Routine|Babies|sleeping through|Night nannies| Is a routine really that important when encouraging positive sleep habits?

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am a spontaneous kinda gal and like to think of myself as a bit of a free spirit and before i became a mother myself i did my best to avoid any kind of routine what so ever. I have a rebellious spirit i guess and to me routine is just BORING….However in my years as a night nanny I’ve yet to meet a child who slept well at night and was on the way to sleeping all night who didn’t have a daytime routine of some sort in place. Something that became concrete, when i became a mother myself is that babies do sleep better and longer when on a routine.

Please don’t misunderstand me when i say ‘routine’ i’m not for a moment suggesting that you buy one of those books from a childless baby expert (who shall remain nameless, but you know i mean) and follow a carefully structured and timed routine for you baby to the absolute minute…..if you have and its working for you AND your baby then by all means continue……

I’ve worked with many new and first time mothers who are following these routines and then getting frustrated or end up feeling a failure because their baby didn’t want to feed at 11pm, he prefered to have his feed at 9.40pm and this where i say to all mums use these routines as a guideline only, a rough map if you will, as to what to do with your baby and when but ultimately following your baby’s cues needs to be more important than following what time The routine says your baby needs a nap.

These routines that are often published in many baby books can be helpful, they can help paint a picture of a typical day in an average baby’s life, but, and in my opinion they can also set many new mums up for failure. Firstly, your baby isn’t average he’s special and he’s yours and secondly, i can guarantee that that routine that’s making you feel like a failure, wasn’t written with your baby in mind. That baby expert doesn’t personally know your baby, so don’t take it too literally. The routine may say to feed your baby at 9am but your baby may have already fed and is actually quite sleepy at 9am. By all means follow your baby’s cue and put him down for a nap.

While having a routine in place is helpful remember to allow some flexibility to it and to follow your baby’s lead and cues. Use routines as a guideline ONLY and keep a record of what your baby does each day. Start baby’s day at roughly the same time everyday and after several days of observing and recording what your baby is doing you may just find that your baby has created a routine all of his own.

Allow me to share my story of routine with you:
I’d been night nannying for three years by the time i became a mummy myself and i was so excited at the thought of having my very own baby to look after. A lot of the mothers i worked with at the time had read ‘The Contended Little Baby Book’ and in my opinion were far to hung up on routines and driving themselves crazy because their babies didn’t always co-operate or sync with what a routine dictated. I made a conscious decision from quite early on in my pregnancy to not follow a routine at all. I figured I didn’t want my time at home with my baby to feel like work :trying to keep a clearly hungry baby happy until Gina ford said it was ok to feed them at 10.30 pm. Sod that! i decided if my baby was hungry she would get fed when she wanted it, if she was sleepy i wouldnt try to keep her awake til nap time officially started i just decided i was going with my baby’s flow.
I planned to do a bedtime ritual/routine and start mine and baby’s day between 7/8 am everyday and the rest Nia and i would make up as we went along.

It wasnt until Nia was about 8 weeks old that i realised we had fallen into a regular routine all on our own.
Our day started at 7 with a breastfeed in bed, then a little bit of play time a nap at around 8/9 for a 30/45 mins then waking for another feed. A big 2/3 sometimes 4 hr nap around lunchtime followed by another feed, another snooze of around 30/45 mins around 5/6pm with a bath, a massage and feed before she settled to sleep at roughly 10pm. She’d then sleep till around 4 when I’d feed her again for as long as she wanted til she settled back to sleep til the morning. Nia then started sleeping through the night at around 9/10 weeks old with no help or coaxing on my part other than teaching her how to settle to sleep, without my help. When she was sleeping through the night, every night it did often feel like my day was just a constant cycle of feeding her and putting her down for a nap. I’m sure this was due to the fact that she was making up for the milk feeds she no longer got at night during the day. I did note also that by following her cues more closely, that i needed to change the time we started our bedtime routine. When I first started bedtime ritual i would begin at around 8.30, so by 9.30 when i was trying to settle her she was then overtired and found it difficult to wind down. i played with the timings and then found through trial and error that by bringing her bedtime ritual forward to start at 7pm rather than 8.30 that by 8pm Nia would be naturally tired and ready to fall asleep peacefully rather than overtired and fractious causing her to fight her sleep.

My advice:
1. Use any routines as a guideline only, a rough framework to how you day could look but ultimately follow your baby’s lead. If your baby cues that she is tired or hungry earlier or later than is expected follow her cues and adjust the routine accordingly.

