Once Upon A Mommy

The Ups, Downs and All Arounds of Raising a Family

Running Away – A Classic Childhood Tactic

Running AwayRunning away. Have you ever done it? I can’t say I have.

Disclosure: Ella didn’t really run away. It was all under parental supervision and was light-hearted in nature.

It all started when Ella found a toy in my trunk that was going to be a gift at an upcoming birthday party. Her discovery led to a fit of “no fair” which then mutated into a temper tantrum of varying degrees. After the dust had settled, she packed up her bags and decided to run away.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with this milestone in her life. In the end, I decided to play along. I walked beside her as if I was helping her with her endeavour and asked several questions along the way:

“So where are you going to live?” – In a box in the trees

“What are you going to eat?” – I’ll pick blackberries

“How are you going to get to school?” – I’ll come home to get a ride

“Oh no you can’t come home. Once you runaway, this isn’t your home anymore.” – Then I’ll walk there

On and on this went with several unusual answers. I just pretended I was curious and wasn’t really that bothered by her running away (I’m not sure if this attitude is supported by Attachment theory or not). The whole thing was actually quite comical. She was so loaded down with her bags that she couldn’t get very far.

I eventually said good bye and asked when I’d see her again. She told me to say goodbye to Jack and tell him she loved him. Although I was just playing with her, I did feel a tinge of emotion at the thought of pretending to never see her again. Then I went inside the house and left her on the street to figure it out.

From within the house, I quietly watched behind the glass door. I video tapped short episodes of her trying to carry all her bags, stopping to readjust and then starting again. Every so often, she’d come back to the house and leave something special at the door.

Eventually Byron came home and talked with her for a bit. Then he mowed the lawn while pretending not to notice but still giving her the space to explore her new found freedom. At some point they resolved to have her sleep in the back of the truck instead of on the side of the road. So she happily set up her new living quarters.

In the end, what was it that got her to come in? Coyotes. She didn’t want to be attacked by coyotes. Who could blame her?

Crawling – A Necessary Stage of Development

crawling

Crawling seems to be bypassed by parents in order to encourage standing and walking. I had a situation today where I strongly felt the need to share some important developmental information to a new mom. However, I couldn’t decide if I needed to shut my mouth and let them figure it out or whether it would be detrimental to the child if I didn’t say something. In the end, I decided to share while trying to be really sensitive in my delivery since I know moms can get defensive. Perhaps it was the teacher side of me that couldn’t keep quiet. I was genuinely concerned for her baby’s development and well being. Therefore, I risked it and shared.

Her baby is 5 months old and she told me that she continuously allows him to stand with straight in order to develop strong legs. She treated it as weight training for babies.

While I know that babies naturally like to hold their legs straight, and it’s tempting to allow them to do so, it should be strongly discouraged. Both my chiropractor and public health nurse have stressed the importance of babies learning the necessary developmental milestone of crawling before they stand. Parents are very eager to have their babies to stand or walk. In fact, parents often feel proud as if it’s a sense of accomplishment if their child develops this skill before other children in their age group. As a result, they promote a lot of activities that encourage the child into upward positions.

However, from the information that I’ve gathered from developmental professionals, crawling is a crucial stage of development for infants. Therefore, we need to encourage play on the floor in order to allow babies the opportunity to crawl. It is so critical for their fine motor skills, spinal health and brain development. For example, the cross action of moving the arms and legs across the body stimulates the left and right sides of the brain which is integral to learning and brain health.

When babies learn to stand and walk too soon, it can compromise the body’s physical structure. My 13 years old babysitter is already complaining about chronic pain in her body. From my conversations with her, I discovered that she never crawled and started walking at 8 months old! It’s no wonder she is experiencing the pain that she is. I’ve confirmed this information with 2 chiropractors and they both agree that missing the stage of crawling has had a negative impact on my babysitter’s body. Apparently, it’s not too late for her! Even at her age, she can simulate crawling in order to regain the benefits even at her teenage age.

So please let your babies crawl. The standing and walking will come soon enough. All in due time.

 

 

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Independence – First Day of School

Independence Independence was the last thing I expected this morning when I dropped off Ella at school for Gr 1. As we approached the stairs to go up to her classroom she said, “I’d like to go by myself.”

Wow. It kind of stung that she didn’t need me but I was also proud. I also felt reassurance that my belief in attachment theory has proven true.

Every day of kindergarten I had to hand deliver her to her classroom. Sometimes without shoes on kicking and screaming. Sometimes she had to be pried from my arms. But most of the time I had to help her hang up her jacket and backpack. I thought I was spoiling her and encouraging dependence. It was painful to watch the other kids acting so much more independent as I compared the two.

