Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘colic’

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in / my heart)

When alt.D1 was tiny, she cried a lot. She cried in the day time and the night time.  She cried when she wasn’t being fed, she cried if she was left alone for a second. She cried if you tried to sit down when you were holding her.  We put her in the pram and we went for walks, mostly she cried, sometimes she fell asleep.  We paced the floor with her chewing on one of our fingers, we bounced, we rocked… you get the idea.  She was LOUD and SAD.
I would push the pram down the hill to baby groups, and they would hear us coming.  “Oh we heard alt.D1, she’s git such a sweet cry!”  I would grit my teeth – it wasn’t so sweet at 2.30am,or 2.50, or 3.20…  People arriving after us would say “We knew you were here already, we could hear alt.D1, she’s got such a sweet cry…”  Sigh. 
There were nights spent watching reruns on TV through cordless headphones while we wore tracks into the carpet trying to get her back to sleep.  There were days when nothing was achieved, having been spent trudging round town with the pram in an attempt to get her to sleep, and when that was achieved, I daren’t go home because the eyes, those big brown saucer eyes, would pop open as soon as we crossed the threshold.
Then, when she was about four months old, we had a revelation.  We bought a sling and it changed our lives.  I am never more evangelical than when I am talking about my sling!  Seriously: Our. Lives. Changed.  
Suddenly, we could wrap up the baby, and within five minutes she would be asleep.  We could do the pacing around bit, or we could mow the lawn instead, baby in tow!  Dinner could be prepared; better yet, actually eaten whilst it was hot!  Wow – who ever would have thought!
I ordered the sling online, having tried putting Alt.D1 into a borrowed one at someone else’s house.  We’d been given a baby carrier with webbing, buckles and straps, and although it was complicated to put on the wearer, Alt.D1 had liked it and seemed more settled.  She had fought it (loudly!) when turned in towards my chest, but on turning to the outside world, she had been absorbed and fascinated, and, it seems, sometimes bored to sleep! I had read on the internet about the risks of hip dysplasia in such kinds of carriers, and realised it wasn’t putting her in the most comfortable position.  A different kind of sling, a long stretchy wrap which is tied to the adult, not involving buckles or straps was the answer.  And we all loved it.
She would sleep in the sling where you would never have thought it possible.  Suddenly our lives had changed for the better.  We had a portable child, and more to the point, a settled child.

Jean Liedloff recognised a huge impact on children’s development when they are carried.  She calls it “the in arms experience” in her book The Continuum Concept.  Liedloff noticed that the babies of the Venezuelan people that she studied were carried by their parents all the time.  They were, as a result, easier to hold, because they were used to it.  They didn’t fuss and stretch and go stiff as a board like Alt.D1 when I tried to put her in the car seat.  They didn’t bend backwards in the middle, striking out towards the floor.  We noticed a change in Alt.D1 immediately we started to use the sling.
So, when Alt.D2 was born, we didn’t need to think about it.  She went in the sling straight away.  I can’t imagine how I would have managed with two small children without it, to be honest.  The baby would sleep, cosied up on my chest, and I could play with the big one.  I could prepare food, walk to town, play dragons and princesses, or hide and seek, while my baby was contented and snoozing.
Even now at almost eight months old, Alt.D2 loves going in the sling.  She’s a bit heavy for the stretchy wrap, (although we both still prefer it if I’m honest) so now she’s in an Ergo Baby Carrier, a more structured version, similar to the traditional “mei tie” carriers used by asian people for many many years but with a modern twist.  She can go on the gront or the back, and everyone’s happy.  She can even nurse in there (obviously not on the back though!!)
Alt.Father is pleased to wear the sling, too.  I deliberately chose a plain navy colour, which just happens to match his favourite jumper.  In town one day, two teenage girls did a double take in the market while he was out shopping with Alt.D1.
“Oooh, I thought that man had two heads!” one said to the other.  Alt.D1 was peeping out of the sling, apparently suspended from her dad’s top!  He’s even had one on the front and one on the back on more than one occasion!
There are more benefits than just the practical.  In the early days with Alt.D2 I was finding it hard to really appreciate her.  I was bonding more slowly than I had with Alt.D1.  But by wearing her on my body for long stretches of time, hours while she would sleep, wake, feed and sleep again, all without being parted from me, our bond strengthened immeasurably.  She was always within kissing distance, our hearts close together.  She was comforted by the sounds she had heard within the womb; my muffled voice and my heartbeat.  I got to learn her ways, the rhythms by which she lived, and her cues for hunger, tiredness, and so on.  We enjoyed what has been termed “the fourth trimester”.  I now have a happy, confident almost-eight month old, and she and I are as in love with each other as we could possibly be.
So as I said earlier, I am positively evangelical about babywearing.  I will enthuse to any new parents, or parents-to-be about how a sling changed our lives and saved our sanity.  You can borrow slings from local “sling libraries” before you invest, and there is a host of different designs, patterns and colours to choose from.  Among some friends of mine, slings are talked about in the same way and with the same enthisiasm as the latest designer clothes.  We are “sling geeks” if you will!
Carry that baby, you won’t regret it.
The title of this Post comes from a poem by e e cummings: 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

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Roll over… roll over…

The one thing that I can confidently say about every parent, whatever their beliefs, is that we could all do with a little bit more sleep!  Here in the Alt.house, we each have our own very different styles when it comes to sleep.  Whether this makes for harmonious times all depends of course on whether we are all actually asleep at the same time or not!

