Thursday, July 29, 2010

Attachment Parenting – it’s not all or nothing

Here's another article I wrote a couple years ago.

Attachment Parenting (AP) – it’s not all or nothing

Attachment parenting, coined by Dr. Sears, is defined as:  a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents (  Dr. Sears talks about the seven Bs: Birth bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bedding close to baby (co-sleeping), Belief in the language value of your baby's cry, Beware of baby trainers and Balance.
Can you still be AP and not co-sleep?  Do you have to wear your baby all day long?  Can you never supplement with formula?  The answers are yes and no.

Attachment parenting is a tool you can use, not a strict set of rules. Many parents use AP and don’t even know it.  I didn’t know I was AP until I met up with a group of parents who labeled themselves AP.  I did many of the same things they did, but I figured I was just your average everyday mom.
Being AP is building attachments that actually reduce issues in the long run.  Responding to your child's needs as they are expressed teaches you and the baby how to relate.  The child doesn't end up learning the only way to get a need met is the bloodcurdling scream.  As parents, you will learn to trust your instincts and your child's.

But, back to our question: is it all or nothing?  Let’s take the 7 Bs one at a time.

Birth bonding – this is when you get the baby immediately after birth and put him to your breast for his first (attempted) latch.  You are skin to skin.  The baby can smell you and hear your heartbeat. What if you can’t bond immediately?  What if you have a C section or there are complications and the baby needs to be whisked away to the NICU?  That’s OK.  You will have time to bond.  Yes, that first bonding is important, but so is the rest of the bonding period.

Breastfeeding – part of the AP philosophy is the importance of breastfeeding.  Not only is it the best nourishment for your baby, but it creates a stronger bond.  Some moms can’t breastfeed for varying reasons.  Maybe the baby just never learned how to latch or mom didn’t produce enough (or any) milk.  If you bottle feed, you can still bond by holding your baby for each and every feed and look into his eyes, play with his hands and feet and do everything you would have done if he were nursing.

Babywearing – honestly, holding your baby a lot is the key here; baby carriers, like slings and wraps, make it easier on you.  You could hold your baby to your chest all day, but your arms would get tired and you would be limited to what you could do.  With a sling or wrap you can do it all while bonding with your baby. 

Bedding close to baby (co-sleeping) – having your baby close to you at all times, including at night while in bed, increases the bond plus gives mom more sleep.  But, as convenient as co-sleeping is, it can still be a nerve wracking experience at first.  I attempted co-sleeping with my daughter when she was a baby.  We slept together for just a couple nights and I had terrible nightmares for MONTHS afterwards.  I would wake up a couple times a night searching for her, thinking I or my husband rolled over on top of her.  I would frantically rip off the covers of our bed and look between the wall and bed.  It would take several seconds to realize I was dreaming and she was asleep in her crib in her room.  When my son was born I needed that extra sleep, so I tried co-sleeping again.  This time I had no problem with it.  He slept on my arm all night long and would nurse whenever he needed to.  And I didn’t have to get up to nurse him in his room.  Aside from stirring just enough to make sure he latched on, we slept all night long.  The moral?  My daughter is just as attached as my son, even though she and I didn’t co-sleep.

Belief in the language value of your baby's cry – This is an important one.  Your baby is crying for a reason.  He’s hungry, wet or dirty, uncomfortable, too hot, too cold or just needs to be held.  This isn’t one of those “all or nothing” things.  Your baby is too young to manipulate you.  He needs you and you need to respond to him. When you practice AP, you start to learn what each cry means.  I know the difference between the “I’m super tired” cry, the “I’m hungry” cry, the “something hurts” cry and the “I’m pissed off” cry. No matter how AP and bonded you are to your baby, there will always be those times when you just can’t figure out what’s wrong. But at least those times are less than if you didn’t take the time to bond and learn.

Beware of baby trainers – Another part of being AP is knowing that your baby knows what he wants and needs.  He knows when he’s hungry, even if he just ate ½ hour ago.  He knows he just wants to be held, even though he’s been fed, changed and is comfortable.  Now, does this mean you jump at every single cry?  Maybe not.  For instance, sleep training.  Newborns should not be sleep trained. They might need to eat 6 times that night.  You need to feed him 6 times that night.  However, once he turns about 6 months old, you can let him cry for 10 minutes.  That might be all he needs to fall asleep, or back asleep. 

Balance – No, it’s not all about baby.  It’s mostly about baby, but not all.  Don’t neglect yourself or your marriage.  If your partner really is uncomfortable co-sleeping, then consider moving the baby to a side sleeper or his own crib.  If your partner really doesn’t want to babywear, then let him/her hold the baby.  Be willing to compromise, but don’t give up your parenting style. 

The bottom line is bond with your baby the best you can.  Take these seven Bs, follow them the best you can, but know that they’re not set in stone and there is wiggle room.  Enjoy the attachment you create with your baby.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Surving Colic

I wrote this a couple years ago and thought it would be nice to share with all of you.  I call myself the "Queen of Colic" because I really feel like I know a lot about how to deal with it.  Hopefully these tips will help your colicky baby.

