Why I don’t believe in Sleep Training?!

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Do sleep training methods work? A qualified “yes”. Am I a fan of them? Absolutely not. Here’s why.

The Myth of Sleeping Through The Night

Nobody sleeps seamlessly through the night, not even adults; that’s a myth. We all sleep in cycles. The only difference between a baby and us is that we can segue from one sleep cycle to another. Hence, we don’t remember waking up at night or do not consider toilet breaks or thirst breaks as an interruption.

“Sleeping through the night” is a marketing gimmick created by the same creators of various sleep training methods. Exhausted, sleep deprived mothers jump on any promise of a good night’s sleep. But we must be aware of the long term consequences of this quick result-yielding method.

 What is a Normal Sleep Cycle for babies?

 Usually as short as 45 minutes. In my experience this was true for the first 10 months. After 10 months, the cycle changed to anything from 2 hours to 3 hours. And now at 15 months, his cycle is much longer, although he regresses at times for whatever reason.

Quiet is Not Calm

 Sleep training method usually mean putting the baby into the cot or bed, and expecting them to fall asleep either without nursing or simply by crying it out. In most cases the crying out needs to happen alone, where the parent only intervenes at several intervals. And the intervention is quite often minimal.

Babies are not stupid. After crying for hours. After a day or two (in some cases more), babies learn to conserve energy and stay quiet. I see it as a baby who has lost all hopes for affection and parental closeness at bedtime. And that is sad!

Research show that babies that are quiet after sleep training methods are not necessarily calm – and indeed are releasing elevated levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.

(Here is a very good review of the literature on this from a professor of psychology and executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201407/parents-misled-cry-it-out-sleep-training-reports

Trauma, Fight, Flight and Freeze Response

Bedtime can be very traumatic for babies, especially for babies who are either being trained to sleep on their own, in their own room, or in a separate cot or in a situation that the baby is not completely comfortable in.

Now we all know what is fight or flight response to any traumatic situation. Babies are physically and emotionally completely incapable of fighting any traumatic event in their life.

Helpless and scared, babies cry and cry and cry and eventually the last response kicks in: to freeze. We as humans often freeze in situation that we cannot escape. By mentally blocking ourselves out of the situation we may experience less pain, less trauma and in some case the threat (a raging dog?) may lose interest in us.

Freezing might be an instinct we all have and it can be beneficial in traumatic situations to keep our sanity intact but to practice such an instinct at such a young age may have questionable effects on children later in life. I do not want a “freeze response” to become my child’s primary response to a difficult situation.

Ignoring a Baby’s Needs

 Baby’s need touch, and physical closeness. It is a totally reasonable request and completely normal. Food, dry clothes and a lot of affection = a happy baby! Simple!

Just because we have changed the nappy, fed the babies a nice meal, given them a bath, read them a book, sang them a lullaby and then nursed them to sleep, does not mean that we know that the babies now must have no excuse whatsoever to be hungry, uncomfortable or feeling the need to want affection through the night!

Babies’ brains don’t function like ours. Unlike us, babies cannot rationalise the situation when they wake up from their sleep cycle. If we wake up scared, we rub our eyes, and we tell ourselves that everything is ok, perhaps it was a nightmare. If we wake up hungry, we rationalise by looking at the clock and telling ourselves that 3am is not a good time for a sandwich and if we are thirsty we simply drink water and go back to sleep (on our own because we can).

Now babies are not only incapable of rationalising the situation but also are incapable of curbing the needs they have. So if a baby wakes up slightly peckish, sleep training method will only encourage them to learn to starve. I don’t see that as a healthy way to grow up.

Loss Of Trust

If the baby has learnt that nobody comes to provide affection when they cry, no body listens to them cry or that nobody will feed them when they are hungry, they might start losing trust in their caretaker.

I, personally, would fear losing my child’s trust. I would expect my child to feel free to tell me about anything or anyone troubling them because they know that no matter how petty or how bad their experience is, mummy is always here to listen, cuddle and act on it.

What’s the rush?

It is difficult raising children. Sleepless nights are part of the territory. And no, I am not a SAHM that I can rest any time of the day so it is easier for me to say this. Here’s how I think: I chose to have a baby, I chose the sleepless nights and the wet nappies and the baby sick and tantrums. In the grander scheme of things, giving my baby two to three years of my life is nothing.

Get your family to help out. Take turns with your partner. And if you are a single mother, get some of your friends to help out. Easier said than done. But I’d rather make the effort than give up on my baby and let the baby cope with it’s own miseries.

