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Category Archives: Gentle Parenting

Why I Would Never EVER Let My Babies Cry It Out

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I can’t believe I’m writing ANOTHER post on sleep training. But, every time I hear someone talk about how *great* sleep training is, or Ferberizing, or cry it out, or whatever, I just can’t help it. One day, my dream is that people will sit around, scratching their heads, wondering why on earth anyone would ever leave a young baby in another room alone to cry. Read the rest of this entry

Kids Need Daycare for Socialization!? Hellz to the No!

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The past week at the beach, Margo (nearly 4 years old), has been on a serious mission to make new friends. She’ll spot some kid (usually a girl dressed in pink), who is relatively her age, but often a quite a few years older and says, “Mom, do you see that girl waaaay over there?  Is it ok if I go and play with her?” Read the rest of this entry

So What if African Babies Cry Less!

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Have you heard?  African babies cry significantly less than western babies.

When my girls were babies, I did almost all of the things that any African mother would do with her baby (and yes, I’m stereotyping). I had peaceful births. I slept with my babies. I wore my babies for hours a day and  never used a stroller. I breastfed on demand and always kept them close. I even took them to the toilet (called elimination communication), which is exactly what African woman, without access to diapers, would do. I kept things quiet in the home. I ate a healthy diet. I also don’t have a TV. I don’t smoke, drink or raise my voice (often)… But… I have to tell you… my babies have cried. Oh, have they cried.

I get sort of annoyed when I see that meme floating around Facebook about African babies crying less. Read the rest of this entry

Tired and Touched Out With Your Kids? Twelve Ways to Bring Back the Love

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Energy reserves start to plummet into oblivion and the room starts to spin. The demands from my kids get louder and more persistent… I look at the time… “SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME!!!”, I scream in my head! I know all of the things I ‘should’ be doing, to be a caring, attentive and loving parent… but it’s just not happening. My body is there, but in my mind, I want to be crashed out in bed with the covers pulled over my head… Do you know the feeling?! Read the rest of this entry

Year in Review of a Stay at Home Mother: Don’t Mind Me, I’m Raising Some Kids

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Thanks… because I like eating already-been-chewed food (not).

Something awesome happened to me this year and you’ll never guess what it was.  No rad overseas holidays.  No life-changing events (like births or illnesses).  I didn’t win the lottery.  I didn’t find out I was pregnant with quadruplets.  There were no profound life realizations.  I didn’t learn a new sport or win anything.  I didn’t find a ‘job’ and I still haven’t paid back my student loans (oops).  And,  I certainly never got around to cleaning out that pesky guest bedroom closet! Read the rest of this entry

A Few Big Secrets About Frequent Nighttime Waking in Babies and Toddlers

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(Original post was written in July, 2013, but I heavily revised it since)

How much night waking is ‘normal’
Many women, especially the cosleeping/breastfeeding kind, at some point, become exhausted by constant night waking and get burned out (especially by the time your baby turns into a 2 or 3 year old and is still waking up all night long for boob). I’m all about on demand feeding, don’t get me wrong. And, I’m a strong advocate for cosleeping (actually, my kids don’t even have their own room, we all share one). My babies were chubby and fed as much as they pleased…  BUT.. when my older daughter was about five months old, she was waking up almost every hour or more.  I knew that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t just a few nights, it was way too frequent and way too many nights/weeks in a row. She seemed very restless and irritated. So, I started looking for gentle answers, not for my sake, but for hers, to see if constant night waking was really considered natural…  I’m not talking the usual once or twice a night.  I’m talking about excessive waking.  Did cave babies used to wake up every hour?  I had to find out.

BABIES WAKE TO PEE!
A little known secret in first world countries, where nearly all babies wear nappies (even mine), is that they can actually  be taken to the toilet, day and night. Yes, it’s true! The ‘sleep experts‘ don’t mention this one much.

In the first world, we refer to responding to a baby’s toileting needs as elimination communication (EC).  

Babies will not eliminate in a deep sleep.
First, they stir. So baby wakes, then, mom or dad have some routine of getting baby back to sleep. If you’re cosleeping and your baby is in your bed, often your first reaction is usually to stick the boob into the mouth or use whatever settling technique you use. Plug up the noise hole and pray that they go back to sleep. Sometimes they go back to sleep and you can ‘milk it‘ (haha, get it) for another hour or two, but then the stirring happens again… then the pee… then they’re wet.

