The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

Australia is a massive country, most people would agree, but not many have a grasp of the true magnitude. I live in the outback in the heart of it all. We are a 1.5 hour drive from the Northern Territory border, a 10 hour drive to the East Coast, a 20 hour drive to Brisbane as our nearest capital city. My family is a 2.5 hour flight away and my husband’s is 2 x 2.5 hour flights away and the cost … well it is extortionate. Our time with our family is precious beyond measure and though it is limited by time and space, the bonds that have been forged with my babies and with my nieces are strong and heartfelt. These bonds have been strengthened through the sharing of a most precious and memorable experience… the sleepy snuggle.  

We are currently staying with my folks following the birth of my newest niece and I had an appointment this morning that ran over my baby’s first nap time. If the boob lady is around, only the boob will do for a snooze but when I’m not, well, Nana and Pa have got it covered. Pa has the magic touch with a little walk around the trees for calming or a short stroll down the beach front and then he swings him to calm him further. Today, the swing actually conked him out but as he couldn’t be left there, Nana scooped him up and held him while they waited for me. I came home to a peaceful sleeping baby, wrapped in his Nana’s loving arms, rocking in the rocking chair. She kissed him as she passed him to me, later saying, ‘I could have tried to put him down but I was just enjoying my snuggle.’

Just enjoying her snuggle.

I look back through all my photos of our family over each year as I make the new calendar and I can tell you now, hands down, my favourites are those of my babies sleeping on someone they love – me, their Dad, my Mum, my husband’s Mum, one of the Pa’s an Aunty, an Uncle… sometimes it’s snuggling on the couch, sometimes in a carrier (don’t you know babywearing is for dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, too?!?), sometimes it was bedsharing. In each and every photo, I see people at peace. I see relaxed faces, smiles on lips, kisses on heads, warmth and love. I see trust. I see time. I see incredible memories and bonds being forged.

While my sister was in hospital following the birth of her newest babe, I had the privilege to be able to lay with and cuddle my niece as she went to sleep for her nap each day. I loved every minute of it. I have never felt more special in her world than I did those days.

In the days since they have come home, I have had a number of sleepy snuggles with my new niece who is rarely out of the loving arms of someone unless she’s happy to be down.

As a family, we have embraced the power of the embrace.

It wasn’t always so. Back before I found my gentle path, these same loving arms belonged to people who also once believed a baby needed to sleep alone. We have all come such a very long way and I credit these beautiful little humans in our lives for showing us a better way. They have shown us the power of the sleepy snuggle for not only the baby but for the person they are finding their comfort in.

We may live so very far apart but our love is closer than ever.

Never underestimate the value of passing a baby from your loving arms to more loving arms. It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that child is the catalyst for changing views in the village into which they were born.

(Quote and image credit: Mothers, Milk & Mental Health

If you recognise the power of the sleepy snuggle, try to extend that love in your family and help create the shift we need to see in society away from solitary sleep.

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Dehumanising babies while treating their mother’s Mental Illness

Dehumanising babies while treating their mother’s Mental Illness

It is of major concern to me that peak bodies entrusted with the treatment, education and support of mothers with mental illnesses are following what they call a ‘simple and effective’ intervention to rid ‘problematic’ waking by their baby to facilitate the mother’s recovery. The intervention is Controlled Crying or Controlled Comforting.  

The basis for this is that an ‘infant sleep problem’ is a strong indicator for maternal depression and ‘Infant sleep problems and postnatal depression are both associated with increased marital stress, family breakdown, child abuse, child behaviour problems and maternal anxiety. Postnatal depression can adversely affect a child’s cognitive development.’ (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2014 )

These are seriously heavy consequences and certainly not something that can nor should be ignored, BUT the fact remains that by and large, very few babies genuinely suffer from true sleep problems and therefore it must be asked, if the baby itself is not behaving in a biologically unhealthy manner, should it be their normal, functioning behaviour that professionals look to intervene on, or should the interventions be focused directly on the person who is exhibiting the unhealthy, non functioning behaviour?

It is understandably a blurred line as the mother- baby dyad is unique and shouldn’t be treated in isolation but the current recommendations by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Raising Children Network as an arm of the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services to employ the Controlled Crying technique, in no way honour this dyad.

