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Parenting is like perfection

Perfection, the board game

Easeful parenting...

I was thinking last night that easeful parenting involves quickly and effortlessly matching up the right solution to your baby's needs. For example: a wet diaper is uncomfortable and leads to fussing. Put on a dry diaper and the fussing stops. When a baby has a rumbly tummy and you take too much time to feed them, you have a howling baby. When you do fill their tummy, the howling stops.

Parenting really is a lot like Perfection, the game.

Each child has at least 25 little keyholes that need to be filled. In real life, those keyholes are things like love, security, comfort, connection, protection, humor, service, satiation, attention, justice, relaxation, contentment, and energy. Your job as the parent is to fill those keyholes with the matching piece in 60 seconds or less......If you don't.... "POP!!!!" Your baby starts inconsolable crying.

Enough rounds of Perfection in a day and you start feeling frustrated and incompetent.

It is nearly impossible to fill those keyholes each and every round. Luckily, babies don't expect you to be perfect. They are happy if you try and keep trying. Your job as a parent is to become aware of your baby's needs and find ways to fulfill them. With each growth spurt, the number of needs increases. Some keyholes may change with time. When you fill keyholes consistently and often, your baby learns how to fill them himself.

When you respond to your baby's needs, you are not spoiling, you are teaching. You are not being manipulated, you are learning more about your baby.

While it can feel like Perfection, the game, it is impossible to be a perfect parent.

Every person has their own preferences and ways they like to be treated. You will make mistakes and inadvertently hurt your child. You will be so frustrated at times that you may purposefully hurt your child with unkind words, a spank on the bottom or ignoring their demands.

What happens if you ignore the need?

And, you will. You will be tired or miss your baby's cue. In addition, every parent has some part of their baby that they just can't understand.

Your baby will keep asking, non-verbally of course, for a while and if you keep ignoring the need, they will start to compensate for the unfilled need with an alternate behavior. Common behaviors we see in babies is over or under-sleeping, crying that goes from 0-60 in a second, refusing to breastfeed or biting your breast to get your attention. When you experience repetitive behaviors that you don't like, it is a sign that a need that isn't being met.

You might use a little creative thinking and try to imagine what it is your baby might be needing. Some of these needs are real mysteries that take years to figure out, so don't think of this as a one time thing. Some will remain mysteries for your child to learn in their lifetime. Some you will just outright be unable to fulfill.

Consistency breeds consistency

On the other hand, children have pretty consistent personalities. When you get 'it' right, all you have to do is keeping doing 'that' again and again. A baby who is a "huggy bear" will always be a "huggy bear". When you hold a huggy bear, hug and gently stroke them. Watch them melt into bliss. You will find that doing this consistently shortens their periods of upset.

A baby who likes to be around people will always be the life of the party. Make sure they get lots of social time. Sing songs and play interactive games like peek-a-boo. Plan at least one errand every day so they get the stimulation they crave and then bring them home for some down time.

Some babies are introspective and need peace and quiet. They break eye contact and refuse to look at you when they are tired or overwhelmed. They may prefer to be laid down and left alone to sleep. Make sure you spend quiet time together every day.

"If only I had instructions!"

Many parents lament that babies don't come with an instruction manual. I think that this shows a loss in how to use our inner knowing. When we pay attention to our inner knowing and our feelings, we learn to read our babies and trust our judgement. Books, videos and articles are helpful when you use the information to confirm what you are feeling and also to broaden your perspective on what your baby needs. When we try to make our baby conform to a mold that is unlike them, it only makes everyone unhappy.

Keep filling your baby's or child's needs. If you would some assistance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a free "Needs assessment" session to help decipher why your baby or child is acting the way they are.

What is a Good Latch?

What a "Good Latch" is...

(And is not!)

A good latch is a mouthful of breast that positions the nipple far back in the baby’s mouth, behind the hard palate. The baby’s face, nose, chin and both cheeks are evenly pressed against the breast. The baby’s cheeks are relaxed, not dimpled. When the baby sucks, their jaw moves from front to back, with a visible wave that starts at the chin and ends at the ear. You feel a rhythmic tugging on your nipple. 

A good latch is comfortable, in the "I could do this all day" kind of way.


A good latch is not sucking on the nipple like a bottle nipple.

While your baby is nursing, watch their cheek. Sucking in and dimpling means that the baby needs better positioning.

Sucking only on the nipple won't provide much milk because breastmilk is not removed by suction, but by ejection which happens with compressing, massaging or 'milking' the breast and nipple together.

You might be suprised to learn that a breast pump doesn't work by sucking out milk. Yes, technically pumps suck, but they also release which causes a different response from your body.

