Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ninja Turtles and Massages: ways to heal attachment.

I promised a follow up to my post yesterday. And I've already had a lot of emails and questions. And my answer to all of them, "Trust your gut". What do you think your baby needs? Do that.

A lot of questions about "crying it out".
I believe that we learn our children's cries fairly quickly. We know what a scared cry, a hungry cry, a tired cry, and a hurt cry sounds like. If you lay your baby down for a nap and she cries for one minute and then falls asleep that's not letting her cry it out. That could be what's normal for your baby. I don't know, you're her mama. Trust yourself.

When I refer to crying it out I am referring to what has been coined "Ferberizing" or "Ferbering" which is a sleep method created by a man named Richard Ferber. It teaches how to train your child to sleep through the night by letting them cry for five minutes, then going in and patting them on the back, singing, or whatever ways you can calm them without holding them. Then you leave and let them cry for ten minutes and repeat, then you let them cry for twenty minutes, etc. with a strong willed child, this can last all night long, sometimes for up to seven nights. (It is also common during this "training" that babies get an ear infection at some point due to the congestion caused by crying.) That is letting them cry it out.

(Here is a lengthy article that summarizes Ferbering and the lasting effects.)

As far as scheduling goes: I love them. I have five little kids, we couldn't function without our schedule. And my infant has a schedule. But if she wants to eat and its only been an hour since she did last, and I know she's not tired, and she's dry, and she's not in pain, I let her! I go through my mental checklist first. But I know her, and I know her signs and if I know she's hungry, then she gets to eat!

A lot of people mentioned Baby Wise, or Growing Kids God's Way. I did not. Mostly because they have recently had to change a lot of their language and such and their books are no longer as strict as they used to be as a result of all the negative medical attention as well as scientific attachment attention they were receiving. As a result, their books are a little less black and white as they used to be, and more grey, like the real world. If you attend a class with this label it can really depend what type of information you get based on how black and white the teacher sees these things. I believe there are a lot of things about it, that if used in moderation, or with the whole child in mind, will work. Unfortunately a lot of people just leave with "the schedule" ingrained in them.

I have had twelve children under the age of three in the last three years. (We do foster care and have adopted, and birthed one of our own during this time period.) And only two of them have had the start that I believe every baby should get. And none of them have experienced a great prenatal atmosphere (Which is an entirely different and important post!). All of that to say, I have made it my mission to learn and study how we can heal our babies!

Whether you're an adoptive or foster mom like me, and know that your kiddo didn't have an attentive, nurturing, and loving care giver consistently throughout their first days, months, or years. Or you are a bio mom, like me, who has realized since having her babies that you made a couple big mistakes. Here is what we need to know: we all heal our babies, and ourselves the same, through connection.

I also want to highlight another group of moms, moms who have either had premature babies, or babies who were born with birth defects, or for some other reason needed severe medical care as an infant. (I have one of these.) Unfortunately their little brains look the same as the brains of babies who have been abused or neglected. Do you know why? Because infants don't know the difference between medically necessary pain, and abuse. Their brains don't understand the difference between medically necessary incubation and neglect. Their brains just registered, you hurt me, I cried, you didn't stop it. Or maybe you couldn't even touch them for a few weeks or months when they were born. Their brains didn't register that was because you were trying to save their life. Their brains registered neglect and pain.

Okay breathe.
Because their is so much hope. And so much we can do.

Healing Ourselves
A very very important aspect of attaching with our kiddos is understanding our own attachments and coming to terms with our story. Your own attachment history will greatly influence the way you care for your children. In fact, research shows that for most peolpe whatever attachment they tested at 12 months of age, they will keep throughout their life. Therefore someone who grew up with an insecure attachment may not have the same ability to provide the consistent, nurturing, responsiveness to their infant that would help their infant obtain a secure attachment. Simply because they do not know how to do this, it was never modeled to them, and this has therefore changed their view of what is appropriate or correct.

All of that to say, if we are aware of our selves and what we experienced, or have a lack of experience with, we will be able to better care for our children. A great resource if you feel that part of your journey in bringing healing to the children in your life is to come to terms with, and obtain an "earned secure" attachment for yourself is a wonderful book by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell called Parenting from the Inside Out. There are also therapists trained specifically in attachment that you can seek out. (I personally had an Adult Attachment Interview(AAI) and have studied how our own attachments effect our parenting, it is a huge piece of the puzzle in my opinion.) There is a short assessment you can take here that will give you a brief idea of what attachment style you have across multiple different relationships. All of this is huge in how we see our children and how we can clearly decipher what they need.

