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The Myth of Sleeping Through The Night

Waking every hour or two to nurse ALL NIGHT LONG. Ugh. Whether you do it for a few days because your baby is teething or have been doing it for months or years, it takes a toll on you.

Sick of it? Probably.
Cranky? Yes.
Tired? Definitely.

First, I'd like to address some common misconceptions:

Myth # 1 Formula fed babies sleep through the night. Some do, some don't. Formula is harder to digest so babies do stay fuller longer. Formula fed babies have completely different sleep cycles from their parents. That's why experts recommend that parents who formula feed do not share a bed with their baby.

Myth #2 Sleeping through the night is a desired outcome. You really don't want your baby sleeping all night until they are 9 months or older because their brains are not fully developed. Some babies go to sleep, forget to breathe and can't wake themselves to breathe. This is SIDS and it's different from suffocation or overlaying. Things that help the baby wake to breathe are breastfeeding, sleeping with the parents in the same bed (if breastfeeding) or room (if not).

Myth #3 "Everyone else is sleeping through the night." In 14 years of counseling mothers, I have met a number of babies who slept well from birth until 3-4-5 months when they started teething. I have met a only handful of babies who are good sleepers even through that period. Many babies settle down to predictable naps and 4-5 hour stretches at night by 9-12 months with occasional interruptions for growth spurts, teething, or overstimulation.

Some babies are not good sleepers. What I have found these babies have in common is one or more of the following:

    Parents who are not good sleepers
    Disharmony in family relationships
    Stress from moving, unemployment, siblings, etc.
    Mom working
    Lack of nursing limits

I'll just cover the last two for now. If Mom is working, many babies catch up on their "mom time" at night. Being connected is essential for babies to survive. It's not just something nice to have. It is essential. It's hard to accept and usually something has to give. Either go to bed earlier, get some domestic help, let things go or work less. This really is important to do for the first year or so.

When your baby is about a year and eating a good amount of complementary food, you can start setting nursing limits. If you plan on weaning around a year, this will come naturally because you are clear that you want to end the breastfeeding relationship. You understand your baby may fuss and find ways to deal with it.

If you would like to have Baby-Led Weaning, you may find yourself in conflict because babies usually don't agree with you refusing to nurse. Up to this point you have probably nursed whenever and wherever. You can give yourself permission to set some limits on nursing. When you start with little requests, you keep the balance in your nursing relationship. Up until now, you have given and given. Your baby can learn basic principles of human relations in a gentle way.

Here are some things to try:

Substitution:  Nursing is a fast way to get calories. Limiting nursing will mean a hungry baby if you don't keep them fed and watered.
Distraction: A howling fire engine racing by wins hands down over nursing. Keep a supply of novel, or huggy distractions at hand.
More Love: Make a point of snuggling, smootching, holding, and wearing your toddler without nursing.
Not here, Not Now. When your toddler can understand, you can insist on, "No nursing in the store." "No nursing in the dark." "You can have milk now and nursing next time." "You can nurse until the count of 10 or the ABC song." "You must keep my shirt on."

This is an important skill to learn. It helps your baby feel secure and it helps you feel good as a mom.

My Love to you and your family,
(845) 750-4402

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The Loneliest Time

One of the loneliest times in a new mother's life is in that 2nd or 3rd month after birth. By then, life with a new baby has settled into a routine, (even if it is totally unpredictable). Most moms are healed physically, their milk supply seems to be consistent and their baby is awake for longer periods. The cards, gifts and dinners have slowed to a trickle. For most mothers, its still too early to think about going back to work.

One day, many moms wake up, look around their neighborhood, and wonder who else has a baby. It comes as a surprise to find that most people who live nearby are at work. Your old friends mostly don't have babies and don't "get it". Your baby is definitely too young for the playground.

I was that new mom, once! And that is why there is a New Baby New Paltz.

When Baby Drives You to the Edge

crying babyWhat do you do when your baby drives you to the edge?

You know, the point where you say, "I can't take it any more!!!" and "Why me?"  You feel so frustrated and angry and more than anything else, guilty, because: "She's only a little baby!"

I heard a story from a dad that has stuck with me.

Apparently, his son had cried day and night from the time he was born. After 6 months, he was desperate. He looked his son in the eye and said: "If you don't stop crying, tonight, I will throw you out the window." And he meant it.

"You mean, you were really going to throw him out the window?" I asked.

"I was. I didn't care anymore. Something in me gave up. I didn't want to be responsible for him anymore. My life was hell, my wife was crying almost as much as he was. This was not what I wanted. I pictured showing off my son in public. A smiling, happy, bouncing, baby boy, swinging in my arms, cooing at grandma, walking down the street.

"Instead, we dreaded going out and we felt like people were avoiding us, even our families. We could never tell how long he would be quiet for. All of a sudden, he would start screaming or crying. He was obviously in pain, but it seemed like there was nothing that helped. We went to the doctor. We tried everything. In retrospect, it doesn't make any sense. It didn't make any sense then. I was beyond sense. We still don't know what was wrong. And you know what?  That night, he didn't cry. It was like he heard my desperation. I don't know why, but he never cried like that again."

"He's 15 now and he says things that make me wonder if I damaged him that night with what I said. It haunts me."

There are two things to look at in this story.

The first is the father connecting his words to his son's current behavior and the second is his guilt around "the damaging action".

When you are a parent, you try so hard to do everything right and yet you will still you make mistakes. Some of these mistakes will haunt you even after it seems like your baby is OK. And sometimes your child will behave in a way that you can directly link to a specific event. One example might be a nursing strike. which is often a response to being scared or startled while nursing. Another might be leaving the baby with a babysitter and getting the the cold shoulder when you get back.

Most of the time, parents understand their child's distress and comfort them. This is appropriate, healing and what all humans, not just babies, need.

So, what causes the trauma and scarring? It's not what you think... literally.

It's what your baby thinks is hurtful that matters.

Three people can go through the same experience and come out of it with totally different perspectives. One may be deeply wounded and set up a protective response to ensure that that type of event never happens to them again. Another may shrug it off as "all in a day's work" and never think about it again. The third may relish the challenge presented and revisit the memory as the catalyst to their present success.

And as a parent who feels guilty, it can be very hard to know what your child has felt about an experience.

With babies, if you are responding promptly with love and attention most of the time, and keeping them company even if you can't figure out why they cry, that's all you have to do.

So what do you do about the guilt?

  1. Understand that your baby is going to hit some tender spots from your childhood. You are going to have times when you act irrationally because you are still mad (or sad or frustrated from your childhood. These memories may be obvious or may not. Forgive yourself.
  2. Accept that you are going to make mistakes. You can't be perfect at what you don't know. Even if you have had other babies, you have never had THIS baby. Forgive yourself.
  3. Most great parents agree they are "good" only about 50-75% of the time and "great" about 5% of the time. Forgive yourself that other 50% of the time.

So... the father in the story?It has a happy ending. It turns out that his son was going through a breakup with his girfriend. It wasn't really about the father's remembered situation.

We all want to do a better job than our parents.

We all want to keep our child from suffering and harm. Overcoming guilt is about acknowleging your imperfection and your baby's needs and doing your best, even when it's not perfect. What your baby needs is not a "Perfect Parent."

What your baby needs is you to be loving, gentle and patient to the best of your ability. You have plenty of time to figure it out, though you will always be guessing, and you will get better at it as you go along.