Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques – Alternatives to Controlled Crying

I recently read Rebecca Welton’s Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques – Alternatives to Controlled Crying, and as infant sleep is a topic that seems to keep coming up in my conversations these days (both because I’m supporting others and because I’m looking toward the long neck of sleep deprivation once more), it seems timely.

It is an accessible read and, to be sure, a compassionate, sincere and often sensible one too. I fully embrace her much repeated assertion that night waking is normal and that sleeping through is a learned skill for all humans. However, I’m hesitant about some of the solutions offered. Some of this admittedly comes from the bias of my own experience as a parent who bedshared with her baby and found acceptance of her reliance on me the antidote to my frustrations over sleep deprivation, ie I became pretty happy with snuggling in and sticking a boob in as and when. The rest comes from awareness of how gaps in what’s said could be misinterpreted by parents desperate for sleep. There are, however, some useful suggestions in this book and I suspect that although it’s affirming of bedsharing (she refers to it as co-sleeping) it’s really better suited to those who would rather not sleep with their children, so I’m not really its target audience.

“As a species, it has been evolutionarily advantageous for babies to wake often overnight. Not only does it facilitate their physical and mental growth, but babies who woke easily whenever they were in uncomfortable or threatening situations were the ones who were likely to survive.”

Throughout, Welton paints pictures of her own family that many can identify with. Her aim is to bring together as one resource a number of gentler ideas from many sources. The basis is trust between parent and baby and the book even looks at helping siblings and coping with your own sleep deprivation. I found her explanation of the potential effects of controlled crying on the whole family particularly interesting. There are some solid practical ideas particularly for helping an older sibling understand and be a part of the sleeping plan: explaining to them what’s happening and why, special games and toys with someone else, getting them involved, amongst others. The reward/praise suggestions for getting older children to play quietly while the baby sleeps aren’t consistent with our parenting, though. Otherwise, there are some practical tips I’ll no doubt call on when life with two begins.

“Mothers who co-sleep tend to naturally sleep in a ‘c’ shape around their baby. This protests your baby from the pillow or blanket covering her face. Many families do co-sleep with their babies and the most important thing is to do so in the safest way possible.”

There are also sensible ideas about sleep cues and taking care not to make sleep more difficult than it need be. I nodded along to Welton’s description of her son’s napping schedule – two naps, 20 minutes. I remember feeling about to lose my mind over naps. Learning to develop and stick to a routine and helping her sleep as soon as he showed signs of tiredness were gold for us, just as she recommends. She’s also very encouraging of babywearing and seeking out sling meets to find the right carrier for you. The chapter on co-sleeping also pulls out great benefits which aren’t talked about enough. For us, both have been invaluable and I’m preparing to wear another baby. However, the discussions of nightweaning feel anecdotal rather than evidence-based and while it can be valuable to share maternal experience and wisdom (of course, it counts for a lot!), I am very uncomfortable that there is no mention of at what age other than certainly not in the first six months of life.

As for the techniques themselves, I feel the first “Gently Does it” is the kindest. It involves very gradually progressing from putting your baby down “sleepy but not asleep” to speaking sleep cues from outside your baby’s door. Personally, I would not have had the will to take on the work this technique involves, especially when breastfeeding while lying down meant I hardly knew how many times we were waking most of the time. But I can see that if you really don’t want your baby in bed with you, this may well be a route to explore.

The other cot techniques I’m just not comfortable with, personally. They all involve some form of not picking up, touching or even looking at babies. While this may allow parents to say “at least I’m not leaving them alone” my gut reaction is to wonder what is felt by a baby who doesn’t have the life experience to understand the parent’s intention. As for the co-sleeping technique “Playing dumb” I can see how that would work but I have questions about the age at which that would be developmentally appropriate. At some stage helping a child prioritise sleep over nursing can become necessary but I’m just asking when?

