Archive for the ‘Newborns & Beyond’ Category

What to Expect When Your Baby Is Not Who You Expected Him to Be: 5 Strategies for Parenting a High Needs Baby

Monday, April 13th, 2015
Image credit: bbburkefineart.com (Click for original source)

Image credit: bbburkefineart.com (Click for original source)

You can never be quite sure of who this tiny human is going to be after he or she emerges from your womb.

We often expect an image like this one (Artist: Brenda Burke). Mom and baby awash in the sweetness of new motherhood. You picture the days snuggling away in quiet and coos, with only occasional crying.

The reality is usually different. The vast majority of us have to soothe an intensely crying baby at more than one point. Everything can be difficult to navigate when you are sleep deprived, and your postpartum hormones are in full swing.

However, if you have a baby who seems to have a more than usually intense personality, and a higher than normal demand for all things Mother, you may have a high needs baby.

That said, there are a lot of simple tools that can be helpful when you find yourself facing a high needs baby. Here are five good starting places:

1. Get help yesterday. My top advice would be to hire a postpartum doula, who will be able to assess the situation, and make good recommendations. She will know a lot of tips to help soothe your crying baby, and many postpartum doulas do overnight work, so you can get some much-needed sleep, and tackle the issues with a clearer head.

2. Relax as much as possible. (I know that sounds crazy.) I’m not talking about spa visits, necessarily. I’m talking about learning basic relaxation techniques. Remember the breathing lessons from your childbirth class? Those are life skills, and you will need them as you manage the stress of parenting a high needs baby. It can be as simple as stimulating a yawn, or putting baby in a safe place while you take a shower.

3. Learn about a baby’s normal development. I have found that this one factor can make all those mountains seem like molehills again! When you know what normal looks like, it is much easier to recognize what isn’t normal, and therefore get specific help.

4. Visit a chiropractor within baby’s first few weeks of life. Find one who specializes in care for women and their children, if possible. Many high needs babies fare better after a few adjustments, especially if their birth was very fast or very slow.

5. Learn about babywearing, which can be a lifesaver (sometimes literally). Babies who are worn, or at least held often, cry less, because their needs are met more quickly, and they have less chance to get worked up.

Now, these are very basic, ground zero strategies. These are not going to solve all your problems. They are only a springboard to get you started. Pick one, and give it a try!

What would you add? Have you had a high needs baby? What worked for you and your family? Why? Where did you turn for help?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Birthy Weekend Links

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

This week, featuring breastfeeding:

Image Credit: facebook.com/wemakemilk

Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History Of Infant Formula

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Before I share the article I’m about to link, I need to make a few things clear for you:

1) Formula, in and of itself, is not bad. Neither is it anywhere near what breastmilk is. That is not insulting, it’s simply the truth. Breastmilk is not the “best” option for feeding babies, it is the biological, expected norm. It is part of the normal, physiologic progression of the childbearing year.

2) I am NOT anti-formula, and this post is NOT intended to insult those who have used formula, or have used it in the past. In fact, breastfeeding is one of the things I knew very little about when I was feeding my own babies. I have used formula. For three of my four children, yet somehow I manage not to take offense when the risks of formula to babies are spelled out. I ask you to do the same.

3) The purpose of this post is to highlight the horribly unethical marketing practices of formula COMPANIES. Especially in the developing world.

Read this with an open mind, and try to understand that this is not a commentary on your parenting. You are still a good mother, no matter how you choose to feed your baby. But please remember that the majority of women in the world do not really have a “choice.” It literally means life or death for their babies.

Thank you.

Every Parent Should Know The Scandalous History Of Infant Formula

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Book Review: “The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert W. Sears

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Image from goodreads.com

First of all: You have to know something about this book. It is not pro-vaccine. It is not anti-vaccine. It is pro-informed-consent for parents. It’s about information, not influence. Okay. Keep reading.

I thought this book was the most informative look at vaccines I have ever seen. So much “information” is so heavily biased, and contaminated with emotional “dead-baby” appeals, that I have been more confused than ever on what might be right for my kids. This book is filled with information straight from product inserts, and has a Resources section in the back for all those who want to read studies for themselves. Everything is documented, and when Dr. Sears is sharing his opinion – you know that’s exactly what he’s doing, because he labels it.

It is so refreshing to read something like this about a controversial topic!

This book helped me decide what I want to do for my kids, without ever telling me what to do. I feel as though it is an excellent tool that all parents should read before their first child is born. This is a book I am going to buy for my lending library as a doula and childbirth educator. Stat.

