So my significant other went back to work today, meaning that I was all by myself looking after the newborn (less than 3 weeks old) and toddler (21 months).
I was unsure how it would go. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago what the day would look like I would have had no idea and probably thought I wouldn’t be able to do it at all. Fortunately it all went ok. There were a few “it never rains but it pours”… “you wait for a bus and then two come along at once” etc moments. Including, waiting in for the midwife to visit (who can come any time between 9-5) and another medical visit and then having them both turn up within a few minutes of each other. The midwife also brought a student midwife with her just to add to the party. I had the toddler (LL) in his highchair in the kitchen attempting to eat his lunch (which he refused to eat) and the baby resting in his chair so fortunately it all looked under control when the first visitor arrived. The house was a complete mess though and I was embarrassed; there was what looked like a pompom explosion in the living room from where LL was “playing” earlier (by playing I mean he threw pompoms everywhere). There was dirty laundry sitting on the floor outside the washing machine cupboard. There was washing drying in the bathroom. I had just managed to get dressed about half an hour before this so at least I wasn’t still in pyjamas but still looked a bit of a state (no makeup, brushed hair, brushed teeth etc of course). The midwife told me that I was doing well because sometimes people don’t managed to get dressed the first day they’re left alone with the baby.
I had started to pencil out a schedule and was hoping to be all structured with planned toddler activities but hadn’t managed to get much of this in place. However, I did have a look through the toys and picked out some activities including colouring, reading and playing with cars. The final daily/weekly structure is yet to come. I’ve been going through Pinterest pins and relevant sites for toddler activities though and making notes and lists. I’ve ordered some bits and pieces from amazon and ebay including sticky backed velcro and contact paper (sticky back plastic) for certain activity ideas and printed off some free printable sheets including colour matching activities.
Anyways, here’s what we got up to today
7:45am – wake-up and breakfast
feed the baby while toddler watches TV (*gasp* – yes we watched TV, especially useful when I need some time with the baby)
colouring books with toddler
playing with toy cars
mummy finally gets dressed, plan to make lunch for toddler
12ish – health visitors all decide to turn up at once. Place is a state. I can’t find the baby’s health book that they need. I all of a sudden have 3 health professionals in my small living room, a toddler who won’t eat his lunch and a newborn that’s being poked at by at least one of the health professionals (and doesn’t appreciate it).
toddler is offered alternative lunch that he doesn’t really eat much of
nap time for toddler (post-lunch) which he resists for a long time but finally falls asleep following story books and a song
mummy eats her lunch and sorts out baby
get us all ready to go out the house
4pm – finally get out of the house using combination travel method of baby sling, pram and reins for toddler
plan to go to the park but toddler spends about 30 minutes picking up small stones and twigs on the walk there and enjoys tossing them off a small bridge into a stream below and refuses to stop doing this. I give in and just stand around waiting. Let’s call this a sensory nature walk!!
no time to go to park so walk back home, slowly, with toddler picking up multiple sticks, stones, conkers, etc
dinner time for toddler. Refuses his dinner. Baby crying for food. Try to satisfy both children at the same time. Toddler only wants to eat cream cheese for dinner. Tell him this is not acceptable
bath for toddler and bed – but significant other is now home and does this. Baby crying significantly. Has gas
toddler in bed. Parents eat dinner. Apple crumble and custard for pudding. Yum
My first day alone with the baby and toddler
It’s week one!! Baby is very cute, likes to sleep a lot and is picking up on his feeding. The toddler (LL) is learning to be “gentle” with the baby by touching him very softly. I’m not sure how he feels about the new addition. He is excited to see the baby but also has been a bit more mischievous and cheeky this week.
