The Bad Sleep Habits We Taught Our Newborn

334808_2242411812124_180247475_oWhen my son was born I was a nervous wreck. I had many years of experience working with babies but they always started with me after 6 months. I had no idea newborns cried so much. I was lost. So I searched the internet. I found so many opinion articles and blog posts telling me how it was NOT okay for a baby to cry as much as my son was; how it was damaging his brain. I even had a woman leading an infant group tell me that babies experienced pain when they cry. Nonsense! These things are the worst things you can tell a new mom, especially one prone to anxiety. What I needed to hear during this time was that some babies just cry a lot (my son now talks constantly) and that my anxiety was making it worse. I needed to hear that babies fuss in their sleep. I needed to hear about purple crying.

So in an (often failed) attempt to have a silent and peaceful newborn as I imagined should be, we made a lot of mistakes.

I nursed him to sleep and then let him stay latched on for hours. Often holding in pee or literally starving myself as I sat there unable to move lest I wake him.

My husband bounced him on the ball so that he would stay asleep. This meant an hour or so of just movement to keep him in a state of half sleep. 

We followed the 5 S’s, also known as The Happiest Baby on the Block.

Even when he was asleep and made fuss sounds I would get nervous and nurse him. I was literally waking my child every 45-minutes to an hour to nurse him when all he needed was sleep. 

Why were these bad habits? Because my son got used to this way of sleeping, which was not his way, but our anxiety-filled minds solution to a problem that was possibly never there. Every single time he fussed we didn’t listen; we just jumped in and tried to solve the problem based on what outside sources were saying.  At 4 months, when things were really bad and we were all frustrated, we changed. I had a good talk with my pediatrician about purple crying and I found Janet Lansbury’s post on why I could calm down about the crying. So we slowed down. When he cried, I paused and listened to him. I calmed down enough to pay attention to what he was really saying to me. We had to face the fact that we had gotten him used to certain habits that did not actually allow him to get proper sleep. We realized that what he needed to get his sleep was to fall asleep on his own, in his own quiet and dark space. Not because someone told us that this is what babies need, but because we payed attention to him and followed our intuition. We went through a 3-day process where we explained the changes to him and supported him as he struggles through these. After a few days he had recovered from sleep deprivation and finally became a happy baby.

This was a hard process for me because at that time I was surrounded by parenting advice that said the only way to be a gentle and compassionate parent was to sleep with your baby and wear them and hold them all the time. This was terrible advice because it just didn’t fit our temperaments. My son is now 2 and very independent. He likes to do everything on his own and will often go into his room to play quietly by himself. We do have lots of quality time together, but it’s crystal clear now that he just wants his own space from time to time. Even when he is sick we try to sleep with him and he pushes us away. I mean, I prefer to have my own space when I sleep and also love time to myself to decompress so it would make sense that my son is like this as well.

We have another baby on the way and I plan on doing things differently. It’s not that I plan on NOT doing any or all of these techniques to help my new baby. Maybe they will work for this next child or maybe they won’t. The change I will make will be a mental one; this time it won’t be a parenting method that I listen to.  I will allow myself to calm down about the crying, pause and actually listen to what my new baby has to say.

Why RIE?

What is RIE? “The approach is based a view of infants as unique individuals — whole people — and capable ones, too. We aim to treat infants with the same level of respect we would extend to an adult. We … Continue reading

Ten Reasons Why I Love to Nanny With My Baby

ImageBefore my son was born, I knew that I would nanny with him. I had worked with children of all ages for many years before deciding to have children so I knew that I would figure it out. When he was 3 months old we began this journey into nannying together. At first it was really hard, but then I adapted and I was pleased by all of the benefits!

1. He has pseudo siblings. Lucas gets so much friend time that it just doesn’t feel like he needs a sibling right now. Now that he is 1 1/2 years old people love to ask me when the next one is coming and it’s very easy to shrug off the question and say “who knows!” It’s great because I really don’t want another child right now but would struggle with this if he didn’t have daily exposure to other children.

