Attachment Parenting Chose Us: November Carnival of Natural Parenting

November 9th, 2010 by Dionna | 26 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Consensual Living, Ensure Safe Sleep, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Use Nurturing Touch

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Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What Is Natural Parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and
Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network , a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Responding with Sensitivity

Even if we hadn’t chosen attachment parenting, attachment parenting would have chosen us. Kieran was born “sensitive.” Another way to say that is that he was born with an urgent need to be attached to my body 24/7 – whether to my breast or nestled into a carrier, he rarely wanted to be put down.

He is also very sensitive to emotions – an angry tone induces panic. A child’s cry causes him distress. He shows outward, physical signs of anxiety if he witnesses even the slightest hint of violence (a shark swimming behind a fish, for example, will literally make him wring his hands).

Things haven’t changed much in the past 35 months.

As a newborn, Kieran’s need for contact did not stop when he fell asleep. And so he slept safely, snugged securely onto my chest. Our breathing rhythmical, our heartbeats harmonious, we perfected our new relationship in the stillness of the night.

Because Kieran is so sensitive, even if we had wanted to cry it out with him, it would not have worked. I know, because there were a few occasions when Kieran was forced to cry in the car.

The car seat has always been a struggle for him, so I learned to build time into every trip to stop and nurse. Since we live in a bigger city, though, there are times when traffic has prevented me from pulling over to give him a much-needed nursing break. At those times, Kieran cried until he was sick, but he never stopped crying. Crying it out was simply never an option for us – not only because we believe that it does physical and emotional harm to little ones, but also because Kieran would never stop crying!

And so we have responded with sensitivity. We understand that Kieran has needs and wants, he’s had them ever since birth! Our priority has been to figure out how to either meet his needs for him, or how to help him meet his own needs as he gets older.

Gentle discipline is a wonderful and logical way to continue responding to children with sensitivity as they get older. Kieran’s innate sensitivity means that harsh punishment – even yelling or love withdrawal – make him shut down. We refuse to damage our relationship with him by choosing those methods of punishment. Instead, we model and teach love and respect, we do not demand obedience and mindless compliance.

AP with the Sensitive Child

If you have a very sensitive child, you might feel like we do sometimes:
Worn out. Frustrated. Confused.

My first two years of posts on our local attachment parenting forum have a common theme – “when is this child going to detach himself from me?!”

We were slightly bewildered: here we were doing attachment parenting by the book – responding to his needs sensitively, giving him consistent care, keeping him close, et cetera, et cetera. Where was this securely attached, independent child that Dr. Sears had promised us?!

The short answer is, he’s in there somewhere. He’s still developing, and we’re not pushing him.

But I’ve come to another conclusion, one that’s even more important to me: I am confident that the way we have parented Kieran has helped him develop into the kind, caring, amazing boy he is. I don’t want to think about what he would be if we had instead chosen more traditional methods of parenting:

  • If we had made him cry it out, would he still trust us so implicitly?
  • If we had pushed him to be more independent as a toddler, would he now be even more fearful?
  • If we had chosen to use spanking, time-outs, or yelling, would we have crushed his sensitive spirit?

  • My gut tells me: yes. My gut tells me that traditional parenting advice would have negatively affected our sensitive boy. Regardless, it feels good to parent with sensitivity. It feels right to treat Kieran with the same respect that we want for ourselves.

    For our family, attachment parenting – and more specifically, responding with sensitivity and using gentle, respectful discipline – is a choice much like eating every day is a choice. We would survive awhile without either, but our lives would be pretty miserable, and none of us would be healthy.


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

    This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”

    Attachment/Responsive Parenting

    Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

      • Attachment Parenting Chose Us” — For a child who is born “sensitive,” attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting “choice.” Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
      • Parenting in the Present” — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
      • Parenting With Heart” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
      • Sometimes I Wish We Coslept” — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
      • Unconditional Parenting” — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

    Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

    Holistic Health Practices

    • Supporting Natural Immunity” — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally.

