Birth Doula, Childbirth & Breastfeeding Educator

Are you ready to sleep-train your baby?

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Are you ready to sleep-train your baby?

Any way you do it, sleep-training your baby is going to be a lot of work. It’s going to involve some crying, and less sleep for a while. It’s going to require that you be clear, and sure, and consistent.

Here is a quiz to help you decide if you are ready.

Yes No
❑ ❑ Is your baby over 6 months old?
❑ ❑ Are you (or your partner or both) suffering from depression?
❑ ❑ Are you (or your partner or both) suffering from extreme sleep deprivation?
❑ ❑ Have you (or your partner or both) become angry or frustrated when dealing with your baby at night?
❑ ❑ Does you baby wake more than 4 times between 7pm and 5am?
❑ ❑ Does your baby take more than 10-15 minutes to fall asleep after waking at night?
❑ ❑ Do you have a separate room and crib for your baby to sleep in?
❑ ❑ Do you have a partner or another adult to help and support you through sleep training?
❑ ❑ Are you prepared to get LESS sleep for a week or so while you implement a sleep plan?
❑ ❑ Are you prepared to be VERY consistent about bedtimes and routines for the next six weeks or so?

If you answer yes to 6 or more of theses questions, it may be a good time for you to start sleep-training your baby.

Even if you answer yes to ALL the questions, it does not mean that you SHOULD sleep-train your baby. Sleep training is only one way to help parents get more sleep (see my post on how to get more sleep this week). Sleep training is only one way to help babies develop culturally-appropriate sleep patterns. All babies do not need sleep training!

Do not feel pressured to sleep train because…

… Someone told you their baby slept through the night at this age.
… Your friend’s baby sleeps longer than your baby does.
… Your baby takes short naps
… Your baby is 6 months old.
… You don’t want to develop bad habits
… You feel that your baby should be on a schedule
… You are worried about how your baby is going to sleep when you go back to work four months from now (that’s a long time from now!)

Do all babies need sleep training?

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Do all babies need sleep training?

(This post was written for and first posted at Moms Uniting

Sleep is a hot topic when you have a baby. Of course, most parents of small children have interrupted sleep. Some are severely sleep-deprived. All worry about whether their babies are sleeping enough. But on top of all that many worry that they might be ruining their baby’s sleep forever!

What if you nurse your baby to sleep? What if you let your baby become too dependent on a sleep crutch? What if you co-sleep? What if you don’t sleep-train at the right time? Or in the right way? What if you baby never learns to sleep through the night? What if you are not perfectly consistent? What if you are too tired, or like cuddling your baby too much, to insist that your baby sleep in his own crib? Do these things mean that your child will never learn to sleep on her own?


It may take a long time. Many children wake up several times each night until they are 2 or 3 years old. Some children don’t go to sleep on their own until they are 6 or 7 years old. But they all do, eventually.

It may also happen easily. Some babies learn to fall asleep on their own as soon as the fussy period (the first 12-16 weeks) is over. Some babies take easily to being shushed and patted to sleep, instead of being nursed. Some babies can be laid in their crib and will coo and babble themselves to sleep.

What is the best way to cope with a baby who doesn’t sleep long stretches? Well, it depends a lot on how the parents are doing. If the breastfeeding mom is a good sleeper herself, if she can roll over and feed in her sleep, if she falls asleep quickly after her baby calls for her, she may not find her baby’s night-wakings difficult. If the baby’s other parent is happy to get up early and take the baby away to play and mom can catch up on sleep then, the family may cope just fine with the baby’s sleep habits.

But what if the mom feels anxious, or suffers from insomnia or depression? What if the mom is on her own with the baby and has no one to help her get a little extra sleep here or there? What if the baby weighs 20 pounds and still has to be bounced to sleep on the yoga ball? Then the parents might need sleep training.

