All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of anyone I work for, or am associated with.
Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice. You should always consult your Doctor or Health Professional.

Monday, 30 January 2012

"There were three in the bed..." - Published by Cirencester NCT January 2012.

When I fell pregnant with Stanley in the Spring of 2008 I did not envisage that my husband and I would end up sharing our bed with our yet to be born baby.  The possibility of bed-sharing with our baby didn’t occur to me during the pregnancy, possibly because I did very little research into parenthood before Stanley’s arrival.  This is something I regret with hindsight, but actually wonder how much I would have taken on board during pregnancy, for my parenting decisions have been mainly swayed by my maternal instinct which was born with my baby.  

I find it a little surprising that I didn’t see bed-sharing as an option whilst I was pregnant, seeing as I vividly remember my mum bed-sharing with my 3 younger siblings.  But I didn’t, we purchased a cot, decorated a “nursery” and it didn’t really cross my mind that things may not go to “plan”.....for this what we are conditioned to do in Western society - we believe our babies will sleep through the night from a very early age in a cot.  Oh how much I have learnt!

I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby, that out of everything as regards the birth and early days was the only thing I was certain of.  What I didn’t know about was cluster feeding and that babies like to fill their bellies at night-time, which can make it difficult for mum to get anything like a restful nights sleep!

So bed-sharing for me started the night Stanley was born.  He had a relatively trouble free hospital birth late one Sunday evening, and 3 hours later we were transferred to the ward and I was expected to put Stanley into his plastic cot to sleep.  It was at this moment the idea of separating myself from my newborn baby, who had spent the last 9 months growing inside me felt completely wrong.  What I see now is that it felt wrong because it was going against my maternal instinct to be with, and nurture my newborn baby.  So it was at this point I decided to follow my maternal instinct; I put the sides up on the bed, rolled up some blankets and placed them along side the bars and Stanley slept with me in my arms all night.  He was unsettled, but I have no doubt would have been quite distressed had I, his mother separated myself from him that night.

Once home we did try using the moses basket for Stanley to sleep in, but there were 2 issues with this.  The first was that Stanley did not like sleeping alone.  He would wake up crying, and of course I know now this is completely normal and natural for he, like all newborn babies, are born with a primal instinct to be with their mother, their protector.  This is the same primal instinct we had thousands of years ago, when we wouldn’t have been sleeping in safe, warm houses with no risk from predators.  We as humans are mammals, and it is important to bear in mind that no other mammal will separate itself from its young to go to sleep.  This all helped me to understand and empathise with why Stanley did not like sleeping alone.  The second issue we had with sleeping seperately was that I would feed Stanley lying down for the night-time feeds, but I would end up falling asleep myself before placing him back in his moses basket.  So Stanley was spending most of the night in the big bed with me, albeit inadvertantly to begin with.

It was at this point that my Dad gave me my Mums old copy of the book ‘Three in a Bed’ by Deborah Jackson. This book became my bible in the early days.  It was so lovely to read something which explained that my maternal instinct and nature itself were playing a part in our transition to bed-share.  Not only did it feel so right to sleep with my baby and feed on demand at night, it meant I got as good a nights sleep as possible with a new baby, with no detrimental effect upon my milk supply.  Dr Sears (1995) research found that in the early days where night-feeds are routine (and of course normal), breastfeeding and bed-sharing mothers slept for longer at night than any other group which backs up my experience, as I really did sleep well considering.  The greatest thing was that Stanley would never “wake up” at night; don’t get me wrong, some nights he would feed and feed and feed (thankyou growth spurts!), but he would never actually wake up.  Just stir, have a feed and go back to sleep.  Once he was a bit older and more mobile he would usually manage to locate the breast himself at night, so I would sometimes wake up knowing he had fed at night time, but not really have much recollection of it.  Perfect really, as that is as good a nights sleep as possible for a breastfeeding mum with a baby still feeding on demand throughout the night.

