How to prevent your baby being an unspoken victim of modern economics


Leaving my baby with grandma while I go back to work.

Leaving my baby with grandma while I go back to work.

Unfortunately, much of the advice new parents get about taking care of their baby pits the mother’s well-being against that of her baby.

Breaking the baby bond

One obvious example is being told to put your baby to sleep in a separate room and ‘training’ them to sleep on their own. To me, it’s pretty obvious that while the mum will get some much needed sleep, the baby’s needs are being undermined:

  • It ‘feels’ bad to do this. You will hear mothers say how ‘hard’ it was to listen to their babies cry and that they had to go for a walk rather than stay home and hear their baby’s screams.If you need to switch ‘off’ your maternal instincts, that is a very good sign that what you’re doing isn’t what your baby needs. Your instincts are there for a reason. I would even go so far as to say that perhaps this advice in training parents to ignore their baby’s needs in the interest of economic development. Once you disconnect from hearing your baby, it’s much easier to put them in daycare and return back to work to keep the economic wheels turning.
  • There are scientific studies showing that letting your baby cry for you and not attending to them is damaging for their mental (and physical) development due to elevated stress hormones.
  • There are amazing benefits of co-sleeping. The fact that these benefits exist proves that sleeping with your baby is the right (and to me, the only) option. For more info about this, have a look here https://cosleeping.nd.edu

How did we get here?

Economic development has meant that parents need to go to work. Usually this leaves mum to parent on her own while her husband is working, and increasingly, many babies are being looked after by paid child carers while both parents are working.

However, work isn’t really the problem, as parents have always had to work in some form or other – catching fish/making homes/preparing meals etc. The major difference is that our economic growth has also meant the elimination of the extended family network and community support. We’ve been sold the story that we need to be independent. That our ‘privacy’ is extremely important and desirable. We also believe that our success and worth a measured by the size of our homes, the make of our cars and the brand of our clothes. These beliefs are great for economic development (we need to buy, buy, buy and work, work, work!) but not so good on the social front. It’s pretty much just mum and baby… with no  grandma’s, aunt’s or sisters around to take care of the baby when mum need to work, have a rest or nap, go out for some fun or just tune out and watch the grass grow or kettle boil.

So instead of changing the way we live (heavens no!) we’ve decided to set aside the baby’s needs (they can’t really complain, being pre-verbal and immobile, and if they cry we can turn the TV up really loud) to accommodate our unnatural and unsupportive lifestyles.

Being a modern economic mum can be dangerous

Mums who are stuck at home on their own with new babies are at high risk of post-natal depression. When you have your baby, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire assessing your risk of developing depression. You will also be told to teach your baby to sleep on their own and not to breastfeed them too much. This is to protect you from becoming excessively tired, which can start a downward spiral into post-natal depression, with serious consequences for mother and baby.

Whatever your beliefs about parenting, taking care of mum should be the number one priority for everyone.

A happy, thriving mum means a happy, thriving baby. These two people’s well-being doesn’t have to be at the expense of the other’s. Both mum and baby can make some lifestyle changes so they can BOTH have their needs met.

Four tips to avoid letting your baby become a victim of modern economics

Don’t let yourself feel like a ‘guilty’ mum.

It’s common for mothers to feel like they’re not doing well enough. They look to what other parents are (apparently!) doing and think they can’t match it. When I was a new mum my friend confided in me that she felt like she was failing. I listened her out, but my view on the subject was, ‘my baby doesn’t know what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing. All he knows is that mum is there to cuddle and feed him, and if he’s happy and growing, then I’m doing a good job!’

Ask for help

It’s a little embarrassing and shameful in our modern, independent, economy to ask for help. Everyone is so busy getting ahead that we don’t feel like we can ask anyone to help us out. Maybe you need someone to look after the baby while you nap, or clean, or cook, or a million other things (generally, I’d prefer someone to look after the baby while I did these things, rather than asking people to do these things, because it’s always nice to have a break from the baby and do something else for a while!).

But if you can, break free and ask! I’m saying ‘if’ here because to be honest, I am very scared of asking for help and only really ask my partner to help me. I’d feel dishonest if I made out that this is easy to do.

Just because people don’t usually offer to help, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love to do it for you if you asked.

Get out and be social

If most mums are honest, they’ll tell you that being a mum at home with just your baby can be boring and lonely. I even found it a little ‘scary’.

