Transcript: Baby Bonding & Attachment: Building That Special Connection
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Baby Bonding & Attachment: Building That Special Connection and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: The COVID pandemic has been a challenging time for us all and many of us have needed to find new ways to keep ourselves engaged and busy while stuck in our homes for long periods. This week’s guest, Aruna Lepore is a mom of two and found herself in this exact situation and decided to embark on a journey as a writer.
She even painted all the illustrations for her book, Peanut the Penguin and the book is already winning awards, including the prestigious Creative Child Magazine, 2022 Book of the Year Award and was the Wishing Shelf Book Award Red Ribbon winner. Aruna has strong views on parenting and you’ll hear her recount her experiences from her two children’s early days and how she built an inseparable bond and attachment with them.
Hi Aruna and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It’s great to chat with you today, and I’m really, really looking forward to hearing about your journey with your new book and also about your experiences with your kids. I just thought I’d start by asking you to tell my audience a bit about your book and what inspired you to write the book.
Aruna Lepore: Yes and thank you so much, Helen, for having me. I have to tell you I’m very excited to be on this podcast because I love what it is based on and I love your philosophy about connection and bonding with babies. So thank you so much for having me on. It really is my pleasure.
Helen Thompson: And it’s a pleasure to have you too.
Aruna Lepore: Thank you. I did not set out to be an author. I actually did my MBA and my path was going to be in business. We actually had a family business back in Trinidad. So I’m originally from Trinidad, in the Caribbean and I was married and I now live in the US in Maryland. It’s a long story how I went from going to run a business to becoming a full-time mom in America but it was all for love and once I had my kids, I really became full-time 100% mom. And I took it very seriously and I still do. So my first born was 13 years ago. I have a 13 year old and 8 year old.
And really I spent all my time just enveloped in mommyhood and everything that goes with it. Once the pandemic started and we were all home, my kids were here doing virtual. I was at home, it was mom times five because I now have to take care of them every day at home. Somehow an opportunity presented itself during those early days, where a publisher was seeking some manuscripts. A wonderful publisher who I met on a webinar and although I had always loved the idea of writing something about children or a story for children, I never thought that it would take off because I never knew what the next step would be.
So I listened and I spoke to this publisher and I decided to just give it a try and I thought it would either be that I would write something about parenting because I have such strong beliefs, which I will talk about later on, about parenting, or it would be a story for kids. And based on the fact that I have these values and these values come from my own beliefs. It comes also from my mom who was to me, the ultimate sacrificer in the strongest mom and she gave me the most unconditional love and I think all of those things contributed to the sort of lessons and values I would like to impart to my kids.
The story I would like to make for other kids to listen to. So my own kids, I would make stories up sometimes, not often. That’s the best way and they would ask me, can you say a story tonight and it doesn’t happen very often because it takes so much energy from me and I’m so tired at night, but when I do, I just make it up as I go and they love it and it’s always been something that I would pull together what I think constitutes a good story with a good moral for children. And it always has to involve empathy because I like my children to be in touch with their sensitive side.
And so when I decided to write a book and send a manuscript into this publisher, I just told myself, I’m just gonna say a story, like if I was saying it to my kids and I came up with a story fairly quickly, and sent it in and and she liked it and accepted and we worked back and forth until there was a good manuscript.
So next came the illustration. Now, even though I did my MBA while I was studying, I did a minor in arts as well, because I’ve always loved painting. So the choice was, do I paint the illustrations because I could see them in my head, or do I save myself that trouble and outsource it and just tell them what it is I’m looking for.
And my kids being my kids, they’re always forever supportive of me, said, mom, you should paint it, make it your own. Why don’t you go ahead and do it. And there have been many times when I was ready to pull my hair out because it takes so much out of me when you’re painting, you go into your own mode and I have my kids at home and I have to take care of them too.
