Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quote A Day #1 - Baby Hearts

I have a strange fascination with reading parenting books.  I have the most insane collection of parenting books.  Even parenting books I know I am going to dislike, I read.  It's like I have to compulsively know what's out there, and most of them make me think or reflect in some way.  I have been thinking for a while I should review some of these books, but I didn't know where to start.

Now I have hit upon the idea that I will take one thought-provoking quote for one book each day, and rather than review the books, just take the quote as some food for thought, and write some reflections.

So here's day one.

The Book:

Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn.

The Quote:

"One of the strongest predictors of empathy in a child is whether she was treated empathetically herself when she needed comforting.  Hugs and kisses in such situations do more than just pacify a child.  They also model how one should react to a person in distress." (p96)


When I was a child I used to like to visit my young cousins on school holidays to babysit.  One of my earliest and memories of these visits was when my cousin Malcom was a toddler and I must have been about 10 years old.  We were playing and he grabbed a toy off me and I decided I better do the responsible thing and teach him some manners.  I took the toy back off him and said 'say please'.  He said please, so I gave it to him.  Then, to reinforce the lesson, I took the toy back off him and said, 'say please'.  He did.  So I took the toy again, and he started to get upset and tried to grab the toy.  'No,' I told him.  'You have to say please!'  He started to wail.  This brought my Aunt into the room just as I was trying to coax him to take the toy again.  

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded.

"I'm teaching him not to snatch," I said.

"And how exactly do you think he's supposed to learn that when all you are doing is snatching the toy from him over and over?"

I was dumbstruck.  It hadn't even occurred to me I was snatching because I was taking the toy for such a benevolent purpose.  I felt so stupid.  And because I felt so stupid, the memory has stayed with me to this day.

She didn't use the technical term for what was happening - 'modelling' - but I understood exactly what the problem was.

The tricky thing about parenting is that you have to act in a certain way, and that models behaviour you don't necessarily want your child to adopt.  So you have to take certain objects off your children, even if you are very permissive.  They simply cannot have the hot cup of tea, or play with the knife, and you have to stop them if they yank another child's hair, or at the very least intervene if they upset another child by stealing a toy.  The trouble is that every time you do intervene by throwing around your parental power to seize the inappropriate object from the child, you are showing your child it is ok to grab an object and take it away if you are the stronger person.  With very young children who don't understand language it is difficult to explain why it's ok for mummy to forcefully remove the fragile TV remote from your hand, but not ok for you to forcefully remove a favourite toy from another child's hand.  Why is it ok for mummy and daddy to refuse to share their iphones, but insist you have to share that fascinating wooden block?

To some extent modelling behaviour to a child that you wouldn't want the child to adopt is impossible to avoid.  It's impossible because we're human, and because we're parents and to some extent we have to take charge because things have to get done and the baby doesn't appreciate the bigger picture.  All you can try and do is to keep your modelling of undesirable behaviour to a minimum.

I try to share even the objects I am attached to, and if I can't share them to find an attractive alternative for my baby to play with instead.  I try to convince myself that doing the laundry and cleaning up toys is in fact a wonderful activity that I enjoy, and to enthuse my baby to join in with me because it's so much fun - rather than projecting the idea that these are boring chores that I would still hate even if someone paid me to do them.  (Funnily enough, after I'd been doing this for a while the chores themselves felt less unpleasant.)

It easy enough to see what you're modelling with mundane activities, but it gets harder when you're reacting to some unpleasant behaviour that pushes your buttons.

A child who is a whingy, sooky la-la can be profoundly irritating.  I have to keep reminding myself that while training a child not to be a sooky whingy la-la by ignoring them may work to get rid of the sooky whinging,  it also runs a very good chance of creating a child who thinks that a person who is upset ought to be ignored, who does not think to offer comfort, and wouldn't know how to offer comfort even if it occurred to them to do so.'

These are things I've thought of, but I'm sure there's others where I remain blissfully unaware of the messages I am giving.  There are also things I know I should do better - such as consistently modelling healthy eating, or taking a bit more care with my appearance, or keeping the place neat and tidy - but even though I know this, I have trouble modelling these things because I find them hard to do myself.

