Support for breastfeeding during month of raised awareness

My baby nurses her baby.

My baby nurses her baby.

Even though I am way beyond the early years of having and raising babies, breastfeeding remains a frequent topic of conversation in my home. Of course, my line of work lends itself to friends and family sending me breastfeeding stories in the news, or social media posts by celebrities making statements around their choices to breastfeed (or pump) whenever and wherever they choose. But the conversations are also sometimes like this…

During a recent discussion about my line of work with my daughter’s boyfriend, I asked him if he was breastfed. “No,” he replied and quickly added, “but I turned out just fine. And look at Olivia,” he continued, “she’s great, too.” To which Olivia piped up, “Uh, I breastfed for three years.” That tidbit of information didn’t appear to phase him. In fact, it reminds me of when I first started learning about breastfeeding relationships and how they could look, which was much different than my limited exposure imagined. 

Mom pumps milk in the middle of Laguardia airport before installation of nursing pods.

Mom pumps milk in the middle of Laguardia airport before installation of nursing pods.

I recall being at a La Leche League meeting with my 5 week old baby and seeing a toddler nursing in his mother’s lap. I had never seen a child that age nursing (until I had my own I had little experience with babies breastfeeding) and it took some getting used to on my part. Clearly, I made it past all that considering my own breastfeeding journey and later profession. 

Do I think breastfeeding is the only way to feed a baby? Absolutely not. I’ve seen far too many situations where breastfeeding was not working for one reason or another. We aim to support mothers and families where they are. However, I do believe breastfeeding is a human right, and that it saves lives and helps communities. I desire to see mothers supported to successfully breastfeed, and I want negative beliefs that undermine their success to be challenged. 

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August is National Breastfeeding Month in the US, which is celebrated in order to support and increase awareness of breastfeeding and its benefits. World Breastfeeding Week was the first week of August and commemorates the Innocenti Declaration On the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding, signed in August 1990, by government policymakers, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF to promote and protect this important first food. 

Create a "bedtime routine book" for smoother, happier bedtimes!

Photobook example of a custom-made bedtime routine book

Photobook example of a custom-made bedtime routine book

You’ve heard it said, “A picture paints a thousand words.” That’s especially true when communicating with young children. Which is why when providing sleep support to families with toddlers and preschoolers we often recommend creating a simple, straightforward “bedtime routine book.” 

Why use a visual tool like a bedtime routine book? 

Look at your own day to day activities. Do you have calendars, checklists, post-it notes and other reminders to help you remember what you need to do? Think of a bedtime routine book as a kid-friendly version of all that. A simple booklet acts as a visual tool to communicate expectations and help young children understand the routines. It also helps keep parents from having to repeat themselves over and over again.

Children feel more secure and less anxious when they know what comes next. Having a visual schedule reminds them and clearly shows what the tasks and steps are to prepare and wind down for bedtime.  And, the visual images give children time to process and plan for the upcoming transition.

Time to brush teeth!

Time to brush teeth!

As in all aspects of parenting, consistency and follow-through are key ingredients for success. Without them, you can't expect your child to learn or change their behavior. Having their own bedtime routines booklet helps both parents and children practice consistent, appropriate activities for preparing for sleep. 

Another benefit of a visual tool like this is that the book helps remind children if they forget. And, when the going gets tough, the schedule can take the heat instead of the parent. You might say, “I know you don’t want to put on your pajamas but the schedule says it’s time.”

Goodnight kisses are an important part of a bedtime routine!

Goodnight kisses are an important part of a bedtime routine!

There are many ways to go about creating a booklet for (and with) your child. It can be hand-drawn and taped together or much more elaborate. Because young children respond especially well to pictures of real faces, using pictures of themselves or other children works great. I’m including an example of a customized photo book (like you can order from an online photo service) that a client made for their child. You can also use pictures cut out from magazines or printed off the internet and paste them into a spiral notebook. Or, you can order schedules from Schedule Power, which uses images of real children with clean and simple designs. As you’ll see, the steps should be broken down to be easy to follow and understand.

Here’s what Brooke and Alyson, the creators of Schedule Power, have to say about the benefits of using a visual schedule with children:

Use your schedule to bring a peaceful flow and happy smiles to your day and evening.

1. Give Clear Directions

Instead of “no! stop!” and “don’t”, schedules show children what they should be doing and in what order.

When adults tell children what NOT to do, they assume children can make the logical leap to what they should be doing. But children often don’t and continue to make similar choices. When children are given clear instructions about what they should be doing, they become more confident and cooperative.

2. Focus on the Task

Instead of negotiating, schedules keep children on task with no option to change the plan.

