Happy family in bed

As a natural parenting store, many of the parenting tools sold at and at our store in Orillia, Ontario, encourage secure attachment between parent and child. We encourage parents to respond to their baby’s cues.

We extend that to our other relationships as well. We listen to parents when they come to our store to hear what it is they need. Especially in our in-store workshops, trained staff help parents find the methods or the tools that meet their needs.

All of us as humans create attachments to those who are sensitive to and responsive to our needs. Psychologists and other scientists explore these attachments through attachment theory, a model that attempts to explain how the attachments are formed.

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory within developmental psychology is based on observation of parent/child relationships since the mid-20th century. In the past few decades, psychologists have also considered application to adult attachment, such as between romantic partners, siblings, friends, and even animals.

Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby, a psychiatrist who observed emotionally disturbed children in the 1930s. The observation of disfunctional older children helped Bowlby to consider the role in that disfunction of early separations of a baby from the mother. He wrote about his clinical observations from 1950 for the next 40 years he tried to understand the lasting connections between humans and develop a theory of infant attachment.

The telling moment for the child is separation. How will an infant react to being separated from mother or primary caregiver? Bowlby found a sequence of:

  • Protest – either protesting the threat of separation or responding to actual separation by crying and searching for the mother.
  • Despair – if the mother can’t be found, the child becomes quieter and more withdrawn, even mourning the loss.
  • Detachment – either rejecting adults or, if the mother returns, being clinging and fearful of separation.

(From Jessica Zucker, Ph.D., “The Birth of Attachment Theory,”

It’s this sequence from clinical observations that helps me to understand attachment.

Attachment Parenting

Observation and published research only goes so far. It’s interesting to follow those threads into application of the findings.

Deliberate application of attachment theory to specific choices in parenting is not new, but the label “attachment parenting” was new with Dr. William Sears’ and Martha Sears’ publications, including The Baby Book, originally published in 1992. This is the book many of us have read and followed in our parenting.

For the Sears, parents put attachment into practice through:

  1. Birth bonding
  2. Belief in the signal value of a baby’s cry
  3. Breastfeeding
  4. Babywearing
  5. Bedding close to baby
  6. Balance and boundaries
  7. Beware of baby trainers

Attachment in Marriage

Early research mentioned attachment in adults, finding that intimate adult relationships (not just romantic relationships) function similarly to infant-caregiver relationships—with exceptions.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s, though, that researchers specifically applied attachment theory to adult relationships.

One place we can find the application of attachment theory for adults is in Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT).

Attachment with Animals

Bowlby’s ideas were influenced by his reading of studies with animals (ethology), and he saw his application of the ideas to humans in a longer, evolutionary context. Nevertheless, there was some difficulty in early research as scientists were excited to generalize animal research (imprinting) to humans.

Research continues into animal imprinting, animal-human attachment, and animal roles in human-human attachment, but that research can’t necessarily be considered equivalent to human attachment research.

I did notice, when my family got a dog 7 years ago, that one of the books we bought to help us be a better dog family, Parenting Your Dog by Trish King, addressed separation with puppies and separation anxiety in older dogs who missed out on healthy separation during the essential period of 2-4 months old. This is a clear, kind, practical guide to raising a happy dog. It reminded me a lot of the sort of advice I got from Dr Sears’s Baby Book.

Share Attachment Ideas with Your Family

As my children grew up, I explained my choices to them. I talked to them about sensitivity to their needs as well as boundaries. It’s the continuous meta-conversation about our conversations.

Each of my teenagers has recently taken a psychology class, where a full week was spent learning about attachment theory. Hearing their response to the academic study of attachment after having lived through the practical application leaves me satisfied with their travel through this phase of life. I can see that they become sensitive to the needs and cues of others beyond intimate attachment situations. As I had hoped, they are generally kind people. (Though they are still teenagers, with the hiccups that phase brings.)

