Sheryl Jesin


November’s Carnival of Natural Parenting – What is natural parenting?

I am participating in November’s Carnival of Natural Parenting:  What is Natural Parenting, but I am doing it a bit differently this time.   My post won’t be published today. Instead, it will be featured on the Natural Parents Network‘s site on November 23rd.    I am honored to have a post on NPN’s great site and I invite you all to check out all the great work they’ve been doing.

In the meantime…be sure to read the great posts from this month’s carnival!


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 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 PresentAcacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • Parenting With HeartKat 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 CosleptSheila 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 LookBetsy 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 LearningDeb 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


Parenting a child to sleep

I’ve written a number of posts about the joys I’ve experienced nursing my son Dylan to sleep.  But getting him to sleep is not just about nursing, it is about parenting.  I’ve deeply valued the time I’ve spent parenting my son to sleep and plan to do the same with baby #2 who is due in December.

I find it quite disconcerning that anywhere I turn in the “mainstream” parenting world, I encounter people talking about “sleep training”, “controlled crying”, or “crying it out (CIO)”.  It sometimes seems as if many parents think they have no choice but to put their children in a crib, leave the room, and hope they fall asleep crying.  There are so many “sleep experts” writing books or websites touting the magical solution to getting your baby to sleep through the night through a variety of different methods that usually involve a baby falling asleep on their own in a crib – no wonder so many parents think they need to sleep train!

Dr. Sears warns about the dangers of sleep training for breastfeeding mothers:

Beware of using someone else’s training method to get your baby to sleep or get your baby on a predictable schedule. Most of these methods are variations of the tired old theme of letting baby cry it out. Before trying anyone else’s method, run it through your intuitive wisdom. Does this advice sound sensible? Does it fit your baby’s temperament? Does it feel right to you?With most of these baby-training regimens you run the risk of becoming desensitized to the cues of your infant, especially when it comes to letting baby cry it out. Instead of helping you to figure out what baby’s signals mean, these training methods tell you to ignore them. Neither you nor your baby learn anything good from this.

For us, it never felt right to leave Dylan alone to fall asleep.   It felt right and it felt natural to be there right beside him as he drifted off to dreamland.  Some of my most precious memories of Dylan as a baby and toddler involve watching his eyes slowly close and observing the peaceful, angelic look that comes over his face once he is asleep.  Sometimes we’d have crazy, hectic, tiring days, where I’d lose my patience or just feel fed up.   Seeing Dylan’s sweet sleeping face at night always bring back tenderness to my heart and is often just what I need after a long day. 

I believe that parenting Dylan to sleep each and every night has helped him become the independent, fiesty and loving child toddler that he is.  I wouldn’t give up all those hours that I have spent lying beside him for anything.   I’m so glad that Jake and I decided to listen to our hearts rather than listen to “sleep experts”. 



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Summer sleep

We have spent the last week and a half up at my family’s cottage.  Dylan has been having a blast.  We’ve had a major heatwave here, with temperatures in the high 30s (or above 100F for you Americans out there!).  Dylan has spent hours each day in the lake, or his little kiddie pool, or running under the sprinkler.  It’s been so hot that I’ve joined him in all of his water activities (including his kiddie pool!)  Kids really know how to have fun!

The best time to be outside is the evening, when the sun is no longer strong and the temperatures cool off a bit.  That means we’ve been going for boat rides after dinner, or playing in the sand, or swimming.  This translates to very very late bedtimes – 10pm or later.  The very late bedtimes have unfortunately not led to sleep-ins, but have led to more daytime naps.  One day, Dylan lay down on a cot outside and fell asleep at 10:30 am.    Let’s just say he has NEVER done that before.  That day he had two naps – and he’s been down to one nap a day since he turned one.   Another day he asked to nurse at 9:45 am and promptly fell asleep, and had a little nap on the couch.  That was another 2 nap day. 

Dylan asleep on the couch

Our relaxed sleep schedule works up here because there is so much to do in the evenings and it stays light so late.  Plus I’m on vacation from work and I have help from my parents.  At home I need some time to wind down once Dylan goes to sleep, especially after a busy day at work, so I prefer an earlier bedtime.