Remember that books on infant sleep and sleep training are written to sell. They need to convince you that you need them. So they promise a fool-proof, fail-proof system for getting your baby to sleep, fast! Not only do they present their system as one that will work for everyone, but they also argue that everyone should use it.

The scientific research on sleep training is in its infancy (tee-hee). There has been very little research on how to teach parents to teach their children how to sleep. And the effects of sleep training have been very poorly studied. Claims are made on one hand that sleep training is entirely safe and has no negative effect on babies’ attachment to their parents. On the other hand, others claim that leaving babies to cry create enormous stress and destroys the bond of trust they have with their caregivers.

In the “sleep training is unduly stressful camp” is the 2011 study by Wendy Middlemiss and colleagues. As I read it, it seemed to me that the conditions were not well controlled. Babies of different ages were used, ranging from 4-10 months. This is a huge range in development. The testing for saliva cortisol levels did not include a baseline, so there was no way to compare the “elevated” levels to normal levels. And the technique used just involved leaving the baby alone to cry until the baby fell asleep, something very rarely recommended nowadays.

In the “sleep training is just fine and has no long term effects” camp, is a 2008 long-term, randomized study of sleep training by Harriet Hiscock and colleagues. It seemed to me to have much more carefully controlled conditions. All the babies were between 7 and 10 months and the parents were instructed in positive bedtime routines and controlled comforting or adult fading (also called “camping out”). The families in this study were followed frm 2003 when they first volunteered for the study, through to 2009, when their children were 6 years old!

The first publication of the study in 2008 reported that the families who received the sleep training information had children who slept better at 10 months, and less likelihood of depression among the mothers. So this would look like a win for sleep training, right?

But in the 2011 follow-up report on Hiscock’s study, Anna Price and colleagues tell us that the six-year-olds in the intervention group (the group that received information about sleep training) and the six-years-olds in the control group (that did not receive any information on sleep training) all showed similar scores when examined for emotional and behaviour problems, sleep problems, stress, and parent-child relationship. In other words, in the long term, sleep training makes no difference.

What this means is that parents should follow their own intuition. If your baby is over six months and is in good health, and you want to sleep train, go ahead. If you think it’s too much trouble, or you think it’s going to be too hard on your child and on you, then don’t.

Ultimately, you know the needs of your child and your family better than anyone else. So don’t let anyone else tell you how to parent your child at night. Do what makes sens to you, for now. If it stops working later, you can fix it then. And be reassured that by the time your child is six years old, you will have a whole new set of parenting issues to focus your energy on!

Papers Cited:

Hiscock H, Bayer J, Gold L, Hampton A, Ukoumunne OC, Wake M. Improving infant sleep and maternal mental health: a cluster randomised trial. Arch Dis Child. 2007; 92(11):952–958

Middlemiss W1, Granger DA, Goldberg WA, Nathans L., Asynchrony of mother-infant hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep. Early Hum Dev. 2012 Apr;88(4):227-32

Price A.M.H, Wake M, Ukoumunne O.C, Hiscock H, Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioural Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial, Pediatrics 2012;130:643–651

Merry Christmas!

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Merry Christmas!

I just visited with a family I have know since their babies were born, seventeen and fifteen years ago. I was their doula. I was there for a glass of Christmas cheer and I got to see their lovely decorations and their beautiful tree.

I noticed, lovingly arranged over the back of an armchair in the living room, two little baby sleepers – one red and one white – with Christmas patterns on them. They were the two children’s First Christmas Suits! The family stores them with the decorations and brings them out each year, along with all the other, beloved ornaments. It certainly marks time passing, and children growing, to be able to see their baby outfits like that, every year! What a lovely tradition!

I know new parents are overwhelmed with advice about treasuring every minute of the time with their babies. I know the first years feel so slow as they are happening, and then feel so fast as we look back on them. I know that most of us cannot find time to keep a diary or a baby book. It all feels like too much! But traditions like keeping the baby sleepers with the Christmas decorations can help us remember.

