Monday, August 30, 2010
The Side Laying position was one of the most difficult positions for me to learn but was by far the most rewarding. I discovered that it is difficult to learn for many moms but often a life-saver or rather a sleep-saver and sanity-saver. So after asking around a bit I've come up with a few side laying position tips. I encourage you to keep trying until you get this right, you will be amply rewarded! And keep in mind that the more head control your baby has the easier this position becomes.
Side Laying Position Tips:
1. Lay Tummy to Tummy - After awhile this can become more flexible with baby or you laying more towards your back, but when first starting out it is important to lay tummy to tummy. This means turning baby on his/her side while you are on your side.
2. Proper Arm Positioning - Most women like to put the arm they are laying on up over the baby's head while nursing. This also helps protect your pillow from scooting down to the babies head if you were to fall asleep while nursing. I prefer to prop baby's head on my arm. It also prevents the pillow problem and for me it is most comfortable.
3. Pull Baby In - Scoot baby into you. Once you are both laying down use your arm to pull baby in closer to you. For some moms tummy to tummy works the best and for others it works best when baby's legs are pulled into the tummy but there is a little room where the head is.
4. Room for Air - Think about what naturally causes baby's head to tip back. If you align your little one's nose tip with your nipple then it will cause baby to tilt head back some. This isn't necessary if you can work it out otherwise but is helpful to moms who are concerned about this issue.
4. Hold Your Breast - Some moms will need to hold their breast with the arm they are not laying on. I'm a "breast holder" and it works for us. If you have bigger breasts this might make the difference from being able to side lay comfortably and not being able to do so. I can even comfortably fall asleep while holding my breast so don't think it will deter you if that is what you would like to do.
5. The Switch - If your baby needs to switch breasts there are two methods you can easily use. One is to simply offer your second breast while laying on your side. This works mostly for women with bigger breasts. The other method is to grab baby with the arm you are laying on up onto your tummy then simply roll baby to the other side. It's actually quite fun and baby learns quickly this means s/he will be getting more milky.
6. Pillows - For some moms it can be more comfortable to put a pillow behind their back to support it while laying on their side. For others it makes things easier to put a pillow behind baby's back (although this can pose a safety issue if you are falling asleep).
7. Safety - If you are using the side laying position to help you co-sleep please follow safe co-sleeping practices. You can safe co-sleeping tips in many places, one of which is the book "Sleeping with Your Baby" by J. McKenna. Many moms will put their arm above baby's head or under baby's head to prevent baby from moving up into her pillows. And many moms will bend their knees under their baby to prevent baby from scooting down into the blankets.
If you have additional tips please add them in the comments section and at some point you may see them included in this post!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Dear New Mother,
When will you next get some sleep?
Perhaps it will be when the first night you bring your baby home...
Or will your desire to watch the little human you created and worry over it's safety keep you awake?
Perhaps it will be when you have finally become used to have a small baby in your house and are exhausted from all the new demands put upon you...
Or will the biology of your day and night confused newborn force you to stay awake?
Perhaps it will be when your baby is a bit older, no longer a newborn, and seemingly the entire universe is telling you your baby should be sleeping through the night....
Or will the middle of the night cries of hunger for that dear bottle or breast touch your heart enough that it keeps you awake?
Perhaps it will be when you've overcome the influence of others and now have a walking and talking toddler..
Or will the tears of a "big kid" who wakes up at night sad because they have wet the bed once again keep you awake?
Perhaps it will be when you finally have a child, a little person surely capable of sleeping at night...
Or will that first nightmare that makes you want to hug your child and let him/her know how safe they really are cause you to stay awake?
Perhaps it will be when you've put that child to bed early so that Santa can come and leave a gift...
Or will that little bright excited face keep you awake (or rather wake you up out of anticipation!)?
Perhaps it will be when your child has their first sleepover....
Or will the anxiety and nervousness of having your child away from home and wondering how s/he is being treated keep you awake?
Perhaps it will be when your now older child starts sleeping happily at night....
