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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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    What Attachment Parenting Is (and What It's Not)

    What attachment parenting IS:

    A way to form a lasting, loving connection between you and your children.

    A nurturing, gentle, and compassionate method of parenting and relating to your babies and children.

    A way to build a foundation of trust, understanding, and mutual respect between yourself and your baby that will last throughout childhood and into adulthood.

    A natural and instinctual method of responding to and interacting with your babies and children.

    A validating approach to parenting that encourages you to follow your baby's cues and trust your own innate ability when responding to your child.

    A way to help fulfill your baby's needs through nurturing touch, responsive feeding, close physical contact, gentle guidance, and empathetic communication.

    A style of parenting which fosters security, self-esteem, inner harmony, and independence in your children.


    What attachment parenting is NOT:

    A strict set of rules you have to follow.

    Attachment parenting has several guidelines suggested to help you foster the natural connection you already feel for your child. They aren't rules, and you don't have to do all of them in order to be an attached parent! The spirit and basis of attachment parenting is cultivating a deep and trusting connection between you and your children. Things like breastfeeding, babywearing, and cosleeping are all tools which can help you feel closer to your baby and to be naturally and more easily responsive to their needs; but you needn't practice all of them in order to practice attachment parenting.

    A method of parenting that you can only practice with babies.

    The ideas behind attachment parenting transcend babyhood. You don't have to start only when your child is a baby, nor feel like you've missed out! The principles of nurturing touch, empathetic communication, and gentle discipline can be put into effect at ANY TIME in your child's life. EVERYONE benefits from being truly listened to, understood, and respected. You may even find yourself attachment partnering! ;)

    A parenting method only for at-home mothers.

    While having consistant, loving care is critical for every baby and child, there's no reason that care needs to come from ONLY mom! Fathers, grandparents, siblings, and care givers can all care for babies in an attached way. You only need the desire for connection, a willingness to honor baby's cries as valid communication, and the ability to respond with sensitivity, empathy, and love to the wide range of childhood emotions - even the more challenging ones. Babywearing can actually HELP caregivers more effectively and responsively care for babies, while getting other things done! I know many parents who brought their babies to work in a sling (myself being one of them!), or who were able to reconnect lovingly at night after work, through breastfeeding and a family bed.


    Attachment parenting is, at its core, a method for relating to babies and children in gentle, nurturing ways, in an effort to form a lasting, loving, joyful connection with them. It's easy to do, feels good, and is wonderful for your children - AND for you!


    For more information about attachment parenting - what it REALLY IS, and how you can bring it into your life with your own children, grandchildren, or other children you care for, please check out these wonderful articles (listed alphabetically, except for NPN... because I write there, too!):


    NaturalParentsNetwork.com: What is Attachment Parenting? 

    AskDrSears.com: What AP Is: 7 Baby B's

    Attachment Parenting International: What is Attachment Parenting All About?

    TheBabyBond.com: Bonding Matters… The Chemistry of Attachment

    DrJayGordon.com: Flower Shop (Why You Should Attachment Parent)

    GreenChildMagazine.com: How Does Attachment Parenting Foster Independence?

    GreenMomHappyMom.com: How to Balance Work & Attachment Parenting

    The Hippie Housewife: Attachment Parenting (Series)

    MommaJorje.com: WHY Attachment Parenting?

    Our Crazy Corner of the World: What AP Looks Like

    Radical Ramblings: Attachment Parenting is for Everyone - Really!

    True Confessions of a Real Mommy: 7 Principles of "Too Lazy"

    TheVerigatedLife.com: Five Truths About Attachment Parenting 

    VibrantWanderings.com: Why Practice Attachment Parenting (Series)


    Do you have a favorite post that describes attachment parenting in an uplifting and positive light? Please share!


    Posted: May 17 2012, 19:25 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    The Most Peaceful Time of Day

    Crunchy mom confession: I still help my children fall asleep at night. My children are 3 years and almost 6 years old, and I lie down with them at night, after bath time, after books and quizzes with Daddy. I snuggle between them, as they drift off to sleep. When they are asleep, I disentangle myself from arms and legs, and tip toe out, lingering just a bit to see them peacefully asleep together. Now, I don’t have to do this. I know they are capable of falling asleep on their own. And they have, when I’ve asked them to – if I’m touched out for the day, or I have something to do right after bed. But most nights, I still choose to lie down with them because…

    - They still want me to, and I know they won’t always want me to. And I will sincerely miss it when they don’t.

    - They ask me the best questions after the lights go out. Like, “How far does the sky go?” and “How fast can an elephant run?”

