Sweet Dreams

The first night after our baby’s birth we went to bed and I laid him in the crib in our bedroom, got into bed and stared at him. After a while my husband looked at me and said “It feels so unnatural to have him so far away from us, he has been surrounded by you for 9 months”. In that moment my heart leapt into my throat, thank goodness he had said it, that was my feeling exactly! Everything in me since I had laid him down wanted to pick him back up and be with him. For the next hour or two we sat in bed, me sobbing while holding our baby because I couldn’t bare to be away from him, yet was so frightened of falling asleep with him.

My husband did all he could looking up information and evidence on bed sharing, it’s dangers and how to safely bed share. Eventually we made some quick changes to our sleeping arrangements and had done enough to calm my nerves about sleeping with our son. That night we all got some sleep and the next day we made it so the crib was open and attached to our bed, giving our son his own space and me a little more peace of mind but keeping that all important closeness.

In the weeks and months that have followed our little one has slept by my side every night. This has led me to wonder how many others have found themselves in similar situations?

In the ‘after care’ talk we received at our local hospital we were informed of the safety and dangers of swaddling, baby sleeping on their back/side/tummy and where to position baby in their crib/cot; but nothing was mentioned on the subject of bed sharing. It seems bed sharing in general, isn’t widely spoken about, but why? Is it because it’s not common practice, or is it generally not accepted in society as a safe practice?

Whichever it is, I’m sure there is something else more common and potentially dangerous than bed sharing amongst new parents. Those few seconds you closed your eyes, only to be jolted awake when you felt your body soften a bit too much as you started to fall asleep. As much as we don’t like to admit it, it’s probably inevitable for most, if not all of us. I for one was shocked when I found myself in the wee hours of the morning holding our son and falling asleep standing up!

I’m not ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion I had got out of bed with him and experienced that same feeling. Standing or sitting, it doesn’t matter, when you’re that tired there really is nothing you can do to avoid it, or is there?

If we accept that many parents find themselves in a similar sleep deprived scenario, why do we not do more to educate parents on all safe sleeping arrangements, including bed sharing?

It wouldn’t surprise me if many parents found themselves in situations where they were so exhausted they bought baby into bed on the spur of the moment, just so they could go back to sleep. Unfortunately this is where bed sharing gets a bad reputation, and I feel wrongly so.

If bed sharing is done correctly and the sleeping area has been prepared for bed sharing, then there is a lot less risk to baby then you might think. When you consider that the possible alternatives we find ourselves in; last minute bed sharing or accidentally falling asleep while sitting on the sofa, armchair or worse, standing up; surely a bit of education on the subject of how to safely bed share would be beneficial to a lot of parents?

So if you’re thinking about your sleeping arrangements, don’t be quick to rule out bed sharing. Yes there will be people who will say it’s “too risky” for their liking, but don’t take their or my word for it. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions, you might find the evidence surprises you.

Whatever your decision and whatever your sleeping arrangements, I wish you all a safe and peaceful sleep.

Sweet dreams

-B

The following is a leaflet provided by La Leche League and Pinter & Martin outlining the 7 smart steps to safer bedsharing and is available to download in PDF from here

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Your Baby Can Talk!

Okay, not talk, communicate, just not in the conventional sense. The early noises that generally pre-curse a cry can be differentiated and do mean different things. Then there’s the body language, some obvious and some individual to the child.

Let’s start with the cries:

Priscilla Dunstan teaches that babies make sound reflexes. Much like sneezing and hiccuping that have recognisable patterns (when sound is added to the reflex), so too do babies cries.  She outlines 5 of these sounds in ‘Dunstan’s Baby Language‘. We found this to be extremely helpful, but not fool-proof, as all babies vary in their annunciating. The five sounds she outlines are: 

NEH – Hungry
EH – Upper Wind
HEH – Discomfort
OWH – Tired
EAIRH – Lower Wind

Not all babies will use all these sounds, according to Priscilla, some you may hear a lot, others occasionally and some never. We have heard all 5, lucky us, but some have been very rarely used or heard.

The sound for hungry is NEH, the neh coming from the suckling reflex. We did not hear this properly until our little one had his tongue tie snipped at 4 weeks, until then it was more an EH (which DBL teaches is upper wind). Once the tongue had been freed we heard it multiple times a day and used it to our full advantage. 

