Truth vs. Negativity

When browsing through parent forums and Facebook group pages I am shocked by the amount of posts stating how unsupportive and negative people are. There are a lot of requests to post positive comments and not negative view points. The general consensus seems to be ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all!’

There are people who shoot from the hip and say the first thing that comes into their minds, no matter how hurtful it might come across. This is not nice to see and I certainly do not condone attacking other mums just because they wish to bring their children up a certain way, whether you agree with it or not.

However, this is generally a minority, nowhere near the numbers that are implied. The comments that are labelled as ‘negative’ mainly occur in posts regarding the most controversial subjects, breast vs bottle, sleep training, smacking etc. The more I read, I realise the majority of people are just speaking their minds.

I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve seen and heard that end in parents laying into each other because parent ‘A’ posted or said something that went against what parent ‘B’ advised.

So many times comments are made about supporting each other, requests to not challenge each others choices and to not disagree. These requests are not realistic, nor conducive to what the forums stand for. If someone asks for advice, surely everyone is entitled to their say. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your view or is giving an opinion you may not like, it doesn’t make their opinion negative. It’s only negative if it is in no way constructive, therefore even constructive criticism is relevant to the conversation.

Instead of asking everyone to agree, why can’t we be open to discuss our choices, the reasons behind them and be open to have those choices questioned in an adult manner. In opening ourselves up in this way we can learn to stay objective and critical of our own parenting choices. Maybe there’s a consequence you hadn’t thought about or an angle you hadn’t looked at. Looking at our choices in another light, someone else’s light, may help us improve on our parenting and lead us down a path we never knew existed or had contemplated before. On the other hand, it might cement our belief in our choices and allow us to rationalise with another parent who is struggling to see our point of view.

These forums and Facebook groups are there for parents to ask for and be offered advice, they are meant to help people. It’s sad that because of a few tactless people hiding behind a user name and keyboard we are all seen as judgemental, hurtful, know it all busy bodies!

A harsh truth for many parents is they are unable to stand firm in their choices with their head held high, and instead feel guilt for their behaviour and choices. Is it fair to blame that feeling of guilt on the person questioning their choices? Offence can only be taken, not given. If we are not willing to be open and honest with ourselves about our choices, how do we develop and improve ourselves? Being able to acknowledge the consequences of our actions, learn from any mistakes made and move forward is a part of life and running away from that is impossible.

We need to accept that no matter how hard we try, we will fail our children at some point or another, to act like we have not or will not is to live in denial of being human. To have our flaws pointed out by others can hurt, but if we make our decisions based on evidence, instinct and what we feel is best for our child at the time, with the available information, then why should it matter what someone else says?

On the other hand, to plough through with a stubborn and thick headed attitude only serves to be harmful to not only your children, but to other parents. For example, advising a mother to do something that you’ve not looked at objectively, i.e. backed up by nothing more than “I did this with my child and she’s fine!”, is irresponsible and not helpful.  When giving out or taking advice I always look for the evidence behind the decisions, if there isn’t any then I’m wary of what has been suggested. However, with a balance of opinions we all stand a chance at improving the way we raise our children.

Wouldn’t it be better if we accept that we’re not always going to agree, learn to be judgemental of ourselves before someone else is and remain objective about our choices and others opinions? If everyone took a step back and a deep breath first, rather than lashing out in a defensive manner without a seconds thought, we could have a constructive conversation, beneficial to all parties, without being destructive to each other.

-B

The Forth Trimester – Tips To Aid The Transition

Yes you read it right, the fourth trimester! Everyone knows that pregnancy is made up of three trimesters. The first trimester where you may want to hurl when talking about, looking at or attempting to eat food either in the morning, noon or night or if you’re really unlucky, all three. Then there’s that bit in the middle where your bump starts to show, you feel those fluttery movements for the first time and you get to make the decision whether to find out what sex the baby is or to wait for a surprise when the birth happens. Then finally the third trimester where most people including strangers will suddenly want to know the ins and outs of your plans. You know the kind of thing I’m referring to – “Where you’re going to have the baby?”, “Do you plan to breastfeed?”, “Do you know what you’re having?”, “Have you got a name?”, “Is the baby’s room ready?”, ” Have you got everything?”.

The three trimesters we’re all familiar with are related to pregnancy, those 40 weeks that a woman carries her child with her everywhere. Nine months of uninterrupted togetherness; being one and the same, sharing every part of our lives, feeling each other’s movements. For three-quarters of a year we are never alone, we share, bond with and nurture our bodies and our babies to keep them safe, warm and protected, so they and we feel secure.

The fourth trimester refers to the first few months following birth. For first time mums especially, this is usually the period they feel the most insecure, but also the most judged. We are bombarded with conflicting information from professionals, health visitors, midwives, “self-proclaimed baby experts” and other mothers and are asked questions like “Is he a good eater?”, “Is he sleeping well?”, or my personal favourite, “Is he good?”. It’s no wonder we feel under scrutiny.