2. He learns to care for others. Ever since he was a baby, he watched as I cared for the other children in my care. I often involve him in this process now that he is older, such as: “Sophia is so sad, can you help her feel better?” I am really enjoying the level of empathy he seems to have gained from this.

3. He knows how to share mommy. I can hug and love other children and he has not yet complained about this. He will often come over for a quick hug while I hug the others, but then goes on his way. I have lots of love to give and am happy that he seems to know that I can share that love.

4. He learns patience. Sometimes, he’s just got to wait. I have to cloth, change and feed other people, including myself. I feel that if I were alone with him he would not see that he AND other children are all learning to wait their turn and that is just a part of the world.

5. I learn flexibility. As I must balance everyones needs, I learn how to meet them with calm and grace. It always works out for the best and I have learned to trust this. I know my personality and if I were at home alone all day I would never go anywhere or do anything to disrupt my routine comfort. This makes me braver and I am happy to say that his infant time was filled with fearless outings.

6. I gain close parent peers. I see parents at playgroups and church, but it’s only at most once a week. When I nanny I see the parents multiple times a week and so we are better able to openly discuss the challenges and successes in our parenting. I feel like it’s closer to the type of ‘village’ that used to raise children. (Though it is nice that there are parent groups that are beginning to heal this loss of community, like the Peps Organization and Meetup.com)

7. He gets to live in the early childhood world. Adult voices can be so exhausting for small children and we just don’t know how to play anymore. When my son gets to be around other children, I feel as if he can relax more in his own peer group. He plays better and has a calmer disposition when there are these little people around that are just his same size acting in the same silly little way.

8. He learns more! When watching the older children, little ones see how life is lived. The simplist activities like crawling, walking, holding a spoon, putting on a shoe or sitting in a chair are demonstrated much better by someone who has had recently learned all of this. (The plus side for the older children is that the gain confidence when they can teach this!)

9. He is not the center of the universe. It’s not all about him, not now and not ever. I believe that it’s crucial that we learn this as human beings; there are other people in the world that we must always consider. A little selfishness has it’s place but building good communities start with selflessness. My feelings, daddy’s feelings and anyone else in our care’s feelings matter too and the quality (vs. quantity) of the care he receives from me is what will matter in the end. When he actually has to experience this now, it’s easier than having to teach it to him later.

10. I have so much fun! Sometimes days are tricky, but mostly the days are filled with cooking, cleaning, playing, laughter and joy! It’s very fun to share this with multiple children because when something is fun, it’s so much MORE fun with each additional child! Sometimes I feel like I have bright, shiny wings and 20 arms while I dance and sing about like a pixie! I was born to be a mother and teacher of small children so this is excatly where I WANT to be.

If you are considering nannying with your own children I feel that you must ask yourself several questions: Do I have an amazing amount of patience? Do I mind being really messy all of the time? Do I have the ability to practice meditation and inner work so that I may have a peaceful and empty mental space for the children? Am I okay with my baby crying while I care for the other children? Can I successfully and happily juggle 30 things at once? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Will I be able to strive for really good and open communication with the parents I work with? The most important part of working with a family is the communication. Once you find a family that you feel fits your just right, then it can blossom into a beautiful experience. I have had great succes because the families I like to work with are kind and genourous families that share a similar respect for their children as I practice with my own.

See these sleepy little cuddle buddies. When I ask if he’s ready to go see the children I nanny, he laughs, nods and says “YES!”

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My Son’s Middle Name is Danger: Allowing Risky Behavior for Little Ones.

IMG_1690Today I read this post by Anna from Mama’s in the Making and it got my blood boiling because I have been in this situation and passionately agree with her points! She clearly states the many positives of letting you little ones take risks; specifically busy toddlers. Boy do I know about busy toddlers as my son is quite the little ‘problem solver’ (that is a nice way of saying ‘complete trouble maker’). In our own house this is fine because we have an environment where he has freedom to play and ‘problem solve’ as much as he wants. It’s when we go to other’s houses or public play areas that the real problem comes.

