Posts Tagged "Attachment Parenting"

Going Solo

Posted on Nov 5, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Going Solo

In a few hours, Aaron is going to drop me off at the shuttle that will take me to 30 hours away from my children. I’m going to the City to visit my sister, a couple of girl friends and to get some much needed maternity clothes. I will be gone two nights. This is BIG. Rain is five years old. He co-slept with us until he was three when we started the slow process of transitioning him to to his own room: first in his own bed beside ours, then by having him nap in his new room, and then by switching him to sleeping nights in his room too. By this time, we were co-sleeping with his little sister Noa. This summer we transitioned Noa into her own bed in a room she shares with Rain. The process was surprisingly easy. Nevertheless, we wake up every morning with both of them in our bed. I breastfed Rain until he was a little over two. He weaned when I got pregnant with Noa. Noa has also just recently weaned after two years of nursing. For the last six years, I’ve been non-stop pregnant or nursing and co-sleeping. When Rain was two, Aaron and I went away overnight to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Rain stayed with my sister and I think we were actually gone less than 24 hours. Rain was a little sad but it went well and we probably would have done it again except that we got pregnant the next month so we started the whole process over again. Other than a few hours here and there when I’ve gone out with a friend, or Aaron and I have gone out and gotten a babysitter, or Rain went to preschool, or I worked part-time, that night away is the longest I’ve been away from my kids and they’ve been away from me. And now I’m 24 weeks pregnant. In February, I will begin what will likely be another two years of nursing and co-sleeping. It’s high time Mama had a bit of an extended break. I’m beyond excited about this trip. I will be able to: Read a book or knit on the ferry (rather than chase active toddlers round and round the boat, or sequester ourselves in the car with a DVD on the laptop) Go for dinner with a friend and stay for dessert (rather than rush to gobble the last of my meal and pay the bill before the toddler has a total melt down) Leave a restaurant without having to pick up food off the seats and floor first. Take transit and zone out listening to my own music on the ipod (rather than listen to non-stop child chatter or fighting) Do whatever I want all day Have uninterrupted conversations SLEEP BY MYSELF. ALL NIGHT. TWICE. I’m also incredibly nervous about this trip. I know in my heart that they will be fine. They will be with their dad who they adore and they have lots of fun things planned to do while I am gone. I will have a cell phone so they can call me whenever they need to. It will be ok. But it’s also a first and firsts are always a bit scary. I know there will be at least a few tears (on both sides) when I leave and over the weekend. I worry that two nights is too ambitious for a first separation. I worry that it’s unfair to leave Aaron with the full-time parenting over the weekend (hello irrational mother-guilt!). But I know that this will be good for all of us. I know it’s important to get space for yourself every now and then. I know it’ll be good for the kids to have both the uninterrupted time with Aaron and the opportunity to see that they are capable of surviving  time away from me occasionally. I feel immeasurably grateful (and loved!)  that Aaron encouraged me to do this trip. Plus, when I get home, I will have more than 1 pair of pants...

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Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 19 comments

Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Last week at my local La Leche League meeting the topic for discussion was adapting to motherhood and one of the questions was “What did you to do to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb?” A young mother of a 2.5 month old baby responded by saying that she had let her baby cry and that it had been the good thing for him because now he is sleeping well. She went on to say that it had been terrible and that she herself had cried the first few times but that it had been the right thing to do. Considering the group, which was primarily made up of proponents of attachment parenting, the resulting discussion was incredibly supportive, thanks to the stealthy handling of our leader. She steered the conversation away from the specifics and toward the need to recognize that every baby is different, that every mom knows best what her baby needs and that we need to support each other in that. One of the other mothers piped up to say that she too had used sleep training with her baby and often felt judged for it. Some others brought up that they felt judged for going to their babies when they cried, and for not sleep training. Everyone reiterated that mothers know what is best for their babies. I was impressed with how the situation was handled but I sat quietly through the entire discussion. I am fervently opposed to crying-it-out (and you can read why here). I don’t believe it’s one of those minor parenting differences that we all have to accept each other on, like whether we cloth diaper or use disposables, whether we breastfeed for 12 months or 24, whether or not we use rewards for behaviour modification, or for that matter whether or not we use sleep training methods on older babies. I don’t believe that letting a 10 week old baby cry-it-out is just fodder for the mommy wars. The cry-it-out (CIO) method is not a choice that families come up with of their own accord. I am fairly certain that if every family were left to their own devices, to trust themselves, to trust their babies, the cry-it-out method would die out because it goes against our very instincts. Every evolutionary biological maternal instinct we have tells us to go to, pick up, and soothe a baby who is crying. This young mother said herself that it was terrible and she cried the first few times she tried the method.  An article I read while researching this post reiterated that point: The first night I cried for over an hour, long enough that my mom finally had to take a break and walk around the neighborhood while my dad kept watch. Anecdotally, I hear that over and over from moms, even those who are huge supporters of CIO. We all seem to think that parents and babies have to toughen up, that if they all just suck it up for a few days (or weeks) they’ll be the better for it, because someone wiser and more experienced said that this is what we are supposed to do. The only reason we continue as a society to use this method is because of pressures coming from outside the walls of our homes and I am beginning to think that we have a responsibility to stop this insanity. You think it’s harsh to call it insanity? Try this perspective: Leaving a baby to cry is a method that was popularized by doctors and paediatricians from the turn of the 20th century. This was a time when influential men like Luther Emmett Holt (1855 – 1924) and Truby King (1858-1938) were telling mothers that a strict schedule of feeding and sleeping should be kept. Their advice included encouraging regular bowel movements from the time the baby was younger than 2 months old by holding the baby over a basin and inserting soap suppositories, rubber tubing or an oiled cone into the baby’s rectum at the same time every day!! This...