Yes, a mother’s mental health is essential to her ability to successfully and healthily mother her children but let’s not dive straight for the measure that provides a ‘simple and effective’ fix to her problem that has been in fact oversimplified and effectively silences a baby’s cry and therefore their ability to communicate their night time needs.

This problem is complex and delicate. What will be effective for both mother and child in one setting may not be for any other but I do believe there are processes that could be put in place in order to take a deeper more holistic approach to this very serious and critical issue.

The place to start should be the research into human infant’s biological sleep patterns and behaviours. No, not research into sleep problems and sleep training or interventions but a solid grounding in what is truly normal from a biological, physiological, psychological and anthropological stand point.

Starting with this baseline, scientific understanding will naturally lead those seeking information to learn more about the intricate link between infant sleep, breastfeeding, maternal sleep and sleep environments and situations.

From here, it is no stretch to see why the disconnect and misalignment of modern societal views and expectations of infant sleep has created incredibly difficult barriers and challenges for mothers to face while trying to mother her infant who understands and knows nothing of modern society and its expectations and being able to fit in to what is seen to be a ‘successful’ mother, wife, partner, friend, daughter, sister, employee, volunteer and community member.

The RACGP state, ‘ Infants with sleep problems are more likely to sleep in the parental bed, be nursed to sleep, take longer to fall asleep, and wake for often and for longer periods.’ I’d like this to be viewed in light of what normal infant sleep actually looks like in the 6-12 month age group of infancy. These are NOT sleep problems for the infant but DO pose sleep problems for their parents and in particular their mother particularly for parents who are unable, unwilling or unaware of what changes they need to make to their own sleep habits, lifestyle, environment and support network to enable them to meet these biologically normal sleep behaviours of their baby or toddler that are seen in every culture and society in the world but are only identified as problematic and linked so closely with the incidence of maternal depression in our Western societies.

The other side of this statement from RACGP is it is another nail in the coffin to very tired mothers everywhere to see once again, their child’s sleep behaviour being blamed on natural nurturing parenting behaviours.
It is normal and natural for an infant to sleep in a family bed. This is how the majority of culture’s in the world manage normal night waking of breastfed infant and toddlers. It is not and has never been the cause of a ‘sleep problem’ for a baby or child. It can and is done safely by most (not all) families.
It is normal for a human infant or toddler to be nursed to sleep. It is not a sleep problem. Our night time breastmilk is packed full of sleep inducing components that act to assist both mother and child to sleep more easily and remain more relaxed. Mother Nature is no idiot and this is by perfect design not error.
It is biologically normal for a human infant to wake and nurse frequently at night for the first year and beyond. It is not a sleep problem.

IF a baby is waking in an extreme fashion or staying awake for long periods on many occasions, then I urge all General Practitioners and other professionals on the front line who work with these vulnerable mothers to not ignore this key factor. Absolutely DO NOT take steps to extinguish this child’s cries and calls for help. There is highly likely an underlying issue exacerbating this child’s normal wakeful behaviour and they deserve to have this fully investigated. Reflux, allergies, food intolerances, tongue and lip ties, birth trauma and the residual discomfort from it are all possible issues that need to be looked into and ruled in or ruled out.
After all of the investigations have taken place, if nothing else is at play, please consider this child as a whole person. It is highly likely that a child waking in this extreme fashion is highly sensitive, extremely intense and requires a huge amount of parental nurturing to be able to regulate their body and mind throughout the day and also by night. It has been shown that some children are far more sensitive to parenting choices and techniques than others and I would argue that a baby exhibiting such high level needs could be safely considered a strong candidate to be one of the children who will be heavily effected by the way they are parented and as such, their parents and those acting to care for those parents, need to be mindful of what interventions are suitable not only for the mother but also her unique child.

This brings me to my next point, with so little focus on the well being of the baby in this advice, I would like to bring into question the Hippocratic Oath, ‘first, do no harm’. I have read the studies cited by RACGP and the Raising Children Network and there is a heavy bias toward Proof of Harm and in particular Proof of Harm in the short and medium term but I question whether this is enough. Proof of Harm is vastly different to Proof of No Harm and there is most certainly not any Proof of no harm. It also seems that RACGP has focused only on studies that support the method they wish to employ with no recognition of studies that indicate otherwise.

