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And Mama, How is YOUR Sleep Going?

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Most articles are about getting the CHILD to sleep. Getting kids to have a peaceful night’s sleep is important (and I’ll talk a little about that), but I haven’t found much emphasis on if the PARENT has good sleeping habits. I’ve had enough disturbed sleep over the past 7 years of parent hood and what I found is that I was the one who actually had to discipline MYSELF to make sure I was getting enough sleep. I had to break a lot of bad habits and drop unrealistic expectations because I just wasn’t getting the sleep I needed. I also learned to look for signals of unmet needs in my children when they weren’t sleeping well. When we sleep better, our parenting is better. Our decision making is better. Even if our babies and children do wake up a little here and there, when the mother (or father) gets a good night sleep, the whole show runs a lot smoother.

If your child is disrupting your sleep…

Staying Connected to Your Children At Night
Babies and young children want to feel safe at night. Their need for comfort and closeness does not end when the lights go out. Some possible reasons for children having trouble falling and staying to sleep is simply the fear of being alone. If your child wants to share your bed, or your room, it’s ok to let them. It’s not weird or unusual for kids to want to be near you. My 7 year old still likes for me to lay down with her while she falls to sleep and usually we all go to bed at the same time. We have a family bed, with me, my husband, a 7, a 5 year old and a 10 month old baby, all in the same big bed. Family beds and family bedrooms are the way many families around the world spend the night.

With a baby especially, bed and/or room sharing is ideal because you don’t have to wake up and walk to your baby to pick him up. So, you both get less disturbed at night. They’re right next to you. Of course, if you bed share, be sure to make sure that it feels right for you and that you’re doing it safely. I know that I sleep way better when my babies and children are right next to me. I would actually have anxiety if my babies weren’t near me! If the opposite is true for you, and having your child near you at night makes you anxious, perhaps, if your partner is a light enough sleeper, they can sleep near your child. There are lots of room sharing/bed sharing options.

Baby Wakes Up All Night/Restless Sleep

A little night waking is completely normal, but if your baby is waking up all night long and is having restless sleeps, it’s often the sign of an accumulation of stress and overstimulation. Babies and children have an inborn mechanism to relieve that stress and they do it through raging and crying. If your baby or child is allowed and able to cry and rage freely and is supported to do so in the presence of a loving carer, they will often sleep much much better.

A baby that uses a control pattern to fall back to sleep, the breast, a dummy/pacifer/thumb sucking, often represses these emotions and wakes up more frequently. If your baby is not in the room, you may not even know that he or she is waking. But, if you’re the cosleeping, breastfeeding type, you will definitely know! I wrote a blog post here on breastfeeding cosleeping babies that wake all night and there is also a book called ‘The Aware Baby” by Aletha Solter, and she addresses control patterns and how they affect your child’s sleep. Also, young babies almost never eliminate in a deep sleep. Young babies stir to pee and are bothered by a wet nappies (even a wet disposable can annoy them). If you notice that they’re wet, you can do a nappy change in the dark, or I even take my babies to the toilet at night, which sounds a little crazy, but it’s actually easier than you think. Here’s a blog post on how to do elimination communication.

And for the parents…

Be in Bed NO LATER than 10pm
Going to bed early is the biggest thing of all. I actually aim between 8:30 and 9. They say that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after midnight. By 10, that means actually be in bed by 10, not start heading to bed at 10! If you follow ayurveda, the science of life, they say it’s ideal to fall asleep before 10pm. The hours between 10pm-2am are when the body is making repairs. If you’re not asleep during that time, your body is not recovering well enough.

Also, what happens after 10pm, if you’re awake, is that you start to wake back up! Then, 10 turns into 11 and 11 turns into 12 and before you know it, you’re going to bed at midnight. Compound that if your baby or child wakes up a lot or they wake up early, then you’re screwed. I wrote a more in depth article on when it’s important to fall asleep before 10, you can read here. I don’t always go to bed by 10, but on the days I don’t, the next day, there’s hell to pay and I’m a miserable grump!