The first few months are called the fourth trimester for a reason. After being dependant on their mother for 9 months, there has to be a period of adjustment. Before birth all a baby is aware of is weightlessness, in warm, soft and dark surroundings, the muffled sound of voices (mostly mums, possibly dads or grandparents), always with the mothers constant heart beat for company. Being born into a bright, loud, cold world with scratchy, itchy materials is a massive change and one that is regularly underestimated.

The mother also has to adjust to her baby being separate from her own body. Looking after your baby when pregnant can be quite simple, avoid certain foods/alcohol and keep a relatively healthy diet; you can’t really go wrong. After birth there’s all sorts of things for mothers to fret about. It’s no wonder we might have a feeling of wanting to carry baby everywhere, it’s what you’re both used to and it’s a very natural way to feel! 

The fourth trimester is about meeting your baby’s needs, aiding their and your adjustment to life on the outside. Think of it as a transition from womb to world. There are a few ways in which to help this:

DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
This is possibly the only time you can say ‘NO!’ to the hoovering, washing up, food shopping, cooking, clothes washing and get away with it. If you want visitors, why not ask them to bring dinner, make their own tea when they arrive and make you one while they’re at it! After all, you are taking care of a new baby, so you need taking care of in turn. This is the time to call in those friendly favours and your partner to pick up the slack.

BABY WEAR
Carrying baby in a sling, will provide a feeling of comfort and closeness for baby, (a soft wrap sling is great for the early weeks). Being able to hear the heartbeat of the wearer will feel like a home from home for a newborn. With the help of a sling you can carry little one and watch tv, read a book, use the bathroom, eat dinner, it’s a win win.

For mothers, holding your baby releases the love hormone oxytocin into both your systems. This, and skin to skin contact will aid the bonding process for you both.

LISTEN AND WATCH FOR YOUR BABY’S CUES
As we’ve written about HERE, Dunstan’s Baby Language is a must have tool for any parent. You’re baby is trying to communicate with you, albeit with a different vocabulary.

Listen and watch your baby to see if you can pick up on their early signs, this will help lessen fussy and crying periods. Remember, once baby is crying it’s already too late, you’ve missed the cues and their attempt to communicate. The more you study them, the more you’ll learn and hopefully the easier your adjustment will be.

FEED ON DEMAND
Babies, like adults, can get thirsty as well as hungry. Do not worry yourself with unrealistic expectations of your baby feeding a set amount at set intervals. New babies will eat as much or as little as they want at any time of the day or night. I’m sure you do not eat the same amount of food at the same times of day, everyday; so you should not expect your baby to.

Aiming to put baby onto a feeding schedule too early will teach little one to eat when not hungry; promoting bad eating habits, that have the potential to be carried into later in life.

AID BABY WITH SLEEP
Quite a few of us have heard the ‘making a rod for your own back’ speech. This is especially given to mums who let their baby’s fall asleep at the breast and/or hold them to sleep.

Putting a baby down on their own to sleep is an unrealistic expectation, especially in the early months. Babies learn new skills with our help, love and support, this includes sleep and self settling.

SLEEP is an acquired skill and just like walking takes time, help and guidance. You would not expect your child to walk, without first rolling over, sitting unaided, crawling (sometimes backwards first), standing, walking holding furniture, to finally walking alone; albeit with many trips, stumbles and falls. Sleep is a skill that is acquired and will take time and patience to help them master, accompanied by “trips and falls” (the well known 4 month sleep regression is one).

To SELF SETTLE, a baby must first learn this skill. A great way of doing this is to hold and soothe your baby to sleep. Humming, swaying, breast feeding, talking gently or simply sitting still, in a relaxed state will teach your baby that to sleep we must be relaxed and content. The feeling of being close to someone should make for a longer more peaceful sleep for baby.

The ‘rod for your own back’ brigade give mums a false impression that if they hold baby while he/she sleeps they run the risk of baby being clingy and needy. This kind of advice is not helpful nor realistic to the baby’s needs.

Advising mums to settle baby down on their own to sleep, putting baby into eating routines and generally putting space between mother and child is more likely to create a needy baby as they feel their most basic needs are not already met.

FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS
For a child to be independent, they must first be dependant on their mother to meet their needs. This allows the baby to later inspect and explore the world from the safety of knowing their mother will meet his needs emotionally and physically, as and when he needs it.

Do not be afraid of following your heart, no matter what others think, YOU know what is best for your child. If it means standing out from the crowd then so be it. A lot of mothers are now are encouraged to not be instinctual; but instead to follow the crowd, trying out sleeping routines, feeding schedules etc, all in the hope of achieving ‘good baby’ status.

You may not always feel like you’re getting it right, but if you follow your instincts and remain objective about your choices then you’re mostly there.