As a first time mum, when my baby woke up I would panic, wondering how I would entertain him for two or three hours until his next nap!

I ended up going out a LOT. Luckily I lived in a thriving community with amazing playgroups, parks and cafes and I soon worked out a routine that kept me out and about and sane.

Even just having another person over, just their presence, made the world of difference to me.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, lonely or bored, get out, call a friend and ask them to come over or visit their house, or just go for a walk.

It really can make the world of difference to have support as a parent – watch this video http://vimeo.com/89070320

Make sure you’re not tired – and if you are – sleep!

Being tired is the beginning of a downward spiral and most modern parenting advice aims to prevent mums from being tired, as it’s a major cause of post-natal depression. But you don’t have to banish your baby to another room or limit their breastfeeds or any other awful thing that you’re told you ‘have’ to do.

Just make your rest a priority. I’ve already written about how I managed to get really great sleep with a baby. But if your baby insists on waking up a lot at night, or starting their day at 5am, or any other crazy sleep related thing that some babies do, then make your rest the goal each day. Take naps, go to bed early and have a microwave dinner in your pyjamas. Whatever gets you through!


What exactly do you expect?


One of the great ideas in my favourite of all time books, The Continuum Concept (by Jean Liedloff), is that kids do exactly what you expect them to do, not what you ask them to do.

Today I watched a great example of this idea.

This afternoon I took Charlie to his regular gym class. I also brought Austin with me, as usual, so he could get out of the house and explore his world.

While Charlie was doing his class I put Austin on the floor near the door with a half empty water bottle and my car keys to play with. There was a little girl playing on the floor too, waiting for her sister to finish the class. She immediately took interest in Austin and came over to play with him.

I was happy that Austin had the opportunity to meet the lovely little girl and have a little play, but unfortunately her mum kept calling her back. The little girl found it hard to listen to her mum, as the draw of playing with a baby was hard to overcome, so she came over again and squatted next to Austin, giving him a little pat.

The little girl’s mum could see how much she wanted to play with the baby, so she called her over and told her ‘don’t be too rough’ and some other similar instructions. So the little girl went back to Austin and put her foot in his face. She then stared back at her mum to see what reaction she would get.

If that mum had of just left them alone they would have had a lovely time playing together. Instead, the girl got the message that she was expected to be rough with the baby and like all wonderful and pure children, she did what she was told.


My nine month old’s daily rhythm


IMG_0123Wow…how Austin has grown! It seemed like only a minute ago that he was a tiny baby and now he’s crawling around the house and practicing his standing up. My day has changed as well, with me starting work a few months ago. So how does our day go?

Waking up

Austin is still a pretty reliable alarm (except for this morning, when he didn’t wake up until 8.30am and made me rush to get to work on time!). So I do trust him to wake up at around 7.30am each morning. He usually gives me a heads-up at 6.30am when he asks for a breastfeed.

Getting ready for school and work

IMG_9454Austin is going through a clingy stage, so he doesn’t like me walking around when he’s on the floor, even if it’s in the same room. If I try and make breakfast in the kitchen and put him on the floor he clings to my legs and asks to be picked up!

So instead I kill two birds with one stone and ask Oli to wake up and take care of Austin while I prepare breakfast and get ready for the day.

I am blessed to have a flexible employer and have asked to start work at 9.15am. This gives me time to walk Oli to school on the days I work from home or to drop him off if I am driving to the office. Austin always comes along, either in the sling or in the carseat, which luckily he doesn’t mind (except when we’re putting his seatbelt on!).

Work and play

So for the next five hours I am working. Working part-time is a great balance for me at the moment, as I still get plenty of time after work to spend time with my family and even cook dinner (which I never found time for when working full-time).

IMG_9912If I am at home (which is three days each week) I put Austin on the floor at my feet and work while he spends the morning playing. He’s pretty good at entertaning himself but if I am speaking on the phone he rushes over to me and asks to be picked up. He probably thinks a stranger is around and gets scared. This of course, is not very good timing, so I call out to Dada or Charlie to take care of Austin so I can finish my call. If I am planning a call I make sure someone is with him first. Other than that, it’s pretty relaxed working with my boys around and of course Austin gets lots of attention from Dada and Charlie. Although I am working, I still get to be a part of his life and watch him develop and grow. I was there when he rolled over for the first time and when he spent a week learning how to crawl and then finally did it. We all cheered and he looked at us with a, ‘what’s going on?’ expression.

