The Colic Conspiracy

If you type “What is colic?” into Google, as many people will, you get this:

colic

ˈkɒlɪk/
noun
 
  1. severe pain in the abdomen caused by wind or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.

     

If you look it up in Collins dictionary or online here you get this:

 

colic (ˈkɒlɪk )

noun

  1. a condition characterized by acute spasmodic abdominal pain, esp that caused by inflammation, distention, etc, of the gastrointestinal tract
 

Having looked at this you would assume that if a baby has been diagnosed with colic, that it is to do with trapped wind and abdominal pain.

Wrong!

Are you shocked? I was!

That can’t be possible I thought, so I took to the Internet and found the following from the NHS:

“Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. It is a common yet poorly understood condition, affecting up to one in five babies….. The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but a number of theories have been suggested. These include indigestion, trapped wind or a temporary gut sensitivity to certain proteins and sugars found in breast milk and formula milk. However, there is currently little solid evidence to support these theories. Colic occurs equally in boys and girls, and in babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed”

Further searching shows colic could be related to any of the following:

  • Over stimulation
  • Over tiredness
  • Cows milk protein allergy and/or lactose intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Tongue tie
  • Parental anxiety/stress or PND
  • Birth trauma
  • Food intolerance’s passed through mothers milk
  • Strict enforcement of routines
  • Separation from parents
  • Trapped Wind
  • Plus many more…

There are studies that suggest colic is caused by unresponsive parenting practices and whilst I don’t doubt that parenting practices have a massively important effect on babies, it would be wrong to assume that a baby who has colic, has so because of less responsive or affectionate parent(s).

So how do you diagnose colic or more specifically infantile colic?

The most common criteria used in medical circles is the Wessel Criteria. Dr Morris Wessel came up with his definition in the 1970s, which defined a colicky infant as a child who cried for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for over three weeks. His definition was not considered scientific, but has stuck. It is often referred to as “the rule of threes” and these rules collectively as the Wessel Criteria.

So, colic is a term that is used to define a baby that cries, a lot and no one knows why. There appears to be no singular cause, which means no singular treatment. In fact, it is not actually known if the crying is because they are in pain. Compounding this, many of the signs believed to indicate pain are simply common signs of a distressed baby who has cried a lot (drawing in of arms and legs, a firm/hard stomach). If the cause cannot be isolated, how can you even begin to treat colic?

I see anti-colic bottles, anti-colic teats, anti-colic diets, colic drops and more. But how can you treat something that isn’t, it isn’t a specific disease or disorder. In short, you can’t. This is why I used the term conspiracy, many of the anti-colic aids are targeting a singular, specific cause, mostly trapped wind. But as we now know, trapped wind does not equal colic.

Many remedies contain Simethicone (AKA ‘Activated Dimethicone’) as the active ingredient (a mix of silicone oil and silica gel), with the theory being that it lowers surface tension, causes bubbles to coalesce and makes it easier for gases to dissolve in liquid, thus easing the passage of painful trapped wind. It is found in many of the market leaders “colic drops” such as Dentinox and Infacol (more on Infacol here). Research has shown Simethicone used to treat colic to be no more effective than a placebo! Probiotic remedies have also been shown to be ineffective, but I cannot find the study for the life of me, so will say no more on that subject.

Infantile colic as a definition is wide ranging and non specific, it is bandied about and highly misunderstood. Unfortunately it has become deeply engrained in society, through several generations, to be synonymous with a windy baby and the anti-colic products marketed, merely perpetuate that assumption.

Colic effects as many as 1 in 6 babies and usually peaks at around 6 weeks and subsides rapidly by 12 weeks old. Many appear to suffer the worst in the evenings between 1700 and 2200.

What to do if your child has colic?

Try to narrow down the cause, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Visit a lactation consultant/breastfeeding councillor to check for tongue tie, even if bottle feeding.
  • If breastfeeding, assess your diet. Certain foods could cause a reaction in your little one.
  • If your birth was particularly short or long, or if the baby was delivered by c-section, ventouse or forceps; Consider visiting a chiropractor or cranial osteopath.
  • Read up on the Fourth Trimester, you could start here.
  • Wait it out. Get as much support as you can, they will outgrow the colicky stage, remember, however bad it may become, “This Too Shall Pass”.

-J

 

Perpetuating The Myth

Being someone who doesn’t usually pay attention to celebrity news, media or commercial entities, I found myself attracted to the recent media coverage surrounding the birth of Robbie Williams and Ayda Field’s second child, Charlton.