Surviving Colic
Congratulations!  You are a new mommy and you have this tiny, beautiful baby.  You’ve been dreaming of this day for nine months.  Probably even longer than that.  How exciting it will be to hold and cuddle that little bundle of joy.  If only that little bundle of joy would stop crying…
Having a colicky baby can be extremely stressful.  You’re dealing with the sleepless nights, having a baby attached to your breast and now a baby that just CAN’T be soothed.  You offer the breast, you rock, you bounce, you swaddle, you swing.  The baby just cries and cries until he finally passes out and sleeps, only to wake up later and do it all over again.
Believe me, I know what you’re dealing with.  My daughter had colic for over three months.  She cried ALL DAY LONG.  My only saving grace (and possibly hers) was that she slept great at night.  I’m writing this to pass on what I learned along the way.  Some of it was advice given to me, but most of it I learned myself – the hard way.
First and foremost know: this too shall pass.  I know it makes no difference to you right now, but the colic will go away.  You will have a happy baby.  Focusing on the future isn’t an easy task.  It’s hard to look outside of what’s happening right now.  It’s basic survival instincts to get through the immediate challenge.  Try posting a sticky note somewhere where you’ll see it everyday.  Write on it “the colic will go away soon”, or something like that.  Put up a calendar where you can mark off each day at a time.  Circle his three month birthday knowing the colic will most likely be gone by then.  Anything you can do to get you through one day at a time will help. 
Secondly, swaddle – REAL tight.  I would joke that I was swaddling my baby just shy of cutting off the circulation.  Most babies really like that feeling of being all tight and snug.  It reminds them of the womb.  It’s very calming for them.  Swaddling is easy.  There are two ways that I’ve used. 
Here are the directions for swaddling using a blanket in a diamond shape:
  1. choose a large blanketlay the blanket out so that it is positioned like a diamond (a tilted square)
  2. fold the top corner down about ¼ of the way
  3. lay the baby down so his neck is lying on the fold
  4. holding the baby’s hand either to his side or on his chest, pull one corner over and tuck it in the opposite side
  5. take the other corner and pull it tight around the baby.  You can tuck the corner into a fold of the blanket to keep it wrapped.
  6. variation: to keep baby’s legs in and close to his body, pull the bottom corner up to his hands before pulling the first corner over
Here are the directions when swaddling using a blanket in a square shape:
  1. choose a large blanket
  2. lay the blanket out so it is positioned like a square
  3. lay the baby down so his neck is lying on the top edge of the blanket
  4. holding the baby’s hand either to his side or on his chest, fold one side of the blanket over and tuck under the baby’s body
  5. fold the other side over and around the baby
  6. take the bottom edge of the blanket and pull it up.  You can pull it tight so the baby’s legs are tight to his body, or you can do it loosely
  7. wrap each side of the blanket around the baby
Both ways of swaddling works well.  It depends on which style is easiest for you.  I have found that it is harder for babies to get out of the squared shaped swaddle.  Babies don’t like to be swaddled forever, so unwrap him a little while after he’s gone to sleep.  Or if after being swaddled he’s still screaming unwrap him and try something else.
The third tip I have to offer is “white noise”.  This is loud (but not too loud), constant noise like a hairdryer, vacuum cleaner, shooshing (“shhh”) or static on the radio.  White noise also reminds babies of the womb.  It’s pretty loud in there with our blood circulating and other muffled noises that make it to the baby.  I had a loud fan in my bathroom that worked well.
Number four is motion.  Swinging up and down or side to side works well.  Large, slow swings are great.  I would dance around the house with my daughter.  It was good exercise for me, too!  Another type of movement they like is little jiggles, side to side.  Just enough to get their heads to jiggle a tiny bit.  Often car rides help them fall asleep with the movement of driving.
Number 5 is join a Mothers Club or some kind of Mommies’ group.  Meet other moms who have dealt with colic or are currently dealing with it.  Share tips.  Commiserate together.  Laugh and cry together and watch each others babies grow up and become happy, smiling babies.
Finally, the last tip I have for you is put it all together.  Swaddle your baby and swing him while running the vacuum.  Or swaddle him and jiggle him while shooshing in his ear.  Remember that you won’t have to do this forever.  He will stop crying, even if for a little while.
If you get frustrated, walk away.  Put your baby in a safe place, like a crib or playpen, and walk away for 10 minutes.  Go where you can’t hear your baby crying.  Go in another room and put some headphones on.  It won’t hurt your baby to cry for 10 minutes if it means you’ll get some sanity. 
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Ask your neighbor to watch the baby for you while you run an errand.  Get away for a little bit.  Call on a family member.  You may feel like you don’t want to burden someone else with this crying baby, but that someone else doesn’t have to deal with the crying day in and day out and won’t have a problem rocking him for a couple hours.
One parting comment: if you really think something is wrong with your baby, have it checked out.  Mostly crying babies are crying because babies cry.  But if your mommy instincts are telling you something’s wrong, then be safe and see your pediatrician. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I breastfed my toddler, did you?

I always knew I would breastfeed my children.  Doing otherwise just wasn't an option.  I didn't think about how long, though.  With my first, Allie, I wanted to aim for 2 years because that was the WHO recommendation

When Allie weaned herself at 14 months I was certainly happy we made it that far, but also a little sad that we didn't make the 2 year mark.

When my son, Zachary came along, I aimed for two years again, not imagining I'd go any longer.  Two years came and went and he was still nursing a couple times a day.  We made it to 36 months and then some.  He will still ask every now and then and I let him.  That doesn't go over so well with the husband, but that's for another entry...

Here's a great article on nursing a toddler:

breastfeeding your toddler

Yes, another blogger

I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but I'll give this a try.  I've been using Facebook as my platform.  Someone suggest I blogj (thanks Jason!).  My first thought was "blog? Me??"  Then after thinking about it I thought "Why not?"  So here I am.  I have a lot of things I like to talk about: breastfeeding, religion (or the lack there of), babywearing, attachment parenting.  I'm sure there's more.  So, enjoy.  I think I'll have fun writing here.