2. Keep a log of what your baby does on a day-to-day basis, a simple note of time fed, time fell asleep/woke up etc. Look back over what you have recorded you may notice that your baby has set in place his or her own pattern or routine

3. Remember we all have off days! we are only human and the same applies to your baby. you may have a day when everything goes pear-shaped, is nowhere near a routine or even your baby’s usual routine…its no big deal…. tomorrow is a another day.
take note though that if things really do go off the rails its could be that your baby is ill or unwell. Thats why i recommend keeping simple log as mentioned above so that you can more easily identify what is normal for your baby…..relax!!

Thank you for reading my blog post.

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Sleeping on their tummies……| Babies | Sleep | Tummy Time | Advice.

June 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Over the last 2 weeks or so I’ve been asked by a number of mums what my professional opinion is of babies who prefer to sleep on their tummies.

As a professional it’s not something i can recommend at all. Studies into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome shows that babies who sleep on their fronts are at much greater risk of dying from SIDS.

Want more information on SIDS click here (Leaflet provided by FSID The Cot Death Charity in the UK)

As a mother myself who had a baby who much prefered to sleep on her tummy than her back i would firstly suggest you practice settling baby on her back as much as possible its much much safer (please refer to the above FSID Link for further info) but if (like myself) your baby just won’t settle happily in her back i would suggest that before you let your baby sleep unattended on her tummy you invest in either a baby monitor with a breathing sensor pad that goes under baby’s mattress or a breathing sensor that can be attached to your baby’s nappy (these are often used in hospital neonatal wards on premature babies who are often placed on their tummies for medical reasons). You might find that these monitors often sound when it doesn’t detect baby’s movements for 10/15 seconds or more. When my daughter first slept on her tummy we bought a breathing sensor pad for her as extra reassurance, it would regularly go off, leading to us dashing to her rescue many a time only to find her sleeping soundly and peacefully away, still we never let her sleep without that sensor beeping quietly in the background.
I initially co- slept with her too but not in the traditional sense of having her in bed with me, once I found she was happier sleeping on her front. I transferred her to a Moses basket right next to my bed as I felt having her sleep on her front in bed with me wouldn’t be safe.
(Always make sure you have fresh batteries or that your equipment is plugged in to a mains socket electrical supply)

Also ,make sure your baby’s cot/moses basket mattress isn’t too soft. In my opinion a firmer mattress is much safer for a tummy sleeping baby.

I would also suggest that you keep the baby’s cot free of cot bumpers, soft toys or excess blankets. AND lastly DO NOT swaddle a baby who likes to sleep on her front.

A great activity to engage in during the day is tummy time with your baby when they are awake so as to strengthen their neck muscles and again lower the risk of suffocation when they are sleeping.

These are my recommendations should you decide to ignore SIDS guidelines for putting your baby on his/her back to sleep.

By no means am I suggesting or recommending that your put your baby to sleep on his/her tummy for a better chance of them sleeping all night.

These are just my guidelines should you find that, like many toddlers,children and adults alike that they much prefer to sleep on their front. I hope you find them helpful

Charmaine xx

Baby Expert Backlash

March 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

Hi I’m a mum of a spirited ten year old girl and I am a night nanny /nanny agency owner/ baby sleep ‘expert’.  The last title I just used to  describe myself makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable , it’s not a title I specifically chose for myself. I wouldn’t say the title was thrust upon me per say but at a recent business seminar I attended led by a well-known and respected life and business coach, after describing what I do and what my business was about I was told…

‘ You’re an expert!’ exclaimed the Coach.

‘Err  I’m not, I’m just someone who enjoys working with babies and knows a bit more than most about getting them to sleep well over night!

‘That makes you an expert’ she replied, quite indignantly ‘you’ve done your ten thousand hours, you’re an expert.’

‘Ok’ I responded sheepishly.

I’m an NNEB qualified nursery nurse so I know  about babies and young children’s development  and  I’d like to think I know more than your average person does about babies and sleep and even know a few little tricks and techniques to settle babies at night without either mum or baby in tears ,but I don’t know everything ! And I certainly never considered myself to be an ‘expert’ me? An expert?

Not sure it’s a title I want at all. The main experts I know in my field are Gina Ford, Tizzie Hall and Alison Scott Wright and Jo Tantum! And quite frankly I didn’t want to be banded in with those public figures thank you very much.  Now I will say of the latter expert I mentioned Jo Tantum that I really quite liked her book. Her book had a much more sensitive and caring approach. And to me there was no controlled crying or cry it out methods discussed. I read her book last year and thought it was quite good for parents who wanted to have a structured day for their babies and wanted advice on sleep. Now these parents in my experiences tended to be parents of twins and multiples.

