Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sleeping Like a Baby

A rare post for me. A post where I confess I got it wrong. I hate that.

When Dd was born 14 years ago we didn't have twitter, I'm not very outgoing and I had few friends, none with babies, and I didn't join any 'mummy groups' (shudder) so I relied on books. I took some of the advice and rejected other bits. This post is just about the sleep thing... It's a post of what we did, why we did it, what happened, and why I wouldn't do it again, and what I would do if I had the time again.

I brought my newborn daughter home from hospital at 2 days old. And I exclusively breastfed her.(that's a whole other post)  We had a cot in our room, but it was clear she was too tiny to sleep in that from day one. I had a moses basket and she slept in that, either downstairs with us until we went to bed and then ... and then...

sleeping baby
DD 2 days old
Well to start with she was like most babies and had no schedule of sleepiness and wakefulness, she woke when she was hungry and slept when she was tired, usually in 2 hour or less gaps. For the first six weeks I fed on demand and she was with me all the time, my husband slept on the sofa or in the spare room and DD slept in her moses basket on the double bed, next to me. So I didn't exactly co-sleep but I don't exactly let her sleep alone.

I behaved like a normal grown up during the day, I walked the dogs, (I carried DD in a sling), I did housework, I watched TV. And I fed DD. But of course, at night I hardly slept, I was feeding or changing or just lying awake worrying or listening. By six weeks I was exhausted. I can vividly recall laying in bed in the dark with a crying baby in her basket, I had fed and changed her, I had cuddled her and sung to her, it was dark and I was sobbing too, rubbing her tummy gently and pleading with her to 'please go to sleep mummy is SO tired'

Eventually, despite her being so tiny, so new, I decided to try controlled crying. Not Crying it Out - a practice that seems to involve leaving your child to sob hopelessly until they either vomit or fall into a sleep of exhaustion, but controlled crying, a sort of 'planned ignoring for a bit'.

I read up on it and set a timer. 'Leave the baby to cry for 5 minutes alone in a darkened room'. When you are a new mum, bone tired and hormonal, weeping at everything, listening to your baby cry for 1 minute, never mind 5 is like the worst torture. Of course it is! It's supposed to be and I was an idiot - but more of that later. After 5 minutes I ran to DDs side, I followed 'the rules', I spoke quietly, stroked her, comforted her briefly then left again. I did this three times, each time was worse than the one before. Amazingly after the third time, she slept! And weeping, so did I.

I vowed never to do the crying thing again. It was too awful. But the same book also suggested nap times at set times in the day. I had been thinking like an adult of course, not a baby! The book said that a baby waking at 5 or 6 should be fed, washed changed, played with and cuddled and then put to bed for a nap by 9am! I was amazed, but of course, why not. So I started that, and a second nap at about 1pm too after dinner. Babies sleep all over the place but she did slip into a pattern once I started the planned naps. It was bliss.

From about 7 weeks she slept through the night.

When I say she slept through, I'm not talking about popping her to bed at 7pm so we could have a fun adult evening of course! She fed and fussed all evening on and off until about 11pm when I'd give her a last feed, change her, cuddle her, read her a story or sing her a song (yes really) and then put her into her cot, in our room, and I'd stumble into bed myself. Then at about 5 she would wake for breakfast! I'd feed her, while lovely husband made a cup of tea.

sleeping baby
DD at about 3 months

DD slept in our room, in her cot, with us until she was one year old and then we moved her to her own room. I didn't want her old enough to start shouting out scores for our lovemaking! She could get out of her cot by the time she was 18 months, and when we moved house (when she was 2) she gained a midi sleeper bed. She would get out of bed at 4 or 5 am and come padding in to our room and slip into our bed almost every night. A cute cuddly toddler sneaking into bed with you is not the worse thing that can happen. We just squished up and all slept on.

She continued to come into our bed for various lengths of time until she was much older. Finally deciding that her own bed was fine and that she could play quietly or read until we got up.

So would I change things? Yes. Would I do the controlled crying? No. I'm not sure if it really did anything, maybe it just tired her out - it certainly stressed me! If I had the time again I would simply keep her with me and make more use of daytime naps (for myself!) in the early weeks and months. I would still do the planned nap times though,as that seemed to really help with her sleep. As she grew older, even though she dropped the morning nap, the afternoon one was essential for a good nights sleep until she started nursery school!

She is 14 now and I miss having a tiny person needing a cuddle in the wee small hours. Trust me, however bad it seems now (if you are reading this at 3am with a crying baby or a clingy toddler) you will miss it when they grow.

