Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘sleep’

Happy 2013… oh wait, we’ve been here for a while!

So things have been quiet round here for a while.  By “round here”, I mean on the blog, as they have been less so in real life.  Various things have been getting in the way of writing, but hopefully I might see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Christmas holidays flew past, bearing tidings of great vomit and flu (yay), and Alt.D2 has learned to walk.  None of us is safe now, take to the hills!

The whole “learning to walk” adventure has been accompanied by a crazy anti-bedtime thing that has been testing, to say the least.  Oh my word, I wish she was still a thumb sucker!  There is lots of anecdotal evidence on the web, to which I am now certainly able to add my share, pointing to sleep regression.  Babies learning to do stuff find it so exciting/confusing that they literally can’t sleep.  More to the point, they can’t allow their parents to do anything other than devote their entire evening, every evening for two months, to getting them off to sleep.  If there was a sideways looking frowny face icon, I would be using it here.  WHY, kiddo, just why? <breaks down and sobs>

I fear the effect this is having on my sanity!  If my mother or mother-in-law are reading this, I think I should put a disclaimer on the bad language that is about to follow…  Those who have seen Adam Mansbach’s book, creatively titled “Go the F***k to Sleep”, should know that it is all true.  Every word of it is true.  It doesn’t matter how in tune you are with your baby, or how well bonded you are, or how many different communication skills you have with them, there are some nights/weeks/months that you just want to yell the title of that book from the rooftops!  Here’s Samuel L Jackson’s brilliant reading of the whole story:

You can feel his pain, can’t you?

The thing about children seems to be that if we can understand why something is happening, as the adult in the situation, it makes things easier.  I decided I needed to do a bit of research on sleep regression, what it means, how we can cope with it in the AltHouse and when we might come out the other end (because seriously, this is starting to get old now!).

So three things seem to have happened here:

1.  Suddenly, AltD2 takes about 3 hours each evening to get to sleep.
2.  Suddenly, she will not allow AltFather to put her to bed.
3.  Suddenly, she has undergone some massive developmental leaps.  She can walk (and run now, truth be told – especially if I need to catch her!).  She also has a few words, and a huge amount of emerging vocabulary, which she understands totally and expects me to be able to translate.

She’s now 17 months old, and turning into a toddler, rather than a baby (she will always be my baby girl, though, even when she’s 40). Her brain is making massive leaps and bounds every day.  Today, I noticed she can nod and shake her head “yes” and “no”.  When did she learn that?  How did she learn that?  AltD1 and I had a good giggle this afternoon testing out whether she was doing it on purpose or by fluke:
Me: Would you like to go outside? Nod
Me: Would you like to put the toy away now? Shakes head
AltD1:  (Much more practical) Do you want to eat this? (offers cracker) Nod
AltD1: Do you want to go to bed? SHAKES HEAD.  FROWNS. 

On purpose, I’d say.  😉

I mentioned to a member of staff at our local baby clinic the problems that we were having at bedtime.  Her advice (she was a Community Nursery Nurse, rather than a Health Visitor) was that I should go out every night for a week and leave AltFather to do the bedtime routine.  “She has to learn.” she said.
Apparently, AltD2 is willful, and if we let her get her way by “giving in” on this one, she will push everyone around.  Presumably for the rest of her life?!

I have to say, that I did the old “nod and smile and walk away” trick, although I felt judged, and more than a little sad that many parents would take this advice as read, without looking into it any further.  There was no suggestion of how this might all affect AltD1, who would have to put herself to sleep while listening to her sister screaming as if she were being tortured.  There was no discussion of developmental leaps and brain connections being made.  There was no mention of separation anxiety, or the further damage that could be caused by me “abandoning” AltD2 at bedtime, for a week, leaving her to conclude that there was no point in crying because Mummy was truly gone and not coming back.  That is the antithesis to our parenting style, and I wasn’t prepared to go down that route.  That rod I am making for my own back is getting more and more elaborate by the day.  One day I shall be able to use it to beat away the people who give me advice I don’t want.  😉

I know I am frustrated, as is AltFather.  I know that he is feeling rejected by his baby, who previously loved to snuggle to sleep on Daddy’s chest.  I know that I am feeling stifled and unsupported – not intentionally so, but still.  However, I suppose I also know that this too shall pass…  E v e n t u a l l y…

A friend gave me a little plaque when AltD2 was born, which reads:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep”.

