Friday, December 2, 2011

Fun family things to do around Cape Town in December

In an effort to find some fun family activities to put into my advent calendar, I stumbled onto some great activities and events in December around Cape Town. I had to share - a lot of it courtesy of Cape Town Kids!

Any day fun things/ places:
  • The V & A Waterfront has some great Christmassy things on over this festive season. Things like Christmas carols every night, fun rides for the kids, giant Christmas tree, Santa's village, World record museum. Check their calendar out here
  • The Aquarium is always a great place to go if you're looking for somewhere to go. Especially if you have a membership - which allows you free access the whole year. Children under 4 go free anyways.
  • Bugs play park at Joostenberg on the way to Paarl is always great.
  • Talking about Joosenberg, there is a favourite restaurant of mine called Klein Joostenberg. It has a bistro and playground for the kids with a huge lawn to run around on. Bottomless coffee for moms is always a pleasure! There is also a nursery next door to pick up something on your way home.
  • Delvera estate has a great kiddies section, and on Sundays they have cart rides and shows for the kids. going to check that our soon!
  • The Crocodile farm at le Bonheur in Paarl
  • Giraffe House on the way to Stellenbosch
  • Spier is always great to take a blanket and have a picnic
  • Table Mountain - really want to try that with E going up the cable car
  • The Ostrich Ranch
  • Picnic at Kirstenbosch
Special events for December:
  • Whole of December - World of Records museum at the Waterfront
  • 9 December - the Spier Festival of White lights
  • 9 - 10 December - Paarl Monument full moon picnic. Meet Santa (who hands out gifts to your kids) and picnic under the stars. They also have a Carols by candlelight picnic on the 4th.
  • 15 December - Meet Santa at the Waterfront Santa's Village
  • 10 - 15 December - The Caretaker at the Zip Zap Circus
  • 15 - 17 December - Carols by Candlelight at Kirstenbosch
Hope this gives you some ideas for what to do as a family during December!

Homeade Advent Calendar

I know that it's after the 1 December but better late than never, right? I've been wanting to make an advent calendar for our family for some time now. And now that E is old enough to understand the concept more or less (and the fact that I'm on a mission to create some new Christmas traditions) I thought I would get to it!

What you need:
Colourful/ decorated paper like wrapping paper or scrap booking paper
Decorations and embellishments
Ribbon to string through and hang
Fun things to fill it with (I will talk about that later)

I tried to get E involved in the process of making it, but as he's a 2 year old boy he quickly lost interest and went to his bike :)

Step 1.
Cut and glue the paper pouches. You can make whatever size pouches suit you, but I cut an A4 in half (A5) and made them from that size.

Step 2.
Glue it together. I folded it over towards the middle, and then folded the bottom piece up and glued it down. Place something heavy on it while it dries.
Step 3.
Decorate and punch holes at the top. I used a normal punch and made 2 holes along the top, on the fold, to string the ribbon through. (My camera sucks by the way)

Step 4.
String the ribbon through and hang it somewhere the kids can't reach. Because they will catch the drift that there are yummy things in the and will want to get to it, lol. Also high enough that hubby's head doesn't bang it as he walks past. (We chose to hang ours on the arch walkway through to the kitchen)

What to fill it with:
I got some great ideas which I tweaked to suit our family.
There are small sweets each day - one for E and one for mommy. I used quality streets or whatever suits you fine.
I put a few small cars for E in about 3 days

This calendar is also heavily activity based because I feel that it is important to focus on family bonding time. Luckily there is a bunch of things going on this time of the year, and daddy will be home on his holiday as well during this time - so I'm taking the opportunity to get out the house and have a stay-cation. And this ties in very well with the calendar and doing fun things as a family each day.
Ideas include:
Baking Christmas cookies
Making wrapping paper
Treasure hunts
Outings to various fun places
Carols by Candlelight  visits
Milkshakes at his favourite restaurants
(I'm going to share a post of a bunch of fun family activities I found in Cape Town)

Let me know what your ideas were for an advent calendar!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rainy-Day Cookies

I decided to bake some cookies with Ethan today because it's raining today, and I wanted to practice making some Christmas cookie decorations for out Christmas tree this year. It turned out to be a fun activity for the both of us - which I still need to clean up!

