“How do I get my baby into a routine?”
“I need a plan – but my baby throws it all out so I don’t know how to plan my day.”
One popular style of routine that is often advised consists of variations of ‘feed, play, sleep’. Rather than watching a clock for exact
times to do things with (or to) your baby, this is usually based on understanding your baby’s cues –or non-verbal signals and translates to feeding your baby, then giving her time to play and then popping her into bed.
While this sounds reasonable and can help you feel more in control because you have a plan, it is often interpreted very rigidly. I have, for instance, heard of babies who have fallen asleep after a feed, then been woken up (yes, really!) because they missed their playtime and the routine would have been out of whack. I have also seen mothers who have been strictly advised that they must give clear messages to their baby about what part of the routine they are following, so while the mother is ‘allowed’ to hold her baby
while she feeds it (this is a safety issue – never prop your baby with a bottle to feed), she must put the baby down on the floor to play and then put the baby into the cot to sleep.
By being so rigid or trying to follow any style of routine very strictly, you can feel very out of control and confused when you can’t ‘make’ your baby sleep or feed when he isn’t ready. In fact, in the early weeks, as you get used to your baby’s signals that indicate he is hungry or tired or wants to spend time engaging and having a little ‘chat’ to you “ it may work better to follow a pattern of ‘feed, play, feed, sleep’. To make this work you would feed your baby, then have a little chat and play time and change his nappy then offer him a little top-up ( you can’t over feed a breastfed baby, he will only feed if this suits him). And please don’t feel stressed if he falls asleep on the breast –although you may be warned against this because it will create ‘bad habits’ it can be the easiest way to settle a new-born because of the amazing hormones in your milk and the relaxing effects of sucking. In a few months, he will naturally develop the capacity to fall asleep without so much help. This way, he is likely to take a longer nap too: when you consider that a newborn will
need to be fed around every two hours at first, if you have fed him, then he has had almost an hour awake, he may actually need a ‘top up’ before you put him to sleep again. Otherwise he will be awake again very soon because he is hungry.
Even if your baby seems to be ‘all over the place’ right now, he will soon fall into his own natural pattern and often the less you try to
force this, the quicker it will happen. And, if you watch your baby and learn his cues rather than relying on the clock, you will get to know his little expressions and signals and you will develop confidence very quickly that you do know him best. You will also be able to work out a gentle rhythm to your day that takes your baby’s needs into account. For instance, if your baby tends to be more settled in the morning, you may find it easier to plan outings for mornings and be home so he can have a quieter afternoon. If he takes a longer sleep in the morning, then perhaps this is a better time to be at home and get some tasks done: while your baby sleeps, you could prepare dinner ( make a slow cooker your best friend) then evenings will be easier, especially if your baby is unsettled or wants to ‘cluster feed’.
Above all, it’s sensible to use any style of routine as a general guide rather than a set of specific instructions and do try to filter anything you want to try with your baby by applying the criteria – ‘is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right?’ Then do what works best for you and your baby and remember, there is a difference between a gentle rhythm and a rigid schedule.
Our little angel, Neva, was diagnosed with Albinism at just three months of age. Albinism is a rare genetic condition which affects one in 17,000 babies born each year worldwide. It affects both the skin (little or no melanin) and eyesight. This means a lifetime of sun protection (not so difficult with our Australian sun smart culture!) But it also means a lifetime of vision impairment—many people with Albinism are legally blind. All have difficulty with depth perception and resolution.
When Neva commenced primary school this year, a visiting teacher was appointed to ensure such things as the written word are legible to Neva. She isn’t always able to make out things like written activity sheets, story books and pictures, even if she is seated at the front of the class. She will need specialist training to learn how to cross a road alone when she is older and she will never drive a car.
The day I sat and listened to the Vision Australia childhood specialist outline all of the roadblocks my gorgeous little newborn will come up against, was heart breaking. At that time, as a mother, I felt truly helpless as I went through the stages of grief, then anger and finally coming to accept that I had to say goodbye to the idea of Neva ever being a “normal” child.
So what is a mother to do? Well, sometimes in the black, quiet of night, when tears fall and fears are faced, a small light is ignited in a mother’s heart. Questions prevail… “is this really my child’s destiny?”, “how can I help her overcome the obstacles that have been placed in her path?” Sometimes, if you just listen carefully enough, an answer is received, and the world shifts…..
Our society is recreated by the choices some mothers make along the way. There’s a new brand of business people creating magic everywhere. They are known as “Mumpreneurs”. These are mothers crafting a new reality for themselves and their families by exploring more flexible career choices, and conceiving new business ideas.