What’s the best book related to the childbearing year you have read? Do share!
Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Super Power Sight (a Guest Post)

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

By: Jackie Miller: She is my husband’s aunt and my long-time friend. Along with her sisters, she raised up a generation of loving mothers and fathers. She and her sisters shared nursing duties when their kids were little, some had home births, some did not. Each of them supported and provided a loving “village” to train up their children together – the way it was meant to be. This post illustrates the importance of nighttime parenting – even if you find yourself in the “granny years” now. The granddaughter in the following story is eight years old, not a toddler. She is “old enough” to be in her own bed, and this story could have turned out differently. Read and learn from a mother (and now grandmother) who knows that those long nights with littles can be so hard, but that those nights and moments are worth it. Her children are proof. Her grandchildren will be, too.

This hasn’t happened to me for a long time, maybe 10 years, maybe longer. I was out of training, so I didn’t know if my skills were up to the task, but I accepted the challenge anyway. It all started by someone calling out my name in the middle of the night. “Granny, I had a bad dream and I’m really scared, can I come into bed with you?”

My reply was out before she finished the question; I said, “Of course Sweetheart.” As I pulled back the blankets and moved my pillow over so my granddaughter could share it with me, she ran and hurled herself into the very center of my being and pushed back in against me with every fiber of hers. My arms were there and ready to envelope her. To comfort and love her.

As I kiss her head and hold her tight I start to pray over her, that the Lord would take away her bad dreams and help her to relax and be able to rest. At first she is stiff and trembling, but the more I prayed, cuddled and loved, the more relaxed she became until total peace had filled her little body.

I had not lost my touch; my mommy (Now Granny) super powers were still active. They were just a little older and a lot more mature. Amazingly, I discovered with beautiful clarity, I now had super power sight. Oh what a beautiful gift Jesus gave me last night, as I lay there, half asleep, holding her close to my heart. A flood of memories came back to me in that precious moment as her warm little body warmed my very soul.

How many times in my life have I done this before? How many nights in my life had I begrudgingly wished my kids would just sleep through the night so that I could sleep? How many times had I laid there uncomfortably, while little arms and legs wiggled and poked me? Just waiting for them to get tired enough for me to carry them to their own bed so I could have my space? I remembered each time, each child, and I almost wept with the overwhelming wish that this moment in time, right now while I held my granddaughter, would never end.

Now was not the time for desiring to go back to sleep, NO! Now was a time to share our hearts, our dreams, and yes – some laughter. I whisper into my Em’s ear, “How would you like to get up with Granny and have some hot chocolate?”

I think she was out of bed before I could finish saying it. I gave her my big fuzzy red robe to wear, and it trailed behind her on the floor as we walked to the kitchen. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Hot cocoa in our hands, we sat wrapped in the same blanket on the sofa and listened to Taylor swift (Her favorite singer) on her Ipod, and of course we sang along… “Some day I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

I really really really love my life!

For more of Jackie’s heart, as well as tips and ideas for decorating and remodeling, read her blog: We Treasure the Little Things.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Learn From My Mistakes

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Every mom would be wise to try and learn from the mistakes of others. This is the story of my biggest one.

I did the CIO thing with my oldest. I “flexibly scheduled” his feedings. If he was crying, and I noted that he was dry, clean, full, and well-rested, I let him cry. Sometimes, it took up to an hour before he would “self-soothe,” while I became more and more callous to his baby whimpers.

No wonder he was nearly diagnosed with failure-to-thrive at six months old, and I was told to wean him, feed him formula, and fry his Cheerios in butter to fatten him up. I had lost my ability to really gauge his needs, because I ignored his signals.

He is now eight years old, and a perfect example of what is so very wrong with letting young babies “cry it out.”

Thankfully, I was better educated before I had my subsequent three children. Oh! the difference! I cannot begin to describe it. I hesitate to write much more, because I don’t want to violate the privacy of my children, but I share because this message is too important not to.

My oldest son is an outgoing, independent kid. He’s smart, an advanced reader, active, and imaginative. He laughs easily, especially at farts, and longs for adventure. He is affectionate and verbal, seeking hugs and giving out “I love you’s” as though there were no tomorrow. I love him deeply, and am so proud of the young man he will grow to be.

Yet, there is something missing in him. The areas in which CIO children struggle most with–even long-term–are empathy and stress response. Two key areas my son has deeply-rooted issues with, that I can trace back to the first time I let him CIO at two weeks old.

These issues are manifest in several ways.

