Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Importance of Swaddling

Swaddling has undergone a lot of recent praise, and more and more doctors and childcare experts are encouraging new parents to swaddle their infants. I’m all for it! Swaddling is a wonderful way to help your baby sleep better, and for the more anxious baby to learn to assimilate sounds more easily and with less stress.

First, some questions and answers about swaddling:

Q: Will swaddling my baby impair her development in any way?
A: Nope! Swaddling is safe and effective, and very comforting to most babies. In many parts of the world, babies are kept swaddled for almost 100% of their first 6 months to one year, and longer. These babies have the same developmental abilities as non-swaddled babies.

Q: How much of the day should my baby be swaddled?
A: As much as you feel like your baby needs/wants. I love to encourage some tummy time after baby is a few weeks old, but if he’s happy in his swaddle, its okay!

Q: At what age should we stop swaddling?
A: Baby will tell you! When baby starts getting out of her swaddle in the night and not waking up, or getting herself back to sleep, she’s done with the swaddle. She may still like it for falling asleep, but there’s no reason to get up in the night to re-swaddle.

Q: My baby has started rolling over in the night and sleeping on her tummy. Is this okay, and should I still swaddle her?
A: Once your baby can consistently turn herself over, it’s fine to let her sleep on her tummy. Swaddling is up to you. I’d try it both ways, and see what works best.

Q: How tight should the swaddle be? I do it very tight, my husband does it very loose, in concern for her being able to breathe.
A: I swaddle very tightly. I wish I had a way to put a diagram, but here’s a description of how I swaddle.
First, choose a blanket that is larger than a receiving blanket, and preferably one that stretches somewhat. The thinner the better for this purpose. Put the blanket on the floor in a diamond shape. Take the top point of the diamond and fold it down just a bit, about 6 inches. This is where baby’s head will be above, and her shoulders lined up along the top edge of the blanket. Choosing one arm, take the point of the blanket on that side. Take the blanket and wrap it around baby’s arm, so that the forearm and hand are wrapped inside the blanket. Take that arm and pull it and the blanket across her chest. Tuck very tightly and firmly under her back on the other side. Then, take the point of the blanket at the feet and put up over the blanket fold you just made. Then, take the last point, wrap her arm and hand again, and pull firmly and tuck under her back. Voila! A baby burrito! Baby may fuss a little while getting swaddled, but if all goes well, she’ll quiet down very quickly. Practicing this on a baby doll may be a good idea, or even a pillow, so baby doesn’t get irritated with repeated attempts. I’m not a big fan of store bought pre-shaped swaddling blankets with Velcro, etc, as they just don’t fit every baby, and usually aren’t tight enough.

A client of mine, Mary, brought her baby home after a successful and relatively easy birth. After a few sleepy days, baby Jill got very fussy, easily upset, and startled constantly, leaving everyone anxious and over stimulated and tired! After showing them a good tight swaddle, I talked with them about how to help Jill learn to assimilate her new environment more easily. Swaddling was the first key. The second was to talk to her as she heard new sounds, naming them and letting her know what they meant. It may seem strange to talk like this with and infant, but it helps baby immensely. It sounds something like this:
“Oh, you hear the phone ring. Yes, that’s the phone. It rings a lot. People are calling to find out about you! The phone is okay; it’s safe and won’t hurt you. You’re okay.” While talking, keep you voice calm and steady, and your face and body as well. Jane is looking to you to show her how to respond to things in her life. By giving her information in these many ways, she will quickly learn to do so for herself, by recognizing sounds and she’ll soothe herself more easily. If you’re startled too, for instance by a car backfiring, acknowledge that as well. “Oh! That startled me! That was a car backfiring. It was loud and hurt my ears. It’s okay though, we’re safe.” Follow with a sigh and relaxing of the body.

By doing this, Baby Jill learned by her family’s example how to more easily assimilate sounds. She’s much more peaceful and at ease now.

Swaddling also helped Baby Jill startle less in her sleep. She would startle strongly, her arms thrusting out in front of her and she’d wake abruptly and cry. In her swaddle, she’d startle, but her arms would be kept close to her, so she wouldn’t fully wake, if at all.

Swaddling is a wonderful tool. I hope it helps you and your new baby!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Involving your children in your day

Have you noticed that your kids tend to have difficult leave-takings (saying goodbyes)? Do they throw tantrums when it's time to leave the park, go to school, leave a friend's house, run errands?

I believe that the main causes of this are two things.