    - Before sleep, they are always harmonious and joyful. There’s no whining, teasing, wanting. Something about the tranquility of sleep about to come, brings with it a welcome sense of peace, that I don’t often encounter during the day with two young children, and a lot of responsibilities.

    - They recount the events of the day, and we ask each other what our favorite parts of the day were – and what our least favorite parts were (this is a wonderful window into how they interpret my actions – sometimes an action that I thought was rather forgettable, like, asking my 3yo to help me sweep up a mess, turns out to be his favorite part of the day – because I was one-on-one with him on the floor, guiding him. And that expensive trip to a museum – not as fun.).

    - They tell me things that happened in school or at grandma’s house, which otherwise, with the lights on, and the events of the day swirling busily around them, they might not have mentioned – things that concerned them, things that they need help processing. I’m glad to be able to slow down for a little bit and help them through those thoughts, which might not otherwise have been communicated.

    - It’s a quiet time, to relax and just be, without expectations or schedules or places to go or things to get done.

    - They ask me to sing as I always have to them before sleep, and I love to sing, and now they love to sing too – and I marvel in hearing their little voices developing.

    - I adore the feel of their fingers, curled around mine; relaxing into sleep like they did as infants once upon a time on my shoulder. I feel blessed that almost 6 years after having my first baby; I still get a glimpse into babyhood that isn’t so far gone for my little ones.

    So for all of these reasons, I lie down with my children at night, and help them to sleep. Our days go so quickly, and they are growing so fast, I’ll enjoy this connection and this time with them now, while I can.



    Nightwaking and Nightweaning

    Frequent night waking is absolutely normal and natural in all babies - particularly breastfed ones - as breastmilk is digested more quickly than formula, and baby will only drink as much as she needs, so her stomach may feel emptier, sooner, which may cause her to wake more frequently than her formula-fed counterpart. Night time waking is a baby’s mechanism to stay safe.  Babies aren’t physiologically intended to sleep as soundly or as long as adults (you can read more about baby sleep at the links below).






    However, perhaps because of the busy lives we lead and the lack of support mothers often have, babies have come to be expected to sleep through the night at younger and younger ages, and sleeping through the night has become a milestone with a deadline attached to it.  Strangely though, sleeping through the night seems to be the only milestone people write books about with all sorts of schedules and guarantees.  Think about it - when’s the last time you saw a baby book about “How to Teach Your Baby to Walk?”  Our culture is OBSESSED with baby sleep. But, I digress.  When baby doesn’t start sleeping according to these societal expectations, mom – and breastfeeding – often take the blame, and premature weaning and/or regimented sleep training ensues.


    Of course, as good and normal as waking frequently may be for baby, it can be challenging for baby’s parents.  Particularly if said parents have to get up in the morning and get older children to school and/or get themselves to work, as most people do! As the sleep deprivation sets in, fantasies of stopping breastfeeding altogether or following some "guaranteed sleep plan"  in order to get a good night’s sleep may start becoming more appealing.  However, strict sleep training plans or breastfeeding cessation doesn’t always stop night waking. And babies often need the benefits of nighttime milk and nighttime comfort beyond the time people often think baby “should be” sleeping through the night. (more about that at the links below:)




    Babies may wake at night because they are uncomfortable, scared, in teething pain (for which breastfeeding is the ultimate natural comforter), are wet, or a host of other unknown reasons. Breastfeeding can provide baby with a wonderful source of comfort, pain reduction, and sleep-inducing chemicals. Night nursing isn’t always just about nutrition, and that’s okay.   


    However, if night nursing is becoming too trying, I’d encourage moms to try co-sleeping first, particularly for a young baby, before night weaning, and definitely before severing the breastfeeding relationship or sleep training.  In fact, I don't recommend sleep training with a baby at all as they are not physically capable yet of fixing whatever is waking them in the night (ever been waken by a 4 month old who has lost her pacifier but has absolutely no ability to get the pacifier back in her mouth? or a 7 month old whose ankle gets caught in the bars of the crib, but can't get it out?), and lack the ability to accurately convey the specific problem. The only way for baby to commuicate in the first year is through crying.  If you’re not coming to help, baby can become increasingly distressed as she gets more hungry or more frustrated or more in trouble. So how to help baby sleep, while helping yourself get much needed sleep? Cosleeping can be a lifesaver as often baby can learn to latch on, unlatch, and go back to sleep, from a side-lying position, and Mom doesn’t need to be fully awake (get up, get nightgown on, get baby from crib, feed, place baby back in crib, get back into bed & try to get back to sleep, in time for the cycle to start back over) in order to comfort baby back to sleep. In my experience, co-sleeping allowed me to get the rest I needed and my young babies the nighttime nutrition they needed, without ending our nursing relationship.  Co-sleeping may not work for everyone (and I remember there were times I felt my own or my baby’s motions were keeping us all up at night. Those were the times when we’d change things up & try something else – a few nights in the arms reach, or mattress on the floor, or the car seat, or the crib. Remember: babies change all. the. time.  What works one week might not work the next.  It’s really, truly okay to change things up until you find a solution that works – for the time being), but it’s worth a try, in my mind.  If you are concerned about the safety of cosleeping (there is so much negative press surrounding co sleeping) I’d encourage you to do some reading before deciding against it.  If done correctly, cosleeping can be very safe and may help everyone get a better night's sleep! (more info at the links below:)