When the decision was made that we would not bother persevering with the moses basket or cot, it became imperative to find the safest way to bed-share, and also research it - partly so I would have an answer for all those who were telling me that bed-sharing was dangerous and that I was creating a “rod for my back”.  The truth is as long as you adhere to safety guidelines, bed-sharing with your baby is a very natural and truly fantastic bonding experience.  Current Department of Health guidelines state your baby should sleep in the same bedroom as mum for the first 6 months.  This is a step put in place by the government to help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Dr. James McKenna has researched mother-baby relationships and sleep for over 25 years and his findings suggest that if done safely bed-sharing is in fact best for mother and child, and reduces SIDS rates, contrary to popular belief.  This will be in part down to the fact that when mother and baby fall asleep together the mothers presence regulates the babies heartbeat, breathing and body temperature - a fact that leaves me in awe of how brilliant nature is. 

 It is good to get an idea of how normal bed-sharing is away from Western society.  Young (1998) found co-sleeping to be a cultural norm for 90% of the worlds population - that figure certainly put things into perspective in my mind, and helped me realise that it was irrelevant that my decision to bed-share went against the norm in the UK.  Bed-sharing rates in Japan have always been higher than in Western society.  Japans bed-sharing rates are still increasing whilst the countries SIDS rate is decreasing (McKenna 2007); and I do not believe that this is a coincidence.  Placing our children in cots to sleep is a very recent Western phenomenon, up until the 19th Century bed-sharing was the norm in the UK, and it was only after this that people starting placing their babies in cribs, and distancing themselves from their young at night.

In terms of the practicalities of bed-sharing, there are a few issues to consider, and guidelines to follow.  In terms of safety it is very important to think about your bedding.  With a small baby of under a year old you need to be careful with duvets and pillows.  These are heavy and a young baby will not have the strength to kick it off, so it is wise to use layers like sheets and blankets instead of a duvet, whilst keeping pillows away from your babies head.  It has become very popular to use 'gro-bags' for children, but because your presence will regulate your babies temperature when bed-sharing extra layers like this are unnecessary.  Once your baby starts moving and rolling it is obviously wise to buy a bed guard, and one of my best parenting buys was a soft foam wedge (from eBay) which goes on top of your mattress that stops the baby rolling out the bed.  

There are a few circumstances in which parents should not bed-share; for instance if either partner smoke - as breathing out second hand smoke in close proximity increases the risk of SIDS significantly, and also use of recreational drugs and alcohol will affect how deep the parent sleeps, thus making them less responsive to the baby, again increasing the risk of SIDS.  The other thing is you should not sleep together on an uneven surface such as a sofa, this is dangerous and does increase SIDS risk dramatically.

If you are a breastfeeding mum there is a lot of evidence to show how beneficial bed-sharing is - all that I  found and has supported my decision to continue to bed-share.  There is however much less evidence for mothers who formula feed their babies.  The difference is due to the hormonal changes the mother experiences when breastfeeding.  These hormones affect maternal behaviour, which was proven in a recent neurological comparison study on breastfeeding and formula mothers brains by Kim et al (2011).  The two important hormones are called Oxytocin and Prolactin.  A formula feeding mother will have decreased levels of these both of these hormones, which will impact upon how responsive they are to the babies cues at night when bed-sharing, in comparison with a breastfeeding mother, and also will mean the mother will enter the deeper stages of sleep that breastfeeding mothers do not.  As a mother, irrelevant of feeding method, it is our responsibility to weigh up the benefits and risks and make informed decisions.

We chose to bed-share with our son into toddlerhood and beyond, and in the end it was for just under 3 years.  Was it a terrible transition?  Did my son become that proverbial “rod” we hear all about?  Not at all.  He had a lovely, peaceful transition to his own bed, with no tears at bedtime.  He was in fact ever so excited to get his own room and own big bed.  What surprised me most was how much I (and my husband)  missed him, for nearly 3 years we had shared the same sleeping space as our beautiful baby boy.

It was my maternal instinct which influenced the decision to bed-share and it was something which became convenient for all the family - a mother who gets more sleep, a baby that barely wakes to feed, and a father who sleeps with minimal disturbances.  I think it is important to remember that no adult chooses to sleep alone if they have the option to share sleep with the people they love most, and I fail to see how this should be any different for a child.  After researching bed-sharing for some time there are many more benefits to bed-sharing than I have mentioned here, for instance a time to reconnect and bond when I had to go back to work.  Research also suggests children of bed-sharers thrive emotionally, physically and intellectually, and go on to have strong bonds with their parents well into the future, Sears (2011).   And these are just some of the factors to have led my family to bed-share.  