1)They aren't given proper warning before it's time to leave places. A great example of how to do this:

Parent: "Anne, we get to play at the park for 10 more minutes. What would you like to do before we go?"
"Anne, we're going in 5 minutes. Have you done everything you wanted to do at the park?"
"Anne, we're off in two minutes to get our grocery shopping done and then go home. Time to say goodbyes to the park and gather our things."
"Bye bye park! thanks for the fun!"

Using this method, your child may still express sadness at leaving, or frustration at wanting to play longer, but rarely will they tantrum.

2)They don't know how the day will go. Kids want to be involved in the day's plan. They want to have some impact on it, and have some predictability in their day.

Every night before bedtime I suggest verbally laying out the following day for them. This would be something like:

Parent: "Anne, tomorrow is a school day. We'll get ready for school and head out the door early in the morning for school. What would you like in your lunchbox?

Allow Anne to have input.

Parent: "After I pick you up from school, we're going to have some free time. What would you like to do? Go to the park, the library, or play at home?"

Allow Anne to input.

Parent: "If it's raining, the library or at home play will need to be chosen instead of the park, huh."

Anne will most likely agree, or you can set a healthy limit, or plan to bring rain gear and see what the park is like in the rain!

Parent: "After play time, we'll need to stop at the grocery store to get dinner. What would you like for dinner, broccoli or green beans?"

Allowing Anne a choice between two things you approve of is a great idea! (She may say "neither" then you can ask if she wants to choose or if you should).

Parent: "After the store we're heading home and I'll make dinner while you do your homework (or chores, whichever she needs to do.), and after dinner it's time for bath and then bed."

Anne has received an overview of her day, allowing her input on things that are optional, and thus respecting her and her preferences, ideas, wishes and dreams.

I would suggest reviewing the plan on waking, and at each transition point between changing environments. This doesn't have to be a full overview, just a little reminder of what's coming next:

Parent: "I'll see you after school, and we'll go to the park!"

I find that children have much more joy in their days when they know what to expect, have input in their lives, and have opportunities to influence their parents. When possible, I love to give kids the "run of the day". They get to choose what to do, when to do it, and how. What fun, and great learning for them! Of course, the parents are in charge, but by giving your child the reins for the day they get to have a wonderful experience, and pride in choosing a great day for the family.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How do I get my kids to behave in a restaurant?

This is such a common question asked of me by parents. Usually, by parents of toddlers (ages 1-3 ish). My question in return is usually "Why do they need to behave in restaurants?"

Toddlers have a very short attention span. They love novelty, activity, explanations about the things they see. They want to touch and see everything that catches their interest, then move on. I'd say that whole process takes about 2 minutes. Toddlers like food that is easy for them to eat, that is tasty to them, and not much of it most days. I'm always amazed at the tiny amount of food toddlers can survive on! There are days they might eat two bites of toast, and the next eat two hot dogs plus three meals. You just never know.

In contrast, sitting down to a restaurant meal entails, well, sitting. Have you noticed your toddler hates to sit still? Also, they're being asked to be quiet. Have you noticed your toddler being voluntarily quiet much, except when sleeping? Add to this toddler-unfriendly expectation new food, new surroundings they aren't allowed to explore, new people they can't talk with, or who are scary... Why do you think that should be something your toddler should enjoy? Developmentally, it's just bad timing.

I went out to thai food just last night. Two booths away from myself and my mom was a family of 4, mom, dad, a two year old in a high chair and an infant. As we were seated, the toddler was and apparently, been enjoying his right to say "no" and doing so loudly. He was screaming every few seconds in response to what mom and dad were telling him to do. As I glanced over, I saw dad put his hand over the toddler's mouth to shush him and told him that if he yelled, he'd get his book taken away and he wouldn't be able to watch "blues clues". Ouch. In light of what I wrote above, can you see the issues at hand?

1)Toddler was done sitting, so was agitated and not having any fun.
2)Toddler was expressing himself, only to be shushed.
3)He was being told to eat food he didn't want - he said "no" clearly, and they still tried to make him eat it. This is such a bad idea, parents!
4)Dad was using threats to try and make him behave. Threats are the most useless, non-respectful thing you can do as a parent. Please, if you say you're going to do something, you'd better be willing to follow through and do it! Your child needs you to be predictable. Also, that method of parenting doesn't generally get any results at all out of toddlers besides defiance.