    But what if cosleeping IS working, but baby is still waking frequently, and mom has had enough?  This doesn’t need to mean the end of the nursing or co-sleeping! Nightweaning can be the key. In my experience, night weaning can be done while co-sleeping.  And it can be done without severing the breastfeeding relationship entirely, nighttime separation, scheduled sleep training methods, or other negative sleep associations. I was able to night wean both of my children while maintaining a co-sleeping and/or family bed arrangement, and did so in a gentle way that I felt honored both my needs, and the needs of my babies at the time. Nightweaning can help mothers can find a good, happy, balanced place with breastfeeding again when night nursing is becoming too difficult, without stopping altogether.



    There are a few questions to consider before starting night weaning.


    Firstly (most importantly), is baby ready?

    Young babies need to nurse often.  Much of this – unfortunately for mom – is at night.  Up through the first year (and even beyond in some babies – remember everyone’s body metabolism and growth rates are different), breastfeeding at night is still a need.  Certainly, there is a lot of want in there too because babies are physiologically designed to WANT to be close to mom at night – they feel safe, mom helps regulate their breathing and temperature, they feel comforted (heck, how many of us full-grown ADULTS prefer sleeping alone to sleeping next to our partners at night?), but baby’s bodies grow more in the first year than any other time in their lives, so a night waking need for milk is a true need. I believe that if a baby is  waking in the night crying, and the crying escalates, and milk is offered and the crying stops (meaning: baby eagerly goes for the breast, willingly nurses - emptying the breast, perhaps moving to the other breast, and then goes back to sleep), then they are still waking due to nighttime hunger, and are not physically ready to night wean.   And that’s okay, in spite of what all the books say about when & how long babies are supposed to be sleeping (keep in mind unless you wrote that particular book, that book isn’t about YOUR particular baby). I believe a  baby sleeps when she’s comfortable, doesn’t when she’s not. And if she’s hungry at night, she’s not comfortable, and should be offered milk. So in general, I wouldn’t advise starting nightweaning with a baby under a year of age, and I'd never recommend an ignoring baby's cries method of getting baby to sleep at night.  Not only because of nutritional needs, but also, because I think before at least the year mark (though, closer to a year & a half even two in my experience), most babies are still in need of mom's physical proximity to help back to sleep.  If you start night weaning before baby is ready, nightweaning isn’t going to go well. 


    Watch and know your baby well. If she is over a year old and nurses well before sleep, but is still waking frequently in the night but isn’t readily going for the the breastmilk offered, and instead just flutter-sucking/pacifying back to sleep, (and that’s not working for you) then night weaning may be helpful for you.


    Secondly, are YOU ready? 

    In my experience, babies don’t particularly like nightweaning or any change in the night time routine. They like to sleep with mom (and milk) close at hand, ready at all times. When Mom decides that the all-night milk bar is closed, baby doesn’t take too well to that.


    I advise, for the least stress to all involved, to move very gradually with nightweaning.  It’s a slow process with ups and downs. It will mean even more sleepless nights – for a little while, and a shake up in your own routine.  It will mean giving up the easy roll over & nurse back to sleep (which, yes, isn’t that appealing or easy at 4am after doing it at 3am, 2am, and 1am, so I’m not saying its easy all the time – it just starts to look really appealing again when you’re in the midst of nightweaning, wondering if it will ever happen) in favor of doing things which will certainly bring you both into a waking state.


    If you’ve said yes to both questions, there’s one more thing to keep in mind.  Babies are continually changing. They go through phases of being more or less needy, during the day, and the night (though, at night, the neediness always seems worse, doesn’t it? Because, well… you’re tired.  And you’d rather be sleeping.  Not up tending to a baby. Even though it’s a baby that you love, you still wish you were sleeping). But they are PHASES. Which means they will pass.  Night weaning or no. Baby WILL eventually sleep. If your nightweaning try doesn’t go well, baby just may not be ready. Or you may not be ready.  You can ALWAYS STOP NIGHTWEANING AT ANY TIME. Go back to your regular routine for a week or two, and then try again.