Austin tends to have a short morning nap, perhaps around 9.30am, but lately he’s been staying awake until about 11.30am. I take five or ten minutes out to breastfeed him to sleep and if he doesn’t go to sleep right away I just get back to my work and wait until he looks tired again. Sometimes Dada might take over and rock him if he’s too tired to play but taking too long to fall asleep. He might also have another 20 minute nap in the afternoon, perhaps around 1.30pm.

If I am working from the office (the other two days each week) IMG_9896I wave bye to Charlie and Austin after Dada drops me off at work. Dada then takes care of Austin while I’m away. Until this week David would drive Austin to my work at around 12pm for a breastfeed, but this week he decided to see if Austin could go without and he did fine. Even when I got back into the car at 2pm Austin wasn’t fazed. He didn’t really think about having a breastfeed until we got home and I picked him up and put him in the breastfeeding position – at that point his eyes lit up and he got excited about having his feed.

Afternoon

After work I put Austin in his sling again and we take a walk to Oli’s school to pick him up. Austin’s chubby legs never fail to attract attention and he often tries to hide behing the sling straps to get some peace!

I then might spend some time with Austin before starting to get dinner ready (I rarely get to spend time with Oli or Charlie as they’re off playing with their next door neighbours).

Austin might also have a third nap at around 4.30pm, but the last few days he hasn’t really been as tired, so it seems he’s going from three naps to two.

IMG_9898If Austin is asleep or occupied while I’m making dinner I’ll leave him to it. If they’re home, Austin often chooses to spend time with his brothers and crawls all around the house following them around. Other times Austin doesn’t want to play and so I or Dada put him in the sling while making dinner. The only problem is when he tries to grab things and then drops them on the floor!

Dinner

IMG_9892Austin loves his food and is always happy to be put in his highchair for dinner time. I tend to give him the same food everyone else is eating, although I cut it up into tiny pieces first because he tends to choke on anything that’s too big (and he doesn’t have any teeth yet, so he can’t chew his food up!). If Austin can’t have our food (which doesn’t happen often, as we also need to please our four and seven year olds!) then I might give him some avacado or pear or toast. Although I’ve noticed he’s not much into avacado these days.

Bed time

IMG_0059At 7pm I put Austin in the bath. Since he’s a very competent sitter I no longer get in the bath with him, as it’s a small bath and too squishy for me plus an active baby. He has fallen backwards a few times but I’m there to sit him back up again and he’s never been hurt as the water cushions his fall. It helps not to fill the bath up too high (just enough to cover his legs) because then he’s heavier and more grounded. Grandma and Aunty Anna bought Austin some groovie bath toys for Christmas so Austin is never short of things to play with. He also enjoys examining the taps and throwing his toys on the bathroom floor and watching where they land.

Sleepies

After bath I take Austin to the bedroom to dry him up and get him ready for bed. As soon as I lie him down on his towel he begins to cry, but if I let him hold his tube of baby cream he cheers up immediately. I try to get Austin dry and dressed quickly as it’s the only part of the day he isn’t fond off.

IMG_9709I then lie down with him on a floor matt and feed him to sleep. I used to put him to sleep on the bed, and once he learned to crawl we put pillows all around him to stop him from rolling off. Because he always cries when he wakes up we always had time to get to him before he had time to move. But one night he didn’t make a sound when he woke up and simply crawled right off the bed! So from that night on we haven’t put him to sleep on a raised surface and I pick him up off the floor mat and put him in bed with me once I am ready to go to sleep myself.

Until that time Austin might wake up a few times (or sometimes not at all). As soon as I hear him cry I go to the bedroom and settle him back down with a breastfeed. It usually only takes five minutes before he is asleep again. Because the bedroom is at the front of the house and I usually spend my evenings at the back of the house, not long ago I bought a second hand baby monitor (it only cost $2 and it’s perfect!). So now we don’t need to check on Austin or pause a movie or listen out for sounds because we can hear any noises he makes loud and clear.


Breastmilk…the vaccine


Well, who knew!?

Obviously I was aware that breastfeeding your baby protected them against illness, but I had no idea it protected babies for up to 10 years, like a vaccine!?

There is actually a study showing that breastfed babies had lower rates of Haemophilus influenzae meningitis up to age ten!