    Natural Learning

    • Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting” — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning “challenges.” (@myzerowaste)
    • Let Them Look” — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
    • Why I Love Unschooling” — Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
    • Is He Already Behind?“Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
    • How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning” — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

    Healthy Living

    Parenting Philosophies

    Political and Social Activism

    26 Responses to:
    "Attachment Parenting Chose Us: November Carnival of Natural Parenting"

    1. Thank you for this post! So many parts of it ring true to me. I, too, have a sensitive child. From his earliest days in the NICU, when every alarm or change in lighting would distress him, he’s demonstrated that what he needs is me. I fell into attachment parenting, also. How else to meet the needs of this child? Perhaps the best part of having a sensitive child is that he’s taught me how to attune myself to the needs of my babies, and his twin brother has benefited as well.

    2. Write About Birth   writeaboutbirth

      That is a great post, thank you so much for sharing your story! My youngest is a sensitive soul as well, and both my kids are just too stubborn and clever to ever react well to “mainstream discipline techniques”. Yours is a great example of allowing your child to show you how to be the best possible parent.


    3. Danielle   borninjp

      So good to hear of another little one that struggled with the car seat! Ours hated it, too!

      I do think that parenting in this way, parenting naturally, is what all babes, if given the opportunity, would choose. Who wouldn’t want a sensitive, nurturing, responsive caregiver?!

      Way to go, for finding a path that works for your little one and for your family! You’re right, you’re all better and healthier for it!

    4. Jessika Bailey   JobDescMommy

      Thank you for another wonderful post. It goes to show that if you are sensitive to your baby’s needs, you will find that attachment parenting is the best for baby. Instinctual. Respectful. Loving. Gentle.

      P.S. My babies all had issues with the carseat!

    5. Oh, this really resonates with me! I have never thought of my 6 month old as a sensitive child, but I think she really is. She has been attached from day one, though that she can sit pretty well independently she’ll stand sitting on a potty near me for a decent amount of time (not to mention she LOVES kicking her feet while she’s on it). But, OH, the car seat rides! Only this last week have we made it an entire week without her crying in the carseat. She even fell asleep. I can tell her mood changes, though, when I get irritated. If there’s a disconnect with us emotionally, it’s very evident. We practice EC and when that disconnect is there, it usually means I get peed on a lot – either because I just miss the cues, or she just doesn’t even bother to signal. I’ve wondered before if she might be sensitive, as I was a sensitive child (and am, emotionally very much so – I cry SO easily). Our lives would have been miserable if we left her to cry it out. Nothing consoles her but nursing when she does get to crying (which she didn’t do for about the first four full days of her life). I look forward to seeing how our attachment parenting teaches her to treat other people, especially babies.

    6. Interesting and well-said. I think that parenting to your child and his specific tempermant/needs is really essential. Each one is different. Things that worked with my first don’t work with my second and third, they each require different parenting styles and tactics.

      I was a fifth child and my parents and siblings never tire of telling me how “collicky” I was and how I just couldn’t be put down in the evenings because I was such a “bad baby” that I would scream and scream.

      They described my first-born as collicky just like I was — we do have remarkably similar temperments — but I really never thought of her that way. I just thought if she couldn’t bear to be put down in the evenings, I wouldn’t put her down. It worked, though it was exhausting. I can’t imagine what a different relationship we’d have if I’d have thought of her as a “bad baby” or even a “collicky” baby. Huh.

    7. Melodie   bfmom

      I hear you on this one. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that it is likely my attachment parenting that has caused my oldest daughter to have so many problems. That she still screams and cries and whines and clings to me because I’ve “baby’ed her.” I know that if I hadn’t parented her the way I have, by breastfeeding her on demand, bed sharing, gently disciplining her, feeding her health whole foods, etc, that she’d be struggling even more with her challenges and not have the trust she has in us to be able to come to us for help.

    8. Jennifer McCay   leangreenmama

      When I learned about attachment parenting, it moved me beyond words. Finally I had discovered what seemed right to me deep down in my core! And then like you, my son was born very high-needs from day 1, needing 24-7 attachment to my body to thrive for the first 18 or so months of his life (and even thereafter for a long while many hours a day of being in a carrier, co-sleeping, etc. and we still co-sleep now that he’s 3).