So when we decide to have another baby what would I do differently?  Well, we sold the cot on eBay, so I would do exactly the same again, but without hesitating to question my maternal instinct.


McKenna J (2007). Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parents Guide To Cosleeping. Platypus Press.
Sears, W. (1995). SIDS: A parent's guide to understanding and preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.
Sears, W. (2011) [accessed 17/12/2011]
Young, J. (1998). Babies and bedsharing. Midwifery Digest. 8. 364-369.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The day Stanley started Pre-School.

Today for me, has been the most emotionally draining day I have ever experienced in life and as a Mother; today was Stanleys first day at Pre-School.

Stanley was due to start Pre-School in January 2012 (the term after his 3rd birthday).  However, I made the decision to send him early a few weeks ago when I could see his interactions with other children were difficult (do not get me wrong, he can play nicely at times, see my previous blog post for more info) but I believe he needs proper socialisation with other children.  Therefore it seemed like a good idea to ease him in gradually by starting him a few months before the planned start date in January, so it didn't come as too much of a shock.
Now I take full responsibilty for Stanleys challenging behaviour with other children.  He has no siblings yet (not a decision I regret at all), but it would appear we didn't spend enough time with other toddlers when these social skills start forming.  Most of the days since Stanley was born we have spent together.  I went back to work fairly early, when he was about 7 months old, but was fortunate enough to never have to put him in a nursery, in our case the role of extended families has been priceless.  So when I work family has him, and at weekends and evenings Daddy is there, but the rest of the time he has been with me.  So I believe this has meant he just does not know how to act with other children.  He is not being mean, or naughty; he just hasn't learnt those skills yet.

It dawned on me yesterday evening; yes, less than 24 hours before he started Pre-School (and 2 weeks after our Pre-School visit) what a huge step this is for the both of us.  To be fair the fact that it dawned on me so close to actual event is not a huge surprise, this has happened before; take my Wedding Rehearsal for example, the Vicar had to pull me aside and check I was okay (I think she was worried that I did not want to get married!) because I was in such an emotional state at the rehearsal, I could not get the words of my vows out at all with all the crying I was doing.  So, what I am saying is I think this is how I deal with things, I push the in's and out's, and the magnitude of things to the back of my mind for as long as possible.

Last night my worries began and my main worry was surrounding the fact that whenever I have left Stanley previously he has been left with loving family members, Grandparents or Daddy.  At Pre-School he would be left with people who are experienced in childcare, but they do not know my son, and they certainly do not love him.  He also does not know them, he is entering a strange building, full of adults he has never met, so has no trust in them, as well as meeting lots of other children. That is a lot to deal with, hence last night I got quite upset about it, and at 11pm ended up creeping into Stanleys room, whispering that I love him and curling up next to him to sleep.

All this would be stressful in itself, but of course this would happen when I feel drained and run down anyway with a virus.  I should have expected that though, I have been saying for months and months that I think breastfeeding keeps 'me' healthy, for I haven't been poorly in so long.  Then throw some female hormones into the mix and in terms of my emotional response to it all, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

So we arrive at Pre-School at midday, stood in the queue and Stanley starts shouting that he wants to go in; just to clarify, Stanley is not the most patient boy in the world.  So eventually we're at the front of the queue I give him a kiss, say goodbye and he's off.  I stand there to the side of the door (out of sight) and listen, and then I hear it, "I want my Mummy" sobbed repeatedly.  My heart breaks, instinctively I want to run in and cuddle him, but I hold back, more children are entering the room so I decide to wait until they have all gone in and speak to one of the Pre-School teachers about it.  It felt like an age, but in reality it was only 2 minutes before I could not hear Stanley anymore, when the last little boy had entered the room.  I peek into the room, after the Pre-School worker says he is fine now, and she is right he is fine.  He was chatting away to a Pre-School worker, but I feel so, so sad.  I am walking away leaving my little boy with people I and he don't really know.  The 5 minute walk home was the longest walk of my life.