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Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Posted on Apr 26, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 3 comments

Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Last week I ended up in a group setting where I sat quietly by as a new mother explained that she had let her 10 week old son cry it out. I had no idea how to respond. Mere hours before I had posted the following on my Facebook page: Young babies cannot tell time. They have no way of knowing that it’s been only 5 min or 5 hours since they last saw you. They also do not have object permanence which means that if they can’t see, touch, smell or hear you, it’s the same as if you don’t exist. When they call for you and you don’t come, they have no way of knowing that you are still there but in the other room. Talk about terrifying: to be helpless and your primary caregiver no longer exists. No wonder their little brains are flooded with stress hormones. BBC News – Crying-it-out ‘harms baby brains’ news.bbc.co.uk Dr Penelope Leach says recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries. I should be clear here that I am talking about young babies. Newborns. Infants. Babies under 6 months old for sure (regarding the reference to object permanence). Newborns cry because they are hungry, cold, tired or need their mothers. They do not cry to manipulate. They cry to tell you they have needs that must be met. For older babies, over 6 months, over 1 year, various methods of sleep training is perhaps an issue of personal parenting choice. I personally still try to avoid it but I can see that modified versions of cry-it-out, like crying-in-arms or Dr. Jay Gordon’s advice can be helpful, especially for working mothers. I concede that willingly. Older babies can learn to wait occasionally (ask any mother of more than 1 child). Older babies do need to be taught that sometimes they have to go to sleep when they would rather play. Older babies can be taught sleep associations that do not involve wearing out her mother. But a 10 week old baby? No. That baby is crying to tell you something. There are plenty of articles and studies out there that discuss why CIO (cry-it-out) is harmful. This one discusses the history of the practice and offers an alternative: crying in arms. This one discusses attachment theory. These articles are only a drop in the bucket on the subject and both are well researched and referenced. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Leach that leaving a young infant to cry is damaging to the brain as well as to the baby’s emotional development, and to the relationship between mother and child in terms of the child trusting that their caregiver will respond to their needs, requests for help. Crying is the young infant’s primary form of communication. They need to trust that you will respond to them when they communicate and that trust is vital to ongoing attempts to forge a bond of attachment. I don’t use this word attachment in a fluffy way; I am talking about the attachment that psychologists study in humans and in animals as being necessary to our very survival. Perhaps the main reason for the persistence of the CIO method is the misunderstanding that it works. Certainly, many babies do eventually stop crying and sleep, but unfortunately, this is often cited as being linked with the baby becoming so stressed that he or she simply shuts down as a means of coping with extremely overwhelming negative emotions, similar to victims of post traumatic stress disorder. These babies pass out from exhaustion and fear, from crippling levels of stress hormones in their tiny developing brains. They do not go to sleep because they have learned to self-soothe. Given the new body of sophisticated, cross-discipline research on attachment and brain development outlined in this article, it is clear that a baby’s willingness to accept sleep training after reportedly brief periods of protest is no less than a cycle of hyperarousal and dissociation responses that is damaging to...