I guess I’m also coming at this from the perspective that sleeping through the night isn’t really something I actively taught my child. In many ways, I’ve probably been lucky. Other than giving her a good routine, including a solid bedtime, she kind of got there on her own. At two, she no longer needs or even wants to be fed to sleep and she’s in her own bed now, primarily by her own choice. We did night-wean so that was a teaching thing but she wasn’t waking much at all when we started that process. It was also something that came after the age of two. We’re also genuinely looking forward to bedsharing with our new baby and possibly welcoming our toddler back into the family bed (not next to the newborn, obviously!).

I’m not saying that everyone should do as we do – certainly not! I know full well that bedsharing is not for everyone and that families make different decisions and have different outcomes when it comes to breastfeeding. To that end, I echo Welton’s assertion that nightwaking as babies grow and develop is normal and that every baby is different. I’m just saying that, even if you just go with the flow, it can work out. A sleep problem is only a problem if it’s a problem for you, if that makes sense. But if it is a problem, then, well, this book may well offer you ideas to think about which differ from a lot of what’s out there.

I was sent a copy of Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques for the purpose of this review.


Peter Spier’s Christmas!

My mother-in-law unpacked her Christmas decorations this weekend, much to Talitha’s delight. As expected, since she’s a bookbinder, many beautiful and interesting things emerged from the boxes. I was quite taken by a book of illustrations, Peter Spier’s Christmas!

Christmas Cards Peter Spier

Talitha and I flipped through together, pointing out to each other the many details on each page, both of us caught up in this wordless story of family Christmases in Britain gone by. The pictures are just so intricate. There’s lots for both of us to focus on. As an adult, I’d happily sit and examine each frame on my own.

Creche Peter Spier

The book is deliciously nostalgic, conjuring up all things Christmas.

postman Peter Spier

In one sense, it’s looking at the festivities through the eye of child-like simplicity. It’s magical.

Carollers Peter Spier

Yet, it’s not simple at all. The effort these families are going through for Christmas is mental! I get a bit exhausted just thinking about their to-do lists!

Church Peter Spier

And at the end of the day, it’s a satire commenting on the excess of it all.

After Christmas Peter Spier

Because, of course, they’ll do it all again next year.

Next Christmas Peter Spier

”books”


To see this new baby with the simplicity of a child – There’s a House Inside My Mummy

I started writing a 28 weeks pregnancy update instead of this post but I’m still feeling pretty much as I did last week, swinging between extremes with irrational lows. It doesn’t hugely make sense to dwell on that so I’ve instead been busying myself and accepting that getting to the point where I feel balanced against is probably more of a journey than a quick fix thing and that’s OK.

I let a stranger pray for me yesterday which isn’t something I often do. I don’t feel comfortable being that vulnerable with people I don’t know. I meant to ask for prayer about a big practical decision I was making but instead ended up blurting that I hate what my pregnancy hormones are doing to my mind at the moment. That really surprised me but then I was thrown off even more by her not praying so much about my pregnancy but about the baby and my relationship with this baby.

It made me realise that as much as I’m still prone to forgetting that I’m pregnant, I’m even more likely not to focus on this baby. I think of her in terms of how this pregnancy is affecting me or how her existence will affect my toddler. I forget that she is here with me in the same way that Talitha was. I know I love her already and that when she’s born, my heart will inexplicably expand to encompass her. But right now, I guess I’m just not giving myself the space to think about it.

There's house inside my mummy

It continues to amaze me how much Talitha thinks about it. Where I see a bump, she’s always talking about my baby. She always has an opinion on what the baby is doing and what the baby is going to do when she comes out. We just got our birth pool back from a cousin who borrowed it for her home birth and Talitha is intrigued that the baby may be going swimming first thing.

I wonder whether what I need to do is allow myself to think about the baby in the way she does. We’ve been reading a book called There’s A House Inside My Mummy that’s so “on it”, practically every mother with more than one child asks me if we have it. It’s that well suited to preparing a toddler for a new baby.

As we look through its pages, Talitha wants to know all about what’s happening with the baby. She’s taken now to telling me whenever I’m eating something that the baby is having some too.