At home I sit on the sofa and weep.  I cry for the little boy who wants his Mummy, even though it is his Mummy who made the decision to leave him in this unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people.  I try and take my mind off it but 45 minutes later I call them to check he is okay, and again he was, he was reading a book with one of the teachers.  My mum then calls me, and she has been so supportive today.  I am one of six children, so she has left (more than her fair share of) children at Pre-School for the first time and walked away before.  She says something so moving, which perhaps unbeknown to her made me cry, her words were along the lines of "From the day they are born they are never really yours, they are just growing their way to adulthood."  And it is horribly true, this is Stanley growing up, a pivitol moment in his life, the first step of the 'Formal Education' Ladder.

I am sending Stanley to Pre-School because I want Stanley to be better at socialising with other children (which I am sure Pre-School will help with), but I really am hating the thought of it as his first step on the 'Formal Education' ladder.  I am lucky, Stanley does not start school until he is 5 (in the UK they can go as soon as a few days after their 4th birthday depending on when their birthday falls) but the more I look into it, the more I am resenting the UK school system.  Why can we not be more like Sweden, or Germany with a Kindergarten until the age of 6 or 7, and just learn through play until then?  From my personal experience I really believe the UK school system drains most of your creativity out of you, and I am unsure if I want this for my son; but what other option do I have?  I am not up for home-schooling, I do not believe I would do Stanleys education justice so that's that.  I live in the UK so I am left needing a lottery win so I can send my son to a Steiner School........

So where does this leave me now?  Stanley is tucked up in bed, he hasn't been clingy at all since we left Pre-School this afternoon, he really is fine.  I am the one who is struggling, and hoping that by writing this I will feel better; a blog if nothing else is cathartic.  Stanley is due in Pre-School again on Friday afternoon, lets hope that goes as well, if not better than today.  In reality if the Attachment Parenting has done what it's aim was at the beginning, then the strong attachment we share should over-ride a lot of the seperation anxiety that is possible when starting Pre-School......but I think only time will tell.

**Well done Stanley, Mummy is ever so proud of you, and even though she didn't think it was possible to love you anymore than she did yesterday, she does.**

Monday, 17 October 2011

Breastfeeding - you CAN do it!

I truly believe that if at all possible, breastfeeding is an experience that all mothers and babies should have.  It is what we as mammals have evolved to do, the breastmilk is specifically tailored to meet the needs of our baby, packed full of antibodies, whilst changing to meet the needs as the child grows.  I meet so many women who hoped to breastfeed their babies but due to unrealistic expectations (societies expectations of parenthood which is ingrained in us) and lack of support, turn to artificial milks within a couple of weeks.  I find this really, really sad.  I believe the system has failed these women, and I do sympathise for I could have so easily been one of them.  Health professionals in my opinion need to stop pushing the 'Breast is Best' and start stating facts of the realities of breastfeeding, along with the risks of artificial feeding.  The support systems for mothers, as regards postnatal breastfeeding support must be improved to increase UK breastfeeding rates.

In reality the percentage of women who physically cannot breastfeed is under 1%.  In the studies which have been conducted in this area, many show higher rates of between 2-4%, but in all these studies there have been actions take place which are detrimental to milk supply - for instance sleep training or not feeding on demand.  In non Westernised countries where artificial milk is not readily available as an option 'not having enough milk' does not exist.  Therefore it is very likely that the combination of having artificial milk readily available every turn and the very popular 'parent-led' routines (in which feeding on demand is not advised) leads a mothers milk supply to diminish.

Following Stanleys birth I realised that breastfeeding is in fact very difficult, and I think most women have some difficulties in the early days.  Breastfeeding statistics support this with a huge percentage of women giving up within the first 7 days.  Getting Stanley to latch and actually want to feed in the first 48 hours was an issue for me.  I found it was at this stage that the hospital midwives started talking about blood sugars and the need to top up with formula.  Luckily for me my Mother (who extended breastfed my younger sisters and a fabulous breastfeeding role model) was there, and in my anxious 'shell-shocked' post-natal state put across the points I was struggling with.  Eventually I got some help in the form of a midwife assisting me to express colostrum and syringe feed Stanley.  The issue I found was that in the hospital the midwives do not have proper breastfeeding training, the breastfeeding counsellors have been removed from many hospitals as they are too expensive and the midwives who are on the wards do not have the time to sit and watch your baby latch.  I found the support I needed in the community, but I was just lucky I worked with two breastfeeding counsellors/midwives who were happy to visit daily until we were on our feet.  I personally find it quite undermining to breastfeeding that there is a room full of formula milks on the ward, all bottles ready to go with teats attached that you can help yourself to, it would have been very easy to cave in to the midwives pressure to get a bottle.  I believe no hospital can profess to be breastfeeding friendly unless they have the staff to adequately support the breastfeeding mothers on the ward.