The couple made numerous videos during the labour and posted them online for fans and celebrity fanatics to follow Ayda’s labour progress. Trying to keep the mood light, their videos included Ayda twerking for husband Robbie and Robbie singing the well known soundtrack to the film Frozen while Ayda has a contraction.
Since the birth, the videos have made their way onto television, online newspapers and social media sites. They have sparked many conversations and debates about everything, from whether this was a media stunt, to what mothers think and if they would have approved of their partners doing the same thing?!

Of course, like anything surrounding birth, everyone has an opinion. I’ve read everything from “Oh how funny!” to “I would kill my husband if he did that to me!”. It seems many find the videos in bad taste, asking “Is nothing private anymore?!”. However, amongst of all the comments there didn’t seem to be much said about the actual labour itself or the number of interventions that appeared to be going on despite it being portrayed as a normal labour.

Although the couple don’t go into details of the labour progression, they give the impression that everything is ‘going to plan’. Ayda doesn’t look concerned about the birth and for the most part seems quite happy playing along with Robbie’s antics.
Robbie performs his song ‘Candy’ for Ayda to take her mind off of the labour. Whether he believes this will actually help the labour move forward smoothly, or whether this is in fact a publicity stunt, Robbie appears to be unaware that if wife Ayda is irritated by his joking around, then this is likely to slow her labour down! Making the mother feel completely comfortable and safe is key to a smooth untroubled labour.
Furthermore, behind the bravado, the couple are surrounded by bright lights, a drip (most likely containing syntocinon/pitocin, a drug used to induce labour), stirrups, blood pressure cuff strapped to Ayda’s arm, use of an amnihook and when it came to ‘push’ Ayda was flat on her back with her legs in the air!

With the abundance of research carried out and information available regarding birth, you might think the couple would know to avoid interventions where possible. Bright lights can slow labour down, babies can be born with the waters still in tact and laying flat on your back is certainly not the optimal position for a smooth birth.

The after birth video quotes Ayda as saying “Every ounce counts!”, but I say “Every centimetre counts!” and laying on your back can decrease your pelvis size by 30%, constricting the opening your baby has to squeeze through and forcing them to travel uphill; making the mother’s and the baby’s job harder!

While the videos may be amusing to some, it is yet another example of how intervention has become routine, widely accepted and in some circumstances, expected. Many believe the videos were made to be all about Robbie, he is the star of the show while Ayda just so happens to be giving birth in the background. This is unfortunate because it means people lose sight of the message the footage could be sending to young women and men about birth.

Men can and do have a big part to play in the birth of their babies. They are there to ensure the mother feels secure, protected, trusted, empowered, listened to, comfortable and not rushed!

Media is powerful and what the footage portrays is overshadowed for a few laughs. If you’re going to show birth why not share the details, explain what is happening and why? Some believe birth should not be used as a media stunt, but others were annoyed that after all the hoo-ha the couple didn’t show the baby once he was born! Some might argue that once you start to put your birth on social media when does it stop becoming public and turn into something personal, exempt from the publics viewing?!

Whatever the reason behind the videos, they perpetuate the myth that interventions are ‘normal’. This does an injustice to the next generation of mums and dads who will continue the cycle of believing that a drug fuelled, intervention led, fast labour is better for them and their baby, when in fact the opposite is true!

 

-B

A Helpful Question

There are short exchanges and small remarks that can leave you feeling a little silly. The following exchange did just that and occurred at the beginning of our antenatal class:

“Do you both believe your/partners body is capable of making and growing a baby?”

Without hesitation we both answered “Yes” just as we think most people would.

It was then remarked:

“Then why would you think that a body that is capable of such a feat, would not be perfectly capable of giving birth to that same baby!”

It illustrated how irrational some of our fears really were. In that one little exchange a confidence and calmness was instilled, that stayed with us throughout. When we were worried or nervous for no apparent reason one of us would ask the other that question and found it comforting.

When you are feeling worried or anxious about your impending birth try asking yourself that same question and hopefully it will help to dispel those irrational fears many of us have.

-J

Adrenaline: Bad For Labour? Huh!

One of the things that amazed us most was learning about the negative effects adrenaline can have on labour. The pre-conceived idea of labour that most people have is a labour full of adrenaline. But this is just wrong! A calm, relaxed labour is far more beneficial and rewarding for all parties involved. A calm, quiet, drama-less labour makes for bad TV. So most, if not all labours seen on TV are loud, frenzied and drama fuelled. All this does is perpetuate the stereotype of a dramatic labour.

