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My thanks to Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting can get a pretty bad rap.  

This is hardly surprising in a society that places little to no value on the natural, biological development of our infants and toddlers in favour of behaviourist interventions that force babies to conform to an ideal that allows adults to get back on with the more ‘important’ business of life with as little disruption to their productivity as possible.

Interestingly though, it also gets a negative review from many a mother who while initially drawn to the basic attachment parenting tenants, then found/ decided they were unable to follow them in their setting.

Plenty of mothers explain that while all of it sounded great in theory, they simply could not or would not be able to make it work for them or they felt they ‘outgrew’ this style of parenting or felt stifled and restricted by it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading another account of how a mother felt ‘let down’ by Attachment Parenting as her children grew older and when a subsequent child didn’t respond well to the techniques recommended.

This got me thinking about my own experience with Attachment Parenting and how it has shaped me as the mother I am and the mother I continue to strive to be.

I can say that I am eternally grateful to the Attachment Parenting movement for all of the ideas, guidance, confidence boosts and belief it has provided me with in the early phase of this mothering gig. I am grateful for all of this being done without ever feeling like I had been told what I HAD to do to mother my unique children.

I am grateful because they spoke of a norm I would otherwise not have known existed.

They offered me an explanation and coping strategies and mothering techniques that no one else told me were okay let alone what might be exactly what my baby and I needed.

They helped me see why my baby only slept calmly in my arms or on my chest and offered up babywearing and co-napping as normal and natural ways for me to meet my baby at his point of need.

They encouraged me to feel confident that my baby who breastfed SO frequently did so because this was not only his source of nutrition but also his preferred method for comfort, soothing and reconnection. They also didn’t place arbitrary limits on when my baby should stop needing me so and instead encouraged me to trust that I could follow his lead with no notion of it being ‘bad’ or that I may be stifling his development.

The work done by Attachment Parenting advocates to normalise and educate about safe bedsharing is perhaps their greatest gift to me and my family. It is, to date the single best thing I have done as a parent. It saved me, my husband and my baby. It is no exaggeration to say, my life did a complete 360 turn when I finally felt like I could make this arrangement work. I finally had a way to survive my High Need baby’s non stop extreme frequent waking. I had tried EVERYTHING to ‘fix’ him. Nothing worked. But, Attachment Parenting didn’t disown me the way mainstream advocates did. They threw me a lifeline. I could still be a ‘good’ mother even if my baby woke 59 billion times a night and on top of this, my husband and I could get the best quality sleep we could get while still meeting our baby’s needs at night.

Our night time parenting schedule remained gruelling. There was no miracle that occurred or peaceful, perfect family bed image to paint here but we could live again. We could survive and most important of all, we finally felt we could accept our baby for who he was and that included being extremely wakeful.

For me, I didn’t ever feel like I HAD to do XYZ to ‘be’ an Attachment Parent. But then again, I wasn’t striving to ‘be’ anything in particular other than the best mum I could be to my babies.

I didn’t feel constrained or judged if I needed to do things in another way as I followed my baby’s lead and my own heart.

With my second baby, my parenting repertoire was a source of great comfort to me. I had no idea who this little person would be, but I felt comfortable knowing the norms of human infant behaviour and I felt confident knowing that I had the range of skills and techniques to help me meet him at his point of need wherever that may be.

I didn’t feel bound to bedshare but I knew I would keep him close to make night time parenting manageable for me. If he needed my closeness, then into our bed he’d come. If he relished his space, I happily prepared a safe sleep space next to me in case.

I experimented continually as he grew to work out how he felt most comfortable finding and maintaining sleep by and day and night and I rolled with it. Sometimes we babywore, sometimes he slept in the pram. Other times we co-napped with a boob in his mouth or he snoozed alone on our floor bed.

I didn’t HAVE to do anything other than respond to my baby in the way that worked best for us.

As my babies grow, I thank Attachment Parenting for ensuring I continue to actively question commonly accepted mainstream practices. I have found gentle parenting, respectful parenting and peaceful parenting as well and I continue to read, grow and learn with my babies.

The single best thing Attachment Parenting has gifted me is to ensure that while I pick and choose and grow and evolve, at the heart of my parenting decisions is my heart. Decisions are made with ALL of the humans in our family considered as valuable people worthy of respect. My children’s childish nature is not held against them, just as their babyish behaviour wasn’t while they were infants.

As a family, we work as a team, to meet each other right where we are at and see value in each other for who we are.

I will be forever grateful for the healthy questioning that Attachment Parenting stirred in me. To feel confident in questioning accepted parenting practices, to look more deeply at why they are popular, what outcomes they may have and what their impact may be, intentionally or unintentionally, is so important to me.

