Posts Tagged "Attachment Parenting"

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

{When I was pregnant with Silas, I decided that for this baby I would try not co-sleeping. I had co-slept with my older two children and had suffered through 18-24 months of hourly wakings. I knew I had to try something different, just in case it worked. At first, it worked beautifully but eventually, Silas developed the same sleep routine as his older siblings. When Silas was 16 months old, we moved from a 1900 sq. ft. house into our 300 sq. ft. converted school bus. Sleeping arrangements changed drastically. The most practical solution for all of us, considering that Silas was still waking to nurse between four and eight times each night and there was no room for a crib, was for me and Silas to share the queen-size bed, and for Aaron to share the double bed with one of our other children.} Here I am, a co-sleeper, once again, through practical necessity. I confess that I appreciated the time Silas spent sleeping in a crib. I appreciated the early days when he slept multiple consecutive hours and I was able to sleep soundly across the room but still wake when I heard him rustle around in search of me. I can attest that I appreciated the space in my own bed to fall deeply asleep for 45 minutes at a time between his hourly wake ups that went on for a year. I relished being able to get comfortable in any position I wanted without anyone touching me, even as I dreaded the many times I had to get up and down in a night. Those blissful deep sleeps free of a head in my ribcage, an arm across my throat, a foot in the face, or an entire body on my chest made the crib worth it, even when it didn’t do the job I hoped it would. As a reformed co-sleeper, I confess that I am grateful that our living situation re-imposed co-sleeping on me. I admit that I no longer tiptoe into bed for fear that the stirring of the duvet will wake the baby, as I once did in my first incarnation as a co-sleeper. I confess that now when I climb into bed, I wrap my son in my arms and pull his sleeping body up against my own. I confirm that a bury my face in the curve of his neck and inhale the smell of him. I do indeed pass my hands softly over his silky baby hair and rub them over him, feeling the ridge of his spine, the hollow of his back, the fullness of his belly, the way his little foot fits in the palm of my hand like a secret. I acknowledge that I hold on a little tightly, squeezing him into me, absorbing him, for just a fraction of a second as I breathe in his ear, “I love you.” I confess that as he stirs, and becomes aware of my presence in his sleep, I return him gently to his pillow, smoothing his fuzzy blanket over him, and patting him back into his dreams. I confide that I take his hand, heavy and limp with sleep, into my own hand, closing my fingers around his fist, as I settle into my own pillow and close my eyes. I confess that I am ok temporarily not sharing a bed with my husband. I wouldn’t sleep as well if there were another adult body in the bed. Alone in the bed with a toddler, I have the luxury and space to roll away from Silas between nursing sessions and get comfortable, just as I could when Silas was in a crib. I acknowledge that I have been given a gift: the chance to reclaim all that I lost during the year Silas slept in a crib. I even admit that sometimes I love it when he sits up in the night and says, “nurse. mama.” because it means that I have one more chance to memorize the weight and shape of unconditional love, that I...

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How We Do It

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Simple Living | 3 comments

How We Do It

Here are some truths about our family that make our current adventure living in a 300 sq ft bus possible for us, and might not make the same lifestyle possible for you: We have always slept with our kids. We co-slept with our babies, and we often let them come into our bed even when they got older and had transitioned to their own bed in their own room (or slept in their beds if they wanted us to). We realize that this musical beds and sharing sleep with our kids is only going to happen for a few years. We can live with that. We’ll have lots of time with our beds to ourselves in the future. As much as we can, if our children express a wish to be close to us, we try to say yes. And as for parental intimacy, you can always google cosleeping and sexto find out that there has been a lot said about this even in the context of house dwelling. For a little laugh, I’ve always liked the t-shirt that says “Cosleepers do it in the kitchen.” We rarely close doors to bedrooms or bathrooms even when we’ve lived in houses. We like being in the same space. I like being able to see and hear what the kids are watching while I make dinner – not because I love kids’ programming or watching the same show over and over, but because I can supervise what they are watching, can discuss content with them, and have a reference point if something comes up in play or at school that is coming from what they are watching. I like being able to sit side-by-side with my children as we are each involved in a project of our own. I like being in the same room with Aaron in the evening when he’s doing office work for our business. Sure, he’s working most evenings after the kids are in bed – but at least I still get to see him. We can chat, have tea together, discuss plans for the business and because he’s putting in the hours in the evening after the kids are in bed, he gets to come home a little earlier and he helps with dinner and bedtime so it helps us find balance between work and family. Our kids shared a room in every house we rented, and likely would have continued sharing rooms for a long time. It doesn’t hurt them to learn to share and get along. We had already developed methods of getting them to bed in the same room by staggering bedtimes and tackling the job together. We have prioritized having fewer toys. We’ve been making the switch to natural toys, with an emphasis on having a few good quality toys rather than on having a lot of cheap toys. I don’t wash my hair and shower daily. I have heard the argument that some people just have to wash their hair daily or it is impossibly oily. To me, this demonstrates an overdependence on shampoo and conditioner, which can disrupt the balance of natural oils in the hair. Many people who use No-Poo can attest to this. I weaned my hair from needing to be shampooed daily over  ten years ago (and for the first two weeks, it was hard). I was still showering before work every morning, but gradually dropped that habit too. Showering every couple of days is more than sufficient to keep clean and smelling nice. We are domestic adrenaline junkies. That is, we thrive on change. In the in-between times, between moves, new babies, new businesses, career changes, big projects, we often feel bored or stuck in a rut. Sure, we like structure and stability as much as the next guys, and we aren’t likely to make decisions solely for the purpose of not getting bored, but at the same time, we do like the excitement that comes with crafting a life less ordinary. We’ve done this before.We lived in this very bus for 5 years. This means:...