Kids are natural negotiators. Schedules take away the option for other ideas and keep children focused on the task at hand. Adults no longer take the blame for the activity because the schedule is telling the child the plan. “The schedule says it’s nap time.”

3. Encourage Independence

Instead of feeling ordered, schedules empower children to take charge of their day.

We all love to feel in charge of something and let’s face it, for young children there are few opportunities to be in control. Schedule Power gives a child the confidence to understand and manage their routine without adult prompting or nagging. A child boosts their self-esteem each time they complete a step or master an entire routine. They are encouraged to repeat the activity again and try other tasks in the future.

4. Create Consistency

Instead of guessing, schedules allow new adults to successfully help with routines.

Whether it’s a new babysitter or grandparent, adults who use Schedule Power will immediately know the steps in the routine, how far the child has progressed and what activities remain to be completed. New adults can enter the routine confidently and compliment the child from the beginning. “Wow! You already got your pajamas on! Let’s brush your teeth and then I see it’s story time! Yea! I love reading stories with you!”

5. Transition Easily

Instead of redirecting, schedules show children the routine so they can follow it without adult support.

Moving to a new activity can be difficult for young children. Schedules show children which activity they are working on and what activities are next. When children understand their routine, they are more likely to begin the next activity without adult reminders, managing themselves and their emotions.

Do you have a bedtime routine book you’d like to share? Email it and I’ll post it on our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Knowing when it’s a wake-up call

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It’s the middle of the night. Your newborn baby had a good feeding and fell peacefully to sleep. Then, only 35 minutes later, she’s squirming and fidgeting; her eyes are opening and closing; she even lets out a cry, which confirms to you that she’s waking up.

Don’t be fooled. She’s still asleep, but in active sleep.

Babies, like adults, have two kinds of sleep – still, deep sleep and active, REM sleep. In still sleep your baby looks really asleep. Her body is still; her eyes stay shut. She breathes deeply and is quiet. Active sleep, however, looks like your baby is waking up. She wiggles, startles, pants, vocalizes and even cries out.

It’s easy to understand how an exhausted new mother can misread her infant’s behavior and, rather than allowing the baby to fall back into deep sleep, end up feeding again, and may even assume she’s not producing enough milk for her baby.

Or, in an almost opposite scenario, a mother tries over and over to get her sleepy baby to nurse as it’s been almost three hours since the last feeding. However, she initiates the feed while her baby is in deep sleep, so the effort proves to be futile, as well as frustrating, for the new mother.

Recognizing the difference between active sleep, deep sleep and a baby’s readiness to eat will help a new parent establish healthy sleep and feeding habits from the start. Allowing baby to resettle — maybe with some subtle help like pressure on the torso or shushing — after moving through the active sleep phase helps babies establish healthy sleep associations instead of becoming dependent on sleep crutches to get back to sleep.

For more information on establishing healthy sleep habits after you have your baby, check out http://firstdaze.com or contact us directly at pdiamond@firstdaze.com.

Constructive criticism? NOT!

Constructive criticism? NOT!

Here’s what I know about parenting and raising children – regardless of what you may believe, there is NO one right way. Your way is not the only way to do things.

There is not one way to feed. Yes, I am a breastfeeding advocate and hope for all mothers and babies to have the experience as well as the long list of health benefits that comes from it. But I’ve seen many circumstances where, for one reason or another, it wasn’t working, including because the mother simply didn’t want to breastfeed. It’s my place to provide knowledge, information and guidance, and then ultimately to support the mother’s decisions that are best for her family. Not my family. Hers.

And for those who think they must criticize the breast-feeders, get over it. It’s feeding a baby. Food, sustenance, fuel, nutrition. Let it go already.

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Making nap time a positive event

Ready for nap with lovey in hand!

Ready for nap with lovey in hand!

While hiking in Black Mountain, North Carolina last summer, my friend of 25+ years and great aunt to the (overtired) little ones with us asked, "Do any children want to take a nap?” She assumed all children resisted nap time. I assured her, many children do enjoy their naps and will ask for one when they are sleepy.

My experience of working with families shows that a positive attitude toward sleep starts with putting healthy and appropriate routines in place, as well as making sleep a restorative — not punitive — experience. A client with two young children who love their naps said she is careful to present sleep in a positive light and never uses it as a negative consequence. Normalizing times for sleep and helping little ones see the benefits can create a different perspective on taking time out for rest.