And when you’re doing virtual school, as we were two years ago, the kids are having 7, 8, 9, 10, and 15 snacks all day long and then there’s lunch and then there’s the breaks and then there’s dinner. And it was really hard getting through it all, but they were always there for me and they were always pushing and encouraging me to keep at it and they would say, we’re okay, you just keep going, we’re fine. We can get our own snacks, you just go to it. And it took a while, but I stuck with it and eventually came up with a final product that we were all happy with, publisher was happy with, I was happy with and put it out there and that’s how I ended up with the book Peanut the Penguin, which I dedicated to my kids.
Helen Thompson: Oh, that’s lovely and I think it’s also interesting how when we first got in touch my partner, Jonathan mentioned to you about the Fairy Penguins that we have in Burnie and I thought that was a great connection about the penguin and about how you illustrated it. Yeah, I love little fairy penguins. I think they’re very sweet and very gorgeous.
Aruna Lepore: Yeah and I’m just dying now to come to Tasmania and then travel on over to that little township called Penguin. That sounds so interesting and I cannot wait someday in the future when we can.
Helen Thompson: I’m sure that’ll happen. You mentioned to me also that you have very strong theories on how to bring up your kids about attachment and bonding. You were saying that when you wrote your book, you had that support from your kids, which I think is great because that’s all part of attachment and it’s all part of supporting your family. So I just thought I’d ask what your thoughts were on that.
Aruna Lepore: Yeah, and there is so much that I could say about this whole theory of attachment parenting, which was coined by Dr. Sears. He’s a pediatrician whose book I read when my first was born.
Helen Thompson: I remember you telling me about that.
Aruna Lepore: Yeah. And it’s all about exactly that, bonding, attaching, making those very crucial attachments in those first few months. So, we talk about when a baby’s born that the next three months after they’re born, you can consider your fourth trimester, because they’re still developing and when, once they’re born, they have already detached from you by about 50%, because they’re no longer in that womb, they’re now in this cold world without having the sounds and the warmth of your womb. So it is your job now to make sure that they feel that protection and and I truly believe in those first few months, even first few years. And to be honest with you, I don’t think it really ever ends, but it’s most crucial when they’re just born.
Helen Thompson: Oh, definitely the skin to skin and the warmth that you give to your baby, it’s all to do with the touch and the bonding.
Aruna Lepore: Yeah, exactly and it’s what I believe is that primal need both of the baby, who’s looking for that nurturing and that need for that and the mom whose primal instinct is to provide that and I think it’s very important for those two to come together for the best benefit of both the mom and the child.
And I always feel like we are not prepared for what happens when the baby’s born. Those nights, very difficult nights and I feel like moms need to be more prepared and know what to expect so that they’re not overwhelmed. It was very overwhelming to me. I went through all the classes before about but what to do when they’re born and the nursing and all these things, health and health of the mom, health of the baby, and how many times you should get up to nurse and so on and so on, but nobody tells you about how extremely difficult it is when either when your baby is waking up a lot or when you have to wake them up to feed them, because they’ve just slept a little too long and you need to nurse them or bottle feed, whatever, whichever you’re doing. I went through it because both my children, but I’m talking about my first born and I think this goes with whether you’re first time mom, or a second time, mom.
They’re all different, right and I think my first born, I can easily say was a high needs baby and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think a high needs baby just has a personality where they’re just curious about the world and curious about everything around them and at nighttime too their sensitivity barrier I think is different than maybe some other babies who can just sleep without being disturbed. And so I went through nights of my child waking up every couple of hours or three hours, two to three hours and in between that time I’m nursing and having to hold her up for another 30, 40 minutes because I couldn’t put her down cuz she would spit up. So basically I was getting about 20 minutes here and 15 minutes there and another 20 minutes here until finally the sun came up. I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up. When six in the evening hits, I was thinking, no, it’s gonna be that nighttime again, where you wanna sleep and you cannot sleep.