As the babies in these situations are not in fact the patients but are intricately linked to the problem and the solution, it is not enough to find that the improvement in maternal depression warrants the widespread use of these techniques that cannot be proven to be doing no harm to their babies. A solution that only considers the mother’s needs and sacrifices her baby’s need for night time parenting is frankly no solution at all.

I am no stranger to this situation. I have lived and survived an extremely wakeful baby, I have been referred to a Mother-Baby unit for sleep training by my GP, I have been diagnosed and recovered from Post Natal Depression, I have tried and failed to implement a modified Controlled Crying technique and my extraordinarily intense baby resisted all attempts to extinguish his cries. I have had to recover from Post Natal Depression while STILL mothering my extremely wakeful baby and therefore while still sleep deprived.

I take this topic extremely seriously. I do not doubt or question that many mothers who are given this advice and have implemented it to varying degrees of ‘success’ will largely attest that they NEEDED this intervention. I don’t question that they needed help but I do question that THIS intervention is what was needed.

I sincerely hope to see a shift in practice in the management of severe sleep deprivation, Post Natal Depression and the handling of infant sleep by the professionals mothers turn to for support and assistance at his extremely vulnerable time in her life.

I ask that RACGP, review their current guidelines and practice by seeking access to research and techniques that will give a fuller more human view of this issue for all people involved.

I am not an expert, so my thoughts may be largely dismissed but the true experts in this field are resources that RACGP should acknowledge. Here are a few to get the ball rolling:

  • The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has a position paper regarding Controlled Crying which can be accessed here.
  • Dr Pamela Douglas who runs the Possums Clinic for mothers and babies in Brisbane, Australia is a wealth of knowledge on normal infant sleep and working with mothers during this weary season in their lives. The Possums Clinic also offers Professional Development opportunities for those working with vulnerable mothers.
  • Tracy Cassells PHD of Evolutionary Parenting is a wealth of knowledge and can assist with identifying research from across this topic around the world.
  • Professor James McKenna of Notre Dame University can offer an Anthropological understanding of infant and mother sleep particularly for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Professor Helen Ball runs the UK Infant Sleep Information Source and is a wealth of information and will be in Australia in 2017 for professional development opportunities.
  • Pinky McKay and Meg Nagle are both International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who offer alternative views on managing infant sleep with a particular focus on breastfeeding mothers.

If we as a society truly wish to see a change in the occurrence of Post Natal Depression and Anxiety in mothers, let’s work to create the environment and support they need to be able to mother their babies the way they need to be mothered while also being able to be mentally well and the best way to do this is to ensure all parties work together to find a solution that fits with all of the humans involved. Controlled Crying is hopefully soon to live in the deep, dark recesses of history. Our mothers and babies deserve better.

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The true bad habits around baby sleep

The true bad habits around baby sleep

As a new mother, particularly if you are blessed with a wakeful little firecracker who is the anti sleepy ideal of a ‘good’ baby, you very quickly start hearing all about ‘bad habits’, ‘sleep crutches’ and ‘negative sleep associations’. The general gist of all of these ‘bad habits’ is that your baby is using you, you are spoiling them, you aren’t teaching them to sleep, you aren’t encouraging independence, you are creating a rod for your own back.  

As a new mum, this has an extremely damaging effect on your confidence and belief that you can trust your instincts and your baby to tell you what you should and should not be doing to assist your baby to get the sleep they need. I know. I heard it all and more with my first and it took me down an extremely ugly path of sleep training, sleep school, sleep training ‘failure’ and PND.

But it’s not always as hideous as it was for me, and unfortunately this is why this notion of ‘bad habits’ continues. Because sleep training ‘works’ and ‘saves’ so many, it has become the go to technique and method for our society. If you aren’t willing to sleep train, you are on the outer. If you aren’t willing to sleep train, then you better just suck it up because that wakeful child of yours is only that wakeful because you refuse to break their ‘bad habits’.

