Posts by Eva

How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 2

Posted by on May 23, 2014

Without trying to fix baby’s sleep, what are things we can do THIS WEEK to get more sleep for Mom? Here are a bunch of ideas. None of them are perfect. None of them will work for everyone. And I am sure you have tried some of them. Discuss the issue with your partner or c0-parent and see how you could implement one or two of these. I know you will get more sleep. Maybe not absolutely enough, but more Methods for Mom on her own: – Don’t get out of bed until you have had 8-9 hours of sleep. If it means you have to stay in bed until noon, so be it. Babies are often happier and sleepier in the morning. Take advantage of this. – Use a swing to keep baby asleep for a couple of hours so you can have a nap. – If your baby starts the night with a long stretch of sleep (some babies will sleep 4-5 hours at the beginning of the night) go to bed then. You’ll miss out on the evening, but you can get up and watch TV in the middle of the night instead. Methods for two parents: – Stagger sleep. If one parent in a night-owl, let that one take the first part of the night. If one is a lark, let that one take the early morning hours. Here is how it could work: Dad is a night owl. So Mom feeds the baby well through the early evening, taking advantage of the cluster-feeding many babies do at this time. Around 9 or 10, when the baby falls into a deeper sleep, Dad takes over, swaddles baby or puts baby into a carrier and helps baby stay asleep until midnight or 1am. If baby wakes up hungry before then, Dad can bring baby to Mom for a quick feed (or if baby is more than 6 weeks old, Dad could give baby a bottle of expressed breast milk). Around midnight or 1am, Mom takes over being on-call for baby and Dad goes to bed and sleeps until 6 or 7 am, thus getting 6 or 7 hours in a row – enough to go to work on! Or Dad is a lark. So Mom stays up with baby in the late evening while Dad goes to bed early. If he goes to bed by 9, he could get up at 4 or 5 after 7 or 8 hours of sleep and take the baby after her early morning feed. Then mom could sleep alone and undisturbed for 3 hours until it’s time for him to go to work. Dad could take the baby out in a carrier for an early morning walk, or have baby in a bouncy chair watching as he takes a shower and makes breakfast. Dad could develop all sorts of great parenting-multi–tasking skills! Of course, either of these methods could be used by a single parent with a friend or family...

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How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 1

Posted by on May 19, 2014

Sleep. Once the baby has been born and feeding is going well, sleep becomes the primary issue for new parents. It’s understandable. Sleep is one of our basic needs. If we don’t sleep enough, we can’t function. New parents who are woken many time every night to feed and comfort a baby quickly become exhausted and that exhaustion contributes to post-partum depression and anxiety. And mothers, usually (but not always) the primary parent, believe that the only way they can get more sleep themselves, is to fix their baby’s sleep. They believe that if they are sleep-deprived it’s their own fault because they have given their baby “bad habits.” Perhaps they have nursed their babies to sleep, or rocked them to sleep, or held them while they slept, or, horror of horrors, taken their babies to bed with them! (I’ll talk another time about why the above “bad habits” are perfectly good strategies for caring for a small baby. But for now, let’s explore the issue of getting more sleep for mothers.) It takes a long time to “fix” baby sleep patterns. Many babies do not sleep long stretches until they are 6 months or a year. Some don’t sleep well until they are two or three years old. Some parents make the choice to sleep train, but even that does not always work and is not recommended for at least three to six months. And many parents feel that sleep training is too harsh for their children. So what is to be done? Sleep experts recommend setting up good sleep habits and bed-time rituals. Attachment parenting proponents recommend co-sleeping and bed-sharing. All of these can work. But they take time, and desperate parents wonder “When will my baby sleep?” The answer is, no one knows. Maybe the answer is, when you have babies and small children, you just can’t sleep the way you expected to until now. You are just not going to get 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep every night. So how are you, as a family, going to manage this problem? Because this is a problem for the whole family. It’s not just the mother’s problem. Very often, the mothers who come to my baby groups tell me that they can’t ask their partner to share in the night-time parenting because “He has to work in the morning.” It makes me wonder what the mother does all day – is that not work too? Yes, she can sleep in a bit or take a nap during the day, but that doesn’t get her a long stretch of sleep. Sometimes, the lack of sleep for mom is blamed on the fact that she breastfeeds. I sometimes think, in my more grumpy moods, that breastfeeding is a great excuse for fathers or other parents to abdicate. “All the baby wants is the breast. I can’t feed the baby so I can’t comfort him. I can’t do anything for him at night, so I may as well sleep.” Really?...