**At this point I really want to stress that this is not a post about making mothers who have formula fed their children feel guilty.  I do not believe any mother should feel guilty about this, I believe the system failed you, feel angry at the poor post-natal care and advice you received and seek out the best breastfeeding support networks if you have another baby, for support really is the key for being able to breastfeed successfully.**

Recently I heard someone say that formula feeding is "as good as breastfeeding", and I must say that I find this is a very misinformed response.  The other term I often here as regards formula feeding is "It never did me any harm".  To this statement I really want to reply "But did it do you any good?"  Statistically the fact that "It never did me any harm" doesn't really float, that statement does not negate the fact that there is increased risks to your baby from artificial feeding.  It is also a simple anecdotal statement, which in no way makes facts (such as those mentioned below) less true.  A very wise mother who was formula fed, and chose to breastfeed her baby said, "Artificial feeding may have stopped me reaching my full potential, I mean who knows what that full potential was, I never got the opportunity of fulfilling it, but I will not take that right away from my child". 

If you research the risks of artificial feeding (which we never hear about - it is always the 'benefits' of breastfeeding, rather than the 'risks' of formula feeding) you would find scientific evidence to show it does raise numerous risks for the baby.

There is scientific evidence which shows that NOT breastfeeding can have the following impact: 
  • increased rates of childhood Cancers and breast cancer in later life
  • increased rates of SIDS
  • increased rates of Bacterial Meningitis
  • increased diagnoses of Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)
  • increased diagnoses of Chron's and Ulcerative colitis
  • reduced IQ and cognitive development
  • increased Allergies - food, skin (eczema) and respiratory
  • increased diagnoses of Asthma 
  • increased liklihood of childhood Otitis Media - increases risk by 3-4 times.
  • increased episodes of Pulmonary distress whilst feeding
  • increased diagnoses of Reflux
  • increased Respiratory and Urinary infection rates
  • increased Cholesterol, Athersclerosis and Blood Pressure in later life
  • increased Mental health and behavioural issues, in childhood and later life 
All these above are outcomes from referenced medical studies, please see the MilkMatters website for more information.

As well as the above list there are numerous benefits for mum including a reduced risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.  

The two maternal hormones Prolactin and Oxytocin play a huge part in the early days when breastfeeding; breastfeeding has been proven in numerous studies to aid the bonding process.  Breastfeeding is not just about giving milk to your baby; but it is meeting your babies emotional needs, as well mums emotional needs too, for postnatal depression has been found to be higher in mums who formula feed.

The human body really is a magnificent thing.  We can provide something perfect for our little ones to grow if we trust in our bodies ability and arm ourselves with the right information and a support network.

For more information about where to go for support when breastfeeding, please see my last blog post Breastfeeding Support Contacts

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Breastfeeding Support Contacts - Local (Swindon) & National (UK).

I thought I would write a quick blog post aimed at new parents with the details of National and Local (to Swindon) Breastfeeding Support.
I believe that mothers need to be supported in breastfeeding, and in a lot of cases it is an uphill struggle to begin with, but by seeking support from trained knowledgable individuals I hope you can go on to have a wonderfully successful breastfeeding relationship with your child too.

National Support Telephone Helplines.
  • National Breastfeeding Helpline:
    Tel 0300 100 0212
  • National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Breastfeeding Line (Open 8.00am – 10.00pm):
    Tel 0300 330 0771
  • La Leche League (24 hour helpline):
    Tel 0845 120 2918
  • The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (Open 9.30am – 10.30pm):
    Tel 0844 412 2949
  • Breastfeeding Network (BfN) and Supporters Line (Open 9.30am – 9.30pm):
    Tel 0300 1000210

Local Support available in Swindon.

