Crying in Arms as it Relates to Attachment Parenting

I have been reading about a parenting approach that is getting some attention lately. I was confused by it and wanted to take a few minutes to share my interpretation of “Crying in Arms” as it relates to my understanding and practice of Attachment Parenting (AP).

My intention is to shed some light on this approach for parents who practice AP, rather than tout one parenting choice as better than another.

The concept of “crying in arms” means that after all of baby’s normal needs are met, but he is still upset, you calmly hold him in your arms. You lovingly and gently look into his eyes and reaffirm how much you love him. The goal is to provide your baby with support and comfort while he’s upset.

What It’s Not

Crying-in-arms (CIA) is entirely different from crying-it-out and controlled crying. The crying-in-arms approach does not in any way suggest that it is ever okay to leave a baby alone to cry.

Within the practice of Attachment Parenting, nursing should never be withheld from a baby. This does not mean that mom is always going to be available to nurse, but it should never be withheld because mom or dad is afraid nursing is performing a disservice to the baby.

Babies cannot be spoiled or over-comforted. They cannot over-nurse.

The Need to Cry

Some of the articles that promote CIA share that babies need to cry in order to have certain coping mechanisms developed within them. To me, this suggests that if I do not let my baby cry sometimes, I am giving him a disadvantage.

However, this goes against many mothers’ instincts–and science. Research shows that babies cry to express a need and it is our role to determine their need and meet it.

This is not to suggest that AP babies never cry. They do. And sometimes we are burned out and confused and have trouble determining or meeting this need.

Practically Speaking

I think I was so confused by the CIA approach because I did not understand where it fit into AP.  Much of what is being conveyed sounds like a repackaging of the old belief that a baby needs to exercise his lungs. And for me, choosing to allow my baby to cry because ‘crying is beneficial’ did not resonate with my instincts or what I have learned.  And it is tough to be sure when a babies needs have all been met.  Babies who are nursing can be nearly incessantly hungry, and simply need the comfort of the breast.

CIA is just a fancy name for something that I was already doing–respectfully responding to my baby’s needs.  If my baby cries and nursing (or anything else) won’t calm him down, I instinctively speak calmly to him, rub his back and try to soothe him.

As I process this practice with friends and trusted mamas, the more I understand how it relates to Attachment Parenting; it is not something to be used in place of nursing, it is another way that we can comfort a baby who simply cannot be consoled.  It is not a way to make sure our baby spends some time crying, it is a way that we can offer comfort and connect during those times when we desperately want to  soothe our baby and not even nursing will do it.

What are your thoughts? Does letting your baby cry in your arms go against your instincts?

Jennifer Andersen is a stay-at-home Mama of two kids ages 2 and 4.  Though she has never let her children cry-it-out, sometimes her husband encourages her to.

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

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Finding the Right Tools for Natural Parenting

Joy

My “baby” girl turns two in June. I’ve packed her baby gear away as she’s outgrown it, not for “the next one,” like I did with my son, but for the time when it felt right to say goodbye. With several friends expecting little ones soon (Hooray!), the time has come. As happy as I am to share our gear, I’ve been a little emotional saying goodbye. The baby years were amazing (exhausting, but amazing!), and getting things ready to go has brought back a lot of memories.

When we first learned we were expecting our son 5+ years ago, my husband Bill and I thought we were ready for it all. We bought the books, signed up for the emails…we couldn’t wait to be parents. But as we read things and as we made appointments, our eyes were opened to a whole new world of questions. Did we want an OBGyn or a midwife? Epidural or drug-free birth? Formula or breast milk? The questions went on and on and, with each answer, I surprised myself by how much of a natural mom I wanted to be.

Visiting a midwife, Hypnobirthing, and breastfeeding all sounded like good ideas to us, but I had even more questions. What had it been like for others? Would nursing continue when I went back to work? What else was out there? Not a lot of our friends had done one or any of these things, but I was lucky to have my best friend, Judy, who had. She was – and still is – my go-to mama for all advice. From there, we built an incredible group of friends who gave us the “tools” we needed to become the parents we are today.

