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    Bedtime Connection





    Today, I'm writing at Natural Parents Network about nighttime parenting in a post called Bedtime Connection. Here's an excerpt:

    "I know it can be challenging to lie down at the end of a long day with your kids — when you may be thinking of a million and one things you’d like to get done in the limited time you may have between their bedtime and yours. But, there’s nothing so important as connection with your children.

    This evening, try taking a bit of time to relax, cuddle, and just listen after you say goodnight, but before you leave the room. Be open to what your kids have to say in the dark — without judgment, without routines and schedules, without places to be or things to do. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn about them — and about yourself. Remember it’s fleeting, this time with our kids. Embrace it while you can."


    (photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52193278@N00/) 

    To read the entire post, please visit the Natural Parents Network site... and have a look around. There are some really amazing mothers sharing their experiences with gentle, natural, intuitive parenting.

    For more things I've written on sleep, have a look here.

    Posted: Oct 29 2012, 11:06 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Go to Your Baby





    Don't stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby.

    ~Peggy O'Mara

     

    The latest article from Time magazine on baby sleep has me upset. (Of course, it does seem that's what they're aiming for recently. Remember the skerfuffle they caused over the "scandalous" breastfeeding cover?) The thing with this particular article however, is that it goes a step further than just ruffling feathers, or causing a stir. I'm afraid it may take what many parents may be on the edge of doing, and give them that little push over. What am I talking about? 

    Crying it out.

    Crying it out, or controlled crying, is the practice of leaving your baby to cry herself to sleep - usually at gradually increasing timed intervals - in an effort to "train" her to sleep on her own. Forced independence. There are myriad books and websites and doctors and parents and websites that will help steel you against your babies cries, encourage you to "be tough", and "not give in", leading you to believe that overriding your natural, instinctual NEED to GO to your crying baby, is the right thing to do... in order to "prevent spoiling your baby".

    (photo source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/iskir/)

    Have you ever listened to your baby cry, when you couldn't get to her? Maybe you were in another room, helping an older sibling, or driving your car. It's uncomfortable, physically difficult, painful even. If you're breastfeeding, your breastmilk may letdown, you start breathing faster, your heartrate picks up, you sweat, feel nervous, uncomfortable, unable to focus or settle down. You have those responses because you NEED to go to your baby - it's biologically part of your make up, that connection with your infant. She needs to communicate, just like you need to listen. She's not manipulating you, and you're not giving in, you're both just doing what you're supposed to do to help this tiny human thrive and survive. Without that inadvertant response, our species might be in danger. So, why does this Time magazine article suggest that it's OKAY to leave your baby to cry?

    Because I believe as a society we've come to lose faith in ourselves as baby interpreters. We don't trust our baby's ability to communicate, nor our ability to respond. We don't believe that they'll learn how to sleep unless WE  "do something" to get them there. And yet… we don't actively TEACH our children to talk. We don't TRAIN our children to walk. We trust they'll come to do that on their own. I believe it is time to start trusting that our babies will learn to sleep just as they learn to walk and talk - with gentle encouragement, empathy, guidance, honor, and love.

    It comes down to trust. It's time to start trusting yourselves again, parents. Trust your baby. She knows how to communicate, and you know how to listen to her. You know deep down what FEELS right. Honor that feeling, don't ignore it! You WILL learn each others' language, and baby WILL sleep; it doesn't take training or timers or turning a deaf ear.

    (photo source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dianabeato/)

    Believe me: this short time when she's not sleeping as much as you'd like…It WILL be gone in a flash. And you will feel SO GOOD to know you LISTENED to her when she cried for you, that you HONORED her feelings, that you TRUSTED yourself AND her. Don't let "studies" sway you.

    You want to go to your baby. So, go to her.

     

    Posted: Oct 23 2012, 23:39 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    Connection and Attachment Beyond Babyhood





    Attachment parenting is often associated with babies and very young children. But what happens when your baby is too big for a sling or your preschooler has weaned? Does attachment parenting have to stop? Not at all. The basis of attachment parenting is getting tuned-in to your child, learning to communicate effectively, and staying connected.  You may not be able/want to breastfeed your five-year-old, but that doesn't mean he no longer wants - and needs - the gentle nurturing touch that you and he shared when he was a sweet, chubby baby. Here are some ways to help strengthen those connections you built in babyhood, and stay in-tuned with your older kids:

     

    Get down on the floor and play.

    Sometimes it's really a challenge to shake the stiff realities of life as an adult and loosen up. Sometimes kids play seems boring. Sometimes all you can think about is what you're "not getting done" while playing with your kids. Maybe you're just not the playing kind? I get that. It can be hard at times, to get down and really play with kids, but it's worth it! Even a bit of an effort makes a difference. Every ten minutes spent helping construct a Lego tower, tossing a ball back and forth, or throwing a blanket over the kitchen table to make a fort adds to your connection bank. We can all find ten minutes. Remember, play is kids' language. We need to speak it now & then.