Swindon Breastmates is jointly run by mothers (peer supporters), breastfeeding counsellors, midwives, health visitors, nursery nurses and staff in Children’s centres all across Swindon and the surrounding villages.
It provides mothers with a place to meet others with babies at the same time as encouraging and sharing their breastfeeding experiences.  It is a well known fact that 'talking to other women who are breastfeeding or have breastfed can often be a great support. You can learn what to expect and what is and is not normal.’

Swindon Extended Breastfeeding Support is a new Facebook based group for Swindon mothers, who hope to meet up at least monthly in the near future.  It is a group aimed at mothers who are, or hope to breastfeed their children past 12 months.

Local Telephone Breastfeeding Support
  • Community Midwives Office (Open 9.00am – 9.45am) For up to 28 days after birth Tel: 01793 604814 -17 or 605576 
  • Community Midwife bleep holder (Available 8.30am-5.00pm) Tel: 01793 604020 (ask operator for community midwife bleep holder)
  • Great Western Hospital Maternity bleep holder (24 hours) Tel: 01793 604020 (ask operator for maternity bleep holder) 
  •  Health Visiting Team - SureStart Breastfeeding Support (9.00am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday) Tel: 01793 705091

Useful Breastfeeding Websites.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour.

When our children are small babies, decision making is very simple.  It is responsive - you feed, you comfort, you meet your babies needs as quickly as you can.  Obviously it can take a while to work out what your baby wants, for a newborns communication skills are somewhat limited to small physical gestures and cues, followed by grizzling and crying.  I never found the early days too stressful in terms of meeting Stanley's needs and do not really remember seriously questioning my ability as a parent and whether the decisions I was making were the right ones.

As Stanley got older and started to communicate more effectively I have found myself questioning my parental decisions more and more.  I am sure this is a completely natural and normal step for any parent who is trying to make conscientious decisions for the family, but of course because we have chosen an 'alternative' route - with the bed-sharing and extended feeding, there has at times been an element of doubt in my mind when Stanley's actions and behaviour is the polar opposite of what 'Attached Parenting' is trying to create.

For the few of months I have found some of Stanley's behaviour quite challenging and it has tested my parenting, in terms of remaining calm and gentle.  I was thinking about whether it was possibly linked to the transition into his own room which remains a positive step with Stanley regularly sleeping 8 hour stretches before I join him (I think he is all 'big-bedded' out!) but I really do not believe it is related, for the transition into his own room has been so peaceful, and the behaviour started a few weeks before the move.

The challenging behaviour I have been struggling with has been 'hitting' and 'pushing' other children.  I was absolutely mortified.  This is not behaviour that Stanley has seen from friends or family, and to be honest not something I was prepared for at all.  Both my mother and mother-in-law said it was 'just a phase' (and it appears they were right!) but I was very worried, and of course the first thing you think is, 'is it because of my parenting'?

Stanley's behaviour in turn led me to have to deal with three things; Stanley doing this to other children, dealing with my own issues with why it would happen - when all I have done thus far should have prevented this (or so I naively thought!), and how best to deal with it.

The hitting and pushing mostly happened in play parks and soft play centres (in the summer holidays I should add!) where adrenaline appeared to be running quite high among all the children.  In all the situations there was an action before (but not necessarily an aggressive one) from another child which provoked Stanley to lash out.  I have concluded that in these situations with lots of other children, Stanley has little to no patience; which admittedly isn't ideal, but probably just part and parcel of being 36 months old.  So I made the decision to stop attending soft play for a few weeks until this phase has completely passed.  The way I found best to deal with the behaviour after seeing it was to stop Stanley playing and talk about why we should not hit and push - how it hurts other children, and ultimately at outdoor play parks completely remove him from the park.

Now this in itself caused me to have a small, but significant, crisis of confidence.  If you have read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, removing Stanley from the play park would be seen a punishment.  Kohn is anti punishment and rewards in young children, and the book makes a lot of sense and I would recommend it, but I was going against the advice of one of the books which I have sought advice from in the past.  However I am not going to follow advice from any book if it contradicts my maternal instinct - this is what I have followed from day one, and believe instinct to be a very important aspect of parenting.  Talking to Stanley and leaving a play park to me was the correct decision when he had upset a little girl.  There was no way in my mind I could let him run off and play again when she was still upset.  I do not believe that leaving the park means I do not love Stanley unconditionally.  But perhaps that is because I have read the book and told Stanley I loved him at the time, but it was the hitting that was the problem.  I do not believe we should ever tell our children that they are 'bad' or 'naughty' - it is not them, it is their behaviour.   Although I will admit I do have to remind myself of this, for it is very easy for these things to roll off the tongue without really thinking. 