Now that my kids have left home and live in far-away cities, I have started a new tradition. My husband cuts a thin slice off the end of the tree at the end of the holiday, and after I put away all the ornaments, I write on that thin slice of wood a few words to remember that Christmas. I write who was there, and what the sayings or songs, or buzz-words of that holiday were. (I confess, I found this idea on Pinterest!)

screwball comedies

I’ve only been doing this for three or four years. But my kids cam home this year and opened the box with all the disks of pine tree (it smells so nice!) and read the silly things I wrote, and remembered.

I hope that in the hustle and bustle of the season, all you parents of young kids out there can find time to do something that will help you remember how it felt at this time, in this place, to cuddle those babies, and enjoy the coziness that can come with this time.

Merry Christmas to you all!


A Breast Field-Trip

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on A Breast Field-Trip

A Breast Field-Trip

Many changes occur in a woman’s breasts during her pregnancy and after the baby is born. When new mothers come to me with breastfeeding difficulties, and I ask them if their nipples are “cracked”, they sometimes are not sure. “I don’t know what my nipples looked like before the baby started to suck on them. Do they look normal now?”

To get a sense of what equipment you are starting out with on your breastfeeding journey, it might be a good idea for you to go on a “Breast Field Trip” at the end of pregnancy.

(Please note: If you have concerns about your breast health, or if you have had breast surgery, some of this may not be relevant to you. Please see your doctor or midwife and consider setting up a prenatal appointment with a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to prepare for any challenges you may encounter when breastfeeding your baby.)

1. Take your top and bra off and stand in front of a mirror with good lighting.

2. Look at your breasts. You may notice:

• Your breasts are bigger than before you got pregnant. Most of the glandular tissue you need to make milk grows during pregnancy. And all the little ducts that are needed to transport the milk grow then too. Some breasts grow a lot, and some grow only a little, but they almost all grow some.
• One breast is larger that the other. As breasts grow, the difference in size between them (and there is almost always a difference in size) becomes more apparent.
• Your breasts are not symmetrical. One nipple may be lower than the other. One may point more to the left, or more to the right. Knowing that your breasts are not symmetrical may help you figure out how to position your baby at the breast.

3. Look at your nipples. You may notice:

• Your areola (pink or brown part of the breast around the nipple) has become bigger and darker.
• You may have more visible or darker bumps on the areola. These are sometimes called “Montgomery’s tubercles” but they are more descriptively called sebaceous glands of the areola. They secrete an oily substance that keeps the nipple and areola supple and smells attractive for the baby. The smell helps the baby find the nipple.
• Your nipples may be bigger and darker than before. They may stick out more. The skin may be crinkly (the anatomical term for the crinkles is “rugae”) (These crinkles are not “cracks.” When a baby attaches to the breast too shallowly, and the nipple get pinched, a blood blister may form and then a wound may develop. That is what people mean when they talk about “cracked nipples.”)
• Your nipples may only stick out if they are touched, massaged or get cold. If that is the case, you may have “flat nipples.”
• If your nipples retreat when you compress the areola, you may have “inverted nipples.” This is caused by short connective tissue within the nipple. Check with your doctor or midwife to make sure.
• Inverted or flat nipples make women feel worried about being able to breastfeed. Don’t worry! Babies use the nipple as a guide to tell them where to latch on. Flat and inverted nipples make it a little more difficult for the baby to FIND the nipple, but you are going to be there to help! The baby is supposed to take a big mouthful of breast, including the nipple and much of the areola, so the size of the nipple or invertedness of the nipple should not matter. Many women find that after they have been breastfeeding for a few weeks, their nipples stick out and become easy for the baby to find.
• There are gadgets and exercises out there to “fix” inverted nipples. There is no scientific evidence that those gadgets and exercises work. The best way to deal with flat or inverted nipples is to get expert breastfeeding help after your baby is born.

