Baby sleep training, infant sleep, parenting education, pregnancy

To expecting mothers everywhere. 5 reasons to consider ignoring every baby sleep book on the market.

1. There is no magic solution to babies waking. Definitely not one that you can only access for $30 in your local book store. Trust me. if there was a magic solution parents everywhere would be shouting it from the roof tops.

2. Many parenting books make you feel like a failure. It is classic a sales technique to make you think you have a problem and then offer you a “perfect” solution. And bonus points, if it doesn’t work they can say you didn’t do it right – Double guilt.

3. Babies actually know how to sleep. Sometimes it can feel like they have no idea. And you would be forgiven for thinking you need to learn how to make a baby sleep. But it is biologically ridiculous to assume that a baby is unable to sleep. With enough food, warmth and comfort, babies will actually sleep. Sometimes not the way we want them to, or for as long, or as regularly. Yet, they may actually be getting the right amount of sleep for them. Normal newborn baby sleep requirements can be from 9-18 hours. This variation doesn’t impact long term health outcomes.


 

 


4. You have amazing instincts. You are very good at reading your baby and considering what they might need.

Experimentation and workability are the backbone of every confident new parent.

  • Can I try something new? (tick)

  • Does it work for me and my family? (tick).

And the more time you spend looking to your baby for cues, the easier it is. Before you know it they are talking, and telling you exactly what they need. It is no coincidence that listening to your baby cry makes your blood pressure spike. Mother nature has decided someone has to be responsible for the safety of your tiny baby. The easiest choice was you, their mother.

5. There is no evidence to suggest anything you do to help your baby sleep in the first 6 months impacts on sleep later on. So you are free to try new things. Do what works for you and your family. No need to worry about ‘spoiling your baby’ or making a pattern that will never change.

So this is the bottom line:

If there is a baby sleep book that works for you – go with it.

But, if you find yourself ‘failing’ please remember this. NO ONE, not even the greatest “expert” or ‘baby whisperer’ knows your baby as well as you. Before you know it, they will be teenagers, and you will wonder how they are able to sleep as long as they do!

 


 

There is another option. Where you can avoid getting caught up in the chaos of chasing the ‘perfect sleep’. Would you would rather spend this early time with your baby falling in love? Would you rather spend your time enjoying a meaningful start to parenthood?

Contact me to see how I can help you with information and support during this time.

breastfeeding, infant sleep, infants

Breastfeeding during the first week – an overview

So, Breastfeeding is rarely like it seems in the hallmark cards.

Understanding what is “normal” can give you some great insight into the behaviour to expect from your your baby, and how that changes (so quickly!!) over the first week.

Each day is a new adventure when you are learning how to breastfeed and infant.

You might think you need an electric breast pump, breastfeeding pillow and heard about supplements for breast milk production among all the other baby stuff. But the best thing you can invest in is good breastfeeding education in your pregnancy for you and your partner and good postnatal support so you have the time to learn and fall in love with your baby.

Following is a very basic overview of what you might expect from a well baby born at term.

Of course, if you are looking for more information, I am always here.

infants

Shifra’s first bath (a family experience)

Shifra was approximately 2 weeks when she had her first bath.

A few notes on the video below:

1. The bath is in the kitchen sink. clean, easy to fill and empty, and with a good height bench to work with

2. bath water is lovely and warm. warm enough for anyone to comfortably bathe in

4. bath water is deep.

5. the room is warm.

6. everything is prepared at arms reach beforehand.

7. no special soaps are needed but for this bath, a small amount of grapeseed oil, coconut oil and tangerine essential oil was used as her skin was a little flaky and dry (which is very normal at this stage)

8. before the bath she is wrapped in a towel and her face, neck, and eyes are cleaned as it is easier to feel in control and safely hold her while she is out of the bath.