Take a basic sugar cookie recipe. I made quite a small batch this time for for the Christmas batch I think I will make a lot more.

Next we rolled it out on our kitchen counter. I gave Ethan his own little bit of dough to keep him occupied when I got stuck in to my own dough.

We took star cookie cutter shapes and pressed them out. After placing them onto a baking tray I pressed out little holes into each using a straw. I plan on using these holes to put the string though for the tree decorations.

Then came the fun part - Decorating with icing! I think for next time, I will just lightly dust with icing sugar as 'wet' icing tends to get a bit sticky. I can imagine what a pink sticky tree might look like - attracting dust and things! No thanks!
Send me your toddler-friendly Christmas baking ideas!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

30 days to hand on play challenge - Day 8

In an effort to find ways to play, and thus connect with Ethan, I was very please to find this challenge at the Hands On as we Grow site. I'm joining a little late (day 8) but am excited nonetheless.

Today is water play day!

A few bowls with water and water colour added (red, blue, yellow)
Some kitchen utensils like spoons, cups etc

Today we were playing inside as it was rainy. If thats the case, no problem, just keep some towels nearby for excess water. Dont freak out about the little splashes - its bound to happen!

The challenge for moms today is to spend AT LEAST 15 minutes of engaged playtime with your child. No phones, TV or distractions. Do it!

This was a great playful learning experience as I could show ethan about colours and colour mixing.

Have fun, and let me know how it goes with your playtime!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Playing at home

I just had to share, I found my favorite new blog Play at Home Mom . It has tons of ideas for fun and stimulating games to play with your little ones.

Yesterday I made moonsand with Ethan. I almost had just as much fun as he did! Pity I didn't take any photos. But it's highly reccomended entertainment.

The recipe is as follows:
6 Cups playsand
3 Cups Maizena (Cornstarch)
1 1/5 Cups water (or more if you want to change the texture for different fun)
Food colouring if desired

The reason why I mentioned putting more water is that the sand was already wet and the texture didnt come out as it should have but it was a blast non the less! The sand eventually dried out to the correct texture.

I'm sure you can also store the sand for later and just add some water to it to restore it back to a useable texture.

I know that I need to focus on playing more with Ethan as its so easy to get caught up in housework and being 'productive'. Especially now that Ethan is getting older and starting to play a lot more by himself and with our puppy. But I realised that now that he is able to entertain himself more now, that we dont get as much one-on-one time as when he needed me to structure his play.

Its amazing though, the dramatic change I see in his behaviour after I have some good old fun and laughs with him - real connected play. Its as if I am filling up his 'love tank'. He becomes more compliant and generally contented (which is a tricky one to get right with a 2 year old). But having said that, a tickle chase game is usually the best quick fix to fill up that love tank and restore connection. I need to try and fit one of those in every day.

Have some fun and laughs with your little one today!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Power of "Plan B"

Moms, as with most humans, make mitakes. Lots of them. Its the human flaw. We start out with the best intentions and end up dissapointing ourselves. And what makes it worse is when it negatively affects, or even hurts the ones we love the most.

But my God is a God of second chances. And if He is, why can't we give ourselves a break? Moms are the worst when it comes to self criticism. We expect ourselves to be perfect first time.

Something that I've learned with parenting that if something is consistently producing bad results, then re-evaluate. For example, you find that your toddler is tantruming a lot; you're not enjoying your child like you should be; you're always tired with getting up constantly to feed, etc. Sit down and think of your current 'strategy'. Why isn't it working? Refocus. There are MANY different styles of parenting and no two families (and children) are alike. Use your God-given instincts and follow your heart. "Are we all REALLY happy with sleep training our little girl, hearing her cry herself to sleep", "surely I don't have to always assert my authority so strongly EVERY time with my child, they are withdrawing from me", "I don't like shouting at my child so much".

So, make a change! You can and you are allowed to. Do it for your sake, your child's, and your family as a whole. Always follow what feels right in your heart, what gives you peace and happiness - even if its not what that book says next to your bed.