Or will that horrible illness that is spreading around vatch your kid and your desire to comfort them through the sickness keeps you awake?
Perhaps it will be not when your child sleeps, but when your pre-teen stays awake all night cramming for an exam....
Or will you worry so much about your child not getting enough sleep their self that you stay awake? Or will you stay awake yourself trying to help with the homework?
Perhaps it will be when you have a teenager fully capable of caring for themself?
Or will the first time they miss curfew and the constant wondering if you should call the cops or give it one more hour keeps you awake?
Perhaps it will be when you trust the peers of your teenager so much so that a missed curfew no longer bothers you?
Or will the time they come home heartbroken for the first time or teased to tears keep you awake?
Perhaps it will be prom night when you fully relinquish control, you no longer have a say and can only hope your child has grown into a mature responsible adult...
Or will the thoughts of that safe-sex talk you had the night before keep you awake?
Perhaps it will come when your child, now adult, finally has their own place?
Or will the lonliness, utter silence, and worry of your child's safety keep you awake?
Perhaps it will be when your child is expecting themself and calls in the middle of the night thinking they have had labor contractions (or wife/partner has)?
Or will the anticipation and excitement, the thoughts of what your grandchild will look like, keep you awake?
And then starts a new generation. When will your daughter or son get any sleep?
When we choose to become a mother we choose our baby over ourself. At least I hope that is the case. So let's get real for a minute. When you have your beautiful new baby you have given up sleep for *at least* the next 18 years. When I read about all the moms who just want their baby to learn to sleep through the night I have to take a deep breath and chuckle a little. I want to say "But momma your little one is going to keep you up for the next eighteen years, enjoy the night wakings now and just get used to it". We might as well do just that, get used to it. When we accept that a reasonable amount of sleep is no longer something that we will always, or for some of us 'ever', get then we can find other ways to get in some rest or feel refreshed and happy as parents.
Find a way to embrace and enjoy this new era of your life. Even without that much needed sleep.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
1. Change Your Expectations - The first thing that we need to consider is changing our idea of what normal baby sleep consists of. If we expect our child to sleep through the night before the age of 18 months then we just might be kidding ourselves. And 18 months is pretty much an arbitrary number but I've put it in here to let you know that anything younger than that is completely up in the air. In fact the human adult wakes up, on average, every 90 minutes. So perhaps it is all just a big joke. Our children will never sleep through the night. The sooner we accept this the easier this sleep issue will become. We know that mother's stress levels affect baby's mood. We know that mother's emotional availability affects baby's sleeping habits. And we know, or should know, that biologically human infants were made to wake often during the night. This being exaggerated for breastfed infants but still true for every infant. And if they do sleep through the night it is likely that will change during a growth spurt, a developmental change, an illness and so on. This doesn't mean there aren't the rare few who do sleep through the night with little intervention and those babies aren't abnormal. They are just ahead of the game. I guess all-in-all this is a soft way of saying that when you became a parent you gave up your right to a good night's sleep. It will likely be a long time until you get one and that is fully normal especially for the infant who is just responding to how nature made them. And, in fact, accepting this will actually help you get a better night's sleep. Yes, I realize that is quite an interesting conundrum.
2. Make a Happy Mommy - The next thing we can work on is helping mom feel better. Since we have accepted that our babies are not going to sleep through the night we can focus on making mom's (and/or dad's) mental health and mood positive. This could mean feeling better through night wakings, for the mom who has a baby that isn't napping, or just feeling better overall.
Mommy Wellness Tips:
A. Naps - Do your best to fit in a nap. Even cat naps are restorative. So if you can slip in ten minutes in the car after work that will help! Or sleep 20 minutes during LO's afternoon nap. The afternoon nap is the one where baby is likely to sleep deepest and longest.
B. Stations - Set up food and drink stations around the house. That way if you become overwhelmed you can nourish yourself easily. You *will* feel better if you drink plenty of water and keep up on your calorie intake. So, put water bottles where LO sleeps and little snack baggies.