So thank you Attachment Parenting for opening my eyes to possibilities.  
Thank you for having my back when I couldn’t fit with the mainstream.  
Thanks for having my baby’s back when my faith in him was at its lowest.  
Your work in this world is so needed.  

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Grubby Mummy’s review of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ by Pinky McKay

Grubby Mummy’s review of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ by Pinky McKay

I am actually bubbling with excitement writing this review.


I have just finished this book and I feel like change is afoot and this book may well be the catalyst.

The mainstays of modern parenting books, particularly ones with a sleep focus, are sleep training, routines and schedules. They are full of charts and prescriptions of, ‘your baby SHOULD be doing this by X age …’. They are full of scaremongering about creating ‘bad habits’ and the importance of a baby getting X amount of sleep so that they develop properly.

Sleeping Like a Baby by Pinky McKay however, does none of these things.

Right from the dedication paragraph,

‘For all the parents who are soothing wakeful babies and feeling alone in the darkness of night-time, sleep deprivation and self doubt. Hold and cuddle and listen to your baby. Trust yourself – you have got this!’

You can feel the warmth, the understanding and dedication Pinky has put into this book.

She knows the importance of connecting with mothers and helping them stay connected to their baby.

It is an easy read. There are wonderful anecdotes from mothers dotted throughout the pages, helping you hear and recognise yourself and your little one in other people’s experiences, too.

You will not feel alone in your sleepless struggles after reading even a portion of his book.

This new updated edition is brimming with useful, up to date evidence based information regarding normal infant sleep and Pinky has done a magnificent job bringing the data to you in manageable, sleep deprived mama friendly language.

You could read this book from cover to cover or just pick out what you think is most relevant to you. It wouldn’t matter because I guarantee, you will be coming back any time you need those words of reassurance again, ‘Trust yourself- you have got this!’

With topics such as, 

  • The first six weeks,
  • Reducing the risk of SIDS or SUDI, 
  • Sharing sleep, 
  • Night feeds, 
  • Solids, 
  • Food to aid or hinder sleep, 
  • Dropping naps, 
  • Positive bedtime cues, 
  • A step by step plan to change ‘bad habits’ gently with love, 
  • Night weaning, 
  • Cot to bed transition
  • Looking after yourself

Pinky has covered thoroughly so many of the questions we as mothers ask ourselves as we wade our way through this weary season in our lives.

The words of this book have the power to change the conversation around Baby Sleep for the better. If this book became THE book that was recommended routinely at antenatal classes or by midwives, MCHNs and GPs or given as a gift at baby showers, I would happily predict we’d see a swift decline in the amount of anxiety seen in mothers around their child’s sleep patterns and the way the mother responds to her child.

This book is accessible. It is speaks to all mothers and treats them with the respect they deserve as the person who truly knows what is best for her child.

Sleeping Like a Baby is also a gift to all the babies of those mothers lucky enough to read its pages. These babies will be understood, respected and responded to with tenderness and confidence by mothers who know that they are doing this mothering business beautifully, even if their baby is wakeful.

I will close with some words at the very end of the book that made this mama all misty eyed,

‘A baby is a gift of life and it is up to each of us lucky enough to share this tiny life to make it worthwhile- to nurture and grow this little being, teaching it how to love and to love life. As you teach your baby that he is loved and worthwhile and special, he will also teach you about pure, unconditional love. For that is what you will find in your heart when you surrender to your feelings and allow yourself to connect unreservedly with the tiny person in your arms – day and night.’

Do yourself a favour mamas and invest in a copy today!

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Labels that just might stick …

Labels that just might stick …

The hyperactive, careless troublemaker versus the energetic, experimental, hands on enthusiast?

Which of these two people described, sound like they will go on to live a happy, valuable, secure and successful life?

Both may, but the path is bound to be easier for the second person who has all of these strong, positive personal traits in their armour to help go out and enjoy this world while the first person would need to battle against their negative labels and push past these expectations placed on them by others.

Now you are probably wondering where I’m headed with this.

Last week, I attended Pinky McKay’s wonderful Toddler Tactics seminar and during her presentation, she made the point that children will see themselves the way we tell them to see themselves. A self fulfilling prophecy. If you tell your child they are naughty or bad often enough then they will internalise this and see themselves as ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’. This wasn’t news to me as a primary school teacher. I’ve heard it all before but while I was sitting there listening to Pinky skilfully point out the flip side to common traits that may be considered ‘bad’ I realised that I had honed my own skills through years of writing report cards but never really considered the full impact of my words.