Mother’s health comes first

What works for me, may not work for you! We cosleep and nurse on demand. That I think helps a lot in my child’s seemingly good sleeping habits. Even though my baby wakes up a few times to feed in the night still at 15 months, cosleeping makes it easy and my sleep is not as disturbed. And that works for us!

 Having said all of the above, I do believe in mother’s health to be of the utmost importance. I have absolutely no problem if you choose to sleep train or bottle feed or wean early or do whatever that you do with your baby for your own sanity and well-being as long as one is aware of the consequences.

What I, personally, struggle with is when parents put their kids through such unnatural methods of training in the name of “their wellbeing”. No! That is utter nonsense. Two minutes or two days, there is nothing good about learning to sleep by crying it out or longing for affection. They are not learning independence of any sort, they are not actually still sleeping deeply and peacefully through the night (they have stopped bothering you, that’s all).

Resources:

http://theconversation.com/we-trust-children-to-know-what-gender-they-are-until-they-go-against-the-norm-42093

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=middlemiss+asynchrony

http://www.parentingscience.com/stress-in-babies.html

 

 

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Breastfeeding For A Year & Counting…

breastfeeding

Copyrights @LouiseGibbens

As a kid, I was breastfed for 7 to 8 years! It was the best bonding experience I shared with my mother. My mum and I are still very close and I have not seen a doctor for more than once in 20 years! Therefore, when it came to my baby, my decision to breastfeed was pretty straightforward.

Baby Ro was born at home. Soon after his birth, we had skin to skin and we let Ro latch on when he was ready. He was ready within the first few minutes to be honest. I struggled initially, more in terms of handling as I was overwhelmed by it all, but luckily Ro came all ready with a perfect latch. He knew exactly what to do. And thus began our beautiful journey of breastfeeding.

 

First few days……

Eventhough, baby Ro had a perfect latch and my breastfeeding journey was seemingly easy and straightforward, it wasn’t completely pain free. Baby Ro was very tiny at birth and so was his latch. Smaller latch meant a lot of cuts and recurring blebs on my nipples. They were very painful. I took pain killers. I felt like I failed myself. After having given birth without any pain relief, not even gas & air, I succumbed to the pain of breastfeeding.

I wanted to enjoy breastfeeding. I hated the fact that I was fearing the pain as the time for his next feed was approaching. If a pain killer would help me achieve a positive experience without causing any harm to my baby, why shouldn’t I take it!  In about 6 weeks, my milk supply was properly established and so was Ro’s latch. My nipples were sore free and breastfeeding was as joyous as I had hoped.

Breastfeeding in public

There was nothing in the world that would stop me from feeding my baby. Because of the support system I have in my family and amongst my friends, I was pretty confident about feeding in public. I was always slightly worried about people making snide remarks at me but I was prepared to ignore it and not let that have any effect on me. To my surprise, no one ever said anything. Infact, I received a lot of love and praises from people.

I still breastfeed in public and plan to feed him into his toddlerhood.

Breastfeeding and baby weight

Ro was a mere 2.5 kgs at birth which isn’t an alarmingly low weight for Indians, but according to UK standards, he was pretty small. Luckily, I established breastfeeding right after birth, but I was told that if he did not gain weight, we will have to talk. I seriously did not want to give him formula unless absolutely necessary.

Roshan wasn’t gaining tons but he was gaining at a steady pace. That gave me hope and instilled my faith in my milk supply. I had a great support system in my mum, my husband , my doula and my friend who is also a breastfeeding peer supporter. They all helped me stay focussed.

After couple of months, I started receiving some pressure from relatives back home to give him some formula to make him chubby. I, very politely, ignored their advice and carried on.

Roshan kept gaining weight slowly but steadily. He has never been a chubby baby and I do not particularly desire him to be. Yet, Ro is one of the happiest, noisiest and most awake/alert baby around the block.

Feeding routine

There is no routine. I feed on demand and that is what I did when he was born. He sometimes fed every 2 hours, on somedays every 30 minutes; sometimes he fed for an hour whilst some other times he fed for 10 mins. There was no routine or expectations. We chose to simply respond to every cue by breastfeeding. We may not understand what is wrong with the baby or why is he crying, but breastfeeding happens to be the right answer to most worries. So use it to your benefit!

Tips:

Breastfeeding can be demanding but it does not have to be so tiresome. It is so much more rewarding and enjoyable. Those little moments when they shove their fingers into your mouth, or giggle whilst still breastfeeding or look straight into your eyes or stroke your chin or fiddle with your necklace; all those moments are priceless! Trust me!

