Following My Instincts

instincts.jpgOriginally published March 8, 2007 at A Mama’s Blog

Last night I had Cole down sleeping, and was trying to read Ryan a story to put him in bed (Joe wasn’t home), and sure enough, Cole started crying. I was hoping it would only last for a minute or so, and he would go back to sleep, but he started getting more and more upset. After a few minutes, it was obvious he was now fully awake, and despite having an upset three-year-old who was NOT happy his story was being interrupted, I had to leave Ryan to go attend to Cole.

It has been a week since I have started nursing Cole to sleep, and then putting him in his crib next to our bed. It is working a lot better than having him sleep in the bed, but he still wakes up a lot. So he was in his crib, and after my eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room, what I saw, just about broke my heart.

I don’t believe in “crying-it-out.” I firmly believe that when a baby is crying, he needs something. He may be scared, and just need the reassurance that his mama is still in the vicinity of the house. I certainly don’t think a couple of minutes when I can’t get to Cole is making him cry-it-out. I am talking about leaving him while he is crying in a crib, obviously distressed, for a long period of time. I just don’t have the stomach for it. For me, there is nothing worse than hearing your baby scream and cry for you, while they are in a dark room alone.

Plus there has been some research from Harvard and Yale, that has shown “when babies who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone and lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system.”

This subject was also brought up on a recent Dr. Phil episode that featured three of the Dr. Sears’s. Dr. Bob Sears said this about crying-it-out on the show:

When a baby screams for 10, 20 minutes, or a half-hour night after night, what actually happens to the baby’s brain? The blood pressure goes up. The pressure gets so high, new blood with oxygen can’t flow into the brain. So the brain can be deprived of oxygen, you guys. And that’s not all. It gets worse. The brain can be flooded with stress hormones, and we know that stress hormones can damage sensitive developing nerve tissue. So, night after night, weeks and weeks of crying can actually harm a baby’s brain. That’s why we encourage you both to respond to your maternal intuition. Robert, develop your fatherly intuition, so you can both really thrive as a family. Respond to your baby.

So back to Cole. In the few minutes before I could get to him, he stood up in the crib, put his hands through the slots, and was feeling / squeezing my mattress. I knew he was trying to find me. Even though he is in his crib now, he knows where I sleep, and he was looking for me–he needed me.

I picked him up, and instantly the crying stopped. I sat down with him on the bed, and even though his eyes were closed, he started cooing. I nursed him for a few minutes to calm him down. Then the most amazing thing happened. His eyes were still closed, and he took his hand and started tracing and feeling my face, the way a blind person would. It was like he was trying to memorize my face by feel.

I am in awe of the way a baby’s brain works, and I think there is so much we still don’t know about this. As he was feeling my face, I got a tear in my eye, and I felt so grateful that I have been able to follow my instincts on what feels right.

I couldn’t help but think, as my sweet baby was stroking my face, first, if I had gone against my instincts and had allowed him to cry-it-out, yes, he may have curled up and gone to sleep, after it was clear to him that his mama wasn’t going to come to him, but the way it was going, he would have just become more and more upset. He would have been very distressed, and he was looking for me! Two, I would have completely missed this tender moment with him, that I will never forget.

On support and breastfeeding

Lily nap-nursing as a newbornToday my daughter, Lily, is two years old. I’ve been feeling under the weather, so I took an opportunity to rest by napping with her this afternoon. As we snuggled up in my bed, her head tucked into its favorite position between my arm and my breast, I thought about the day of her birth. Lily is a child who knows what she wants and is not afraid to ask for it (it has been suggested that she is the spitting image of her mother in that respect). So minutes after her birth, I put her to my breast, she latched on, and, with the exception of a few trips to the bathroom and the occasional snuggle from Dad or the grandparents, she remained that way until we left the hospital just over a day later. Nurses who were not even assigned to our care popped in to see if it was true that she was on some sort of nursing marathon. I laughed, assured them that it was OK, and nursed on. We have spent much of the last two years this way, and I will be the first to admit that there have been many times when I was ready for a break.

I was reminded this week both why I have continued to nurse for as long as I have and how I managed to do so.

Why?

As if all the World Health Organization (WHO) breastfeeding recommendations, proof of health benefits of breastfeeding, and the obvious joy Lily experiences while nursing were not enough, this month the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death concluded that breastfeeding also reduces the chance of SIDS (or, as the British call it, cot death). And researchers in Canada and Belarus also finished a comprehensive study, for the first time controlling for education and socio-economic factors by dividing mothers in Belarus into two groups: one in which mothers were encouraged to breastfeed by their care providers and one in which no additional encouragement was offered. The results showed that breastfed children are smarter, and perform better in school than their formula-fed counterparts.

How?

Although the difference in IQ points and academic performance were the main thrust of the story, I was struck by another of the study’s conclusions related to the role of care providers in encouraging breastfeeding:

Those in the breast-feeding encouragement group were, on average, breast-fed longer than the others and were less likely to have been given f*rmula in a bottle.

At 3 months, 73 percent of the babies in the breast-feeding encouragement group were breast-fed, compared to 60 percent of the other group. At 6 months, it was 50 percent versus 36 percent.

In addition, the group given encouragement was far more likely to give their children only breast milk. The rate was seven times higher, for example, at 3 months.

If simply encouraging breastfeeding has such a huge and measurable impact on the success of breastfeeding, why do doctors still continue to pass out free f*rmula at prenatal and well-baby visits? Why are there so few hospitals with the WHO’s Baby Friendly designation, or with trained lactation consultants on staff? Why do so many store owners, airline stewardesses, and other members of the public ask breastfeeding mothers to leave, stop nursing, or cover up?

Why am I so lucky to live in a place where I am surrounded by other women nursing toddlers? This is the real answer to how I’ve managed to breastfeed my daughter for two years: support from other breastfeeding mothers.

Yes, my supply was so immense after Lily’s birth that she literally choked on my let-down. But I had someone there to tell me that it wouldn’t last forever (and it didn’t). Yes, Lily rubbed her tender gums on my nipples when she first started teething, the discomfort of which, especially at night when I was trying to sleep, was agonizing. But again, someone was there to commiserate and to offer advice and support. Lily has had periods of twiddling, pinching, poor latch, and marathon-nursing. But I have been able to find all the support I needed from my local API support group, various online groups and forums, and blogs like this one. It has helped me not only survive the past two years, but enjoy them in a way that would not have been possible if I had gone it alone.

Julie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

Play is the child’s work

My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.

We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.

What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.

Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.

It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.

It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.

We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!

Half Pint Pixie

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