Mums with children who have special needs are a very unique brand of Mumpreneur. In an attempt to create a better path for their own little ones, they not only create a new career for themselves but also alter the future for not only all children in the world with those particular special set of needs.
Sometimes when a mother is called to rise to the challenge, she creates doors where before, there were only walls. She will use her intuition to navigate around obstacles and seek new opportunities for her child to advance. I refused to settle when the paediatric ophthalmologists advised they couldn’t do much for Neva’s eyesight. “She will just learn to use what she has”. I went home and researched other options, including vision therapy, and found an optometrist who specialised in prescribed prism lens glasses – an alternative to the standard lenses available. These could ultimately improve her vision. It was a chance to offer Neva a brighter future but, when the glasses arrived Neva wouldn’t wear them. I had to find a solution. I searched tirelessly for options. A glasses strap was the best solution but those currently on the market were unattractive, conspicuous and so badly fitting that none did the job. So, I set about creating my own eyewear strap. One that really held specs in place, looked fabulous and withstood the demands of daily toddler life. The straps worked so well, I decided to take them to market. The “Speccles” strap, which now has a global following, will
help children (and soon adults) everywhere to keep their eye wear securely and fashionably in place.
When a mother’s vision becomes a new world vision, it is breathtaking. Motivation through need is a powerful force, and sometimes provides enough inspiration to encourage us to think outside the box and provide a solution to improve our children’s future.
This is how the world moves forward and how all of our lives are enhanced in the long run.
We each have our own parenting ‘toolbox’ which is filled with useful and not so useful strategies for getting through each day (relatively) sanely. These strategies have been collected and stashed away since we were children ourselves and may include the tactics our own parents used as well as the things we have learned from others along the way. It is up to each of us to examine what is useful and positive and what we want to pack in our toolbox and what doesn’t fit.
To work out what we want in our parenting toolbox and what to discard, we need to be aware of our own values and our expectations and what these are based on, as well as our child’s development and capacity to understand. We need to acknowledge what we are already doing that isn’t particularly effective or may be creating conflict within our family, and we need to be willing to look at new ways of doing things and how to include different strategies in our toolbox. Parenting tools will vary somewhat from one family to another and because your partner will have had different exposure from you, it is helpful to discuss your priorities together and work things out as a team. As you define your family’s discipline style and sort out your parenting tool-box, you will find it more productive to discard tactics that set up opposition and power struggles and skill up on ways to teach children how you want them to behave that also foster connection and co-operation.
One great way to work out ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s out’ of your parenting toolbox is to ask yourself, ‘does this maintain my dignity and my child’s?’ as well as ‘is it safe? Is it respectful?’ And, ‘does it feel right?’
If you are looking for new tools for your parenting toolbox, check out Pinky’s recorded interviews: Living Loving Guidance – respectful ways to help your toddler behave. Each recording is an interview with an expert in child development with a wealth of information about toddler development, behaviour and gentle respectful discipline.
This recording series can be bundled with Pinky’s book Toddler Tactics for a great discount.
From new mothers, I often hear comments like: “I can’t even have a shower because I don’t know how long she will sleep for.” Or: “It takes so long to get him to sleep that we start cooking dinner at 9 p.m.” If your baby hasn’t yet been born, these sorts of things may sound ridiculous. However, managing your day around a newborn can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to order and punctuality.
Conserving your energy and learning to multi-task are keys to survival in these early days.
Here are some quick tips. I am not advocating a rigid routine but it can be helpful for both you and your baby if you create a gentle rhythm around her needs.
Checklist: Managing your day with a newborn
- Include your baby in your daily tasks. For instance, don’t wait until she is asleep to have your shower. Instead, pop her in a rocker in the bathroom so that you can see each other. She will probably enjoy listening to the water running and the sound of your voice if you sing or chat while you shower.
- Multi task so you can rest when baby sleeps. Carry baby in a sling r baby carrier as you prepare food or hang out washing.
- Get dressed early in the day – then you will feel at least slightly in control, even if things go pear-shaped later. And you’ll be ready to head out for a walk with your baby if you feel overwhelmed by ‘cabin fever’ or a grumpy baby.
- Plan your day around your baby’s calm times. For example, if she tends to be more content in the mornings, pop her in a pram or sling and do your shopping then. Or prepare dinner early so that later, if (or when) she has her ‘arsenic hour’, you won’t feel so stressed.
- Create a comfortable ‘headquarters’ for feeding and cuddling.