 

Keep in mind that this period of adjustment is far more upsetting for baby then it is for you. You have the ability to ask for human contact if you’re feeling scared, able to express your upset and to ask for comfort if needed, make yourself something to eat or drink or take something for trapped wind. You know this world, the sights, sounds and smells. You have control of your body and know the sensations you feel. Your baby does not, and has limited ways of communicating.

So while mums, dads and babies go through this period of adjustment, encourage them to embrace the fourth trimester, not go against it. Hold baby if they want to, whether the baby is sleeping or not. Instead of showing your disapproval of bed sharing, help them find the necessary information to ensure they do it safely.

Encouraging parents to go against their instincts makes more nervous, anxious, less confident parents. Instead, encourage her mothering instincts and provide her with the same love and support she is trying to nurture her baby with. We all deserve the opportunity to become the best parents we can be to our children; with the right support along the way, we all stand a fighting chance.

 

-B

Breastfeeding from the other side! A Dads View!

Breasts; they are not obscene, they are not vaginas or penises, they are not grotesque appendages that will put people off their dinner, they are just breasts! They are the food and drink, the sustenance, the everything to my 20 week old.

Why does breastfeeding cause such an issue in today’s society?

If I see a breastfeeding woman, do I feel awkward?

Why it causes such an issue, in my opinion, is because the sight of a breast, the flash of a nipple, can and does make people feel awkward. It has made me feel awkward! But that is my issue, we are exposed to breasts in society as sex objects, there for others pleasure. As soon as they become something else, the very conduit of life, it confuses people and this confusion leads to awkwardness and prudishness.

Who’s problem is it?

IT IS NOT THE MOTHERS. It is the person experiencing the awkwardness! These persons feel they have right to interject and/or complain. It is their problem and we as society should learn to ridicule those who make this very natural and sacred act so potentially difficult and anguishing.

Now I’m not a rampaging fully signed up member to the “Breastapo”, contrary to my rant so far. I am a Dad who thinks his child should be able to feed almost anywhere without fear of interjection. I don’t think it’s appropriate to do it blatantly. If I couldn’t get away with exposing my hairy chest, then show some decorum. Yes, it is just a breast and I know that, I don’t however want a guided tour. There is no need to announce your intention to breastfeed by showing your breast to everyone within your vicinity, if there is a glimpse in the pursuit of feeding, then so be it.

I have often wondered if many of the horror stories we often hear, about discriminated breastfeeders, are because of the ‘Breastapo’ type approach; “I shall bear my breasts to everyone I possibly can whenever my baby needs feeding”

There are many ways to be less obvious, less provocative and it still be unmistakably feeding. There are any number of ways to achieve this from the simple and cheap to the custom, purpose made items. The simplest being a Muslim tied to a bra strap or a shawl or blanket draped over a shoulder. The custom items ranging from nursing tops, to ponchos, to feeding aprons.

One argument against these tend to be about covering up the baby, this isn’t always the case. Most nursing tops allow just the exposure of the area needed for nursing, meaning that when the child is latched, very little if any flesh is on show (my spouse has stood in a supermarket car park talking to strangers about a push chair whilst doing exactly that and no one had a clue she was nursing).

Along with the covering up comes the awkwardness in seeing your baby and I agree that this is probably the biggest downside to the cheap and simple solutions. However, in a pinch, it can be used successfully. A solution we found to this, in addition to nursing tops, was this nursing apron from this company, which has a rigid boned neckline that allows eye contact to be kept. We have found it invaluable and has allowed breastfeeding to be undertaken with the minimum fuss or concern from any party.

In the UK we have the remnants of Victorian prudishness and have still not shirked its hold upon society. It makes the transition harder. The sight of a breastfeeding woman should not raise eyebrows, but it does. We need to aid that transition by being and showing willingness to be courteous to others. That doesn’t mean hiding your child under a blanket in the middle of a heat wave, nor does it mean a glorified expedition of the breast during an announcement to the world of your intention to feed. It means being mindful of others and your surroundings and choosing the method that suits. If your child will only nurse if you’re naked from the waist up, then so be it, but you wont be feeding openly in a posh restaurant or at a wedding.

Whilst I agree breasts are not going to make me go blind in any circumstances, there are times when they should not be purposefully put on display; just as there are times when my hairy chest should not.

There will be times when your little one will decide that they don’t want to cooperate and will make it harder. Putting them first is always the top priority and should remain so, but that should not be used as an excuse for insensitivity to others.

Nurse in public, in shops, in restaurants, in museums, in libraries, in the post office queue, in the playground, in the car, in a car park, in the park, at dinner, at lunch, at breakfast, at a wedding, at a funeral, at a christening. We have in most of these circumstances.

Nurse anywhere and everywhere you damn well please, just show a little decorum for the environment you are in, be considerate to others and maybe, just maybe, we can all move past the stigma, that something so natural and so pure has gained; because of the lack of respect for all parties involved.

-J

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