The Baby Sling
The other day, I pulled out my baby sling and thought of Katie, a friend from book club. A new mom herself, she missed my shower because her daughter was sick. She planned to give it to me at our next meeting, but my little man decided to come early and I was in labor at home instead. She stopped by after the meeting and, while we laughed at how surreal her visit was (“I can’t believe you’re in labor right now!”), her words of encouragement gave me the confidence boost I needed. I would give Hypnobirthing all I had, I would be open to breastfeeding and, if I was confused, I would make sure I got help…it would all work out. And it did!

A few weeks after my son was born, Katie’s gift became more than just a gift; it was a godsend. My little man always wanted to be held and I wasn’t getting anything done. Emotional and willing to try anything, I popped in the DVD and learned all I could about this big piece of fabric. An hour later I had a happy baby and a cleaner house. Baby wearing wasn’t just for a happy baby…it was for a happy mom!

The Pump
A few months ago, I said a very happy goodbye to my pump. It was a necessary evil for this working mom. Thankfully, I had an amazing team of “coaches,” who brought a lot of love and laughter to my love/hate relationship with it.

Judy was visiting the day my pump arrived and, with a great sense of humor, she provided general directions. A few weeks later I knew how to pump, I just couldn’t remember how to put the pieces together. Confused and almost in tears, I called Judy, but got her husband Seth instead. I’m not sure if it was the sound of my voice or just that he had come to expect crazy questions from me (“What side of the thing that attaches to the cone attaches to the bottle?”), but when I asked Seth for help he stepped up to the plate.

The Car Adapter
As if becoming new parents wasn’t enough for us, Bill and I moved from Boston to Maine when our son was five months old. The transition brought extra-long commutes and interesting circumstances for this leche mama. Through it all, our college friend and pumping guru Shawnee, who also worked at my new company, offered great advice. But still I was tired and just not sure the move and nursing would work. Shawnee then shared the greatest tool ever invented for a pumping, crazy commuting mom – a breast pump car adapter. In working mom fashion, she sent it to me via interoffice mail. There was hope!

Almost six years later, Bill and I went from the couple who wondered if natural options would work to a fabulous “natural” family of four. We may not have done everything right, but we embraced everything we did. We’ve also been surprised by how many “tools” we’ve shared with other parents. It’s been an amazing experience!

I’m beyond excited to be a part of The Other Baby Book community and am so happy a resource like this is out there. I look forward to learning from all of you and hope to share some great things too.

What are/were some of your favorite tools?

Kristen looks forward to a much less crowded crawl space, but has started quoting her very wise mother, “No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby.” She’s confident Will and Joy will roll their eyes just as much as she used to.

Shopping for Mommy Friends

Motherhood is a life-changing experience. In those moments immediately following the birth of your first child, you cannot anticipate or truly understand how it will not only change your life, but also your identity. If you are lucky enough to have friends who are also mothers, it can be like joining a club, a welcoming “place” in which the joys and trials of motherhood can be shared. But what if you are the first of your friends to have a child? What if you’ve just moved to a new place with little ones and just don’t know anyone? How do you reach out to others for friendship and support?

As someone who has moved three times during my daughter’s first year of life (which I highly, highly do not recommend), I’ve lived through this scenario multiple times. It can be just plain tough to meet other moms, especially if you don’t know where to start. It is even tougher if you are that “weird” mama who practices natural parenting ideas such as AP, nursing a toddler, or (gasp!) co-sleeping.

There were times that I would be out grocery shopping or running errands with my daughter in her sling and see another mom. We would make eye contact and give each other that smile that often says, “I bet we could be friends, but I’m not sure if you feel the same way.” So many times I wanted to reach out to a fellow mother and say, “Hey, let’s go get coffee and chat about this wild ride called being a mama.” But I didn’t.

I’ve learned over the past year that many other moms feel as lonely as I have. That it doesn’t take much to reach out and say hello. And with my many (really, too many) experiences with trying to meet other women, here is my go-to list of places to start:

Pregnancy:

  • Childbirth classes such as Bradley Method, Brio, Lamaze, or Hypnobirthing are a wonderful place to start. Some hospitals offer excellent courses as well.
  • Prenatal fitness classes such as yoga or other low-impact activities geared toward pregnant women.
  • Hire a doula or midwife for the birth and tap into her network of like-minded women.