I hope they do more research on this. Surely breastfeeding is preferable to taking risks with vaccines (but of course, not as profitable).

 

 


The bite…


I have beautiful boys, but sometimes they make silly decisions! Like the other day, when Charlie thought it would be a good idea to bite his next door neighbour…

The boys were playing in the backyard with their neighbours, Sally and Billy (not their real names!). When Sally went to have a turn on the swing, Oli told Charlie to ‘attack’ her, so like a good little brother Charlie obeyed the request and hit and bit Sally!

I didn’t know any of this had happened at the time, but realised something was off when I saw Charlie come into the house and hide in the laundry. Not long after Sally came inside in tears and showed us her arm. I could see it was red and assumed Charlie had hit her, I didn’t notice the teeth marks. I could see Charlie was upset about it and he told Sally he was sorry, so I decided to leave it at that.

Then there was a knock at the door. It was Sally’s mum. She was being lovely and just wanted to make sure we knew what had happened – which was lucky, as obviously I didn’t know the full extent of the problem. I felt so bad. I felt like Sally’s mum expected us to do more about the bite then let Charlie hide in the laundry (if it was a fight between my two I would have left it at this, as Charlie was scared and sorry…).

So after everyone was gone I called Charlie over and suggested that he draw Sally a picture to show how sorry he was and to make her feel happy. Charlie thought this was a good idea, but wasn’t in the mood to do it right away and said he’d do it tomorrow when he felt happy again.

First thing the next morning Charlie sat down and drew Sally a beautiful flower and butterfly. I then asked him what message he’d like to write and he said, “I’m really sorry.” Charlie also wanted to make Sally some muffins, so we got out the recipie book and Charlie baked some muffins (he did most of the work – even cracking the eggs!).

Once the muffins were ready we went over to give them and the drawing to Sally. She wasn’t home, but Charlie gave it to her dad and the next time we saw Sally she told us the muffins were delicious. I’m really glad we did that. Charlie got to say sorry in a beautiful and thoughtful way, Sally got a treat and I feel like I showed Charlie that biting was a really big deal and he should never do it again.


Which is the healthiest canteen drink?


Here is a list of some of the drinks offered at our canteen. Which one do you think is the healthiest for your child?

• Prima apple juice with 25% juice
• Aroona Cola with 10% juice
• Aroona Blue with 10% juice
• Aroona Lemon Lime with 10% juice
• Pop Tops apple juice with 35% juice
• Moove chocolate milk

You may have chosen the Pop Tops, as it contains 35% fruit juice. However, it also contains a few other ingredients that may actually be doing your child harm, including two different types of preservatives and artificial colours.

As it turns out, the healthiest choice is Prima, which is free from these harmful additives.

For a run down of what’s in our child’s canteen drinks, see the table below.

 
What’s in it?
Aroona Cola
 
Aroona Blue
 
Aroona Lemon Lime
 
Prima
Pop Tops
 
Moove chocolate milk

 