C. Enjoyment - Find something you can enjoy during the Middle of the Night wakings. Play on the internet, watch your DVR or a DVD, read a book. Anything that can take your mind off your stress and bring you a bit of mindless pleasure.
D. Anticipation - Try to build up a sense of anticipation for your Middle of the Night wakings. Even make it fake if you must. Figure out anything you can focus on as enjoyable during the MOTN so you can wake up happy.
E. Assess - Assess Yourself! Are you hungry, too hot, thirsty? Yes, we know you are tired! But what about your other needs. If you aren't meeting them all then it can make everything more difficult.
3. Educate Yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you know the less difficult your challenges will be, the more normal they will seem, and the less likely you will try non-gentle parenting techniques. this will also leave you armed with information in case a friend or a doctor recommends non-gentle parenting techniques.
A. Read some gentle parenting sleep books.
My top three recommendations are (in no particular order):
aa. The No Cry Sleep Solution
bb. Sleeping with Your Baby
cc. Nighttime Parenting
B. Dispel common myths regarding infant sleep.
aa. Rocking your baby to sleep, nursing your baby to sleep and at night, and/or cosleeping does not create sleep issues and will not create a child who has problems sleeping in their own bed.
bb. Infants are not supposed to sleep through the night. Their sleep cycle biologically has them wake at night. It is even preventative of SIDS that they wake at night.
C. Learn how the Cry-It-Out (CIO) method works.
aa. The cry it out method creates stress hormones to be released in moms body. That is one reason you feel so bad if you have tried to do this. You biologically were designed to respond to your baby's cries.
bb. The cry it out method creates abnormal and harmful amounts of stress hormones in your baby's body.
cc. The cry it out method does not teach your baby to self-soothe. It teaches them to shut down when they have night time needs.
dd. This video is a fantastic resource on how the CIO method works: "Penelope Leach Talks about Crying".
4. Gentle Sleep Tips - Here we have the heart of the matter. Gentle tips that you can put into practice to help encourage better sleep habits. Now I'm going to admit up-front that nothing here is going to shock your pants off. They are all fairly simple ideas and are not at all uncommon. They are not methods like what you will find in books. They don't require you to keep a journal or watch a clock. They are simple tips that if brought into your lifestyle will likely make sleep a less challenging issue. The more you are able to incorporate, the better.
A. Routines - Establish three types of routine to help your baby sleep better. You want a bedtime routine, a naptime routine, and a sleepy sound. Routines help your baby expect sleep. A sleepy sound is something like a gentle shush that you do when you want baby to calm down and sleep. Only use it at this moment. It will teach them that when this sound is made it is time to calm down.
B. Natural Light - Exposure to natural light helps infants sleep better. So get your kid outside for a walk daily or sit in the park. Even if you can only expose your child to five minutes a day you should see some benefit to it. If the temperature outside is simply too hot to take your child outside then open the curtains and have some play time in front of the window. Please remember to always use sunscreen. And know that artificial light cannot replace natural light. I will also mention that the natural light in combination with fresh air seems to have the biggest benefit.
C. Dark and Unstimulating - When it is time for sleep try to make your baby's sleeping environment as calm as possible. When it is night you also want it to be dark.
D. White Noise - Some babies respond very well to white noise. However you should try several types of white noise if your baby is not responding to it at first. Some examples are: mimic of mom's heartbeat, white noise machine or CD, light music, natural white noise such as a box fan or dryer.
E. Skin to Skin - The more skin to skin time you have during the day the better. If you can't have skin to skin time then body to body time also has great benefits. So babywear if possible. If not then just hold your baby and bathe with your baby as often as possible. You should always be touching your baby when they are feeding from a bottle or breast. Okay so breast is kinda obvious. Consider all the devices that exist to keep your baby away from you: strollers, playpins, walkers/bouncers, bath chairs, etc...
F. Deep Sleep Cues - Be able to read your baby's deep sleep cues. If you can read these you will know when baby is in a deep enough sleep that you can set them down or leave the room without them waking. Of course it would be nice if you didn't need to use this but quite frankly that is not always possible. One of the most typical deep sleep cues is heavy limbs. If you can raise your baby's arm and it falls down to the side then that is a good sign.