You will be sitting around an awful lot in the first few weeks, so borrow some good books and DVDs. Set up a feeding basket with healthy snacks (Try Boobie Bikkies, our natural and organic superfood cookies, especially created for breastfeeding mums) to keep you going as well as your book, phone, water bottle, pen and a writing pad. Then, if you feed your baby in different places (inside or outside), keep your basket handy; this will help you to view feeding time as a nurturing time for you, rather than feeling restless because you are ‘stuck’, focussing on your own hunger and thirst or, even worse, worrying about all the ‘to dos’ that are waiting. The pen and pad (or your phone) are for writing lists of ‘action steps’ for when you have a free moment so that you can prioritise and gain some sense of achievement when you can cross things off later. Remember, though, not
to put too many things on your list – there is no emotion worse than disappointment!
- Be kind to yourself -on days when it feels as though you have absolutely nothing to show for your efforts because your baby has been on a feeding marathon or is extra clingy, remember, you are doing an amazing job – you are creating world peace (by teaching your baby about unconditional love). Remember too, the mummy mantra for when the
going gets tough – ‘this too shall pass’. It will, I promise, all too soon. So
please, be kind to yourself and forget the mess for now, look deeply into those navy blue eyes, breathe in that sweet baby smell and enjoy every delicious cuddle.
We eagerly await the first words, then the sentences that let us enter the magical world of our toddler in a new and exciting way. The exciting journey from babbling to banter is closely linked to emotion and the
development of relationships, which means that your input – loving, joyful interaction and responsiveness to your child’s efforts to talk (stop, drop, get on your child’s level and make eye contact as you listen) – are hugely important to help him become an articulate little speaker.
Your baby has been developing his conversation skills from birth, or even earlier if we count all the listening in to your conversations that he was doing while he was still on the inside, but now that he is a toddler his speech skills will come together at breakneck speed: From somewhere around your child’s first birthday, he will learn approximately two words a week -that is, an exciting 50 words or so by the time he is eighteen months old. If your child is being reared in a bilingual environment the number of words may
be split between both languages and at first, your little one’s wonderful version of words may be understandable only to you or close family members.
Between 18 and 24 months, language skills will really start to take off: experts call this the ‘naming explosion’ because your toddler could learn around ten or more new words each day as he begins to label things in his environment – cup, car, ball, bath …. And, if he is really a little chatterbox, he could learn a new word every ninety minutes!
At around two years (remember, all children develop at their own individual pace), your toddler will begin stringing words together. However, his sense of grammar will take a while longer to evolve: he will say things like “me go,” and he may use the same name for anything that falls into the same general category: all animals with four legs might be ‘dog’ and (oh dear!) any man could be a ‘daddy’. Grammar skills are related to maturity of an area of the brain that is dedicated to processing language and storing all the rules
needed for stringing words together into meaningful sentences. This means that when your little chatterbox is developmentally ready, along with lots of exposure to language, he will soon be telling you about his world, describing his feelings and embarrassing you out loud and proud as he ‘parrots’ everything
he hears – so watch your own language!
To encourage your little chatterbox:
Name everything. ‘ Door knob!’, ‘chair’ , ‘dog’, ‘light’. Later add adjectives to describe his favorite
toys, people and objects: ‘red jumper’, ‘cold milk’, ‘big truck.’
Listen. Your child’s attempts to use language will be reinforced when you pay attention, so remove
background distractions such as the television and computer and give your
child your full attention. Get down to your little one’s level and make
eye contact as you talk to him, then pause and listen as he takes a turn at responding.
Be a role-model. Talk to your child in clear, simple, relevant language, avoiding baby talk. Model language by using ‘parallel talk.’ This means talking about everything your child is doing while she is doing
it. For example, while your child is scooting along on her ride on, you could say, “You are riding your train. Wow! You are pushing with your feet. I like the way you are riding your train.” When you’re walking down
the street, babble on about trees, cars, people, puddles – whatever your child sees, hears or smells. You can also model language by using ‘self-talk’ – talking about what YOU are doing as you work at home (I am getting the milk out of the fridge and now I will make a cup of tea) or as you drive along in the car (we are going round the corner at the traffic lights and we will buy some apples at the shop. Look at the big digger pushing the dirt into a hill!).
Encourage, don’t criticize. If somebody corrects you when you are doing your best, it doesn’t inspire you to do better, does it? In fact, it might put you off trying for a while. So please don’t correct your child when she makes an attempt to talk but gets it a little wrong. Instead of telling her “it is ‘dog’, not ‘gog’,” simply model the correct word without a fuss, “yes, a big black dog.”
