just to name a few.

API is a parent support organization made up of parents located around the world with a deep desire to support other parents.

In this spirit, API created the Parent Support Deserts project through which we mapped gaps in local parent support opportunities specific to Attachment Parenting (AP). The goals of this multi-layered project are to identify communities, regions and nations in need of conscious-minded parent support and to encourage collaboration among like-minded organizations to address these gaps.

As research pours in on the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding, evidence continues to point toward AP practices, such as using fewer interventions during childbirth, avoiding early mother-baby separation, rooming-in at the hospital, breastfeeding on demand, interpreting pre-cry hunger signals, encouraging skin-to-skin contact, room sharing, discouraging cry-it-out sleep training, helping the father in supporting the mother, and others. As a result, the vast support network that many communities now have for breastfeeding mothers—from a breastfeeding-friendly medical community to lactation consultants and peer counselors to doulas and childbirth educators and parent educators trained in lactation support—tend to direct breastfeeding mothers toward Attachment Parenting.

Local parent support for breastfeeding has grown at an astonishing rate since La Leche League (LLL) International was founded in Illinois, USA, in 1956. LLL groups are located worldwide in nearly all developed nations as well as other less-developed countries. LLL has expanded its resources as cultures have evolved with technology and the changing roles for mothers, assisting mothers in providing breast milk to their infants whether through exclusive or partial breastfeeding or pumping as needed.

By contrast, there are few organized AP-minded support opportunities for mothers who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed or feed expressed breast milk. Formula-feeding parents are relatively on their own in terms of finding support that rightly points them in the direction of Attachment Parenting, as this choice or necessity to bottle-feed exclusively is seen less as part of the relationship context and more solely a nutritive option—though certainly we know, and research in sensitive responsiveness is finding, the behaviors surrounding bottle feeding are as much a part of the parent-child relationship as is breastfeeding. Unlike breastfeeding support, formula-feeding support is much less cohesive, with some information sources putting forth questionable science regarding formula versus breastfeeding benefits.

For this introductory look at the Parent Support Deserts project, we examined locations of parent support groups in terms of infant-feeding in the Attachment Parenting context. We focused on LLL for breastfeeding support and API for both breastfeeding and formula-feeding support. While this list is in flux, click here to see state reports of API’s Parent Support Deserts specific to Attachment Parenting infant-feeding support in the United States as spring 2014, as well as read more details about the Parent Support Deserts project. You can find this article in the latest issue of Attached Family magazine.

Saved by AP and now 8 kids later: An interview with Margie Wilson-Mars

family heartThrough APtly Said, I have had the privilege of meeting Margie Wilson-Mars of Salem, Oregon, USA. A parenting writer and blogger, Margie and her husband of almost 20 years, Robert, have eight children ages 27, 25, 23, 21, 14, 12, 9 and 8—seven sons and one daughter, three of the boys who are on the autistic spectrum. Margie and Robert also have three grandchildren ages 7, 6 and 3.

Now there’s a full household! I could hardly wait to share her Attachment Parenting (AP) story.

RITA: Thank you, Margie, for your time. To begin, how did you decide to first try out the AP approach?

MARGIE: By the time I found out there was an actual thing called AP, I had already been practicing it.

I was only 19 when I had my first son. My mother-in-law had been an oddity in the very early ’60s and breastfed her boys. My mother, who was 15 years older than my mother-in-law, was in my ear constantly with, “You just have to nurse for three weeks and then it does no good.” It was simply a reflection of her generation.

Even in 1987, I was the odd one out breastfeeding and refusing to let my son cry it out. I watched Dr. Jay Gordon on “The Home Show” on ABC—so radical then! My mom told me I was punishing myself.

RITA: Your mom didn’t agree with AP?

MARGIE: For the record, she was legitimately worried about me. It’s just what she knew. She was an amazing mom.

By the time my mother passed away, she was finally comfortable with my parenting style. Acceptance means the world to new moms, to all moms.

RITA: So who did you lean on for AP support?

MARGIE: When my daughter was born 19 months later, I found La Leche League meetings. I am a very solitary person, so in hindsight, I wish I’d participated more, but it did give me validation for what I felt.

I just got “worse” from there! I met Peggy O’Mara, went Dr. Sears happy—yeah, I was hooked.

RITA: And your husband is supportive of AP?