      I’m so grateful to have known in advance about babywearing and co-sleeping and being attuned to my son’s needs and so forth. I think it was the only way we would have gotten through that first critical period of time when my son needed me so very much, and certainly had I not known of this stuff I might otherwise have gotten fooled into thinking there was something wrong with my son, who is happy, healthy, warm and wonderful — in large part, I think, because I never even considered it a possibility not to listen to his needs. (We adults need what we need, and why wouldn’t you give a child what he needs too? What kind of life lesson is that? And when I cry, I certainly don’t like to be left alone. I want hugs now! So why would we leave a child alone in these cases?)

      I’m certain my little one on the way will be very different from my son in many ways, but what always comforts me is knowing that if I listen to my children, they teach me all I need to know. It’s so wonderful to know there’s a whole community of others out there who respect their kids’ needs and work hard to stay attuned and responsive.

    9. Amy Willa   Amy_willa

      What a wonderful post. I have met so many parents who see sensitive children as “clingy” or “spoiled” and so they distance themselves from them on purpose and wean from the breast thinking that might be the problem . . . thinking that denying them the love and comfort they need will “fix” them. As if a sensitive child were broken. It’s so sad.

      What a wonderful post on attachment parenting – not about what parents “should” do, but about responding to the needs of your baby :) Your son is such a lucky boy!

      • Leslie

        Amy- well said RE: “as if a sensitive child were broken.” It definitely is sad that too many people think that way.

    10. Amy   InnateWholeness

      I love this part (and the whole post, of course!)…

      “It feels good to parent with sensitivity. It feels right to treat Kieran with the same respect that we want for ourselves.”

      Thank you, Dionna, for demonstrating the importance of trusting yourselves as parents and following your hearts. It is clear that your experience led you all in the direction you need to go :)

      The children of today are asking parents to become clear in their intentions, that’s for sure!

    11. Leslie

      What a great post! Sadly, it makes me feel validated because I know I have family members who think that I am spoiling my daughter. She is definitely sensitive. (And another car seat hater!)

    12. Amber   AmberStrocel

      I have a 5 1/2 year old, and I can tell you that yes, independence does come. And it is well worth the investment you put into establishing a solid foundation of trust and attachment. Because it comes easily, smoothly, and right when your child is ready.

    13. Wonderful post! I love the statement “Even if we hadn’t chosen attachment parenting, attachment parenting would have chosen us.” I found that happened for my husband and me as well. I suspect Kieran will end up like my children. As adults, they are independent yet respectful and still very close to their parents.

    14. Amy   anktangle

      I love this post, Dionna! My son is similarly sensitive/high-needs, and it’s nice to read about how things have progressed. I appreciate your perspective so much. We also have had times when Daniel has cried for extended periods (not because we were trying to CIO, but because he was just inconsolable). I know CIO wouldn’t work for him because he simply would not ever make it to the “out” part. Beyond that, sensitivity and compassion are things I require from people who love me, so why wouldn’t I provide those to my own child, even (especially!) when things are difficult?!

      All that to say: I totally agree. Thank you for writing this.

    15. Jennifer McCay   leangreenmama

      Leslie, after I commented before, it occurred to me that I too was one of those highly sensitive kids (not just as a toddler!), and one parent got it and one absolutely didn’t. As an adult who remembers what it was like to feel so misunderstood, it angers me to think that someone would think you are “spoiling” a child who so clearly needs a different level of care than others. It’s not like we can help our temperaments!

    16. Oh dont! That carseat business drives me to distraction, especially since we are so dependent on driving! I don’t know if Kyra has ‘grown out of it’ or ‘given up on it’ but it seems to be getting better now she’s over a year. As for sensitivity, I can’t say we have that. Kyra is unbelievably confident and outgoing, so much so that people – strangers – often comment on it. I believe that it’s down to parenting. Don’t tell me I’m spoiling my child then compliment me on how awesomely well she’s doing! That doesn’t make sense!

      Anyway. As I said to Lauren, thank you for being such an amazing inspiration – I learn so much from you about Gentle Discipline.