Extend your child’s vocabulary. Your toddler’s level of understanding will be ahead of his ability to express himself. As he attempts to talk, model advanced grammar, add information and extend your tot’s vocabulary by repeating his words clearly and adding to them. For instance, if he says, “drink,” (or “dink,” as he points animatedly at the fridge), you can say, “you want a drink? Mummy will get you a drink.”
Extend language through experience. Your toddler will learn more from seeing animals at the zoo or a farm, than being shown flashcards of animals. You can then enjoy a shared experience and expand his language skills by reading books about the animals he has seen, or take photos and make your own picture book. As you read about animals, create discussion, “that’s a big pink pig. He likes to roll in mud. What noise does the pig make?” Letting him help with household chores will create opportunities to talk too. For instance, cooking together is great hands-on experience that will extend your tot’s vocabulary as you name ingredients, pour, chop and stir.
Exaggerate speech sounds -Some children acquire speech sounds much earlier or later than others,
depending on coordination of the child’s lips tongue and palate. As your child matures, he will gradually correct his speech sound patterns. To encourage correct speech sounds, exaggerate sounds in words and play games with silly sounds –if silliness doesn’t come easily, read Dr Seuss books for inspiration: “He can go like a train CHOO, CHOO, CHOO, CHOO. He can go like a clock. He can TICK. He can TOCK.”
Be animated! Come on, shed those inhibitions by using gestures as you stress prepositions to help your tot understand ‘behind’ ‘on top’ and ‘under’!
Sing along. Whatever your singing ability, ban performance anxiety and sing out loud with your child Singing helps break words into syllables and slows down the sounds of speech. Consider too, the repetition as little ones hear the words to familiar songs over and over. And, let’s face it, if you are going to repeat yourself endlessly (as you do!), it is far more fun to sing than to nag (‘this is the way we pick up the toys..’).
Read. Read aloud every day, several times a day. Short books with rhyme and repetition will encourage
your child to join in and ‘read’ with you. You can play games by waiting for him to finish the line of a favourite rhyming book. As you enjoy reading together, your poppet will be naturally, joyously extending his vocabulary and his feeling for word patterns that make up speech and grammar.
Encourage social language. You are your child’s most powerful model as you help her develop social skills such as greeting people politely, taking turns in conversation, making eye contact while talking and encouraging manners such as ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘excuse me’.
I ask, “when did she last feed?”
It turns out that Sarah’s two week old baby was fed at 5.30am and, being a newborn, she took about an hour to feed and go back to sleep. This meant that she had only been asleep for half an hour when Sarah tried to wake her for her next feed. It turned out that the source of Sarah’s anxiety was a book on her coffee table: it advised that whatever time her baby last fed she should start her daily routine at 7am and now she was anxious that the routine would be mixed up and that she would then be setting her baby up for bad sleep habits.
There is so much conflicting advice and ‘rules’ about infant sleep that undermine mothers’ natural intuition and common sense that I’d like to bust a few common baby sleepmyths:
You must start your day at 7am, whatever time your baby last fed.
You have two choices here that make sense – you can start your own day at 7am: Get up and have a shower(you might even have time to wash your hair) and eat breakfast or even prepare tonight’s dinner or do a load of washing while your baby sleeps. Or you can snuggle down under the covers and catch some zzzs until your baby wakes. It can create unnecessary stress and be a waste of time to wake a sleeping baby who was just fed an hour ago and probably won’t feed well anyway, if he isn’t hungry.
Babies ‘should’ sleep in two hour stretches during the day.
Babies, just like all of us, are individuals with differing sleep requirements. These will change according to developmental stages, illness, and environment. As a parent, you know if your baby has woken as he comes up into a light sleep cycle but could do with some help to resettle, or whether he will be happy to get up and play after 45 minutes or an hour of sleep. If you do try resettling, give yourself a time limit, say, 10 minutes, then if your baby isn’t going to sleep, get him up and play, go for a walk, talk to him and have fun. It makes no sense to stand in a darkened room all day trying to get your baby to sleep, especially if you spend half an hour resettling and your baby sleeps for an extra fifteen minutes. As one mother of three said, “ I spent so much time trying to get my first baby to sleep, I wished had spent it enjoying him.”
Sleeping in your arms, a sling, a pram or the car is not ‘proper’ sleep.
