Tag Archives: babycalm

When Mothering Does not Come Naturally – One Mother’s Journey to More Instinctive Parenting

Before children my life was totally unrecognisable from the life that I lead today. I met my husband in Australia and we spent a large chunk of our first 6 years together travelling the world and climbing the career ladder.

When I was 28, I had a cervical cancer scare and the “broody” feelings finally bubbled through and we decided it was time to start our family. We were fortunate that it only took a couple of months before I took a pregnancy test and a blue line revealed to me that my life was about to change forever.

I had a perfect pregnancy and birth experience and my husband and I soon found out that this parenting lark would be the hardest work we’d ever encounter but the most rewarding. My only exposure to parenting methods was that with which I was programmed with through my own childhood and what my peer group were using. I dabbled with a bit of Gina Ford but soon found that the routine was far too strict for my lifestyle. I was one of those mums who spent her whole pregnancy declaring that “this baby was not going to change me, it would just have to fit in around our lives” and to be fair she did. She was a very sociable. I cringe now as remember my attempts to get her onto a 3 hourly breast feeding routine at 6 weeks old because that was what Gina recommended! No wonder she cried. It took a good friend to point out that if I fed her she’d probably stop screaming! I gave up breast feeding at 10 weeks as I wanted “me” back again, I felt sacrificed.

I adored my little girl and was a very proud mummy but looked forward to returning to work when she was 7 months old to restore my ego and fill my days with hitting targets rather than changing nappies. She was happy, I was happy, I worked full time but ensured that I put in some long days so that a few times a week I could be at home with her in the afternoons to spend some time being a quality mummy. By her 1st birthday she was blossoming into a beautiful toddler and I started yearning for a newborn baby again. One flippant comment to my husband about expanding our family and low and behold there was that unmistakeable nauseous feeling and I didn’t even need to do a test this time…. I just knew that another baby was on its way.

In preparation for the arrival of baby no 2, we blindly sleep trained our daughter, using controlled crying. Horrific at the time and one of my biggest regrets, making an uninformed decision without ever considering that I may be damaging my relationship and brain development of my child. Note to self; if it feels wrong, it is wrong!

Newborn - Baby boy

I sailed through my 2nd pregnancy again, a repeat performance from my last experience although this time a friend recommended I try HypnoBirthing as I’d been disappointed first time round to have quit my home birth dreams after hour 23 of labour at home with my daughter arriving 45 mins after getting blue lighted into hospital for no other reason than I lost my bottle.

This time round thanks to HypnoBirthing I had a quick, easy home water birth with hardly even breaking a sweat. Doors were opened in my mind due to my empowered experience. I started to believe in the mind and body connection and felt close to my 2nd daughter through the amount of time that I spent focussing on her, pre-birth. I trained to be a HypnoBirthing practitioner when she was 11 weeks old as I wanted to be able to share this knowledge with my local community. The more couples I taught coupled with the amazing feedback and positive birth experiences that were shared with me, the more and more I believed in the power of our minds. Freya was your typical HypnoBirthing baby, super well adjusted and super chilled. I couldn’t believe it when she only ever woke up in the night to feed and then went straight back off again. She was a little star. She made the transition into having a bigger family very easy as she wasn’t at all demanding. I could divide my time between the girls and give them both the attention they needed

So my maternity leave this time round was different. It wasn’t so easy to take two young children everywhere with you… My favourite pastimes of lunching, shopping & socialising were a distant memory and I spent a lot more time at home alone with the girls. My two girls were brimming with energy, ever so buoyant and cheerful but I felt pretty glum. I felt unfulfilled and undervalued. I missed my old life and its pay-packets.

This time going back to my full time work wasn’t a straight forward decision to make with two little ones. There was a lot of soul searching taken before I handed in my notice. Sobbing as I did so! I am a big believer in fate and honestly believe that that wasn’t the right choice for me at that time as a week later my boss was on the phone offering me a promotion. I was flattered and the pull of a monthly salary once again convinced me to go back. It was much tougher this time round, a new job role, much more responsibility and tons of travel with two demanding toddlers at home. I started to feel guilty about not being there for the girls as much as I’d like when that sicky feeling returned only 7 weeks after going back to work. It couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was. No way. But 7 days later… there was no denying that feeling. I was pregnant again!