Well I’d like to take the time today to call bullshit to this and highlight the TRUE bad habits we’ve gotten into when it comes to managing this very weary season in a mother’s life and the handling of our babies sleep.

BAD HABIT #1 Assuming our baby should sleep in a manner that resembles our preferred way of sleeping as adults by night and in a way that allows us to be ‘productive’ by day as quickly as possible and certainly by 6 months of age. Babies are meant to sleep for short stints before rousing and nursing back to sleep by night. Sometimes, they will go through patches where they do sleep for longer stints before going through other patches of waking up even more frequently than they had previously. This cycle is normal for a normally developing human infant. Their sleep looks nothing like an adult’s sleep because an adult brain and body is not undergoing the incredibly rapid growth and change our babies experience in their first couple of years of life.

Catnapping by day is normal even though it can seriously give you the shits. Wanting to be held or hang out on the boob for naps is also normal and is why babywearing has saved many a mother’s sanity. Short naps may impede a caregiver’s ability to get around to many of the things they need to do but they are not a sleep problem. Being inconvenient is different to being a problem. Catnapping babies may require an extra kip or two compared to a baby who enjoys long, luxurious naps of their own accord but this again, is inconvenient, not a sleep problem. I’ve now survived two babies who relished a good stint of catnapping at many points during their first year and it really helped me to recognise the important work I WAS getting done by spending so much time getting my baby’s the sleep they needed in the way that worked best for them. Integrity Calling has also written a fabulous article on all the very productive things you can do while CoNapping which may help you if you are in the thick of this right now.

BAD HABIT #2 Failing to recognise and respect a baby’s biological need for comfort, closeness and frequent nursing throughout their first year and beyond. By insisting on a baby needing to learn to sleep away from their mother, out of her arms and most certainly not at her breast, we are effectively ripping our babies off on a huge amount of skin to skin contact and sensory stimulation. Our babies thrive both physically and emotionally through loving touch and closeness. You can literally never cuddle your baby too much or offer them too much comfort but you can absolutely offer them to little.

BAD HABIT #3 Diagnosing and pathologising a baby’s normal sleep behaviour as a sleep problem due to lack of understanding for normal infant sleep behaviour. A baby waking and nursing frequently at night throughout the first year and beyond is normal. The actual frequency varies a huge amount as it does with all unique adult humans. What one baby needs and how they behaves has exactly bupkis to do with what their peers are doing. IF a baby is waking in an extreme fashion, then it is of high importance that any potential underlying issues that may be exacerbating their normal waking behaviour needs to be investigated. If after investigation, there is nothing at play, it perfectly acceptable to accept that this very wakeful baby has a more intense need for nighttime parenting than the majority of their peers and accept that they will become more relaxed and independent with sleep in time (as all babies and toddlers do if they are allowed to develop at their own pace).
Upon finding acceptance, the family’s energy can then be focused on navigating their sleep needs outside of sleep training. Here’s an article to float some ideas. 

BAD HABIT #4 Trying to force independence upon a baby with regards to sleep when they are developmentally incapable of such independence. Babies are physiologically unable to self settle from a place of distress. Sarah Ockwell Smith does as great job explaining this in her article here. Independence with sleep like independence in all other areas of life, blossoms from dependence without any force from a parent. By supporting and honouring a baby who is dependent on their caregiver for every single one of their needs, a baby is growing deep, trusting emotional roots on which they can grow and branch from as they become more capable. Babyhood and childhood are not a race and just as we cannot rush or force a baby to roll, crawl or walk, we should not rush or force them to find sleep more independently until they are actually capable of such a feat.

BAD HABIT #5 Accepting that crying is good or necessary for our babies to learn to ‘self settle’. See article above about the myth of self soothing and also some information from Tracy Cassells PHD of Evolutionary Parenting who explains what is actually happening while a baby cries and what is also happening when the crying is extinguished. A crying baby needs comfort- EVERY SINGLE TIME. Not sometimes, not when a timer or some baby whisperer or sleep expert says. When they cry, they are using their voice. They deserve to be heard. Not just once they’ve reached emotional hysteria but while they calmly and trustingly request your presence.