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Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Posted on Apr 13, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 20 comments

Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice! This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself. ~ 8th Principle of Attachment Parenting, Attachment Parenting International. Sometimes I think this oft-overlooked 8th principle is the most important principle of the Attachment Parenting philosophy. Sometimes I think that it’s the part that makes all the other principles possible. However, for me, it is also the hardest principle to implement. And I don’t think I’m alone. It seems that striving for balance and finding time for self-care are on the minds of most parents in some shape or form. There are a lot of sites out there rife with advice on how to do this. Jen Louden of Comfort Queen talks about renewal, comfort and making time for yourself, with coaching geared specifically for women. Sarah Juliusson from Mama Renew gives tips and offers workshops for mothers. Renee Trudeau wrote a book called The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Advice varies from lighting candles to attending week long child-free retreats. There should be something there for everyone. And in many ways, there is. However, dear reader, what does one do when trying to honour our own needs pits us against our children? I recently read Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, by Mary Kurcinka. The book outlines the different ways that a child can be spirited and has scales for rating your child on the various aspects. There is also a section where you rate yourself. I was reading the book because I suspected that my powerhouse of a four year old was spirited and he did come out mildly spirited based on our appraisals. What surprised me was that in some ways I am spirited as well (I think Kurcinka would term me spunky). And here’s the kicker: Rain and I are spirited in opposite ways (for the most part). He rated low on the things that I scored highly on and I rated low on the things he scored highly on. An example would be that Rain is fairly exuberant (for those familiar with Kurcinka’s book, you will recognize my attempt to use a positive label) and I am sensitive. Rain rates highly for energy; he is always wiggling, always on the move, always making noise. He can’t talk; he yells. He loves to bang on drums. I scored low on energy. I have always been quiet. As I child I preferred to read, colour or draw rather than join in on a team sport for instance. It drives me crazy that my husband shakes his leg or drums his fingers when relaxing on the couch. I tend to be still. I rate high however, on sensitivity. I am a far pickier eater than anyone in my family, I am always cold and I find noise extremely stressful. I am often reminded during the course of my day that excessive noise is used as a method of torture and as a means to end hostage situations. I have also been known to joke that having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain. When our house gets especially noisy, I feel myself tensing up and my reactions to otherwise innocuous behaviour become harsh and grouchy. I react like someone being attacked. I counter-strike. I understand that kids have lots...

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Thoughts on Weaning

Posted on Jan 19, 2010 in Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting | 10 comments

Thoughts on Weaning

I consider myself lucky. In this culture of formula and inadequate support and work pressures, so many women seem to struggle with breastfeeding. For me, the struggle was actually weaning. Breastfeeding came easy. My babies latched well and I had a bigger issue with oversupply than with not producing enough. I had great support from my midwives and family, and I was lucky to have a whole year of Canadian maternity leave. My children were both enthusiastic nursers and as a result, weaning was a very long gradual process. I had initially intended to nurse my firstborn for 18 months. We did manage to night-wean him at 15 months when I got a part-time job but his day-time nursing made up for it. There was no chance he’d be weaned at 18 months. I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding before my son was ready. I wanted very much for the process of weaning to be loving and gentle and to move at a pace dictated largely by my son, with some encouragement from me.  In that sense, I wouldn’t say it was truly child-led weaning as I definitely played an encouraging (or discouraging) role. I employed the oft-cited tactics like “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” and distraction or offering alternatives. Eventually, I would decline a request to nurse whenever I thought I could get away with it. I will be honest. Sometimes it felt like I would never get my body back. Sometimes I felt touched out and resented having to nurse again. Sometimes I felt that weaning gradually was too difficult, too slow. By the time Rain was two years old, he was only nursing before and after sleeps and when hurt or upset. A month after his second birthday, I got pregnant again. Nursing quickly became uncomfortable and I wasn’t sure I was interested in tandem nursing. I knew that the next 9 months held Rain’s weaning. We gradually got him into a bedtime routine that involved reading books, a cup of milk and some a lot of cuddles. By January 2008, he was only nursing once a day, before his nap. One day—was it January? February?—he was playing with his cousins in the house. They had the camping gear out and were pretending that the rolled blue foam sleeping pads were horses. They would sit on them and pretend to ride. Rain brought one back to the bus at lunch time. He asked to sleep with his horse during nap time. We laid down together on the bed in the back. I remember the light peeking through the curtains. I remember him putting his arm around Rose, his trusty horse and curling his body round the blue foam pad. I remember tucking his blanket around him. I remember how I stroked his hair and how he drifted off, forgetting to ask for a nurse. I don’t remember the day before, the day we nursed as we always did. I don’t remember the way he looked or what the light was like the last time we nursed. But I remember the day he didn’t nurse. I remember this day as the day he weaned. He did nurse again after that day: occasionally to sleep, when he fell and got hurt, after his sister was born and he would watch her nurse, curious and remembering how he had loved to nurse. By the time Noa was born, he would only latch, suck once or twice, grow bored and wander off to do something else. I remember the day with the blue foam horse named Rose because this was the first day he didn’t nurse. This was the real weaning: the day nursing was no longer a daily affair, no longer a part of the rhythm of our lives. I have many many memories of breastfeeding Rain. I remember the early days learning together, sitting up alone with him at night by the light shining through the closet door, listening to Aaron and the dog snore, listening to Rain’s sleepy swallows. I remember the toddler acrobatics as he nursed while...

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