Touch
We must touch our children. Physical touch is just like air and water to humans. Yet for those of us trying to repair an attachment, it is even more important. Depending on the age of your child this will look differently. But touch is powerful. Studies recently have shown that daily massage is STOPPING the progression of Alzheimer's!

If you have an infant there are many infant massage classes or DVDs you can look into. But I always encourage massage! It is shown to help integrate the brain (One of the things that we see happen when children are left to cry it out is that the two hemispheres of the brain do not communicate with one another the way they should.) and it floods the child, and the masseuse with dopamine, one of the strongest calming neurotransmitters and an essential element for attachment! In older children it could look like trading off back massages, or hand massages or foot massages. (This also helps in HUGE ways for babies who are detoxing for those adoptive and foster moms who are caring for drug exposed babies, this is ESSENTIAL!) and for those of you who are doing everything right, massage those chubby happy babies, it will strengthen your attachment with them and bring them lots of love:)

Attention Time
This is another strategy I use. Attention time is like nursing a baby, but for ANY age. This is a time set aside that it is just you and them, doing what they want to do. They lead.

We have scheduled attention time in our house, we have dates, which are attention time away from the house. But I try to daily do attention time in the house as well. It can be as little as ten minutes at a time, maybe two time's a day. But during this time they get to tell you what to do. You could be playing in the fort, flying a B-17, having a tea party, playing a game, lifting weights, or fixing a bike. You are looking them in the eye. You are matching their behaviors and emotions. You are following their lead, and you are on their level both physically and emotionally.

Think about when you are nursing a baby... You can't really do anything else. You are looking at them, you are touching them, you are comforting them, you are following their lead, you are talking sweetly, and you are just oozing love. That's what attention time is like, but for a six year old, or a sixteen year old.

So how does this work in my crazy house you ask? Different depending on the day. But usually I am doing this with my three oldest before quiet/nap time. Or before bed. I put them to bed in ascending order. The babies go down, then the four year old, who knows attention time is before naps, has already set up the little pet shops. So there I am playing pet shop and being a kitty cat for ten minutes (and yes I carry the timer and let them set it for ten minutes, and give them a two minute warning). I'm following her lead. I'm whispering when she whispers, she is close to me, and we're just having a blast. Then it's the five year olds turn, and off I go to fight Donatello and Michaelangelo in a fight to the death. We wrestle, we roll, we laugh, we tickle, and then as I am putting him to bed, I am massaging his arms and singing him a song and looking in his gorgeous brown eyes... And so on.

And don't get me wrong, I am totally exhausted after just thirty minutes of this. But I know my job is to help my older three heal. I want to help provide them every opportunity for a secure attachment. And if playing Ninja Turtles and giving massages is how I can do that, I'm in.

Resources
There are a lot of resources out there on this. The best thing I think you can read is The Connected Child. (We have used this book long before we had adopted or foster care kiddos).

I would also encourage you to learn about sensory needs. Often times babies who have cried it out develop sensory issues. (There are MANY reasons kids develop these so please don't start judging!) But this is a contributing factor. When their brains are flooded with those stress hormones the brain can not be integrated and work cohesively... Ways we see this in older children, and infants, is in sensory sensitivities. The best place to start is with the book The Out of Sync Child. Each chapter starts with a little assessment and it is just super user friendly. Sensory sensitivities can look like so so many things but for instance, if you have a toe walker, if you have a kid that refuses to wear socks, if you have a kid who can spin for hours without getting sick, if you have a kid who is often complaining about how loud things are, etc. this is a HUGE topic. Start with the book. (And yes we all have sensory sensitivity to some degree.) Understand, that by integrating sensory rich activities into your day you can greatly improve the brains integration and see huge strides toward healing in your children.

There is hope. There is a never a child, there is not a brain, and there is not a mama that can't change! Our brains can change. Our attachments can heal. And we can all see this happen in our homes if we continue to educate ourselves, encourage one another, and talk!




















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4 comments:

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