My advice to new parents? You can do it. You will be tired. Listen to advice but don't feel you have to take it. All babies are different, you might get a 'sleeper' or a really wide awake one. But that baby is your baby, an amazing small person and however they make you sob with fatigue, they will one day sleep all night and suddenly, while feeling more awake you will feel less needed, and you'll miss it, just a tiny bit.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The virtual baby

Dd is studying child development as one of her gcse options. Part of the course involves looking after a virtual baby for a weekend. These dolls were created to show young adults some of the reality of having a baby. Of course you don't get lots of the horror, no poo, no vomit, no worryingly unexpected high temperatures or rashes. But you don't get much of the fun either, no squishy cuddles, no laughs, no smiles, no kicking feet. But you do get to experience the thing all new parents get, a lack of sleep.

DD has always been very keen on children. She adores babies and kids, so I was surprised at her reaction to the baby.

Virtual baby doll in buggy

Day one, the baby is set to react like a newborn. It wakes and sleeps at all times of the day and night, it constantly wants feeding or changing (they have nappies with little sensors in, so the computer in the baby can tell if you actually changed the nappy) but unlike real babies it's never especially cute. It seems that they are mostly annoying or boring. The first night the baby did not want to sleep at 9pm, DD's normal bedtime, by the time she was ready for bed it was 10pm, I wen to bed then too. The baby woke in the night, waking me each time too, at midnight, 2am, 3.45am, 5am and then again at about 6am. I had to go to work and I left an exhausted and pissed off dd at home.

During the day the baby continued to be needy and DD continued being annoyed. By the evening I was actually concerned for the fake babies safety and took it into the hall for a while to rock it as it cried. Poor DD she was determined by this stage that she would never have children!

toy baby virtual baby child buggy

Day two the baby is set to behave a few weeks older. Last night the baby slept more, but still woke several times. The joy of nappy changing on a virtual baby is the lack of poo, the non existent risk of an explosive nappy and the need to change all the baby's clothes plus bath it and change all the cot sheets. But on the downside there are no cheeky grins or raspberries. DD is finding it hard to 'like' the virtual baby. It gives nothing back to the virtual parent.

The day went better though, the baby was more settled and fed and cried less.

Day three. Last day to be a mum. DD was into her stride by now, recognising the various cries and sorting the baby's problems really quickly. Sadly she still doesn't really get anything from it - it's very automated now, just a quick feed, burp, nappy change, no eye contact no snuggles.

When she woke on the morning the baby was due to be returned she said "oh wow I had a great nights sleep!" and I asked if the baby had slept though, "No, she replied but it only woke once at 1am it was bliss" haha I think maybe she will make a mum after all.

baby in a buggy toy doll

Our view of the virtual baby is that as it's designed to show children what a real baby is like and put them off parenthood too early it sort of works. But it's a bit of a cheat, it gives you the noisy bits of the baby but that's really all it does, there is no mess, no making up of feeds, (no breastfeeding and subsequent sore nipples!) no bathing. And there are no real nice bits at all, no cuddles, no smiles, no kicking feet or grabbing your finger. One thing she did say "This would be so much easier with someone to help" It's a reasonable tool but i think maybe I should borrow a real baby for DD ... anyone need a break ... for a few minutes? Before she gets annoyed and gives the baby back?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nursery rhymes, are they nursery safe?

I love nursery rhymes. And I love fairy tales. I briefly talked about them in the post about DD being Snow White, and that their purpose is often to help children understand big life issues, in small easy to cope with pieces.

Nursery rhymes are often political in nature though, or started as cruel playground chants about real events. Not so much made for children as hijacked by them or create by them. Children too can be vicious and cruel.

This came to mind the other day when someone on twitter commented on a book their child had brought home from school, the story involved throat slitting! And other tweeters joined in the discussion of its suitability. I was immediately cast into my childhood, and a book I was given in 1968 when I was 3. The Giant Golden Mother Goose. I still have it.

I thought I'd share some of the best, the most gruesome of the nursery rhymes, most of them became favourites and I read them with glee to DD.  

Of course you have all heard "Fee Fi fo fum.." 

And then there is rock a by baby where a baby falls from a tree, or the maid that has her nose pecked off in Sing a song of sixpence. In Ding, Dong, Dell a cat is flung into a well and nearly drowned...

But there are more, so many more, so let me share some childhood memories.

baby and i were baked in a pie nursery rhyme
Baking children in pies, OK then...
two cats of kilkenny nursery rhyme
Cats beating and scratching each other so much there is only fur left...
there was a man in our town nursery rhyme
A personal favourite due to the awful imagry and the bizarreness of the poem
davy davy dumpling
And back to eating children again, I adore this rhyme and often sang it to DD with her name in place of Davy, while pretending to eat her!