    All babies WILL sleep through the night.  No matter what you do. Or don’t do. They aren’t going to spend forever in your bed.  They aren’t going to wake every 2 hours asking for milk when they are 6 years old.  So if you’re not ready to take on a change which will be long, and can cause some difficult nights, then remember, you don’t have to.  All babies will eventually come into a sleeping pattern more aligned with adults’ with time.


    Okay, so you’re ready?  Here’s what we did.


    [ I’m including the following prelude, to set the scene for why we approached nightweaning as follows – feel free to skip to the steps if you’d like]

    My daughter was just over 2 years old when I decided to start an alternate method of helping her to sleep.  It wasn’t intended to be night weaning, precisely, as I didn’t really mind waking to nurse at night.  Nursing to sleep released sleep hormones, and I’d mastered the “Pantley pull-off” method, so she didn’t stay latched on all night long, and I was able to easily fall back to sleep once she was full.  The reason I started altering our nighttime routine was because I was pregnant. Nursing had become more uncomfortable to me while lying down.  Also, our bedtime routine required a LOT of work each night from either my husband or myself.  I was envisioning going through this routine while 9 months pregnant, and not liking what I pictured. Before changing up our nighttime sleep associations, bedtime went something like this:

    Walk back & forth while doing deep knee bends/squats while holding 25+lb toddler in an upright position while singing for somewhere in the area of 15-20 minutes.  At approximately the 20 minute mark, as she was getting drowsy, I would ease myself down on the bouncy ball & continue the singing & up/down motion.  Once she was asleep (another 10 minutes or so), I could ease her down to her bed (at that point a mattress on the floor next to our bed), and lie down with her.  Sometimes she’d root & nurse for a bit. Sometimes, she’d just fiddle with my belly button (that was her repetitive soothing motion – many babies have this with a blanket edge, a stuffed animal, mom’s hair) until she fell asleep & I could roll away.  After becoming pregnant, I realized I didn’t want to do this anymore, and she was old enough to understand & participate in coming up with a less work-intensive way to sleep.  We’d tried with varying levels of success at changing up her sleep routine over the years – but from birth she was high needs, colicky for many (9) months, required motion to feel comfortable (to this day, I blame this on all the boating we did in the last couple months of pregnancy – my baby had simply gotten used to consistent up/down motion in utero… whatever you do, stay away from boats when very pregnant.  :-D ), and was highly resistant to changes in her routine.  So I knew if I was taking on this task, it was going to be, by nature, slow & steady.  I was ready.




    Make sure baby is well fed & hydrated before sleep.

    There’s no sense in attempting to withhold nursing at night if you believe your baby still wakes hungry at night.  As I stated above, if you believe this is regularly still the case, it’s not a good time to start nightweaning.  Wait a few more weeks or months for baby to mature a bit, and try again. If you do believe nursing at night is mostly for pacification, I still think that recognizing the smallness of babies tummies, it is a good idea to be certain baby has had enough to eat before bed.  Be sure to nurse baby well before starting your bedtime routine, and/or offer some healthy snacks like banana, avocado, oatmeal, unsweetened yogurt, toast, along with water. I’m not talking about stuffing baby before sleep.  As I know with myself, if I eat  right before bed, I don’t sleep well.  But, a healthy nutrient-dense snack before starting your bedtime routine helps cover all the bases.


    Talk about nighttime routine during the day.

    We started talking regularly with our daughter about our current nighttime routine – and how we felt about it. We talked about it during the day, and as it was going on at night, just to bring her into greater awareness about what was happening. Having these conversations during the day, instead of right at bedtime, took some pressure off us all. Once the scene was set (a couple of days of saying things like, “At night, we usually take a long time to go to sleep.  We walk with you and sing and bounce for a long time.  Now that Mommy is expecting a baby, I’m getting more tired and need more sleep.  Our bedtime routine is very long for me”), we started introducing the concept of how Mom & Dad sleep, and how we could apply that to her own sleep.  We would have conversations like, “At night, Dad & Mom like to read books.  Sometimes we’ll give each other a backrub, and then we’ll go to sleep lying in our beds.  What do you like to do before going to sleep?”  And we’d offer ideas & get her suggestions for what she likes. Keep in mind that  that if your child is pre-verbal, you can make a suggestion and gauge her response to that suggestion.  Instead of, “what do you like to do to fall asleep”, you can say, “Do you like to have your back rubbed before bed?” or “Do you like to sing songs?” and wait for her response – even young babies can communicate acceptance or refusal of suggestions presented to them.  Once the alternatives to the regular routine have been chosen (like going to sleep in the crib instead of rocking to sleep in the rocking chair, or whatever), make sure to spend a few days talking about those alternatives & what they mean, practicing during nap time or even during wake time.  I remember “teaching” my daughter during the day what “cuddling to sleep” meant, so that when we put it into action at night, it wasn’t a surprise.  We’d lie down & play the “sleep game” during the day and “cuddle to sleep”.