First year and beyond:

  • La Leche League offers an excellent breastfeeding resource and community.
  • Moms groups such as Holistic Moms Network offer organized playgroups, mom’s night out, and even book clubs. Many communities have their own grassroots version of this, so ask around or even think of starting your own!
  • Community and faith-based groups can be a wonderful place to connect with other families that are like-minded.
  • Local toy or baby stores also tend to keep a resource list of local moms groups.

The last piece of advice I can offer is to reach out to other mamas that you come across. Say hello and offer a smile, even if it is intimidating. Who knows, that person might end up becoming your new best friend!

What is your best piece of advice for meeting other mothers and building lasting friendships? 

Kate, who recently moved cross-country to Oklahoma City, is trying to follow her own advice and reach out to other mamas. You can find her wandering grocery stores, the local cloth diaper store, and mom groups looking for new friends. Follow her adventures in a new city at Boomerang Mama.

Birds of my Feather

I’m a theatre nerd.  I sing show tunes, the harmonies too. I do a passable Merman (woot! Astoria shout out!). I have a rather insane Playbill collection that my husband may have threatened to toss during one of our moves.  I read Michael Riedel, and I used to read Frank Rich before he jumped the shark. Sometimes when I have trouble falling asleep I write scripts or cast shows in my head.  Put me in a room with folks who wear these traits like badges of honor and I am happy.  There is a sense of belonging that comes with shared passion and I’m confident in my nerdiness.

Why do you suppose we feel weird acknowledging the same about parenting?  Of course you can laugh and chat with any Mom at the playground, because there are elements of child rearing that are just universal. But one of the best things I’ve done in my parenting life is admit that I want to keep company with others who have arrived at the same conclusions I have.  I’ve taken the sometimes hard but always joyful steps to build community and “find my birds”.

So nowadays I’m also an AP nerd.  I quote Aldort.  I believe strongly in sleep sharing.  I make my own kefir.  I know what SSC stands for and wear my youngest around town in his Ergo.  (Psst, I still covet fancy strollers like some girls covet Birkin bags)
I NEED others like me. They feed me and normalize me and teach me cool things like how to get rid of pink eye (squirt squirt).

Although practices like babywearing and cosleeping and exclusive breastfeeding are less “counter cultural“ in 2012 then they were when my parents trail-blazed in the 70s and 80s, it still can be a lonely road if you don’t have your birds.

Have you ever had to pleasure to overhear two Moms discover that they are both cloth diapering? It’s happened in my living room a few times and it’s like a party!  “OMG, really? Hooray”  Next thing you know it’s the new bumgenius patterns and their favorite balms and how they can’t wait for summer because a cute AIO is practically an outfit and let’s trade emails.  Best pals being made right there.

So c’mon. YOU know your instincts are right.  You just need to find others who know your instincts are right too.  They are out there- some in plain sight but more are hiding.  Attend LLL.  Join API.  Read the message boards on mothering.com.  Feel normal and empowered.  Take a deep breath and just walk up to the new Mom at the park who is fussing with one of those boob covers and say “Hey, how about you throw that thing away and be my bird”.

Rebecca lives 12 miles west of Broadway and secretly dislikes most Sondheim.  She is always on the lookout for nursing Moms at playgrounds.

The Nipple Shield Protected My Breastfeeding Relationship

A question was posed recently on The Other Baby Book’s Facebook page by a mama seeking support in weaning her nursling from a nipple shield. The question and its ensuing responses thrust me back to my own nipple shield-wielding past, a time when I was similarly exasperated and longing to ditch that silicone nip for good.  My recollection of my early breastfeeding difficulties has slipped into a soft and distant focus–a luxury, I suppose, of someone who is still nursing strong and nearly effortlessly after nearly sixteen months.

In the beginning, breastfeeding kicked my ass. It kicked my nipples’ ass. It kicked my self-esteem’s ass. But, eventually, breastfeeding evolved from a serious ass-kicking to a seriously kick-ass experience. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the nipple shield’s past role in my current kick-ass breastfeeding relationship.