Then there are even trickier things, where you are not sure what you want to model.  Do I want my baby to think women have to shave their legs?  Is occasionally seeing mum and dad drunk a bad thing because they see you drunk, or is it a good thing because it models moderation with alcohol because you only do it occasionally?

One thing's for sure.  This parenting gig is not straight forward!

Badmutha Bingo

Here is the official follow up to the Guilty Bingo New Mum Bingo.  Hopefully by now we have all evolved from Guilty Mothers into Badmuthas (or Badfathas as the case may be).  

I know I have!  Enjoy!

Click on the image for the full size version.

Thanks to the June/July EB Mums for their assistance with this one :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

10 Months

Bethany is ten months old and everything suddenly seems to be coming together.  We are rapidly heading towards the end of babyhood and the start of toddlerdom.

For the past week she has been letting go of furniture and taking one or two uncertain steps.  Then she either falls over or suddenly realises she's not holding onto anything and sits down.  Yesterday she took six steps before she fell over.  Walking cannot be far off now.

A couple of weeks ago, she also finally got the knack of eating.  I gave her rice cakes, bread, roast chicken, and she methodically bit bits off, chewed, and swallowed.  She is also no longer averse to some spoon feeding.  She has got the hang of drinking out of cups and Mount Franklin water bottles (not baby bottles), and to a lesser extent some sippy cups.  You have to hold them up for her, but she drinks with minimum spillage - except at the end of a couple of mouthfuls where she thinks it's funny to blow raspberries.

With the skills of eating and drinking finally under her belt, I decided to address the night feeding.  Because I work two days a week, she completely reverse cycles on those two days and feeds 6-10 times a night.  That pattern holds for a couple more days until I can finally cram enough high-energy food (nuts, mostly) into her to get her back to 3-5 feeds.  Then I go to work and we go back to square 1.  I'm just finding it too exhausting.  Plus, I'm conditioning her to just expect high fat solids.

I have decided I am ready to stop her grazing all through the night.  To be honest, I was ready a few months ago, but her eating skills were so poor that I didn't think it was very fair.  Now I have also been trialling her with drinking formula out of a cup, and she can take 100-200ml during the day that way, so if we're stuck or she's gone off food, that's an option.  I am dismally hopeless at expressing, and there's no time to express while I'm at work.  Even though I'm committed to breastfeeding, and would like to breastfeed her till she's 2, I think a little supplementary formula when she's getting about 6 breastfeeds is not likely to accidentally trigger weaning.

I took her to the doctor and checked she didn't have any ear infections or anything like that.  Then I recruited my husband and my mother in law to help.  The plan was to stretch her for 7 hours during the night without a feed.  I picked midnight to 7am, cause I thought it would be easiest to understand that food returns when we get up for the day.  I did not care whether we rocked, patted, cuddled, or completely woke her up and distracted her.  The point was to get her little tummy used to going that stretch without food and encourage her to take in more food during the day.

I had tried to stretch her night feeds out before, but it was slow and hard, and watching the clock meant that I got almost no sleep, so after a few nights I was exhausted and gave up.  That's why I decided to do the 7 hour stretch.  Apart from simplicity, the thing about a 7 hour stretch is that I can go and sleep in another room while someone else does the shift, so I am at least ensured enough sleep to persist.  So I recruited my husband and mother-in-law, and we took it in turns.  I did the first night, MIL the second, I did the third, my husband the fourth... I was hoping we'd have it sorted by then.

The first night she fed at 12.30, and woke at 2.30 wanting a feed, and was very cranky.  I managed to distract her.  We got up, walked around, had a drink of water, walked around some more, watched stuff on the ipad, walked around, and eventually she fell asleep in my arms at 4.30.  We slept together and she woke at 6.30 pretty happy, although by 6.50am she really wanted boob.  I gave it to her at 7am.  She napped a bit more than usual during the day, and ate more than usual, but otherwise seemed happy enough.  It was noticeably very different from when I tried controlled crying.  Even though it only took her about 10-20 minutes to settle using cc, when she woke she was vague and kind of zoned out.  This time I am sure she was angry, upset, and frustrated, but her behaviour was completely normal.

