Category Archives: infant

Too Much on Your Plate

My boyfriend wanted a finger foods dinner so baby could enjoy everything with us. We had sundried tomato/rosemary ham and cheese roll ups with avocado, cucumber tomato salad, stuffed mushrooms and zucchini, and apple slices with peanut butter. Plus lobster tail because it was on sale. Tasty.

We gave Zander (9 months old today) a bit of everything. He was having a wonderful time, then he started losing it all of the sudden. What was going on?

I took everything off his table and wiped it down. He calmed down. From there, I placed one thing on his table at a time and he enjoyed everything.

This was another ringing endorsement of simplicity for little ones. Of course, one could argue he is used to simplicity so he responds better to it, but I think he is a calm, content baby at least in part because there is never anything crazy going on around him.

There is a good deal of research indicating that clutter and busyness lead to stress. If research found otherwise, we would all be suspect of it. Intuitively, we get that too much outside feels like too much inside.

Simplicity for our children is not where the trend should end, though. All of us need to simplify, and not just for our children’s sake. Simpler environments, simpler schedules, and simpler relationships help our core remain steady.

For children, this means limiting their options, not taking choice away. We have four books for Zander. I give him two to choose from each day. I want to give him choices and responsibility where ever I can. To truly do that, I have to respect where he is developmentally.

Babywearing

Babywearing is extremely important in my life. It was a crucial part of my parenting philosophy going in. I put a heavy emphasis on independent play, but babies are young. They need you. They don’t like to have time alone.

Babywearing is what has allowed me to do what I want to do with my child in tow.

Stranger Danger

It has been amazing to watch Zander reach developmental milestones. The first time he grabbed something, the first time he propped himself up on his arms, the first time he smiled.

He has recently hit another milestone: a bit of stranger danger. He knows who he knows and who he doesn’t. He knows he is separate from me. He understands that he can be left alone—he does not care for it.

Carrying has become more important than ever. Only a few weeks ago, I could see him across the room from me, and he would be happy to maybe see me. Maybe hear my voice.

He no longer accepts these crumbs. He wants all of the mommy, all of the time.

sweet baby

Frustration

While this can be overwhelming for people, I believe that a lot of the discomfort of it comes from trying to accomplish tasks while leaving your baby alone. When I have tried to approach things this way, I can feel myself getting frustrated.

Not at my child, but at the situation.

There is something that I want to do, or need to do, that I cannot get done.

I firmly believe that my son is the number one thing I need take care of.

But, can I breathe?

“Attachment” Parenting

All of this frustration completely evaporates away when I wear him. This frees my hands to accomplish almost anything.

I want to make this clear: I don’t believe babywearing his how you create a secure attachment. The science doesn’t support it. You don’t need to practice the 7 B’s of Dr. Sears Attachment Parenting–birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bed sharing, beware baby trainers, read baby’s cues, set boundaries—to create a secure attachment in your baby.

I practice all of those 7 B’s. Only one of them is necessary: Responding sensitively and consistently to baby’s cues.

This is the only thing that can create a secure attachment.

If you breastfeed but never lock eyes and smile at her;

if you bed share but ignore her cry,

then your child will have difficulty creating a secure attachment.

If you bottle feed but engage your child,

look when she is pointing,

and mirror her emotions,

you are in a better place to create a secure attachment than a breastfeeding mother who is not present.

Why Babywearing?

I put forward babywearing as a practical way to get your child’s needs met. That’s our job as parents. There physical needs, emotional needs, and social needs.

After that, they should absorb our world. Their lives revolve around ours, not the other way around.

Children follow adults, not the other way around.

To this end, I wear my baby. I have walks to take, cooking to do, books to write, and floors to clean.

If I left Zander by himself on the bed, he would complain.

Understandably.

I would need to then drop what I was doing, and respond to him.

This takes you out of the state of flow. It makes the day feel broken up and more difficult.

Safety

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There are babywearing precautions that you should take. You should be trying to do exercises that strengthen your back and correct your alignment.

There are a few simple exercises for this. Do wall angles, pelvic tilts, and ragdoll pose regularly. Do TA contractions muscles before and after putting on baby.

Check here for more tips.

Even if you do not decide to baby wear, these basic exercises will still be helpful for your postpartum body. Breastfeeding mothers, in particular, will benefit. None of them are serious workouts. I’ve also attached the beginning of the series on alignment that you can look at.