BAD HABIT #6 Through sheer ignorance and sensationalist reporting and scaremongering, our society ignores that cosleeping and bedsharing can be done safely by MOST (not all) families and are the preferred manner in which normal night waking of a breastfed baby is managed in the majority of cultures around the world. Read more on the amazing research of Prof James McKenna and the concept of Breastsleeping and check out the safe bedsharing information provided by La Leche League’s Safe Sleep 7 and the Infant Sleep Information Source. The physical getting up and going to another room, the forcing yourself to stay awake to nurse, the ridiculous, arbitrary feeding schedules and resettling … all are bad habits western society has added to this warped view of what is ‘normal’ and it is exhausting mothers more than they ever needed to be exhausted. It’s physically torture and largely where the notion of ‘sleep problem’ stems. Once a mother has hit full blown sleep deprivation delirium… of course she thinks everything is wrong and of course she thinks her baby wakes too much, of course she can’t keep it up.

BAD HABIT #7 Placing heavy importance on a mother’s need for uninterrupted sleep and advocating for methods that will help her achieve this even if they do not respect her baby’s night time need for parenting. I’m seeing this all the time. Mothers themselves, family members, professionals treating a mother’s mental health issues … so many times sleep training is seen as 100% necessary as this mother will only be okay, only make a recovery, only be able to function if she can get her sleep back to normal. Thing is, ‘normal’ with a baby or toddler in the house is meant to look very different to the normal of prechild. A solution that only works to solve the problem of a mother’s acute sleep deprivation but does not respect her baby’s biological sleep needs, is frankly not a solution at all. We should not be asking these mothers to make a decision such as this. SHE matters but so does her baby. She needs assistance to work out what needs to happen in her world to ensure she can get the quality (not quantity) of sleep she needs in a way that still allows her to mother her baby the way they need to be mothered.

BAD HABIT #8 Placing the weight of responsibility heavily on the mother to bear the burden of sleep deprivation particularly if she is trying to navigate paid employment while managing this season in her life. Too often, mothers sleep train as they are back at work and simply cannot function on the broken sleep they managed while on maternity leave. This one has a few branches to look at- first- are we providing adequate maternity leave and flexible work arrangements for women who are living this weary season their lives? In most cases, no. What about arrangements for the father of the child? What is his role in parenting by night and day during this season? I have far more questions than answers here but as a society I fear we have long since stopped thinking on this accepted imbalance as the majority of weight when it comes to child care is borne by the mother.

BAD HABIT #9 Lacking empathy and advocacy for our babies. As the voiceless, helpless, dependent, trusting souls in this story, they bear the brunt of the decisions and this skewed view of what their family should expect of them. Babies are often accused of being ‘manipulative’, ‘sooky’, ‘too demanding’, ‘whiny’, ‘needy’ and worse. Their very babyish nature seems to be misconstrued as having some kind of malice or ill intention built in which is such a heartbreaking reality in today’s world. At the ripe old age of 6 months, how dare a baby cry out for comfort, how dare they protest when placed in their cot, how dare they cling to your neck when you try to put them on the ground or hand them to another person, how dare they cry until they see you’ve come back and then immediately switch to a big warm smile to show you how relieved they are that you came back … how very manipulative and needy. It breaks my heart even trying to wrap my head around why this is so accepted. 

BAD HABIT #10 Frowning on those who choose to parent in a way that society doesn’t recognise as ‘normal’. As a breastfeeding, bedsharing, babywearing family, we have been ridiculed and frowned upon many times. It is assumed that because I mother this way, I must be some ‘stinking hippy’ or ‘backwards’. I have been called a lactivist bitch, dangerous, a judgemental cow with a superiority complex and a sanctimummy. All for expressing my differing and somewhat scathing view on the entrenched parenting practices of our modern society. 

Closed minds and closed hearts- now that will always be a bad habit worth speaking up on.

And so, to close this somewhat depressing summary of the true BAD habits that deserve to be beaten when it comes to our treatment of our babies and their sleep, I urge anyone in the thick of it who is hearing all these voices telling them they are creating ‘bad habits’ with their precious baby, to stop for a moment and reflect on the place that these well meaning people have forged their view- a society and culture who would rather a baby cry than have a cuddle is so seriously warped, I’d go with your instinct on this one mama.