Some ‘experts’ claim that any sleep that isn’t in a cot is ‘junk sleep’ like ‘junk food’ and won’t refresh your baby, especially his tiny brain. Sleep is sleep. A child who is quite flexible about where he sleeps is a lot easier than one who will only ever sleep in a darkened room at home, in his cot. While you may be able to get home for every sleep with a first baby, it’s pretty unrealistic if you have more than one child: if you have a school pickup to manage, your baby will almost certainly get used to sleeping ‘on the move’. Also, if your baby sleeps in a pram,
a sling or your arms, the rocking motion while he is sleeping is helping develop his vestibular apparatus, a series of canals inside the inner ear that, as fluid moves over them (with movement), send out messages to the nervous system that helps with the development of speech and language, balance and sensory integration(making sense of all the sensations of sound, movement, taste, smell and visual stimuli).
You should never rock your baby to sleep
This method of calming and settling babies has been around for generations, so there just might be something in it, don’t you think? As mentioned above, movement is helpful to
your baby’s development and, according to US Psychologist Sharon Heller, author of ‘The Vital Touch’ many babies may crave rocking if mothers have sedentary pregnancies and their babies have fewer opportunities for movement that supports vestibular development before birth. As your baby grows, you can ‘wean’ her from being rocked to sleep by offering more movement when she is awake and introduce gentle music as a relaxation cue, then gradually rock less. Later, you can simply reduce the volume of the music if you like.
You must never breastfeed your baby to sleep
This causes so much stress because it is completely normal for a relaxed baby to fall asleep on the breast. Can you imagine being all snuggled up to your partner, then being poked and told, “move over to your own side of the bed, we are creating ‘bad habits’ ?” In fact there are amazing relaxation chemicals in breastmilk, with different hormones and proteins in your ‘night
time’ milk ( melatonin and neucleotides) that have stronger sleep inducing effects. This explains why your baby will probably go straight back to sleep after a night feed. Therefore, it makes
no sense to wake a drowsy baby who is naturally calm and relaxed. And, just in case you are worried about ‘bad habits’, take heart: your baby may love to snuggle up to a warm breast when he’s eighteen – but it won’t be yours!
Pinky McKay is the author of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby – simple sleep solutions for infants and toddlers’
She offers Baby Sleep Seminars across Australia – In April and May, Pinky is holding talks in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart.
For more information and to register check HERE
Your baby is irritable, grizzly, hates lying on his back, spits up or vomits often, has hiccups constantly and he is a nightmare to feed: he starts to feed voraciously, then he wriggles, squirms and ‘throws’ himself off the breast or when e isn’t doing this, he wants to be permanently attached to your breast. He screams after and between feeds – waking from a deep sleep suddenly screaming as though somebody has poked him with a pin!
Take heart – it’s not your fault. Your baby is unhappy because he is uncomfortable or in pain. The symptoms just listed can be a red flag that your baby may be suffering from Gastro-oesophageal Reflux or ‘reflux’ as it’s common called by mums.
At first, all babies will have ‘reflux’ to some degree, because their digestive systems are immature. At the bottom of the oesophagus (the swallowing tube), there is a ring of muscle that helps keep contents in the stomach. In babies, this sphincter cannot squeeze shut as effectively as it can in a child or adult, and it relaxes randomly, quite frequently. As well as letting swallowed wind be released, these relaxations allow food (milk) to flow back into the oesophagus. For some babies – the ‘happy chuckers’ - this will just mean a few spills that don’t seem to affect their wellbeing. At the other end of the spectrum, it can cause heart-burn like pain, abdominal pain, and/or frequent vomiting and can result in some of the symptoms just listed. Of course, as babies are all individuals, symptoms will vary from one baby to another. For instance, constantly wanting to feed may be comforting because the natural antacid effects of breast milk will soothe your baby’s discomfort or he may need more feeds to make up for the milk he lost when he vomited. For another baby, if their tummy hurts as they feed, they will squirm and pull off the breast and may not feed well. Babies with reflux may also be diagnosed with low weight gain or breathing problems.
According to paediatric gastroenterologist, Dr Bryan Vartabedian, from Texas Children’s Hospital, author of ‘Colic Solved’ and father of two babies with acid reflux, babies at extreme ends of this spectrum (happy chuckers or babies who are very unwell) are easily diagnosed, but the babies who are between extremes can be more challenging to treat, and even doctors can vary in their opinions as to when or how to treat baby heartburn.
What can you do?