9. Once in the bath a small washer is warm and wet and placed in her belly to keep her warm and submerged.

10. She is deeply submerged to her neck.

11. she is supported with my whole arm behind her head and I am holding her arm with my hand so I feel very secure while she is in the bath.

12. She is VERY settled in the bath, even with all the chatting from her sisters.

13. She signals when it is no longer enjoyable and is removed, dried and dressed.

14. she slept very soundly after this.

15. she would often fall asleep in her bath.

 

Are you looking for help in the early days with your new baby? Contact me to see how I can help you.

childbirth education, infant sleep, infants

What are the first three months with a newborn like?

Let’s talk about preparing for life in the postpartum period.

In particular, I want to run through a really rough timeline about what you might expect in the first few months of your baby’s life.

 

The baby that you have.

Before we start saying what’s normal, it is really important that we have a good understanding about the range of normal. Just like you and me, who are all very, very different and unique individuals, of course our babies are unique.

A certain amount of newborn behaviour is just who they are and what they are born with, and not as much about what we are able to do to help them, comfort them and support them.

What we would sort of expect is a really diverse range of normal, how healthy and well babies might behave.

So, on one end, you might have babies who are particularly settled. These babies might feed and almost fall asleep straight afterwards, they might not grizzle much, and they are very easy to just keep in a calm, relaxed, settled state. You might have heard parents who have more than one child often sort of saying, “oh, this one was so unsettled and this one was the easy baby”. It just goes to show that it really isn’t always about us (and what we do ‘right’ or ‘wrong’), when we can love, and parent and care for 2 babies in a similar way, but they react and respond so differently.

On the other end, there are babies who are the complete polar opposite. These babies who are just particularly unsettled little beans. They might be just a little bit more fractious, a bit quicker to be overstimulated and they tend to require a lot more hands on assistance to settle.

Parenting a baby who is on this end of the spectrum can be really, really challenging and if this is your baby you can see that you might compare yourself to someone who has a baby who is particularly settled and begin to think that there is something YOU should do. It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and this is a never any truer than the early days, weeks and months with our new baby. This is a time when we should be free to bunker down with our new family and take our lead from our baby, learning to dance with their rhythm, and getting to know them.

Well and healthy babies come in a huge diverse range with most babies sitting somewhere in between. They might have periods where they’re more and periods where they are very, very unsettled and everything in between.

With this in mind what follows is a very general map that navigates the first few months with your new baby.

Birth:

At the time of birth, babies often cry spontaneously. All being well, they should spend some time with mum skin to skin and might have a good breastfeed followed by a period of rest. During the first 24 hours babies tend to be quite settled, they might wake a few times for a breastfeed, but otherwise it’s mostly just recovering from birth.

 

The tricky starting bit:

By about 48 to 72 hours into life most babies will have started to really wake up. If you are breastfeeding it would be really normal to be breastfeeding very frequently or even breastfeeding continuously until mature breastmilk begins to be produced.  Once mature breast milk starts being produced, you might find that they have a bit more ability to sleep and be settled in between feeds. Around this time, day 5-7, you might start to notice a little bit more of a rhythm in the day.

 

The rest and recover (and fall in love) bit:

At the time mature milk is created and babies are filling and emptying their bellies, you may find a certain ‘rhythm’ begins to reveal itself. In general, there will be periods of hunger followed by feeding and then generally being settled.  This tends to be somewhat of the pattern that follows you through the first couple of weeks of life. Often around this time I hear people say, “oh, my baby’s the greatest baby, they never cry and they sleep all the time”. If this is you – fantastic. If this isn’t your experience please don’t expect too much of yourself. Regardless of your experience this is the time for you to lay low, only doing the things that you love and make you feel wonderful, rest, regroup and fall in love with your baby.