MARGIE: After getting remarried, my new husband instantly accepted and participated in AP. In fact, I don’t even recall discussing it. When our first son was born, he slept with us. Well, I should say he slept with his dad because he was only comfortable on Daddy’s hairy chest! Most of them did the same, but our last, preemie Adam, was partial to sleeping on his brother Mark or his “Sissy Mama,” our only daughter Stephanie.

RITA: At one point, you mentioned to me that AP saved your life. Can you expand on this?

MARGIE: When my first baby Steven was born, we moved in with my parents because I was scared to death. When he was 2 weeks old, my older sister came upstairs into my bedroom and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I calmly answered, “I’m going to try and finish feeding this baby, and then I’m throwing him out the window and following.”

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up at my mother-in-law’s house where she tucked me into bed for some much needed sleep and took Steven. She would wake me up to feed him, keeping an eye on us, and then send me back to bed.

Her gentle manner just blew my mind, the total opposite from my family. Even the way she bathed him was so soft and stress free. No more watching the clock between feedings or freaking out because he didn’t poop that day.

My depression ran deep, and it took getting pregnant with my daughter Stephanie before it totally lifted. Being constantly reassured that listening to my instincts was not only OK, but good, made all the difference. I have no doubt that if I’d continued on the path I was on, I wouldn’t have made it.

RITA: The quality of parent support can really make all of the difference. I’m glad you found support when you did.

MARGIE: There have certainly been huge bumps in the road since, but my mother-in-law set the tone for my parenting. No matter how rocky things got at times, our attachment was never affected. For example, when my daughter and I clashed through her teenage years, she told me she never felt like she couldn’t crawl into bed with me and know that everything would be OK. Her grandmother is truly the one to thank for that.

RITA: I’m thankful for her, too. The world needs more parents like you—and her! So how has AP worked out for your family as it has grown?

MARGIE: I think the best thing was the ease of taking care of the babies when they were little. When the oldest four were teenagers and the babies were little, we had a gigantic cushy spot—spots are very important in our home—in the living room where I could just be with all of the boys, yet stay accessible to the older ones. It also forced my autistic boys to be social with their brothers.

People are still astonished when they see how cuddly our autistic sons are.

RITA: What is it like seeing your oldest children becoming parents themselves?

MARGIE: Even though we still have little ones at home, seeing our daughter with her children—just wow! She’s the best mother, so instinctive and giving. Our oldest son is a newly single dad and so intensely bonded to his son.

The evolution of parenting, seeing them working so hard to correct the mistakes we made and become even better, closer parents to their children: It’s a beautiful thing to see.

We’re really doing the same thing with our younger boys—improving and evolving. It can be a struggle to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move forward.

The bigger the family, the more you need Attachment Parenting.

RITA: You mentioned that AP seems to be helping in parenting your children with autism.

MARGIE: This is huge for us.

My third child, Mark, has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is from the first wave of autistic children born in 1990 when it started to skyrocket. When he would nurse, he would pull his entire body away, trying so hard not to be touched any more than he had to. The more I’d pull him in, the harder he would fight. Autism wasn’t even on the radar. Mark self-weaned at 8 months old, and I was crushed. He was happy as could be as long as he was on his own.

When our sixth child, Nathan, was 3 months old, our oldest son kept saying, “Something’s wrong with him.” Teens are so subtle. We thought maybe he was just sensitive because he had suffered a birth trauma when my cervix was lipped over his head for over an hour while pushing during labor. An hour after birth, his face turned nearly black from the bruising.

Months later, while I was sick, my husband took Nathan for a checkup. We say that the baby we had died that day. Rob brought home this terrified, seemingly hollow baby we didn’t know. If there was something wrong before, it was a million times worse that day. While probably predisposed to autism, the vaccines finished the job.

Having had Mark, I knew that holding Nathan, feeding him and snuggling him through his fears was the only way to go. People are amazed when they see how connected he is. If I didn’t have him, my husband did. If he didn’t have him, his big sister did. He is a little cuddle monster, and while he has full-blown autism, he shows no signs of “don’t touch me, don’t look at me.”

By the time Justin, baby number 7, came along, we knew fairly early and said, “Ah, we have another Aspie!” Sure enough, he has Asperger’s like his older brother, Mark.

The parents of autistic kids I know have them in day-long therapy, speech class, tactile class, etcetera, etcetera. We could never do that. There’s even one mom I met who put her 12-year-old into a group home when he hit her 4 year old. She brings him home on Saturdays. I cried when I heard. It still breaks my heart to think about it.