Water  H2O        x  x  
Carbonated Natural Spring Water Mixing carbon dioxide with water creates carbonic acid, making the water slightly more acidic. This can be bad for teeth.   x  x      
Reconstituted apple juice Reconstituted juice doesn’t have as much nutrition as freshly squeezed juice, as the enzymes needed for adequate food metabolism and the immune system are destroyed. This is why manufacturers often artificially add Vitamin C to such juices.       x25% of drink  x35% of drink  
Fruit juices The ingredient list didn’t specify what type of fruit juice the drink contains.  x10% of drink  x10% of drink        
Lemon fruit juice        x10% of drink      
Reduced fat milk Natural fats are important to maintain health.            x
Milk solids Powdered milk or dried milk is a manufactured dairy product made by evaporating milk to dryness.            x
Sugar Too much sugar can lead to tooth decay and obesity.        x  x  x
Cocoa powder (min. 0.25%) Derived from cacao beans            x
Sucrose This is table sugar, and is found naturally in plants such as pineapples and apricots. Too much sucrose can lead to tooth decay and obesity.  x  x  x      
Fructose This is fruit sugar, and is found in plants such as vine fruits, flowers, berries and root vegetables. It’s also found in honey. It can contribute to obesity.  x  x  x      
Food acid (330) Citric acid is created by fermenting molasses and is used as an acidity regulator. It can damage tooth enamel.  x  x  x  x  x  
Food acid (338) Phosphoric acid gives soft drinks a sour taste and is also used as an acidity regulator. Because kidneys excrete it by bonding it with calcium taken from the bones, consuming too much can weaken bones.  x          
Flavour The ingredient list didn’t specify what ‘flavour’ is.    x  x  x  x  x
Vegetable gum (407) Known as a carrageenan, vegetable gum 407 is extracted from red seaweed and is used for gelling, thickening and stabilising. Recently concerns have been raised that carrageenan could cause tumors and colon cancer.            x
Natural cola essence It’s difficult to work out what this is made from, but it’s likely a mix of caramel extracts, essential oils, phosphoric acid and caffeine. Although it contains the word ‘natural’, it’s still a highly processed ingredient and unlikely to contain nutritional benefits.  x          
Colour (Caramel  150) Caramel 150 is manufactured by heating carbohydrates and provides a brown colour in foods. Due to uncertainties about how this colour affects the immune system, the European Food Safety Authority recently reduced the acceptable daily intake of this additive and advised to keep consumer exposure to caramel colours as low as possible.  x          
Colour (102) A synthetic dye, Tartrazine is one of the worst offenders for allergic and intolerance reactions. It’s also linked to hyperactivity, skin rashes, migraines, behavioural and thyroid problems and chromosome damage      x    x  
Colour (155) Brown HT is a suspected carcinogen and mutagen and is linked to asthma and skin irritation.            x
Colour (133) A synthetic dye produced using aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum, Brilliant Blue, is a suspected carcinogen linked to hyperactivity, skin rashes, bronchoconstriction and chromosomal damage.    x  x    x  x
Preservative (211) A recent study suggested sodium benzoate (Preservative 211) combined with certain artificial food colours could increase hyperactive behaviour in children. There are also concerns this preservative causes cancer by damaging cell DNA and can also lead to neurological diseases, such as parkinsons.   x  x  x    x  
Preservative (223) Sodium metabisulphite is linked to gastric irritation, nausea, rashes, swelling and behavioural problems. Should be avoided by asthmatics.          x  
Vitamin C Artificially added as naturally occurring vitamins in the juice were destroyed in the manufacturing process.        x    

My four month old’s daily rhythm


Now that Austin in four months old I’ve noticed that we’ve settled into a nice daily rhythm.

Waking up

I no longer need to set my alarm for 7.45 am in the mornings, as Austin tends to wake me up before the alarm goes off (I still do it though, just in case!).

If Austin wakes up too early (like this morning, when he woke up with a happy smile at 6am), I put my arm around him and show him my face – which has closed eyes hoping for more sleep. He soon realises it’s not wake up time yet and goes back to sleep for a bit. I’m amazed at how well this works.

However, usually I can only get away with this once. When he next woke up at 7.30 am it was time to get him out of bed or face a very upset baby!

IMG_7503Getting Oli ready for school

Oli loves spending time with Austin, but hates getting up in the morning. Knowing this, I’ve devised the perfect plan. After getting out of bed I change Austin’s nappy then take him into Oli’s room and ask him to look after Austin while I get dressed and ready for the day. Oli can’t resist some time with his baby brother and gets up without any complaints to play with Austin while I get ready.

After Oli has his breakfast I put Austin in his sling and we set off to walk Oli to school.

First nap

IMG_7245Austin enjoys his walk to Oli’s school but rarely makes it home awake.

On the way to school Austin sits in his sling and takes in the view.  When we get to the school he is often greeted by mums dropping off their kids. When he’s especially chirpy, he gives them a big shy smile.

On the way home his eyes get heavy and his head leans into me. By the time we get home at 9.15am Austin is well into his morning nap, so I make myself and Charlie some breakfast then sit down in front of the computer for a while (I imagine this time will be spent working once I finish maternity leave in a few months).

The afternoon

After Austin wakes up from his morning nap, usually around 10.30am or so, we get on with the day.

Perhaps he’ll play with Charlie or dad for a while or I might take the boys to the park. Other things we might do is sit in the garden and look at trees (Austin loves trees) or perhaps go grocery shopping.

Baby music class

Baby music class

On Fridays Austin enjoys a baby music class (he gets free classes because Charlie is enrolled in the music program). I was sceptical about doing classes with such a tiny baby, but he actually does enjoy it. He stays alert for the entire 45 minute lesson and afterwards he always has a big nap, as he must feel exhausted after all the dancing, singing, touching, looking and bouncing!