I was recently in a situation where I was around some overprotective adults who were constantly on his heals for every little slip and fall. I kept quite for a long time until I completely lost it and literally ran in tears. As a mother who takes great pride in my ability to stay calm when my son face plants in the dirt and stands back up laughing, I felt completely belittled. I carefully observe every little move my son makes, evaluating when he needs help, watching him gracefully move in a way most 16 month old children don’t. I see him develope his gross motor skills and sense of physical sense awareness and feel such pride for him. There are many mistakes I have made thus far in my short stint with parenting, but his natural physical development is one thing I have always tried to protect.

In this post Anna says it perfectly: “Risks are part of the game. As soon as babies begin to move around freely they start taking risks. They roll over one side without knowing what will happen when they are on the other side – on their belly. Their head is still heavy and difficult to control, and usually the first rolling over is followed by a bang on the floor or surface underneath. A crucial moment. Do I jump in and support him, place blankets and mattresses everywhere so he won‘t hurt? Or do I let him learn the Art of Falling?” When my son was 4 months old I had to train myself to wait…wait…wait, and then help.There were many hard moments when he would cry when his arm was stuck or he was stuck in a corner. Then came the moments when he would pull up on furniture and fall backwards (onto the pillows I would provide for extra support, so that he COULD fall). Not only does this help with thier motor skills and physical capability, it improves attention span to let them be! Janet Lansbury says: “give babies the opportunity to continue what they are doing, learn more about what interests them, develop longer attention spans and become independent self-learners.”

IMG_4828Our children are going to make mistakes and fall and fail. We can start now by learning to give space and let them find thier own way in life: “Learning to assess risk is learning to judge reality; it is learning what we can and cannot do; it is, above all, learning what to do in a situation when we don’t know what to do. This is a great skill, one that is useful in just about everything we can think of. Knowing how to look at dangerous situations and figuring out what to do to stay safe is definitely something we want our children to learn. Knowing when it is worth making that extra step to the other side might be one of the things that will determine how they fare in life. Essentially, knowing how to take risks means also knowing how to stay safe… most of the time. After all – sometimes risking in life is exactly what allows us to go where we need to go, and maybe find our own path.”

Next time when I am in danger of fighting and running in tears in frustration, I will try to simply say: “I trust my child, please trust me.”

What are your thoughts? I would love to discuss this with Mom’s who have a different perspective.

Love, Respect and Disagreement

I don’t have to agree with you to love and respect you.This is a phrase that I have been pondering lately. I find that it applies to two areas in my motherhood, my relationship to children and especially my relationship with other parents, caregivers and friends.

With children, there are many things we disagree with on a daily basis, like whether or not shoes should be worn outside, or if we should feed the dogs our dinner, or if it’s a good idea to eat bugs that are found in the dirt. “I don’t want you to do that.”  Is a phrase that I say more often, but I would like to start saying “I don’t agree with that.” I like the latter because in that instance it implies that both myself and the child have opinions that matter. When I simply say that I don’t want something to happen, while being honest, I am still never allowing room for negotiation when it’s appropriate. There is never negotiation when it comes to health and safety, but perhaps eating bugs is something I can learn to understand even though it is SO gross to me. I have a boy, so I will have to learn to tolerate the gross. :) As Magda Gerber of RIE says: “Respect is the basis of the RIE hilosophy. We not only respect babies, we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being.

With adults, there are always things we disagree on, especially when it comes to parenting philosophies. We will never be in complete agreement with anyone because there are so many intricicities to parenting, well, to life actually! This is where it is important to say to another person, “You may not agree with this point of view and that is okay.” With all of my experience and information I have a great deal of opinions and ideas about parenting that I love to share, but this does not mean that I am ever right or better in my views. I recently had a conversation with a good friend about spanking and how I am not at all for spanking and she is. I really wrestled with this for awhile (and still am) but I am determined to come to a place where I accept and trust her point of view on the matter. I still love and respect that mother dearly, and her choice is her own. As a mother, teacher, nanny and friend, I will always strive to view any other parents choices in a positive light and come to peace with their choices.