4. Pull gently on your nipples and see how far out they stretch.

• When a baby is connected properly to the breast, the tip of the nipple is all the way at the back of the baby’s mouth – at the soft palate. When I tell moms this, they imagine that their own little nipple could never reach that far. But nipples and areolas are very stretchy! Check it out!
• A generation or two ago, mothers-to-be were told to “prepare” their nipples by scrubbing them with a rough towel or rubbing them with alcohol! This is no longer recommended. It does nothing to prevent sore nipples, in fact it may damage the skin of the nipples and make them more tender.

5. Try to express a little colostrum. (These directions are given for your right breast. Try your left breast first if you are left handed!)

• Hold your right breast in your right hand.
• Have your little finger all the way back at your chest wall and your other fingers supporting the weight of the breast.
• Have your thumb on top. Move your finger and thumb back towards your chest, away from the areola, and then slide them forward, compressing the breast tissue.
• When you get to the base of the nipple, stop and maintain the pressure for a few seconds.
• Don’t pull on the nipple – that just pinches the ducts closed.
• Imagine there little “grapes” under the skin and you have coax the “juice” out of them!
• Move your hand around so you try all different angles around the breast – all different points of the compass.
• You may need to try for several minutes before you see a few drops of colostrum. It takes some time to get the knack.
• Some women see little beads of yellow colostrum on their breasts during the second half of pregnancy. Some see little yellow crusts of dried colostrum. Others don’t see colostrum at all. But almost every woman makes colostrum after about 20 weeks.
• Expressing or leaking a little colostrum does not “waste” any, because your breasts will continue to make it until about 10 days after the baby is born.
• The purpose of expressing colostrum here is just for you to develop a better understanding of how your breast works. You don’t have to do it. If you express colostrum now, it does not mean that you will make more (or less) colostrum later. If you can’t, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It probably just means you haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Try again later, or wait for your baby to figure it out.

6. Look at your breasts again and think about what wonderful “equipment”, what beautiful “packaging” they are for making and delivering milk to your baby!

Grunting Babies

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Grunting Babies

Why do babies grunt at night?

Well, let’s eliminate the serious reasons first.

1. Baby might not be getting enough air. This is not very common. It can happen to a very new baby or to a baby who has a cold or croup. In this case the grunting would go along with a blue colour in the skin, pauses in breathing, flaring of the nostrils, the chest muscles drawing in sharply with the breath. If your baby shows these symptoms, please call 911 or go to Emergency.

2. Reflux. Some babies have immature sphincters at the top of their stomach and acid from the stomach can pass back into the throat and cause burning pain. Try propping the head of your baby’s crib or bassinet up a little, and/or hold baby upright for awhile after feeds. Babies with reflux are pretty miserable. Please make an appointment with your doctor to diagnose the reflux and prescribe treatment.

3. Baby’s gut is moving. This is the most common cause of grunting. Almost every parent in our Baby Group reports that their baby grunts, especially in the very early morning (4-6am). Babies (and the rest of us) sleep more lightly in the early morning and as their bodies get ready for daytime activity, their gut starts to move and they notice it and start to grunt and squirm and raise and lower their legs (some babies slap their legs down on to the mattress) and fart.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has “too much gas” or is “colicky” or that you should change your diet or give pro-biotics. This is part of how some babies behave.

Parents notice that these babies are not unhappy. They are not crying. They do not seem to be in pain. They are just making noises and being restless. They may be awake, or their eyes may be closed.  If the parent picks the baby up and holds the baby on the parent’s chest, the baby often falls into a deep, quiet sleep. This is because it is easier for a baby to fall into deep sleep on top of another human. If this allows you to get another hour or two of sleep, there is no harm in it. It won’t “set up bad habits.” The early-morning grunting usually stops around 3-4 months. You can change your early-morning habits then.

Is it okay to ignore a baby who is grunting, but not unhappy? Yes! Parents of second or third or fourth babies learn that babies grunt and it doesn’t always mean they need us. Parent of first babies are  a little more anxious and are tuned in to every squeak and rustle. I don’t think this helps the parents or the babies.

