Posts Tagged "family"

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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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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