However, I’m reminded of what I’ve learned about attachment theory and true independence. This past year, I have trusted that as I nurture her need for dependence, she would eventually develop true independence. I trusted that the independence I saw in the other children was not necessarily true independence. Sometimes it’s just children following the social norms and doing as they “should”.

Dr. Laura Markham, an attachment theorist, explains the concept of true independence further in this article from her blog. She is a psychologist I’d like to learn more about. A lot of her work, books and articles ring true for me. As I write this post, I’m reminded of her teachings on true independence. While I can’t remember the exact source of the information I found, this article will suffice.

Attachment theory supports the idea that as we hold close, children will eventually venture off and spread their wings. I witnessed that this morning and it was wonderful.

 

Image from afineparent.com

Bedtime Poem – Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

bedtime poemBedtime poem were always a part of my bedtime routine when I was a child. To this day, I have the poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” stuck in my head from my mother repeating it on a nightly basis.

I have taken this same tradition and am trying to pass it onto my own children.

When I was pregnant with Ella, I repeated this poem frequently while she was in the womb. My logic was based on the theory that babies, after they are born, remember and react to sounds they heard in utero. My husband swears that Ella would stop crying whenever I would repeat the poem. Who knows for sure?

As part of Jack’s bedtime routine, I have incorporated the same poem. There are times he will stop crying mid-sentence as soon as I start. As a result, I thought it would be nice to share it here too.

 

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Eugene Field

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—

Sailed on a river of crystal light

Into a sea of dew.

“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”

The old moon asked the three.

“We have come to fish for the herring-fish

That live in this beautiful sea;

Nets of silver and gold have we,”

Said Wynken,

Blynken,

And Nod.

 

The old moon laughed and sang a song,

As they rocked in the wooden shoe;

And the wind that sped them all night long

Ruffled the waves of dew;

The little stars were the herring-fish

That lived in the beautiful sea.

“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—

Never afraid are we!”

So cried the stars to the fishermen three,

Wynken,

Blynken,

And Nod.

 

All night long their nets they threw

To the stars in the twinkling foam,—

Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,

Bringing the fishermen home:

‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed

As if it could not be;

And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed

Of sailing that beautiful sea;

But I shall name you the fishermen three:

Wynken,

Blynken,

And Nod.

 

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,

And Nod is a little head,

And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies

Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;

So shut your eyes while Mother sings

Of wonderful sights that be,

And you shall see the beautiful things

As you rock in the misty sea

Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—

Wynken,

Blynken,

And Nod.

 

Image taken from www.capadiadesign.com

Sleep Training – Fading Method

Sleep TrainingSleep training: my saga continues.

Along this sleep training journey, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get Jack to soothe himself to sleep with the least amount of crying. Simultaneously, I’ve also been trying to figure out how I can reduce my sleep deprivation.

So far, I have kept his window of time between naps to less than 2 hours, I try to follow a routine and I use a soother. Even though I have found the soother helpful, I would like to get rid of it. I seem to have mixed emotions about it. I suppose it has its benefits and pitfalls.

Currently, Jack is unable to fall asleep without the soother since he pops it out and then cries. Throughout naps and bedtimes, I have to reposition the soother in his mouth in order to help him fall back asleep. I haven’t figured it out yet. But…

In my search for answers, I did find some resources I wanted to share. Here are 3 links from babycenter.com on the 3 ways you can sleep train your baby: no cry method, cry it out method, and fading method. I found the information in these links to be very concise and practical. They also provide a brief description and commentary on different books available. Some of the books are a repeat of what I’ve listed on my book resource page.

From looking over the information, the fading method rings the truest for me while also supporting my values with Attachment Theory. I’ve been practicing leaving Jack for a few minutes to cry and then coming back to reassure. I feel happiest with this balance.

Here are a few of the books listed for the fading method:

The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West

Fading method

The Happy Sleeper by Julie Wright and Heather Turgeon

fading method

 

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rejected – We Can’t Change Other People

Rejected

It was our last bedtime on Saturna Island and Ella wanted to sleep beside her older cousin. She had been asking ever night since his arrival and had been turned down every time. This was her last opportunity.

I stood beside Ella as I watched the older cousin respond “No” to my question, “Can Ella sleep beside you tonight?” I was confused by his response as he said earlier that she could. But mostly I was hurt, protective and defensive. I didn’t want my daughter to have her little heart broken. And yet, this wasn’t going to be the last time somebody broke her heart and rejected her. As you would expect, she immediately burst in to tears. I knew this was an opportunity and a gift to work through these yucky feelings. I needed her to experience these feelings of rejection under my safety and guidance before she’s thrown out into the real world.