First Daze & Nightzzz sleep consultant Kara Curtis recalls when she was a child her mother would tell her, “those sheets are going to feel so yummy” and she’d sign off with “I love you. Happy Nappy.” Kara says, “There is something so comforting about that little special family phrase. She definitely cultivated the idea of sleep as a wonderful luxury that was going to feel so fantastic. And I still feel that exact same way every time I get into my bed as an adult — so delighted to be crawling into my yummy sheets!”

Janet Lansbury, the author of Elevating Childcare, says there are three essential elements to a baby’s or young child’s sleep routine. She calls them the three Ps — peaceful, participatory and predictable. The environment should be peaceful without stimulation from toys, screens, light, and exterior noise. The parent should be relaxed and focused on the matter at hand, giving undivided attention to the sleepy child. Allow the baby or child to participate in preparations which can be as simple as pulling down shades, choosing a book or turning on a white noise machine. All of these steps should be predictable, “so that our children can anticipate the ritual and even lead when we invite them to make choices. Predictability breeds security, which leads to calm, which is the gateway to relaxation and sleep,” Lansbury says. 

Did you read that? Predictability breeds security. Our children feel more secure (hence, less anxious) when they know what comes next. Less anxiety equals calmer child which means easier to fall asleep.

Understandably, young children may feel like they’re going to miss out on something if they stop to sleep. While winding down for nap time, talk about what you will do after their body and brain rests. Let them know they have something to look forward to and with renewed energy to do it. 

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A former client relayed a story about her then 3-year-old daughter. She napped a bit later at home on the weekends than she did at daycare during the week. One Saturday while Mom was busy with household chores, her daughter came to her and said, “I’m ready for my nap.” This was music to the mom’s ears. “She loves sleep and told us so herself. If we don't remind her it's nap time she usually reminds us,” the mom said. 

Another former client emailed to tell us how, after using our services when her little one was an infant, the now 4 year old comes to get them when she’s ready for her nap if they get busy and miss it. “She still loves an early bedtime and gets about 11-12 hours of good sleep each night,” the proud (and well-rested) mom said. 

We love working with families early on whenever possible to establish good sleep from the start. If you need help establishing healthy sleep habits, and perhaps revamping attitudes toward sleep, get in touch. And if you already have good sleepers, tell us what worked in your home to create happy and healthy sleep habits.

Plan now to "fall back" next weekend

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We will be “falling back” on Sunday, Nov. 4, this year when Daylight Saving Time comes to an end so set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed Saturday night. Many parents worry about the fall time change, especially those with early risers. It’s not too soon to start planning for the change now and taking some gentle steps to prepare.

Our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is set primarily by exposure to light and social cues, as well as other factors such as changes in body temperature. Plan to get fresh air and sunshine every day to help regulate circadian rhythms. 

Parents have a couple of options for helping their children make the transition off Daylight Saving, one of which is to do nothing. This is great for babies with easygoing temperaments and for parents who don’t realize it’s time to set the clocks back until that very night! Basically, you put baby to bed at the usual time and stick to your schedule. On Sunday you put baby to bed when it says 7 p.m. on the clock (if that’s bedtime) even though it’s really 8 p.m.

Some people will choose to put their baby to bed on Saturday a wee bit later than usual in hopes of moving through the change easier. It may or may not make a difference.

Another option is to slowly change your baby’s schedule in small increments four days ahead of the time change. Put baby to bed later in 15-minute increments until Sunday, Nov. 4. This includes starting naps 15 minutes later than usual, also. By the time Sunday rolls around, you should have adjusted sleep time by a full hour.



To pump or not to pump, that is the question...

To pump or not to pump, that is the question...

Mother’s Situation: I’m six months pregnant with my first child and I’m planning on trying to breastfeed. I’ll be returning to work, though, and I think it might be difficult. I’m considering breastfeeding just until I return to work because I don’t want the hassle of pumping and storing my milk. What inspires other mothers to keep on breastfeeding or pumping even after they resume working? 

As a postpartum doula who works with mothers in their homes after they’ve had their babies, I am inspired by the thought you are putting into this important decision. Many of my clients return or will be returning to work, and most of them choose to breastfeed. Many plan to breastfeed until they return to work, and some plan to continue pumping while they are working. 

Quite simply, what inspires them to continue are their babies! 

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Timing and technique are important when introducing a bottle

Timing and technique are important when introducing a bottle

It happened again. Another parent of an almost 4 month old called in a panic because their baby refuses to take a bottle. 

These kind of calls typically come around 10 to 16 weeks when Mom is nearing her return to work. Sometimes it’s from a stay at home parent or from a mother who just wants to be able to get away for a few hours without worrying if her baby is going to be hungry. 

So, what can parents do to avoid this situation? …

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