Vacuum stretches, and then releases, your nipple stimulating a release of oxytocin, which signals the smooth breast muscle to contract, ejecting the milk. The diaphragm inside the bottle opens from the pressure of the milk to collect it in the bottle, then closes with the next suction cycle of the pump.

 You may have difficulty ejecting milk when you are in pain, compounding low supply, weight gain and latch issues.

 

Here are some actions that aren't helpful and may cause more harm:

1. Latching and unlatching repeatedly will hurt your nipple and cause bruises, cracks or bleeding. Each time the baby clenches your nipple, it injures it more.

 2. Focusing on whether baby's lips are "flanged" or "not flanged". 

3. Pushing your baby's mouth or jaw open. This action triggers a fight response and your baby clenches their mouth tighter. Nobody likes being forced to have stuff put into their mouth. Your baby has probably already had this experience and is learning each time how to prevent it from happening again.

4. Touching your baby's face, top and back of head. All these touches trigger pushing and turning reflexes which moves baby away from your breast, not toward.

5. Hunching forward. This puts your baby in an unstable position and they will clench your nipple for stability, causing you pain and injury.

 6. Using a Boppy, My Brest Friend or other nursing pillow. These are convenient once you and your baby learn how to nurse, but will get in your way right now.

 

How to get a "Good Latch.”

The easiest way to get a good latch is to lean back into a reclining postion, let the baby find your nipple, self-attach and relax into suckling and swallowing. This is also called 'the breast crawl,' 'biological nurturing' or 'laid back nursing.'

If you have tried that and it isn't working, there are probably some good reasons why. You can come back to it when your baby learns how to breastfeed a little better. 

These instructions work for any nursing hold: Cradle, cross-cradle, football and side-lying.

Help the baby take the nipple in any of the dozen ways you've been shown. If it hurts, brace yourself until, and while, you make these adjustments in positioning and posture. As soon as you and the baby are positioned correctly it will stop hurting, or at least hurt much less. It may take 10 seconds or up to a minute. Each time you feed, good postioning will be more automatic.

1. With your baby attached to your breast, lean back into a reclining or semi-reclining position

2. Roll your baby until you are "belly-to-belly"

3. Pull the baby in close with most of their body pressing into you and your belly

4. Wait for the baby to start suckling. If it hurts, even if it hurts a lot, breathe through the pain until they start to suckle rythmically.

5. While the baby is focused on nursing, start to move the baby's body into alignment. You can make as many of these adjustments as you need for comfort.

  • belly to belly (not belly up)
  • ear, shoulder and hip aligned
  • face pressed in with nose, chin and two cheeks all touching the breast
  • chin level, not tipped or tucked
  • spine straight, not in a side-to side "C"
  • baby's hands on each side of their mouth, holding the breast

Gravity holds the baby in a stable position so your baby can relax. A relaxed baby opens their mouth, drops their lower jaw and allows a mouthful of breast and your nipple to be positioned deeply in their mouth. This eases nipple pain for you.

 

Still not comfortable?

 Check your posture:

  • Leaning back, fully supported by pillows or furniture
  • Shoulders square and level, supported by the chair, bed or couch.
  • Legs parallel, not crossed
  • Feet resting on a footstool, ottoman, bed, pillows, coffee table or floor
  • Arms resting on your belly or pillows

Posture for side-lying:

  • Lie on side with a pillow under your head, behind your butt and between your knees
  • Baby lies on side, belly to belly, facing you. Roll a receving blanket and tuck it behind their back.
  • You will probably need to attach the baby while propped on your elbow, before sliding down onto your pillow

Still not comfortable?

This positioning and postural alignment improves 98% of all latches and reduces pain for most mothers. If it doesn't:

1. It may be something you and your partner are not understanding. Written words are not as clear as coaching. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. It may be that you or your baby have tension, injury or asymmetry strains, like back strain in you or jaw misalignment or tortocollis in your baby, from pregnancy and birth that can be relieved with some physical therapy, osteopathy, chiropratic, cranio-sacral therapy or massage. 

3. There may be physical tethering of the tongue, lip or cheeks (tongue tie) that can be revised with scissoring or lasering by a qualified professional such as a pediatrician, ENT or dentist.

 

Reading articles is a great way to become more educated about breastfeeding. Because nursing your baby is a learned skill, you may find some coaching helpful. Please call or text Donna Bruschi at (845) 750-4402 if you would like additional help with your latch. 

 

Understanding Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are a cry for help.

A child is totally overwhelmed and needs support. Unfortunately, few parents received support for their strong feelings as children or learned basic skills for working through a tantrum. The opportunity during a tantrum is to develop an understanding of what the child is experiencing.  Children have their own perspective on any event. A parent’s job is to help them cope with the crushing frustration and disappointment inherent in life.