Thankfully, I’d also been running HypnoBirthing lessons for many couples at weekends and evenings and was being pulled in a direction that I could never have predicted. I found the successes couples were having with the techniques and the fantastic feedback I received very rewarding. I felt like I was gaining momentum in raising awareness of HypnoBirthing and wondered if I could turn my hobby and passion into a part time business.

About half way through my pregnancy I became aware of BabyCalm and became a huge fan of Sarah’s blog. I was inspired by the information she presented and started to think very differently about my role as a parent. I loved the BabyCalm concepts which coupled with the Montessori education that I became exposed to via my girls preschool, I started to think differently and realise that this family wasn’t all about me and that by becoming more focussed on my children’s needs they could develop into their full potential. This was such news to me and I began to reassess what type of mother I was and wanted to be. This was such a change as I’d been very conscious of doing things “properly” with the girls. Setting strict boundaries and having strong discipline. I was so proud of my well behaved girls that everyone complimented me on their behaviour where ever we went obliviously to the perils of that “good” girl label making them eager to please whatever the cost.

And so my voyage of discovery continued and after my son’s birth I was a much more relaxed parent and started parenting the way that felt more instinctual to me much to my own mother’s disgust. My son breast feed to 18 months old, and has just chosen to leave mummy’s & daddy’s bed to sleep (mostly) in his own bed without any bribery.

I am far from perfect, and since training as a ToddlerCalm teacher I’ve realised how much more self-development I need to accomplish skills such as emotional intelligence and mindfulness so I can pass these valuable life skills down to my cherished tribe.

Being a mother is relentless. I do consider it to be an ongoing adventure with many highs and lows. I know that just doing what has been passed onto me isn’t enough. Simply loving, is a great foundation to start upon but there are many deeper life lessons I can expose my children to in the hope it will enable them to flourish into well rounded, contented, happy beings one day.

I’ve done things very differently with each of my children and I believe that has impacted upon their personalities. My eldest for example is still very needy at night time whereas the younger two settle and sleep really well.

Natural parenting didn’t come naturally to me, it’s an approach that has been drip fed to me via social media and many great books. When it is all backed up with all the science and brain benefits, it feels like the way forward for my unique family and I love sharing that wisdom & inspiration that BabyCalm &ToddlerCalm provides with new families.

By Naomi Newland

BabyCalm, ToddlerCalm and HypnoBirthing Teacher in Worthing, Sussex

For more insight, science and top tips for positive parenting. Sign up for Naomi’s free e-newsletter atwww.uflourish.co.uk

To Swaddle or not to Swaddle?

Is any issue more emotive in the babycare world at the moment?

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Emotive in general, but also a point that I am asked to comment on at least once per week in response to questions from, mostly, potential BabyCalm teachers – concerned that BabyCalm “advocate swaddling”. My answer is always “BabyCalm don’t advocate anything! That’s not what we do – we’re all about empowering parents and in order to truly empower we must allow the parent to make his or her own informed choice – and sometimes that choice may be something that makes our heart sing, othertimes it may be something that makes us uncomfortable – BUT – and it’s a big but! – we have to learn that our feelings must stay that – OUR feelings.”

So, what’s the deal with swaddling and BabyCalm?

In short we present the idea of swaddling to parents as one of many, many ways that they can soothe their baby (and those of you who have attended a BabyCalm class will know how little of it is taken up with soothing techniques – in short it’s the smallest part of what we do!) and it is just that “presented”. As with any other method we present we always disccuss the pros and cons of the technique and we help parents to know how to do it safely, with the minimal amount of risks as possible – be that dummy use, bedsharing, babywearing or swaddling. I am always concerned when somebody says “That’s dangerous – never do it” (FSIDs and bedsharing anyone?) or “That interrrupts feeding – never do it” because things are NEVER that cut and dried………..sure most things in life have risks, but most have benefits too and ways to reduce those risks.