We have learnt many things along our way and this was probably the most enlightening of them all. It came as a shock and completely changed our approach to labour. Luckily for us, we found this out at the beginning of the second trimester; whilst we were still deciding and had no set birth plan or mindset.

When a woman goes into labour her body releases oxytocin (known as the love hormone or cuddle chemical) and that in turn releases pain relieving endorphins (morphine like in nature; but far, far more powerful, they attach to same brain receptors as morphine and codeine). It’s these two things that make labour bearable and manageable for the mother. When adrenaline is involved it directly counters the effects of oxytocin and in turn the endorphin release, resulting in reduced pain relief.

If there is too much adrenaline, it can actually stop labour and even reverse the process. This is an inbuilt system; the emergency response, the mothers instinct is to protect her child and to feel as safe and secure as possible. If she feels stressed or insecure, however minor, it will have negative effects on the progression of labour.

However, it isn’t completely bad! The negative aspects are mainly referring to the ‘up stage’ of labour or the ‘first stage’ of labour, as this is the stage that consists of the greatest proportion of time in the whole process. However, once into the second stage of labour (generally the last hour or so) there is a fine balance between oxytocin and adrenaline. Oxytocin and the other cartenocenides enable pain relief, but no endurance. This is where adrenalin kicks in, right when it’s getting too much, it slows oxytocins effect down, gives the mother a boost in energy, then backs off and the cycle starts again. This balance is completely different for every woman. Every woman will have different limits and abilities and the balance will be tuned perfectly for them, if left to do what it does best.

If all but the last hour or so of labour is adrenaline free, a woman can have access to all the pain relief she could ever need, far more potent than any available drug, just waiting for the taking.

 

– J

 

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

Mother Knows Best?

When it comes to birth there seems to be some confusion over who is in charge of the process. Is it the Mother or the Midwives and Hospital Staff?

Every time this debate arises it is met with blank expressions and shrugging of shoulders. Surely the hospital staff should be in charge because they know what is going on and will only do what is in the best interests of Mother and child?

A majority of people would like to think so, but let’s face it, from the moment you walk through those labour ward doors your clock starts ticking. In that moment what should be a perfectly normal part of every day life turns into a race against time. Suddenly labour and birth has it’s time limits and if your baby and body fail to fit within the parameters set by the ‘professionals’ then measures will be taken to aid in the safe birth of the baby. Giving the impression that Mother and child are no longer deemed capable to provide safe passage, why is this?

For the majority of us we attend a hospital for help, because something is wrong and we need an expert to tell us what it is and fix it so we feel better. With birth, many people have the same view, attending hospital to get professional help and ‘drugs’ to make them feel better. Why do many treat having a baby the same way; as if there is something wrong with them? They are not ill and certainly do not need fixing! So why are we so dependent on meddling in what is just another natural bodily function?

For many women a ‘natural’ birth would be not having pain relief other than gas and air. While this would give women a great sense of achievement, there are actually many other things that Mothers sign up to while in labour that aren’t necessarily in the benefit of the natural labouring process. For example, internal examinations are not necessary to tell dilation, using one of many other options, the position of the woman’s bump could provide enough information to which stage the labour is at. It’s hard to comprehend why examinations are widely used given that a woman could go from 2cm to 6cm and back to 2cm at any point given the circumstances at the time. There are no limits to how long each centimetre should take and therefore it is difficult to see a benefit in having this ‘routine’ procedure. In fact it could have the opposite effect, making the woman uncomfortable which could possibly slow the process down if her body reacts to the unnatural intrusion.

Every minute without progress leads closer to more internal examinations, induction drips, baby monitoring, mother monitoring, drugs and in a lot of cases the mother having to remain stagnant on a hospital bed so the Midwives can monitor their progress.

Everything natural about the process is removed until we are left with a situation that must be controlled. Moving further and further away from the natural beauty that is birth.

It is also frustrating that many mothers are not warned of the consequences of having such ‘routine’ procedures; in many cases, intervention leads to intervention. Every time we interrupt a woman in labour, we are potentially setting her progress back, this could lead to her feeling more uncomfortable and out of control. The ‘professionals’ are potentially slowing down her body’s ability to birth, thus requiring more interventions to get her back on track. That’s not to say an internal examination will lead to an epidural, c-section or otherwise; but it increases the likelihood.

When something has to be done, is the Mother being told or asked?