What do your summer sleep schedules look like? Are your kids staying up late too?


Ensuring safe sleep – meeting the needs of parents and child

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

When Dylan was 6 weeks old, I enrolled us in a mom and baby class at a local parenting center.   I figured it would be a good way to meet other moms and to force myself to get dressed and out of the house.

Up until that point, we had been happily co-sleeping.  It happened by accident – it was first suggested by a kind and wise nurse at the hospital, and continued at home.  When it was time for Dylan to go to sleep for the night, I’d get ready for bed too.  We’d both lie in our bed and he’d nurse to sleep and I’d doze off too.  As a new mom, it was good for me to go to bed at around 9pm.  We were both well-rested.  Or at least as rested as you could be with a newborn.

So back to the class.   It was run by a wonderful lactation consultant who helped me a lot in the early weeks, and a so-called, self-appointed “sleep expert”.  I believe that this sleep expert is well-intentioned and has probably assisted a number of extremely overwhelmed and sleep deprived families.  However, her sleep ideas did not work for us.

One week we were talking about infant sleep patterns.  The sleep expert stated that if a baby doesn’t fall asleep by him or herself, the baby will keep waking up all night and will need assistance falling back asleep.  So in my case, since I nursed Dylan to sleep, each time he woke he would require nursing to sleep.  He was waking quite frequently – usually he’d sleep for a 3 or 4 hour stretch when he first went to sleep, and then would wake up every 1-2 hours after that.  But since we were co-sleeping, the wakings were not that disturbing to me.   The sleep expert told me that I should try to get Dylan to fall asleep on his own, and that would stop some of the night wakings.   Also, she suggested that babies need an early bedtime, and a 7pm bedtime would be more appropriate than a 9pm bedtime.

So off I went home after this class.  I told Jake everything that the sleep expert had said.  She suggested that I nurse Dylan in a rocking chair with the lights on, read him a book, and then give him to Jake, who would rock him to sleep and then place him in his crib.  We tried this – at 7pm.  It actually worked the first night.  Jake got Dylan to sleep and managed to get him in his crib.   HOWEVER, Dylan proceeded to wake up every 40 minutes until I finally went to sleep beside him.

We tried this again the next night.  Even though Dylan was only 6 weeks, he caught on to our plan.  Jake couldn’t get him to sleep.  Dylan was crying and it was breaking my heart.  So I went in and nursed him and of course he went right to sleep.  I got him in his crib but again he woke up every 40 minutes unless I was beside him.   We tried this for about a wk, and it did not work.  I couldn’t stand to hear any crying, even if Dylan was in Jake’s arms.

After about a week, I stopped the insanity.  We went back to our previous routine of my nursing Dylan to sleep in our bed.  This felt much more natural to us and met my needs of getting some extra rest by having an early bedtime, and met Dylan’s needs of nursing to sleep and having his mommy beside him in bed.

Over time, as Dylan has gotten older, we’ve moved our bedtime routine to a double bed in his room.   And over time, Dylan started to sleep for longer and longer stretches on his own.  He is almost 2.5 now and sleeps in his own bed for the majority of the night because he is ready!  I still nurse him to sleep, but lo and behold he does sometimes wake up and is able to fall asleep again on his own.  Because he is developmentally ready – not because I “taught” him to sleep on his own.


Nursing to sleep – some more info

I often hear from new moms that their babies often or always fall asleep nursing. These moms are usually quite worried that they are creating bad habits or doing something wrong.  They are afraid that their babies will never “learn” to fall asleep on their own.

If you want to read about my personal experiences with nursing to sleep, I’ve written a post in the past about the Joys of Nursing to Sleep, and I recently wrote a post about how my 2 year old who has always been nursed to sleep has recently been sleeping long stretches on his own.

The Kellymom website provided me with some extremely helpful information when I was a new mom and unsure about nursing to sleep.  Kelly’s words made me feel good about my decision to continue to nurse my son to sleep, despite hearing from various well-meaning friends and family that what we were doing was WRONG!  My heart told me that what we were doing was natural, and the info below helped me strengthen my convictions.

