Posts Tagged ‘attachment parenting international’

API Principle #3: Respond with Sensitivity

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Responding with Sensitivity is the 3rd principle of Attachment Parenting International. This one really hits home for me right now as I have recently been struggling with the intense emotions of my almost three year old son. Reviewing the information from API regarding tantrums provides me with perspective and clarity on how I can best respond during these highly emotional episodes. The following two statements were the most meaningful to me:

  1. Some emotions are too powerful for a young child’s underdeveloped brain to manage in a more socially acceptable manner
  2. A parent’s role in tantrums is to comfort the child, not to get angry or punish her

The first statement helps me accept that my son is expressing his emotions in developmentally and or age appropriate ways. While I might desire for him to better cope with disappointments or frustrations, I need to remember that he may not actually have the ability to do so during times of highly intense emotions. Simply recognizing that he is expressing genuine emotions to the best of his ability, helps me respond with more compassion and sensitivity. For example, rather than belittle (oh, it’s just a balloon, we’ll get another one next time) or berate (you should have held onto it tighter) I can acknowledge and label the intense emotion (you are really upset the balloon floated away). In doing so, I am helping him process the intense emotion he is experiencing.

The second statement is worded quite perfectly. I like that it gives parents guidance on what to do during tantrums. So often a child’s tantrum makes a parent feel out of control and helpless. We simply want it to stop, but often don’t know how. We end up trying everything and anything we can think of that might bring an end to the tantrum and when that still doesn’t work, we get frustrated. In attempt to regain control over the situation we might begin to threaten punishments. However API encourages us to take a step back and let go of the need to feel in control. We can allow our children to express intense emotions and support them through it. Because the more opportunity they have to express those feelings, the more refined their ability to express them becomes. When we validate their emotions, we affirm that what they are expressing is worthy of being heard.

Much of the above relates to older children,¬†so you might be¬†wondering, well¬†what about babies? What does API say about responding to their emotions with sensitivity? First they state that ‚ÄúBabies’ brains are immature and significantly underdeveloped at birth, and they are unable to soothe themselves‚ÄĚ And it is ‚Äúthrough the consistent, repeated responsiveness of a compassionate adult, children learn to soothe themselves‚ÄĚ (, 2008). They recognize the importance of the child‚Äôs relationship with the primary caregiver in providing a secure foundation for the child. It is completely normal for a baby to want to be in close physical contact with their primary caregiver and to feel anxious when separated from them.¬†This does not indicate that a child has been spoiled nor has an insecure attachment. Rather that the child is developing life-long relationship building skills such as trust and empathy.

This is all stuff we know and aspire to do, but yet it can be so challenging to actually implement. As parents we are often tired, in a hurry, have a mile long to-do list, and all around operating at (or beyond?) our maximum. All of that combined can make it very difficult to respond to our children’s intense emotions in a gentle, compassionate, and sensitive way. It takes a great deal of energy to be intentionally present with our children during difficult emotions. Although the benefit is the close connection we form with our children through parenting consciously.

What do you do when your child has a tantrum? What has been a helpful approach and/or mindset in responding to your child(ren)’s intense emotions?


API Principle #2: Feed with Love and Respect

Friday, November 11th, 2011

This is the second Friday of our 8-week series where we examine an Attachment Parenting International Principle. Today’s principle is Feed with Love and Respect. API recognizes that feeding your baby is deeper than simply providing nutrients; it truly is an act of love. It‚Äôs a way for you to connect with your child by meeting this basic need in a lovingly, gentle manner. After the birth of my first son, I quickly discovered the joy of feeding him. In fact it led me to enjoy foods in a whole light. I see four distinct milestones around feeding your baby. They are as follows:

Pregnancy – Although API doesn’t cover prenatal nutrition in their second principle of Feed with Love and Respect, I feel it‚Äôs worth mentioning. After all it‚Äôs really your first opportunity to nourish your baby. Making healthy food choices during pregnancy is equally beneficial to you and your growing baby. If you experience nausea during your pregnancy, this can be especially challenging. In that situation you are hopefully able to find a few healthy foods that agree with you.¬†:)