Here’s what we got up to the last few days:
♥ Had several naps, feeds, nappy changes, a few changes of clothes
♥ Face to face time, quick look at a high contrast flash card and a bit of time in his basket
♥ Visit from the community midwife (standard follow up) for weighing and check-in on any issues. Fortunately this all went fine. We had the heel-prick/newborn blood spot test, which baby did not like, but is standard and necessary for early detection of some rare health conditions
♥ Had our first bath. The midwife said to wait at least 5 days so we didn’t have one straight away. He seemed to enjoy the water. He went very calm and quiet once in there
♥ Attempted a minute of tummy time, but was bit more of him just lying on his front!
So the last few days we have been shopping for a sofa and other furniture. There are far too many sofa choices and it’s difficult with a nearly 7 month old. I also didn’t plan/time things well (as I usually find) when out and ended up having to feed him on a sofa in one of the furniture shops. At least it meant I got a good feel for the sofa though. Fortunately, the place was empty apart from me (not many sofa-shoppers around on a Friday afternoon, suppose they must all be at work and come out at the weekends, which is why I wanted to get to the shops before the hoards descended on the weekend).
Back to feeding for a moment though, this is a problem i’ve found with feeding “on demand”; it makes it difficult to plan and have a consistent schedule because you don’t know exactly when you will be required. That said, from monitoring the Little Lovely (LL) there are some patterns to his eating and sleeping so it is possible to predict his hunger and tiredness somewhat. I’m also trying to get more consistent “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner” time feeds in because we have started to introduce solids. I’m not replacing any milk feeds with a solid feed yet but I am trying to introduce a more solid lunch meal by giving LL some food after his lunch time milk feed. So far he has tried various fruits and vegetables including banana, carrot, pear, apple (puréed and mushed up) and baby rice (it’s a bit like instant porridge). He also quite likes rice cakes, however, these are meant for 7 month and older babies (he is almost 7 months and has 6 teeth) (please consult your health care professional and make up your own mind about whether your baby is ready for a particular solid food)
- note to self – write about our weaning experiences – “weaning tales”
Anyway, back to sofa shopping. It wasn’t that easy with a small child in tow. Fortunately, there were lots of faux living room “set ups” in the shop with sofas and a nice rug so I put him down on the rug with some toys (making sure there was no coffee table for him to bang his head on) whilst I tried out the seating options. It worked somewhat; he was safe on the rug and meant that I didn’t have to keep picking him up and flopping down on a sofa with him.
We were able to go shopping because one of our regular baby classes has finished. A lot of classes seem to stop for summer and run during school term dates. I’m not sure how relevant this is to babies as they do not have “summer term” because they are not at school. I also have no other children, so I don’t have any children at home on summer break that I need to stay home to look after so I don’t really understand why so many classes stop for the summer. It’s very annoying and disappointing because LL and I still need activities and events to entertain ourselves with. I keep meaning to write something on the psychological aspects and maybe benefits of these classes. This would include benefits for the parent as well because it gives you something to do, get out the house, is social, active, gives you ideas and tips for baby related activities, and many other things that I’m sure are connected to good mental health of mothers (and fathers too).
- note to self – write about the benefits, or relevant psychological aspects of attending baby/toddler classes.
Anyway, after all his patience and visiting a department store to look at yet more furniture, I treated LL to a stroll into the toy department where he enjoyed some puppets and soft toys.
So yesterday the Little Lovely and I went to a baby talk thingy about sleep (aged 5 months)
We’d actually been to it before, a couple of months ago, and the session was being run again by a sleep expert woman that you can hire the services of for quite a lot of money. She kept it quite generic as there were a lot of mothers there with various issues but some common aspects among us, mostly being that baby was not sleeping as long as we’d like them to (of course) or issues with getting baby off to sleep. It was very interesting to go, normalised the sleep issues because, as we discussed, even if you have some “friend” or mother you come across that states that their child sleeps for 12 hours at night uninterrupted, that is the exception and not the norm. I’ll add though that the babies here were probably all under 8-10 months old.