The life cycle of a tantrum:

The child is trying to say, hear, receive, give, or do a certain thing.  If he is unable to complete the action he may get frustrated and start to show signs of distress. When a parent is  in tune with their  child they will pick up these early cues and help the child complete the action. If the parent misses these early cues, the child will amplify the frustration into crying, yelling, hitting or other obvious demonstrations in an attempt to get help.

In an infant, this might be a fussy baby.  The mother notices her baby squirming and fussing and starts to nurse the baby.  The tantrum is averted.  For a toddler, there might be a staircase that is attracting his attention.  The toddler can’t quite negotiate the stairs and starts to get frustrated. His dad stands behind him and directs his feet until his son is climbing safely. In a school age child, an older brother teases his younger sister, who can’t keep up with his verbal gymnastics.  She starts to yell, their mother steps in between them and affirms that the sister is furious because she is being teased. She holds a safe space and waits until everyone is calm. Then, she deals with the brother’s inappropriate behavior.

When the pre-tantrum cues are missed

The parent can still handle a tantrum with love and support. It can be a challenge to negotiate the strong feelings that come out in a tantrum. Tantrums can trigger the parent’s un-met childhood needs and can result in parents acting like children. When a parent is aware of this phenomenon, she can step back, center herself and resume the appropriate adult role. 

Step by step, here are some things parents can try: 

Stay calm, detached, and nearby--offering support as needed. (as well as protection from sharp edges, siblings, traffic, etc.) the parent may have to physically restrain or remove the child to prevent him from hurting himself and others. If the parent finds herself getting upset, it is better to make sure the child is safe, leave the room and calm down. If this is not possible, she should stop talking and breathe deeply. If this is not possible, she should try again next tantrum. She will handle tantrums better with each attempt.

The parent can reassure the child that she really wants to understand what is wrong. Help him to calm down. Only when he is reasonably calm should the parent continue. If he gets upset again, return to calming techniques.

Ask him what happened, and listen.

Listen for the facts (the situation) and listen for the feeling (the emotion.)

If he can't verbalize it, make suggestions and watch his body language for cues that you are on the right track. It may help for the parent to imagine herself in the child’s place.  Once the parent has identified the trigger, she can help the child to understand it. Common triggers are the inability to do a task or loss of a favorite toy. Other triggers are fears, punishment and separation from the parent. Aggravating factors can be exhaustion, hunger, and loud public places.

Once it seems like the parent has figured out what caused the tantrum, she can help her child to say, hear, receive, give or do what he was unable to pre-tantrum or help him work through his disappointment at not being able to say, hear, give, receive, or do it.

Babies and children have the same feelings as adults.

They want things they can't have and suffer disappointment. They are put in situations where they are scared and can't leave. Life is not perfect; some things in life are necessary and painful. It is the parent’s job to put that suffering into a context the child can understand. Parents can help their children share a negative feeling before it turns into negative behavior. 

It is important for children to learn that all feelings are appropriate and negative behaviors are not. Hitting and scratching are never acceptable and the limit must be set firmly by the parent. While some kids take a lot longer to learn how to do this, they learn because the adults in their life remind them and model this behavior. 

When a parent models great behavior, it is her opportunity to shine as a human being. Her child will learn how to behave like a better human being. Children watch their parents like hawks, mimicking their every action. A conscientious parent will attend first to her own actions and words when she witnesses her child doing something inappropriate. Her calmness will automatically help her child to behave appropriately without punishment or bad feelings.

Originally published in “Blender” La Leche League of New York-East

Are Baby Slings Safe

Are baby slings safe? The short answer is "Yes." Slings have been safely used for thousands of years.

According the the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in the past 18 years, 14 babies have died in slings. 3 of those babies died in the Infantino Sling Rider, which was recalled in 2010. Over 1 million slings from this company were taken off the market. This sling style is a "bag sling" and it is different from a "ring sling". 

This is a picture of the Infantino Sling Rider.
Infantino Sling Rider

 

 

 

 

 

The problem with bag slings is that babies can easily move into unsafe positions.
Unsafe bag sling positions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This diagram from the Consumer Products Safety Commission shows how the sling is unsafe for an infant. Babies can slide into postions where there airway collapses or is blocked. They are also in positions where the adult can't see their face or feel them breathing.

They further explain it in this video. Consumer Products Safety Commission video

They do not recommend the use of a sling for infants under 4 months.

There are safe ways to carry a baby in a sling from birth up. Use the following guidelines for safety.

1. Baby's belly is towards the adult.

2. Baby is in the frog position or "M" position with their butt lower than their knees.

3. Baby's head is close enough to kiss

4. Baby's face is visible at all times. 

 

The following video shows how to safely wear a baby in a Sakura Bloom ring sling from birth up.