Breastfeeding ‚Äď API states that ‚ÄúBreastfeeding satisfies an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs better than any other method of infant feeding‚ÄĚ (, 2008). However they do recognize that some babies¬†are bottle-fed and offer suggestions on how to do so that maintains a secure attachment between mother and child. Suggestions for bottle feedings include behaviors that mimic breastfeeding such as holding baby, positioning of baby, switching sides, and making eye contact. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding they strongly encourage¬†that you¬†feed on demand and respond to baby‚Äôs early hungry cues such as smacking lips, opening and closing mouth, sucking on hand, or rooting. Additionally since sucking is highly calming and organizing for newborns, API also encourages mothers to allow babies to ‚Äėcomfort nurse‚Äô. In other words, your baby might not actually be hungry and need milk, but simply wants to be close to you and nurse.

Solids- The introduction of solids should begin when a child demonstrates readiness cues such as able to sit up without support, an increase in breastfeeding, can pick up food using a pincer grasp, or demonstrates an interest by grabbing at your food. Typically this happens around 6 months of age, but it is certainly okay if your child is not ready for solids until several months later. Ideally the initial introduction to solids is not meant to replace the calories or nutrients of breast milk. Rather it is an opportunity for your baby to explore new tastes and textures. Solid foods are a whole new sensory experiences for babies that can be quite enjoyable and pleasurable for them. Moreover it provides the foundation for long-term healthy eating habits and a positive relationship with food. Mealtimes with baby should be positive and free from stress or pressure. Mealtimes can be a fun, social time for baby to connect with their family members. Optimally foods offered to baby are a nutritionally dense whole food prepared and presented according to baby’s needs.

Weaning- One of my favorite books on this topic is a publication from La Leche League International called ‚ÄúHow Weaning Happens‚ÄĚ. Several years ago a family member happened upon it at a thrift store, purchased it, and gifted it to me. My son was about a year old at the time so I figured the book was a subtle hint that it was time for me to wean him. However after reading the book, I felt strongly encouraged to continue our breastfeeding relationship. The book shares many personal accounts of how weaning happened for various families, under various circumstances, and at various ages. Most of the families in the book practiced extended breastfeeding and some tandem nursed as well. Many of their stories align beautifully with how API views the weaning process. API believes that weaning should be a gradual and gentle process that is started when a child shows signs of readiness. They recognize that breastfeeding provides far more than nutrients to babies; it is a source of tremendous nurture and comfort for little ones. Therefore they encourage families to have a tender, loving approach to weaning.
What has been your experience with feeding with love and respect? Where you able to follow your child’s cue s for breastfeeding, introduction to solids, and weaning?


API Principle #1: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Friday, November 4th, 2011

When a couple finds out they are expecting, it is often a time filled with excitement, joy, and a healthy dose of nervousness. Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, a pregnancy begins a new journey for your family. Attachment Parenting International views pregnancy, birth, and early parenting choices as important bonding opportunities. Therefore they encourage families to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.¬† The difficulty is that we often don’t know how to do that?¬†Most expecting couples will¬†spend a great deal of energy, time, and resources into decorating a nursery for new baby¬†and¬†collecting material things for baby. However they often give little attention to preparing¬†the mental, physical, and emotional space baby will occupy in their lives. Here are some suggestions on ways to prepare for the arrival of a new baby that align well with the first principle of API.

Take a Childbirth Education Class – A childbirth education class typically provides couples with information about body changes during pregnancy, baby’s development, stages of labor, pain management options, and early postpartum care including basic breastfeeding information. Some childbirth education classes will go beyond¬†providing clinical information and also delve into the spiritual, emotional, and psychological aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. Philosophies that I think well support couples in a holistic approach to¬†birth are¬†Birthing From Within, The Bradley Method, and Hypnobabies.