I very much believe that our children come to us for a reason, for all of our good and all of the mistakes we will make as parents. It is our job to love and respect our children unconditionally throughout their lives, even when we completely disagree with their actions and our job as grow-up children to strive to see the good in our own parents. Perhaps we can work to extend this task to our parent peers as well; to learn to respect other parents choices and strive to remove our judgement of them. In doing this, our hearts may be lighter and our children may learn from our effort to be better human beings.

Here are a few GREAT books for working with your children: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, By Magda Gerber and Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Drukerman.

Here is a great book that will help remove judgement and cultivate love: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. (Or read brief summery here)

Those are only a few books and I would LOVE to learn about more books to help me on this quest.

 

What are your thoughts? Does this seem like an impossible task to you or something to strive for? What would be something that you would struggle with in others parenting choices?

What Does Unassisted Natural Development Look Like?

When babies are free to explore and develop unassisted at their own pace they perform beautiful dance from laying on their back to walking. For some babies, this process happens fast and is completed by 9 months! For most, it will take around a year and for some it will take longer. For parents, it is a joy to watch our children discover their capabilities and it is important to be patient and let this happen at your baby’s unique pace. As stated by Janet Lansbury in this post: Infant Development Experts Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler “both had keen interest in the physiology of motor development that was not restricted, aided or taught. Through many years of research, observation and experience, Pikler concluded that when infant development is allowed to occur naturally, without interference, there are not only physical benefits such as grace and ease of movement, but psychological and cognitive benefits as well…”

“The learning process will play a major role in the whole later life of the human being. Through this kind of development, the infant learns his ability to do something independently, through patient and persistent effort. While learning during motor development to turn on his belly, to roll, to creep, sit, stand, and walk, he is not only learning those movements, but also *how to learn*. He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction that is derived from his success, the result of his patience and persistence.”Dr. Emmi Pikler

The Dance (As seen from a mother’s eyes watching her son)

Here he is brand new laying on his back, limbs moving as if underwater, freely and rhythmically while his eyes focus on the magic of the new world that I can no longer comprehend through my adult eyes. I enjoy watching this; watching him discover that he is here now and his body and world are his own. Eventually he finds his hands in excitement and confusion, his eyes focus on his fingers as his brow furrows at this spectacle. “Is this attached to me?” He lays and watches as he discovers that he has control over this hand, his own hand! Next are his feet, he sees them and then he grabs them with his hands! Like magic, he can make these things happen! He grabs them and begins to roll onto his side on accident. This is frustrating for him and alarming, his whole world view has just moved, he cries until he is on his back again where he feels safe. But this new thing that was scary has become fascinating and he begins to rock back and forth eventually lands on his belly! What a change! He sits in amazement and shock at this new perspective and slowly gets his arms out from under him.

He can now lay on his belly and push up onto his arms where he can move his head around to look at this new world. When he pushes hard enough, he rocks onto his knees, which is very exciting. He squeals in happiness as he rocks back and forth! Now he can see what is around him and what he wants. A toy sits a foot away and he grabs for it, but it’s too far and he cries. Fighting through frustration, he learns that he CAN prevail and eventually scoots on his tummy to the toy. Fantastic, more squeals of delight! He has discovered how to push himself onto his arms and flop himself forward on his belly. First he forms a circle of movement and then suddenly he is in the kitchen, 10 feet from where he began!

Later, he is on his hands and knees rocking and he reaches for a toy with his hand, only his knee follows suit! He discovers that when his knees follow his hands, he can move faster, and he is all about faster! First he tries moving his parallel hands and feet, then discovers that alternating is far more efficient. Now here he is, crawling about my house, going in places I never expected, like behind the toilet and under the bed. Oh how he laughs with me when I find him in these places. Next he learns how to sit, and oh how pretty he is. With one hand down and one on his hip he just looks so fancy. And oh what a place to be, where he can balance on his own and play!

