Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pain Hammered My Blog

I find these "why I haven't posted in a while" posts a bit self-important. Does anyone really mind if I take a bit of time out? Of course not. But anyway, despite my reservations, here is one of those very posts.

I've been ill for a whole week. I'll spare you the details, but it started with me scratching at the door of A&E to get some pain relief from my stabbing abdomen, had an unbelievably uncomfortable middle phase where I was carrying more trapped wind than I thought possible, and is finishing (hopefully) with constant abdominal cramps and a fear of travelling too far from a toilet.

I've had similar attacks before so I'm going to try to take it really easy for a bit. If it is IBS then it is obviously related to stress and I need to keep that out of my life as much as possible. In other words, I'm going to try putting the kettle on and sitting back instead of diving for the computer the minute my daughter falls asleep. Maybe I'll post once a week for a while. Whatever. I thank anyone for reading, and I am sure nobody is particularly bothered how frequently I write!

In other (good) news, Cave Baby is walking really confidently on her own now. Although everybody had warned me that I would never be able to sit down again, I am in fact finding that things are much more restful than the last six weeks when I had been holding her hand ALL DAY. Walking seems to have brought slightly better sleep and a new found independence, both things that I am incredibly grateful for.

So, to rest and relaxation. A bientot.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Bit Of Blog Lurrrrve

I have never done a blog love post before, so it is high time for one. I have written before about my lack of time and I don't get as many chances as I would like to read and comment on other blogs. Most days I have to choose whether to spend my free hour writing a post, reading and commenting on others, writing something else that I am working on or doing the washing up. But the truth is I do read most of the posts of the blogs I have linked to in the column on the right, and some posts from other blogs that I've discovered more recently.

I don't really like saying which are my favourites, because I like them all for different reasons. But in the interests of not sitting on the fence any longer, here are my current absolute faves:

Breastfeeding Moms Unite
Hobo Mama
This Is Worthwhile
Honest To Betsy
The Feminist Breeder

(Please don't be offended if I read your blog and I haven't put you on the list - you know how it is, as time goes by we become complacent. I love you really.)

And here are a few newly discovered ones that I am also loving:

Mummy Zen
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives (odd title, great blog)
Global Mamas
But I Digress (she's recently had a baby -congrats)
Global Mamas
Fighting Off Frumpy (this is a really funny blog)
Motherhood Moments

And to anyone who has ever linked to my site, I just want to say a great big thank you. I am a soft-hearted sentimental girl and I am always totally chuffed whenever I get a new subscriber or linker! Huge thanks also to anyone who reads or comments on this blog. I really appreciate the fact that you bother to pay me a visit - you make a little corner of my life a lot more interesting.

Enough of the mushy stuff now - back to normal service in a few days.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Difficult Babies and How To Cope With Them

What a promising title for a post! If only there was truly a one-size-fits-all solution to coping with life with a challenging baby.

"Difficult babies" is the top Google search term that brings visitors to this site. So, if you're visiting from Google, welcome. You've come to the right place - I've certainly learnt a thing or two about difficult babies over the last year and a bit.

First of all, let's get a bit of semantics out of the way. "Difficult" makes it sound as if the baby is deliberately trying to annoy you. Some people prefer "challenging" or "spirited". The most official sounding term is "high needs". I like this one because it states quite plainly that the baby is not manipulating you - it has needs. And high ones. It can't help this. It's not the baby's fault and it's not the parents fault. You haven't done anything wrong to make your baby the way it is. It's time to accept the baby's needs and do your best to meet them.

So what is a difficult baby? My little one had all the following endearing traits as a tiny baby:
  • Never sleeping for more than an hour or so at night

  • Not napping for more than twenty minutes during the day, unless she was in the pram or being carried in a sling

  • Crying for hours on end every evening because she was overtired from not getting enough sleep

  • Wanting my nipple in her mouth all the time (OK, this is normal for all newborns)

  • Waking up without fail if I ever tried to put her down in her moses basket

  • Crying if she was ever put down in her bouncy chair

  • Crying if her pram stopped moving

  • Never being content to just sit and watch what was going on around her - needing movement all the time.