It also made me think that maybe LL’s sleeping isn’t that bad afterall! Sure, i’m up about 3 times a night to feed him and I get about 2-3 hour stretches of sleep, but some of the mothers there were up 7 times a night and one spoke about how her baby scratches himself at night and only falls asleep by scratching himself. She had to put gloves on him. The sleep lady thought that the touching and scratching was something he did to stimulate himself and help get himself to sleep and suggested a comforter with tags or something tactile on it. Interesting situation; wish we’d spoken about it more but unfortunately someone with a louder voice took up a lot of the time (as is often the case in groups) about how her child sleeps from 8 until 5am, but she couldn’t get him to sleep any later than 5am and was tired of getting up so early. Someone eventually commented, when the group couldn’t find any satisfactory solution, maybe she should be happy that her child is sleeping for 9 hours at a time because most of us are not. Harsh, but true especially when speaking to a group of sleep deprived mothers who have been deprived for about half a year or more.
Other issues we talked about:
independent comforters – for example using a comforter, blanket, something that is independent from you and is not the breast, being rocked by you etc, so that baby can use this to feel secure and self sooth and you do not need to be there every time he falls sleeps. We tried this with LL but it never really took off. I bought a nice comforter blanket and slept with it for a few nights (as the sleep lady recommended, to get your smell on it) and got it out when feeding LL (the sleep lady recommended actually putting it between you and baby when feeding) but he wasn’t interested. Another thing I could have done but didn’t would be to play with it with LL and associate it with fun and get him more used to it.
putting baby down when sleeping/drowsy – using whatever method you use for baby to get sleepy e.g. rocking, cuddles, etc, but not using these to the point where he is actually asleep and therefore teaching baby the skill of falling asleep independently (much easier said than done, of course)
a good bedtime routine, nap routines including use of certain words such as “sleeping time now” or any other word cues. Basically, weaving some cues into the routine so that baby can start to recognise it’s nearly sleep time by using words, song, actions like reading a book
something called “wake to sleep” – i’ve not heard of this, I need to look into it more (note to self – look into this)
shaping naps with baby after 5 months of age – this was good to hear because i was thinking that we need to start getting a good nap routine and schedule in place and LL is nearly 5 and half months.
start with one nap at a time, focus on it and then build on it – building on the above point, to focus on one nap and work on that to begin with – also good to hear because I have been focussing on the morning nap with LL and making sure we 1) do one! 2) he is in his cot 3) he falls asleep in his cot which he mostly does although sometimes I need to go into the bedroom and shush/pat or pick him up and comfort him a few times. We were previously doing morning naps in the buggy because LL only fell asleep by being pushed back and forth in it.
We also spoke about whether you should let your baby cry at night and there were mixed views. There was the view that “happy parent makes happy baby” and so if baby cries for a bit during “sleep training” but then sleeps better as the outcome then everyone in the family benefits. I know that this could be a contentious issue as some are very firmly no cry, and others are not. I have also come across the view that leaving baby to “cry it out” and “controlled crying” results in an eventual reduction of crying, a quieter baby and better sleeping because it actually develops learned helplessness – the baby stops crying and sleeps because they have learnt that nothing they do in the situation can help and they have no control. They have learnt this because the times that they did cry, they were left to cry, or were comforted but didn’t receieve a feed or get picked up or whatever else they were expecting. Therefore, they are helpless and give up, rather than the view that the sleep training intervention resulted in baby sleeping peacefully because they “learnt” to sleep, learnt that it is night time and therefore they should be tired and sleep.
Ψ here’s a nice short video and further info on the traditional meaning of learned helplessness, observations/research that led to the development of the term (Seligman), and it’s application to mental health (attributions)
Erm, not sure about this myself, seems bit extreme, I mean, we’re talking about behavioural aspects here. Ok, say there is a behaviour going on that is not really very nice and leads to some problems for another person, say for example, your child goes around hitting another child and screaming in their face. Most people would address this and implement some kind of behavioural strategy, maybe some kind of reinforcement or positive punishment such as telling the child off, removing a reward (negative punishment) etc.