What are your favourite nursery rhymes?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The story of Catcher: when a bear is lost

a hug me better bear
My daughter has a bear. He is a special bear that she has had since she was small. He was bought for her by my parents. He has a tummy that you can heat in the microwave, so he can warm you with snuggles in winter. He is a Hug-me-Better Bear and for no reason I can ascertain, he is called Catcher.

Catcher lives on the bed with all the other bears and cuddly toys,  dd has never been one to carry a "snuggly" or a toy everywhere, but Catcher has pride of place, he is there at night always, he is special.

One early summer night dd called to me

"Mummy, where's Catcher?" A question to strike fear into many a parent, where is my special toy...

Catcher was lost.

We searched the bedroom, we talked about where she had seen him last, had he been to a sleepover? the grandma's house? Had he been downstairs? Or in the garden?

He was nowhere to be found. We read the lovely book 'Tatty ratty' a perfect and highly recommended read for anyone that has (or may in the future) lose a loved toy.

Tatty ratty has an adventure on his way home, Dd and I talked about what we though Catcher was up to, what was he doing.

I bought a second bear from the same range, I hid him and planned 'finding' him ... but in my heart I knew he was just different enough for her to notice. Eventually I introduced him as Catcher's cousin. He was named Snuggles, and we waited, but Catcher did not return.

Six months passed and Catcher was still missed. We found a third bear of the same type in a charity shop and a still sad DD insisted we 'save' him. He was named Padlock (after the bear in the Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear story by Andy Stanton) and now Snuggles and Padlock sat on the bed, sadly watching the door for the return of Catcher, but he didn't come back.

Then one day I saw a black version of the now much talked about bear! Neither of us had seen a black Hug-Me-Better bear before, he seemed very special, maybe he could heal some of the hurt that missing Catcher caused? And so he was bought and he came home too, Panther sat with the others, on a silent bear vigil.

Winter came. I went up to the loft to get down the winter weight duvet for DD...

And there, snuggled down in the middle of it was Catcher! He had hidden in the loft for a year. Now he is back on the bed. With his new crew. Like the A Team of bears.

Has your child ever lost a toy? What did you do to help them cope and did you ever find the toy again?

Some top tips for bear safety : 
  • Take a photo (a nice clear one from all sides) of your toy before it goes missing! You never know when you will need to tell someone what it looks like - store the pic online for easy access if away from home.
  • Label your bear in some way - if you don't want to use your own details try something like Tag a Teddy
  • If you lose your bear, use online services to help - something like LostTeddyBear

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Growing older and wiser ... and greyer


Calvin sums it up so simply doesn't he? It's a bit like that bumper sticker "Get a teenager while they still know everything". The certainty of youth, the certainty of naivety, the certainty of ignorance. All so very close, so very linked.

When I was in my teens (in the 80s, probably before most of you were out of nappies) I was very right wing. I think teens think in absolutes, a bit like children, very right and wrong, very fair or not fair, very black and white. There are no shades of grey because no one made you think about them yet. I was right wing because it seemed the most 'fair'. You work hard you get stuff, you break laws you go to prison, you have a baby it's up to you to feed and clothe it. But I know as many people that were left wing then, and are more right wing now!

As you grow older hopefully you gain both an education and experience. Now I look at the world through different eyes. My hair is greyer and so is my view of the world. I have been poor and in debt (briefly) while living in a rented bedsit, I have been unemployed, not because I was lazy but because I couldn't get a job, and I have struggled to find money at the end of the week for food. I have discovered that I have a disability too. I have had a child and see that she will grow up in an imperfect world and suddenly just expecting her to 'manage' seems all wrong. I want her to have a fair life of course, but my understanding of 'fair' has shifted. Is it fair to be born disabled? Is it fair to lose your job?

I'm far from being completely on the left but I'm certainly not on the right anymore. Why shouldn't people move countries if they like. Why should corporations get away with cunning tax savings but the low paid still have to pay it. Paying benefits to the low paid has a new slant when I realise that by doing so we are subsidising the company they work for, does that company need the help or is it a huge one that can easily afford to pay a living wage? Should we support small companies this way anyway?

Why are we at war? Why don't other countries join wars like we do and who made up the police of the world? When I was younger I would have had no problem at all picking a side, knowing who was right and who was wrong, now I look at the awful histories on either side and find the choice is grey, like the dust that settles around bombed out schools.

Like Calvin I find the knowledge doesn't help. Knowledge can be paralysing. How can I decide from the shades of grey in the world. How do you know who to support? What to choose? Are you older with shades of grey or is life still black and white for you?

Maybe I need to be like Calvin, throw away my studying, my reading, my thinking and sometimes, just behave like teen me, on impulse, on gut feeling. And just act.