Cuddle all the babies.

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Status

The power of reaching out to stem the tide of sleep training

You don’t have to do this.  
You can stop anytime.
Your baby will be okay.
You will be okay.
I know how tired you are, I’ve been that tired, too.
I know how desperate you are, I’ve been that desperate, too.
I know you adore your baby and only want the very best for them.
You have to do what feels right for you and your family but I’m here if you want out.
I’m here if you need an out.
You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to or if it hurts your heart.
I’m here. You aren’t in this alone.
Again, this morning, I read a thread on a fabulous group I’m in, where a mother was in deep distress after reading a relay of posts and comments on a dear friend’s page as she sleep trained her baby. The baby had cried so hard he’d lost his voice. The mother was struggling but she had many rallying voices telling her to ‘stay strong’ and indicating her baby was manipulating her.

The mother in my group was heartbroken but didn’t know what to say.

She didn’t want to interfere. Didn’t want to seem like she was judging. She ended up hiding the post. She could bare no more.

Many people on the page supported her on this.

Best to leave it.

Then there was the usual comments of ‘I don’t know how you could ever … I could never.’

And then … some comments appeared about perhaps reaching out to this mama. Perhaps sending a PM or if she was nearby, catching up for a cuppa.

Suggestions that maybe she was only doing it because she thought she had to, because the only voices she could hear supported sleep training.

Perhaps she had never been told she didn’t have to do it.

THIS is key.

Sure, we all make our own choices based on what we feel is right for our family but we also make our mind up about what choices we have from the models of parenting around us.

In a world so supportive of all things baby training, of course sleep training is normal.

In a world that has so little knowledge of normal infant sleep patterns, a world with so little understanding of how to promote and support mothers to continue breastfeeding, in a world hell bent on getting mothers to ‘bounce back’ and resume work as soon as possible and make her baby as independent as she possibly can, it is little wonder that many families see sleep training as something you just end up doing. Something everyone has to do. Something their baby needs.

But it’s not.

Yes, it does ‘work’ for many but at what cost?

For those, like me, who it didn’t work for, it can be an incredibly traumatic experience and in the end, my midwife was the one who gave me the ‘out’ I desperately needed.

She was the one who said, ‘you know, you don’t actually have to do this, don’t you?’

In all honesty, no, I didn’t know I didn’t have to.

I needed her clear head. Her understanding. Her bravery to speak up for me.

She called me back.

She helped me see an option where I felt there was no option before.

I didn’t need more rallying cries.

I needed someone to reach out to me and tell me we would be okay without sleep training.

So please, if you truly wish to see change in the way we manage this weary season in mother’s lives, don’t turn inward. You don’t necessarily need to engage publicly. You may not be well received every time.

But, my goodness, if you can reach but one mother, and help her see her true choices … you’ve done more good then you ever would from staying silent.

Reach out.

Reach out with empathy, love and compassion.

Reach out with an alternative.

Simply knowing she’s not alone in this may be all that is needed.

Empathy, love, compassion.

Mothers and mothering matters.

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Mothering Matters… why can’t we just own it?

Mothering Matters… why can’t we just own it?

What is with the fear that something we do as a parent may actually be important?!?

Yet another one of these posts is doing the rounds trying to give us all a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card from the very real impact we make as parents and I just can’t stomach it anymore.

This particular one went viral and I totally understand why and I actually tried very hard to just get on board and like the shit out of it but I can’t because it’s not true.

The choices we make and the hand life deals us and our families DO matter and do have an effect and therefore should not be downplayed as mere ‘thoughts’ in our head that do not matter.

Mothering matters.

Anyone who had a less than ideal childhood, anyone who has dealt with a narcissist parent, anyone who has attachment issues and relationship problems stemming from their childhood would tell you, parents and how they treat their children DOES matter!

Loving them IS enough IF that child actually feels the love and benefits from the loving, connected relationship with their parents.

Loving unconditionally within your own heart and mind is one thing but true love without conditions only lives when it is felt by the one that you love.

I feel so saddened that any mother who breastfed for 2.5 years, coslept and babywore any chance she got could feel that at the very young ages of 3 and 6, that her efforts have not manifested themselves in such a way that she feels what she did to mother her babies and young toddlers was worth it or even matters.