Alt.Father could sleep on the proverbial washing line.  His sleep habits have led us to wonder whether he was in fact quite possibly a cat in a former life.  A single shaft of golden sunshine falling across just about any kind of soft surface draws him in like a moth to a flame, and soon he is snoring gently.  He’s a big fan of quick naps and like a trusty Nokia phone a short charge-up leaves him re-energised and ready to go.

Whereas I can’t do naps at all.  A cat-nap for me will turn into a two hour zonk out from which I will wake slightly groggy and disoriented.  I’ll hold my eyelids open with matchsticks so that I can finish reading the last chapter of my book, and struggle with my self inflicted tiredness by being grumpy like a bear with a sore head the next day.  I love to sleep where it’s quiet and comfortable, although darkness isn’t mandatory.  A peaceful summer afternoon in the garden snoozing on a rug for a couple of hours would be absolute bliss.

Alt.D1 started off as a shocking sleeper.  Her preferred pattern was 20 minutes sleep at a time, day or night, with a lot of noise in between.  It would take us hours of pacing up and down in between those sleeps just to get her back down again.  Her sleep pattern was not unlike a series of delayed trains, with one sleep becoming so far gone as to roll into the next.  She settled down as she grew older, eventually taking morning and afternoon naps and at long last, bedtime in the evenings became a more predictable state of affairs.  Now she sleeps wrapped in snuggly duvets and blankets, legs and arms sometimes poking free, head sometimes at the foot of the bed and sometimes hanging off the side!

Alt.D2 was the opposite of her sister on arrival.  Sleeping for four hours at a time as a newborn, quickly making it known that she wasn’t hungry and just wanted to be put down to sleep.  We had made the decision to co-sleep before she was born, and she cuddles down comfortably in the evenings, sucking a thumb to send herself off.  We call her the “light police” though – no chance whatsoever of reading a book in bed for her parents, she’ll snuffle and squeak until we turn the light off!

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, we used to frequently remind Alt.D1.  Somehow she always seemed to know when there was an early morning meeting for Alt.Father, and would choose that night to remain awake during the early hours, refusing to be put down, refusing to just GO TO SLEEP!  We tried all sorts of tricks: hot water bottles in her moses basket, warming the blankets in our bed, wrapping her up in my t-shirt… mostly to no avail.  We read up on all sorts of methods for encouraging good sleeping, including the No Cry Sleep Solution (although it wasn’t clear whether it was the parents or the babies doing the crying!), the Baby Whisperer, Babycalming, and the Dr Sears website.

Alt.D1 teaches Alt.Father the meaning of “share”

What worked for us?  Probably just the passage of time.  Alt.D1 did suffer from awful colic for many weeks, something I will probably write about another time, but that aside, things eventually just eased up.  We “gave up” on trying to get the baby into her own bed, and kept her in ours, moving her cot right up against the side of our bed with the bars removed like a little refuge she could be rolled into when she eventually dropped off to sleep.  Even then she was about 15 months old before she slept through a night (March 5th, 2010, I have it etched in my mind!) and sadly, it was a fluke!  We were like the line from that Alanis Morissette song “I’m tired but I’m working, yeah”.  Somehow, be it hormones, or adrenaline, or magic powers, we just kept going through the days and nights until things became easier of their own accord.

By the time Alt.D1 was 2, she was often sleeping through.  Sometimes it was in her own cot, in her own room, and sometimes it was in our bed, but sleep is sleep, as far as I am concerned!  We started to think about having another baby.  We reasoned that the sleep deprivation couldn’t be as bad as the first time around, and anyway, if it was, we would be prepared for it.  We bought a bigger bed.  Plenty of room for all of us.

Alt.D2 had a lovely moses basket.  I used it for storing my laptop, phone and book in.  Whilst we were in the maternity hospital, we had been tucked up in the bed together by the midwives, and she had slept beautifully, nestled into the crook of my arm.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say, so we continued that way once we came home.  I read Deborah Jackson’s “Three in a Bed” which reassured us that this was the right thing to do.  It’s working out ok so far, although Alt.D2 hasn’t yet begun to roll!  A much easier life for all of us, and still space when Alt.D1 decides she wants in on the action, too!

Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone.  You do need to be careful, as although you are unlikely to roll on the baby and squash them as many people fear, it is not without its risks.  The NHS current guidelines are that the safest place for your baby to sleep for its first six months is in its own cot in its parents’ bedroom.  There is more information available here about sharing a bed with your baby.  Statistically, mothers who co-sleep breastfeed for longer (probably because they are not driven half mad by lack of sleep!) so there are health benefits, too.

In most parts of the world, babies sleep with their parents, and it does make sense, really.  For 9 months they were inside their mother, then all of a sudden, they are out in the big wide world.  They feel safer, calmer and more relaxed when next to their parents, making sleep come more easily and life a little better for everyone!

I will leave you with a clip that sums it all up.  Michael McIntyre on children’s bedtimes:



Sleep well, all.



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