Ψ Here’s a good page that explains positive/negative reinforcement and punishers – for example, they explain that “punishment” doesn’t necessarily mean there is a harmful or dangerous consequence, it’s a process where a consequence immediately follows a behaviour which decreases the future likelihood of that behaviour occurring. Positive punishment is where a negative consequence is put in place after the behaviour, like sending child to “time out” or telling them off, and negative punishment where a good thing or desired outcome is removed after the behaviour occurs, such as removing cake/sweets/ice cream because the child was “naughty”. Reinforcement is where behaviour increases. Positive reinforcement is where a behaviour increases because it’s followed by a positive/motivating consequence such as praise, reward, like giving a kid money (positive) for doing chores (the behaviour). Negative reinforcement is where behaviour increases because a negative consequence is removed, such as a kid does his chores (behaviour) to avoid being nagged to do it (negative).
Ψ punishers = want to decrease frequency/likelihood of a behaviour
Ψ reinforcers = want to increase frequency/likelihood of a behaviour
Anyway, what was my point~? I think it was that you might implement some kind of behavioural strategy or consequence for some behaviours but would we call the desired outcome, i.e. the kid stops screaming at and hitting the other child, an example of learned helplessness? Why implement the strategy in the first place? Well because not many people in the situation are benefiting – the other child isn’t, the parent isn’t, and what’s the child’s motivation or concern that is leading to him screaming and hitting? Because parents are “training” or “guiding” their child in something, be it sleep or other behaviours, why must the outcome be labelled learned helplessness? Each family and parent is different and has their own motivation and justification for what they do, and if by leaving their child to cry for a few minutes at a time while periodically comforting them (or not, depending on the parent), so that the outcome is that they can sleep and therefore better parent their children and cope with the day, then so be it.
And so speaking of which, I’m also going to start working on some of these night time feeds because i’m not sure how good it is for either of us to be waking up every few hours. I might start with one and see what happens. Did I mention that I’ve been sleep deprived for almost half a year?
Please note: there are of course many other views and approaches to the change to one’s sleeping patterns that comes with children. See, for example, this post on something called “wait it out” (rather than cry it out, I assume).
A quote from the article (I especially like point 1 about sleep being developmental, not behavioural):
WIO or the “Wait it Out” Method of sleep training is a method with a few core beliefs:
1- Independent sleep is developmental not behavioral.
2- Needing comfort and closeness is an instinct not a preference.
3- Cries are communication not manipulation.
4- Babies can slowly and gently learn to be comfortable with independent sleep as they are developmentally ready.
5- The path each baby will take to independent sleep is unique.
6- The progression to independent sleep does not always feel like forward momentum.
Further relevant links:
on controlled crying, from the NHS – discussion of the research
an evolutionary perspective on why babies wake their mothers in the middle of the night – to breastfeed and therefore to reduce likelihood of siblings, therefore improving their chances of survival!
http://www.cry-sis.org.uk – the cry-sis helpline – Cry-sis offers support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies – 08451 228 669
I’m attempting a better day time schedule (maybe this will positively impact on night time?). So far we don’t really have one. This is terrible I know because in my work I am all about behavioural interventions and working with people to log their activities and create meaningful activities and some structure to their day. In my depression related work with adults this can be fundamental and people often see an increase in mood with an increase in meaningful activities, good self care and better sleep at night. At the moment with LL we just do what I think he wants to do when he wants to do it. It’s probably an extension of the feeding and sleeping on demand that was present from birth. But now I’m wondering if the lack of structure and routine is just not very containing or predictable for him, or for me. Naps and feeds then get thrown off and can occur at any time. He doesn’t know what to expect and neither do I.