It seems that many women are not aware that in the UK there are laws to protect women so they can make choices regarding their birth experience (for more info see this article).  This means that it is not the Hospital ‘letting you have your baby without intervention’, it is the Mother who gives permission. Permission to carry out examinations, monitor mum and baby; permission to oversee her birth and administer care when she so asks or agrees to it. Unfortunately this is not common practice and for the most part it is completely the opposite.

Many women are not aware that they can and should be in charge of what is going on. Midwives and birth partners are simply there to facilitate it. I have met some wonderful midwives who understand and encourage women to experience childbirth the way every woman deserves to. I was fortunate to have such a midwife present at the birth of my child and to her I am grateful of the support and respect of my choices throughout my pregnancy, my birth and after.

However, there are midwives who either do not care or do not understand how their actions can have a detrimental effect on the mothers ability to birth and bond with her child after birth. It is true that you do not get a medal for going ‘Au Naturel’, but having the opinion that it is of no benefit/gain to a woman and baby, is ignorant at best.

For the most part though, I feel that many midwives have their hands tied by ‘the system’; they are given a set of parameters in which they have to assess the progress of the birth and provide the ‘necessary’ care to ensure every mothers stays somewhere within them. So concerned of the blame culture we have nowadays we seem to have lost the ability to be subjective and see the bigger picture.

Instead of disabling women with time limits, unneeded interventions and blinding them with unnecessary rhetoric that is for the most part neither useful nor helpful to a birthing mother. We should be empowering women, better educating them, encouraging and enabling them to take charge of their birth; trust their instincts and provide them with safe secure surroundings, in which to experience what should be the biggest achievement she has ever made.

For info on birthing rights or queries regarding them in the UK try here http://www.birthrights.org.uk/ or here http://www.aims.org.uk

– B

Home Birth – You’re Brave!

Deciding to birth our baby at home was absolutely the right decision for us, it was disappointing that other people did not see it that way.

At our 16 week midwife appointment we had a lengthy chat about our birthing method and our choices on where to birth. Up to this point birthing at home seemed like a wonderful idea but a scary prospect. After a frank discussion our apprehensions were all but gone; the only thing holding us back now was the worry of what other people will think! What if other people don’t approve? Or if they find the prospect scary and inappropriately start to talk to me about what would be their fears?! We made the decision there and then that we both wanted a home birth, but it was something I was not ready to reveal to others just yet.

So we continued with our birth course and researched the facts about birthing, we researched the research to make sure it was balanced and left no stone unturned. If we were going to do this we needed to ‘know our stuff’; ‘winging it’ wasn’t going to be good enough and quite honestly I feel would’ve been irresponsible.

When the time came to ‘go public’ we were over 32 weeks pregnant. I still wasn’t confident that people would be accepting of our choices, but I was confident we had made the right choice and was ready for any eventuality. As suspected, we were met with questions of ‘Do they let you do that with your first baby?’ and statements like ‘You’re brave!’ People were also shocked that you can ‘Only have gas and air!’ at a home birth.

What’s more, they were quite happy to share their awful birthing experiences with us, I can imagine the only reason for this being that it was supposed to ‘prepare’ us for what they thought we might experience.

So sick of the naysayers I started to retaliate. When men would say ‘You wait till you start to shout at your husband, poor bloke won’t know what’s hit him!’, I would reply ‘If I’m shouting then something has gone astray, there is no benefit to shouting while giving birth’. When women would say ‘Only gas and air or a paracetamol – do they think you’re having a baby or a headache?!’ I would state ‘Considering my body will provide a natural painkiller 200 times more powerful than morphine; I’m hopeful I won’t need anything else’. I was aware that this could be coming across as confrontational at times, but I was tired of women who had babies saying ‘You wait until it happens, and you’ll do anything and everything to get that baby out!’

I learnt a lot about people’s outlook on birth over those few weeks. It would seem that people view birth in a way that is generally portrayed in films and on so-called ‘reality’ TV. Unfortunately these things are edited for entertainment, therefore are not a true and balanced reflection of reality.

Eventually I learnt to ignore the raised eyebrows and the rolled eyes, especially the looks of disbelief when I confidently told people that I was not worried about the birth or apprehensive about the pending arrival, but was excited to meet my bundle of joy and sad my pregnancy was coming to an end.

It’s upsetting that my initial suspicions about people’s reactions were right. I found this disappointing, but the more people we spoke to, the more confident I became in my and our baby’s ability to do this! Birth, I felt, did not have to be screaming and sweating and swearing and crying and begging for it to be over. Instead I pictured it as an uncomfortable task that would be overshadowed by joy and excitement and happiness and wonder and love; lots and lots of love.

– B

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