No animal in the wild lets its baby poop and pee where it sleeps without cleaning it up. Human babies are not designed to sleep through the night anyway, especially because they to need eliminate several times a night or feed if they’re little (the frequency depends on the age of the baby).  Even though it seems like practicing EC (elimination communication) with a baby at night is a huge pain in the arse, I often feel like it’s a matter of short term effort, long term benefit (ehm, longer stretches of sleep). Now, I know that not everyone is going to be jumping up and down with their hand up to take their baby to pee in the middle of the night. BUT, if you at least know that elimination is a reason for night waking, then you’re a step closer to understanding what’s going on.  If you want to know more about EC, you can read a post I wrote here. Which brings us to the next secret…

Is Your Baby an All Night Boober?  The Cycle of B00b –> Pee
It was a natural instinct for me to correlate frequent night feeds with frequent trips to the potty. So, I started lessening the amount of time I allowed on the boob per night feed. I would allow a nibble, not a huge meal, and then pull away. Or, sometimes not offer at all.  Unless… my baby was going through a day time feeding strike, in which case, I allow for a little extra boob at night.  But, constant night feeding, to me, just means that I have to wake up and take them to the potty more (yawn.. who wants to do that five times a night?).  ‘What goes in, some must come out.‘ When I thought of it this way, it felt natural for me to shorten the night feeds. (This refers to older babies.  I would never shorten the night feeds of a young baby) I didn’t read it from a book or anything.  I think even the cave woman might have thought like that. They wouldn’t have wanted to get out from under their wooly mammoth skin rug at night, if their baby had to pee… I’m sure they would have encouraged smaller feeds at night for that reason!

Babies need to release stress during the day through crying (in arms only)!
In my research, I stumbled across Aletha Solter’s parenting movement called ‘Aware Parenting‘.  She mentioned something called ‘cry in arms‘ and that really struck a chord in me. You see, I had been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation for years before I had kids.  Some of the processes and techniques that I had practiced myself, meant that we sometimes released stress, from built up anger and frustration, in the form tears. We all know how emotionally beneficial and healing it is to have a ‘good cry‘. But, up until my daughter was five months old, I had done everything in my power to keep her from crying. I gave her boob even if she had already been fed.  I rocked her. Distracted her.  Bounced from side to side. I never tried a dummy (pacifier) but, I did almost EVERYTHING to stop the crying.

But, Aletha is saying to allow the crying (in arms and of course, after all needs have been met).  Toss away the dummy, don’t jiggle, don’t rock, or anything that  is a control pattern for them. Just hold your baby lovingly and let their emotions pour out. Most of the time, I was doing exactly the opposite!

Some parents go to the other extreme and put their baby in the other room to cry alone.  But, Aware Parenting is saying to do something different. It’s not easy being born, and it’s not easy adjusting to life outside the womb. Babies get stressed just like adults, it’s just that they have little other ways to express their stress than through crying.  Imagine if you were having a huge sob… would you want someone to make you stop crying by distracting you or by shoving something in your mouth? Or, would you rather just have a soft shoulder to cry on until you ‘got it all out‘?  It’s the same for babies.

Again, going back to my meditation background.  I know that if I don’t meditate sometime before going to bed, I have crazy dreams and have disturbed sleep. I need that stress release before bed.  Similarly, babies and young children need some sort of stress release too. That release comes out in the form of a cry.

Once I started allowing my baby to cry, lovingly in my arms, when she needed it, she started sleeping so much better at night. We found a really good rhythm at night and her waking every hour for boob at night dropped almost immediately back to waking maybe two or three times a night (which is pretty reasonable, in my mind, for a baby of that age). I’ve done cry in arms with both of my girls. Keep in mind, the aim of doing cry in arms is actually not to get a baby to sleep better at night, it just happens to be one of the positive by-products!

To learn more about Aware Parenting and ‘cry in arms‘, I highly recommend reading Aletha Solter’s book, “Tears and Tantrums“.  She explains in detail and with studies based research everything that I mentioned.

Re-Thinking Night Waking
Night waking in babies and ALL people, is totally normal (how do you think I write all my blogs at 1 in the morning.. I wake up and do them!)  But, how frequent is another story. Obviously, if a child is sick, teething or going through developmental phases, they will certainly be more restless at night. There also other things to make the night waking less taxing on your system. Like, you going to bed earlier, cosleeping, diet, etc. But, if you look at the overall trend in you baby’s night waking, and it seems excessive, it might pay to consider a few things that many people overlook.  Liquid in=liquid out. Boob addiction. And, allowing a baby to release stress and tension that accumulates during the day.

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Yes, Please, Help My Kids, (if they need it)

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A while back, I read some parenting article that went viral.  This lady was on a rant about how she didn’t want people to help her daughter on the playground.  It was all ‘tough love‘, my girl’s gotta learn that life ain’t easy and that you’ve gotta stand up for yourself, etc.  She went on and on about how life is full of disappointments and upsets and how if you can’t figure out how to be tough on the playground, then where else will you learn your life lessons?  Most people wrote comments like, “You go girl!”  Or, “Oh… your daugther will grow up to be so strong.” etc…  But… not me…. I was rolling my eyes as I read.  I see the situation all so differently. Read the rest of this entry

You Won’t Know It, Until It’s Gone

Yes, that's chocolate on her face (vegan homemade chocolate mousse, that is)

Yes, that’s chocolate on her face (vegan homemade chocolate mousse, that is)

(Deep and Meaningful Alert)

Today is Hanukah (and coincidently, Thanksgiving, in the US).  Of course, since we’re in Australia, and nobody really celebrates either where we live, it was just an ordinary day for us.  But, I still had Adam Sandler’s Hanukah song stuck in my head all day.  My husband pulled up the Youtube video of it and we watched it about ten times and laughed and laughed and laughed… You see… if you happen to be Jewish, like we both are (well, technically, we’re both half Jewish), you always feel a little bit like an odd ball around Christmas time.  So, when Adam Sandler’s Hanukah song came out in the mid-90’s, it was like…. the BEST song ever!