Soon he discovers that if he grabs onto furniture that is taller than him he can become taller himself by standing! But he gets stuck here and cries and falls. Up and down he stands and falls and cries until eventually he learns on his own how to put his hand on the floor first or fall on his bottom, much to his delight. He now scoots all around the tables and chairs. One day, he grabs an object on the table and lets go to hold the object, what a surprise as he falls, but now he has learned how to trust his movement so immediately tries and tries to stand on his own over and over until standing becomes his own. He pulls himself up, lets go and looks at me with excited eyes that seem to say: “look what I am doing Mommy! All on my own!” “Yes, you are standing all on your own,” I say back to him.Now to go and get to the dogs, he falls down to crawl so fast to them, bear crawling now because it is faster. What? The feet move? He stands and instead of crawling after something, he takes one step, then two, then three! He practices, walking towards me with his eyes full of joy and excitement.

Watching him walk to me with those eyes and that smile, knowing that I let him do all of this on his own; I gave him his space and his walking belongs entirely to himself.  That thought fills me with complete joy and pride. He still walks towards me, all wobbly and full of joy, but soon he will walk away from me, out to explore the world on his own with complete trust in his body and his world.

Over the course of a year or so all babies will make this progression, if left to do so on their own. When we put them in positions that they cannot get into themselves, it will interfere with their natural progression and cause frustration. Now it is said that a lot of babies skip crawling, I believe that this has to do with the rise of sitting babies up in unnecessary infant seats and the feeling that we must rush our babies into the next developmental milestone. As Ruth Ann Hammond states: “The inner drive to be upright is hard to turn off once it has been turned on, but when babies are allowed to “hang out” on their backs until they can do otherwise without help, eventually they can do so many things through their own initiative that they love being on the floor to play.”  When it comes to development, faster is not always better. Some children develop their movement fast all on their own and some wish to take their time. Patience is the key.

“I believe in giving your baby a safe space in which to play and letting her move freely and develop on her own without assisting her. Refrain from propping her up to sit or helping her roll over. She has an innate desire to move through these developmental sequences and has inborn knowledge of how to do it in a way that is “right” for her. She does this at her own pace and she gets pleasure from doing it.” –Magda Gerber

Natural Progression of Infant Development: Adapted from AAP and Baby 411

This is a chart I made that covers the natural progression of movement from laying on their backs to walking. Notice that I have left out tummy time and sitting baby up as some believe these are unnecessary.

Rolls onto tummy                                                             3 – 8 mo.

Scoots around on tummy                                               4 – 8 mo.

Crawls                                                                                  5 – 12 mo.

Gets to sitting without help                                           6 – 12 mo.

Pulls self-up to standing                                                 6 – 12 mo.

Stands alone briefly                                                         7 – 13 mo.

Cruises  around on furniture                                         7 – 14 mo.

Stands alone                                                                       9 – 15 mo.

Walks alone                                                                        9 – 16 mo.

Here is a great article by Emmi Pikler about the Natural Development of Movement that I highly suggest you read.

You can also look into Amazing Babies by Beverly Stokes and Your Self-Confidant Baby by Magda Gerber for more information on Natural and Unassisted Development during the first year. Please share your thoughts and stories on this topic as I would love to hear your thoughts.

Praise or Acknowledgment?

Lately, I have been thinking about how I should address my Son with all of his growing skills, like crawling or waving. It IS amazing to watch him do these things, but is that a sentiment I should share with him? I watch him crawl around all over and act in developementally advanced ways for his age, and listen to people around me tell him how “super” or “amazing” he is and somehow, all I feel is the need to protect him from this pressure. I just want to scoop him up and tell him I love him no matter what he does! When he crawls, or if When he throws a fit when I wipe his nose, he is still amazing to me.