My first reaction was to empathize with her feelings of disappointment, hurtfulness, and sadness. Then I went into logic…perhaps a bit too soon. I tried to explain that we can’t change other people, only ourselves. I also tried to look at different reasons why he wasn’t willing to sleep beside her. However, she wasn’t responding as well to this. Although I gave her a couple choices, she didn’t want to take any of them. She was stuck on wanting to share a bed with her cousin. All the while, I tried to remain sensitive to how she was feeling and understand that she was stuck in her emotions. In the end, we resolved to go to the bedroom to assess the situation.

I knew she had to face the futility of the situation. I tried to remind myself that I was giving her a gift…helping her deal with disappointment now so she can better handle it later. I was able to convince her to lay down in the sleeping bag although I needed to remain with her for a while. I was hesitant to stay but knew she needed me in that moment.

It breaks my heart to think of all the future situations of hurt, rejection, disappointment and sadness I can’t save her from. I will not be with her in every moment of her life to come rushing in to protect her from the pain. She will also make choices that I won’t agree with. These are the challenges all parents face. In a way, I need to experience my own futility and come to acceptance. I can’t save her from the future but I can guide her through those feelings now so she’s better prepared when the larger ones come.

After bedtime, I probed a bit and discovered that the older cousin felt uncomfortable with Ella’s affection towards him throughout the day. I could tell that she is enamoured by her cousin and was constantly wanting to hug him and be close to him. I had to decide how I was going to communicate with Ella in a way that wasn’t going to crush her spirit.

The next day, we had an open conversation about the many reasons why her cousin wanted to sleep on his own. I was able to suggest that his comfort level with physical affection was not the same as hers. This is also the case with other people we encounter through life. Rather than focusing specifically on her cousin, I talked more broadly about how we can respond to people that don’t want as much hugging and snuggles as her. She responded really well. As a result, I was proud of my teachable moment and the opportunity to guide her through this area of life. I’m hoping she’ll remember this lesson and be considerate towards her friends and how she displays her friendship towards them.

As I was going through this 2 day process, I had a lot of prior learning circling through the back of my mind. I was trying to pull together all my parenting skills and knowledge to determine how to deal with Ella through each moment. The most predominate information that came to my attention was from the book, “The Whole Brain Child” by Daniel Siegel MD and Tina Payne-Bryson PhD. I come back to the teachings in this book a lot. It’s really the core of how I deal with temper tantrums and emotional upsets. I highly recommend reading this book and the other books connected with it. I appreciate the blend of brain science and psychology in a practical way.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Whole Brain Child

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Low Milk Supply – Breastmilk or Formula

low milk supplyI nursed my daughter until she was 3 ½ years old. I never imagined I’d have struggles with my milk supply during the second time around.

At about 4 months of age, I needed to pump milk for Jack so I could take Ella to the theater. I was immediately surprised when I was only able to pump 1 oz when 4 oz is the minimum requirement for a meal.

Upon some brief perusing of Google, I discovered a few things:

  1. It’s totally normal to not get enough milk for a full feed in one pumping session.
  2. Pumps are not as efficient as babies are for extracting milk. I could be reassured that my baby was getting what he needed.
  3. Pumps get old and the motors aren’t as strong. Considering my pump is well over 5 years old, this could be a factor.

So I was relieved to learn that what I was experiencing was normal. However, there still was a nagging feeling that things weren’t as they should be. I could tell that Jack was getting increasingly fussy and dissatisfied. This caused my fear to escalate and resulted in a call the nurses’ line.

The nurse assessed Jack over the phone and asked about his diapers output. While I haven’t paid a lot of attention to his output, this prompted me to start noticing. Over the next couple days, I was increasing in concern. Perhaps my milk supply is low and this milk pumping episode unveiled an underlying problem.

I, of course, dusted off my trusty book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” to see what it had to say. Since milk production is a reflection of supply and demand, I was going to devote myself to extra breastfeeding sessions. Formula or medication was not an option. The book comforted and reassured me that these things happen and there are solutions. I resolved to have a nursing vacation over the weekend.

Throughout the weekend, Jack became increasingly fussy. He just didn’t seem to feed for longer than 5 minutes. I considered the reassurances of people who say that babies are very efficient at getting the milk they need. However, that only seemed to reassure me for a short while. At one point, in extreme fear that I was starving my baby, I succumbed to giving him a bottle of milk I had pumped. It was so bizarre and betraying for me. A mix of feelings were stirred up as I hand delivered his breast milk that I was capable of giving him straight from the source.