Anyway, to get closer to the point… While I was watching and listening to the song that I had memorized word for word when I was in middle school (and can still recite pretty much the whole thing), all of these memories from the 90’s came flooding back.  Sights, smells, feelings,,, the whole bit.

The 90’s… You know, that time that was like 15 or 20 years ago (how did that happen)?!  As a kid, I remember thinking how the 90’s didn’t seem to be well defined.  Like, when I looked in a history book, all the other eras seemed so to easy to generalize.  The 60’s were all about the hippies and Vietnam, the 70’s… disco?  The 80’s… big hair?  So, while I was LIVING in the 90’s, I thought that everything was just ordinary and that there was no 90’s flavor.  Probably because it’s all I had ever known.  Does that even make sense?  But, NOW, looking back at the 90’s, it’s painfully obvious that the 90’s had it’s flavor.  (Yes, I just wasted about 10 minutes laughing my arse off looking at this list of ‘pictures that perfectly capture the 90’s)

Ok, so to really get to the point now…You can’t really see what you have until it’s over.  It’s like that saying about not being able to see the forest from the trees.  You can’t see the big picture until the moment has passed.  I was walking home with my girls today, Margo on her bike, yapping away and Goldie on my back like a monkey.  I was feeling really tired and just wanted to get home.  But, I had this moment when I caught hold of my thoughts and grumbling and made time stop for a moment.  I had that tiny glimpse of the impermanence of all these small moments in our lives.  The mundane, the boring, the annoying, the uncomfortable, the unpleasant, the painful, and even the good ones too.  Where do all of these moments go?!  These moments just slip between our fingers and all become like a dream.

I looked at Margo yapping away and nearly cried.  She’s not going to be a babbling brook three year old forever… and the monkey on my back will very soon be yapping away and riding her own bike.  It wasn’t in a sad way that I nearly shed a tear.  I’m certainly not trying to stop time and I’m not sad that my kids are growing up (as they all do).  It was just that one moment when you see the big picture.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you had those moments in your life, when your mind all of a sudden stops chattering and you see everything for what it is?  All the little things that you worry about today, will be gone tomorrow.  And, if they’re not gone tomorrow, there will be other ‘more important’ things to worry about as time goes on.

I’ve only had a handful of moments like that in my life, when you get some really deep introspection and I remember them clearly when they’ve happened.   Of course, I meditate every day, and meditation is great for quieting the mind… but the moments I’m talking about are different.   The moments that bring you back to the big picture.  To who you really are.

Can we just be with ALL of the moments in our life without labeling them as ‘good’ ‘bad’ ‘happy’ ‘sad’?  Do we have to attach our feelings to the moment, or can we just sit back and experience life as it is?  Because as soon a moment passes, the moment is finished and it’s only a memory… some are far and distant memories and others are easy to recall.  Not that we should feverishly cling on to every moment as if it’s our last, with the thought that time keeps passing and passing.  But, you know… savor it all a bit more and don’t take yourself so seriously.

Another cry I have to tend to.  Another whine I have to answer to.  Another ‘why’ question.  Another trip to the potty. Another request for boobies. Another. Another Another.  Whatever… It’s ok… because one day I will be sitting here wondering how the little people in my life have grown so big.

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Elimination Communication and Early Toilet Training with a Kid Who Won’t Sit Still

Miss Ants-In-Her-Pants-Wiggle-Worm

Miss Ants-In-Her-Pants-Wiggle-Worm

My older daughter could have been the poster child for elimination communication (EC).  She sat still.  She hardly squirmed.  She hardly fussed.  By fourteen months, that was all she wrote, she was toilet trained, day and night. I wasn’t sure I could really claim victory though, as she was the only child I had EC’ed with and had nothing to compare her with.  And then… along came Goldie. Read the rest of this entry

Gently Dealing with My Daughter’s Crazy Irrational Fears

Big Kid. Scared of Wind.

Big Kid. Scared of Wind. Little One, Oblivious and Having Fun

Dealing with a child’s irrational fears is sort of like going through spiritual bootcamp.  As you go through it, you’ve found that you’ve experienced, denial, anger, frustration, compassion, patience, acceptance and, in the end, unconditional love.  Today, my 3 1/2 year old daughter touched a dog  Yes, TOUCHED a dog, as in willingly went up to it and pet it.  A year ago, if she had even saw a dog, from a mile away, she would have climbed up me like I was a tree and then leaped into my arms. Read the rest of this entry