I dare you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Strength of a Mother

I realized the other day that I was somewhat different these days. More confident, assertive, courageous. When did this change come about, I asked myself? And I knew straight away - when I became a mother!

I was always a very gentle hearted, and somewhat insecure person. People would walk all over me sometimes. I would be too agreeable for fear of hurting someones feelings. I was fearful and easily intimidated.

And then I became a mother.

Out of nowhere this lioness emerges, and an intense sense of protectiveness for this little person. Your instincts also take over to a large degree. You will go to the ends of the earth for this child of yours, and do just about anything for him - even kill if you need to. And I know to someone reading this who is not a mother yet might be shocked at me saying that I could kill someone if it meant protecting my child, but most mothers would agree with me. I can't explain it, it is something that you know you would do in a heartbeat - lioness.

I think even the act of birthing your child is transforming in itself. When I was pregnant and before, the thought of giving birth to a baby scared me witless. Voluntarily going through hours of pain? Eek! Although I had to have a Cesarean with Ethan, the hugeness of having a baby, having a doctor inject a huge needle into your spine and your stomach cut open (while awake and feeling what's going on) is hectic to say the least. Then being thrust into the position of taking responsibility of a totally dependent being for probably the next 18 years or more is quite overwhelming at times. These things make you grow up very quickly.

And there you are, looking at a little being. Your husband is at work and its all up to you. You can't run away, you have to rely on your God-given instincts, and you grow up. And so begins this new chapter in your life. Your toddler brings out an anger in you at times that takes you by surprise. But you can't run away. You face your fears and strongest emotions head on (because you have no other option) and you grow up.

Tell me someone is a mother and my respect doubles for them instantly. Because I know that they love intensely, care deeply, are self-sacrificing, determined, inventive, strong and mature (at least they should be). We face challenges on a daily basis and come out laughing. Run a double shift often on empty. And will never deny a cuddle and a kiss to their child. We will sit up through the night with our sick child, even if we have work the next day. Even give our child the food out of our own mouths!

And then you realize one day that you are different. You are strong. You feel like you could actually do anything you put your mind to. You are a mother!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Waiting for No. 2

*Please note that what I'm going to share below is purely a personal viewpoint and decision that my husband and I have made for our family. I am in no way saying that what other families choose to do is wrong. Many things need to be taken into account in family planning decisions, like dynamics and personalities.

Now that Ethan is around 2 years old, the questions have started coming again. "So when is the next one coming?", "When are you going to give Ethan a sibling?". And when they hear my answer I'm mostly met with a disapproving "oh."

"No but that's silly, he will be lonely" or "Ethan is going to turn out to be a spoiled brat" and "Oh but the children occupy themselves, when you have them closer together", is often what I'm met with.

Why must every family fit into the stereotypical box of 2 kids, 2-3 years apart, one boy and one girl? And so what if we want to wait 4 years in between our children.

And yes, I do have my broody moments, but the decision I have made is based on more that just how I 'feel'. We are a family of three now, the decision to add to the family should be made in respect of all the members.

I have memories of when Ethan was a newborn and I used to hold him in my arms while he slept. I would not rush through a feed and carry him all the time. I hardly ever put him down, he was always in my arms. I also took the liberty to sleep when he slept (as most moms should) and cuddled him through the night (I still do). I want to be able to give my second one the benefit of getting the same amount of time and attention from me. I want to fall in love with him the same way that I did with Ethan. And I know that is not a reality when you have a newborn and a toddler. You are always split into two directions. Telling the toddler to keep quiet because the baby is sleeping. Nursing the baby and reading to the toddler using one arm. Or shouting at him while you nurse because you cant get to him drawing on the wall, with a baby attached to your boob.

And what about the implications it has on the firstborn? Most toddlers find it very difficult to share anything, let alone their mothers! Why doesn't mommy pick me up much that anymore? Why is she so tired all the time? Why doesn't she want to play? And a little two year old cant understand complex things like that. All they know is that things aren't the same, and he's on the losing end. And when the 2nd gets a bit older he has to share his toys and watch them be chewed on and drooled all over. We all sacrifice when a new baby comes, but I have the feeling that the oldest child has to sacrifice the most.