It takes next to nothing to completely set him off, revealing bitterness, anger, fear of failure, and a sense of helplessness. (Really, it’s a “learned helplessness.”) When he is even mildly distressed, he cannot handle it. He believes himself alone, with all the world against him. He cannot control himself at all. All my efforts to teach him to breathe, pray, and calm down feel as though they are to no avail.

He cannot sympathize with other children without great effort and coaching. He quickly gets aggressive–usually verbally aggressive, but he occasionally gets physical–when he feels wronged or slighted. If I ask how he would feel if so-an-so did the same thing to him, he has the same answer every time: “Sad.”

He struggles to express what’s going on inside. He doesn’t think his opinion matters.

He almost never asks for help with anything, because it was ingrained in him that his mother would not help him if he cried out for her. He will drive himself into a flurry of frustration, trying to do things on his own, that I am more than willing to help with. It doesn’t sink in when I tell him that I want to help him; that I’m there for him, no matter what. That all he has to do is ask, and I will respond. Deep down, he doesn’t believe me. His infant brain was hard-wired to understand that I wasn’t there when he needed me as a tiny baby crying for comfort.

I was often in the next room, crying it out myself, or with music up loud enough that I couldn’t hear him.

Occasionally, I have glimpses of hope when he tries to confide in me. On the rare occasions he wants to talk to me, I do my best to listen, and let him know I love him. That I’m a safe place for him to land.

As the articles I will link at the end of this post outline, CIO damages areas of the brain specifically related to empathy and stress response. The two key areas my oldest son struggles with deeply. So deeply at this point, that I’m researching affordable therapy for him.

Yes, therapy.

There is only so much I can do as a mother, and I really am doing all I can to make up for lost ground.

And I share this story hesitatingly, knowing that I am exposing myself to judgment.

I don’t care as much about that any more. The truth is more important.

If I can save one baby from being forced to cry it out – I will be satisfied.

To me, picking up a crying baby and responding to him is an act of love, respect, and common decency toward a fellow human being. How could it be otherwise? We would do no less for our adult friends. Why do we expect our babies to soothe themselves when we can rarely do it for ourselves without a trusted shoulder or a kind ear? It just doesn’t make sense.

I learned from my mistakes, and my other children do not have these struggles. I know, without doubt, that the difference between them and their older brother stems from more than personality or gender differences. I know, as the mother of these four precious beings, how much power I really do have to shape their lives when they are small. I have learned to appreciate and use that power more wisely than I did with my eldest.

The more information I take in from evidence-based resources, and the more I combine that with the heart instincts I was given as a mother, the more I know that what I share here is true. That CIO methods of infant care are no kind of care at all. It is dangerous physically, mentally, and emotionally–in the long-term–for babies. Period.

I hope that those who read this will take advantage of this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do things differently. It’s not to late to start responding to your child’s legitimate needs for comfort.

This is the sole reason I share here.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

And just for good measure, here is a panorama of good reading on the subject: Sleep Training: A Review of Research This is one of the newest articles out, if you prefer a quick summary: Dangers of Crying it Out

Inconsistent Breastfeeding Advice = Consistent Frustration for Moms & Babies

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

I was excited to see this issue addressed at Best for Babes, because it is something I have seen over and over in pretty much every hospital birth I’ve attended as a doula.

When a woman hears one thing from her L&D nurse, another from the baby nurse, and still another from the lactation consultant, it is no surprise to see her and her baby battling uphill to do something that they were both designed to do. The amount and quality of training for the many professionals women encounter during the birth and postpartum period in the hospital varies widely. Then, there are the individual experiences of the women in the profession that – like it or not – color the advice they give.

It can make a woman’s head spin!

As a labor doula, I see so many women go from a sense of satisfaction in their labor and birth, to frustration and discouragement in the immediate postpartum period. One thing I hear all the time from these mothers is this very complaint: inconsistent advice. I’m there to help with initial latch, but I am always upfront that my training only extends that far, and for any issues they come across, they need to speak with a lactation professional.

I have begun sharing some basic tips with my clients before I tuck them into their bed in the Mom & Baby unit, in the hopes of mitigating this factor somewhat. I have seen some good results, but until some truly fundamental changes are made in most hospital lactation departments, these results are sadly limited. I find my role gravitating more and more to peer support and referrals to independent professionals.

In the interest of making even a small difference, I would like to share a little bit of advice I give to many mothers who are planning to breastfeed their babies. The most fundamental piece of advice I can share is this:

At the very least, request to see the same consultant throughout your hospital stay. This will help streamline the advice you’re given, as the consultant will have helped you from the first, and will be familiar with the options you and your baby have already tried.