I must admit, as a teacher, before having my own babies, it did actually grate on me that I wasn’t able to simply ‘tell it like it is’ when writing reports and begrudgingly ‘sugarcoated’ what I thought parents really needed to hear. In short, I was a bit of an arsehole.


You see, if I couldn’t come up with at least three positive words to describe a child I worked with 5 days a week, then really that was my problem. I obviously hadn’t been able to connect with that unique little human and they weren’t able to connect to me. I’m the educated adult in the pairing and so the onus really is on me to sort this out.

Being a teacher is incredibly hard work. The workload is massive. The behaviours that enter with some of the children in your room can make it an extremely draining, deflating and thankless job. With the curriculum as pumped up and intense as it is, along with huge pressures on teachers to jump through hoops to prove that their class can do XYZ in some stupid standardised test that will be used to pummel said teacher when she fails to get her children over the arbitrary line, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees.

No teacher worth their salt will see value in all this testing and yet they will work their ring out to try and buffer their kids the best they can from the pressure. Unfortunately, the skills that are really needing to be worked on and would truly benefit the kids in our classrooms are sadly rushed or absent in the curriculum altogether. Finding time in an overstuffed day to simply ‘connect’ with the unique people in front of her, is a luxury that many teachers simply cannot do justice to.

And so, the behaviours are ‘managed’ the best that teacher can as she soldiers on, trying to ensure her charges get the most they can from what is put in front of them. Just ‘managing’ is exhausting. It wears you down. It’s hard when you’ve worked your butt off to try and make your classroom and lessons as accessible and engaging as you physically can to have children still so disengaged and often times disruptive. You look at the faces of your hard working little ones and the resentment starts to seep in. The ‘ungrateful little shit’ thoughts come to mind. The ‘why won’t her parents sort this out’ thoughts rear their ugly head. The reward charts, the bribes, the communication books, the buddy classrooms, the warnings, the threats, the calls to admin … All add to an ugly cycle in that child’s life. 

I knew it but not as I know it now. 

Now I’m a mum. 

Those troubled kids are someone’s baby. Now I’m a mum, I can fully grasp the sheer magnitude of this. Their uniqueness. Their struggle. Their need for love, understanding, connection and security. I get that all ‘negative’ behaviour is communication of an unmet need.

I can finally see why we were expected to write our report comments in this positive way and it has bugger all to do with political correctness and politeness and EVERYTHING to do with giving that child something of worth. A recognition of THEIR worth. Of their unique and perfectly imperfect traits that whilst troublesome in the flawed educational setting, are not necessarily troublesome for the real world and real life.

I now see it as a huge responsibility and honour to raise my boys to see that every weakness has a corresponding strength and that their light will always shine brightest when they are able to be truest to themselves.

One day when I re enter the teaching world, no longer will connection be pushed to the backseat. It will be at the forefront of every interaction with my children. I WILL as the adult with my knowledge, skills and powerful role work to help each child see their true colours, no matter how challenging they may be right at that time. When I feel the disconnect arise, I will pause, reflect and try to remedy this. 

I know at times I will fail as I am mere human after all, but I will do my best to find my focus and regroup as many times as it takes.

The hyperactive child will be the someone who works best when physically engaged.

The quiet, serious child will be the deep thinker.

The daydreamer will be the imaginative soul.

The class clown will be the one who works best when connected to others. Vivacious and friendly . A born entertainer.

The talkative child will be a gifted sharer of ideas.

The one who disagrees with everything will be the one who isn’t afraid to challenge authority in the quest for understanding. A true seeker of justice

The easily upset child will be the sensitive soul and the peacemaker.

The child who is afraid to take risks will be the cautious thinker.

The child who struggles academically but excels with social interactions will be the people person who makes others feel special and valued.

I could go on and on. I cannot imagine all that I will see as each unique person who will present in front of me will challenge me to find them, their true self. 

I will never again allow myself to do another child the disservice of not ‘seeing’ them. Seeing through the behaviour. Seeing the soul beneath. And doing my level best to make sure it’s not only at report card time that they hear what I can see in them. Connection. Value. Affirmation. We owe it to our children.

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‘Why can’t my baby be like that?’ Jealousy, envy, disappointment and despair…

‘Why can’t my baby be like that?’ Jealousy, envy, disappointment and despair…

Hands up who has ever felt like this?
Pick me! Pick me! I was an extreme serial offender with my first who while being the most superb human ever made was an extraordinarily high needs baby who had me at my very wits end.