The biggest difference is in how bonded we are to each other. It’s not unusual to see 140-pound, 12-year-old Nathan on his dad’s lap or mine, or finding them all in a big “puppy pile” playing video games. Our youngest, Adam, says, “My friends never sit on their mom’s laps. Isn’t that weird?”

RITA: Thank you so much, Margie, for your story. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARGIE: Recently, I’ve read a lot of parents online who have left AP. Most claim that AP parents are too militant and flip out if people stray from the Eight Principles. The parents that make these claims can scare off new moms who are may be only breastfeeding and want to find out more, or can’t get a good night’s sleep but feel wrong letting their baby cry. I hope that parents think about these things before they make that [judgmental] comment to a new mom.

Finding the “Me” in Mommy

Posted by Rivkah Estrin, CBE and API online contributor. Rivkah is a certified childbirth educator, DONA-trained postpartum doula and journalist who puts her passion about Attachment Parenting to use as a writer, mother and educator for expectant and new parents.

As soon as new life is ushered into the world, an old life comes to an end. The birth of a baby is in some ways a death of the woman you were before becoming a mother. As Rajneesh said, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

All I have ever wanted in life was to be a mother. I naturally attachment parented my first baby because I didn’t know how else to keep her happy. All the traditional tools fell by the wayside as she told me in her 2-day-old way that all she needed was to sleep on my chest and all would be OK. She did everything in my arms, in the sling, at my breast, as did child number 2, child number 3 and child number 4. It’s been a long but amazing nine years.

Now my youngest has turned three and is sleeping in her own space, thinking about potty training and only nursing to go to sleep. And I wonder—where am I? In the past nine years, how have I given to myself? I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but it feels so lonely.

My husband continued on his trajectory. He is an incredible AP dad, but outside the house he’s still growing his business, meeting with clients, going on business trips and eating out with colleagues. I haven’t been to a moms’ night out without a kid because my little ones nurse to sleep for a very long time. And I can’t leave them in order to go play with my friends without feeling incredibly guilty.

Should I just get over it, go out and not worry about the affect it has on my kids? That doesn’t sit well with me.

Is the fault my husband’s for having a life outside the family? No, not at all. He’s out supporting us and allowing me to be home with our kids, to homeschool them, and he spends every spare minute with his family, he makes sure we use the best Charter Homeschooling program.

Is the fault my decision to homeschool? Many parents have six hours free to do as they please, such as work, go to the gym, organize the house, shop unaccompanied and myriad other things. But the time I have with my kids is so special and so limited. The experiences we get to share together can’t be matched on Sundays and holidays. Our everyday family life is something we’ve cultivated and worked hard to achieve, and as exhausting as it can be, it is infinitely fulfilling. So, no, I won’t blame the homeschooling.

Maybe there isn’t anything to blame. Maybe it’s just a very new existence for which there is no preparation or workshop. There is a term known as Mommy Burnout, and I think I may be headed there. Not in a scary, dangerous way. But it’s becoming clear to me that as the nature of my parenting is shifting as my kids are getting older, so too the nature of how I care for myself needs to change.

It used to be that a nap refreshed me to my core. My burnout was sleep-related, and a nap did just the trick. But my burnout issue now is lack of time—time for myself, time to take a class, time to smell the flowers. In the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Foot bridge

API’s 8th Principle of Parenting is about striving for balance in personal and family life, which means “ensuring that everyone’s needs — not just the child’s — are recognized, validated and met to the greatest extent possible.” How does a mom find a way to recharge when the demands have shifted? How does one achieve more time? How does a mom give a little bit back to herself after so many years of joyfully overlooking her own needs? Here are a few ways I came up with that work for me.

Get into a book. More than just reading, finding a book that can transport me to another place and time can be a true mental vacation. I always say my favorite part of reading is being in the middle of a book. Looking forward to the next plot twist keeps me going even on the roughest of days.

Call a friend. My friends have always been my lifeline. And yet I find that months can go by without so much as a phone call! That’s just tragic. One thing I would love to implement is a once-weekly quiet time where I can step outside and call someone. Reminiscing about old times, talking about our current lives and just hearing a familiar voice can be relaxing and refreshing.

Add music. I like to bring the laptop in to the kitchen while cooking dinner or washing dishes. I can put on my favorite tunes, and it turns into a quick and easy escape from the endless to-do lists inside my head. The kids, usually off playing, will even come in sometimes and listen quietly with me. It’s a relaxing way to transition from the activities of the day toward bedtime.