The second wind stage

Around two weeks of age a lot of babies tend to start to wake up and you can see after a gentle start this can be really quite confronting and a little bit overwhelming. It’s never easy even when it’s easy, but if it’s been a lot smoother and then suddenly your baby’s starts to wake up and require a bit more hands on help settling, that can be a bit overwhelming and potentially we can start to feel as though there’s something that we’ve done. Often at this time women might start to worry about all the reasons why and women typically start to worry, do I have enough milk? Um, am I doing this correctly? Am I overstimulating my baby? Do they have reflux?  Even though it is reasonable to look at all the internal and external things that might be affecting our baby’s being settled, but for the majority well and healthy babies, they are just developing in the normal way. Part of that normal development is starting to wake up and require a bit more assistance.

The Hollywood drama stage

From about two weeks to six weeks, babies will generally need increasingly more help and assistance to settle, climaxing around the six-week mark. If you’ve ever watched a Hollywood film with a brand-new baby or heard these stories going around about driving the streets in a car late at night to get the baby to sleep or rocking the baby in the laundry with the washing machine or the dryer rumbling, this pretty much sums up this time with your baby. Be aware that you are the perfect target of every single baby settling book, or person selling you a magic ‘cure-all’, around this time. Although, if we just keep being gentle ourselves time itself tends to be the cure for most babies.

The chilling out stage

By around the 10 to 12 weeks mark you might find that there’s a bit more of a rhythm to the day. I definitely wouldn’t say your baby will be in a “routine”, as babies this age do not adhere to routines. Babies brains are far too immature to abide a routine until at least the six month mark, so until then we wouldn’t be expecting them to actually respond to any sort of routine. If you find one is naturally developing and that works for you – go with it. However at this early age, their circadian rhythms are really immature and they don’t even know the difference between day and night until they’re around four months of age, if not after.

The 3-month mark

What you might find around this time is that you as a mother, father of parent, you have got to know your baby and what is normal for them. You tend to know that around a certain time in the day your baby might be settled, eat more or cry a little more. At least one day a week it would be expected for you to have no idea what’s happening because generally speaking, one day a week at least, the baby will completely throw your whole routine off.

Your baby is developing mentally and physically so rapidly that there are massive changes in their behaviour and our expectations of them should reflect that. You might feel that as soon as you’ve got on top of it, something changes and you have to relearn what works and doesn’t work with your baby.

If you are about to have a baby hopefully this gives you some food for thought around the sort of support that you might want to put in place that can make this transition a lot smoother and a lot gentler. If you have a brand-new baby hopefully it helps you feel a lot more normal because you’re doing a fantastic job it’s just really, really hard.

For information and support please contact me

choices, maternity system

We need to talk about ‘difficult women’ being punished in our medical system.

Hospitals and models of maternity care are structured so many different ways. In one hospital alone that can be upwards of 10 different models all requiring women to interact and communicate differently with staff and have varying expectations from their care providers. 

Some women access maternity care by going through a booking system that sorts women into different groups. Other women access maternity care by calling their care provider directly.

Once women have been allotted their model of care, there can be varying expectations about how much time they have in appointments, how regularly they should have appointments, when to call for help and a myriad of other rules or norms in that specific culture.

It has been said that culture to humans is like water to fish. Fish don’t see water and similarly we are not aware of culture. That is until we step into a different one. Like a hospital. Which is culturally a very different country to the world outside. 


FISH DON’T SEE WATER AND SIMILARLY WE ARE NOT AWARE OF CULTURE.


Hospitals are interesting places where the rules of the real world are suspended. There is a new language to learn, unwritten and uncommunicated expectations on women and families to behave in certain ways, and punishments when the behaviour of visitors doesn’t comply with the new norms. 

 Women are stripped of their names, clothes and autonomy. Rebranded ‘mummy’ or ‘honey’ because who can keep up? (I was recently working with a medical student who asked me, “if I don’t call her the lady in bed 6 what do I call her?).

Wearing pyjamas or a robe, she is clearly branded as a new arrival to this world. She is given her chart and told where to go next. On arrival, she tries to keep up with the conversation, even though she is missing much of the language. Like a caricature of a migrant in their new country, she smiles, and nods, and agrees. 