I've also come to the opinion that a toddler needs his mom almost as much as a newborn does. Yes he doesn't need to nurse, and nap as often. But he needs validation and attention. This is a very fragile time when his self-esteem is being set in place. He is grasping the concept of Independence and separateness from his mother, amongst other big things. Mix this all together with the inability to communicate his feelings adequately (or at all!) and you're in for something tricky. I am determined to get through this stage when he needs his mommy, but in a different way, and come out on the other end with a self-secure child who's love bank and self-esteem is full enough to give to another.

Running and playing (and everything that goes with day-to-day toddler hood) is exhausting. Throw into that mix pregnancy tiredness (which can be delapidating) or a sleep deprived new mom. All I can say is how? I want to be able to get on the floor with Ethan and build puzzles, run around the couch and tickle race for the 20th time because it makes him so happy. I want to be able to get on all fours with him and act like a lion (lol don't ask)! Imagine doing all this with a 34 week belly? Not likely! But who's that not fair to?

The other thing I have heard from my mom friends is that they have the second child sooner, is to be a playmate for the 1st. That is often not the case! I have heard from a few moms that their picture of sibling bliss often turned out to be two children who fought a lot! Compatibility should come more down to personality that age difference. And one cant determine personality. Yes of course siblings will learn some important lessons from each other, but don't expect them to be best friends.

Finances. Imagine putting two kids through university at the same time? Enough said!

Ideally I would like Ethan to be happily in pre-school when I have the second. So that I can have some time in the mornings to devote to the new baby, and catch an extra nap perhaps. By that stage Ethan should hopefully be more independent, and be able to discuss and understand any issues better. I can explain exactly what is happening or going to happen, and he will have the emotional reserves to handle the sacrifices needed. He will happily spend more time with the grandparents, even stay overnight without stress. He will be able to pick the baby up easier. I wont have to worry about him hitting the child by baby, or rolling over onto him in bed. He will WANT to follow Dad around everywhere, as most little boys do. And financially possibly earn more household income that I can leave work totally.

This is my dream, and my thoughts on the issue. No judgement.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To spank or not to spank?

As parents we want to do what is best for our child, to raise them in the way of the Lord. Unfortunately popular Christian authorities (including Dobson) preaches that in order to do that, we need to spank our children. After all, spare the rod and spoil the child, right?

However, I find it hard to believe that such a loving, gracious God would expect us to beat our precious trusting child into submission?

Lets look at this from a few perspectives:

1. Grace and gentleness (taken from Pearl in Oyster).
2 Timothy 2:24-25
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

If false teachers are to be treated kindly and patiently and instructed gently, how much more should I be kind, patient and gentle with my child?  If it's God's job to change the hearts of false teachers, then it stands to reason that it is God's job to change my child's heart.

Ephesians 6:4 (New International Version)
Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 (New International Version)
 21 Fathers,[a] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged

1 Thessalonians 2:7 (New International Version)
7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.
   Just as a nursing mother cares for her children

1 Corinthians 4:21 (New International Version)
21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?

2. Looking at the fruit of our teachers
Unfortunately authors like Dobson portray the child as a manipulator, selfish, mastered by their ‘sin nature’. That's not at all how I perceive Ethan and it makes me quite sad. I have personally read one of his books (Parenting isn't for cowards) and was saddened but how he perceived some children. He points out that us parents must “win at all costs”. Discipline is after all a battle, lol, really? His teachings on spanking for “attitude” could easily lead to “marathon” spankings since he advocates spanking the child again if they are “crying for too long” or “crying to punish the parent”, since the parent has to "win", this could develop into the parent spanking over and over until he child has managed to pull together a docile enough demeanor. And this for an 18 month old? How horrible! He also advices hitting with an implement. To view some more quotes from some of his books, have a look here.

These are our precious children. Like I said previously, nobody enjoys a meltdown. And I find it VERY hard to believe that a small child has the mental capacity to manipulate his parents for his own personal gain.