I do feel however they are under attack and some of it is justified. Which is probably another reason I’m not so keen to call myself an expert?

Now I confess up until I started my business, I’d never given much thought to the controversy that surrounded these figures. As far as I was concerned Gina Ford couldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about bedtime habits and routines but I did not like her execution. She was essentially telling me ( in my role as a new mum not a night nanny I must add)not to connect with my baby and that just wasn’t washing  with me, so I ignored her from there on in.  And pretty much advised any mothers I worked with to do the same. I told them all the same thing  and it can apply to all experts.

“If there is something that you don’t like or agree with ignore it but take away from the book/advice that that you find useful.”

That’s assuming you find anything useful in their books.

I’d worked as a night nanny for a few years before I became a mother myself and had heard of Gina Ford mentioned before by many of clients I was working for. At that moment in time she was the most talked about baby guru. I’d skimmed her book previously for work purposes I only read her book myself when I was pregnant with my daughter.

At work 85 % of time I would be asked to try and feed the baby I was caring for according to a gina’ish schedule. But I knew for an absolute fact that when I was to become a mother in a few months’ time, I had no intention of imposing a schedule on my baby. I read Gina Ford and the rebel spirit in me came out. I always had to try and feed a baby to a schedule at work. And it was horrid; trying to keep a baby happy when you know all they want is a bottle is no fun for me or the baby. Now please don’t get me wrong in no way am I criticizing or judging the parenting choices of my clients (there’s enough of that going on already) as all loving parents make decisions they feel are in the best interests of their children, I just decided I wanted to enjoy lavishing time and attention on this gorgeous baby of my very own, emotionally I had had a difficult pregnancy and didn’t fancy the living to a routine in the pursuit of a full night’s sleep. I was used to surviving on less sleep than most because of my job and I was in no hurry to go back to work. I had no intention of ever letting her cry to sleep and I figured if there was ever a night when she wasn’t happy sleeping in her crib, I would happily have her sleep in bed with me.  And we happily did this many a night when she was newborn even though my health visitors advised me not to.

I thought Gina ford was just too regimented and I didn’t understand how she could advise her clients to allow their babies to cry it out! Why would you do that? Newborn babies don’t just cry for no reason!  Babies want to sleep as much as grownups do but just like adults they had to learn how to do it. And I also was quiet annoyed that Gina hadn’t taken into consideration the emotional feelings a new mother has towards her baby.

‘And with no talking or eye contact give him 20 mins on the second breast’

Err I’d  spent 36 hours in labour delivering this beautiful little bundle, I was in complete awe of her. There was no way I was going to feed her in the dark and not talk to her, not stroke her little face and fingers, not sing her a gentle lullaby whilst I was feeding her. To ignore her just felt like the most alien thing to do to this little person who I had spent the last 9 months growing.

I decided that no woman no matter how many celebrity endorsements she had was going to make me leave my baby to scream. ESPECIALLY when she wasn’t even a mother herself. I’m not saying you have to be a mother to give somebody advice on babies but until you give birth yourself you can never really know how it feels, to give birth, to breastfeed and to create an attachment to this little person who had been growing inside of you, to have so much love for this tiny little person who was relying on you to take care of her. Leaving her to cry was just not going to happen! Period! I only found out later in my career just how harmful CC and CIO is to babies as it’s something I’ve never done in my work with babies. I’ve never been asked to by a client and if I had I would have refused. Babies cry to communicate a need it just felt wrong to ignore that.

The only advice of Gina’s I followed was starting my day at 7 am, and having a bedtime routine I decided that the rest would be dictated by Nia (my lovely daughter).  I breastfed but decided that I wouldn’t panic about not being able to provide enough milk as I could always top up with a bottle and I experimented with expressing breast milk with various pumps that I was given or bought. Breastfeeding was very painful for the first 2 weeks but with advice from my mum (a health visitor) on attachment and some perseverance I got pretty good at it. I just went with the flow and followed my little girl’s cues for feeding and naptimes.