Also, decline advice from anyone who is not from the lactation department, as you can have no guarantee of what they are basing their advice on. Smile, nod, and let them go about their business as you do what you think is best. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let them grab your boob and shove the baby’s head in! Babies don’t need that much “help.”

Take an independent (i.e. non-hospital), evidence-based breastfeeding class, if at all possible, especially if you have never breastfed before. Watch a lot of good breastfeeding videos (check out Dr. Jack Newman’s website).

You can also take a good breastfeeding book to the hospital with you, and consult it as needed while you’re there. Here are three great ones: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, The Breastfeeding Book, or The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.

You also may consider scheduling an appointment to meet with the head of the lactation department before you give birth, and ask about the qualifications, training, and philosophy of the consultants who work in your hospital. If possible, find one you seem to line up with in philosophy, and request to wait for her shift before getting any lactation advice in the hospital.

Consider your place of birth. Revisit the idea of an out-of-hospital birth place, especially if your hospital is not certified Baby-Friendly. I have yet to see homebirth moms struggle quite as much as their hospital counterparts, no matter how great the birth was. When moms and babies are comfortable, uninterrupted, and given support, they tend to have far fewer issues – and this does not really happen in the hospital, despite the kindness and good intentions of the hospital staff.

Side note: Most midwives have decent training and experience in breastfeeding basics, but if there is an issue beyond that, please turn to peer support you can find in La Leche League, or an IBCLC, stat!

Last, but not least – if you still feel the hospital is the best option for you: Did you know that you can opt to sign an AMA (Against Medical Advice) form, and get home early!? As long as both you and baby are healthy, you should be free to leave the hospital within several hours of giving birth, and try this breastfeeding thing at home in your own bed! I highly recommend this option if your hospital is known for anything that is not baby-friendly, especially if they make a habit of separating moms and babies in the early postpartum hours.

One last note.

When you try a new piece of advice, give it more than one feeding before you decide it’s not working. Trust your instinct – when you know, you know, but give each trick a solid try. This can be different for different circumstances, so make sure you always ask the advice-giver how soon you should see a difference.

I truly hope this has equipped you a little more thoroughly to navigate the first breastfeeding days, and to minimize the inconsistent advice you will receive. Hey – you can’t avoid it all!

Have you experienced this problem of inconsistent advice? How did you handle it? What was the impact on you and your baby, if any? Do you have any tips to offer?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

Take 10 Minutes…

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

A Really Inconvenient Truth

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

This weekend, instead of sharing links, I want to share a quote I came across that really hit home for me this week. It’s one I had to learn as a young mother, though I couldn’t have put it so beautifully. It is something I am trying to teach other young mothers when they ask me for advice. It is truly an inconvenient truth – see if you don’t think so.

“It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.” ~Peggy O’Mara, editor of Mothering magazine.

In other words, babies and young children are hard-wired by God himself to be dependent on their parents – day and night. You can read the rest of this article here.

This truth of how babies and young children develop is incredibly inconvenient for us as parents. After all, it might be extremely disruptive to our own sleep patterns, our daily schedule, or our weekend plans. When we really stop to think about it, why do we ever expect to be able to go back to “normal?” The truth is that we have to learn to accept the new normal that a baby brings into our lives. There is no more going back, only moving forward or rotting where we sit.

Letting go of the control we had over our lives is ridiculously hard, because as an adult, we have a developed sense of independence, and it is easy for us to see our child’s dependence as a weakness. In fact, it is not. When we hear people telling us that we should to train our babies to sleep through the night at an early age for our own convenience/sanity/health/whatever, beware. There is no evidence, whatsoever, to support these theories, and there is much to contradict them.

I have done the cry-it-out thing, and I have done the nighttime parenting thing. The latter makes for a far happier, confident momma than the former; even though I won’t deny that I was somewhat tireder. I can also see a difference in my children. The main difference I can pinpoint is the difference in how I treated my babies.

Consider carefully advice given. Accept the inconvenience of parenting. That’s just the way parenting is: inconvenient. However,

“Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being” ~ Kittie Frantz

We have a much higher calling than to make our own lives easier with children. Parents have a calling to care for their children until they can care for themselves, and sometimes, even beyond that. Children will always need their parents in one form or another. It’s best to be available in any way they need (which does not necessarily mean catering to every whim and want they may have); not only the way we might think they need, and that includes nighttime parenting. As inconvenient as that is – I will not argue that – it is necessary. And only for a short while. At most, a few years out of the rest of our lives.