If you have older children (perhaps 10+ or 13+, depending on the child) and you want to deepen your conversations about emotions, you might want to watch together This Emotional Life, a NOVA television series shown on PBS in the U.S. Watching this series sparked long, deep conversations among my family members at a time when some children are hiding emotions, when they think no one else in the world shares or cares about theirs.

I also found the supplemental materials from the documentary provide an informed but comprehensible introduction to the psychology of emotions, including attachment. (See history of attachment theory and “Pave the Path to Presence.“)

Meeting a child’s needs can lead to a secure attachment style; neglecting a child’s needs can lead to an insecure attachment style. As adults, we might trust that our partners, sibling, friends, and others will meet our needs, leaving us feeling secure in those relationships, or we might not trust that our needs will be met, leaving us feeling insecure in those relationships. We can apply this to dogs or other animals feeling secure or insecure in their relationships as well.

Bringing the needs of another—a baby, a partner, a pet—into our own awareness then acting to meet those needs rewards us and them. We all benefit from the security of those around us.

Image © Viki2win | - Happy Family In Bed Photo

Hard Water and Cloth Diaper Washing

Cloth Diaper Washing Water Hardness and pH

It’s likely your water is hard. You’ve heard that makes a difference in how you should wash your cloth diapers, but you aren’t sure why. I’ll unravel the knot of that problem for you.

If you can stay with me through this basic science lesson, I will offer you a way to get an older child to do the diaper laundry. All you need to do is understand basic pH, hard water, and how you can use your knowledge of these to keep your cloth diapers from building up stink.

Understand pH to Understand Hard Water

Understanding basic science helps us avoid dependence on mystery formulas of harsh chemicals that claim to have all of the answers to our cleaning problems. Most of our blog readers and store customers are actively trying to remove harmful chemicals from their homes. Once you get down to the core of what you are trying to do, it isn’t so difficult to find a simple, natural way to get the job done.

In our “Clean Cleaning” post, we broke down household cleaning into five ingredients you probably have on hand right now: boiling water, vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon. Which ingredients you use depends on the job that needs to be done. Always bring it back to the goal because all cleaning is not the same.

Understanding your basic cleaning goal does require a basic understanding of pH. In “Baby Diaper pH: An Intro,” we explained how alkaline (high pH, such as bleach and baking soda) and acid (low pH, such as vinegar and gastric acid) relate to the situation in your baby’s diapers. Between high and low is water, which neutral at pH7. Your baby’s skin is neutral (pH7) while yours is slightly acidic (pH 5.5). Your baby’s urine is slightly acidic (pH6), but the urea breaks down in the diaper and breaks down even further in the pail to create ammonia. You know that smell. It’s the wet, stinky diaper that greets you in the morning. It’s the whoosh of fetid air as you take the lid off the diaper pail come wash day. That is high pH.

The simple question here is: how do you wash away that ammonia and return your diapers to a non-irritating pH level close to that of your baby’s skin if you are dealing with hard water?

What Is Hard Water?

Most of us have hard water, and some of us have very hard water. Hardness refers to mineral content in the water (usually calcium and magnesium).

Rain picks up acidic elements (pollution and atmospheric gases) as it falls. Once fallen, the water picks up dissolved minerals as it runs through dirt and rock. If the rain falls on insoluble rock like granite or slate, the water doesn’t pick up minerals. More water soluble minerals in the ground mean more minerals in the water in that area. More minerals mean hard water.

These minerals are alkaline. Hard water is alkaline. That makes a difference in your cleaning.

How Hard Is Your Water?

A great swath down the center of North America through Canada and the U.S. has the hardest water; those on the coasts have less hard water. [See a chart of Water Hardness in Canadian Cities and a couple of North America maps from Bummis for comparison.]

We usually notice hardness as the minerals deposit on our glasses, in our pipes, or in a ring around our sink or toilet bowl. This mineral scale can cause build up that blocks pipes, which is one of the reasons people soften their water.