But what I have to say about all of this is that what I would love for the audience to know, a couple of things. One is that they’re absolutely not alone. And that this happens to all parents in the beginning. Yeah. I’ve found that that that’s one thing I wanted to talk about. And the other thing before I get back to that is that the best thing I think to do is to use that time to bond with your child.
Connection and difficult as it is at the time and all you’re thinking about is how much you want to sleep and how much you wish your baby would sleep those extra hours. If it doesn’t happen, don’t fight it because it’s such a very short time in this child’s life that you have the opportunity to bond with them in a way that will pay off tenfold with the bond and the trust and the connection that will always be there.
And I see it in both of my children. It’s still there. One is 8, and one is 13 and we have such a very close connection and I truly believe it’s rooted in the very beginning when I was there for them, As soon as they started to cry, I was there.
Helen Thompson: That’s to do with the touch and the communication and the bonding. If you attach and communicate with your baby and talk to your baby all the time, even if you’re sleep deprived and you are really tired, it’s a bonding and that attachment, that is so important. The more you touch and the more you communicate with your baby, the better because they thrive on touch. They thrive on communication and if you teach them that when they’re little, well then as you say, when they get older, they’ll understand that more and the bond between you and them is so strong.
Aruna Lepore: Yes exactly and it’s so easy for us to say this now, but when, of course, when you’re a mom and you are in that third and fourth and fifth night or week or month and all you’re thinking is I hear you, I hear you, but I just need sleep. But I promise it shall pass. I told you this, one time I believed that my child was going to be 20 years old and still waking up every two hours and saying, mommy, I need you. I never thought there would be an end to it. And it lasted very long for me. It actually lasted for my daughter well over a year and a half and for my son, I don’t think he slept the entire night till he was over four years old but going back to, not feeling alone in this, I know for a fact, because when I did a class, a mother and baby class with a lactation specialist, she was very instrumental in getting me to understand attachment parenting and she would always have us ask questions during the class. We all got to ask a question or two, and most of the questions, 80% of the questions was something to do with sleep. How do I get my baby to sleep, how many hours should she be sleeping in between? You know, it was always about almost always about sleep and it’s because we’re so deprived of sleep that it seems to be like the one thing that we want to know, and we want to compare with others and want to know what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, why can’t they sleep more, when will they sleep more? And you meet another mom and it’s almost the first thing you ask. So how long does your baby sleep and honestly, again, going back to the personalities of babies, you really cannot compare and contrast your baby with another baby, because one baby is going to sleep five, six hours and your baby maybe sleeps one or two hours and it’s okay.
It is just simply the difference in personality. It’s nothing you are doing or not doing it’s a baby’s personality and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is important is that you respond to that baby’s cues and be there and build that trust because that baby will know that when it cries and it needs something, whether it’s wet, hungry, just alone because you’re not there holding it.
Whatever the reason is, you respond to it. There’s something that that baby needs. So they learn to know that they cry out for help and you’re there to help them. And they learn your smell and that builds as time goes on and then like I was saying is if instead of fighting it and you embrace it as your time to bond with your child, there’s so many ways that you can help your baby with sleeping while not ignoring them.
For example, wearing your baby in a sling. Let them fall asleep there. In fact, my daughter, her very first, maybe two weeks of life, she just slept on my chest because she slept really well on my chest and I just felt more comfortable that way when she was really, really little. You know, massaging as you very well know, that’s a great way to relax them and to make them feel calm and help them sleep. You know, all the usual things, the routine, the bath, the singing, the talking, whatever it takes to soothe and calm your baby.
Now I tried all of the above and nothing made my baby wake up any less. I will say that. However, all those things benefited my relationship with my baby and I really now can say, I don’t care if those things didn’t help her sleep, I’m just happy those things helped her to trust me and give us the relationship that we continue to have year after year and she’s 13 now and the same with my son, exact same with my son. I did the same with him and he’s eight now. Very, very close.