Other christian parenting authors who seem off base are Tedd Tripp and Michael Pearl.

3. Submission by fear
Parents who advocate spanking as a form of discipline comment on how effectively and quickly it works. They just have to threaten being spanked and immediately the child falls in line. That sounds like fear to me.

When we were in school, did we listen to our teacher out of honour or respect or because we feared the consequences of detention? And when she turned her back, what did we do?

I want Ethan to obey me out of honour and trust, not fear. In the same way that God wants us to obey him because we honour, love and trust him – not fear that he’s going to zap us with a lightening bolt!

4. Using the scripture in context

Is God contradicting Himself? How can something that hurts us comfort us? That makes me think that maybe we have been taking the word rod out of context.

If we look back into scripture, we see that the rod wasn't used to beat the sheep. It was a stick with a curved end to hook around the sheep and guide them into the right direction. A shepherd would never beat his sheep - they were too precious a commodity. And it was common knowledge at the time that a sudden scare or stress would decrease their fertility. Shouldn't then the rod be an analogy for guidance rather than punishment? This sounds to me more in line with God's nature.

Besides, in the few scriptures in proverbs that refer to beating with a rod, refer to a 'na'ar' which in Hebrews means young man - not small child!

And in Deuteronomy 21:18-21
18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Here he is talking about his son being a drunkard and a glutton. Surely this is an adult and not a toddler!

5. Jesus and Grace
OK, so we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. We and our children deserve death. But Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[aChrist Jesus our Lord." That's what Christianity is all about. Jesus came and died for us on the cross and took away all our sin. And it is a gift from God, by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When the parent sins, we repent and know that our sins are forgiven. But when our child sins they are judged, tried, condemned and punished. ?? What?

Why is it that we are parenting our children according to the Law of the old testament, where they need to atone for their sins? Is it that Jesus' sacrifice wasn't enough for our children?

Spanking our children is Old testament parenting. Period.

To have a look at some further resources have a look here, here and here (she addresses this topic in detail). Dr Sears also has a few points as to why it doesn't work.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Terrific Two's

This is a short post (especially compared to my previous posts) which I will probably add onto from time to time, to dedicate to my terrific two year old.

So many people say the"'terrible two's" but I say "terrific two's"!

Yes, his emotions may be nitro-loaded but I say 'why is this bad?'. Showing of emotions are a good thing and that is something I want to encourage and foster with Ethan, especially because he is a boy. We need to accept all emotions - the pretty and ugly. This is what makes us human. I will not punish him for showing emotion. But I must say sometimes he has some frustrating moments but the laughs and smiles are also bigger!

A two year old's hugs and kisses can't be beaten! (until, of course, he turns 3!) Not only are they soppy and huge but he hands them out when we least expect it. It brings so much joy to see him give his grandad a big kiss and make his day.

He wants to share everything - his toys, sweets and food. With us and the dog.

He wants to involve me in every aspect of his life. I love it when he excitedly comes up to me and show me the car he just found behind his shoes. And, yes, with the same amount of excitement he often want to show me how much dog poo he just stepped into his shoes as well! I keep reminding myself that he might want to go off and play by himself one day, and that I cant be involved with every area of his life.

Those little arms tight around my neck (or legs) are the best. When he was younger I really looked forward to the day when he could hold me back and not just be picked up. And I must say, it is worth the wait! And sometimes when I'm sitting, I will feel those little arms from behind, because he wants a piggy back ride. And it makes him giggle.

He can sit still long enough to cuddle with me on the couch.

He likes to hold my hand and play with my hair.

He explains things to me with the greatest of enthusiasm - even though he doesn't yet talk (with words we can understand).

You can explain things to them and they get it. You see their little eyes think about what you just said and they even do what you ask!

He loves to help mommy. He always wants to get involved in my tasks, no matter how mundane. Whether it be packing the laundry basket, loading the dishwasher (with clean Tupperware lol) and even cleaning the dog. I use the term 'helping' loosely, because I just love his input so much, no matter if it is counter-productive.

More to come I'm sure!