Firstly, have your baby checked by a doctor – your GP or paediatrician or ask for a referral to a paediatric gastroenterologist (if you are ‘blown off’ remember, you know your baby best; persist until you get answers to your baby’s distress). A proper diagnosis can involve a treadmill of tests which often compounds your baby’s (and your own) distress. So, if other medical causes for your baby’s distress have been ruled out, before you embark on invasive testing, consider whether his symptoms could be caused by conditions such as foremilk imbalance (check with a lactation consultant), food intolerance or allergy, including reactions to foods that may pass through your breast milk. Milk protein allergy can present with very similar symptoms as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and is more likely if you have family history of allergies, asthma or excema If you are breastfeeding, these conditions can be simply addressed by eliminating offending foods from your own diet rather than weaning: a child health nurse, dietician or lactation consultant can advise you. If you are formula feeding, ask your doctor for a script to trial a hypoallergenic formula.
Until your baby’s system matures, improving the positions he lies during feeding and sleeping will be helpful to reduce his discomfort: holding your baby upright after feeds will aid digestion. However, young babies without much control of their abdominal or chest muscles tend to slump when placed in infant or car seats (reflux babies usually hate car seats). This increases pressure in their stomachs so worsens the reflux. Try
using a baby carrier that supports your baby firmly in an upright position, comforting him, as well as leaving you ‘hands free’ or use an infant seat that reclines a bit.
For sleeping, try utilising gravity to aid digestion by raising the head end of the cot: place phone books under the cot legs or place a towel under the mattress (never use a pillow on a baby under 12 months). Placing your baby on his left side closes off the sphincter between the stomach and
oesophagus and positions the sphincter above the stomach contents so that regurgitation is less likely. As a result, your baby may sleep more soundly on his left side – however as this is not advised by SIDS, please check with your health care provider and only do this when you are able to watch that your baby doesn’t roll onto his tummy while sleeping.
Meanwhile, please don’t blame yourself for your high needs baby. It’s not your fault he cries (and cries!). You are never ‘spoiling’ your baby by helping him feel safe and comfortable, and even if he cries despite your best efforts to help him, at least he will know you are there for him, through it all. This is an investment in his security and your relationship with your little one. And that will last long beyond these tough weeks and months.
For more tips to help your unsettled baby, check out Pinky’s book 100 Ways to Calm the Crying
Where did that biddable baby in the bunny rug go? He grew into a terrific toddler, that’s what!
And now he wants it all. He wants it now. And he wants it all to himself! Your toddler can be affectionate one minute and obstinate the next. He runs away when you call him and yells when you want peace and quiet. He wants the blue cup, shirt or towel (whatever) when you offer him the yellow one. Now is the time to guide and protect your toddler with a new kind of parenting that includes setting appropriate limits.
Keep expectations realistic. Toddlers don’t understand concepts like hurry, tidy and wait, and taking turns or sharing depend on developmental readiness, not parental demands. Keep teaching, but be patient.
Notice the good things. Toddlers like to please the people they love, and they delight in attention. Comment positively and give hugs when you notice good behaviour and you will get more of it.
Give clear instructions. Telling children what you do want is more effective than telling them what not to do – ‘Hold my hand,’ is better than ‘Don’t run on the road.’ And ‘Use your spoon,’ works better than ‘Don’t eat with your fingers.’ Because they tend to see language in pictures, little ones only seem to hear the actual request, not the ‘don’t’ that comes first.
Create a diversion.Divert your toddler from potentially harmful or dangerous situations (or things that simply drive you bananas) by giving her something more acceptable to play with. For instance, if she likes to fiddle with the TV remote, try offering her a torch to switch off and on.
Limit choices. Offering choices helps your child to become a decision-maker and think for himself. This helps develop self-esteem and enlists cooperation. Don’t, however, offer open-ended choices and make sure the options you offer suit you! Instead of asking, ‘What do you want to
wear?’ Say, ‘Would you like to wear your red shirt or the blue one?’
Think ahead. It is better to prevent trouble than react angrily later. For instance, put folded washing out of sight if you don’t want it thrown out of the basket or tracked around the house, and prevent precious things being broken by banning ball-throwing inside and keeping the balls outside.
Think of ‘mistakes’ as opportunities to teach your child to make amends. Instead of yelling or muttering under heavy breath as you clean up an accidental mess, try to problem-solve by saying, ‘‘Oops, the milk spilt. If I get the sponge, can you help me wipe it up, please?’