Here are some handy tips that will help you enjoy your breastfeeding journey:

Water: Drink a lot of water. Dehydration can have some really serious problems. It can not only have an effect on your supply, but also have an impact on your mood. Headaches, muscle aches, grumpiness, insomnia or overly emotional behaviours are often signs of lack of water. So please mama’s, drink a lot of water to boost your supply and energy levels!

Skin to skin: Skin to skin is so important, not only for warmth and to maintain body temperatures but also milk supply. The closer the baby is to your skin, the more responsive your body becomes to the cue of making more milk.

Babywearing: It helps achieve the closeness, calmness and skin to skin required to produce or establish milk supply.

Oats: This may not apply to all, but till date, a bowl of porridge really fills me up (I mean my boob). I can tell oats helps me with my milk supply a lot. So, if ever feeling unsure of the supply, eat a bowl of porridge before going for the formula.

Sleep on the boob: This one is frowned upon by many people. There is a culture of putting the baby down as soon as they fall asleep on the boob. No, please let them just have the boob in their mouth unless they let go completely. The motion of sucking is not a waste of time, there is a lot of communication going on between the baby’s saliva and your nipples. When the saliva comes in contact with the areola, it sends a very important message to your body. It exposes your body to all the bacteria the baby has come in contact with, and if the baby has come in contact with any bad bacteria, this saliva sends a message to your body to make milk rich in enzymes and antibodies needed to fight the germs  and infection the baby is infested with. Therefore, the baby gets rid of the germs before it even has a chance to make him fall ill. Don’t you think it is amazing?

I have spent hours and still do, sitting on the sofa with him in my arms, sucking on my nipples, clearly not drinking but fast asleep. It is the best time to read a book or a good excuse to just sit down and chill out.

The aim of this article is not to make non-breastfeeding mommy’s feel bad. I understand that breastfeeding is a very personal choice and it may not be for everyone. The number of women who can actually not produce milk is about 2% I think, and in those cases formula is probably your best option. If in doubt about your supply, please seek the right kind of help. If you produce breastmilk, you are more likely to produce enough for your baby (some women established proper supply a bit later but they do eventually). So any aunt telling you to feed your baby formula because the baby is too thin should not be taken seriously before you have met some lactation consultants. 

 

 

My Breastfeeding Journey

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My breastfeeding journey started long before I found out that I was pregnant. I have two step-children who have been with me since they were toddlers. Although, we bonded very closely and we have unconditional love for each other; there was always this empty feeling inside of me as I am sure is in them when we think and talk of their infancy. There are no memories or pictures of me holding them close as babies, or of those early days of breastfeeding, cuddling up and connecting at a very different spiritual level. We have worked very hard to establish an unbreakable relationship nonetheless.

I knew the joys of breastfeeding from a perspective of a child too. I was breastfed for 8 years of my early life and my bond with my mother is something that is desired by many. Apart from my bond with my mother, my immune system is (touchwood) also something to be desired by many. It was very important for me to breastfeed my baby due to the above two reasons.

I did a lot of reading on breastfeeding when I was pregnant. One of the books that I read page to page was Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I found it very very helpful in preparing me for those early days of breastfeeding when you haven’t established the feeding completely.

It was the need for achieving perfect breastfeeding experience that I chose to try and have an unmedicated birth (read about it here), and I feel extremely lucky that my labour went smoothly and baby Roshan was born safely without any medical intervention of any kind. Soon after the birth, we had skin to skin with both my husband and myself and within the first 1 hour, he was latched on to my breasts like a pro. It was magical. I was amazed at this newborn spirits ability to feed so naturally. With every tingle of his suck, I felt an overwhelming joy running through my body.

We had a homebirth and so it was easier to establish breastfeeding because as soon as the midwives left, I was left alone with the baby to feed him and bond with him in my own comfort zone. At this point, I would also like to tell people about the importance of having a very supportive partner. My husband was always very supportive of my approach towards everything natural, whether it was my choice to have a homebirth, delayed cord-cutting, freezing the placenta, skin to skin with both parents to breastfeeding. He was happy to run up to the pharmacy at 10pm in the night to get me some breast pads, youtube latching techniques etc. Having my mother also helped me a lot get through a lot of hurdles. Her years of experience paved way for my healthy breastfeeding journey.