I made it through the weekend and booked an appointment with the doctor. Sure enough, he was immediately concerned. Jack dropped from the 50th percentile to the 17th! While I normally don’t take these charts so seriously, it was obvious that there was a problem to be addressed. Because I’m unwilling to use formula as a replacement, I have reluctantly agreed to go on medication. I’m unsure why I have had a reduction in my milk supply.

My speculation is the soother. That damn soother that I never wanted to introduce in the beginning. Due to my husband’s advice, I hesitantly offered it and now I’m trapped. However, to be honest, it has been handy.

While I did introduce the soother after the recommended 6 weeks, I can see how Jack’s sucking needs were not solely satisfied by me. I believe that the lack of stimulation affected my hormones which then introduced my period. As a result, the onset of my period then took a hit to my supply. Now, here I am, on milk medication, with side effects I don’t care for. However, this journey has sure given me an appreciation and compassion for the struggles other women have experienced. In the end, life is happening FOR me, not to me. I believe this experience will serve me in some way even if it’s simply to connect with other women.

Note: when I am faced with the decision between sticking with breastfeeding or switching to formula, I am reminded of the difference between the two. I find the difference shocking!

breastmilk

Click to view larger image

Image courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fourth Trimester – Simulating the Womb Postpartum

fourth trimester

I was introduced to the concept of the fourth trimester when I was pregnant with Ella. It really rang true for me and was a practice I wanted to adopt in my parenting.

Here’s a beautiful article that talks about the fourth trimester, empathy with our newborns, and how to simulate the womb environment.

I’ve read that babies need to be born at 40 weeks because the size of their potential brain. If they were allowed to be born when their brains reach their full growth, we would have a gestation period of 18 to 21 months. Wow! As a result, babies are born at 40 weeks with an underdeveloped brain (less than 25-30% of an adult brain size) so they can fit through the narrow passageway. Then the rest of the growing occurs outside the womb with the brain doubling in size the first year. The idea here is that we need to treat 3 months postpartum as an extension of the womb.

My favorite way to simulate the womb experience is with baby wearing, swaddling, and skin-to-skin contact.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cry It Out vs No Cry Sleep – Finding the Middle Ground

Cry It Out

To cry or not to cry? Now that is the question.

I’ve been torn about the cry it out method and there are times when I barely dabble in it for 5 minutes – usually I’m frustrated at this point and don’t know what else to do. Thankfully, during the times when I’m in doubt, I get intersected by some information that reminds me what my true values are.

  1. Attachment Theory and the 6 Stages of Attachment. I primarily focus on the first stage of proximity during the first year.
  2. The concept of the fourth trimester and simulating the womb environment.
  3. The effects of stress and the biology of cortisol in the brain

I stumbled upon this article that ties together all 3 of these points. Here’s a blurb from an article I found called, “Cry It Out: The Method That Kills Baby Brain Cells.”

In her recent piece for Psychology Today, Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at Notre Dame, writes that when babies are stressed, their bodies release cortisol into their systems — a toxic hormone that kills brain cells. Considering their brains are only 25 percent developed when they’re born full-term and grow rapidly in their first year, killing off baby brain cells is a huge no bueno. Narvaez notes that studies out of Harvard, Yale, Baylor and other prestigious institutions show that said killing off of baby brain cells can lead to the higher probability of ADHD, poor academic performance and anti-social tendencies, and that human babies are hardwired for hands-on comfort and care.

“Babies are built to expect the equivalent of an ‘external womb’ after birth… being held constantly, breastfed on demand, needs met quickly,” Narvaez writes. “These practices are known to facilitate good brain and body development. When babies display discomfort, it signals that a need is not getting met, a need of their rapidly growing systems.”

When I hear about cortisol, I’m connected with the depth of knowledge I’ve gained about brain science from Dr. Caroline Leaf. She talks extensively about how the brain is wired and the effects of cortisol in the brain. The brain is such a mysterious subject that scientists are still trying to figure out. I am trying to limit anything that is harmful to my child’s brain. So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that attachment theory develops the brain and crying it out does not.

From all the books I’ve read on sleep training (find them here), I have found the book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is the closest to my values and supports the idea of an “external womb.” While I haven’t finished reading “The No-Cry Sleep Solution,” I would conclude that it aligns with the same values as well.