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Posted by on May 14, 2014

Pain. I am in the midst of a horrible back spasm. My low back and right hip have been in a spasm since last week. I cannot stand or walk without sharp, knife-like pain, and even sitting is very uncomfortable. So I have been spending a lot of time thinking about pain. I talk about pain a lot in my work as a doula and childbirth educator. I talk about the pain of labour and how it evolves to tell the mother about her progress. I talk about strategies for coping with pain.I talk about ways to accept the pain, and work with it. But it’s been 20 years since I had my last baby. I have forgotten how intense and all-consuming muscular pain can be, especially when it goes on for hours or days. So I am trying to use this week of pain as an opportunity to practice my pain-coping strategies. I am trying to doula myself through this back spasm. I am using a lot of the same techniques my clients use: Heating pad, ice packs, position changes, distraction. Movement, music, snacks. Shower, bath, rest, silly TV shows. Whining, complaining, conversation, laughter. Just like a woman in labour, I know intellectually that this pain in finite. It will not go on for ever. Just like a woman in labour, I find it feels better when I lean forwards and worse when I lean back. Just like a woman in labour, I feels that my pain gets worse when I tense up. Just like a woman in labour, I get breaks from the pain. When that happens I try to notice it and relax completely. Just like a woman in labour, I feel trapped by the pain. My body is doing something I can’t control. I don’t know when this is going to stop and I can’t help letting my mind wander to the possibility that it will never stop. Just like a woman in labour, I sometimes feel angry, or sad, or discouraged. Just like a woman in labour, I need to feel safe and supported. My family and friends and colleagues have rallied round to help me. They bring me lovely things to eat and ask how I’m doing, and cover the classes I can’t teach. And I am SO grateful! Unlike a woman in labour, I cannot say that this is pain with a purpose! I will not get a lovely, squishy, warm, cuddly baby at the end of it all. But at the end of it, I will have had some peaceful solitary afternoons of knitting, some blog posts written, some email attended to, some sweaters mended, some naps. So maybe there is a purpose to this pain after all....

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Telling stories to our children

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014

The mother of a four-year-old recently commented on how much her daughter loved hearing stories about “when Mommy was Four.” So much does this little girl love those stories that the mother has started making them up. She just can’t remember enough real material from such a long time ago! It made me think about telling stories to our children and how we do that and how the stories change as our children grow. I think one of the first stories we tell a baby is the Suspense Story: “And… now… I’m… going…. to… blowonyourtummy!” I remember telling that one as early as a few weeks into my baby’s life. Soon after that, a variation on the Suspense Story is “Peek-a-Boo!” You have a scarf over your face and you’re saying: “Where is Mommy?” “Here she is!” Really safe, but mildly exciting little surprises, tension … followed by relief. A story we told often as a little “micro drama” was the “I’m going to bite you” story. With the baby watching, I would open my mouth wide and pretend that I was going to bite my husband Randy, and he would say, seriously: “No Biting!” I would look thoughtful and repeat “No biting?” We acted this one out a lot when the six-month-old was biting (or pinching, or hair pulling.) It was a way of “discussing” the problem of biting at times when it wasn’t actually happening. The baby always looked interested (or amused) and thoughtful. I think it helped the baby process the idea of the no-biting rule. A sure-fire way to put an older baby to sleep is to tell the story of her day in a sing-song voice. “This morning Josephine got up and put on her yellow jumpsuit. She had oatmeal with her Mommy and then her Daddy took her to the park. She loved the swings and went higher and higher in the air! Then she came home and had some hummus for lunch. And then she had a nice nap with her Mommy.” I find babies as young as 8 or 9 months can get into this sort of story-telling and it can become a lovely part of the bedtime ritual. Morality tales worked well when the kids were pre-schoolers. We used to tell stories about “The girl who never wore shoes” (her feet got very dirty and she got splinters) or “The boy who would only eat white food” (he didn’t get enough vitamins and got sick – but then he got better again when he started to eat green things too.) The children would assign the stories – they tried to make up really difficult situations. I remember they once asked for one about “The boy who would only eat square things.” I can’t remember what I came up with for that one… When my children were 6 or 7 years old, their grandfather used to look at their baby albums with them and tell them stories about what the baby...

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2014

Spring. So delicious! Such lovely smells and pretty flowers and warm breezes. The cherry blossoms down Moss Street, the camas in Beacon Hill Park. Going for my early morning walk in the daylight! Great pleasures. But then I get caught in a downpour, or shiver because I didn’t take a jacket. The wind blows so hard one day that the laundry, that I put out optimistically on my clothesline, gets blown all over the garden. It occurred to me that toddlerhood is a lot like spring. Such fun! Such a time of change and progress. Crawling, walking, eating more and more. New adventures – discovering the slide, the beach, what dandelions taste like! It’s such a great joy to help our children explore the world. And we start to rely on our new “big” kid’s ability to feed himself, or amuse herself with a puzzle for a few minutes. But as soon as we get a bit relaxed and used to the new way things are, the toddler turns back into a baby. Yesterday, your child insisted on climbing up the stairs by herself. Today she insists on being carried. Last week, your toddler loved story time at the library and sat next to the librarian. This week he clings to you and has to sit on your lap. Yesterday your big kid only nursed twice. Today, she’s back to nursing every 20 minutes. Yesterday he used the potty. Today he behaves as though it’s an instrument of torture! It’s just like spring. You can never tell what the weather is going to be like. But soon, very soon, it will become reliable. We’ll finally put the raincoats away and wear our sandals everyday. It will start to feel normal and predicable. Your child will start to use words. He will be toilet trained. She will learn to dress herself. You will think you’ve arrived. And then something else will change. There will be another season. More newness, more unpredictability, more...

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