Posts Tagged ‘attachment parenting’

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

Sunday Funday Giveaway: ERGObaby Doll Carrier

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

 The ERGObaby doll carrier is the perfect accessory for a child to use to take care of their baby doll just like mommy and/or daddy care for them. A child can mirror the attachment parenting practice of babywearing with this easy to use, light weight toy baby carrier. The ERGObaby doll carrier is designed to be comfortable and enjoyable for children to use. This carrier could make a great gift for a sibling-to-be or for a child who has outgrown being in the Ergo themselves. Would you like to win a FREE ERGObaby Doll Carrier for your child? Be sure to enter this week’s giveaway for your chance to win!

 
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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?

-Sarah

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’s 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’s worth mentioning. After all it’s 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 – API states that “Breastfeeding satisfies an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs better than any other method of infant feeding” (http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/feed.php, 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’s 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 ‘comfort nurse’. 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 “How Weaning Happens”. 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?


-Sarah

Attachment Parenting: What does it mean?

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Sometimes I hear people say they practice “Attachment Parenting” 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 “absolutes” 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,
Sarah