    Start changing the bedtime routine gradually.

    Once the talking stage has been set – and the ideas are gathered and/or planted, the next step is to start altering the routine – slightly - at night.  For example, my daughter indicated she liked to sing songs before going to sleep.  I indicated I did not want to carry her anymore (at the time, that was the thing I most wanted to stop, because she was getting so heavy & my belly was going to be growing).  I suggested to her that we sing the same songs that she was used to singing while walking, only we’d skip the walking part and go right to bouncing on the ball.  If your routine includes a half hour in the rocking chair before transferring to the crib for a bottle or story, you might work out a routine that includes less time in the rocking chair to start, but keep the transferring to the crib & bottle part the same. The first few nights we kept our routine exactly the same, only went right to the bouncy ball.  Same songs, in the same order, moved to the bed asleep.  So, everything else stayed the same, but for the beginning part. I also introduced key words/phrases that I was going to be repeating, like “cuddling” and “sleepy time” at this point.  She took this step gracefully, and I talked about it all the while, praising her for her understanding & helpfulness in being so understanding of my need not to carry anymore.  When this step was more routine, we changed things up a bit more – moving off the ball.  This was a particularly difficult transition, because as I mentioned earlier, motion was very important to my daughter from the point of newborn through the present.  To remove the up/down motion she was used to since (pre) birth was a big deal. I would start by bouncing only for 5 minutes while singing, instead of allowing her to fall asleep on my shoulder in motion.  When she was drowsy, we’d move to the bed. I used the key words repeatedly during the transition, and kept the songs the same.  Unfortunately, she heavily protested this step. She was used to falling asleep in motion, and this was not part of her plan.

    In my desire not to disrupt everyone’s evening, or add trauma right before bed, or form a negative sleep association, I chose to make this transition as positive as possible (and, I might add, help her feel like she had more “say” in the transition – that it wasn’t just a change being imposed, but one she could affect).  When she’d protest, I’d remind her, as we were lying down, that we’d agreed we needed to make some changes at night, and not bouncing on the ball to sleep was a big part of the change.  She indicated she’d nurse to sleep.  I could have, at that point, nursed her to sleep on the bed, instead of going back up the ball, but, as I didn’t want to substitute one uncomfortable falling to sleep association for another, I decided instead, to ask her if she would lie with me for 10 seconds “cuddling” (key word!) and then we’d get back up on the ball.  She agreed, and we cuddled on the bed, counting down from 10 to 1, then back up on the ball, and went through the regular fall-to-sleep routine to the end.


    Up the nighttime changes.

    After a few nights of this new routine repeating itself, and us not getting much beyond 10 seconds, I chose to take a slightly more aggressive approach, and removed the ball from the room.  I told my daughter that I was too tired anymore to bounce on the ball, and that the ball would be sleeping in another room from this point on, and that we’d have to come up with a different routine. This was not well-received.  However, I did find that after removing the visual reminder/cue and physical presence of the ball, and getting beyond that initial adjustment, the rest of the transitional steps went a bit more smoothly.  That evening after moving the ball out of the room, we went directly to lying down in bed. We sang the same songs as usual, in the same order, and “cuddled” to sleep.  There was some protesting involved, but not much outright crying, just repeated fussy requests for the ball, followed by my repeating that the ball was going to sleep, and we were cuddling to sleep, just like Mommy & Daddy do. I kept reminding her that everything else was the same – that we could sing the same songs, I was using the same key words, and we talked about how I was still holding her – just like I used to on the ball, only we were lying down, that she could still fiddle with my belly button, etc.

    All told, moving from our work-intensive 30 – 45 minute bedtime routine to a 10 – 15 minute lie down in bed without nursing to sleep took about 1 full month. Throughout this process, when she did wake in the night and ask for milk, I’d still nurse her back to sleep. 


    Get on to night weaning.