Why we chose not to leave E to self-soothe

As a new mom, and as with nearly all new moms, I was scared and uncertain of what was to come. How do you become a good parent? Is there a manual?

Well there are certainly plenty books on the topic. Routines, feeding, sleep training, discipline - you name it. And, like most modern moms, we take it all in.

Things that never quite sat right with me were topics such as self-soothing and sleep training. And many moms have heard expressions like 'crying it out' and 'controlled crying'. There are so many products out there to help out children self-soothe; dummies, silky blankies, vibrating matresses, mobiles with music and twinkly stars and the list goes on.

Why should we force independence on our babies before they are developmentally ready? Studies have actually shown that forcing 'independance' will in fact make them more insecure and clingy later on. (Read further down for some facts)

God created us for love. To love one-another and be loved in return. He created us for relationship and to trust. Too many people these days 'self-soothe' with alcohol, drugs, masturbation and the like. God want us to run to Him and cry to Him. He doesn't tell us to go to our room and cry it out, and then come back to Him when we've sorted ourselves out! He wants us to rely on Him, to depend on Him. Why did he send us the Holy Spirit, to be our comforter.

Isaiah 66:13 (Amplified Bible)
As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem

John 14:16 (Amplified Bible)
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever.

So if we believe that God is so, shouldn't we be the same with our children? When Ethan is upset I want him to run to me, his father, and in turn his Heavenly Father for comfort. I don't want him to self-soothe with material items and to grow up soothing with worse things.

And on the issue of sleep training which include controlled crying/ crying it out (CIO), studies have shown that babies (especially breastfeed babies) need to wake up every few hours for food. That's mostly because breastmilk is absorbed so quickly into their system, among other reasons - some of which are purely emotional.

Have a look at some facts as to why it can be so detrimental:
 (taken from

1. Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies’ brains

Babies cry. They cry to let us know that they need something. And when we don’t respond to those cries, it causes them undue amounts of stress. Science has shown that stress in infancy can result in enduring negative impacts on the brain. Prolonged cries in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. Excessive crying results in an oversensitive stress system (likened to a faulty burglar alarm in one book) that can lead to a fear of being alone, separation anxiety, panic attacks and addictions. Harvard researchers found that it makes them more susceptible to stress as adults and changes the nervous system so that they are overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress in infancy can also lead to an over-active adrenaline system, which results in the child using increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence. Another study showed that persistent crying episodes in infancy led to a 10 times greater chance of the child having ADHD, resulting in poor school performance and antisocial behaviour. However, if you consistently soothe your child’s distress and take any anguished crying seriously, highly effective stress response systems are established in the brain that allow your child to cope with stress later in life.

2. Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development

At an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings demonstrating that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.” More specifically, other studies have found that babies whose cries are ignored do not develop healthy intellectual and social skills, that they have an average IQ 9 points lower at age 5, they show poor fine motor development, show more difficulty controlling their emotions, and take longer to become independent as children (stay clingy for longer).

3. Cry it out can result in a detached baby

Researchers have shown that although leaving a baby to cry it out does often lead to the cries eventually stopping, the cries do not stop because the child is content or the problem has been alleviated. Rather, they stop because the baby has given up hope that a caregiver will respond and provide comfort. This results in a detached baby. Detached children are less responsive, appear to be depressed or “not there” and often lack empathy.

4. Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship

A child that is left to cry it out is less likely to turn to the parents in times of need. Being attended to as a baby is the most basic of needs and if a child learns at that point that she can count on her parents to respond to her needs, then she will also turn to them later in life when she needs their support. But I worry that if I leave my children to cry it out, then they will not see the point in reaching out to us if they have problems later in life and could try to deal with serious issues like bullying, drug addictions, teenage pregnancy, gambling problems, or flunking out of school on their own or turn to peers. Unfortunately, those problems are often too big for a teenager to be left to deal with alone or with peers and it can have disastrous results ranging from making poor decisions all the way to committing suicide out of a feeling of hopelessness.

5. Cry it out can make children insecure

Children whose caregivers are not consistently responsive and sensitive, often become insecure. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals are likely to be comfortable depending on others, can develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). Parents that use the cry it out method often do so because they are afraid that their children are becoming too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.