Don’t get me wrong, the author of this status is in no way looking for my pity. She sounds very happy with her conclusion but it is this implication that upsets me because it seriously undermines the value of the efforts of mothers currently putting their heart and soul into their babies and wondering if it is all worth it and then they read this and suddenly think, ‘F#%^ it, none of the sacrifices I am making will ultimately benefit my child so why have I worked my arse of to maintain my breastfeeding relationship despite heavy social pressure to wean, why don’t I just throw my baby in its cot to CIO, it won’t effect my baby long term and screw having a 6 year old who still wakes. While I’m at it, that baby can also learn to sit quietly in the pram, babywearing isn’t helping them long term and screw trying to introduce a wide ranging healthy diet, they’ll end up eating like shit anyway. I also want my kids to behave so maybe I better get tougher now.’

What a freaking cop out.

I don’t make my parenting decisions for my baby or toddler based on how they will behave at 3 or 6 years of age. This is a long term game.

I am fully aware and in agreement that MANY things about my children and who they will ultimately become will have NOTHING to do with my parenting. Absolutely. There is so much about my boys that is already evidence of this.

BUT this does not absolve me as a parent from my own role to play.

All these things that are downplayed here and in many similar posts are actually central to the way I choose to mother because they (through no mistake by nature) are what my baby and toddler NEED from me at this age and stage to feel unconditionally loved and cared for.

IF I was unable to breastfeed, or safely cosleep, or babywear, or provide a wide range of healthy nutritious foods, I would do my utmost to acknowledge where the weak spot is and look into ways to meet these needs with the best alternatives I could find. My responsibility remains.

Why, oh why, are we so freaking obsessed with avoiding any thought process that may result in guilt? Guilt is not something to be scared of and is not something we need to allow ourselves to be consumed with and is absolutely not something we should be so desperate to disguise and avoid that we go around looking for ways to go get around it.

WE ARE ADULTS! Adulting is tough. Parenting is even tougher. You don’t get a get of jail free card from me. You don’t need one.

Own your decisions, own the cards you’ve been dealt and do whatever you need to do to make sure those babies of yours needs are met and they feel every bit of unconditional love you feel in your heart.

Mothering and mothers matters.

Never underestimate the impact you are having. Your effort, time, love and patience are not in vain.

Keep at it mamas 💙😘

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The 12 month itch- When will it get better?

The 12 month itch- When will it get better?


‘The first 6 weeks are the hardest, it’ll get easier after that.’ 

‘My babies all slept well after three months, the fourth trimester is such hard work. It will get better.’

‘6 months was the golden time for us. Introducing solids seemed to help a lot. It will get better.’

’12 months saw it get so much better for my guy. Something just clicked. It will get better.’

’18 months, our baby slept through for the first time! I promise, it will get better.’

‘At 2, our babe started toddling off to bed at nap time. It will get better.’

It will get better, it really will, but I remember clearly hearing all these arbitrary points in time being peddled out to me with my first and I used to have to really regroup as each of these ‘finish lines’ or ‘lights at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel’ passed without so much as a hint of my baby sleeping better.

Each time, I’d feel the doubts creep in. The frustration rise. The worries that it would always be so and WHEN would it end?!?

It’s funny that although this caused me much angst and frustration in my own experience, I catch myself promoting this kind of benchmark thinking both in real life and in my blog. I’ve had to ask myself why.

I’m thinking the reason we do this stems from a very good place. It comes from empathy, it comes from wanting to support mothers who are currently in the midst of this incredibly challenging weary time in our lives and wanting to be able to offer them some relief and encouragement. ‘This too shall pass’ is the mother’s mantra but never had I heard more frustrating words than hearing those words while I lived day in day out with the kind of sleep deprivation that can only be described as torture and with no light at the end of the tunnel, I swear I felt like I might just drown. And so, the kind hearted people around me who keenly felt my struggle and knew what I’d been through already with my little firecracker would try to offer me the comfort of an end point …

The end point they offer is all so relative to their own experience though and what they call ‘better’ is not necessarily what you or I would call ‘better’ and so the confusion, frustration and worry continues.