For more on posture alignment, watch this video series.

I use the Ergo 360 and a Hip Baby woven wrap.

 and Tell me how you feel about babywearing!

What carrier or wrap do you use? Do you have any tips about babywearing or fitness for mothers?

What is one exercise for alignment you can dedicate yourself to doing once a week?

 

babies are people

Babies Are People

Because they don’t talk. Because we support them. Because they need so much. Because we are all they have.

It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to remember that our babies are people too. They have their own needs, wants, and struggles.

Difficult Times

My partner experienced this recently when he kindly offered to take our four-month-old son for a while so could relax.

Our four-month-old sleep-regression-and-developmental-leap-having son.

He was not the easiest he has ever been.

My boyfriend remarked in his wisdom that he could see how people sometimes forget that babies are people.

My boyfriend, obviously, is not alone in this. We had spoken about it. I have had that feeling. We all have that feeling.

Little Baby “Thoughts”

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While we’ll never know exactly what babies think—although that’s not quite the right word—I try to put myself in their shoes. I try to think of having a pain and not knowing how to resolve it. I try to think of being alone and not knowing if I’ll ever see anyone again. I try to think of needing help, and the people I care for most withholding.

Of course, my son’s thoughts are nowhere close to this coherent. Babies are people, too, but he has just come out of creature mode. He is just waking up to the world. His emotional system is just coming online, and he can begin to respond with reactions other than fight, flight, freeze or faint.

But even without the cognition, the important thing is there. The feelings are there.

And to me, they sound very difficult and very frustrating.

No Theory of Mind

I try not to go in the other direction, either. There are people who prescribe far more cognitive abilities to children than they have. I probably tend on this side, though I can usually catch myself.

Infants don’t have a theory of mind—they don’t know that you’re making choices and thinking thoughts different and independent from theirs. They don’t understand your motivations.

When my son is uncomfortable or in pain, I sometimes wonder if he is thinking, “Why won’t you just solve this? You’re so big, so strong. You can do so much. Please make this pain stop.”

But he doesn’t think that. He just feels: “I don’t want this!”

As he ages, he may start assigning blame. It will have to do with his temperament, and the sort of culture we set up in our household. Whether he blames me, himself, the world, or realizes that there is no need to sign blame, our ideas and attitudes towards are discomfort are going to have some effect on him.

Being Present

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But for now, my goal is just to remember that he is a person. He is not an inanimate objects that I can force my desires on, and he is not a full grown adult prescribing malintent. He’s neither a manipulative psychopath trying to pull from me every resource that I have nor plant requiring just a bit of water and a touch of sun.

All that I can do is respond consistently to his cues. This doesn’t mean perfectly, and this doesn’t mean immediately. It means recognizing that he is trying to communicate his needs and wants to me and responding to them sensitively.

Sometimes, he will cry while he is in my arms, but if he is with me, he will be fine. And if I can see him and stay with him there without demanding he feel some other way, then I will, too.

 

Self-Care, in the Name of Your Child

One of the most common complaints among parents and everyone else is that they can’t afford the time to do what they need to do, let alone extra time.

And one of the most common refrains of motivational speakers is, of course, “You can’t afford not to!”

The motivational speakers are right. But just saying that you need to make time doesn’t actually allow you to have that time. What you need to do is help you and your child build the skills necessary that time to yourself is possible with your children around.

It is great if you have someone around in the family, or have hired help, or a friend who is able to take your kids a few times a week. You are lucky and you should utilize the time you have wisely.

But making time for yourself while your child is under your care alone isn’t just about you. It isn’t even just about your relationship to your child. It is also about him and his skills and abilities.

Children need to learn how to entertain themselves. As adults, we know how to occupy our own time without having anyone telling us directly what we need to do. If we are lucky, we built those skills in childhood.

But robbed of this opportunity, many don’t learn until after they leave college and need to make decisions for the bulk of the day without anyone’s help. Some make it their whole lives, going from toddlerhood, to school, to college, to work, always having someone telling them to do, or worrying about what they will do in those hours, for a huge part of their day. They use their alone time only to recoup for the next shift.

Give your child the gift of self-entertainment. With this may come a possibility of boredom, but that is okay. Depending on which line of thought you adhere to, boredom can be (1) a healthy time to breathe, calm down, reorganize, and recoup; or (2) it can be a sign that you are not good at self-entertainment. In which case, this is the time in which your child can build that skill.