I highly recommend that every breastfeeding mom read Nursing to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.   Kelly believes that nursing to sleep is completely natural:

Many moms feel guilty for nursing their baby to sleep. Nursing your baby to sleep is not a bad thing to do! It’s very normal and developmentally appropriate for babies to nurse to sleep and to wake 1-3 times during the night for the first year or so. Some babies don’t do this, but they are the exception, not the rule. Many children, if given the choice, prefer to nurse to sleep through the second year and beyond. Nursing is obviously designed to comfort baby and to help baby sleep, and I’ve never seen a convincing reason why mothers shouldn’t use this wonderful “tool” that we’ve been given.

Kelly answers a number of common questions in her usual reassuring and non-judgemental way.  These questions include:

Kelly includes an inspirational quote from Paula Yount, one of the moderators from the Kellymom forums.  I hear from so many moms that they feel like a human pacifier after many hours of nursing.  Paula explains her views on this:

You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort…. but you are not a pacifier!

It’s not surprising that so many moms feel guilty about nursing their babies or toddlers to sleep when there is so much information out there from so-called sleep experts about sleep training.   I hope that other moms receive the reassurance they need from the Kellymom site.   Nursing your baby to sleep feels natural and normal because it is!   It can even be joyful.

What have your experiences been with nursing your baby or toddler to sleep?


Babies Can’t Be Spoiled

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

From the moment Dylan was born, he liked to be held.  He was happy and would sleep soundly as long as he was in someone’s arms.  During the first few weeks, I’d spend hours on the couch at home with him nursing on my nursing pillow.  He’d slowly drift off to sleep and would have long, lovely naps as long as he remained on the pillow close to me.  As soon as I tried to move him and put him down, he’d immediately wake up screaming.

Peacefully sleeping on My Breast Friend
Peacefully asleep on My Breast Friend

I was very confused!  We had purchased all these “holders” for Dylan.  He had 2 pack n plays, a crib, a bouncy seat and a swing. And let’s not forget the very expensive stroller!  Everyone told me that we NEEDED all of these things.  And I naively assumed they were right!  I thought that I’d feed Dylan, put him in one of these holders, he’d fall asleep and I’d have time to do whatever I wanted.  Boy was I ever WRONG!

Dylan was in my arms, in my sling, or right beside me  24/7 for the first few months of his life.  He demanded it!  And it felt natural to me.  While it may have seemed natural and right to me, it didn’t appear that way to others.  On a daily basis I’d hear comments such as:

  • You have to put him down when he sleeps.  Otherwise he will never learn to sleep on his own.
  • He needs to self-soothe.
  • Why do you carry him around all day in that sling?   He looks squished.  It’s not good for him.
  • He should sleep in his crib.   Get him out of your bed now or he’ll be in there til he’s 12.
  • You’re nursing him again?  You must not have enough milk.  Give him some rice cereal.
  • Put him down already!  You are spoiling him!

Most of these comments came from well-intentioned family members.  They truly believed that both Dylan and myself would be better off if we weren’t attached all day long!  They thought that Dylan would learn to become independent and I would be happier because I would have some time to “myself”.

I believed that what I was doing was right, but I needed some evidence to back up my beliefs.  I started poking around on the internet and realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought that holding and nurturing a baby is absolutely vital.

Dr. Sears was a great resource for me:

New parents often ask, “Won’t holding our baby a lot, responding to cries, nursing our baby on cue, and even sleeping with our baby spoil her?” Or they ask if this kind of parenting will create an overly dependent, manipulative child? Our answer is an emphatic no. In fact, both experience and research have shown the opposite. Attachment fosters eventual interdependence. A child whose needs are met predictably and dependably does not have to whine and cry and worry about getting his parents to do what he needs.

Kellymom was another:

My heart aches for the baby left alone to learn to “self-comfort”, to “cry it out”. Experts have told moms “not spoil their babies” and to “let them cry”. This is a good thing? What are we accomplishing? Babies need nurturing and it is not spoiling them to provide it. Spoiling means “ruining” and you cannot ruin a child with love and affection.

With Dr. Sears and Kellymom on my side, I began to trust my instincts.  Dylan is now 2 years old and is fiercely independent!  I guess we are doing something right!