 “I’m just going to do an internal, OK?” 

  1. This is not a question
  2. What is an internal? 
  3. No explanation as to why this is important. 
  4. Is she allowed to say no?  

Is she allowed?  

And heaven forfend a woman or her family break the rules. This is the cardinal sin. For that you are branded ‘difficult’ and this label will follow you throughout your journey here in this institution. 

The change barely registers. But you can feel it. 70% of our communication is non-verbal. It’s an eye roll, a sigh, a pause before responding, a glance. It is the tone or speed of speech, it is the care taken out of the careful. But she feels it. She knows she is not your favourite patient. She is aware that you have taken the power back. That you are the one who decides the next move. 

 For what did she receive this branding? 

She didn’t go the correct place to be seen, she instead went to the other ward. The busy ward. It really messed up someone else’s day. 

She isn’t listening. She is disrespectful. She doesn’t realise she is being disrespectful. She doesn’t know she is supposed to revere you. She thinks you are there to help her. She hasn’t said please and thank you, instead ‘don’t touch me it hurts’.  

Her family are hovering. They are asking a lot of questions. They are unaware of the 3 other people you need to see urgently and are asking unnecessary and irrelevant questions. She didn’t learn which questions were irrelevant and unnecessary.  

She wants to take her time to decide what to do. 

She takes her time.  

She takes your time.  

And because she is a traveller abroad in your culture, she needs you to help her. And she needs you to help her baby. And she is anxious. And she is uncertain. And in all the travel guides/baby books they said to ask for help. So she asked for help. Evidently not the way she was suppose to. 

Louise Armstrong MD wrote “When we call patients and families “good,” or at least spare them the “difficult” label, we are noting and rewarding acquiescence. Too often, this “good” means you agree with me and you don’t bother me and you let me be in charge of what happens and when.”

Another Doctor, Michelle L. Mayer reflects on being a difficult patient” (it) is a tricky proposition. By advocating for myself, I risk incensing the person on whom I depend for care. I tried being the “good” patient. I suppose like many young women, I was raised to please others. My natural inclination is to be pleasant, because, in all honesty, I want people to like me…”


“Both supportive and punitive interactions between women and clinicians, depending on whether the woman’s birth intentions were perceived by individual clinicians to transgress norms of patienthood and motherhood.”


Rebecca Maree Jenkinson recently published a thesis exploring whether a documentation and communication process would support pregnant women’s rights to decline recommended maternity care. She found “The feminist thematic analysis identified both supportive and punitive interactions between women and clinicians, depending on whether the woman’s birth intentions were perceived by individual clinicians to transgress norms of patienthood and motherhood”

So when we speak up, ask questions and forget to be ‘polite’, not to mention if we dare to decline a proposed treatment, the care provided by our ‘care provider’ may turn, well, uncaring. 

In a culture that robs Peter to pay Paul, women’s autonomy around birth is often circumvented in the name of safety,. here ‘risk to baby’  are the magic words that ensure women are the ones who pay the health price, emotionally and physically, and then have their experiences trivialised.

Bec Jenkinson,  Sue Kruske, Sue Kildea (2017) explore the experience of women, midwives and obstetricians when women decline care. They discuss clinicians having a’ line in the sand’, where, during negotiations regarding a woman’s care some decisions were considered too far from acceptable. They found ‘When women’s birth intentions were perceived by clinicians to transgress their line in the sand, a range of strategies were reportedly used to convince the woman to accept recommended care. These strategies formed a pattern of “Escalating intrusion”.”

Escalating intrusion. 

What a wonderful way to say:

Manipulation;

Punishment;

Judgement;

Badgering;

Assault;

And abandonment.

There is a lot of abandonment.

She is left alone.  

She doesn’t trust.  

So maybe next time she won’t ask for help.