Throughout the day Austin has a few naps. If I’m at home I put him to sleep on my lap and go on the www or do puzzles with Charlie. If I’m out and about, he naps in his sling. I haven’t really been paying attention to when he naps or how long for. We just play it by ear. I know when he’s ready for a nap when he starts complaining and rubbing his eyes. If we’re walking somewhere sometimes I look down at him and realise he’s fallen asleep without me even noticing.

Bath time

IMG_7235Oli and Charlie have their bath at 7pm. After they finish they have a quiet play while Austin and I pop in to have our bath. Austin is always excited when it’s bath time. He wiggles his body with excitement as he gets undressed and then his dad plops him down into the bath while Austin grins from ear to ear!

After bath I read stories with Oli and Charlie. If Austin is awake he joins us, but sometimes he is asleep by then, so I either hold him or give him to dad to cuddle.

Bed time

The boys are usually asleep by 9pm. I then might take Austin to bed with me and read a book or hold him on the couch while I watch TV. Sometimes I hold him while I write in my journal. However I choose to spend my evening, Austin is usually crashed out for the night (with a few brief wakings for a boob), and then it all starts again.


Getting enough sleep when you have a baby


baby_clipart_sleeping_bedI thought I’d know more about parenting after I had one child, two children, three children, but in the end, knowing whether your child’s temperment is due to parenting or genetics is a question that can never truly be answered. In any case, I’ve been blessed with a happy third baby, who, when he isn’t smiling, is sleeping. So, just in case I’ve had anything to do with this (my second son was also a happy, sleepy baby whereas my first wasn’t – I have a theory as to why), I’d like to share the things I think have helped me and my baby get  plenty of sleep.
Bathe your baby in sunshine in the day and darkness in the night

On the day your baby’s born, he won’t know when you’d like to sleep or when it’s a good time to play. He’ll just follow his own rhythm, which luckily for tired mums, is mostly sleep with a little bit of breastfeeding (except on day three, which involves mostly breastfeeding with a little bit of sleep as baby builds up his milk supply!).

To show your baby when it’s sleeping time and when it’s playing time take your baby outside during the day (this can also help prevent jaundice and give baby (and yourself!) some vitamin D). Sit under a tree or take a walk. Make sure there’s lots of movement, light and noise, even when your baby is napping. At night, turn off the lights and stay quiet. If your baby wakes, don’t turn on the light unless you really need to, and if you do, use a dim light like a reading light. I don’t even speak to my baby at night so he knows it’s time to rest, not play.

After a week or so baby should be pretty good at sleeping at night (with brief wakings for feeds/wees etc of course!).

Share your bed with your baby

I didn’t start out co-sleeping with my first baby, but it didn’t take me long to work out that sleeping with him was way a good idea. For instance:

  • I didn’t need to worry about my baby. Whether your baby is in a separate bed in your room or you’re keeping in touch with them through a baby monitor because they’re in a separate room, you’ll likely worry about your baby. This is especially true during the first few days when your baby makes crazy sounds while sleeping – like they’re being strangled or have just stopped breathing. You’ll likely get up a billion times to check this hasn’t actually happened. This is much easier to do when you’re lying next to them, nice and cozy in your bed :)
  • I could breastfeed in my sleep. The only evidence I have of this is waking up with my boob lying next to my baby’s mouth when I’d gone to bed with it fully covered under my shirt. Often I have no memory of having to wake up and get my boob out. It’s pretty cool.
  • amazing things happen when you sleep with your baby, like helping your baby regulate their breathing and body temperature (as well as other incredible things). This helps keep them safe from SIDS in the early days. Here’s some more information about this.

Not to mention that sleeping with babies is normal human behaviour. Putting babies to sleep in a separate room is a recent idea and only practiced by a minority of parents, mostly in western countries.

Breastfeed your baby

If you’re in a position to choose between breastfeeding your baby or using formula, you’ll both be better of if you choose breastfeeding. Besides all the health reasons for choosing a whole food for your baby that meets their nutritional and developmental needs, it also means you can breastfeed in your sleep (see my point above), rather than get up to make formula in the middle of the night.

Some people may tell you formula is a better choice. They claim that because breastmilk is easily digested it doesn’t fill up baby’s tummy for as long, so your baby is more likely to wake up at night from hunger. While this might be true, research shows breastfeeding mums still get more sleep. And if you don’t feel like reading about it, here’s a short video.