G. Quick Arousal Response - Notice when your baby begins to stir from nap or night sleep and respond quickly by putting your hand on LO, patting LO, offering a binky (if you use one) to try and avoid a full waking.
H. Soothing and Distraction - Use soothing responses when your LO does wake up. Perhaps LO just needs a minute of mommy patting his/her tummy before s/he goes back to sleep. Sometimes distraction can be helpful as well. Offer your hand as a toy to play with. Some moms prefer to try these methods before a night feeding b/c often a baby will fall asleep using these methods within a minute or two. If baby does not fall asleep then please consider night feeding, whether for hunger or for comfort.
I. Smells Like Mom - Put something that smells like mom next to your baby if you are laying baby down without you. Then when LO falls into a deeper sleep remove it so as to avoid a sleep hazard.
J. Reduce Your Anxiety - Babies do pick up on their parents' anxiety and will respond accordingly. So when you are starting to feel overwhelmed take a deep breath, drink some water, get a snack, take a shower. Do anything to give you a little pick-me-up.
K. Sleep Begets Sleep - Keep in mind that the more naps your baby will get the better your baby will sleep during the day and at night. An overtired baby is much harder to put down to rest. So offer more naps and an earlier bedtime. If you need to switch a bedtime then please make sure to do it incrementally.
L. Baby Needs Activity - During the day your baby needs activity! So engage your little one in play. Make sure your LO is active.
M. Diet - If your baby is on solid foods or formula you want to consider that you may be offering something that is causing your LO some digestive issues. If poor sleeping started recently try eliminating some foods to see if it helps or with your Pedi's help switching formula. If you are breastfeeding then consider the same for what is in your diet.
N. Comfort - Make sure your baby is comfortable. The first thing you want to check is baby's diaper of course. Check baby's fingers and toes to make sure they are not red and there is no hair wrapped around them. Check for a rash under baby's neck or in baby's armpits or on baby's bum. Check inside baby's ears for redness or ooze. Check baby's mouth for mouth sores, teeth, and thrush. Check baby's clothes to see if they are too tight around the arms and legs or if there is a scratchy tag. If all of these things check out think about the temperature of the room. Is it too hot or too cold? Remember too hot is a risk factor for SIDS an blankets in bed/crib is a risk factor for SIDS.
O. Co-Sleeping - This is one of the tools I suggest strongly. Co-sleeping can greatly affect mom's ability to get some sleep! If you want to know more about it's safety and how to do it safely I highly suggest reading the book "Sleeping with Your Baby". The author is a leading authority on parent baby sleep.
P. Medical Issues - Please keep in mind that your baby may have a medical issue causing sleep loss. There are lots of medical issues that can cause sleep issues and many of them are common such as earache and reflux. One primary reason your Pediatrician asks if your baby is sleeping is to assess if there is a medical sleep issue going on. Sometimes that can get lost when the Pedi also offers parenting advice that is unwanted.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I'm going to tell you something that morally confounds me. That is how much of an activist issue breastfeeding is. I consider myself a lactivist and am proud to be one. But it saddens me that there even needs to be breastfeeding activism. Breastfeeding is the most natural and nutritional thing we can do for our children. It is the first thing we teach them. Yet because of lack of support and education the breastfeeding rates in our country are astoundingly low. So we need to advocate for change! Perhaps one day breastfeeding will be normal again and the term lactivist will be long lost. Until then you'll see me doing whatever I can to support the cause of breastfeeding.
Most recently I have joined MamaPear Designs "Oprah Breastfeeding Blitz"! Really it's simple. You send an online letter to Oprah. Tell her how much of a difference it would make if she covered breastfeeding as one of the topics during her last year on air. Oprah has changed the face of what we consider "acceptable" conversation by covering topics that often go unspoken. Let breastfeeding be next on the list of dinner-table conversation. Let's get rid of the need for lactivism! Or at least help the wheel get rolling in the right direction.