When going out to meals with toddlers, choose noisy places where food is fast, yummy and toddler accessible. Getting up and running around should be an option. Even better? Get take-out and have a picnic. When your toddler (more likely, 4 year old and older) requests going out to a restaurant, that is when it's developmentally appropriate to start teaching restaurant behavior. Even better, start at home where you can make meals more like a restuarant setting (play make-believe) and they can practice. Don't expect them to learn in one experience! Repetition is the key to successful learning.

Friday, June 17, 2005

No means no, or don't say it!

A client of mine, Jane, uses the word "no" more than any other word in her vocabulary, she thinks. It just jumps out of her mouth before she even thinks about what the answer might actually be. A nasty habit she's trying hard to break.
The main problem with this is that when we say "no", I believe it should be a firm "no", non-negotiable. When we as parents say "no" and then, no matter how it happens, end up saying "yes" instead, we become unbelievable to our children. We're teaching them that we're not trustworthy, and we don't mean what we say. Ouch. That is not the message any parent wants to deliver.

A great example of this is a parent and child grocery shopping. The child, Ben, says "Mom, I want a cookie." Mom says "No, Ben. We're heading home for dinner soon." Ben says, much louder, "But I want a cookie!" Mom says, "Ben, you can't yell inside the store. I said no cookie." Ben yells, "I WANT A COOKIE!" Mom, embarrased at her yelling child, says "Okay! Just be quiet!"

1)What did Mom do? Gave a firm no, then with a second request, repeats no, but this time with extra information about something else Ben can't have, then when Ben escalates to a full yell, she gives in and says yes.

2)What has Ben learned? Getting a cookie is a three step process.

If not having a cookie before dinner is something you're clear about, then try this instead: Ben says "Mom, I want a cookie." Mom says "Me too! How about having a cookie after dinner?" Ben says "But I want a cookie now!" Mom says "I hear that. I want one now too. And our choice is to have one after dinner." Ben yells "I WANT A COOKIE NOW!" Mom says "Ben, yelling in the store is not okay. It's unpleasant for me, as well as the other people shopping. I said we could have cookies after dinner. If you continue to yell, we'll have to leave the store, and then we won't have the ingredients to make cookies."

1)What did Mom do? She responded to Ben's request with a "yes...and" statement instead of a sharp "no" statement. Why say no to the request when it's reasonable? Let them know when exactly it can happen. Most kids get so excited at hearing the yes, they won't escalate like Ben did the second time.
I wanted to show how you could handle the classic grocery store escalation, though. Mom stayed calm, and explained to Ben the two natural consequences to his yelling. 1. Other people were not enjoying him, which is hard for a child. They want to be enjoyed and given positive attention. 2. Leaving the store, with no cookie makings. Did Ben need more structure than this? Did he need to be Disciplined? I don't think so. I think he got two very clear, very unpleasant consequences from his behaviour already. I'd be more excited about talking to him about how we negotiate, and how to know when i'm using a firm statement and when I'm willing to consider doing it his way, or finding a compromise.
2) What did Ben learn? Ben learned that Mom is going to follow through with what she says. If she says they'll have to leave the store, and he keeps yelling, she'd better leave the store. If she says they won't have cookies because he yelled, he'd better not get a cookie.

Following through with your words, and using words other than "no" when possible helps children to learn to trust you, your words, and to learn about how the world around them works. Saving the word "no" will give it alot more meaning and value when you do use it. What a valuable lesson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Welcome to Conscious Parenting

Hi and welcome to Conscious Parenting. I am Schyler Mason, Professional Postpartum Doula and Certified Gottman Educator.

Conscious Parenting is what I teach both through my practice as a Doula as well as through Dr. John gottman's teachings, of raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child. Conscious Parenting is a method of parenting that promotes awareness and acknowledgement of your own children's unique individuality. Conscious Parenting helps you as a parent to have healthy attachment with your child while providing them with structured, loving and healthy boundaries. What I hope to provide in this forum is an alternative to being reliant on just one form of parenting, on following one "expert's" advice, and instead providing you with information, evidence and anecdotes that will allow you to create your own perfect parenting method, custom fit for you and your family.
I look forward to sharing problem solving ideas, new ways of healthy communication with your children and partner, and tips for more ease in your day to day parenting.
In 14 years of professional childcare I have experienced every type of family out there. Each family creates a unique culture unto themselves, that fits for them and only them. There is an infinite number of ways to parent, and to be a family. Knowing this, I encourage you to take what information applies to you and your beliefs and values, and discard the rest. Indeed, I hope you do this with everything in your life. As we honor our individuality, we learn more to honor our children's.
I invite you to contact me through my website, www.seattlebabies.com, and to comment here.