While setting goals for our children and our alone time, we need to be realistic about what is developmentally-appropriate as well as what is skill-appropriate. There are many 18-month-olds who are happy to play alone for 20-40 minutes at a time. There is not doubt that with the proper entertainment (A pikler triangle, crayons, pattern blocks, stacking cups, etc.) these toddlers can spend a chunk of time by themselves without needing our input—especially in a Yes! Space.

But what if your little one has never had to entertain him or herself. Will it work to leave an 18-month-old for half an hour who has never spent 5 minutes by himself?

It will depend on him and his personality, which only you know. But you don’t need to assume. You can just try.

Start with 5 minutes. I suggest taking this 5 minutes to do a meditation or some stretching, something to keep you grounded. See how this session goes. Maybe you thought he would cry and he’s fine. Maybe you thought he’d cope without a problem, but is struggling. Whatever it is, accept that it is his reaction.

But wait the 5-minutes. You can call out to him that you’ll be there soon. Look in the door real quick to assure him you’re still there.

5 minutes is not going to do long term damage to your baby or your relationship with him. Often, we project our fears and anxieties onto our children, and this is a disservie to everyone involved.

Continue these 5 minute increments until everyone is comfortable and you can move to 10 minutes.

Then 15.

Then 20.

I’ve known 4 month olds to entertain themselves up to 20 minutes. Your toddler can do it as he gets more comfortable with the fact that you’ll come back, that he is safe, that he has the skills he needs to be alone.

While this period of learning may be a bit painful—possibly more for the parent than the child—this initial investment into means that in the long run, you will have a space most days to do a little bit of self-care, and that will allow you to parent from the place that you want.

It will also give your child the important skills of coping with boredom, being alone with themselves, creating their own entertainment, and it will cultivate a sense of autonomy and competence in problem-solving.

These truly are things you can’t afford not to give yourself. Your child needs these skills to thrive, as well as a parent who is present.

This is Enough

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Frustrated, but fine.

That is enlightenment. This is no desire.

When we look to become mindful, to be more at peace with ourselves, it means focusing on our meta-cognition.

Anyone who has had depression or anxiety will be familiar with this. Anyone who has had a fight with a loved one that they wish they hadn’t gotten into. Anyone who has made a small mistake and berated themselves for it.

You are depressed because you are depressed. You are anxious because you are anxious. You can see yourself answering snidely to your partner and can’t stop. You are beating yourself up and making more mistakes because you’re so focused on the mistake that you made.

This is one level above regular thinking. One level below regular thinking is feeling. One level below that is surviving—the part of us that goes into fight, flight, freeze, or faint. That lizard brain that tells you if something is an emergency or not is nestled below all of these other layers, and we can’t reach it.

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Here though, on the metacognitive level, at the top of all those layers we have some control. Although it isn’t complete, it is a skill we can build. There is a feedback system. Training our most conscious level of thought trains our everyday-brain, the decision-brain. Once we feel consciously that we can make decisions, our feeling-brain will calm down and then, maybe, just maybe, our lizard brain will start to frame the world differently. Maybe it stop identifying everything as an intense.

Reaching deep down into those levels requires you to be gentle to yourself, to accept that you might always feel on edge. But that you can deal with it and you aren’t bad for it.. You are going to be sad, mad and glad. You are going to be tired, tried, tortured, and taken for granted. You have to accept that this is the task you were granted as a person, and as a mother.

What’s more, you’ve been tasked to be completely okay with it.

To say: this is enough.

To say: No desire.

One of the most common problems that people have when they discover mindfulness or meditation is they want badly to do it right. Multiplying this problem is that they have no clue what a good meditation would look like. Solidifying it is that they’re coming from a place of wanting, and they know it.

Let me demystify meditation. You can’t do it wrong. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. Even if you think during meditation, “Is this a good meditation?” you still have not ruined it. You’ll have a better go of it if you can let go of that idea, but in any case, the answer is: That’s not a thing. You aren’t supposed to feel at peace. Get rid of the idea that it will happen.

Right then, all you’re supposed to be doing is looking, from this top rung of the ladder, at what your brain is doing, and calling your attention back to the breath.

Right then, in that mindful minute, when you feel your face getting red and water behind your eyes, all you’re supposed to do is say: This is what is happening. This is fine. This is enough, I am enough.