I could go on but I think you get the idea of what it is like to have a high needs baby. And if you have Googled "difficult babies", it is highly likely that you are sitting with one right in front of you (or perhaps even latched on to your nipple) and hoping that someone, somewhere is going to be able to help you figure out how to survive this nightmare.

I spent many hours searching the web and the bookshelves for answers. Nothing anybody had written seemed to apply to my baby - she just didn't do what the books said she was supposed to. Reading general parenting forums can be an exquisitely depressing experience for the parent of a high needs baby because everyone else's babies sound so easy (even though their parents still complain about them).

I can't really offer answers, because every baby is different and every parent is different. All I can do is tell you what worked for me, and that was dealing with night-time by taking my baby to bed with me, and buying a sling so that I could easily walk about with my baby during the day.

If, like thousands and thousands of parents of high needs babies, you have found that co-sleeping is the only way you can cope with your baby's fretful sleeping then I just want to say to you: it's OK. You are not making a rod for your own back. Believe it or not, plenty of people do it out of choice. Provided that you follow some basic safety advice you are not putting your baby in any undue danger. You can transition your baby to a cot after as little as six months if you want. Or you might end up liking your night-time cuddles, and sticking with it for a year or two. And you know what else? You will still be able to have sex with your partner even if you co-sleep.

Slings are really helpful for high needs babies. If you wear your baby in the house you can get on with jobs you need to do whilst providing the baby with the movement it needs to calm and soothe it. I love my ring sling because it is great for breastfeeding in, but lots of mums use stretchy wraps like the Moby because they are so comfortable.

As your baby gets older, you will learn what works for it. Maybe it loves being outdoors, in which case a walk in the morning might be just enough to keep it happy for a couple of hours. Perhaps it loves the company of other babies. Getting out to baby groups is the best way of relieving the tension of being stuck at home with a moany baby. And please don't worry that your baby will be the only one crying its head off at the group: babies cry. Everyone understands that. It doesn't reflect badly on you as a mother.

My daughter is 14 months old and I can't say that she has become easy. But things have improved, albeit very slowly. As her personality began to emerge, I fell in love with her for the person she was. I cannot imagine her being in any way different, and I honestly would not change her spirited ways for anything else. Who wants one of those boring babies that lie around staring at the ceiling? You have been chosen to parent one of the bright shining star babies. Accept it and make the most of it. Read the Dr Sears website, where they really understand all about difficult babies. Join an attachment parenting forum where you will find loads of parents of high needs children. Do what you have to do each day and don't worry about anything anyone else says. Anything that makes you and your baby happy is the right thing to do.

Ultimately, we have to learn to trust our babies and accept that their crying and fussiness indicates that they need something - and love and attention is just as valid a need as hunger. You may even begin to suspect that all babies share these needs, but the "difficult" ones are just a lot more determined to make themselves heard. My final consolation is that just because your baby is difficult now does not mean that it will be a tantrumming toddler or a troublesome teenager. In fact it may be the extra love and care that you give it now, as a baby, that helps it to grow up into a confident and happy child.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Baby, How You Make My Heart Melt

Five things that make me smile, laugh or feel so proud:

1. You know when you hum and run a finger up and down over your lips to make a sort of "Wibble" sound? Cave Baby loves doing that. And she has a rapidly developing repertoire of "Iggle" and "Diddle" sounds. If you didn't know better, you really would think she was having a real conversation from the range of noises she makes.

2. Have wet hands? Then wash your face! It doesn't matter whether they are wet from splashing in the cat's water bowl or being rubbed in spilt orange squash - that face has to be cleaned.

3. "Boof boof", her version of "woof", when she sees a dog. How cute. She even has a version of "Moo" that she trots out for cows, horses and any other large four legged animal. Have you ever thought about how difficult it must be to differentiate between a brown cow and a brown horse?

4. The cutest grimace/smile ever. It's a sort of screwed-up-face/teeth-bared kind of expression and it is doled out without restriction to anyone who flashes her a smile. Random strangers are always telling me what a lovely happy smiley baby she is - they probably say it to everyone, but it still makes me feel special.