Go to bed early and take naps

Don’t expect to be at your best with minimum sleep when you have a baby. Pre-baby I went to bed around midnight, but now I generally head off at around 10.30pm. This makes up for the brief wakings that I may experience during the night, so I can get up in the morning feeling like a human!

You’ve probably also heard people say that it’s important to take naps with your baby during the day instead of choosing to do chores or even fun things, like read blogs. This is true!

Don’t dictate baby’s schedule

Trying to keep up with your baby’s sleep needs can be difficult and time consuming, so don’t!

As soon as you have a ‘routine’ worked out, for example, you think your baby goes to sleep at a certain time, or has a certain number of naps, or naps for a certain amount of time, it changes. It can be hard to work out what’s happening when you’re expecting your baby to continue their pattern - he’s growing fast and will go from sleeping nearly all day in the first few weeks to only one nap or so by the time he’s one, so expect changes every few weeks.

You can look to your baby to work out if it’s time for a nap, not the clock. An easy way of letting your baby decide their schedule while you get on with your day is to put them in a sling. This lets your baby nap whenever they need to, even when you’re out and about.

One point about this – while newborns love being in their sling most of the time, older babies are likely to want out unless you’re on the move. I find that from about three months of age, my babies won’t let me sit or stand still for long if they’re in a sling. If your older baby is ready for a nap you can put them in the sling and take a walk or bounce them around until they fall asleep – which won’t be long if you’re following their cues.

It’s OK to wake up during the night

It’s perfectly normal for babies to wake up several times a night. Perhaps they’re hungry or just need to check you’re still around and everything is OK. This will happen less and less as they get older.

Babies are also known to become suddenly very aware and full of life at certain milestones – when they first work out how to roll over and especially when they work out how to stand up! Many a night I watched as Charlie seemed almost asleep at my breast and then suddenly rolled over, picked himself up and started practicing his standing-up skills against the bed rail! After he satisfied himself he’d plonk himself down next to my boob and look like he was going to sleep, but then he’ll get up again. This would go on for a long time before he finally had no more energy left and went to sleep. When Charlie worked out how to climb down stairs and get off the bed (putting his legs down first and then sliding down on his tummy) he practiced this at night too.

It may help to know that anthropologists have found many human societies experience sleep as a social activity, waking up often for a chat or to stroke the fire.  Indeed, recent research finds sleeping in one long eight hour block is not normal for humans and, like putting babies to sleep alone, is only a recent idea. Read more here…

Don’t be afraid to help your baby get to sleep

For reasons I fail to understand, many baby advice experts tell mums not to help their babies go to sleep. They ban rocking or breastfeed babies to sleep, inciting fear in mums that their baby won’t ever be able to go to sleep without ‘help’. This is complete rubbish! If your baby is having troube getting to sleep help them. It’s nice for them and it’s nice for you. Trust me – you won’t need to rock or breastfeed your baby when they’re a teenager :)


Is your baby drowning in milk?


BreastfeedWhen Oli was born I didn’t know how much milk I was meant to produce. I assumed everything was going well and continued breastfeeding my fast-growing baby.

When the baby nurse asked me how often I fed my baby, I told her every half hour or so. Instead of looking into why that may be happening, she laughed and called me a ‘milk bar’. The only advice she offered was to space my baby’s feeds out more. Oh yeah, like I would ever let my baby cry for milk and not give it to him!  

If this ‘baby nurse’ was interested in doing her job properly instead of making fun and giving bad advice, my first born may have avoided sore tummies for the first few months of his life and I may have gotten a lot more sleep! But now, with my third baby, I think I’ve discovered what the problem is. Hopefully my discovery can help other mums who find themselves in a similar situation.

Are you making too much milk?

Tell-tale signs are:

  • milk spurting out of the other boob when your baby is feeding
  • needing to wear breast pads 24/7 for many months after baby’s birth
  • if not wearing breast pads, waking up drenched in breastmilk in the morning and playing wet T-shirt competitions during the day
  • milk gushing into the baby’s mouth when starting a feed
  • baby choking on the gushing milk
  • a very chubby baby
  • a baby that feeds often and for a short time
  • frequent gassy poos
  • lots of possetting and vomiting
  • etc

Why Oli cried in the evenings

He probably had a sore tummy.

