Posts Tagged ‘attachment parenting international’

API Principle #7: Practice Positive Discipline

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The other day I was putting baby down for a nap while my older two boys played quietly downstairs. See, right there I should have known something was up because those two boys rarely ‘play’ quietly. Once baby was finally asleep, I went downstairs to find they boys had raided the art supply closet resulting in a mess of epic proportions. I was understandably upset. In fact I was angry. I had planned to take advantage of baby napping and get a few things done. Instead I would have to spend a great deal of time and energy cleaning up the art mess. Additionally some of the materials they used were quite expensive and I was upset at them for being wasteful. My reaction was not one of my better parenting moments. I yelled at them and told them that I was angry about what they did. I also harshly told them that they needed to clean it up “right now!”.  Unfortunately I knew they would need my help cleaning up to avoid it turning into an even bigger mess. Sigh…not at all what I wanted to do at that time.

However as we cleaned it together, my emotions began to soften. I realized what I had deemed a ‘mess’ and ‘wasteful’, they considered a creative, exciting, enjoyable experience. And therein lied the problem; our two opposing perceptions of the situation. As I thought about it more, I realized the biggest source of conflict for me was that they did not communicate their idea with me. Had they done so I would have been perfectly okay with them using the art materials, but perhaps would have placed some boundaries around the activity such as keeping it the table or limiting the amount of materials they used. Once I identified the main issue, I could take action….which is different than a reaction. I could explain to them the importance of communicating their ideas with me so we can develop a plan together. By doing so maintaining and strengthening our relationship remains at the forefront of our interactions. The hopeful outcome is that they understand communication is important and know that I will listen to as well as respond to their ideas respectfully. This is likely to reciprocal build trust and honesty between us which are essential aspects of healthy attachment. It is what Attachment Parenting International (API) refers to as Positive Discipline.

Rather than punish, API encourages parents to approach discipline in a positive manner that “helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others” (API, 2008).  This takes time, creativity, patience, energy, empathy, and the underlying belief that a child is worthy of the same respect granted to adults. It is easy to fall into the “I’m big, your little thus you do what I say” mode as a parent. But ultimately, that approach may not be effective in fostering the skills we desire for our children such as problem-solving, respect, assertiveness, or demonstrating integrity in relationships. If we accept challenging behavior as an opportunity to teach, it drastically changes how we respond. It does not mean we are permissive as parents, but that we are parenting consciously. Sometimes positive discipline is incorrectly assumed to mean always saying ‘yes’ to your child or never providing a consequence. That is simply not true. API recognizes a parent’s role in gently and lovingly guiding their child’s behavior to ultimately help him/her develop self-control and self-discipline.

I am the first to admit that using this approach to discpline can be exhausting! I don’t always get it right…in fact I often blow it! But the occassions that I do approach discpline in a gentle, loving way I feel so much better about than the times I yell, threaten, or scold. For most of us utilizing positive discipline takes practice. It takes deep reflection of our own childhood experiences and reflecting upon current struggles we have with our children. While it may seem easier to just simply adopt the a heavy-handed “I’m big, your little thus you do what I say”approach, the heart of attachment parenting is to develop a strong parent-child connection and API believes this is best achieved with discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful.


API Principle #6: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Attachment Parenting International offers 8 parenting principles they believe to be the foundation of developing a healthy attachment with young child. The sixth principle is to Provide Consistent and Loving Care. API recognizes that young children thrive when their day to day interactions are full of love and consistency. A baby feels safe and secure when there is a predictable rhythm to their day and a predictable response to their needs.

One important way to ensure a child’s daily care routine gently and lovingly addresses their needs is to let the child create the schedule. Rather then relying on a clock to inform you if your child is hungry or tired, learn to read your baby’s subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) cues. Over time you will probably observe a pattern and can anticipate baby’s needs. For example you may notice your baby likes to take a short mid-morning nap on most days or that your baby is typically ready to go to bed for the evenings around the same time each night. You can use this information to create a routine for your baby, however remain flexible as a baby’s sleep and hunger needs change frequently throughout the first year of life. Creating a daily routine that is reflective of baby’s needs is an important foundation of the sixth API principle to providing consistent and loving care. Ideally a parent provides of bulk of baby’s daily care routines and interactions in order to foster a strong bond. They suggest “exploring a variety of economic and work arrangement options to permit your child to be cared for by one or both parents at all times” (Attachment Parenting International, 2008).