    Once the new bedtime routine was fully established, I moved on to changing the waking up for milk routine.  It went MUCH more smoothly & quickly than the first routine change.  Probably because the new routine was now more familiar and acceptable to her as a source of comfort.  I capitalized on the fact that she had become comfortable with belly button fiddling as an acceptable replacement for nursing pacification, and that she’d become used to the key words & phrases signaling sleep time. When she’d wake the first time at night, I’d offer cuddling and belly button, and would sing our favorite song.  When she’d start fussing, I’d remind her of what we were trying to do, but if she continued to protest, I’d offer milk after a countdown.  Meaning, I would say, okay, you may have milk in 10 seconds (choose whatever works for you), but we have to cuddle, without crying for that time, then we’ll have milk. The first few nights, I had to do an outloud countdown, 10 – 9 – 8 –you’re doing great just a few more seconds of cuddling!- 7 – 6… Each waking I’d do the same.  And each night the countdown gradually increased until she no longer asked for milk, and started asking for belly button!  About a month into this process, she was no longer waking for milk at night.  When she would wake, she’d either ask for belly button or a song, or, just patting to sleep or a cuddle would work.  I also noticed during this time that her frequency of waking was decreasing – so two wins in one!


    Overall, our sleep association changeover & nightweaning plan took about 2 months from start to finish, with minimal stress on anyone.  I’m certain that the speed of this could be accelerated, depending on the temperament of your child (with my son, the same process took only about 2 weeks – though, unlike my daughter, he was not an all-night pacification nurser, and less high needs), and your level of patience. 


    The key points:

    1) Involve your child in the night weaning process – let them choose the bedtime alternative.  Make the changes into a game and talk with them about what’s going on, instead of just dropping a brand new routine on them at night.

    2) Patience & repetition.  Repeat the same key words, phrases, songs, and routines, changing things only slightly each night.

    3) Honor your child.  I tried to keep in mind, throughout this whole process, how I would feel in my child’s shoes. Having empathy for your child’s point of view is never the wrong way to go in parenting. Follow your heart.

    4) Take it easy on yourself & your child.  If you start this plan and its not working… stop.  You don’t need to follow what I did to the letter.  You can change things up.  You can go faster, slower, or not do it at all.  You can try again in a couple weeks. You can involve your partner or do it on your own. 


    I truly believe all babies sleep in their own time, when they are ready – regardless of the “habits” we help them create. I do not believe that babies need to be trained to sleep, any more than they need to be trained to walk. Getting to sleep and sleeping through the night are natural step that happen with time and maturity.  I also believe that babies change continually.  What works one week, may not work the next, but it just might work the following week… so take it easy on yourself.  When all else fails, I’ve been known to repeat this phrase to myself (at 3am when I haven’t yet slept): “This too shall pass…” and it will. 


    Peace to you. I hope some of this helps you & baby get a better, more peaceful night's sleep!

    Posted: Aug 17 2010, 14:33 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    Figuring Out Co-Sleeping and the Family Bed

    I remember the first day we came home from the hospital, a week after the birth of our first child. We walked through the front door, so happy to finally be home! We nearly skipped our way down the hallway, right to our daughter’s newly and beautifully painted & decorated room. Daddy unstrapped the sleeping bundle from her carseat (Stop, read that again. Yes, we moved a peacefully sleeping baby?!) and proudly laid our new baby girl in her new crib. We stood back and smiled our biggest new parent (read: completely clueless nincompoop) smiles down at her.

    We took a few photographs that first day home, right as we laid her in her crib. What a big bed for a little baby, we thought. Oh, doesn’t she look precious? And then… the arms started shooting out, the legs started kicking, the eyes cracked open, her face started twisting up, and then… the wail.

    What!? We looked at each other; concern & confusion reflected on our faces. What was wrong?

    Surely she could feel & appreciate all the obvious effort that went into planning for her arrival, and drift happily off to sleep in her princess’ palace (oh yes, the wallpaper we picked out did say princess), while we proudly watched from above? I mean, babies sleep a lot. In their cribs. Right?