You will still cry.

Right then, when your baby is crying, and you’ve done all the things that you can do to soothe him, you’re supposed to feel your heart breaking, feel the alarms going off in your head, and say: This is fine. This is enough. There is not a problem here.

Baby will still cry.

But the point is not to stop your crying, or baby crying; it isn’t even to stop feeling sad about your hurting baby or aching heart. It’s only to say: This is fine.

Not passively, not before you’ve done what you can to resolve the situation. If you’ve remedied all physical possibilities, then your mindfulness is the next step towards a resolution. Once the actions were taken and the pain is there and there’s nothing left to do, just say: This is enough.
Journal Questions:

  1. What emotion do I have the hardest time accepting in myself?
  2. What emotion do I have the hardest time accepting in my child?

Practice:

  1. When baby cries or your toddler begins a tantrum, try to look at him or her and not react for 1 whole minute. Just breathe and say it is okay.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

monkey see

When we take an evolutionary look at ourselves, it becomes easier to forgive ourselves for our follies and foibles. It makes it possible to keep in mind what our default settings are, and once we are aware of something, we can often do something to stop, change or leverage it.

I have talked before about how in our evolutionary past, it was much easier to raise children because there was a fixed number of possibilities in their world, and how that is no longer the case. I’m here to give everyone another out concerning the difficulty of parenting: you were never taught how to parent.

Modeling is one of the most important things that we do for our children. Monkey see, monkey do; not monkey hear, monkey do. Modeling is also how we learn most skills. A cursory thought will make it clear that watching other people perform tasks well helps you learn quicker than reading about them.

If our brains are made primarily to reflect the models that we see, both to construct an image of the world we live in and to grow into it, I want to ask you one thing: What models did you have for parenting?

I am not saying your parents were bad parents. Either they were wonderful, or you’re here making sure you don’t repeat what you feel are their mistakes. Or both.

The point is, even if you had excellent parents, how many times did you see children being raised? If you include yourself, once. On the right tail of this bell curve would be someone growing up in a day care, and in the middle someone with a few siblings.

In the past, you saw parenting modeled again and again. Because society was largely out in the open, not behind closed doors in the absolute nuclear family, we had a lot more information at our disposal.

Now, we don’t know what’s normal. Is my baby sleeping too much? Are they supposed to be this gassy? Are this many tantrums okay? Shouldn’t he be developmental milestone-ing by now?

There is a huge amount of anxiety that would be reduced if we just spent time around families as we were growing up. If we had a large variety of responses modeled for us. But we don’t.

Parenting obviously isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are customs passed down, cultural norms, and variation. Did you see some women breastfeed their baby on both boobs during one a feeding? Only one breast? In the cradle hold, football hold, side lying? Did you see some women burp their baby by patting their backs, by gently rocking them up and down, by sitting them bent over your knees, by laying them across your lap? How hard should you hit babies back if you’re burping him? What counts as shaking?

Did you ever see the colic hold?

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How do you take care of a penis? Is your intact boys penis supposed to balloon with pee like that? (Yes.)

Infant care in particular is daunting because people want to present their babies perfectly. As well as internal motivation, the fear of child protective services looms large for many people. Dread around germs also daunts most of us, and sometimes rationally so because we are in such close quarters with so many in our cities.

These are all concerns that would virtually never materialize in an evolutionary environment, and as such, your anxiety would be reduced. With reduced anxiety, it would be easier to remain unruffled.

We lack tribes, which would not only give us a greater sense of community, but more information on the task at hand. In light of this, I suggest spending a lot of time around other moms with an open dialogue about how you handle different issues. Instead of reading it online, you might actually see it modeled. This is an essential part of learning for us.

The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers. Be a giver. If there are younger women in your neighborhood who are interested in having children of their own, be open and honest with them about what your struggles are, and show them how you approach common baby problems: sleep, diaper rash, pottying, etc.

We have lost a lot when we lost our communities: modeling, predictability, and togetherness. We know that we should show, not tell, to our children. The flip side is also true. See if you can be shown, not told, what to do.

Journal Questions:

  1. What is a quality that I need to model for my child more?
  2. What examples did I see of parenting before I became a parent? What was useful? What was not?

Practice

  1. Get together with one mother that you know and ask her to show you how to do something that you’re struggling with.