If so and so’s baby slept through from 3 months, why is our little treasure still waking every 2 hours?!’ Or ‘So and so’s baby slept through once he had crawling mastered. She’s been crawling for months now and still we can’t get more than 3 hours straight .’ Or ‘Mum said, that molars can be really rough on sleep, but he’s had his for a month now, what else is going on?!?’

Nothing is wrong with any of these statements per se, for some babies, there does seem to be a magical wand moment where ‘zipadeedee fidalee fa’ suddenly the sleep seems to settle. Teething, milestones such as crawling, walking and talking, separation anxiety, the incredible physical growth of our babies during the first 2 years or so of their life is remarkable and ever so disruptive to their sleep. BUT, it honestly does not help anyone to compare what one baby did and when their sleep improved and make any kind of assumption about your own child’s unique sleep pattern.

It’s unfair on them but also, it is ever so unfair on you.

YOUR baby couldn’t give a toss about what little Joe Blogs did after he mastered crawling, nor how easily he sprouted teeth without so much as a hiccup in the night.

THEY will ultimately decide when they are ready and physically able to sleep more easily and for longer stints at night.

My little Grubby Bubby turns 1 in a week and I can tell you how much ‘better’ his sleep is than it was as a newborn but I can also tell you how much ‘worse’ it is than when he was 3 months. I can tell you how much ‘better’ it is to be able to pop him down for his naps than it was for the months he only slept on my chest. I can tell you how much ‘better’ it is now he only needs 2 naps a day instead of 5. I can tell you how much ‘better’ he is to settle at night now with a quick boob and he rolls as far from me as he can. But I can also tell you that at his ‘worst’ he can wake every 40 minutes all night.

Overall, things ARE better, but at 12 months, after a full year of giving, I think many of us really thought we’d be further down the sleep track then we are. I know, I too wish it were so.

 But, I think at this time, it’s important to give pause. Yes, there is a candle on the cake that wasn’t there last month, but apart from that nothing has changed, no incredible birthday leap into independence occurred. Our baby may now be a toddler but they are still babies.

They have come such a long way, WE have come such a long way with them. Let’s not let our weariness overcome us.

They still need us as intensely as they did yesterday, they are still undergoing enormous physical and mental growth and they STILL only need us this intensely for such a short time in the grand picture of life.

Keep faith in your baby, keep faith in yourself.

You ARE getting there. Every settle, every nurse, every cuddle, every wake up is one less time your baby will need you so.

Let’s reset again, tired mama. Things WILL get better but this is the here and now. Focus on this time with your baby, they won’t always need you so. Xxx
Here are some articles to help you understand why your 12-24 month old may be still waking-

BellyBelly

Sarah Ockwell Smith

The Wonder Weeks

The Milk Meg

Pinky McKay

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Want to be less worried, confused or frustrated with your baby’s sleep? 

My top tips for getting your head around and accepting normal infant sleep for new and expecting mamas-
1. Expect that your baby will wake ALOT and want to nurse back to sleep most times throughout the first year and beyond. 

2. Even if your baby starts sleeping longer … expect it not to last. 

3. Expect there to be times when your baby will be super hard to settle and may be impossible to put down. 


4. Expect that your baby will catnap during the day (20-40minutes) and you may spend more time getting them to sleep than they actually stay asleep. 

5. Expect that at times, you will need to call in back up support to help you get the rest you need while meeting the night time needs of your baby. 


6. Expect that you may need to consider some sleeping arrangements that you may not see as your ideal situation (eg. Bedsharing when you really wanted a cot sleeper). 

7. Expect that your baby will want to sleep on the boob and not let go at times. This is normal and not a sleep or supply problem. 

8. Expect that in a few short years, it is a long forgotten ‘ stress’ and all you miss is all the cuddles , nursing and closeness.


Expect these things and then, if it turns out your baby finds sleep more easily than this, winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Realistic expectations (even if you consider them low expectations) make it so much easier mentally to prepare, surrender and make peace with your baby’s sleep behaviour. 
Your baby is so much more than their ability to sleep. Expect little in the way of sleep and enjoy them for the whole person they are 💙😴👍🏻

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