Play a game with a partner or friend. What better way to chill out than to get completely consumed with a game? Recently my husband and I grabbed a deck of cards and played for two hours. We didn’t talk about the kids. It was awesome.

Pour a glass of wine (or cup of tea) and watch something. Two Netflix envelopes arrive at our house every week. One is for the kids and one is for us. Sometimes we get caught up in a great show and wait impatiently for the next DVD. Sometimes we catch up on all the movies we don’t get to the theater to see. Setting aside the time to watch something together is an effort, but it carries a worthwhile payout in distraction from the day-to-day.

Exercise! I can’t say it enough. It feels so good, gets all those endorphins coursing through the body and, oh yeah, it’s good for me, too. Every now and again I pop on some ABBA or Donna Summer and dance around the house. The kids love it and don’t even realize this is part of my master survival plan. On days when my husband is home and I can sneak out, I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood and enjoy 30 minutes of kid-free time with my iPod and my thoughts. Inevitably I return sweaty, energized and refreshed.

Find the spiritual. Our family observes the Sabbath. That means that from Friday night until Saturday night we turn off our cell phones, computers and TV and focus on family, friends and good food. Our walk to synagogue reminds us how much we enjoy being outside. Feeling the breeze, seeing the amazing reptiles we have here in southern Florida, and holding hands with our kids is so grounding. Even in the summer months, when the weather is brutally hot and often rainy, it is wonderful to be at one with the elements. After all, it is only a 15-minute walk. I make it a habit to invite friends for meals, and we sit and talk in a way we never have time for during our normal, hectic weekdays. For my family, reconnecting with nature and our community without distraction is absolutely essential to our spiritual well-being, and that translates directly to our family dynamic.

It may seem that I think of my husband as a babysitter, though I don’t view him that way at all. But I also know that if unprovoked, he won’t grab my walking shoes for me and shove me out the door with my iPod. I have to do it myself. Even though he’s the dad, I am and will always be the mother. As tiring, exhausting and overwhelming as it can sometimes be, that role is mine. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Parents Crave Uncommon Support for Common Concerns, Like Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week 2013In 2009, Attachment Parenting International conducted a parent support survey on the value of peer support provided through both local leaders and parenting support groups as well as online resources and publications. Overwhelmingly, parents responded that they sought out in-person support from local API Leaders and API Support Groups first.

According to the survey, parents seek out support for a variety of childrearing concerns, with feeding with love and respect, which includes breastfeeding, being second only to coping with and resolving sleep issues. Parents specifically seek out API Leaders for a perspective on childrearing that they can’t find elsewhere.

For example, one mother explained how she worked as a nanny for a long time before becoming a mother and had been taught to let babies cry-it-out, to not hold babies, and to feed formula rather than breastfeed:

“When I had my own children, there was such a pull where I felt those were the things I should be doing, even though my instincts screamed otherwise. I have struggled to learn to follow my instincts by immersing myself in a supportive group and lots of supportive reading.”

Attachment Parenting adds to breastfeeding support by including other interrelated areas of childrearing. As a La Leche League leader pointed out:

“My interaction is with breastfeeding mothers, and I have been able to add on more knowledge from API.

Perhaps the largest role API plays in supporting breastfeeding mothers is in actively supporting their choice. Despite health care recommendations that are increasingly pro-breastfeeding, our society continues to be resistant to change in parenting style. Another parent described the frustration of breastfeeding her children in a social climate where, on one hand, highly respected organizations like the World Health Organization, the American Pediatrics Academy, and La Leche League touted the benefits of breastfeeding, but on the other hand, culture was not in tune:

“API has been where I go to be validated and reassured.”

Although there is much more to be read from the API Parent Support Survey, it is clear from the survey that mothers find valuable support for breastfeeding through API’s local leaders and online resources. Here is what other survey respondents had to say about API’s peer support for breastfeeding:

“I had breast reduction surgery 11 years ago that did not allow me to produce much milk. My supply was so, so low and it caused a lot of guilt issues. The ladies in my group tried to help and were so supportive.”

“I worked out of the home and got excellent support from our API group about pumping while working and nursing when home. We’re still going strong at two and a half years!”

“Night weaning: when to do it, how to do it, why to do it, etc. – this has been a discussion through the API-NYC Yahoo! Group. I haven’t started doing this yet, but everyday, I think about it more and more and it’s been great to hear other moms’ stories.”