I went into motherhood with what I felt like were fairly realistic expectations around feeding and sleep. Unfortunately, what I thought was realistic was really restricted to babies who are actually super relaxed, super flexible and ‘textbook’ in that they progress in a straight line (gradually drop feeds and gradually add sleep time without waking). I didn’t realise and western society did not allow the possibility that our little humans are far more complex than that and progress is actually much more cyclical and irregular. Just when you’re sure your baby only ‘needs’ two feeds a night they’ll change it up and feed hourly for a fortnight and then give you one ‘Good’ night before waking every 20-40 mins the next. Day sleeps are just as unpredictable.

After coming from my previous life as a teacher where structure, routine and predictability ruled my day, I was left feeling lost in my new world that appeared to have no rhyme nor reason. This feeling of bewilderment was swiftly tainted by feelings of envy and jealousy when I would meet up with a friend or acquaintance who would boast, ‘oh, my little darling is letting me sleep now … 12 hours straight, 7 til 7. Is your baby sleeping through?’

My stinging sleep deprived eyes would well up as I detailed my baby’s wakeful habits and I’d cop the standard lines of, ‘have you tried swaddling’, ‘putting him down drowsy but awake’, ‘bedtime routine’, ‘listen for his protest cry it’s different to his emotional cry’, ‘it’s because you’re still feeding him’, ‘you need to not hold him, you’ve built a rod for your own back’ … I could go on and on but you get the picture.

Initially, I walked away and thought that maybe there was some weight to what they said and I practically tore myself in two trying every technique suggested by every friend, child health nurse, relative and bloody sleep whisperer known to man. With each attempt that failed, a little of my mummy confidence (already fragile as a first time mum and with sleep deprivation) chipped away. With each attempt I caught myself looking at my baby thinking ‘why can’t you just go to sleep like (insert name)? What more do you want from me?’ I became anal about awake time and early tired signs, I tried feeding timelines and resettling timelines too. Things grew more and more intense as I tried harder and harder.

Things really came to a head when I was told by a douche bag child health nurse that my child was ‘chronically sleep deprived and it would be affecting his brain development’. This was too much. I was extremely sleep deprived myself and struggling but at no point had I thought my baby was actually at risk (he was after all the most beautifully healthy, happy four month old who just hated sleep and was super cuddly and sensitive). This declaration from someone who I considered at the time to be a knowledgeable person sent me in a spin. It was one thing for me to be struggling but not my baby, no this had to stop… I must get this baby to learn to sleep for his own well being! I booked us in to attend a private sleep school for two weeks later, the public wait was over a month and there was no way I could let my poor baby ‘suffer’ that long.

Two weeks later we flew to Brisbane for our 5 day residential stay. I sobbed my heart out at the initial meeting with the head nurse telling her how much of a failure I was and how I never wanted to be this kind of mother – one who had to listen to her sweet baby cry while he ‘learned’ to sleep out of my arms. She reassured me that while he would cry it would only be because he was angry with the change and that the ‘responsive settling’ techniques would still comfort him while allowing him to learn the ‘essential’ skill of self settling. I had my doubts but out of sheer desperation for both of us I decided to commit.

The first 24 hours were horrific. It is testament to how crushed I was within myself that I did not trust the motherly instinct inside me that shrieked from every nerve in my body to take my baby and run. I am ashamed to say I stayed. I sat in the hall and sobbed and rocked in a ball as nurse after nurse tried and failed to implement the hands off settling techniques that were supposedly appropriate for 4 and a half month old. Each one of them ended up rocking my sweating, hysterical, exhausted baby to sleep. Not one of them believed me as we stood at the door shushing my babe that he was firing warning shots (apparently protesting) and that these warning shots were taking him further and further from sleep and that left for longer will lead to hysteria. Each one had to see for themselves. Each one would then comment that ‘we just need to persevere and be consistent and he would learn.’ And so it went for 24 hours. When my mum came to visit the next day she was shocked at how pale my baby looked and commented that he looked sad. I broke down at this and poured my heart out to her. I decided that if no one listened to me that day then we’d leave that evening. That afternoon I started packing our bag. I cried the whole time. What was I to do now? This was meant to work? Where to now? I felt defeated. At this stage a nurse walked in and asked me what I had expected from this stay. She actually listened and told me she’d support me on the next settle and let me go to my baby when I thought was the key point and stroke him. It worked. I felt elated and the success continued for the rest of the stay although babe did start to get harder on the last day. The take home message was to stay consistent and persistent and keep life as routine as possible for the following two weeks and we should be on track.