6. Cry it out often doesn’t work at all

Some babies will not give in. They are resilient or stubborn enough that they refuse to believe that their parents could be so cruel as to leave them to cry to sleep. So instead of whimpering a bit and then drifting off to sleep as some supposed sleep experts would have you believe happens, they end up sobbing and sobbing and sobbing for hours on end. Some end up vomiting. Many end up shaking so hard and become so distraught that once their parents realize that CIO is not going to work, the baby is shaking uncontrollably and hiccuping, too distressed to sleep and too distraught to be calmed down even by a loving parent.

7. Even if cry it out does “work”, parents often have to do it over and over again

I can’t imagine putting my child through one or several nights of inconsolable crying to get her to go to sleep and I certainly can’t imagine having to do it over and over again. However, that is the reality for many parents. I hear people tell me that they always let their child cry for thirty minutes to go to sleep. Or that they have to start the CIO sleep training process all over again after each round of teething, each growth spurt, each developmental milestone.

8. Cry it out is disrespectful of my child’s needs

So-called sleep trainers will tell you that after a certain age, babies do not have any more needs at night. Some claim this is after a few short weeks, others after a few months, others after a year. Regardless of the age that is assigned to that message, to me it seems wrong. I’m an adult and yet there are days when I need someone else to comfort me. If I’ve had a really stressful week at work, if I’ve had a fight with someone that is important to me, if I’ve lost a loved one, then I need to be comforted. But how would I feel and what would it do to our relationship if my husband closed the door and walked out of the room and let me “cry it out” myself? I’m an adult and yet there are nights when I am so parched that I need a glass of water or I am so hungry that I need a snack. I’m not going to die if those needs are not met, but I am going to physically uncomfortable and unable to sleep soundly. If I were to let my child CIO, it would be like saying that his needs are not important and that to me is disrespectful. To quote Dr. William Sears on the sleep trainers, “Parents let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice“.

9. Deep sleep from cry it out is often a result of trauma

Babies who are left to cry it out do sometimes fall into a deep sleep after they finally drop off. And their parents and sleep trainers will hail this as a success of the CIO method. However, babies and young children often sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. Therefore, the deep sleep that follows CIO shouldn’t be seen as proof that it works. Rather, it should be seen as a disturbing shortcoming.

Also take a look here and here.

Moms please take a look at those links if you have ever considered, or practice controlled crying with your baby. I know we have all been desperate for sleep at times, and we all think of the movie version of a baby who gets put down and falls asleep within 5 minutes and sleeps through the night. Yes it does happen with some children (if you're lucky!) but I think it comes down more to personality and age. Is it really worth it to get a few hours sleep? To cause that kind of stress to a little one who is so dependant on you for security? To damage that trust relationship?

If any of you would like some more info from me please let me know and I will get some to you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The benefits, and bliss or Bedsharing

It’s the middle of the night and the house is dark and quiet. A warm little body starts stirring next to me. Instinctively I latch him before he even fully awakes. He nurses himself back into blissful sleep, and I myself fall back asleep.  Daddy is unaware and doesn’t even wake up. All of us are happy – everything we need is in that bed.

Sounds too good to be true? That’s been my reality Ethan’s whole life. And it’s better than good – it’s blissful! And we don’t plan on changing a thing for a while yet.