However API does recognize and understand that there are times/circumstances when separation from a parent is necessary. Therefore they offer some practical suggestions for making separations go smoothly for both parent and child. One main consideration is selecting who will care for your child in your absence. Optimally you would find someone who supports the 8 principles of Attachment Parenting and infuses them into how they care for your child. Choosing someone your child already has a bond with such as a extended family member or close family friend will help make separation easier for your child. If this is not an option, encouraging your child to form a bond with a new care provider is important. This might be a gradual process, so if possible ensure a positive relationship is formed prior to long periods of separation. For example you might ease into using a new care provider by first having them care for your child while you are nearby or for short durations. Additionally API states that “it is critically important that parents who are separated from their children spend very focused and intentional time reconnecting with their child after separation” (Attachment Parenting International, 2008). Breastfeeding offers a wonderful opportunity to physically connect with your child as does co-sleeping and babywearing.

What ways do you practice Attachment Parenting Principle #6, Provide Consistent and Loving Care, in your family?


Breastfeeding is a Journey

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

(pictured above my current nursling and my daughter Heidi)

I am a mom. I have 4 children, all of whom were (some currently) breastfed.  I am the oldest of 5 children that were breastfed. In the end, you really don’t know what you think you know about breastfeeding. And this is my journey.

I exclusively breastfed my first baby, Graeme, for 7 months, and then I weaned him. I was working full time and I was having a hard time pumping and neither my husband or I had the knowledge or support system to continue any longer. My husband thought he shouldn’t be nursed to sleep, and I wasn’t knowledgable enough to defend my case. So I stopped. Graeme was rattled with ear infections after that and ended up with tubes in his ears at 18 months. Ouch. Lesson learned, and hindsight is 20/20.

My next baby came along when my son was 2.5 years old. This little girl was my pivot point, and just as spirited then as she is 5 years later. I exclusively breastfed Heidi and when the time came at 3 months to go back to work, I sent her to day care for 9 hours every day with several bottles of breastmilk. She refused the bottle. She refused the bottle forever. Sooo, she made me work. I did research. And lo and behold, there is this thing called reverse cycling. I fed her when she woke, I fed her when I dropped her off at day care, when I could get away, I would come and feed her at lunch, I would pump during the day, I would feed her when I picked her up, and then we would nurse LOTS during the night. We did this until I quit working 9 months later. We did add some solids around 7-8 months as her weight had hit a plateau, but she was only moderately interested in them. Her doctor was very supportive and not worried. Eventually weight began to increase slowly. I am thankful to my stubborn, bottle refusing girl, because she made me her only source of food, and I rose to the tiring, very inconvenient challenge. She taught me that I am enough, and we CAN work out our challenges. She continued nursing until she was 25 months – I was pregnant with my 3rd and my milk had pretty much dried up.

I had my third baby 2 months after Heidi weaned. I was a little sad about her weaning because we had made it so long and I was hoping she would help with those early weeks of engorgement. I even offered to nurse Heidi after the baby came, but she didn’t remember how.  So much for tandem nursing. I exclusively nursed #3 (Kaatje) until she was about 12 months. Until that point, she just didn’t have any interest in foods. I would make her a plate with the rest of the family, but she preferred to nurse.

I had my 4th son when Kaatje was 34 months old and she was still nursing. My milk dried up a lot towards the end of my pregnancy, so we were only nursing for a few minutes a couple times a day. I was excited to be able to embark on the tandem nursing experience, even if I felt like Kaatje was almost weaned. Oh boy, was I wrong…my milk came in and Kaatje turned into a newborn!! Whenever the baby was being fed, Kaatje decided that she should be too. “Why is baby having milkies? I want milkies too!” So, thankfully I have two breasts that produce ample milk, as Kaatje claimed one to herself and the baby got the other one.  For the first few weeks, Kaatje went on a total food strike and started coming in at midnight to nurse. At first, I nursed her, thinking that this wouldn’t continue, but after a month, this double newborn thing really took its toll. My husband was not supportive of this (neither was I), but thankfully he put his foot down and started putting her back to bed. She stopped waking up so early and doesn’t come in now until around 6 am. That, I can handle as the baby sleeps with us and I don’t like being sandwich in between two nursers…it’s too tiring. Mamas of twins (+) I commend you!!