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Attachment Village

Posted on Mar 6, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 5 comments

Attachment Village

At the end of February I had the pleasure (and good fortune) of being able to attend a full-day lecture by Dr. Gabor Mate. You may have heard him on CBC discussing his work as a doctor in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. Or you may have read one of his books including Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers (which he co-authored with Gordon Neufeld), Scattered Minds:  A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, When the Body Says No:  The Cost of Hidden Stress, or In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. His work is incredibly fascinating and after 8 hours on a Saturday spent listening to him talk, my mind was reeling and whirring for several days as I tried to digest everything. A couple of days later, I attended a school function where a fellow parent asked me to sum up the presentation or give the “one nugget” I had taken away. I was struck totally dumb. I couldn’t even begin to succinctly summarize the broad range of ideas that had been touched on. I’m sorry to say that my response was probably not a 30 second sound bite worthy of Dr. Mate. But, 10 days later, I’m ready to give it a try. Essentially, Dr. Mate’s work deals with the mind-body connection. Babies are far more susceptible to stress in their environment than we might suppose. This includes prenatal maternal stress, but also from the circumstances of the birth itself, from separation from the mother, from the family/living environment. Dr. Mate explains that in response to stress, we may use adaptive states or protective behaviours as coping mechanisms and when these adaptive states which are meant to temporarily insulate us from the effects of the stress become long-term traits, we can see a variety of problems arise. These problems can include AD(H)D, autism, cancer, auto-immune diseases, addiction and more. The subject of Dr. Mate’s talk on this occasion was The Biology of Loss: What Happens When Attachments Are Impaired and How to Foster Resilience so he was talking specifically about working with/parenting children. He brought up the dangers of the rising cesarean section rate, and the problems of using methods like cry-it-out to get babies to sleep. He discussed what happens when children become peer-oriented rather than seeking their cues from the adults in their lives. He also explained the optimum conditions for an attachment relationship, and how and why a relationship may be negatively affected. So, what did I take away as the nugget of the day? Firstly, I was struck by the fact that we are all carrying our own issues from childhood into our adult lives, and therefore, into our parenting.  Dr. Mate says that in order to form strong attachments, babies need a non-stressed, non-depressed mother. I remember when I first read Hold On To Your Kids I was expecting to gain all this insight into my parenting, and for the first half of the book I found I was learning more about myself, about my own adolescence and early 20’s. All of this serves as further validation of my own parenting theory which is that if you want to be the best parent, you have to work on being the best person you can be, you have to understand yourself, your motivations, your own unhealthy stress responses, your own childhood traumas. The short version: You want to be a good parent? Deal with your own shit. I’m reminded here of a quote from the day which unfortunately I can not remember the source for: The greatest gift we give our children is our happiness. Secondly, I felt rather relieved of the huge burden of mother-guilt I carry with me most days. Listening to Dr. Mate speak, I was acutely aware that as far as healthy attachments go, we are doing a lot of things well. We are privileged enough to be able to make a lot of choices in our lives in our children’s best interest. They...

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Navigating Sleep with a Third Child

Posted on Jun 3, 2011 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Navigating Sleep with a Third Child