Getting both of us ready - There's a House Inside my Mummy

She often insists that we have baths together because that’s what the mother in child are doing in the book. When we do, she talks to my belly. She tells the baby what she’s doing and asks the baby about what the baby did today. It’s all so natural. It’s all so funny!

To see this baby with your simplicity - there's a house inside my mummy

She even lists the things she’ll show the baby how to play with when the baby’s out – let’s see how well that actually works!

And she practical squeals with delight at the last page when the baby is out and in arms, a reality for all to see.

I so want to embrace all of this with her simplicity.

For the toddler having a new baby - There's a house inside my mummy

”books”


Seven Secrets of a Joyful Birth – book review

I know lots of people who say that when it comes to all things parenting, shut the books and just follow your instinct. I agree to an extent. I think we’ve got to be mindful about what we dwell on – does what we’re hearing ring true to us or does it make us unduly anxious? But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t read. Books make it possible for valuable knowledge to be passed across generations and cultures. They can challenge us to sort out instinct from social conditioning, which can sometimes feel like the same thing. They can tell us something new about something as ancient as birth. Certainly, that’s what I discovered in Dominique Sakoilsky’s Seven Secrets of a Joyful Birth.

Calling itself “The guide to preparing emotionally and psychologically for birth and early parenting your way”, Seven Secrets is not a prescription for a natural birth. It’s not a list of this, this and this and it’ll all be just fine. Instead, it’s a call to get to know yourself deeply and enjoy freedom, perhaps for the first time. It’s a radical point from which to start your parenting journey.

I have to say that at first it kind of grated on me. Dominique speaks in a vocabulary that’s so different to mine. Finally, I put the book down and asked myself what the problem really was. What was holding me back from being open to what it offered? Then it became apparent: I wasn’t sure that I believed that my emotional and psychological health could really impact on my pregnancy and birth, though I knew it doubtlessly did my parenting. And that made me wonder what I was so afraid of. Why was I so reluctant to face myself?

We birth how we live and we live how we birth, and our attitudes, beliefs and level of self-understanding are all integral to this.

So, I read on, allowing myself to accept my vulnerability, to notice the softening which happens in pregnancy and to consider that this could be a unique opportunity to take a huge step towards real change in my life – and I’m not even just talking about welcoming a new baby. I couldn’t have read this book at a better time. A number of difficult things have been happening in my personal life and I’ve been challenged to find new ways of meeting them, to put boundaries in place and to choose healthy relationships.

Bit by bit, I saw that there’s a lot of rubbish I’ve come into parenting with and I can see how it has affected all of us. I kind of always knew that but I think I’ve just been too busy to actually do something about it. That and I just didn’t have a clue where to begin. Seven Secrets is a beautiful invitation to let go, to repair and to heal.

And yes, you do find actual information about pregnancy and birth. She talks about perinatal massage, takes you through visualisations and yoga techniques. All of that is very useful but for me, the journey through seven words “No”, “Hello”, “Thank You”, “Goodbye”, “Please”, “Sorry”, “Yes” was just so necessary, so timely.

———-
Dominique Sakoilsky, the co-founder of Relaxed Birth and Parenting, sent me her book to review on this here blog. I honestly didn’t think I’d like it but it’s proven to be one of the most useful things I could have read.


When we read: Caribbean animals

My friend Fritha who blogs at Tigerlilly Quinn started a fortnightly project dedicated to sharing children’s books we love. I’ve been dying to join in with some Caribbean flavour so here I am. The book I wanted to show you this week is Dawne Allette’s Caribbean Animals.

My mother gave Talitha this book when she was fifteen-months-old. From the start, she’s been fascinated with it. Of course, she is. Animals. It’s your typical alphabet book but its rhythm is distinctly Caribbean as are the animals that feature in its pages.