When milk is gushing into your baby’s mouth he gulps down air that causes gassy and sore tummies. This makes him cry in the evenings. Oli did this, and the only way we could help him was to lie him on his tummy in our arms and fly him around the room like baby superman. Considering Oli was on the ‘heavy’ side of the baby weight spectrum, this was not easy or fun!

He might also have felt bad because he was only getting sugary, watery breastmilk that left him unsatisfied and possibly feeling poorly. When you have too much breastmilk the breastfeeding session usually ends before your baby gets to the fatty and creamy milk that satisfies (which comes through at the end of the feed).

Why Oli didn’t sleep well at night

Because Oli rarely got to the fatty and creamy milk that satisfies, he needed to feed often as he was always hungry. The sweet, watery milk Oli was living on was only meant to be a ‘drink’ before the meal, but instead this was all he was likely getting during his feed. So he had to wake up often through the night to fill his empty tummy.

He was also waking up throughout the night to do poos. I became an expert at changing pooey nappies in bed and in the dark!

Why Oli was really chubby

The milk at the start of the feed is filled with sugary sweetness and is also very watery. This means Oli was consuming calories, but wasn’t getting full and soon enough, asked for another feed to fill his empty tummy. This made Oli super chubby. While we all love healthy and chubby babies, if your baby is chubby while being very hungry, it’s not fun.

Oli went above the 100th percentile for weight when he was two months old and has remained there for six years. After being up to 3 to 4 kilos above the 100th percentile when a baby and toddler, he’s been hovering just above for the last few years and will hopefully come back under as he gets older. So far our biggest problem has been finding comfortable clothes that fit, oh, and carrying Oli around has never been easy, which can be sad for a little boy.

Why didn’t my second baby have these problems?

Charlie slept well from birth, only pooed once every day or two, didn’t cry in the evenings and remained on the 75th percentile for weight throughout his life. I also remember feeling relieved that this baby didn’t seem to be as ‘obsessed’ with breastfeeding as Oli was. My milk supply hadn’t changed and neither did the way I breastfed, so why didn’t I have the same problems I had with Oli?

My guess is that it was because I was tandem feeding. This would have meant that Oli would have drunk much of the sweet watery milk and left more of the fatty, filling milk for Charlie, leaving him feeling satisfied and gas free.

Another chubby vomiter arrives

When my third baby was born I noticed similar patterns to my experience with Oli. There were lots of poos and vomiting, including huge projectile vomits, and fast weight gains. I really wanted to stop Austin from suffering the tummy pains Oli experienced, so I asked for advice from other mums about what I could do.

The first thing I investigated was the food I was eating. Perhaps Austin had an intolerance to wheat or dairy. I started a half-hearted dairy elimination diet but didn’t see too much difference. Then one of the mums I was speaking with told me that only a tiny percentage of babies have food intolerance issues, and the problem was probably more likely to be an oversupply of breastmilk. I read more about this and it made a lot of sense. Best of all – there was a solution 

Solutions for mums who make too much milk

This is how I came across ‘block feeding’. Rather than alternating feeding from one breast to the other, when block feeding, you continue to feed from one breast over several hours. This way your baby can access the fatty milk that satisfies.

So I started block feeding with Austin. I fed him from the same side until the other breast was near bursting with milk. This meant feeding from the same side for four to six hours. This was pretty extreme, as the literature suggested only feeding from the same side for two hours or so, but I pushed it to the limit! A risk with this is developing mastitis, but luckily I’ve never had it.

After two or three weeks I started seeing improvements. Firstly, I noticed that I wasn’t as engorged as before. Then I noticed there was less vomiting and fewer poos from Austin. I thought perhaps this was because Austin, at two months of age, had a more mature digestive system and it wasn’t related to block feeding. So I checked my journal from when Oli was a baby and saw that what I was doing was indeed helping. At two months Oli was still experiencing the worst symptoms of an oversupply of breastmilk. So I continued on…

While block feeding has helped a lot, at four months of age Austin is still a chubby baby. He has just gone over the 100th percentile for weight, but isn’t as chubby as Oli was at the same age. He still possets a lot, but the projectile vomits have stopped.  He sleeps well at night and is down to one or two poos a day, and a rare poo at night. I still need to wear breast pads, but sometimes they stay dry all day and night. So while block feeding is not as effective as tandem feeding, it has made a great difference for Austin and me.


Pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, children, discipline, The Continuum Concept, health, vaccination, vitamin K, antibiotics