During my pregnancy I’d read abundant books and blogs dedicated to breastfeeding education and support. I attended a breastfeeding class. I regularly attended a local natural childbirth circle where a La Leche League leader was often present and where breastfeeding was celebrated. I had friends and coworkers who were lactation consultants, who were routinely sharing their enthusiasm and insight with me. I was pumped (no pun intended) about breastfeeding. I thought I was prepared. I thought I had breastfeeding in the bag.

I had a medication-free birthing, and my son, Arlo, was immediately placed on my chest and spent the first hour or so of his life there at my breast. He never left my room during our stay in the hospital. Lactation consultants worked with us regularly. I felt certain that everything that could be done to get our breastfeeding adventure off on the proper footing had been done.

Except I couldn’t get good latch from my baby. And together Arlo and I were a hot freakin’ mess, y’all.

I could share specific, sad memories with you. Like, say, our first night home from the hospital when my husband ran out to pick up some take-out for dinner, only to return to find me and Arlo in the nursery, both soaked in my tears and snot, both crying the exaggerated cries of the helpless and hungry. Or, you know, those nights when I would start crying as soon as Arlo began smacking his lips, because my nips were to’ up from the flo’ up. He would try to latch, and it was searingly painful. It was a toe-curling, cut-a-bitch kind of pain. Breastfeeding was not fun for either of us. I was so, so ready to throw in the burp cloth.

During this time I continued to follow up with the hospital’s lactation department as an outpatient, and I was given a nipple shield and shown how to use it. It opened up a whole new world for us. Feedings became more relaxed, and I began to feel more empowered. I was able to be in the moment with my baby as he nursed, instead of holding my breath, gritting my teeth and hoping for a mercifully quick nursing sesh. Those moments–the ones where my nursing son and I were lost in our cozy breastfeeding bubble, where we stared at each other like we were the only two people who existed, where I listened with pride to the glorious “kuh” sounds of his swallowing milk–they were boozy, and they hooked me hardcore on breastfeeding.

It took us just over 4 weeks to totally wean from the shield. It was an exercise of persistence and vigilance, and it wasn’t easy. I found it  difficult to find supportive words on the internet during the time I was trying to wean Arlo away from the shield. Everything I read discussed how bad nipple shields were, how they jacked with your milk supply, or how they promoted nipple confusion. The worst? When people would say that nipple shields were the devices of the weak, employed by those who can’t hack it. It was so thoroughly dispiriting, and felt a lot like getting kicked when I was down.

If I wasn’t deep-heartedly committed to hacking it, I would have never resorted to the shield. The nipple shield served its purpose for me and Arlo: it protected our breastfeeding relationship. It was a bridge to this gorgeously tender place that we now share more than a year later.

Rhianna typed this post from her bed, which she shares  with her hubby of 11 years and her toddler of almost 16 months. She once dozed off while nursing her son on an airplane and was thoroughly embarrassed when she awoke moments later to discover that her son had slipped from her boob, and it was just hanging in the breeze for everyone in row H to see.

Mrs. Romney: A SAHM with 5. That’s 3 more than me!

Get off her back.  She’s rich.  Lucky her.  I’d hire major household help too.  But from all I’ve read, no nannies.  And Lord knows she could have had 2-3 for each child.  So why does this silly overblown insult have anything to do with motherhood? Motherhood is raising your children and she raised 5.

There is a whole spectrum of what SAHMs do in their “spare” time. If you could forgo the rest and focus on your children, why wouldn’t you?

I’m not less a mother on a day the cleaning lady mops the kitchen floor.  Are you more a mother if you pound clothes against a rock and my husbands shirts go to the dry cleaner? What if you plant and tend and pickle and can and stock a root cellar and I’m lucky if I pick up a store made rotisserie chicken for dinner? You would be cooler than me, yes. But these things have to do with being a home maker, or whatever term is hip now, not just mothering children.

FIVE BOYS.  Phew.  It’s hard for me at this stage to imagine the many years she must have spent breastfeeding or preparing bottles and rocking and bouncing and sleeplessness and loving ’til it hurts and diapers and potty training and colds, flu, stomach bugs, sibling spats and bike riding and homework and tests and classroom bullies and birthday parties and teaching teaching teaching how to crawl and walk and coo and talk and reason, show kindness, share, forgive.

Doing NOTHING besides raising 5 boys is still raising 5 human beings and red or blue that should not be discounted.