Ned dances us through twenty-six of the Caribbean’s animals, pausing every now and then to observe a mouse building his “house”. This sweet sub-story seemed ridiculous and out of place to me when I first read the book but it’s highly effective. Talitha is so interested in what the mouse is doing and when he’s ready for bed so is she.

I find it impossible to read this book in a British accent. From page one, I feel like I’m in Trinidad again and my voice reflects it. After all, how can a Trini say “manicou”, “nanny goat” or “zandoli” in anything but a Trini accent? It’s always strange to me how certain subjects call that familiar sound out in me. Memory and music must be share their home in my brain.

I really want Talitha to grow up fully knowing that she is part Trinbagonian. For that matter, I’d like her to feel her roots in Jamaica too since that’s where Laurence’s mother is from. Hopefully, books like this one will bring the Caribbean closer to her, making it culturally and symbolically a second home. Who knows, we could live there some day.

It always amuses me, though, that while she’s growing up reading books about the Caribbean, I grew up reading books rooted in England!


Will the baby like libraries?

Today I’m over at WAHM-BAM with a guest post I’ve written for Tasha Goddard’s Book Week. It’s called “Will the baby like libraries?” Please mozy on over there and share your thoughts.

Hopefully I’ll be sufficiently sniffle-free soon to write something equally substantial over here. In the meantime, I’m catching up on my reading and prepping for the big BabyBash on Saturday. In fact, I’ll probably tell you all about that tomorrow.


There are no books I must read before I die

We’ve been massively sorting out the house (and the garden, thanks to my in-laws) this weekend. It’s about time, I suppose, considering that we moved in a month and a half ago and once the baby’s here (nine weeks to the due date now), it will probably be a while before we care about where those picture frames should hang.

Also, we’re hoping for a mass invasion this Saturday with friends coming over for the event we have dubbed The JK BabyBash. No doubt, I’ll tell you more about that later as much excitement surrounds it and I’ll be getting well into it once this stupid cold is gone.

So, um, yes. My mind is wandering. Fever does that. I was saying that we were tidying the house. Well, that’s meant I’ve found all the bags of stuff we’ve been planning to take to the charity shop or the library for…literally years. Including these:

I recently wrote in a guest post that will appear on Tasha Goddard’s blog WAHM-BAM later this week for her Book Week that Laurence has a penchant for hoarding books while I’m very much a read ’em and donate ’em kinda gal. If it’s good, it’s worth sharing, I say. These, however, are his books.

I have an ongoing battle in my mind over what I should read and what I do. It’s probably a hang up from my days as an English Literature undergrad.

By the time I was on to my Masters, I was rather comfortable with my new philosophy that although “experts” will expound on what you must read before you die, life really is too short to be reading things that you downright don’t enjoy.

It’s like my in-laws insisting on watching every one of the Coen Brothers’ films, knowing full-well that they probably won’t enjoy them because they never do (except True Grit. This is the one Coen Brothers’ film they like).

I’m a hedonist when it comes to reading. Irvine Welsh is a genius, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to read his work and certainly not to re-read it. I forced my way through Ecstasy past rape, bestiality, necrophilia and beyond and felt more than a little sick, which is likely what you’re meant to experience. I also gave Porno a go but soon trailed off, wondering why I was bothering to do this to myself. It’s sadistic.

Laurence agrees he likely won’t read them again so off they go to the library today to some other reader who’ll get more out of it than I.

That said, I have begun reading Crime and Punishment again, having used to describe it as a punishment in itself for those who struggled through it. Yes, this Lit graduate is a smidge Philistine.

One of my housemates in my second year at university forced her way through it so I gave it a quick go. But I had too much on my mind at the time and a reading list that was already daunting so after a few chapters, I put it aside with: “Ah well.”

But since Mama – and more suggested that I should make the most of reading in response to my post about things I should do before the baby comes, I looked through our shelves and thought, I’ll give you another go.

So far, I don’t understand what was blocking me with this book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know whether there’s anything you wouldn’t read. Or whether you think that we should at least attempt to read everything touted as “valuable” that’s out there?