Feel you need tactics to build your toolbox and help you enjoy your terrific toddler? Check out Pinky’s Toddler Tactics Seminars
When her deep navy blue eyes meet yours, you feel overwhelmed with loving feelings. Her tiny bottom is just soooo cute, and you simply can’t resist blowing raspberries on her tummy (the one without the stretchmarks!). In fact, you are so devoted to her you couldn’t possibly entertain a single thought for anybody else – even your partner. And not so long ago, you promised each other solemnly, “a baby won’t change OUR relationship.” The truth is, once a baby enters your life, your relationship with your partner will never be the same again. Ever. And there are things about losing those loving feelings that even your closest friends will probably never tell you (you probably wouldn’t believe them if they did). For Instance:
- Foreplay can be reduced to “are you awake?” and sexual responsiveness can diminish to “I’m asleep, but feel free to help yourself.”
If you don’t yet have a baby, think of how tired you were in the first trimester of pregnancy and multiply it by any number from ten upwards.
Exhaustion can have a ripple effect on your relationship. Be kind to yourself. Recognise the high price to your family of unrealistic housekeeping standards.
Learn to rest when baby sleeps (do housework with baby in a sling when he is awake so you don’t feel ‘guilty’ about snoozing during the day). Say “no” to invitations that will be tiring and discuss sharing the load with your partner (or anybody else who looks willing and able – even if you have to pay them).And, for some tips to help your baby (and you) get more sleep, check out Pinky’s book ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’.
- Spontaneity’ will not happen without careful planning.
You won’t just have to make plans for ‘spontaneous’ lovemaking. Everything from a walk in the park to dinner for two or a dash to the bank will require forward planning. On the other hand, you could also be forced to learn the real meaning of spontaneity – seize the moments and
make them special.
- You’ll discover the true meaning of the term ‘Coitus Interruptus’:
This is not just a family planning method for teenagers and optimists. When you do get around to making love, even if your baby is soundly sleeping, you can bet your boots he or she will yell just as you get to the moment of bliss. This waking seems to have little to do with
hunger, noise or movement and more to do with a primitive survival response. It is probably related to the same deep connection between mother and baby that has a mother waking from a deep sleep just before her baby stirs, or triggers a milk letdown as her baby cries – even
if she’s up the street and her baby is at home. Try making love when baby is awake –you are less likely to be interrupted.
Little (immobile) babies can be easily amused by flickering candle-light (it’s flattering to “mummy tummies” too). Later, the jolly jumper comes into it’s own (yes, the “quickie” was invented by resourceful parents).
- It’s not only lovemaking that will be interrupted. Your train of thought will seem permanently derailed by baby demands.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are having a deep and meaningful conversation with your partner, but with experience you will learn the valuable skill of maintaining your thread of conversation and pick up discussions exactly where they left off with the same emotional intensity.
- He wants sex. He thinks that making love to you will reassure you his feelings for you haven’t changed. You feel all “touched out” after giving to a baby all day. You see sex as one more demand. You want cuddles but you withdraw because you know cuddles will lead to sex. He withdraws because he doesn’t want to pressure you, or he feels rejected.
You both need to be nurtured and maintain your close connection with each other. Before a baby came, lovemaking was probably the main expression of your connection for each other, now you may need to find other ways to stay close. Try cuddles, a massage, and a meal together,
without pressure to have sex. Understanding and respect for each other’s feelings will see passion return at a greater level than if resentment is left to simmer or you simply drift apart.
- Jealous feelings are not just for left out Dads or usurped toddlers.
Most Dads feel irrational when jealous feelings are aroused by their own helpless dependent offspring having their needs lovingly met, but at least guys feelings are acknowledged. You may have similar twinges of the green-eyed monster as your partner gives all his adoration to your little baby and seems to hardly notice you, especially if he takes to calling you “Mummy” (heaven forbid!). Feelings of jealousy (for either partner) can be due to a deep psychological awakening that could be echoes of early experiences of sibling rivalry or unsupported needs. Share your feelings with your partner and talk about what you need to feel supported (like reminding him you have a name). It is also important to be able to say, “that’s not really supportive,” without your partner being offended.
- Resentment, a cousin of jealousy, can be a big dampener on relationships.
You feel trapped as you see him driving off to work, joining the real world. He feels trapped as he drives off to work, ‘knowing’ you have a free day to meet friends for coffee or lunch. In spite of rational role planning, emotions play havoc if you can’t empathise with each other’s adjustment to your new responsibilities. It is never too late to develop good communication skills. However, it would be best to practise BEFORE a baby comes along, because when we are under stress, it is all too easy to fall back on bad habits, like shouting and screaming, rather than listening and respecting each other’s feelings.
- Sometimes it helps to ask for help.