I’m trying to take this rough patch with the smooth, and hopefully we will all come out the other side well rested with new skills.

Touching tales

The Alt.Family have been away for a while, taking some time out in the rain!  A very wet holiday, and uexpectedly without an internet connection… so, belatedly, here is the post that you should have had last week!This video has been doing the rounds of facebook over the last couple of weeks, but just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I want to share it with you now:

The baby in that film is so relaxed, there’s no question she is enjoying all the sensations she’s experiencing; the warm water, the gentle touch of the nurse.  I have never made the most of baby massage with my two, but having seen this, I wish I had done.  There’s so much to be gained from the experience, for the parent as well as the baby,  I would think.
The skin is an amazing human organ, passing all sorts of messages to the brain.  Touch is important for babies and children (in fact for all of us, who doesn’t like a hug?) for so many reasons.  In fact, Deborah Jackson dedicates a whole chapter of her book “Three in a Bed” to the importance of touch.  She points out that before birth, the child and its mother communicate solely through touch.  They rely, she says, “on physical contact for information”.  Yet when a baby is born, we are almost afraid to touch it.  We are blinded by the apparent fragility of the newborn, and need to be reminded that this new little person has never before been “untouched”.  
How scary that must be for them, how alone they must feel!
I suppose this builds a little on the idea of wearing your baby in a sling, thus mimicking the sensation of being inside the womb.  The baby feels secure, snuggled from all sides, and is happy to sleep and wake, and feed and sleep again, in something resembling its own familiar environment.  It really is like a massage from all directions!
When Alt.D1 was born, she was whisked away from me to a rescuscitaire on the other side of the room.  She’d been distressed during her long and uncomfortable journey into the outside world, and they needed to check her over.  I needed stitches, I was still uncomfortable, but I was aware of the importance of skin-to-skin contact for my new baby.  I suggested perhaps she could have that contact with Alt.Father, whilst I was being attended to.  I was met with a confused look from the midwife.  The baby was wrapped up so as not to be cold, and she waited to be put on my chest when I was once again sitting.  I felt a bit cheated, although she was nice and clean and not slimy.  She hasn’t suffered through not having had immediate skin-to-skin contact, as far as I can tell, and we’re a very cuddly household (as you can probably imagine!) so hopefully we have made up for it since.  
Alt.D2’s experience was different, in that she was delivered straight into my hands and up onto my chest (very slimy, that one!).  I held her for a while, and then Alt.Father held her, also skin-to-skin, while I bathed and had more stitches (don’t ever ask me about my stitches!).  Then we attempted biological nurturing, where the baby finds its own way to its first feed.  This was with limited success, but all the while giving Alt.D2 constant contact.  We weren’t hurried to dress her immediately, and we all loved it.
I read a passage in “Three in a Bed” where the author describes being encouraged by writer Jean Liedloff to hold her young daughter up by her ankle.  I tried it with Alt.D2 (about 6 months old at the time) and she loved it!  She absolutely howled with laughter, grinning and dribbling upside down into her hair.  I mentioned it to Alt.Father, who looked a bit sideways at me, but later admitted he’d tried it with her at bedtime, and conceded that it did seem to make her very happy (weird child, loves being upside down!). So maybe we should be a bit braver in how we handle our kids.  I should probably put a disclaimer in here, shouldn’t I?  People, be a bit careful, use your common sense, but have a good giggle – remember how much you used to love dangling head down from the monkey bars?
There has been much research into the health and healing benefits of touch.  Kangaroo Care for premature babies has yeilded amazing results.  This technique was introduced in the early 1980s in Columbia, a country suffering from high infant mortality rates.  The babies were placed inside their mothers’ clothing, against their chests, where they remained for 24 hours a day.  Similar methods, where babies born early or with low birth rates are held by parents or carers for several hours at a time, have been introduced in many hospitals around the world.  It’s hard to believe that premature babies were once kept away from the touch of their parents and nurses in the belief that risk of infection outweighed the benefits of physical contact.  

It seems that it works both ways, too.  The touch of her baby was enough to rehabilitate Australian coma sufferer Emma De Silva, whose husband and family had been told there was almost no hope.  Their incredible story can be seen here.  Get the tissues handy before you hit play, though!  What an amazing testimonial to the power of touch.


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, 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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