In going with the flow and following my baby daughter’s cues, we ended up on most days following a Gina-ish routine. By the time Nia was 8 weeks old I noticed that if we woke up at 7am she would roughly nap for 90mins in the mornings, have a 2 hr. nap around 1pm and a 45 min cat nap around 5.30pm with her bedtime routine starting at 8pm her final bedtime feed at 9ish and her settling to sleep by about 10ish. She would often sleep through til 3am then wake for another feed and finish the night in bed with me. She slept through the night at around 12 weeks old. I remember my time with her as a baby fondly

Any who. I digress! my point, I don’t know everything about babies and sleep but I know more than your average person and I’m still learning as I go along. I’m planning on doing the Naturally Nurturing Sleep Consultant course this year so I can have my experiences AND in-depth educational knowledge about babies and children’s sleep. I don’t advocate or agree with CC or CIO but I don’t believe you should pounce on your baby when she so much as squeaks either. We get to know our babies, their cues and what their different cries mean by caring for and watching and observing and responding to not just our babies and but how they interact with us, their parents  and the environment around them.

Not all us baby experts are like Gina!!!  Via social media and twitter we are better able to communicate with the people we do business with that also means that we can be kept accountable for the things we say and promote. It’s fantastic and I can honestly say that through Facebook alone I have learnt tons about mothers and they’re problems with babies and sleep etc.  And also through Facebook pages  like Dangers of Baby Training and Analytical Armadillo I have learnt sooooo much about attachment parenting, co sleeping, breastfeeding and more to do with babies and sleep and I love it. If it makes me better at my job and better able to help the families I work with then great.

It also means if I say something wrong or don’t explain myself properly I get pulled up!! It’s not always easy to deal with criticism but as a professional I try to use it constructively. However I don’t appreciate the approach I get sometimes.

I think sometimes followers via social media make assumptions and attack.

I’ve seen it recently with The Baby Show ‘Experts’ Claire Byam Cook, Alison Scott Wright and in particular Jo Tantum.  I’m not mentioning any names or pointing fingers but I do feel like the concerns that some mothers have over these experts  although justified much of the time is in danger of turning into a witch hunt.

I’ve seen via blogs and Facebook that some parents are just not happy to be fed information but want concrete evidence and research to back up claims and quiet rightly too. But what is it some objectors are unhappy about? Is it because you believe information to be false? If so that’s ok but to constantly be on the attack? Is it necessary? It’s getting to the point where other ‘experts’ like me who have differing approaches and opinions become afraid to share via social media for fear of attack.

Even the other night I merely stated via my FB page, what  I was thinking, in response to the demand vs. routine feeding study outcomes on the news and I was  pretty much told to shut up , don’t start a debate and get my facts right!! So rude!! I was saying I was looking forward to what else is discovered by the study am I not entitled to share this via my own page

It’s one thing being passionate about a subject and challenging me but don’t be rude. I won’t be bullied and attacked.

Now I do think that because of the way these ‘experts’ have handled their criticism they have left a lot of parents, bloggers commentators quite  annoyed and frustrated.  Gina Ford sues you for having an opinion, Alison Scott Wright as far as I know Just ignores you, And although Jo Tantum does sometimes respond to what’s being said about her, she frustrates me in that she doesn’t share her sources of research and information, bans commentators on her page and then when she does reply or share info she talks in third person, rambles on or shares information and sources that are 20 years out of date. I almost feel like I know what she trying to say in her responses, as a fellow night nanny, but perhaps because of the sometimes aggressive and confrontational approach of bloggers and commentators etc. has now gotten flustered and nervous and ends up contradicting herself. I watched her last week on Channel 5 Live with Gabby and it was uncomfortable viewing to say the least.

What I’m very ultimately trying to say is not all us baby experts are the same, please don’t lump us all into the same boat because we ‘appear ‘to be advocating or promoting the same thing. By all means challenge us! But don’t attack us! Do it the right way, and you may just teach us expert’s a thing or two. I’m always open to learning and can own up things if I get it wrong, which I often do.

And thanks to often being challenged the right way, I have learnt a lot and that’s what being an expert all is about!! Learning and sharing information to help each other.

The Dummy Issue!

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hmmm dummies seem to have been a hot topic of discussion for me of late.

A lot of the clients I work for have cornered me to ask ‘do dummies create bad habits?

It seems of late so many parents now are concerned that introducing a dummy to their baby is a bad thing. They considered germ carriers, they’re a deterrent to breastfeeding (This can be true if introduced before breastfeeding is established) and cause problems with speech development in toddlers.

I’ve always thought that dummies were a good tool to use if you had a ‘sucky, ‘ unsettled or distressed baby. It’s considered that the use of a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death or SIDS

I used a dummy with my own daughter when she was a baby. It was a great way to help settle her at bedtime and when she fell asleep the dummy would promptly fall out of her mouth and she would sleep soundly until her next feed.