{This is a follow-up to my January post Reconsidering Co-sleeping where at 35 weeks pregnant I revealed that after 2 kids and 5.5 years of co-sleeping I was considering a crib for my third child.} I had this idea back in January that I wanted to write a post that would realistically present the nuances of co-sleeping, that would argue that Attachment Parenting is not a set of cult rules but rather a complex personal philosophy that shifts from family to family, from child to child, and over time. By highlighting my own sleep struggles and divided mind on the issue of co-sleeping, I wanted to show that you can still be an attachment parent even while you decide not to embrace all elements of the philosophy…because you are making the best decisions for your family in the spirit of striving for balance in personal and family life. I believed that my post was balanced in that I could be honest about my struggles while remaining incredibly supportive of co-sleeping (from personal experience not just a theoretical standpoint). Some commenters correctly pointed out that there is a difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing. Dr. William Sears, a well-known pediatrician and author of many parenting books, defines co-sleeping as sleeping within arm’s reach of the baby. Bed-sharing on the other hand is actually sleeping on the same surface, in the same bed, as the child. Having slept with both of my kids since 2005, I know that distinction, and yet, for some reason, I seem to continually use the two terms interchangeably. To be honest, I find that many people do this on a regular basis and while I find the distinction can be important, I also feel comfortable with my use of co-sleeping to encompass all the ways that parents share sleep with their children. I really enjoyed all the commenters who shared their personal stories, experience and tips. I appreciated the tips and atmosphere of support though as a long-time co-sleeper and supporter of the practice, most of the ideas were ones that I had entertained and discarded as not working for us in our 800 square foot, 2 bedroom house. No chance of a mattress beside our King size bed that took up our whole room. No chance of a double bed in the kids room that already housed a loft bed, toddler bed and all of their clothes and toys. Nevertheless, I really appreciated the helpfulness and understanding. However, there were also comments (notably in response to a re-posting on the Natural Parents Network facebook page) along the lines of “every child deserves to be co-slept with” and “I co-slept with all 4 of my children and wouldn’t have it any other way.” I regretted that I had somehow given the impression that: I was planning to stick the baby from Day 1 in a crib in a room down the hall, I had no intention of being sensitive and responsive to the individual needs of this particular baby, I was absolutely, certainly never going to sleep with this baby at all, I no longer supported co-sleeping, My mind was made up. My intention from the day of that post was to start with a bassinet beside the bed and move after a couple of months to a crib in our room, a few feet away from our bed. This way I could still hear the baby easily and respond before baby cried but I would have a little more physical space so that I would not jump to attention every time baby stirred and so that baby wouldn’t get in the habit of nursing every hour. As a mother of two other children, I was also well aware that even our best intentions are at the mercy of our individual babies. I was prepared for the fact that this baby might not want to sleep anywhere other than on my body. As an ardent supporter of co-sleeping for its benefits, I was also prepared to share my bed with the baby whenever necessary, if we were...

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Reconsidering Co-sleeping

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 in Featured, Parenting | 14 comments

Reconsidering Co-sleeping

As we wait for this baby to arrive, I find myself seriously considering a crib. This may not seem very inflammatory. After all, for the vast majority a crib isn’t even a consideration; it’s a necessary purchase that requires no thought beyond what sheets to choose. However, we co-slept (or bed-shared) with our two older children. A crib feels like venturing into strange territory. In fact, it even feels like a bit of a betrayal. Not that I have a problem with OTHER people using cribs at all. It’s just for me, it feels like denying this baby some of the wonderful things we were able to give our older kids. Furthermore, it goes against my personal instincts and parenting philosophies about keeping our kids close. In a lot of ways I love co-sleeping. I love the extra snuggles in the night.  I love the extra hours of closeness with my children. I love being able to hear, see and feel that they are safe. I love waking up together. I love the early morning cuddles and giggles. I love that co-sleeping makes it easier for Aaron to be involved in night-time parenting. I love looking over and seeing one of my children cradled in Aaron’s arms. There are more practical benefits to co-sleeping beyond all that lovey-dovey stuff though. Many people, including Dr. James McKenna from University of Notre Dame, claim benefits to co-sleeping like the ease of maintaining the breastfeeding relationship and the increased sleep for mom. Long-term effects also suggested include higher self-esteem in adults who co-slept as children and a new book by Margot Sunderland, director of education at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, “says the practice makes children more likely to grow up as calm, healthy adults.” There are even studies that say that practiced safely, co-sleeping decreases the incidence of SIDS. In my own experience, I saw first hand the ways that co-sleeping made breastfeeding easier. I could just roll over and nurse a baby while half asleep, without having to get up, walk down the hall, nurse in a chair and then carefully try to get baby back in the crib (without rousing her and having to start over). We learned quite quickly to disturb our babies as little as possible in the night if we wanted to maximize our sleep.  A baby that falls asleep nursing in a side-lying position is much easier to keep asleep than one who needs to be moved and placed back into a crib. Plus, because I wasn’t getting up, walking around and turning on lights, it was easier for me to go back to sleep after a feed too. The problem is I’m beginning to feel that some of those gains in the early days set me up for some challenges later on. Some examples: 1. Eventually I began to dread climbing into bed at night. I would be tired (from a long day with a toddler who usually went to bed at the same time as us) and ready to sleep but as soon as I jostled the bed or baby smelled me beside her, it would be mean another feed before I could go to sleep. Whether it was 8:30, or 9:00, or 10:00, or midnight. I could not get into bed and just go to sleep. Even if baby had only nursed an hour ago, I was in for another feed before I could punch out. 2. Increased Night Wakings. Both of my kids spent their early days in a little bassinet type bed beside our bed and only moved into our bed when they outgrew their first bed, around 4 or 5 months old. Around this time, we noticed that they were developing skills for soothing themselves back to sleep. We would hear them rustle, re-settle, perhaps suck a finger or thumb and then go back to sleep. Around this time, hours of consecutive sleep were increasing from 2 (with a newborn) to 4 or 5. By the time both children were a year old, they were waking...

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