     

    Hug, cuddle, and use gentle touch.

    Not only babies like and benefit from gentle touch. Keeping attached to our children means cuddling up with them - even when they're nearly as big as we are! Offer hugs whenever you can (wrestle  if kids say they are "too big" for hugs & kisses), offer  a gentle massage to help kids relax before bed, cuddle up on the couch when watching a movie or reading a book, use gentle, reassuring touch (like a pat on the back) when your child is working hard at a task, offer to brush or braid your children's hair (and then have them do the same for you!). Gentle touch is a great way to reconnect and show love without having to say a word!

     

    Write a love note.

    My daughter has told me many times how much she enjoys reading the notes I've left in her lunch during the school year. Jot down a happy poem, an inspiring phrase, or a note from the heart and leave it somewhere your child will be sure to see it - in their lunch box, on their bathroom mirror, or in their sports bag. If you're not the flowery words type, try something simple like a smiley face or "Have a great day!" (I created a few "staying connected" cards - feel free to print & include them in your kids' lunches). Just a few words of encouragement or cheer, reminding your children that you're thinking of them - even when you're apart - can really mean a lot to your child.

     

    Actively listen.

    Listen to your kids when they talk. Simple, right? But I know how challenging it can be to stop what you're doing and pay close attention when your child is in motor-mouth mode, or telling you the details of the latest Harry Potter book, which you both have already read, many times. Keep in mind that while the little details may not be important to you at that moment, what they are telling you is important to THEM. By making eye contact and actively listening, you're letting them know how important THEY are to YOU. Good listening is crucial to keeping your connection strong. And while the stories NOW may seem simplistic or boring, as they grow, if they're used to telling you their feelings and experiences, you'll be the first person they come to when the stories are scary, complex, or they're facing challenging decisions as teenagers. Listening now reverberates.

     

    Attachment parenting doesn't have to stop with breastfeeding, babywearing, or cosleeping. Staying connected our kids doesn't take much effort, and can make a world of difference in maintaining that close relationship you established in babyhood. Go ahead, give your big kid an extra hug today & see how good it feels!

    Posted: Jun 14 2012, 00:00 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Becoming A More Present and Less Judgmental Parent





    I feel I've come a long way in my parenting  journey over the last eight years.  I've developed more patience than I ever knew possible for myself, become more tolerant, open-minded, empathetic, and (sigh) better able to handle sleep deprivation. I've learned new techniques for calmly dealing with frustration, and for disciplining without punishment/reward/bribery (something prior to parenting I hadn't realized was even possible). But, though I've improved in these areas, incorporated these ideas into my parenting toolbox, that doesn't mean I've mastered them! And, still, my children change, new challenges present themselves, I find my limits being tested and I'm continually having to learn new, different techniques in order to change along with my kids. No one ever said parenting was boring, right? Something I've been working on recently, is learning how to calmly observe situations (as opposed to immediately judging what's going on and thus creating an emotion - usually a more forceful one like anger or irritation or resentment), as a way of being more present and better able to deal with things as they come up.

    When I am in a situation where I feel like my children are out of control, going wild, not listening… and I feel myself getting anxious, frustrated, or on the edge of outbursting myself, I try to stop for a moment. I take myself to a protected, quiet (or as quiet as you can get with children) spot. I breathe. I think about how I am feeling and recognize how I am (re)acting towards my children. I try to do this without judging myself - just acknowledging and recognizing. I breathe some more. I try to envision what I'd LIKE my children to be doing… AND (perhaps more importantly) how I would LIKE to respond to my children. I breathe. I try to ignore the outbursts or craziness for a little bit longer. Next, I think about what they are doing at the moment. I try to switch my way of thinking about what's going on with them from judgment to observation (something like moving from:  "I can't BELIEVE the how they've wrecked the house! I JUST straightened it up! They're out of control!!" to "There are a lot of things on the floor. My kids are full of energy."). I find that when I can move from forming opinions about what's going on to just making general observations, I feel my sense of stress about the situation greatly reduce. I go from feeling like I "NEED TO FIX" this situation to feeling like I'd just like to continue on with the day. When I'm no longer seeing what's going on as a problem and instead just being present with the situation, bringing awareness to life as it IS, then I'm no longer needing to fix it, so I can look at it more optimistically, calmly, and with a broader view.