If you feel like you’re missing out on quiet time with your partner by doing this, maybe only stay up late once a week? Sometimes my husband and I wake up early, before the kids, and have some quiet time or do something, like meditate together or take turns going surfing. If we stay up late to get peace and quiet, we just end up sleeping until the kids wake up and then I feel like I spend the whole day chasing my tail.

Be Careful Who You Complain To!
If you complain about lack of sleep to the wrong people, they’ll probably start telling you things that are not necessary and even counter productive in the long run. They might tell you to stop doing the intuitive things that you’re doing. You might end up trying cry it out, or giving solids before the baby is ready, or forming some short term solution for sleep, that contributes to a long term problem of broken connection and later behaviour problems.

Avoid  Screens Before Bed
This seems like an obvious one, but really hard to follow! Just a reminder… as what you’re viewing on the screen has the potential make the mind very active and make it harder to settle. You might have weird dreams as the consciousness tries to process what you’ve just looked at before you fell to sleep. Avoid leaving your phone in your room at night, so that you’ll be able to resist looking at it, should you wake up.

Busy Mind, Can’t Sleep?
If you know a meditation technique, before bed can be a good time to do it! You can’t calm the mind with the mind, you need something else. A really awesome technique is called alternate nostril breathing. Here’s the link on how to do it. You can just sit up in bed any time and do it for a few minutes if you’re having trouble going to sleep.

Another Trick For ‘Can’t fall back to sleep’.
I learned this last year on a meditation course and it really works. So, if your mind is really busy, it means you have too much prana (energy) in the head. So, if you put your awareness on your feet and on the EXHALATION of your breath, then you help to move all the energy back down. You’ll notice that your mind wanders a lot, but just keep brining back to your breath and your feet and you’ll hopefully be asleep in no time.

Avoid Naps
Unless you’re really depleted or you’re in the days of post partum, avoid taking day sleeps. Having a day sleep will make you want to go to bed later and then might make it harder for you to fall back to sleep if you wake up at night. Also, taking a day sleep, according to ayurveda, can make things in your body, like your digestion, run a big more sluggish than usual. So, better to avoid it unless you’re really zonked. It is important to rest while your kids sleep. So their rest time can be a good time for you to do something rejuvenating, like have a cup of tea, do some yoga and meditation or even stare a a wall if it’s been one of *those* days. Hopping on the phone to check social media is fine, but I noticed I often feel that my ‘rest quota‘ is unfulfilled when I do that too much during the kid’s sleep time.

Anyway, these are things that I’ve found have worked for making sure the parent has enough rest! It’s so important for us and for our families to be well rested. So, nighty night, sleep tight!

 

 

How to Take a Shower With a Baby

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It has come to my attention that many mothers with babies and young children often don’t get a chance to shower. So, I wanted to share how I shower with a baby. In case it isn’t obvious, my son and I don’t shower with our swim suits on! I only covered up so that Facebook doesn’t ban my video for indecency.

I’ve taken my babies into the shower with me from when they were newborns. Please keep in mind your physical and emotional well being. If you’re recovering from birth, have any back problems, or feel anxious about holding a slippery baby in a shower, then this method might not work for you, but you can still take a shower and let your baby watch from the bouncer!

Babies are slippery when wet, so you do need a vice grip on them. If you feel a little hesitant the first time you try it, you can have your partner help you by passing the baby in and out of the shower.

Babies might pee in the bouncer! Try to take them in the shower just after they’ve gone, or if you’re not sure of when they went last, you can put a thick wash cloth down or leave their diaper under them, (just leave it open, so you can pick them up easily)

Same as with a bath, make sure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, as baby skin is very delicate. You can also shower your other children at this time… imagine an assembly line…

Enjoy being clean! Share with your friends who have babies or are about to have babies… they might be struggling to take a shower too!