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What would you suggest in this scenario? A mum with a 6 week old baby who confesses to you she’s not coping, her baby is very fretful and sleeps fitfully. She is at the end of her tether, she admits that the exhaustion and lack of sleep she’s experiencing is now affecting her bonding with her baby, she’s desperate. She also tells you that she is happily formula feeding, baby is in her own cot (and she wants it to stay that way) and babywearing isn’t for her. She’s tried swaddling and it really seems to help, she’s using a fleece blanket and pulling it really tight all around the baby. This scenario is precisely when swaddling can be a God send – this scenario is the norm in the UK, outside of the AP bubble of breastfeeding, bedsharing and babywearing………..but, this scenario is when swaddling can be dangerous and why we still teach swaddling in BabyCalm, we teach how to reduce those risks as much as possible.

Think of another scenario – Mum of a 6wk old baby who confesses to you she’s not coping, her baby is very fretful and sleeps fitfully. She is at the end of her tether, she admits that the exhaustion and lack of sleep she’s experiencing is now affecting her bonding with her baby, she’s desperate. She is breastfeeding and open to suggestions of babywearing, bedsharing and co-bathing…..what would you suggest here? would it be different to the above? Of course it would! but……..what if this mum’s informed choice was *still* to swaddle rather than bedshare/babywear/cobath/skin to skin? is that your position to tell her what NOT to do? even though she’s thoroughly considered the pros and cons and made her decision – most definitely NOT!

In my opinion telling somebody NOT to swaddle – ever, is just as bad as telling them to ALWAYS swaddle, as certain baby experts might! Frankly it is none of our business what parents do and I’m always shocked that some in this profession think that it is by passing on their own strong feelings (often backed by hunches and opinion, not evidence) to vulnerable new parents. This is NOT letting the parent make an informed choice!

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So what are the pros and cons of swaddling? What does current research and our own anecdotal opinion tell us?

PROS

  1. Swaddling can help promote new sleep cycles/less waking.
  2. Swaddling can help prevent prolonged crying. (but see 8 below!)
  3. Swaddling can help breastfeeding when a baby has flailing hands making latch difficult (but see 2 below!)
  4. Swaddling can help a baby to not accidentally scratch his face
  5. Swaddling can stop loose blankets going on top of the babies face
  6. Swaddling can prevent a baby from rolling onto his tummy during sleep.
  7. Swaddling Can give parents a technique to calm their baby and thus time to calm themselves, this is heightened for parents who make the choice to formula feed and not bedshare/babywear etc..
  8. Swaddling can help a baby feel ‘held’ and perhaps as if still in utero.

CONS

  1. Swaddling can lead parents to miss baby’s early hunger cues
  2. Swaddling can inhibit breastfeeding, particularly in the early days
  3. Swaddled babies cannot suckle on their own hands as they may have done in utero
  4. There is an increased risk of SIDs shown in studies when babies placed to sleep on stomach swaddled
  5. Swaddling can cause hip dysplasia if babies are swaddled too tightly over hips
  6. Swaddling can cause respiratory compression if babies are swaddled too tightly over chest
  7. Swaddling has been linked to less arousability, if the swaddling was not started until 3months of age.
  8. Swaddling prevents a baby’s freedom of movement and expression.

If a parent would still like to swaddle their baby after considering the above, how best to do so as safely as possible?

When Swaddling Always Remember:

  1. Never swaddle over a baby’s head or near their face
  2. Never swaddle a baby who is ill/has a fever
  3. Ensure the baby does not overheat – only swaddle with a breathable/thin fabric
  4. Only swaddle until a baby can roll **
  5. Always place a swaddled baby to sleep on their back
  6. Do not swaddle tightly across the chest
  7. Do not swaddle tightly around the hips/legs. Legs should be free to “froggy up”
  8. Begin swaddling well before 3 months of age, if breastfeeding only once feeding established and never in the first few hours postpartum (in the hospital!) when skin to skin is necessary!

** The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends swaddling for babies 0-14weeks only.

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I’m being a bit lazy here as it’s the first day of school summer holidays and I want to take my kids out on a picnic – so here’s a great summary of up to date swaddling evidence.

So what’s BabyCalm’s position on swaddling? To be honest we don’t really have one! other than we are committed to letting parents make their own choices and helping them to have the information they need to do so. For some swaddling is an amazing tool, for others it’s quite the reverse! There is no “one size fits all approach” when it comes to new parents and babies and *THAT* is our position!

Sarah (Founder of BabyCalm)