You might not notice that the minerals are also building up in your laundry. When you get build up in your cloth diapers, you will probably also get stink. The stink you notice, and that might be why you are reading now.

In the store, we sell water test strips for parents who are struggling and might need to know what type of water they are dealing with.

Why Does Water Hardness Matter to Laundry?

Hard water doesn’t react as much with soap. You probably notice that you don’t get suds. It isn’t just soap that hard water doesn’t react with, though. You might notice that you can’t cook beans either.

We get used to the quality of our local water over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your neighbors about water quality adjustments rather than talking to your online friends. Your neighbors are dealing with exactly the same issues you are.

I wondered if any of our customers had noticed a change in water quality after they moved, so we asked on Facebook this morning. One of our followers moved from an area with naturally soft water to a house with a water softener. She noticed that she can use more types of detergent now to get diapers clean. Just be aware when you move that your water will change. So, you adjust.

If you live on one of the areas with extremely hard water, you need to launder your clothes—and your cloth diapers—differently to get the same desired result of neutral pH diapers that won’t irritate your baby’s skin.

How You Can Adjust

If you are having trouble cleaning diapers with the water you have, you can either change your water or change how you deal with your water.

To change your water, install a water softener. These devices add softening salts to all of the water in your house or just to the hot water in your house. If you add just to the hot water, you get the benefit of better tasting cold water and better cleaning hot water. You won’t need to use as much detergent to get the same results.

To make do with the hard water you have, you can use laundry detergent specially formulated for your water type. Rockin’ Green Hard Rock is one example. That is a solution if you want to get your wash routine right from the beginning.

When you already have trouble that you need to address, break it down. If you have mineral build up in your diapers that is holding on to stink, you can use an occasional laundry treatment to bust the build up. RLR Laundry Treatment is very popular with cloth diapering parents, and Rockin Green Funk Rock does a similar job.

To back away from secret, proprietary formulas and take charge of your own wash, try washing soda. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, a soda salt of carbonic acid.

The mineral build up in your stinky diapers is alkaline. So, what do you do, add bleach? No, bleach won’t help. Add more soap? Well, adding more soap does give the soap a better chance to work, but it doesn’t address the chronic issue of mineral build up. You need to break down the alkaline build up with an acidic solution. Why not use vinegar since it’s acidic? This brings up a lot of issues (and voids some warranties), but I’ll say here that vinegar isn’t going to break down the mineral build up either.

Washing soda breaks down the mineral build up. Swimming pool formulas would break it down even faster, but that’s overkill. Fish tank ammonia remover is a toxic solution used by desperate parents who don’t understand the basic science of what they are doing. Start with the basic formula and see if that works to counter the hardness of your water and mineral build up on your diapers. If straight washing soda doesn’t work, try RLR Laundry Treatment.

Remember that falling rain at the beginning of the post picking up acidic atmospheric gases? The most significant of these is carbonic acid from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The falling rain was slightly acidic (low pH) until it picked up minerals from rocks (high pH). Those minerals are building up on your diapers and holding on to stick and dinginess. So, you bust that stinky build up without any magical mystery formulas. You use washing soda to add more carbonic acid to the water.

Once again, basic science has saved your cloth diapers.

Bonus: if you homeschool, you have an interesting chemistry lesson to teach about pH and hard water. To make it an intriguing challenge, have your older child wash the baby’s diapers as a school project! Here is the science. If you get rid of the stink, you pass.

Image © Monkey Business Images |
Yes, he has underwear on his head. No, I’m not sure why.

Changing Colors: Fall Leaves with Children

Child wearing fall leaf wreath

Are your children curious about the leaves changing color? Harvest time is ripe for a little science and a lot of crafts with fall leaves.

All this week, we’re going to post about changing colors—not just leaves changing but other colors as well.

The Science of Fall Leaves for Children

“Why are the leaves turning yellow, Mommy?”

Are you ready to answer? Here is a simple version for the youngest children.