 

Don’t Sit a Baby Up? Natural Gross Motor Skill Development in Babies

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Baby #1, sitting with no way to get back up if she fell.

Without a second thought, I used to prop my first baby up, and by about 5 1/2 months old, she was sitting well. She would sit there and happily play with her toys. I would build a circle of cushions around her, in case she toppled over (which she often did). I was proud that she could sit so early and used to compare her with other babies who were ‘late sitters’.

While she was happy to sit and play, she didn’t crawl until she was about 9 months old and if I recall correctly, she couldn’t push herself into a seated position until about 9 1/2 months. You see, tummy time and independent play virtually stopped when she was able to sit, because she seemed so content to view the world from a new perspective. But, she could ONLY sit if I placed her in that position… and she could ONLY play with the toys I placed in front of her.

It was my second daughter, Goldie, who really taught me about the natural progression of gross motor skills in babies. She absolutely would not let me prop her up. If I tried to, she would slump over and slither onto her belly, where she felt confident and safe. At 7 months, she learned to crawl and to sit at the same time, but only because it was then that she had learned the skill to do so.

My friend from Germany was visiting when Goldie was going through that developmental phase and I mentioned to her that I thought Goldie was a ‘late sitter’. She then told me about the natural development of gross motor skills in babies and why sitting before crawling (or creeping) is actually sort of backwards. Babies should be able to push themselves up to sitting before they can truly sit.

My son is 7 months old at the time of writing this and no way can I prop him up. If I try to, his breathing gets all funny and he slumps over on purpose to get to safety (the floor). He started proficiently commando crawling at six months, and he can pretty much get to anywhere he wants. He stays busy for a long time creeping around the room and hardly needs any help from anyone. But, he still does not sit.

My son, exploring freely, at the same age, without needing much help.

What Does it Mean in the Long Run?

I’ve only read what others have said and I’ve observed my own children and their gross motor development. Please note, I am not an expert on infant development, and we all know how very different every child is! My older daughter is now 7 and the younger one is almost 5. Do I notice a difference in their gross motor skills now? Not really. But, I do notice a difference in the way they acquire new skills and in the way they play.

In general, pushing babies to sit before they’re ready is probably just one thing of many that parents get their children to do before the child is developmentally ready. I’ve pushed my older daughter to do lots of things before she was developmentally ready! Getting her to sit early was just the beginning.

Confidence is another reason not to sit a baby up. If a baby falls, she can’t put herself back in that position. She gets upset and then you rush to come help her… you prop her back up and then she learns that maybe she can’t do it herself… I see this tendency a lot with my older daughter still! Although it’s less now that I don’t push her to do other things before she’s developmentally ready.

It could be purely coincidental, but, my middle child is much more confident in some ways. She will only try something once she knows she’s developmentally ready for it. And, you can’t talk her into doing ANYTHING! She is much better at independent play. Whereas, my older one always seems to need me to do stuff with her constantly… could it have been those months when my first was a baby and I was always sitting her up and bringing things to her? Could that have prevented her from naturally developing the skill to play confidently? I wonder…

Interestingly, my older daughter is always trying to get her baby brother to sit! Even though I never say that he needs to. It must be something stored in her consciousness from when she was a baby. The middle daughter, the one who learned to sit on her own, never tries to get him to sit.

Vestibular System

Young babies are developing what’s called their vestibular system. That system is a sensory system that has to do with balance, equilibrium, coordination, hand eye coordination, muscle tone, etc. Many people would say that by sitting a baby up, you’re interfering with the natural development of a baby’s vestibular system.

Sitting babies in ‘baby seats’, like bumbos and walkers seems to make life easier, but it’s best to let babies roll around on the floor. I used a bumbo seat a few times when my daughter was about 5 or 6 months old (pictured below) and I imagined how it would feel if I had been sitting in it myself and I realized it would have been very uncomfortable, the way you have to hold your neck and head up without having a strong core yet. And, the way her legs were sticking straight out, instead of folded in a sort of ‘seat’ underneath of her. I do use a bouncer now, sometimes, as it’s not always possible to let my son roll around. But as soon as my son started enjoying being on his tummy, I set him down on the floor much more than in the bouncer. Of course, there are times when he ‘sits’, usually in my lap, occasionally in the high chair, but I can tell that he doesn’t really like the high chair, because he starts to slump over. 