    Now it wasn’t that we hadn’t experienced her crying in the last week. We had. In fact, we’d been told by the nurse that our baby seemed to cry A LOT (See: Colic… another post, another time). But, we’d assumed she cried so much in the hospital because she was in THE HOSPITAL, with bilirubin lights, isolettes, nurses & doctors poking and testing, SNS (supplemental nursing system) & formula & breast pump ministrations at every turn. Heck, I felt like crying myself. But once she was HOME, well… how can she not be happy in her own bed? A baby’s bed: extra-firm mattress, completely & plastic-encased dust-mite protective covered, no extra padding (per the instructions to avoid SIDS, of course), no blankets (also to avoid the dreaded SIDS), enclosed with bars. Wasn’t that doing it for her? Come on now, we followed the baby proofing bedding steps to the letter! Okay, maybe the crib mattress wasn’t that comfortable (I’d never want to sleep on it, personally), but, the MOBILE? Surely that would help. It was black, white, and bold primary colors – just what we’d read babies like! We turned it on, and waited, hopeful. Nope. She squirmed, and wailed, and was, well, obviously extremely displeased with being placed where we’d placed her. I picked her up. On to plan B.

    Now, to be honest, our plan A wasn’t just baby sleeping in a crib in a separate room. We DID have Arms-Reach co-sleeper too, because, from my research while pregnant, I determined that I wanted my baby to be close at hand for nursing at night. And, in general, I felt like I liked the idea of co-sleeping (small letters), though not necessarily CO-SLEEPING (you know, the kind of thing that hippies do, where you give up all your personal space to your kid, and where you’re irresponsibly endangering them by obliviously rolling over on them in your sleep - hey, I've come far since then).

    In reality, once we started co-sleeping, I wanted the easy access; I found it extremely difficult to sleep when I couldn’t hear her/see her breathe whenever I opened my eyes, yet the converse of that reality was the equally present and looming SIDS worry in every magazine & pamphlet I’d read, (further encouraged by the constant urging and requesting of my mother to put baby back in the bassinette, on her BACK after I finished nursing her, and clucks of disapproval as I created a space next to me on the hospital bed for her to sleep with me), that kept me from fully launching into CO-SLEEPING (big letters).

    Anyhow, after about three weeks of night after night of struggling out of bed (I had a c-section) every 3 hours (to the alarm because my daughter had severe jaundice at birth due to AB/O incompatibility, so I was instructed to wake her every 3 hrs to nurse once home [for the first 8 weeks], so we wouldn’t have to return to the hospital again), picking baby up out of the co-sleeper, walking to her room, changing her diaper, sitting in the rocking chair in a sleep-deprived stupor to set up the SNS with correct amount of formula, accurately taped to my nipple and safety pinned to my sleeve, latch her on for nursing attempt, burping her, switching sides (mostly to wake her up from her jaundice-induced super-drowsiness), changing her diaper again, rocking her till she was asleep, trying to lay her down, having her wake up, rocking her, nursing, changing diaper again, trying to lay her down again, I sat bewildered and frustrated and just plain tired in the rocking chair sometime in the middle of the night. You know that time of night when even the crickets don’t make noise anymore. This is the new mother hour. Man, it was lonely and quiet and dark and all I wanted was to be asleep like the little baby in my arms. But, awake I was, sitting straight up in a chair (because, you know, that’s how I’d been taught to breastfeed, and if I tried to move to put baby in her crib or co-sleeper, she’d wake, so I just sat & tried to fall asleep that way, only, didn’t want to fall deeply asleep in the event that I might fall out of the chair). So there I was, reading & re-reading Dr. Sears Baby Book, trying to think of why this nighttime stuff was just. So. Hard. When suddenly, bleary-eyed, I stumbled on a page about the side-lying nursing position. To this day, I owe Martha Sears a debt of gratitude. After processing the drawing a few times, I felt a ray of hope. Maybe I could sleep, if I tried this CO-SLEEPING? I shed my boppy and three other positioning pillows & blankets and brought baby (and the book, for reference) into bed, re-latched her on while LYING DOWN and… she fell asleep. (Asleep! Thank you universe - my baby is asleep IN A BED.) And here I was, actually LYING DOWN. And would you believe folks, I fell asleep. And when I awoke, I realized that I hadn’t rolled over on my baby. No, in fact, she was still peacefully sleeping beside me.

    The very next thing we did was buy a king size bed.

    So there we were, a CO-SLEEPING family in a king bed with an unused crib, and unused arms reach co-sleeper (though I did realize quickly that it held diapers & wipes for middle-of-the night changes without getting out of bed, very handily! It also prevented the need for a bedrail.) finally getting some rest at night.

    Of course, nap time was another story.

    During the day, we couldn’t put my daughter down; because in the event that she did fall asleep in-arms, she’d immediately wake up as soon as she felt her position move towards horizontal. I tried leaning precariously over the edge of the crib (we got a non-drop side crib; again, I believe nincompoop fits the bill here), my feet off the floor, precariously see-sawing over the bar on my waist to ease baby onto the mattress (which I’d pre-warmed with towels fresh from the drier, per Dr. Sears suggestion), to no avail. The moment she touched down, her eyelids would flutter open & she’d immediately begin protesting. What’s a mom to do?