In another attempt to break the eat-sleep association, I’m trying to not feed before naps and instead to do a feed, wake (inc. play/activities/baby classes etc) and then sleep kind of structure. I just need to work out how long each cycle should be. Some say 3, some say 4 hours at this stage (e.g. Baby Whisperer; LL is 4.5 months). The eat-sleep association just kind of arose because it was difficult to get LL off to sleep initially and that seemed to work. Rocking him while singing row your boat also seemed to work for day time naps and although I knew that in the long term these methods might not be great because he was reliant on my rocking or feeding, I didn’t mind because at least he was getting some sleep and not cyring about being tired. I thought – well I’ll just have to make changes to any habits later on because at this point (first few weeks/months) any sleep is better than no sleep, and I don’t care how we achieve it! And the longer the sleep, the better.
Ok so plan for next few weeks is to start more of a day time routine! Consistency and predictability is really important.
So we are still getting up a few times a night for feeds.
The Little Lovely (LL) seems to wake up around 1am, 3:30/4am and then about 6:30am. Apparently 6:30am is classed as morning and doesn’t count as a night awakening. Well it does in my book because it’s still the middle of the night and too early for me. He goes to bed around 8pm so can now go a good 5 hours before waking which is great compared to the earlier months and weeks when I was getting up every 2 hours to feed him and it was horrible. I think I must have adapted to disturbed sleep and little sleep. I wonder if my sleep cycle has adapted so that the times LL wakes up actually coincide with the end of a sleep cycle? I have no idea if that’s possible.
What’s the research on this? (note to self – look into this)
So now I’m wondering if he should be sleeping without so many feeds and if I should be doing something about this – or if he is still too young. I don’t mind the first feed at 1am because he has had a good stretch of sleep. But is the next feed necessary? Should we just put up with it until he’s weaned or should we spend a few screamy nights of breaking the eat/sleep association)? Yaaay says LL’s father, to the latter idea. But what if he is genuinely hungry?
A quick look at the internet says that LL might be a “habitual waker” because he tends to wake at the same time every night. Apparently if he was going through a growth spurt and needed the food he would be waking at random times. We briefly attempted not feeding him during one waking the other night and all that happened was he cried at us and refused to be soothed or settled by cuddles, rocking or any other soothing and only calmed once he was fed.
Maybe I can try a briefer feed and slowly cut down on the length/time of feed to change the association between eating and sleeping (I have to suckle in order to fall asleep, otherwise I can’t do it alone).Although I’m not sure if a graded approach will work because I would still be feeding him to sleep, plus I’m very tired at 4am and might dose off and lose track of how long it’s been or it might work somewhat but take some time. And dosing off while nursing (both of us) is probably contributing to the issue.
I’ve found this:
PANTLEY’S GENTLE REMOVAL PLAN (See here)
from what I understand, this involves:
- Feeding baby when awake but rather than letting him fall asleep during the feed and whilst sucking, wait until he is relaxed and sleepy, then remove the breast/bottle just before falling asleep.
- If baby starts to look for the breast/bottle and tries to continue sucking then try to hold his mouth closed gently by putting a finger under his chin or some light pressure on the chin just below his lips (hmm, sounds easier said than done). You can rock the baby or say comforting words while doing this.
- If this doesn’t go down well then give the bottle/breast again and repeat the process until he falls asleep without sucking.
- When removing the breast/bottle, do this for about 10-60 seconds and count while you do this
- Repeat each night until baby can fall asleep on own and does not frequently wake at night.
- Work on this technique at bedtime, in particular the initial falling asleep as baby will probably want to fall asleep the same way for the rest of the night following any further awakenings.
- Once night time use of this method is achieved then it can also be used for naps.
- It could take several days or longer to break the association but you should eventually see a reduction in night awakenings
…… well we’ll see how well that goes down!
The other option is just to not nurse LL to sleep in the first place and to break the association, or develop a new association there. We should try reading a book or singing a lullaby or something immediately before sleep.
- Rather than feeding him in the bedroom right before he falls asleep maybe I’ll feed him in the living room with a dim light – then take him into the bedroom for a story or another quiet activity immediately prior to sleep.