So my little boy Stanley is not the saintly calm child 100% of the time, that I naively thought my parenting techniques would create.  But had I not been so gentle with him, not bed-shared and not extended breastfed him, I think life would be more difficult now.  I truly believe that these things have created a trust and bond between us, and without the strong attachment with me, his behaviour would be even more challenging and he would in all likelihood be less responsive to my 'post-pushing other children' talks.

I know Stanley, like any little boy his age, is going through a change - he is experimenting with life.  I feel ever so proud of him, he is learning all the time and just like everything else, the hitting and pushing other children is a learning curve that I hope have helped guide him through.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My little boys, big bed.

My little Stanley is nearly 3, it is just one week until his Birthday.  In his whole life we have not spent a night apart.  It has been perfect, and in my opinion, absolutely the best thing for both him and us.  He has had unlimited access to breast milk and cuddles, it has been excellent for bonding and I at the same time have been able to get a good nights sleep, without proper wake ups.  I am the biggest advocate for safe bed-sharing.

I had always planned for Stanley to have his own proper bedroom, and of course before he was born his 'nursery' was set up like any other babies' with a cot taking centre stage in the newly decorated room.  This was of course what society expects you to do when you have a baby, I had not opened my eye's to other options of where a baby sleeps.  I have my mother, father and husband to thank (as well as choosing to follow my own maternal instinct), for without their support I may not have fallen into bed-sharing quite so quickly and happily.  I will admit the cot did get some use; it became very good storage for clothes and nappies.  I will also add that Stanley never actually slept in his cot, well apart from one 20 minute afternoon nap!  It has dawned on me that I have a real dislike for cots, I think it's down to the bars.  I hate the thought of a baby behind these bars, and I fail to see how limbs do not get trapped in them on a regular basis.

I had it in the back of my mind for a while that we would get Stanley a proper 'big bed' of his own around his 3rd birthday.  Instinct lead me to believe that this would be a good time in terms of him having an understanding (and excitement) of having his own space and bed, as well as being aware that Mummy and Daddy were only a few metres away.  I feel acutely aware that newborns and small babies who wake up without their mum beside them do not realise where its mother is, and will automatically cry, assuming it has been abandoned.  This is just the nature of being a mammal with primal instincts.

So it happened that we found a bed that would be perfect for Stanleys room a few weeks ago, and we set it up with his own Toy Story bedding.  Stanley did not seem worried at all that he wouldn't be in the big bed with us, as we talked about falling asleep in his new bed.  Had he at any point been upset by the process we would have happily delayed it, for Stanley's well-being is of the utmost importance.

Stanley jumping on his own 'big bed' for the first time!

The first night Stanley fell asleep in his own bed was 20th August 2011.  He made no fuss about falling asleep that night and it was made quite clear that Mummy and Daddy were not far away and he was welcome in the big bed, that night, and every other night to follow.  And this remains to be true, I believe Chris & I will always have an 'open door policy' when it comes to our children (hopefully, one day, there will be more little Hamblings) in our big bed. 

So Stanley has gone to sleep in his bed for the last 11 nights.  We have led together on his bed, read some bedtime stories, and he has fallen asleep whilst having cuddles and breast milk.  He has woken up nightly (and interestingly later at night than he normally would have when he was in our bed).  I hear "mine Mummy" being called, and I take that as my call to go to his room to snuggle up next to him, feed him and drift back off to sleep.  I did initially intend to get out and go back to the big bed, but sleep comes all to easily; I blame those breastfeeding-sleepiness hormones!  What surprises me is that he calls for me, well calls "mine Mummy" (which I do find quite funny, I mean who else's Mummy does he expect to join him!?).  I imagined a sleepy little boy crawling into our bed, rather than a sleepy mummy heading to his bed to join him!