    17. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

      Yes, yes! We had one of those babies who cried constantly during the early months despite our attachment parenting — but we kept realizing he would be worse off if we had practiced some other form. There were a couple occasions, like in the car as you mentioned, when he would cry himself sick and keep crying, so we also knew CIO wouldn’t work, even if it had been an option for us. We also have wondered: So when does he become independent? :) But I trust this is who Mikko is, and what he needs from us at this age. When I look at it big picture, I realize how very young he is still at 3. And I remember that I was very sensitive (i.e., labeled a crybaby) and, hey, I like me!

    18. Rachael   RachaelNevins

      With his innate sensitivity and the trust you have instilled in him, Kieran is going to be a gift to the world. Of course he already is — but my meaning is that we need adults who are both sensitive and secure.

    19. Elena

      “when is this child going to detach himself from me?!”

      I know how this feels! Just wanting to go potty by myself once in a while, just to have one quiet moment to remember who I am!

      But now, from the perspective of having an 18 year old who is living 4 hours away, I whisper to myself, “Too soon, my dear, too soon.” And then I breathe and relax a little.

      How brave are the Mamas of small ones who do not yet personally know the reality of this eventual detachment, and appreciate the moment anyway! What beautiful and amazing trust!

    20. Kat

      I also have a sensitive child who is very attached to me and wants to be with me (the mother) all the time. I love the whole idea of attachment parenting and I love that there are those who can do it. But sadly my child’s intense need for me drives me insane. I really need time out!! She doesn’t even want her own father. She’ll cry if anyone else holds her.

      I can’t have someone attached to me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I feel so so so guilty. But I have to leave her with other people sometimes. Sometimes I have to leave her crying. Just so I can have a break. I feel so guilty that I am damaging her. Yet I just cannot be with her all the time. With me she is a very happy girl and people even comment on how happy and content she is. And thankfully it is slowly changing and she is becoming happier with others. But there have been times when I’ve left her crying with others just so I could have a break.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Kat have you read “The Highly Sensitive Child”? It’s been recommended to me by a couple of people, but I haven’t read it yet (because my library doesn’t carry it and I’m too cheap to buy it – ha). The Amazon reviews are pretty good!

        • Kat

          I haven’t heard of that book. I’ll see if my library carries it and if not I might think about buying it.

      • Jennifer   leangreenmama

        I don’t think attachment parenting has rules about this sort of thing — after all, one of API’s main principles is balance, and to me that means if you as the mother are going stark raving mad being with your child 24/7, if there are other caregivers who can be there and spend time with her so you can recuperate and be a better mom when you are with her, then it’s the right thing for you.

        When my son was really young, I didn’t leave him crying, and I still don’t leave him much anyhow at 3 (and he’s happy to be with his sitters and especially his papa), but I don’t have a strong need to get away from him. If I had, I know I’d have found a way to get the space I need. Kids need non-crazy mamas! :)

        One big thing I did do — and as a highly sensitive person I needed to do — see for more info because that’s where you can also find info on the Highly Sensitive Child book Dionna mentioned — was find a way to meditate at times when I was with my son and the total, utter attachment with no breaks was getting to me. I know it sounds odd, but I had a huge learning curve, and yet now I can either relax and enjoy the time with him in a new way or get tons of “thinking” work done while being physically present with my son if he doesn’t need me for actual conversation, and I have a little one on the way who will likely need a lot of my time for a while again soon, so this will come in handy. Might be worth trying. And at 3, my son is so different (and so much less in need of my time and presence) compared with where he was until 18-24 mos. that it is just mind-boggling. Kids develop so quickly!

        • Kat

          Thanks Jennifer. Your reply made me feel better about my choices. I just need time out sometimes. And sometimes want to get things done – like a hair cut. So I need to be able to leave my daughter with other people. Thankfully she is getting better with other people now that she is becoming more aware of the fact that I am coming back I think!

          I’ll check out the website you recommended and also the book that Dionna recommended.

    21. Darcel @ The Mahogany Way   mahoganywaymama

      I also believe that both of my girls would be so different if we used mainstream parenting methods on them.
      They are both so sensitive.

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