If you leave your content (not unhappy, not crying or whining) little grunting baby alone, you may be providing the baby with an opportunity to learn how to go back to sleep without help from you. Also, if you stay lying down, and train your breathing to be slow and steady, you are giving your baby an important lesson in culturally-appropriate early morning behaviour. You are saying, in essence: “It’s too early to get up. I’m still sleeping, see?” And the baby may follow your lead and go back to sleep for a bit. But if you lie there and fidget and fuss and worry because your baby is grunting and farting, your baby is much less likely to go back to sleep.

Please note that I am not telling you to ignore an unhappy or sick baby! As a parent, one of the things you start to learn is how to tell the difference between a baby doing a baby thing, which will change with time and development, and a baby doing something that is a sign of distress. Trust your instincts. Listen to your baby and your heart.


How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 2

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 2

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 member who comes over to help.

Method which involves having someone else come to help:

Grandma or Grandpa (or any other adult family member of friend) could come over in the afternoon and hold the baby or take baby out for a walk while mom has a nap. This sort of thing is often done when the baby is very new. But after a few weeks mothers feel that they should be able to do it all on their own, and these arrangements stop. It’s too bad. As the baby becomes older and more aware, it’s a good idea for the baby to learn to trust these dear family members and friends. And mom continues to need sleep!

Weekend plans:

It’s a great idea for Dad to get into the habit of taking the baby out for awhile on his day off. Taking baby for a long walk or a hike, taking baby along to do errands or having baby in a carrier or wrap while Dad does housework or yard work gives Dad a sense of autonomy and independence in taking care of his child. Meanwhile, Mom can have a long nap!

Out-of-the-box thinking:

What if two new mothers set up a nap club? On Tuesday, for example, Josephine could take her baby over to Clarabelle’s house and take care of Clarabelle’s baby as well as her own for two hours while Clarabelle has a nap in her own bed. On Thursday, Josephine goes over to Clarabelle’s and she takes both babies while Josephine has a nap. And after nap-time, they have tea and chats together. Sounds like a way for Moms to get sleep AND company. But it involves trusting each other and being willing to ask for help. (Full disclosure: I don’t know anyone who has done this. But it sounds like SUCH a good idea! Let me know if you do it, ok?)

My point is this: no matter what your plans are to teach your baby how to sleep according to your expectations, it will take along time to teach your baby to do it. You can’t wait until it works to get enough sleep. Figure out how to ask for help so that you can get more sleep THIS WEEK!

How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 1

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on How to get more sleep for mothers – Part 1


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? Many babies can spend hours asleep if they are just held and cuddled and rocked or bounced. You don’t need breasts for that. Just some willingness to experiment and develop some skills!

Of course sometimes breastfeeding is an excuse for the mother to feel indispensable. The mother IS indispensable to her baby’s happiness and feeding, but that does not mean that she can’t have four hours of continuous sleep every day. And having Dad develop baby-soothing skills does not make the mother any less important to her baby.

So when mothers come and tell me they are exhausted to the point of depression and they must fix the baby’s sleep now so that they can sleep, I tell them it takes too long to fix the baby’s sleep. How can the mother get more sleep THIS WEEK? This is where you need to focus your efforts right now. When you have organized your life to get more sleep and things are under control, then you can start to think about the long term project of teaching your baby how to sleep according to our culture’s expectations.

In the next post, I will list some ideas on how to get more sleep.


Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on 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.


Telling stories to our children

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Telling stories to our children

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 in the pictures was thinking. A baby wearing a tuque and cradled in his grandmother’s arms might be thinking: “Who is this lady? And why is she making me wear this silly hat?” The kids would laugh and laugh! They loved the change in point-of-view.

As the children grow, we move on to jokes and riddles and stories about our family and our culture and historical figures. And of course, we all tell the story of our day to each other at dinner time. Stories build families. What stories are you telling around your table these days?


Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Spring!

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 growth.