For any bed-sharers out there wondering when the best time to start the transition to a seperate bed would be, the answer has to be very simply when you are both ready.  Stanleys sleep/feed pattern has not altered much since he was 20 months old, when he went through a developmental leap of eating more during the day, and having longer stretches between feeds at night (apart from when teething).  This means in theory we could have bought him a bed and done this well over a year ago, physically he was possibly ready, but I believe emotionally both he and I were not ready for this shift.  This has been a time when following my maternal instinct has taken control and led the decision making process.

How did I feel the first few nights? In one word: Anxious.  It took me back to the very beginning when part of me would dread Stanley's next feed (we struggled establishing breastfeeding in the very early days).  I felt anxious that Stanley would be upset waking up to find me not there, I worried he would cry.  I am not surprised that Stanley sleeping seperately (at least for the beginning of the night) had this effect on me.  At night time for very close to 3 years I have never had to even think about how Stanley is, all I have had to do was open my eyes.  Obviously for me too this has been a big transition to and one that only now I am really adjusting to.  I have to say the nicest aspect of the process to me is that Stanley is not upset, he just calls for me, no tears.  Had there been any tears or upset I am 100% sure he would be back in our bed full-time and we would try again at a later date, when he is physically and emotionally ready.  It is early days but so far it has been a smooth, problem free transition, and I have found it definitely has it's benefits too!  One of the main reasons we decided to get Stanley his own bed was because we were disturbing him.  We are not particularly noisy when we get into bed, but hopping in and out of the en-suite, flushing the toilet, lights going on and off, and getting into bed was definitely making him stir prematurely from his slumber!  And I have to say I like the fact I can put my bedside light on without worrying and read my book before bed, I have missed that. 

I think that at the moment I am getting the best of both worlds; reading a good book before bed and middle of the night snuggles with my boy. 

Life is good; and as for the fate of the cot, well that is going on eBay, I think it is safe to say I will not be using one next time around either!

My little Stanley asleep in his own bed for the first time - 20th August 2011.

Monday, 22 August 2011

On Reflection.....

This is just a short reflective piece of writing about the little boy Stanley has become.  As you all know maternal instinct drove me to parent in the way that felt most comfortable to me.  It's been fairly easy ride in comparison to others, and I have gone out of my way not to make a big deal of the small things, and not compare Stanley to other children.  However when I look back, with hindsight I don't believe I was 100% sure I was doing what was best for Stanley (I was just following my maternal instinct), I mean how do you know you are going to create a happy, well-adjusted child at the end of it?  Especially when other peoples children act and seem different to your own.  My point is you don't know, you just have to do what feels best to you as their mother.  It would be so easy as a mother to turn your back on your own maternal instincts and take the well-meaning, but usually ill-informed advice from others.

I had a few concerns when Stanley was a toddler, not big ones, but I worried all the same that he was quite a 'clingy' toddler (I am sorry to use the term 'clingy' - I really dislike it now, and since then I have learnt it's a completely normal, and natural process of forming a strong attachment).  I was concerned I was creating a fearful, introverted, timid child.  And although I did not ever want to compare Stanley to others I found it difficult as friends toddlers did seem more advanced socially. 

With hindsight I really wish I not not spent a second on troubling myself with these thoughts.  I have fairly recently come to realise that Stanley is as gregarious and fearless as they come.  He is very confident and outgoing, happy to chatter and play with other children.  He is loving and sensitive, although prone to hugging other children he may not know very well!  I am so happy about the personality which is forming, it is great for him, I honestly would have felt like I had let him down had he been fearful and introverted.  Obviously an easy target of blame would have been the style of parenting I had chosen if that had been the case.

So now what I wonder is, would Stanley be the same little gregarious, fearless little boy without the bed-sharing, extended breastfeeding, or if he had been left to cry.  No one can answer this question.  But the studies suggest attachment parenting will increase a child's confidence, whilst leaving a child to cry on nightly basis to 'aid' sleep (what a joke, whose sleep is this meant to aid I wonder?) could well help create an insecure child.  This leaves me sure that of course 'nature' is important factor in the person Stanley will become, but I now think and see proof that attached parenting is also playing a very beneficial part in the journey too.