    Well, I wore her much of the time - once I found the Snugli. (Yes, unfortunate as it may sound to crunchy parents everywhere, the Snugli is what I had because the only place remotely close to us was a Walmart, and the only thing they had remotely like a baby carrying device was a Snugli. So, the Snugli it was.) And the Sungli DID work to help PUT her to sleep – so long as I was doing full deep knee bending squats while singing. So, I was able to get some work done while she slept on me that way. Unfortunately, I could only do standing work; since as soon as I’d stop moving (say, to sit down at my computer, can you imagine?), she’d wake. Being that my job at home required computer time, this wasn’t the most convenient solution. So, there ensued my adventure to get my daughter to lie down for a nap. I tried every way possible to ease her out of the front pack and into her crib, asleep. In fact, some days, I’d spend hours on the Sungli to Crib Transfer, only to have her wake up and start the whole process all over again. I’d have fantasy scenarios as I was walking & bouncing her for hours, where I’d be able to nurse her to sleep by leaning over the bassinette, and then sneak away. Or, somehow climb myself into the crib & do the same (and yes, I DID try that). Unfortunately, none of these ideas worked out so well. Until one day, around four months, (yes, you read that correctly, I endured THREE MONTHS OF THIS) I laid down with her, completely exhausted in the middle of my bed, after myriad of failed nap “put downs” (as Adam & I referred to them), and nursed her to sleep. I had given up. I couldn’t work at home with an infant. I’d just lie in bed staring at the ceiling (I’ve never been able to nap well during the day) whenever she napped. Yet, somehow, between her drifting off to sleep, and myself trying to drift off, bravery (or commonsense) hit me, and I instead decided to roll away. And… she stayed asleep. I cleared the bed of any & all pillows & blankets, turned on the baby monitor, and - blessed be - she stayed asleep. I think I checked on her every 5 minutes that first time, but every day, and every night, for the next three years, my daughter slept in our bed full-time. And I was able to work successfully at my desk while she slept. And man, did life with a new baby get easier.

    Every milestone brought new co-sleeping challenges. We went through plan A, B, C, D, and on through Z over the years. For example, as she began to roll, we put our mattress down on the floor; box springs stored away, and completely baby-proofed the room. Once she was crawling, we taught her how to back off the end of the bed, feet first. Once she was walking, we’d leave the gate up in the doorway.

    After her brother was born, we all shared the king bed (we never even set up the crib for my son), which presented its own set of unique challenges (like, keeping two-year-old asleep when newborn noisily wakes and starts to root). But in spite of the challenges, and occasional sleepless nights, and bed reaarrangements, we kept on keeping on co-sleeping, because... it worked. Until one day, just after turning three, my daughter, the very same one who would never be put down, asked to start off the night in “her” bed (which was a full size mattress on the floor. From that point on, she'd start off in her room, then would join us sometime in the middle of the night. Once my son was around 18 months, we added a twin size mattress along side of her full size mattress, and the two of them have co-slept for the last year and a half.

    So...what’s the moral of my story? Well, my bed sharing babies were far happier, far more rested babies than when not bed sharing. My co-sleeping self was far more relaxed once I brought baby to bed than when I was getting up every three hours to nurse in a rocking chair (and then trying unsuccessfully to replace baby in her crib), or, when she was (in the very rare occurance) asleep in another room, and I’d still be waking every half hour to check on her. And though we had to work through some less than restful nights of elbows in the rib cage and feet in the small of our backs, my co-sleeping husband and I loved the morning time waking up with the kiddos. And, my co-sleeping children are well-rested, happy, and so close to each other, and to us. I'm not sure I can attribute all of this to co-sleeping, but I CAN say that sharing sleep with our children as babies and young toddlers had far more benefits than drawbacks for me. I wouldn’t change the experience, and only wish I’d have figured it out sooner – doing so certainly would have made those first few weeks with my first newborn much easier!

    If you’re thinking about co-sleeping, I encourage you to do some research! Find out why sleep sharing is so good for babies and moms. For information on co-sleeping, bed sharing, and the family bed, and how to share sleep with your baby safely, visit these fabulous sites:

    PhD In Parenting: Co-Sleeping Safely

    Dr Sears: Sleeping Safely With Your Baby

    KellyMom.com: The Family Bed

    Dr. Jay Gordon: Safe Cosleeping

    And, please tell me your co-sleeping stories!

    Posted: Mar 23 2010, 20:11 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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