Proper Infant Positioning in a Baby Sling

How to Have a Great Milk Supply

...even if your breasts are small, even if you have twins, even if you're worried.

The secret to an abundant milk supply is frequent, active feeds. For newborns and even many older babies, this usually means 12-16 feeds in 24 hours. When weight gain is steady, predictable and feedings are easier, it's ok to drop to 8-12 feeds in 24 hours, if your baby is content doing so.

Pay attention to the baby's sucking and behavior.

When babies are rooting or looking hungry, they probably need to breastfeed, even if they don't need to "eat." If you aren't sure, it's fine to offer your breast. You can't overfeed a breastfed baby! We aren't used to breastfed babies and often moms will compare breastfed babies with formula fed babies who typically eat every 3 or 4 hours.

If we remember that a baby's stomach is the size of their fist and that breastmilk is digested easily, it makes sense that they would eat frequently. But why is this important? For one, humans are species that carries its babies. Frequent feeding is easy to accomplish when you carry your baby everywhere you go.

Another reason is that breastfeeding is so much more than food for a baby. It's a source of comfort, connection and soothing. It is a way of feeding that fills all five senses at once and gives both mother and baby a dose of oxytocin, the love hormone.

When we look at other species, it's easier to understand the unique qualities of human milk. 

Cows grow about 1000 pounds in the first year. Their milk is highest in protein because this is the essential nutrient for muscle and bone growth. Whales live in the ocean, which is cold. In order to thrive, they have a thick layer of blubber. Their milk is highest in fat.

Humans develop their brains during the first year. Human milk is full of special sugars that feed brain cells. In addition, constant engagement with the mother means that with every feed, their brain is connecting neural pathways. Breastfeeding means that babies smell, taste, see, hear, and feel their mom. Each sip is not just a sip! It is a brain-bursting experience! 

Don’t wait to feed!

One of the biggest misconceptions I run into is "waiting for breasts to fill up" before you feed your baby. The fastest way to make abundant milk is to keep your breasts empty. Empty breasts signal your body to make milk while full ones tell your body to stop making milk.

It's like being at a buffet. When the serving dishes get low, a waiter keeps bringing new ones. If no one eats anything, the tray just sits there. Your body will continue reabsorbing and producing fresh milk, so, unlike the buffet, the milk is always fresh and ready to eat, but over time, you will make less and less milk. Your baby may show signs of hunger and be less content. Their weight will plateau or drop.

In the early days and months, you will feel your breasts filling and emptying. Between 4 and 6 months, the amount of milk you make between feeds decreases. In other words, you won't feel as full. Your body starts to make most of the milk when the baby sucks, rather than between feeds.

Increasing your milk without pumping or galatagogues

If your baby doesn’t seem hungry, and also, is not gaining or only slowly gaining weight, increase the number of feeds in every day using a "mother led growth spurt." Many babies actually prefer to feed every hour or two all the way through the first year and beyond. A good rule of thumb is if your baby is gaining weight and staying on their curve, 8-12 feeds a day is fine. If they aren’t gaining, or they seem to need more, nurse 12-16 times in 24 hours.

A practice that goes along with this is switching sides frequently. A sleepy baby can suckle gently on one side for an hour and receive little or no measurable milk. If you watch them feeding and switch sides soon after they are done gulping, they will receive more milk with less effort. You may feed on each side several times and notice that each time, their sucking happens in short bursts and then slows down.

If your baby suddenly seems hungry after a few weeks of predictable feeding, follow their cues and feed as much as they want - it's normal and nothing to worry about - it's called "frequency days" or "growth spurts". After a few days of nursing more frequently, you should notice more fullness in your breasts and hear more swallowing when they breastfeed.

Worrying about having enough milk may be the #1 worry of all new mothers! 

Research shows that only 1 to 3% of women should worry about it! The first step, and frequently the shortcut, to a bountiful supply of milk is to offer your baby the breast frequently and encourage your baby to drink as much milk as they can. If you are worried, ask for guidance so that you can be really sure your baby is getting enough milk.

Conventional advice of nursing 10-20 minutes on each side is correct in one way- most babies do nurse about this long - but it does not take into account the QUALITY of the session. Watch the baby - when they are getting milk, you should hear gulping, see the jaw moving. and feel a rhythmic pull on your nipple.

How frequently you feed your baby is always the first benchmark to compare if you feel you need to increase the amount of milk you make.

If you feel anxious, check your baby's weight once a week. Ask to make an appointment at your pediatrician’s office, buy a scale or drop in to New Baby New Paltz any time we are open. We have a scale next to the changing table and a 3 ring notebook if you want to keep a chart.