Hurdles, although not many, were there in the early days of my breastfeeding journey. My baby was small at 2.5kgs at birth. His mouth was small and so although it seemed like he had the perfect latch, it was a perfect latch for his size which was still small for my breasts. Also, he was so so sleepy (he could have stayed in for another 2 weeks or so to be fair) his latch would get a bit lazy from time to time. Hence, I ended up with cracked nipples. My friend Ashleigh brought me some Lanolin, which was supposed to help. But in all honesty, Lanolin only made things worse as it would glue the fabric of my clothing on my skin, thereby peeling off the scab and making it raw all over again. What helped me the most were Lana Care’s BreastPads. These breast pads are made out of organic merino wool. They are so soft and soothing. So although they had no medical contribution in treating my sore nipples better, they provided the much needed comfort. I would literally look forward to popping them back on after every feed. They are so easy to wash, and requires minimum maintenance to be honest. I would highly recommend this product to all nursing mothers whether you are leaking or sore.

Between week 4 and week 6, I also suffered from one of the most common problems of breastfeeding – engorgement. Engorgement is very common when you are establishing healthy breastfeeding. Your supply comes in and your body take a few days for your body to correctly regulate the supply needed by your baby. I saw my friends suffer from mastitis and what not! I really didn’t want to suffer and so I tried my best to take care of the engorgement (hard painful lumps in my breasts) before it got worse. Breast massages and hot compress few times a day was very helplful.

But of all the issues the one thing I never read about or was prepared for was a nipple bleb! Oh my good lord! I could have given up breastfeeding when this happened. I dreaded each feed. I had a recurring bleb on the baby’s favourite side which made feeding times even worse. But I kept fighting the negative feeling and kept feeding my baby, hoping it would go away. And lo behold, gross as it may sound, I think the baby pulled the bleb out with all his sucking. Once the bleb battle was overcome, my breastfeeding journey has been good so far.

How long does my baby sleep in the night?

A lot of people have asked me this and my answer is just as long as it takes for him to digest his milk. Breast milk is digested much faster than formula or any other milk. So babies on breast milk in general feed every 2 to 3 hours and that is very common (that doesn’t mean that on some days/night he wouldn’t feed every 30 mins to an hour). My baby does the same. But as he is growing bigger he is sleeping longer. But he does wake up for a few feeds in the night time. It just hasn’t been an issue or the fact that I have stopped counting how many times he wakes up is because co-sleeping makes night time feeds a breeze (more on that in my upcoming post). I sleep through most of the feed. I am half aware of him sucking but because I don’t have to wait to put him back in his cot I feel pretty relaxed lying and probably falling asleep as he gets closer to finishing his feed.

Feeding in public?

Never really been an issue. I think breastfeeding in public is not such a big problem than it is made out to be. I am sure there are some stupid people who may have a problem but I don’t think about it too much. I am half prepared for someone to walk up to me and say something but more often than not I am pleasantly surprised by the positive attitudes of people around breastfeeding. I try and breastfeed as discreetly as possible. I use the one top up and one top down method, but sometimes, it is all out there, especially on occasions when my baby decides to unlatch and have a look around. I mean seriously baby, ‘focus’ on the boob PLEASE!

Have I lost weight?

No. I think it is a myth that one loses weight instantly by breastfeeding. If anything, I might have gained weight. But that is partly because of the sugar intake. Nursing mothers crave sugar. I think, that is more to do with disturbed sleep or sleep deprivation. Honestly, I don’t think weight should be on my mind just yet. One will be surprised how easily your milk supply can be affected due to diet changes. It is not easy to eat and drink well to keep your supply up. I”d rather eat more than less to prevent any risks of low supply as that is my baby’s only source of nutrition. If that means I have to carry a few extra pounds so be it. I practice regular yoga everyday, hoping to stay fit and flexible.

How long do I plan to breastfeed?

Hopefully not 8 years, definitely not! My mother is an epitome of patience, I unfortunately did not inherit that trait from her. I do want to exclusively breastfeed for minimum six months and hopefully carry on for a year or two until my baby is completely weaned and eating solids for his primary nutritional needs. I reckon all that would not take more than two years. One of the reasons why I wish he would voluntarily wean off within 2 years is because, I personally found being weaned off very traumatising at the age of 8 years. I am not sure at what age do kids remember their emotional experiences in their conscious mind, but the longer my baby uses breasts for comfort only, the more the chances of him having a negative association with being weaned off which I do not want him to suffer from at all. So fingers crossed for that, I personally dread that phase!

My biggest achievement as a breastfeeding mother?

Eating lobster with one hand whilst breastfeeding with the other! Beat that!