However as the years pass by I have found more and more of the parents I work with now, refuse to use dummies at all, and those who are using dummies are panicking about creating bad habits and the idea of weaning their babies off them.

Now in my opinion and might I just stress again MY OPINION, dummies can be useful.

I would NEVER ever tell a client that they should or shouldn’t use a dummy however when asked for my opinion I always give it.

And I think as long as you’re not constantly stuffing a dummy in baby’s mouth just to keep them quiet there’s no reason why you can’t use a dummy without it leading to bad habits.

Here are my recommendations for using a dummy with your baby without creating bad habits that I share with my clients.

  1. If breastfeeding try not to introduce a dummy to your baby before you have established it so not before your baby is 2-4 weeks old. However if you are bottle feeding it shouldn’t matter when you introduce a dummy.
  2. Limit the use of the dummy to the time of day when you will gain the most benefit for example if your baby can fall asleep without a dummy, don’t use it at bedtimes however   if it soothes your baby whilst waiting for the next feed then would be a good time to use a dummy. Once it has fulfilled its use put it away.
  3. If your using a dummy to help soothe and calm a baby at bedtime. I would recommend that you remove the dummy before your baby completely falls asleep. Now if your baby can fall asleep on a dummy without you needing to get up to put the dummy back in several times a night then great but the previous step is to help you avoid that problem.
  4. NEVER coat the dummy with something sweet.
  5. Once your baby has reached four months is a great time to get rid of a dummy. This is when the sucking reflex has gone and has been replaced with a conscious choice to suckle.

It’s really not a good idea to still be using a dummy after the age of one as it can inhibit and distort the growth of the baby’s first teeth and impede baby’s speech development

Nia’s Mum x

Relaxed Parent, Relaxed child.

May 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

If any of you follow me on twitter you may have seen the countdown to the birth of my cousin’s baby (early April), she was about 7 days overdue but after endless attempts to get the labour going she finally had a baby girl.

Now at the baby shower her friends threw for her 6 weeks prior to her little girl arriving we all warned her that the first two weeks would be the hardest in terms of sleep deprivation, however the reality was proving a little too much for her. One morning last week I awoke to a text that had been sent at approx. 3am that morning. ‘Help, I’m suffering here.’ At this point I hadn’t managed to see the newest addition to the family and after speaking to my cousin, it was clear that the lack of sleep was getting to her, she sounded highly stressed. Although she has no difficulty with breastfeeding, settling baby N her had become somewhat of an issue, as baby N was quite a windy baby, and so after a night time feed would burp and then nod off in her mummy’s arms only to awake 2 mins later after being placed in her moses basket. Now my cousin is very organised regimented and ambitious I knew she would be a little out of her comfort zone with a new baby (My cousin is going to murder me when she reads this blog)

I explained to her that she needed to relax a little and to try and rest as much as possible during the day (when baby N would sleep blissfully for hours till her next feed in her moses basket or rocker). We had recommended using Infacol to help with the wind and colic which my cousin quickly dismissed. Then my mum recommended a little baby massage and she offered to demonstrate some techniques when we came for a visit.

After a few more fretful phone calls to me and my mother (who’s a health visitor by the way) we went round to see our newest family member.  My mum having trained in baby massage demonstrated a few massage techniques to relax the baby and to aid digestion and hopefully encourage sleep. During the demonstration not only did Baby N visibly relax but so did my cousin, there were seven of us there in total, her mum (my aunt) my mum, myself her husband, his mother (who is retired midwife) and the kids. Any who you could see my cousin visibly relax too, as she asked questions of us ‘baby experts’ and got answers that she was happy with her, mood shifted her expression softened and so did  the atmosphere (when my cousin n is annoyed stressed out or generally not happy, we know about it).

Now I know sleep deprivation can turn the nicest of persons, into  monsters but I have always noticed in my many years of working with babies and their parents, that relaxed  flexible easy going parents tend to have relaxed easy going children. Coincidence? Er No!

Anyway we left my cousins as the bedtime routine was about to kick in. The next morning I received a text from my lovely cousin ‘Baby N slept for two 3 hour stretches last night I finally managed to get some sleep, I feel human again!!’

Such a relief to hear! The opportunity to relax for both mummy and baby helped to make night time much less stressful.

So new mummies please I know this may sound ludicrous, given the circumstance but please try to relax as much as possible it may just make life with your new baby that little bit easier……

I found this article when doing a little background research for this post.

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