Follow these three simple steps to get involved:
1. Read about MamaPear Designs "Oprah Breastfeeding Blitz"
2. Send Oprah a Letter
3. Go to Facebook and tell MamaPear Designs that you sent a letter
Note: I am not getting anything in return for writing this blog post. I was simply inspired to join their cause!
If you want some letter-writing inspiration here are some starter points that may help you get started:
a. Tell Oprah about your breastfeeding experience and how more support and/or education could have helped you.
b. Give Oprah facts about breastfeeding, rates of women who breastfeed vs. those who don't and/or the top reasons women give up breastfeeding.
c. Inspire Oprah! Provide her with a link to some breastfeeding art or an article you've written on breastfeeding.
d. Let Oprah know how her shows have impacted you and how you feel this topic could impact others.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
1. Read - "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding". It is an amazing book on breastfeeding. You want to know this information because often times nurses in the hospital simply are uniformed and may try to scare you into giving formula. Not only that but it helps you have information on how to latch which is so important and hard to learn after giving birth exhaustion. I can promise you this information will be helpful. I cannot tell you how many times I referenced this book when first breastfeeding and wished I had read it before giving birth.
2. Read - "Breastfeeding Cafe". This book talks a bit of the politics of breastfeeding and is informational. But the real reason you should read it is because it is a compilation of real women's breastfeeding stories. If you read these you will have an idea on how to face BF challenges, what is normal, how other women manage night time feedings and going back to work. It is an abundance of real-time helpful information that is so easy to read because of the first person narratives.
3. Find - Your local LLL (llli.org). La Leche Leaders will help you with any breastfeeding issues that may arise. Not only that but you can meet other moms who BF in your area which is fun and supportive.
4. Find - An IBCLC in your area (not just an LC) that is free or accepts your insurance (or is otherwise affordable). Find a Lactation Consultant. Breastfeeding complications can arise and when they do too many women talk with the Pediatrician, a Nurse, an OB etc.. These people are quite often only educated about breastfeeding at a rudimentary level and more often than not give very poor advice. When you have an issue with breastfeeding it is important you see a specialist. That would be a lactation consultant. You can choose to see any lactation consultant but I recommend an IBCLC. This is an international certification that means you are getting someone very well trained and well experienced.
5. Watch - Newman's breastfeeding videos here: Newman Breastfeeding Clinic Videos . These videos will let you see what a good latch looks like. Latching is when baby attaches to the breast. It will let you see what a baby drinking vs. comfort sucking looks like which you will later know why it is important. There is nothing more valuable than actually seeing for yourself what these things look like.
6. Review - Newman's diagram on how to latch found here: When Latching . This is one of the most helpful diagrams I have seen on how to latch your baby. If you ever end up with nipple pain come back to this diagram and follow the steps. Pre-birth it is nice to know what a good latch consists of. I can tell you having several nurses come in and out of my room telling me a hundred different things was not helpful. I wish I would have reviewed this.
7. Become Familiar With - Kellymom.com. This website has researched based information on all things breastfeeding. If you have a question regarding breastfeeding, pumping, introducing solid foods etc.. you can find the information here. I check it several times a week when I have random or important questions.
8. Become Familiar With - Your local breastfeeding laws and the new federal pumping law: Breastfeeding laws.
9. Create - A birthplan and make multiple copies. Post up signs that say breastfeeding only if you are giving birth in a hospital or birthing center. If supplementation is required get a second opinion and choose donor milk over formula.
Your birth plan can have several breastfeeding components:
a. You plan to Breastfeed
b. You require breastfeeding to be initiated within the first hour of life
c. You want to see a lactation consultant after birth
d. You do not want formula, bottles, or binkies offered to your baby
e. That you understand some weight loss post birth is normal and you do not want pressured to feed your baby formula to return this weight too quickly.
f. That you understand milk comes in, on average, around day four so you do not want pressured to feel as if your milk is not coming in soon enough.
g. That if they feel your baby needs supplementing you want a prescription for donor milk and a second opinion.
h. That if your baby needs supplementing you want to use alternative feeding methods and not a bottle. Alternative Feeding Methods.
i. If you have a premature baby and are unable to breastfeed initially you want to have kanagroo care and provide pumped milk for your baby.