So, here we are 6 months into tandem nursing, and the baby is doing great. He was my best latcher! With all the others I had cracked, bleeding nipples, but not so with him (sooo thankful!). However, Kaatje would prefer to nurse than eat and still wants to nurse whenever she sees the baby nursing. She has a good relationship with the baby as long as the nursing is equitable, so I am continuing to let her self-wean. There are many times that I enjoy our nursing time, and I like to cuddle her. She has beautiful brown eyes that always appear very thankful when she is being held in my arms.  I struggle.  She asks to nurse a lot and throws quite large fits when she can’t – like when I am trying to make a meal for everyone or the baby is asleep in a carrier on my back. I try to accommodate when I can, but to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel like nursing her. She isn’t ready to wean, but sometimes I am.  My husband’s support is there, but waning.

If Heidi taught me anything about breastfeeding it is that I shouldn’t give up. So, this is my ongoing journey. This is my new adventure….this is what tandem nursing looks like for me…sweetness.

My two nurslings

My two nurslings







~ Abbie

API Principle #5: Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Attachment Parenting International is an organization dedicated to promoting a evidence-based information to foster healthy parent-child attachments. Each Friday for the last several weeks, I have examined one of API’s 8 Principles of Parenting. The fifth API Parenting Principle and the topic of today’s post is to Ensuring Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally.

Often when a couple finds out they are expecting they will put a great deal of thought into decorating a nursery, choosing a crib, and selecting bedding. However it is not very common for many expectant couples to devote that same energy to understanding an infant’s sleep needs or patterns. The underlying assumption is that their baby will soon be sleeping solo in their crib through the night. While this may be the case for some families, it is likely the result of intentional sleep training on the parent’s behalf. The most common approach is to allow a baby to ‘cry it out’ by simply ignoring their crying until the baby finally falls sleep on his/her own. Often this approach is validated by claiming it teaches a baby to be independent and how to self-soothe. However “an infant is not neurologically or developmentally capable of calming or soothing himself to sleep in a way that is healthy. The part of the brain that helps with self-soothing isn’t well developed until the child is two and a half to three years of age” (API, 2008). While this method has prevailed for the last few decades, research is now showing the harmful effects of allowing babies to cry themselves to sleep. When a baby’s cries are ignored there is a significant increase in ‘the stress hormone cortisol in the brain which has potential long term effects to emotional regulation, sleep patterns and behavior’ (API, 2008). So while crying it out may indeed be effective in getting a baby to sleep through the night at an early age, we are starting to question at what cost? Science is now providing evidence for what we’ve intuitively known all along; a crying baby needs our love and comfort and we are discovering that there are serious implications to denying those basic needs.

Getting ready to go to sleep in our "Family Bed"; a queen size and a king size bed pushed together

So what does API believe ensures safe sleep, physically and emotionally? API believes that babies nighttime needs are equally important as daytime needs. An effective way for babies to communicate their needs is by crying. When a baby cries at night they are expressing a valid need whether it be they are too hot, too cold, ill, hungry, uncomfortable, or simply needing physical contact/reassurance from a parent. By recognizing these needs as important and responding accordingly, parents instill a sense of trust and security in their child which form the foundation of healthy attachment. What is often misunderstood about healthy parent-child attachment is that it actually leads to greater independence. The fear of creating a an overly dependant child is so prevalent in our society that often parents will go to great lengths to attempt to “teach” independence at a very early age. When a baby/child is prematurely forced into independence, it often results in greater dependence as well as can lead to anxiety and insecurity.

API encourages parents to be open, flexible, and creative in developing a sleep arrangement that allows for optimal responsiveness to night time needs. Typically this translates to baby sleeping in close proximity to parents. Two distinct terms are used to describe such sleep arrangements:

Co-Sleeping – infant/child sleeps in same room as parents, but on a different sleep surface than parents such as in a bassinet, a sidecar crib, or on a separate mattress.