To be honest, I do start to second guess attachment theory when Marc Weissbluth (“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”) argues against its role with sleep training. From what I can tell, he thinks it has its place but not when it interferes with a parent honoring their child’s need to sleep – whether it means crying or not.

In conclusion, I primarily swing to the side of using no cry sleep strategies. While I try to find a balance, I do allow a wee wee bit of crying. However, I always bookend the crying with reassuring my baby that I’m still there for comfort. More often than not, I error on the side of comfort and linger a little bit longer than I should. Although, that “should” really is just a judgment from the books I’ve read. Sure it’s easier to create bad habits, which are harder to live with, than it is to create good habits, which are easier to live with. But I’m going to do what works best for me and my family, what aligns with my values and what brings me peace.

My sleep goals have been to honor sleep, keep the window of wakefulness shorter than 2 hours and try to find the optimal drowsy state where sleep is the easiest to achieve. I also have a goal to get rid of that damn soother.

 

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Sleep Deprived – How Do You Know?

Sleep Deprived

One of the trademarks of having a baby is sleep deprivation…it kinda comes with the territory. Here’s an article listing 11 signs of sleep deprivation, in case you’re curious or unsure.

It didn’t take much for me to conclude that I’m sleep deprived. These last couple months have been a crazy roller coaster ride that I can’t seem to get off. Along the way there have been 3 aspects of sleep deprivation that have been such a tease.

Tease #1 is when you finally go back to sleep after feeding/soothing and then a short time passes when your baby awakes again. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some countries, you know, and I can see why.

What’s even more of a tease (tease #2) is when you finally have the opportunity to go back to sleep, and then you can’t sleep! That’s just not fair. Is life playing some kinda mean trick on me? I must either be too aroused or have one ear tuned in, dreadfully anticipating the next cry.

Upon these night awakenings, my first choice of action is to shove the soother back Jack’s mouth. But then I wonder if I’m contributing to the habit and exasperating the problem even further. Or out of sheer desperation for a guaranteed chunk of sleep, I’ll put him in the baby swing. The result is a feeling of guilt and wondering whether I’m creating a bad habit.

But fortunately, after a difficult night sleep, I’m grateful that my daughter has day camp the next day so I can at least take a nap. With Ella, I didn’t usually follow the classic advice to “sleep when your baby is sleeping.” I find many new mothers don’t either. I guess we think we’re “fine” and keep plowing through the day. But from what I’ve learned about sleep, you can acquire a sleep debt. It has taken having postpartum depression and a second child to start heeding the advice to “sleep when the baby is sleeping.”

Alright, so I’ve learned my lesson, I’m trying to sleep when the baby is sleeping. But then one of two things happen, which leads to tease #3. Either I can’t sleep even though I’m tired (see tease #2). Or I finally get to sleep and not long after, Jack wakes up! I can feel the short circuiting sparks ricocheting in my brain as I desperately think, “Go….back …to ..sleeeep…..please….oh puh…leeeeease!” This is not sustainable. No human can live off of broken night sleep and less than an hour nap all day. At some point, something has to give.

Out of delusion and urgency, I either plug the soother in his mouth or use the swing. The aftermath is the same feelings mentioned prior: guilt, doubt and fear of creating bad habits.

So I’m in a blur of confusion of what to do or not do. I’m immersed in different books all telling me different things. I’m uncertain about what my values are about crying it out or not. I seem to oscillate back and forth between the two. I’m fearful that I’m creating bad habits that will cause problems down the road. I guess after having one kid, you see all the things you don’t want to repeat and then hope to do it differently with the second. Some of these bad habits could be adding to my milk supply being low, which then creates another layer of challenges. Oh, what is one to do? I know I’m not alone and that there are other women out there, awake several times throughout the night, empathizing with my difficulties.

In the end, I need to come back to compassion. It’s no wonder I do the things I do when it’s 3 in the morning, it’s been 3 months of getting less than 3 hours of sleep at a time, and the only thing I can think to do out of sheer desperation is shove a soother back into my baby’s mouth or put him in a swing. Fortunately, children are adaptable and they will, of course, change again!

Therefore, I have come full circle with the same conclusion I had when I was trying to figure out sleep with Ella: the most important thing is for everyone to be sleeping; however that needs to be obtained, so be it. I choose to accept and not judge – it is what it is, neither good nor bad.

And I choose laugher yoga! “Hi my name is Kristina. Hahahahaha. And I’m sleep deprived! Hahahaha…ohh HAHAHAHAHA…(hilarious laughter and chuckles).” Aaahh that feels better already.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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