Helen Thompson: Yeah it’s interesting how you say that when you were going through the process, you didn’t think it was working, but you just kept going. And I think from my experience, a lot of moms say to me, oh, but baby massage doesn’t help or soothing them or singing to them doesn’t help. They’re just constantly upset or they’re constantly crying. But I think it’s persistence and it’s working with lots of different things and trying to find out what does work because maybe the massage doesn’t work one day but it might work the next day or the singing might work one day and not the next day.
And I think combining lots of different ways to try and help your baby to settle because I believe that’s more of what baby massage is about. It’s working out ways to get your baby to settle by touch, by communication, by talking to them, singing to them because I do that all in my classes and I encourage parents to do that.
Aruna Lepore: I remember taking a baby massage class for my daughter as well and it was right around when she was three months old and I was the most sleep deprived I’ve ever been. And I remember being in class and the instructor looking at me and saying are you okay? And I was wondering why she said that and I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked so dreadfully tired, but I was okay, I was fine. I was just sleep deprived. But the massaging as you do and as you very well know, is apart from settling them, it’s a beautiful, beautiful way of bonding with your child and the focus and you mentioned singing, singing with a massage too.
And if you notice how engaged they are with you, when you do that. I don’t think there’s anything like it and what I love about it is that you take it with you as they grow and I just last week was massaging or this week I think was massaging my eight year old’s leg, because he’s had a pain in his leg and he asked me for that massage. My 13 year old, if she asked me tonight for it, because she’s having grow pains out, I will happily do it and it’s something you always have with them. Yeah.
Helen Thompson: It’s releasing that oxytocin, which is what you are talking about, is the love hormone. Whether you are touching them, whether you are massaging them, whatever you are doing, giving them that time, you are releasing that oxytocin, which I like to call the cuddle hormone, but it’s technically called the love hormone because you are constantly cuddling them and supporting them and being there for them, whether you are massaging them or not but that’s good to hear what you said about the massage because it is all part of that because when they grow older, they’re still wanting that touch and it’s teaching them that self respect and teaching them to respect themselves and their bodies.
Aruna Lepore: There’s so many benefits to it and it’s just, again, such an important time when they’re very young to start doing all those to create that connection, as well as settling. I think it’s a great way. I think all these ways are great ways of trying to settle them, even if it’s just to get them to sleep for the two or three hours that they may sleep as opposed to, your child’s ready to sleep, you change their diaper, put them in their pajama, you put them in the crib and you say goodnight, and you walk out the door. I don’t believe in that at all, any more than I believe in if they wake up at night crying and you don’t go to them. I just don’t believe in that either. Yeah, they’re crying for a reason and it might be a convenience for the parents and I understand that they’re tired working parents there, I completely understand that, yeah but it’s such a short period of time in their lives.
Another book that I was referred to, where they started the book with imagine that you are in a warm, snuggled, happy, cozy place, falling asleep to the wonderful sounds that you love so much. You fall asleep and then a couple hours later, you wake up and it’s cold and it’s dark and you’re not being snuggled anymore. What would you do? And that’s exactly what goes on with a baby. So of course our baby’s gonna wake up and cry because you’re not being snuggled anymore. So go to them and, and reassure them that you’re there.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, a lot of parents understandably are sleep deprived and they just want their baby to sleep but babies take time to learn that process. They take time to learn how to self settle and it’s not a matter of saying right little baby, I’m just gonna leave you to cry because if you leave them to cry, I think you’re teaching them that disrespect and you’re thinking, well, I don’t love you. That sounds awful me saying that. I know parents do love their children and they just want to sleep, as you said, but I think you can never spoil a baby.
Aruna Lepore: Yes, exactly. A baby is not a manipulator, that baby doesn’t know any different. They just want love and to be held and touched and having said all this, of course the sleepless nights are not ones that we are prepared for unfortunately. I wish that there was more talk during the preparation for the birth about what to expect because I think if a mom knows to expect this and knows that she is not alone, and this happens with all children and all births but knows what to expect and how to mentally think of it, then I think it would be easier.