Bed-sharing/Family Bed – infant/child sleeps on the same sleep surface as the parents. “This practice is recommended for only for breastfeeding families using API’s Safe Sleep Guidelines” (API, 2008).

Shared sleeping arrangements such as co-sleeping or bed-sharing frequently report a reduction in parental fatigue thus providing a physiological benefit to the parents as well to baby. Additionally “we should understand the mother and child as a mutually  responsive dyad.  They are a symbiotic unit that make each other  healthier and happier in  mutual responsiveness” (Psychology Today, 2011).

While getting adequate sleep can certainly be challenging as parent, API reminds us to not lose sight of the importance of ensuring a baby with safe sleep both physically and emotionally. By providing baby with a peaceful sleep routine and environment, parents are optimally supporting their child’s development.

What does your sleep arrangement look like? How did you know that was the right fit for your family?


API Principle #4: Use Nurturing Touch

Friday, December 9th, 2011

“Our silent and most potent language, touch is the medium through which parent and infant communicate and become attached, each tender touch strengthening the bond between them” (The Vital Touch, p. 5).

Attachment Parenting International offers 8 Principles for Parenting that they believe will foster a strong connection between parent and child. The fourth principle is to Use Nurturing Touch. They believe babies are born with an intense and urgent need for frequent physical contact with caregivers. Meeting this need for touch serves important biological and physioloical function for babies impacting their neurological systems. At birth babies’ brains are about 1/4 the size of an adult brain. It is through sensory experiences, mainly touch, that neuron connection is stimulated and their brain grows/develops. The importance of touch for babies has been well researched and a strong body of evidence exists to support the impact touch (and/or lack of touch) has on a baby. Some benefits include faster weight-gain, better regulation of sleep cycles, improved regulation of temperature, increased intellectual and motor development, and decreased aggression. In cultures where babies are held almost constantly during their early months of life, children are observed to be calmer, happier, and cry less. While you may experience external pressure to “put your baby down’ for fear of spoiling him or her, creating dependence on you, or delaying their physical development, know that extensive research supports the exact opposite effects of holding your baby. As hard as it may be, ignore those negative voices around you (or you might educate them?) and continue to follow your innate desire to have constant physical contact with your baby!

The greatest part of all this? It’s so simple to do! You don’t need any special equipment or how-to classes to meet this need for your baby. It’s completely free, and the power of touch is always readily available right at your fingertips! Enjoy snuggle time with your baby on a regular and frequent basis throughout the day/night. Okay, so I know most of us or more likely all of us cannot sit around holding our babies all day, right? That’s wear babywearing comes in! You can provide that oh-so-important touch AND meet the demands/tasks of modern life. Over the years many ‘tools’ such as swings, bouncers, strollers, etc. have been developed to mimic the rhythmic holding a caregiver would provide. While babies might enjoy being in these devices and they might free up the caregiver, they do not provide the human touch necessary for optimal growth, development, and healthy attachment. I’m not saying don’t ever use these tools, but perhaps use babywearing as the default option and limit the use of other devices. Another prime opportunity for touch is during feedings. No matter how you feed your infant (bottle or breast) you can nurture baby’s need for touch while you nourish their bodies. Obviously this automatically happens during breastfeeding, but you can easily embed touch into bottle-feeding as well. You can even provide skin to skin contact while bottle-feeding.

Older children continue to need and thrive on physical touch as well. Sadly it’s fairly easy to forget the need for touch once a baby becomes a more independently mobile toddler, however the need is still quite strong. How you meet the need for touch may be through playfulness such as wrestling and tickling games. Young children typically enjoy engaging in this type of play as long as they have the lead in it. In other words follow their cues as far as intensity and timing of touch. Additionally try offering physical touch (hugs, snuggles, etc) to older children freely and frequently throughout the day rather than just reserving it for consoling.

“Touching a baby is an epiphany- the essence of life! Neither baby or parent should be deprived of it”

(The Vital Touch, p. 235).