    (Photo Credit: NaturalLifeMom.com)

    Take the example of the "house being wrecked immediately after cleaning it: if I look at it as the kids going bonkers, disrespecting their space, and creating more work for me, I may find myself wanting to hurry to clean up, which stresses me out, I may dictate that the kids follow suit, but then feel angry, frustrated, or put out when they don't immediately heed my directive, or irritated that they just keep getting louder - echoing my own irritated energy.  Nothing has been resolved, nothing learned, and stress continues on. Usually multiplied. If instead, I look at the same situation (after breathing and calming and reframing) as: kids with lots of energy, and stuff on the floor, I can more easily start picking just up the stuff (because it's just stuff on the floor that needs picked up), without demanding that the kids help (because I've envisioned them seeing me clean up and want to join in to help, since picking up stuff is part of life, and kids like to be part of real life), and I don't feel angry or frustrated because there's no blame, no judgment, no expectation. In fact, maybe I put on music while I clean up - because I like cleaning to music. Maybe I make a game out of it because who doesn't like trying to "make a basket" with stuff on the floor? Without pressure or force or guilt or blame or anger directing my actions, I often find myself more calm, more creative, more present. And, when I am more calm, my kids feel my calmness and direction, and they naturally start calming down, mirroring, echoing. Things get cleaned up, people are calm, and the day moves on. I haven't yet perfected this, but I find that it's working, so I continue to work in this direction in the hopes that we all will experience more peace, calm, awareness, and presence in our lives!

    (Photo Credit: PresenceParenting.com <-- for fabulously non-judgmental tips on how to acheive more presence, peace, and harmony in your life with children, please visit my friend Amy's blog. She also wrote this lovely online guide: Nurturing Presence)

    Here's to more calm, more breathing, and less judgment in your own life. Peace. 

    Posted: May 30 2012, 16:09 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Attachment Parenting - New York City Edition





    Last Thursday, I received an email from my fellow blogger, author, and friend, Dionna Ford at Code Name: Mama. Turns out it was a good thing I checked my email before heading to work that morning. As, less than an hour later, instead of driving to work, I found myself driving to New York City where I had the opportunity to meet the lovely and eloquent Dionna (and her sweet, nom-able baby daughter) in person, fellow natural parenting blogger Rachael at The Variegated Life (whose children *may* have the coolest names ever), the exuberant attachment parenting guru, Dr. Jay Gordon, and even got to shake hands with attachment parenting advocate Mayim Bialik!

    (Me, Ailia, and Dionna)

    After a three hour drive (yes, you read that correctly. My usual 1hr 20min drive to the big apple took THREE HOURS. I hear the President was in town for the day; so I'd like to thank POTUS - I've never seen the Lincoln Tunnel in such great, and drawn-out detail.), I was more than relieved to take my wrinkly-pants self out of my car, and into the busy studio of Anderson Cooper’s daytime show. The topic of the show segment being recorded that day was Attachment Parenting and breastfeeding; as prompted by the now-infamous Time Magazine cover. While waiting for Dionna to go to “hair and makeup” and then to on stage (squeee!),

    (Dionna, getting pretty)

    we both had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jay for a good long while. He’s an amiable, straight-talker with a true passion for normalizing breastfeeding and attachment parenting. He also happens to be the pediatrician to several Hollywood stars’ children – which as a complete non sequitur, did make for even more interesting conversation. I highly recommend checking out his site – which I referenced several times myself when my kids were babies.

    (Me, Ailia, and Dr. Jay)

    (backstage view - that's Mayim in the light)

    I was able to watch - with one eye - much of the filming from backstage with babe-on-hip (note to self: everyone wants to talk to you when you are holding a baby). However, I've yet to see the episode in its entirety. Once a full video can be found online, I'll be sure to post a link here! I've been told that, unfortunately, much of Dionna’s articulate responses to Anderson’s and audience member’s questions about breastfeeding and attachment parenting were left on the editing-room floor. I can attest in person, she did a fabulous job of representing the very normal side of extended nursing and natural parenting, and she did so with an air of confidence - in front of a large audience; including some celebrities (speaking of celebrities… while we were waiting backstage, Ailia and I took this photo):

    (Billy Bob Thornton)

    After the show, I was able to talk with Rachael a bit, took a few photographs of the city, then headed back home (a far shorter experience on the way back!). It was an excellent trip, all around. It felt so good to be able to talk attachment parenting in depth with real people - who really got it. I'm hoping, in spite of the shock-value nature of the Time cover, the subject of attachment parenting and breastfeeding will become more a part of the landscape and conversations of parenting in general; less a fringe "extreme" style, and more understood for what it truly IS: a natural and easy way of relating to our children. I'm grateful for mothers who stand up and speak out for what they believe in; together we can change the "norm" of parenting!  

    (Rachel & Dionna - city gals!)

    Posted: May 22 2012, 17:55 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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