Helen Thompson: Yeah. I agree. From your experience, if a mom’s going, oh God, I’m just so tired, I wish morning would come so I could sleep. What did you do to, to help you to get through that?
Aruna Lepore: I would have to say I was advised very much to take those naps during the day. Forget the fact that the dishes are full in the sink or that you have to still get dinner prepared or whatever the chore is and just take those naps. And I think that’s extremely good advice. I have to admit, I have to confess, I did not take that advice on myself and that’s only because like my mom, I can survive with little sleep and still function the next day.
That’s just me. I think it’s extremely important for moms to get some rest in that way. And when they can, even maybe once in a couple of weeks, for a couple of hours, or once a week, however often you think you are willing to let your husband care for your baby for even a couple of hours, go do something that’s for you. Whether it’s go to a movie or go get your nails done, something that just takes your mind off of and distracts a little bit. I think that that can help mentally. Again, I should have probably taken that same advice for myself. I was told to do this over and over again.
I was so hands on that I probably did not do it enough. I think that’s important and I think it’s important, not just physically, but mentally for moms as well, because we all have different tolerance levels, my tolerance level is way high, but some people might need to have that little outlet and the extra rest as well, of course we all need that. Yeah and make sure that you’re eating properly. Cause we tend to also neglect that I think just you’re tired and you want to grab the quickest thing and eat, but remember that you are, especially if you’re nursing, you especially want to make sure that you’re keeping your health up for both your baby and yourself.
Helen Thompson: Yeah. Cause what you eat is what your baby eats.
Aruna Lepore: Exactly and if you’re not eating it, then your body’s pulling from what your reserves are and you’re not replacing those reserves. So that’s very important.
Helen Thompson: And that’s making you more tired because your baby’s taking all that nutrition from you, so it’s making you more tired, so you’ve gotta keep replenishing your nutrition and replenishing yourself so that you can keep going. And I think what you mentioned about the cat naps during the day, I think is important. Sleep when your baby sleeps, even if the house is a mess, sleep when your baby sleeps. I think that’s so valuable.
Aruna Lepore: Yeah, definitely and again, I would love them to know that they truly are not alone in this. It’s a hot topic amongst moms, you know and like I say I’m living all the way across in the US, which is some 10 plus thousand miles away from you and we all go through the same thing, it’s universal. But it passes and again use that time wisely because there are many nights when, just to get through it, sometimes I would pick up my baby, my first born, I would pick her up and I would head over to the living room, turn on the TV and watch, I forget, it was an old, old comedy and it was 2:00 AM but it got me through an hour where I wasn’t thinking to myself, please just go back to sleep. And I just wanna go to sleep. I watched a comedy for an hour while she nursed and I held her up and by the time the comedy was done, I was ready to go put her back and of course, no problem for me to fall back asleep.
My second child who woke up quite a lot, I don’t know, I would imagine it was colic, he was waking up almost every 20 minutes when I put him down. That was very difficult. And of course we say let them sleep on their backs as opposed to on their tummy until they are a specific weight and I think that was working against him. But I will say that looking back at the my first born, those difficult nights when it was a dark room and I’m in bed and I was sleeping when she was a little bit bigger, too big to sleep on my chest, and she was in a little pot next to my bed.
Which is another great piece of advice by the way, maybe sleep with your child near you, not necessarily on the bed with you, because you have to be very careful with that, unless you know what you’re doing. That’s a very good idea too, you’re not having to get up and go across to another room and I think that makes it more difficult. But anyway, what I was trying to say is when I think back now to those quiet nights when I would pick her up and it’s just me and her, I used to feel like there was nobody else up in this world except me and her. It was just me and my baby and me soothing my baby. I would put on a little CD. I was trying songs at the time to see if that would help soothe her and to this day when I think back of those songs and me and her are there, I think back of it with nostalgia, difficult as it was, now I think back of it with nostalgia, because it actually was a beautiful thing and if I listened to those songs right now, I probably would cry because I think back to that time when she was so teeny tiny and it was gone in a flash. She’s 13 years old now!