The next night, my mother in law said she woke at 2.30am for about 15 minutes and was quite upset, and she patted her back to sleep, then she slept till she woke at 6.30am.  I fed her at 7am.

The third night didn't go according to plan.  She fed at 11.30pm and I woke at 1.30am to a gagging sound and a cheesy smell.  She was half asleep lying in a pool of vomit, and still vomiting.  By the time I had changed the sheets, and her, and me, she was well and truly awake.  I didn't know what had caused the vomiting, but as I figured she might be ill, she had lost a lot of fluid, and her last feed was before midnight, I decided to feed her back to sleep.  She slept till 6am and I gave her another feed and she slept till about 8am.  I found some solid chunks of grapes in the laundry the next day, and I think that's what she threw up.  She seemed well otherwise.

She fed at 11.30pm the next night, so I fed her at 1.30am before handing her over to my husband.  I don't want to force her to go longer than 7 hours, so if the feeds get a bit out of order like this, I'd rather give her the extra feed.  He said she was pretty restless, but nevertheless, we got to 7am before she fed.

Last night she went down at 8.30, fed at 10.30, and then did not wake till 5am.  I remember rolling over to look at the clock and I couldn't believe it.  She spontaneously did 6 and a half hours!  That's unheard of.  I fed her and she went back to sleep.  She woke at 6.15 and I cuddled her back to sleep.  I think she was cold.  She rolled away from me at about 7am and did another sleep cycle on her own mattress.

A spontaneous stretch of six and a half hours is sleeping through in my books.  Yes, I know it's not the entire night, but it shows that this is not a settling / sleep association problem.  She really was hungry.  And now she is at an age where she can easily eat more during the day, she adjusted to less feeding at night pretty easily.  But for the throwing up, I think she would have adopted the new pattern by the third or fourth night.

Now she's suddenly eating enough to make it worth cooking for her.  I give her stuff off our plate, but sometimes what we eat isn't that healthy (like if we order pizza).  Last night we had sausages and three veg.  She methodically threw all the steamed vegetables we gave her on the floor, ate a bit of rice, and would happily have eaten lots of sausage, but I didn't think salty offal, sawdust, preservatives and whatever the hell else is in cheap Woollies sausages was a great baby food, so I only gave her a taste.  Today, I went to the organic store, bought mince, broccoli, tinned chickpeas, onion, and mushroom.  I sauteed it all with garlic, paprika, some grated carrot and a tiny amount of stock, then mashed it a little bit to squash any chickpeas that might be choking hazards.  And waalah - she ate vegetables!  I froze all the leftovers in 10 baby sized containers, plus I had a bowl that will keep for dinner tonight.

I also attempted my first wholegrain bread in the breadmaker, and apart from being a little crumblier than normal bread, the taste and consistency was good, and Bethany loved it.

Right now, the whole house smells delicious - and I feel awake!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review: Go The F*ck To Sleep

As anyone who follows this blog will know, I have a baby whose sleeping habits are...  how can I put this?  Less than optimal.  So as soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew this was going to be up my alley.

Go The Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes is a beautifully illustrated children's book for parents.  I love my baby dearly.  I co-sleep and I have tried gentle and non-gentle settling methods, and still there are many times when she will just not go the fuck to sleep.  For fuck's sake, I think as she crawls out the door and I am left to read Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes for the sixty-eighth time to myself.  Just come back here and go to sleep.  Seriously.

Bahahahaha!  I think as I read myself the ending of Peepo!, where the baby compliantly goes to sleep after being kissed and tucked in.  Meanwhile, in our house bath, bed, story... and my baby is cruising about trying to play with the power points.

The book is a beautifully illustrated parody of a children's bedtime storybook, where pictures of adorable toddlers and slumbering tigers and kitty-cats are accompanied by saccharine platitudes that are (for many of us) completely ineffective at inducing zzz's.  At the end of each verse Mansbach sharply contrasts the words we have all at least occasionally thought:

This is a fantastic gift for a baby shower or new parent who needs a laugh.  The book is available through Amazon and various other sites such as Book Depository.

I think I shall write to the author and suggest a sequel: Stay the Fuck Asleep.

NB: I have not been asked to review or endorse this book and have no connection with the publication.  I just thought it was worth sharing.