I left feeling empowered and confident with my new skills. I was determined to be consistent and persistent for all of our sakes. I got my husband on board and wasn’t too phased as babe tested us out for the first few days (settling in period). I started to worry as it extended from there and babe got harder and harder to get down. I rang the sleep school for some tips and reassurance but was greeted very unhappily. I would be getting a two week follow up call and they weren’t staffed to field more calls. I cried in desperation and the nurse asked me if I was going to be stronger than my baby or not and that to keep being consistent and persistent and we’d get there. I was crushed but with nothing more I could do I stuck at it. The two week call came and I was a wreck. We were up for 2 hour battles at a time to try and stretch babe to his 4 hour minimum for feeds. My husband was trying to resettle for me to keep babe away from the boobs so he was shattered. My baby was a wreck. The two week call nurse had a little more empathy but no further practical advice other than that god damn catch cry ‘consistent and persistent’.

We continued on for 3 further torturous weeks until I ended up in a ball sobbing in the lounge while my baby screamed in his cot.
I realised I had plunged into PND. I booked into speak with my GP. She spoke to me about my options for treatment and decided that counselling would be the best first step. For some reason just being diagnosed was the start of my recovery … It was the start of my surrender. The first step in letting go and learning to forgive myself and my baby for not being what I’d imagined. On the same day, I had a phone call from my darling midwife at the Women’s Health Queensland Wide who I have spoken to since I found out I was pregnant. She was her usual great self but also really made me stop and think … I had gotten myself so caught up in all the things I SHOULD be doing for my baby to ‘fix’ all the things I had done wrong to have created such poor sleep habits that I had lost my ability to listen and respond to MY baby. All the noise in my head was telling me was that if I rock my baby, feed him to sleep, don’t resettle him YADAYADAYADA had gotten so loud. Especially after having been to sleep school. I thought if I just stuck at it and at it and at it, it would eventually work … Well it didn’t. 5 weeks after sleep school we were no closer to having a better sleeper and my baby was getting more and more frustrated and upset with me and everyone around him not listening to what he was very clearly trying to communicate. As he grew more unsettled, the more I grew frustrated and upset too. Hence the breakdown.

Turns out, my baby isn’t a textbook one (not that any are). From day dot, I chose to go with my baby’s flow, follow his cues, feed on demand etc. He was always good at communicating his wants and needs to me but I had a deliberately stopped listening (as you are told to when sleep training). Lucky for me in many ways, my guy didn’t give up on me. He kept on getting louder and louder until I was forced to pull back and listen. At breaking point, I felt like the only way to get better would be to get more sleep and speak to a professional who could tell me how to deal with my problems. But, my midwife sent me the latest research article on infant sleep. A very interesting read. It proposed the idea that infant sleep is as individual as the baby and sleep training is an inappropriate intervention for something that is only a ‘problem’ due to culture and society. It focussed on the idea that mothers need to be helped to maximise the quality of their own sleep rather than aiming for the ever elusive ‘more’ sleep. Quality over quantity.

At the same time, I had been getting right into Pinky McKay – books, Facebook page, blog. I felt like she spoke to my heart. Her motto, ‘gently and with love’ is how I always wanted to mother. Not this crazy lady who watched the clock and let my baby grizzle, cry and whinge wanting me to help him to sleep in my arms but insisting on breaking this habit as he would never learn to self settle. I also started focusing on putting myself in my baby’s shoes and empathising more. I would hate for my husband or mother or friend to constantly compare my abilities with anothers and remind me regularly I’m lacking and yet that is what we do as we ‘wish’ our baby was something they’re not. I’d be thinking, ‘aren’t I enough?’ ‘Why can’t I do what (name) can do? And my self esteem would slowly chip away. That is not acceptable to me for myself and it is certainly not acceptable for my baby.

As I reflected back on those 6 months I also realised that for all my bitching and moaning about not sleeping enough and being tired … I was fine. I was fit as a fiddle, I was active and had well and truly adjusted to life on little sleep. I caught 20-30 mins each time bub napped/ catnapped in the day and I was fine. . I chose to talk about other things with people when they ask how babe is going. No more wallowing, no more whinging. This too shall pass and it passed a lot less painfully when I stopped dwelling on something that I tried so very hard to fix. My baby didn’t need fixing. He needed his mum to understand that this is where he was at and one day down the track, he wouldn’t need me so much but he will always know that I will be there waiting for him should he ever need me that much again.

So mums and dads here’s our challenge … To accept our perfectly imperfect little person/ people for exactly who they are. Because just as jealousy and envy are toxic in any other relationship, so they are with our precious wee people who deserve nothing but unconditional love from their mum and dad.

Self reflection and growth is such an important part of parenthood. I look back on that time now with kind eyes for both myself and my baby. We were learning to be. And here we are today. So in love and so trusting. Ever growing and learning with each other.