A little sidetracked, but totally related is babywearing and carrying your baby. Carrying your baby around has so many benefits, but a big one is that carrying your baby helps to strengthen a baby’s upper body muscles. When you walk around carrying a baby, it’s a vestibular motion that your baby experiences and he really has to hang on and learn to use his muscles. My mother told me that she used to manhandle us when we were newborns and sling us over her shoulder to get stuff done. And, we got strong really fast because of it!

I was trying to get a shot of how much of a big hot mess I looked like… but we sort of look cute.

So anyway, it’s not really the end of the world, but it’s something very interesting that many people don’t know about, or never question. Could it be that some babies prefer to sit before they crawl? Yes, probably. But, I think it’s good to know about the natural progression of a baby’s gross motor skills. I never questioned if I should prop a baby up, but when I heard about the reasons for not doing it, it instantly made sense to me!

Respecting a Baby’s Space

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Babies are so cute! They’re so innocent and non-judging… they make lots of people feel the love, belongingness and connection that we all crave.

And, babies need to be picked up, handled and held for just about every activity they do! As an attachment style parent, I’ve had very close contact with my babies all day and night. Physical touch and connection is vital for a baby’s well being.

But where do we draw the line as to what is respectful to a baby’s body or what may be unintentionally violating a baby’s space? Shouldn’t there be a difference in how a stranger enters your baby’s space as opposed to someone the baby knows? And, just because a baby is smiling, does it mean that he’s enjoying the interaction?

I know, I know, again, baby’s are so cute! It’s hard to not want to tickle them or stroke their soft skin or ask to hold them or to squeeze them and poke all their round delicious parts. My son is just about to turn six months old at the time I’m writing this, and man, is he a ham! It’s hard for people to keep their hands off him!

But… babies are people, let’s not forget. Small adorable people, who can’t talk. Would it be ok to go around stroking a stranger’s cheeks? Or, if you saw a cute looking guy in the shops, would it be alright to stick your finger in his hand? No…

I don’t have the right to tickle, poke and prod or do anything that might make my baby feel uncomfortable. And, I feel like I need to protect my small person from other well-meaning people who can’t help but want to do the same.

I’ve had countless strangers approach my babies and try to get a squeeze, or a poke or a kiss! Even when my babies have been tucked away in the baby carrier, and I try to turn away, I’ve had people touch my baby’s toes, plant a kisses on my baby’s head, put a finger in my baby’s soft hand or stroke my baby’s cheeks (their cheeks are amazing, I admit).

Then, people ask for cuddles…

If the baby is tucked away in the carrier, they won’t ask (thank goodness). But, if the baby’s out of the carrier and they ask, I don’t always know what to say. Saying ‘no‘ seems rude. If they could ask my baby and he could answer, then the answer would be straight forward. But, how do I know if HE wants you to hold him? This is not a game of ‘pass the baby‘, this is a little person with feelings!

How would I feel if a giant stranger, who looked, felt and smelled very different from my mother, picked me up? I’m not sure I would like it…

I love the most when people interact with my son by smiling at him and talking. That way, he can simply snuggle his head into my chest if he doesn’t feel like interacting. Or, he can choose to respond by smiling back. Sometimes my son smiles during an interaction with someone, but I have to look at his body language to know if he’s enjoying the interaction. Is he smiling, but tense and pulling and squirming away? Or, is he smiling with his body relaxed? If he’s relaxed, then I know he feels safe and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, other people have definitely held my babies, I’m not that uptight and it’s beautiful when the holding is done with awareness. My parents just came to visit from America and my son spent tons of time on their laps. And, some of my good friends, that I see on a regular basis, get cuddles. But, people whom I don’t see often, I just don’t feel comfortable saying ‘yes‘ to when they ask for a casual cuddle. A cuddle is a very intimate thing, in my opinion!