Exercise during pregnancy- Unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from exercising, gentle exercise can be very beneficial to you and baby during pregnancy. Walking is a simple, relaxing and easy way to exercise during pregnancy. It might help with any discomforts you are experiencing as well as help baby get into a optimal position. Squatting is very helpful in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles used during labor. Another great exercise option is to take a prenatal yoga class. If you are unable to find a class in your area that fits your schedule or budget, there are some good prenatal DVDs on the market. Netflix even carries a few or check your local library to see what selection they offer. A critical component to any exercise regimen is eating well, staying hydrated, and getting adequate sleep. This is especially important during pregnancy. While we tend to focus on the physical benefits of exercise, regular exercise can also help us feel balanced both emotionally and mentally.

Arm yourself with Breastfeeding Information and¬†Support -¬†Establishing successful breastfeeding is challenging for many woman. Any preparations you can do during pregnancy¬†will have a positive impact on your breastfeeding experience. Attending La Leche League meetings during¬†pregnancy is one easy way to meet¬†other breastfeeding moms and develop a network of support.¬†If¬†your local¬†LLL meetings don’t work in your schedule consider taking a breastfeeding information class. If you are not sure where to locate a class they are¬†sometimes provided by hospitals, doulas, breastfeeding counselors, lactation consultants or speciality boutiques that sell nursing accessories.¬†Additionally take time during pregnancy to¬†read breastfeeding literature such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or visit the kellymom website.

Make Informed Decisions - Throughout your pregnancy you will be offered many routine procedures during prenatal appointments. This will likely continue into birth as well as newborn care. Know that any medical procedure is optional and nothing can be done without your consent. This is known as informed consent. You have the right to ask questions, delay, or decline any medical procedures or interventions offered to you, even ones not presented as being optional. You are the authority on your body and no care provider can make any health care decisions for you. It is important you select maternal health care providers who will empower you throughout your pregnancy and during labor. Creating a birth plan can provide a helpful framework to address your preferences regarding health care procedures for both you and baby.

There are many great ways to prepare yourself for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. These preparations are a foundational part of the attachment parenting journey, so be sure to give it the love, attention, and focus it deserves! :)

What ways did you prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for pregnancy, birth, and parenting? 


Be sure to check back next Friday when we examine API’s 2nd principle: Feed with Love and Respect.


Attachment Parenting: What does it mean?

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Sometimes I¬†hear people say they practice ‚ÄúAttachment Parenting‚ÄĚ because they breastfeed or cloth diaper or even because they feed their child organic foods. While these are lifestyle choices that often coincide with Attachment Parenting, they do not define it.

So what does Attachment Parenting mean?

Attachment Parenting International has identified 8 principles of attachment parenting. They are as follows:

    1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
    2. Feed with Love and Respect
    3. Respond with Sensitivity
    4. Use Nurturing Touch
    5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
    6.  Provide Consistent and Loving Care
    7.  Practice Positive Discipline
    8.  Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

These 8 principles provide a solid framework for understanding how to create, support, and sustain a close connection with your child. Naturally we desire a healthy attachment to our children. While our instincts will guide us accordingly, sometimes it is difficult to escape external pressures that may directly interfere with attachment. However to me one of the most important aspects of Attachment Parenting is interacting with your child consciously.

When you approach parenting intentionally you are more likely to follow your heart and to truly listen to what your child needs in the moment. For me this means there are very few ‚Äúabsolutes‚ÄĚ in our family. Some people might argue that consistency is most important in child-rearing, although I prefer to be consistently flexible with myself and my children. This might take extra time, energy, and effort to analyze individual situations and develop resolutions; however it allows for connections to be preserved or even strengthened.

Over the next several weeks we’ll examine each one of the 8 principles further to better understand the evidence base in relation to attachment theory. Every Friday for the next 8 weeks I will attempt to dissect one principle and provide ideas for practical application. I look forward to learning and growing together! As always I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as we navigate this parenting journey together. :)

RESOURCE TIP: If you are practicing or trying to practice AP, Attached Resources is a great place to gather and share.

Peace and joy,