In Magda Gerber’s book, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, she has a chapter on this very subject. There is a chapter on Praise or Acknowledgment in which she says: “Occasional reflections reassure the infant of our full attention and show our empathy. Rather than to give praise, the adult can be a broadcaster and describe the child’s actions.” Children do not have a need to be “amazing” or “wonderful”, they have a need to be SEEN. Instead of “Look at how great you are standing up all by yourself,” we can say “Look at you, standing all by yourself.” It is such a subtle shift by a paramount one for your little one.

“The commonly used “good girl” or “good boy” often becomes mechanical and subtly demeaning. It implies the child’s value as a person is contingent on his “performance.” It can create a conflict for the child. He may think he acts “bad” if he acts differently from whatever has just been praised as “good.”” What starts as a well-meaning and innocent show of love for our children, becomes, later in life, a complex of which much counseling may be needed. There are so many adults these days that feel inadequate when they hold normal, “boring” jobs and perform mediochre life tasks. Our value does not have to be in WHAT WE DO, but WHO WE ARE. Perhaps, with practice, we can learn to acknowlegde the good AND the bad, get rid or praise and reprimand, and simply help our little human being feel “seen” in the world.

Lisa Sunbury gives some great examples of how to acknowledge your child in her post Praise Not: “I suggest if you really want to convey your love, and let your child know you really see, hear, and appreciate his efforts and achievements, you say things like this: “Wow, I really like how you are remembering to stay near me today instead of wandering off.” Or, “Thank you for waiting so patiently while I paid for the groceries. That really helped me.” Or, “You remembered to walk while we were in the library today, and I didn’t have to remind you.” Or, “You worked really hard to put your shoes on all by yourself and you did it!” “Wow, look at all of the different colors you used in that drawing. You worked on it for a really long time. Tell me more about it.” “You were patting the kitty so gently. I can tell she liked it, because she was purring.” “You tried, and you tried, and you did it!”  ”I noticed you shared your snack with your friend today.” Say thank you, and give specific, meaningful feedback about what you see, what you hear, what you appreciate, and what you notice, especially when your child has really persisted in a task, has acted kindly, or has co-operated with you in some way. It’s always appropriate to thank your child when they co-operate with a request.”

What do you think of praise vs. acknowledgment? Do you feel that criticism and praise affected who you are as an adult?

Intuition vs Information: Thoughts on The Parenting Method War

There is much debate about which parenting method is the ‘right’ one. It seems, at times, that I see wars going on all over the place; CIO vs. co-sleeping, Attachment parenting vs. Babywise, Day care vs. Stay at hom moms, etc. etc. etc. I’ve often thought that perhaps all of this debate is rather pointless. Perhaps all of this parenting advice is just helpful tools or even confirmations for us that we are doing the right thing for our children. We choose the philosophy that resonates with us the most and use that as our guide, and then we have these little people that join us in our world and get everything they need from our own individual styles as parents. They chose US as parents, and naturally we will give them everything they need to become the adults they are meant to be.

I chose a Waldorf/RIE method to follow for my parenting style and my profession. At the heart of Waldorf philosophy, the work we do is primarily of a spiritual nature. This could also be interpreted as intuition if you choose to see it that way. There are actually exercises and meditations we can do to stregthen this spiritual/intuitive quality in us as mothers. Some believe that we all have Spiritual helpers, or Angels, that help guide our way. As a woman who works with young children for my life’s work, I feel that this is so true for me. If I am actively working on my meditative/inner work practice, I am allowing myself to be open to divine intuition to help guide my way from day to day. I’m not thinking about how to work within a certain pre-determined method; I am listening to the moment. During a particularly challenging time, we can wait a few moment before we react and take a deep breath and the answer to the problem might be given to us.

Now, this is what I am experiencing in my work with children and it might be entirely different for everyone else, but the intuition is still there for each of us.  Whether you are following Angels and intuition or following a book, you are following your heart and doing exactly the right thing for YOUR children. Can you imagine a world where, instead of criticism and blame, we are surrounded by support and understanding? Can you imagine being out in public and not feeling self-conscious of your parenting but feeling empowered by the people around us? What are you thoughts on how to bring acceptance and trust for every mother and her own individual parenting method?