Helen Thompson: It just goes so quickly and that’s where the attachment and the bonding is so important at that young age, as we said. Thank you you’ve given some wonderful tips to moms and I look forward to looking at your book. Is it on Amazon your book, Peanut the Penguin.
Aruna Lepore: It is on Amazon it is available there and it’s a book that I think the story itself sort of encompasses all my beliefs. It’s one that evokes empathy, communication, compassion, compromise, all these things that I try to teach my kids, especially today in this world with everything else that’s going on. I feel it’s especially important to impart that to kids.
Helen Thompson: And it was interesting what you said at the beginning, how your kids encouraged you to do it and they said mum, do this because that’s what you imparted to them when they were so little that they gave you that support now, when you want to do it, because they obviously realized how passionate you were about it and they wanted to support you and I think that’s a valuable feedback from what you said.
Aruna Lepore: I agree with you. It’s somehow subconsciously made them that way as well. Yeah, it’s the same way with my mom. My mom gave me unconditional love all my life and that’s how I am with my kids and I think that’s how they’re going to grow up to be and yes, exactly they showed that to me without knowing and they were very much a part of the book as well, because I would read this story to them. It’s a story about a little penguin who loves to sing when all the other penguins wanted to sleep and he had to figure out a way that he could share this gift because he just wanted to sing to them all and just make them happy. And he had to find a way to do that without annoying them. And I read the story and if I know they like it, I knew it’s it’s good.
And they were also the ones I would show the paintings to and I would say, what do you see when you see this and they would tell me and sometimes they would look at the painting and they always said, I love it. They always started with, I love it. And sometimes they would end with, I love it.
Sometimes they would say, I love that painting but can I just say something? Can I just ask you why that penguin looks like he’s mad and why is her head so big and I would stand back and take a look at it and I’d say you, yep, you are absolutely right.
So it was extremely special to have them there as well, as my little audience and my supporters, my fan base, everything and my own critics, exactly and so when I write my next book, they’re going to gonna be my critics. They’re a year and a half older now, but they will still be my constructive critics.
Helen Thompson: So if somebody wanted to get in touch with you and find out about your book and what we’ve discussed, how would they go about doing that?
Aruna Lepore: Well, I do have a website. So my website is ArunaMLepore.com which is also my author name, Aruna M. Lepore and they can contact me through that website, there’s a contact page. I also have a Gmail, which is firstname.lastname@example.org as well and on my website, they can read more about the book as well and anything about what we spoke about. I’m really happy to talk about it. It’s something I’m very passionate about.
Helen Thompson: Yeah. I think it’s good to talk to moms who are passionate about helping other moms and I think that’s what part of my podcast is all about. Supporting moms to be passionate about themselves so that they can be passionate about their kids.
Aruna Lepore: And like I said, I wish that when I was having my first born, that there was such a thing as a podcast and it was a podcast just like yours, because I find it very, very beneficial and so happy that you have one like this for moms out there to listen to.
Helen Thompson: Thank you. That’s a nice compliment. Thank you for being on the podcast and I’ve really, really enjoyed chatting to you it’s been great.
Aruna Lepore: Thank you.
Helen Thompson: I hope you found hearing about Aruna’s journey as a mom and how she ended up writing and illustrating Peanut the Penguin, as moving as I did. I really enjoyed hearing about how her patience and perseverance in her early days has resulted in two loving and supportive children who supported and helped her in her writing journey.
I can’t help thinking of Aruna and her book, every time I visit the seaside town of penguin, which is a short distance from where I live. I’ve included links to Aruna’s website, as well as a link to Peanut the Penguin on Amazon in the episode show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/077.