Peaceful Parenting has done an excellent job of compiling resources on nighttime parenting and cry-it-out research, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.

I just wanted to give you some food for thought.

“Just Doing My Job”

Monday, September 13th, 2010

After having all four of my babies out-of-hospital (one at a birth center, the rest at home), and seeing how much respect was given to my babies, I have a hard time believing the above statement I have heard from so many baby nurses. Baby nurses who have such a sweet demeanor, and genuinely believe that what they are doing is “best” for the babies in their care. Their intentions are good, but their training goes contrary to some of the best evidence out there regarding the critical first hour after birth.

The following paper put out by Lamaze International sums up a lot of this evidence in one document. I encourage you to read it, and check out the pages of references and the studies mentioned in this paper for yourself.

Healthy Birth Care Practice #6 ~ Lamaze International

Things You Can Do to Keep Baby With You:

  • Consider an out-of-hospital birth. The same procedures (Vitamin K, Hep B, eye ointment, etc…) are usually offered by midwives, but all of these things can WAIT. Not one of them is necessary in the first hour after birth. This is a non-issue when you’re not in the hospital. Unless there is a clear medical emergency, the midwives will stay very “hands-off” most of the time.
  • Write a Baby Plan. Don’t take for granted that, just because your birth plan was honored, that the baby nurses will know what you want for your baby. They are completely unconnected to you as a birth patient, and deal exclusively with the baby. Ideally, summarize your 5 most important priorities regarding your baby’s care, put them on a cute 3×5 card, and lay it in the warmer. When the nurse comes in, she will see it lying there, and will know your preferences. If you would like tips on how to write a baby plan, and what should be on it, feel free to email me.
  • Ask for delayed cord clamping on your birth plan. This can buy you up to 10-15 minutes to negotiate with the baby nurses. If the baby is still attached to you, they can’t take him/her.
  • Understand this basic fact: Everything CAN be done in your arms. Even deep suctioning, oxygen, exams, injections, eye ointment, etc. There is no medical reason to take the baby to the warmer, and babies nearly always do far better when they are skin-to-skin between their mother’s breasts. (Here is one example of what I’m talking about.)
  • Hold onto your baby. Simply do not let go. Kindly look at the nurse and say something like “I know you need to so some things, but he/she’s fine right now, and you can have him/her in a little while.” They cannot use physical force to take your baby from you. It’s YOUR baby. Hang on to him/her. Especially if you’ve already put your desires on paper, and they are aware of what you want.
  • Ask that baby’s first bath be given at home. If the baby is unwashed, he/she is considered a bio-hazard, and the nurses have to glove up before touching the baby. This helps keeping any skin-to-skin contact limited to Mom & Dad (or partner), and can discourage the nurses from even bothering with unnecessary contact if universal precautions have to be taken.
  • Hire a doula. A doula is able to stay clear-headed and aware during that fuzzy, hormone-driven time immediately following birth, and can remind you and your partner of what you wanted(or did not want) for your baby when the nurse begins to ask for him/her. Even if they know you want to wait a full hour, many will try to persuade you that the things that “need” to be done MUST be done NOW. That is not the case, but in your vulnerable state, you are ready to acquiesce to anything, and a doula can help call your attention, or the attention of your partner to your already-made decisions and encourage you to speak up for your baby.

As well-intentioned and kind as many of these nurses are, they simply do not feel about your baby the way that you do. They do not carry the decisions made about the care of your baby home the way you do. To them, it’s just another day at work. Just another baby poked, prodded, and scrubbed. Contrary to how these nurses approach this, caring for a baby is NOT just a “job.” It is a privilege granted (and paid for) by the parents of the child.

Also contrary to what these nurses say, babies are not “just mad” at being messed with. These procedures (needle pricks, rough towels, deep suctioning) do cause the baby discomfort and pain. Of course they scream and cry! They are hurt, frightened, naked, and totally vulnerable. They deserve far more respect than they often receive. I have personally seen the great differences between babies born at home, and babies born in a hospital.

If newborn babies were really and truly acknowledged as fully human, with the full range of human emotions and ability to feel pain by medical staff; I think the procedures deemed “necessary” immediately after birth would look vastly different than they do now. The only way that can happen at this point in time is for parents to step up and speak for these little ones who cannot speak for themselves.

“Just doing my job,” doesn’t hold water. Nearly always, what is best for baby coincides with what is best for mother as well, and what is best for both is abundantly clear – uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for at LEAST the first hour after birth.

There is no excuse NOT to respect a baby’s and mother’s first moments together, and to truly facilitate baby-friendly practices.