Starting when trees grow new leaves in the spring, a tree makes food from the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the earth. This process of making food is called photosynthesis. The sun’s energy is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll. Leaves get their green color from chlorophyll.

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, trees stop making food and the green chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves change color as the green goes away and leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

For an older child, you could explain that the leaves were always yellow and that the green, the chlorophyll, was just the dominant color until the tree stopped making it.

Children’s Crafts with Fall Leaves

It’s always fun to use natural materials to create season-specific decorations. As you are surrounded by fall leaves, you have an abundance of colorful craft materials.

We create strings of leaves as a garland to celebrate fall. Bring bouquets of leaves into the house and put them in a vase. Create a wreath. Use different leaf colors to create a collage. Press particularly beautiful leaves in paper.

And, whatever you do, rake all of the leaves in your yard into a pile and JUMP IN THEM! This is perfect fun for a child (and a parent).

The Funny Part

Fall leaf garland

When I planned this post, it was cold during the days, and I expected it would just get colder every day. Then, today arrived and it was 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and we couldn’t find enough color changed leaves to make a garland.

Fall? Hot leaf garland

The version of the mini leaf garland without cropping context shows my outdoor thermometer. In the direct sun this afternoon, it claimed to be 120 degrees (which it was not). It will probably snow next week.


Education World has a great collection of explanations of photosynthesis just for children. They include fun fall leaf activities as well.

Wreath image © Olga Vasina |

Breastfeeding Statistics

Breastfeeding baby

How widespread is breastfeeding? Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control provide annual statistics that show upward trends over the past decade that seem to be flattening out recently. This past summer, the Toronto Globe & Mail ran a story following the release of the latest numbers to ask, “Why aren’t more women breastfeeding?”

ever breastfed early post-partum @6 mos @12 mos exclusive <3/4 mos exclusive <6 mos
Canada (2006) [1] 90.3%     51.7% 14.4%
Canada (2009) [2] 87.5%     24.4%
U.S. (2006) [3] 73.9% 43.4% 22.7% 33.1% 13.6%
U.S. 1998 baseline [4] 64% 29% 16%
U.S. 2010 target [4] 75% 50% 25%

[1] WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), World Health Organization, 2006-2007.
[2] Breastfeeding 2009, Statistics Canada.
[3] Frequently Asked Questions, U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
[4] Healthy People 2010, Maternal, Infant, and Child Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

More Resources

The World Health Organization now provides growth charts for exclusively breastfed children. When I was a baby, my mother chose to breastfeed me exclusively until 6 months, when her doctor told her that my growth was off the charts and she should switch to bottle feeding me to keep me from getting too big. This kind of ill-informed medical advice can be avoided with charts that show growth trends for breastfed babies exclusive from bottle-fed or mixed-fed babies.

The World Health Organization also provides infant feeding statistics for countries around the world. The Canada breastfeeding chart and United States breastfeeding chart provide province-by-province and state-by-state report cards.

Health Canada provides clear support for breastfeeding with guidelines, resources, and even a workbook for community-based educators.

In the United States, breastfeeding statistics come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Survey. In the report, “Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 1999—2007,” the charts are very helpful in visualizing the change in breastfeeding over the past decade.

The U.S. has set breastfeeding targets through Healthy People 2010. One of the objectives (16-19) is exclusively about breastfeeding.

Image © Paul Hakimata |

A New Parent: Why Cloth Diapers

This environmental engineer, TheBubbleLush, has been video blogging her pregnancy, including her decision to use cloth diapers once the baby is born this coming fall. She is clear about her opinions and her experience, and she welcomes educated discussion. In nearly 9 minutes, she covers a lot of ground.

I’ve been paying more attention to cloth diaper videos since the Why Cloth Diapers Video Challenge opened. There are so many videos of parents, business owners, and many others who share interesting information and funny stories about cloth diapers.

What are your favorite cloth diapering videos?

Which videos do you think are most effective in helping parents choose cloth diapers?