“Just today, I posted to the Twin Cities API Yahoo! Group that ‘I am only one bite away from quitting’ breastfeeding. My son has three teeth and is using my right boob as a teether. It’s painful and making our breastfeeding relationship rocky. I got a heartfelt ‘I’ve been there and it does bite’ and some good suggestions on how to stop the biting. I really don’t want to quit nursing, and it was important to me that I get advice and encouragement from women who weren’t just going to tell me to quit, that I’ve made it nine months, etc. I felt like I had tried everything, and I was really ready to give up. It hurts to be bitten dozens of times a day, and I was fed up. The API group is invaluable to me. Without that group, I only know two other parents who parent like us. I’ve stopped going to other playgroups, because it hurts me to hear how other moms talk about and to their kids. I think I’d be lost without the API group.”

“When I came to the group, I was having a lot of painful nursing issues, but as time has gone on and my daughter and son have grown, I find that the most beneficial help I’ve received is on finding balance and positive discipline.”

“Extended breastfeeding has been one of the areas where belonging to API groups and knowing other API members has meant a great deal to me. It has helped to be able to share stories – tell them and hear them – of various incidents involving breastfeeding an older child and to talk about the feelings of joy, embarrassment, resentment, etc. that such incidents bring up.”

“I had to wean my baby unexpectedly when I got ill, and I turned to the group for advice on how to handle this as well as tips for allowing my mother to take over my child’s care while I was ill. Also, I had to let my baby go for the duration of a treatment, and I turned to the API e-mail list for suggestions about how to deal with the feelings, asking what was best for my girl in terms of me demonstrating my emotions or not. I received so much support about how to let my mom parent, and validation that it was OK for me to have all the feelings I had around that. The e-mail list made it much easier to feel like I was doing the best I could as a parent, even when I couldn’t do anything physically. Similarly, the advice I got for the separation was to authentically express and communicate with my daughter. That feels completely right to me. Instead of trying to protect her by hiding my feelings, or by letting the story go and telling her later what happened, we can braid it into our family story – such good advice. I also got advice on how to transition her back to us after I’m out of the hospital – simply invaluable.”

“When my daughter was nine months old, we realized she was not sleeping longer than 20 minutes at a time during the day. If she fell asleep after nursing and I tried to lay her down, she woke up immediately. We became very concerned, and I could not find any information in sleep books, and the only option seemed to be to let her cry it out, which we were not prepared to do. We met with an API Leader who suggested I hold her after she fell asleep and that ended up being the way my child could get a nap during the day.”

Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting are intricately linked

World Breastfeeding Week 2013Attachment Parenting is invariably linked to breastfeeding. While not all mothers are able to breastfeed, Attachment Parenting International recognizes that breastfeeding — as well as breastfeeding behaviors while giving a bottle of pumped breastmilk — is one of nature’s best teachers of new parents in how to sensitively and consistently respond to their baby as well as learn to develop the reciprocity of a healthy relationship between parent and child.

Each year, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and its partners sponsor World Breastfeeding Week during August 1-7. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers,” highlights breastfeeding peer counselors in all walks of life. Certainly, whether or not API Leaders are they themselves trained breastfeeding educators, all of API’s leaders support breastfeeding and the impact it has on helping to establish a secure parent-child attachment.

Largely due to cultural pressures, even when mothers are able to get breastfeeding off to a good start, there is a sharp decline overall in breastfeeding rates in the weeks and months after delivery. World Breastfeeding Week organizers have found that it is the period when mothers are not under the regular care of a health care provider when problems with breastfeeding arise and are not addressed, and premature weaning often happens.

This time of learning how to parent is crucial not only to the success of breastfeeding but also to the mother-infant relationship, but the early weeks and months are often a time of relative social isolation. This is when community support is most needed.

Traditionally, support was provided by the family, but as society has changed, mother support now needs to come from a wider circle. Depending on the location, a mother may have access to lactation consultants or other trained health care workers, or not. Perhaps the best support, however, comes from other mothers who have breastfed their children and who are trained to provide support.

While API’s local leaders and parent support groups are not specific to breastfeeding support, we provide a holistic look at breastfeeding and the mother-infant relationship. We are able to refer to community resources for breastfeeding questions, such as lactation consultants and La Leche League leaders and breastpump providers, and we can provide basic support for parents to make the best decisions for their family. API Leaders also help mothers view breastfeeding in the context of the whole relationship and how that give-and-take interaction that builds the foundation of secure attachment can be applied beyond breastfeeding.

Join us this week on APtly Said as API celebrates World Breastfeeding Week and how Attachment Parenting families are furthering the cause of breastfeeding in their communities and around the world.