We have had some difficulty differentiating between our little ones EH and EAIRH sounds, most likely our bad ears (We certainly don’t have Priscilla’s photographic memory for sound). We would try to help ease lower wind pain and promptly get a large release of upper gas! We have heard these fairly regularly and only time will tell if our ears become trained to know the difference between these two. 

The discomfort sound HEH didn’t really appear to us until around 4 or 5 weeks. Maybe we missed it, maybe we kept him so comfy he had no use of it (I doubt it, but enjoy a bit of wishful thinking). We found if we weren’t paying attention it could be missed entirely or mistaken for playful sounds. They were not loud or abrupt, but more akin to rapid or heavy breathing. This developed into the typical sounding HEH as he grew and became more aware. We would hear this sound several times a week.

The tired sound of OWH (yawning reflex) first appeared at approximately 6-7 weeks. By approximately 9 weeks old we had heard this no more than a couple of times. It was very distinct and we understood it immediately and heard it more as his night-time sleeping increased and his daytime sleeping reduced.

 

Body language:

Body Language can be ambiguous and not always as straight forward as DBL’s pre-cries. Some are common and easily understood whilst others completely individual to your child. Here is a list of some examples we have found or had mentioned to us. Your baby may do some if these or none of these. Even if they do, it does not necessarily mean the same thing.

Ear Pulling or Hiccupping; May mean your baby is getting tired.

Gaze aversion; May mean your baby is tired or over-stimulated.

Pulling up legs; Can simply be a reflex action to indicate upset, not always an indication of abdominal pain.

Going red; Can mean the little one has been crying for too long or is overheated, not necessarily in pain or constipated.

Blue outline to lips; Could mean your baby has trapped wind.

Sticking tongue out, putting fist in mouth or fidgeting; Could mean your baby is hungry.

Rooting (A head-turning and sucking reflex towards a stimulus, apparent in young babies); Generally indicates hunger.

Clenched fists tightly; Can indicate hunger. Their fists become loose when sated (it’s more noticeable once grasp reflex gone somewhere around 2-6 months).

Head butting, head shaking (like saying no) and drooling; Can indicate hunger.

Wiggling down when on shoulder or throwing in direction of breast; Can also indicate hunger.

I hope these make communication with your little one easier and less frustrating.  Bare in mind your little one is as individual as you are, as are their queues and body language.

 

Good Luck!

-J

Empathy Is Key

Our approach to bringing up our child is driven by empathy and trying to understand the world from their perspective. We all too often encounter parents and parenting styles who base their decisions upon what’s best for the parents and not what’s best for the child. We feel that the child should always be at the centre of all decisions effecting them.

Sadly, in the self obsessed, insecure society we live in, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Parents clothe their children in items with slogans aimed at the parents, for the parents. We see slogans such as “I love my mummy and daddy” and can’t help but wonder if it’s the parents own insecurities being soothed or their thoughts and hopes being portrayed through their child. It’s clothing not designed for the child, but for the parents own sanctimony and often passed off or justified as being cutesy! Some practice controlled crying or ‘cry it out’, a technique that merely teaches your child to give up, give up crying, give up expending precious energy trying to get the parents attention. It merely stifles the childs external pleas for attention and exacerbates the stress it already feels. Dream feeds are used to keep the baby asleep and “sleep through”, again for the parents benefit. Much to the detriment of the child as dream feeds (including other regimented feeding schedules) merely teach the baby to eat when they’re not hungry and these patterns can be carried into later life.

Whilst we appreciate these strategies can help make things more bearable for parents of babies who are ever demanding, they come with their own set of compromises, often negative for the child. Most parents, knowing that their decisions could impart some negative outcomes upon their child, would refrain from doing so. This is the crux of the issue, many parents are unaware of the potential negative effects. We need to banish the false teachings of “Baby Whisperers” such as Gina Ford and embrace our children’s needs and respond to them with empathy, understanding their needs and acknowledging in kind.

What we’re really trying to illustrate is how much modern parenting styles are parent focused. When they should be, for the most part, child focused. We need to focus on the larger picture and the long term effects of our decisions. Putting the child at the very core and doing what’s in his or her best interests, both short and long term, should be sacrosanct.

To help us muddle our way through decisions, we very often ask ourselves “Is this decision based on our own wants and needs or our child’s?”. Sometimes we catch ourselves erring the wrong way, but the ability to be mindful, objective and open to our own selfishness helps us keep decisions focused on what’s important, the child.

– J