5. Cleaning. Give her a wet wipe, tissue or cloth, and prepare to watch while she wipes everything in sight for the next half an hour. Nothing makes her happier. She may in fact be a girl after my own heart.

I could go on for ages, but five is enough for now. What makes your heart melt?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Premature Babies and Co-Sleeping: Would You Do It?

A recent comment on another post set me off wondering about whether I would co-sleep with a baby that was born prematurely.

The standard advice is always to not co-sleep with a premature infant, but if you were a strong believer in the benefits of bed-sharing and your baby is healthy, I am not sure whether this advice would be enough to convince you not to do it. Personally, I think I would co-sleep with a baby that was born only a few weeks short of term and was otherwise doing well.

Advice on the web is fairly thin on the ground because most sources stick to the usual co-sleeping recommendations without discussing the reasoning behind them. However the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding for premature babies are well established, and as a result kangaroo care is routinely used in neonatal intensive care units. It would seem that co-sleeping would offer a method for parents to continue this close care at night, and it has certainly been demonstrated by researchers that bedsharing does increase night-time breastfeeding. The other benefits of bedsharing (more stable temperatures, more regular heart rhythms and fewer pauses in breathing) would presumably still be present when co-sleeping with a premature baby. A study in Biological Research for Nursing shows that co-sleeping helps to establish a premature baby's circadian rhythm.

The problem is that these benefits might be outweighed by the increased risks associated with co-sleeping with a premature infant. Whilst dangers like overlaying and suffocation can be mitigated by following standard guidelines, research has shown that there is an association between prematurity and SIDS. Since co-sleeping also increases the risk of SIDS (at least theoretically, though most studies lump sofa sharing and drunken co-sleeping in with the figures), combining the two risk factors might be considered one step too far.

Even in full knowledge of the facts, I think I would still co-sleep with a premature baby if my gut instincts told me that it was strong and healthy enough. This is really one of those questions that cannot be answered in the general case; each family needs to weigh up its own situation and make its own choice. It is worth noting that there are products such as sleep positioners that can be placed on an adult bed to safely contain a tiny baby and keep it on its back. They would certainly make side-lying breastfeeding difficult, but if they help to allay parents' fears about co-sleeping then they might be worth the expense.

The real reason I have written this post is to find out about real people's experience of co-sleeping with preemies. Did you have a premature baby and did you consider co-sleeping with it? Did you wait until it was 40 weeks from conception or did you start straight away? Even if you don't normally comment it would be really interesting to hear anything anyone has to say.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bent Over the Cot With My Boob Hanging Out

Yes, this is indeed how I spend a few uncomfortable moments each evening as I put my little darling to bed. You see I always try to get her to sleep in her cot for a while each evening - at least long enough that Cave Father and I can have a few minutes together downstairs and a cuddle in bed before we move the baby through to join us.

But putting my baby to bed on her own is always a huge lottery. She has never been easy to put down and lately she has been even more difficult. I nurse her to sleep in a ring sling, wait half an hour, walk upstairs and lay her down in her cot, at which point she inevitably wakes up, shouts something incoherent (when does she shout anything coherent anyway?) and shakes her head violently from side to side as the realisation dawns that there is no nipple in her mouth. This is when I have to bend at 90 degrees over the cot and dangle my breast into her mouth for anywhere from one to 10 minutes, until she is deeply enough asleep for me to leave her again. It is most unbecoming, especially as I always leave the curtains open (drawing them would create a dangerously loud noise and I like the gentle light of the streetlamp outside). I do wonder how many people have watched me in my ridiculous pose and have puzzled over what the hell I was doing.

Before you rush in with "Why don't you teach her to go to sleep on her own" comments, don't even bother going there. Cave Baby is not a going-to-sleep-on-her-own type of child. She doesn't really stay still unless she is physically restrained (which is why a sling works so well). She cries, very loudly and very longly (you know what I mean) at anything that she doesn't like. She would not drop off to sleep on her own without a huge amount of crying, and that is not something I am going to inflict on her. So let's leave it at that.

So until I give in and resign myself to nursing her to sleep in our super-kingsize bed right from the off, I am going to have to perform this ridiculous display of contortionism every night. Ho hum. Do you do anything really stupid to pander to your children?