10. Watch - This video on extended nursing: Nursing Beyond One.
11. Become Familiar With - The "two shirt" method. This method will help you nurse in public more comfortably. Nursing in public can be done in baby steps but once you get the hang of it you will be more free to live life with your baby instead of staying trapped in your house. It is normal and natural. If using a cover works for you then please go ahead. Instead of using a cover you can use the "two shirt" method. Practice in front of a mirror if you would like to with a doll. This is the method: Wear two shirts. The bottom shirt should be a nursing tank or a tank that has stretch straps like a spaghetti strap tank or a V neck. When nursing pull up your top shirt and pull your bottom shirt down. Using this method you will be covered very well.
12. Don't - Get caught up in the supply myth. Very few women have a true inability to produce enough milk for their baby. Many women however feel their supply is not enough due to several reasons, one common reason is fussing at the breast because of their pumping output. Pumping output is NOT an indicator of supply and neither is fussing at the breast. The best indicator of low supply is that your baby is not having enough wet diapers during the day and possibly lack of weight gain.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics: "Because of difficulty in estimating the percentage of mothers whose milk supply is truly insufficient, data on the prevalence of insufficient milk supply among breastfeeding mothers are limited.However, in 4 studies of self-selected populations of women who decided to breastfeed exclusively for at least 3 to 4 months, [less than]5% of the
mothers were unable to produce enough milk to accomplish their infant’s weight gain.30–33 These results suggest that women’s perception of having a low milk supply might, in many cases, be attributable to their lack of knowledge regarding the normal process of lactation or to technical difficulties in feeding rather than to an actual inability to produce a sufficient quantity of milk."
Of course the benefits to parent are pretty well known but please indulge me as a I list them again:
1. Vitamin D exposure (sunlight) increases your mood and is preventative of depression.
2. Getting outdoors increases chances of getting exercise. And any exercise, even a five minute walk a day, is good for our health.
3. When we can take a couple minutes a day to do something as relaxing as being outdoors our stress levels improve.
4. Getting outdoors increases amounts of quality family time which makes happier more well-adjusted families.
If that isn't reason enough to get outdoors consider the benefits for your baby or child that are in addition to what is listed above:
1. Getting sunlight during the day improves night time sleep.
2. Getting outdoors helps prevent colic.
3. Helps treat and prevent ADHD.
4. Preventative of obesity.
5. Sunlight exposure raises levels of Vitamin D which prevents cancer and builds strong bones.
6. Helps improve eyesight.
7. Makes for a more creative child.
So get outdoors!
1. Go for a daily walk!
2. Garden (you can babywear or have your child help out).
3. Sit on your porch and play a board game or people-watch.
4. Sit in the park!
5. Engage in an outdoor activity: go fishing, play sports, go for a hike.
Make this a commitment. Schedule it in if you need to. Then once you do let us know how your life has improved by having your daily dose of fresh air.
Note: All health claims are linked to an article. Not all articles are research-based but they do appeal to the common sense. I also believe with a little time we could find some research based articles to back up most, if not all, of these claims.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
As a parent we need to be aware of the signs of childhood cancer. We need to watch for them in our children and if our mommy instinct tells us that something is not right we need to pursue it. Sometimes our Pediatrician will not take us seriously or will not give us advice that we find satisfactory. It is always okay to ask questions and get a second opinion!
Below I have provided the acronym and symptoms to look for. I know this is a difficult topic so take a deep breath, read the information, send vibes or prayers to families who have to deal with this and then go hug your little one.
Continued, unexplained weight loss
Headaches, often with early morning vomiting
Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back, or legs
Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits
Development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash
A whitish color behind the pupil
Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea
Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness
Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist
Recurrent or persistent fevers of unknown origin
Information from Childhood Cancer Awareness Website.