It’s not just strangers who want to poke and prod babies, I think about how often my husband and daughters (or even I) may accidentally invade my son’s body space. My girls love him so much, tthe second I put him down, they’re all over him like white on rice! It’s a tough one, like I said, because babies need to be picked up, interacted with and helped all day long… and we do love to play with him. So, I try my best to nicely remind everyone to look and listen carefully at his cues to see if he starts feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The whole idea of respecting a baby’s body in the way I’m talking about, is a very subtle concept. It’s not to say that we limit the touching or holding of our babies, because babies absolutely need lots of closeness. And, we should act natural around babies! But, is the touching and holding done with awareness? And, does the baby feel safe and comfortable?

We just don’t know what strong impressions are being made in a baby’s brain at such a young age. True, they won’t remember individual events, but they do remember the feeling. I want to make sure that down the track, my children grow up with the feeling that they have felt safe and respected.

I Didn’t Leave the House AT ALL For Six Weeks After my Baby Was Born: It Was Fantastic!

imageWhen my first daughter was born, I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me over the phone, “Now, Katie, a winter baby stays in the house for 4 weeks, a summer baby stays in the house for 2. Your baby was born in autumn, so you should stay in the house for 3 weeks.Read the rest of this entry

How To Do Elimination Communication With Your Baby

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ECingkatesurfs

When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my biggest hesitations about becoming a new parent, was the thought of changing countless dirty diapers and of toilet training. I often wondered if there was a more natural process. I wondered what ancient people would have done! Luckily, just a few weeks before my daughter was born, a lady told me about elimination communication (EC). A lightbulb went off after our brief conversation and I knew that elimination communication was something that I wanted to try. I’ve practiced EC with both of my children and they were both and toilet trained, day and night, right around the time they started to walk. Read the rest of this entry

Ten Non-Reasons Why Your Baby is Crying

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 Babycrying

Babies cry. You don’t have to feel bad about it. Either they’re trying to tell you something (they’re hungry, scared, etc.) or they’re frustrated or in pain.  We should always do the best we can to respond to a crying baby’s needs. Yes, sometimes it’s overwhelming and yes sometimes you need to put a crying baby down for a moment. Yes, we live in a silly society where parents live isolated and don’t have enough help. Sometimes, you pick up a baby and they just keep crying. Read the rest of this entry

Should We Never Ever Judge?

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GoldieBra

Judgement: The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. –Oxford Dictionary

I got in a bit of facebook trouble today (as you do sometimes) when I posted a Miss. Judgey Pants remark that went like this:

“Society has taught us to hold into our material possessions, but not to hold on to our babies.

A young fit father was pushing his three or four month old baby in a stroller with one hand and holding a coffee in the other. The baby was screaming and shaking. Dear Sir. Put down your coffee. Stop pushing the stroller. Pick up your baby!”

Read the rest of this entry

Should You Give a Crap About Early Toilet Training?

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ToiiletTraining

Let’s face it, babies and toddlers aren’t stupid. They figure out how to walk, talk, eat, climb, and do everything else. Surely… they can figure out toilet training at a relatively young age if we encourage them? It’s only natural that they would want to stop pooing and peeing on themselves. I recently read an article about a woman who was against putting in any extra effort to toilet train her children and only let her kids toilet train when they were practically begging her. I just about gagged. Read the rest of this entry

From That Very First Day: Birth

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IMG_6465IMG_6465

Today, a friend of mine welcomed twin baby boys to the world. Wow, so amazing, I mean, what even is ‘birth?!‘ Oh, I don’t even know… it’s just a miracle, that’s what. The few days before birth, the birth itself and then the few days after. It’s such a precious place in time and space, and it only happens once a lifetime. Read the rest of this entry