Most of us plan for practical and physical support when we are having a baby. We need to acknowledge that there will be profound changes to our relationships and see support for this as legitimate too. Talk during pregnancy about how infancy and childhood was for you and try to understand what feelings may arise. You can then discuss ‘how can we share these feelings?’ and ‘do we have friends we can have these conversations with?’ If you feel dissatisfied, distrustful, or can’t talk any more, these are symptoms outside help is called for. It may just take a couple of sessions with a counsellor to set you on the right track. It’s not a slur on your ability to cope but may save your relationship.
Bonding with your baby isn’t just a ‘mum’ thing. It’s true that mums have a bit of a head start because they are the ones growing the baby and they have all sorts of amazing hormonal changes that prepare them to birth and breastfeed and nurture babies. However, new research suggests that expectant and new fathers actually experience biological and hormonal changes that prepare them for parenting too.
Anthropologists Lee Gettler, Christopher Kuzawa, and colleagues at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines worked with a group of about 600 men participating in the survey. They measured morning and evening salivary testosterone levels in 2005, when the men were about age 21, then again in 2009. This research, which tested men’s saliva for testosterone levels reported that new fathers showed a 30 percent decrease in testosterone. The study authors speculate that the drop in testosterone seems to be a biological adjustment that helps men shift their priorities when children come along.
While high testosterone levels have been linked to aggression, extroversion, and risk-taking, drops in testosterone have been linked to fathers’ responsiveness to their children, Other research shows that the hormones prolactin and cortisol (both connected with pregnant women) rise significantly in the three weeks before birth is due. It seems that being near your pregnant partner and the effects of her pheromones, triggers hormonal changes in expectant dads. Then, when your baby is born, cuddling and playing with your little one will elicit the release of hormones like prolactin, the hormone of tender nurturing, oxytocin, the love hormone, and beta endorphins, feel good hormones that are also known as the hormones of pleasure and reward. This means that the more you interact with your baby right from the start, the happier you will feel so the more you will want to play – and the better your relationship with your baby will develop
The good news (in case you are worried that playing with your baby will make you less ‘manly’) is that these lower testosterone levels won’t affect your libido – they are still within normal levels. You could see it as though every nappy you change, every cuddle you share and every game of peekaboo that has you and your baby chuckling with delight is an emotional investment in your baby’s wellbeing and his trust in you.
Here are some fun ways to bond with your baby – right from the start!
Talk to the bump! Research has shown that babies can distinguish between their parents’ and strangers’ voices from 30 weeks in the womb—and the same study found that if dads speak to a baby before birth, the newborn will recognize his father’s voice. So talk—or sing—to that bump and your baby will know you as soon as he hears you on the ‘outside’.
Pop him in a pouch: Carrying your baby close in a baby carrier is a great way to keep him happy as he hears your heartbeat and your deep voice. You can take him out for a walk while mum rests (warning: dads carrying babies get a lot of positive attention from strange women). Or, just go about your business – walk the dog, rake the leaves or vacuum – your baby will love the movement and you will get brownie points for being a master baby calmer!
Bath together: Bathing a tiny slippery baby can be a bit daunting at first. An easier way to manage bathing is to get in the bath or shower with your baby. When you have had a good play, pass him out to mummy to wrap him in a warm towel and cuddle him dry before a feed. Learn baby massage: Massage is not only good for your baby’s health and development as well as his sleep patterns it’s also a great way to get to know your baby’s non-verbal language and boost your confidence. An Australian study of infant massage and father-baby bonding, found that at 12 weeks old, babies who were massaged by their fathers greeted their Dads with more eye contact, smiling, vocalising and touch than those in the control group. To learn how, check out Pinky McKay’s baby massage DVD
Try the colic waltz: Although it’s much more fun to play with a happy baby, when it all goes ‘pear shaped’, Dads are often the best baby settlers: you don’t smell like breast milk so if baby has a bellyache, he can relax without snuffling round for more mummy milk; you have big strong arms to lie him along (with his legs straddled across your arm and a bit of pressure against his belly). Or snuggle him against your chest with his head tucked under your chin, and hum as you walk – the vibration and deep noise you make will help him calm in no time.
Just do it!: Even though you may feel a bit anxious about your baby care skills, especially your ability to calm your tiny, crying baby, just give it a go! And don’t be intimidated by your partner (Ladies, lock up that mother lioness and step back!). Although your lady may seem more confident than you about baby care, she will take time to find her groove too. The more you participate in the care of your baby, the better you will get to know your child and the more your own confidence will grow.