But let’s start with some facts and personal notes on bed-sharing/ Co-sleeping:
·         Its not as unusual as you think. Most of the non-western world and a lot of European cultures have been sharing a bed with their children for centuries. I’ve actually heard somewhere that they think that we are strange to want to keep our kids in a cot down the hall!
·         It makes nursing at night incredibly easy. One of the discoveries that changed my life was figuring out how to nurse lying down. If you can get that right the whole family will get a lot more sleep. And dad, who has to work the next day, doesn’t even need to wake up.
·         Your sleeping synchronises. After a while I would actually start waking up a minute or so before Ethan started stirring. It’s amazing that he never even had to make a sound to let me know he was hungry. We would instinctively just turn toward each other and reach out.
·         If he would start stirring for anything other than hunger, or just to know I was there he would often just reach out and touch me, and then settle happily back to sleep.
·         Studies have shown that all the members who shared a bed often reached the same sleep stages at the same time, for longer periods. It is stated that we were essentially teaching the baby how to sleep.
·         Co-sleeping babies spent less time in each cycle of deep sleep. However, preliminary studies showed that sleep-sharing mothers didn't get less total deep sleep.
·         Sleep-sharing infants tended to sleep more often on their backs or sides and less often on their tummies, a factor that could itself lower the SIDS risk. If you want more information on that click here and here.
·         It’s actually been found that bed sharing mothers and infants breathe in synchrony!
·         Bed sharing prevents a baby from going into too deep a sleep (as they will if left along in the silence of their own room) which is suspected to be a cause of SIDS.
·         We all get a lot more sleep. I can only imagine what happens when a baby is in another room. Mother is in deep sleep, all of a sudden the baby starts crying in the other room. Mom is groggy but gets up into the cold, turns two sets of lights on, picks up the baby and nurses her. By that stage they’re both wide awake and still need to get to sleep after this. Mom is exhausted and tries to stay awake during the feed. Don’t even get me started on if she has to warm up a bottle of milk still before a feed!
·         It’s a way for the family to reconnect especially if dad worked long hours that day. Baby feels safe and secure as both mom and dad are there.
·         They’ve found that babies thrive better if they co-sleep. (Probably also because of the extra feedings)
·         You’ll find that you breastfeed for longer. I only night weaned at 18 months. I don’t think I would have lasted that long with night feedings if Ethan hadn’t slept with me.
·         It’s been found that there is a dramatic decrease in sleep startles with bed sharing babies.

Can I just add a note on sleeping through the night. It’s a controversial topic and one that I’m not a believer in. The expectation that babies sleep through the night is based on research done in the 1950s in the US, when less than 9% of babies were breastfed. The starting point for the research was solitary sleeping, formula fed babies. Similarly the 3-4 hour feed schedule is based on formula-fed and not breast-fed babies.  New research by Prof James McKenna, looks at the sleep patterns of breastfed babies from an anthropological perspective (across all time and all cultures), shows that healthy functioning includes multiple wakings, light REM sleep, regular night feeding and proximity of the mother. As James McKenna says "Ideas on infant sleep are based on who we want our babies to become, not on who they are".  200 year old cultural changes are trying to override the biology of infants, which has taken 200,000 years to evolve. They say as well that controlled crying is detrimental to a babies health, and shouldn’t be done at all. A child can’t grasp the concept of you returning until they are 3. I must say that I am very much against controlled crying. I might even write a separate post on self-soothing.

Have a look at this scripture. This is Jesus talking. He was an advocate of co-sleeping J
 “6For a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come, and I have nothing to put before him;
    7And he from within will answer, Do not disturb me; the door is now closed, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and supply you [with anything]?” Luke 11:6-8 (Amplified Bible)
And on a personal note, nothing can replace the feeling of holding your child in your arms at night and know that there can’t be a safer, more loving place that he can be. I don’t know how many other mothers have shared this same feeling but sometimes I wish that I can put him back in my belly where I know he is safe and warm with instant access to food etc. But at least I know that the closest I can probably get to that outside the womb is in the bed.
Not to mention that being greeted with big smiles and giggles, and now that he’s a little bigger often kisses, can’t be beaten!
Carel and I both feel the same way about this. And don’t get me wrong – sex doesn’t get any less. We were never the conventional type who always stuck to the bed every time anyways.
As Ethan has grown up he has an extremely healthy approach to bed time. I have never struggled to get him to bed. He never cries or screams and gets out for fear of separation. Bedtime is nothing to be scared of. It’s not a time where his parents leave him to lie alone in the dark. It’s a time for cuddles and love – a family time. It’s actually gotten so easy now that he often falls asleep on my shoulder.
When it’s time for bed we wave goodbye to dad and say “See you later!”. Sometimes he will go ahead of me and lie in bed if he’s tired, I’ll look around and realise that he’s waiting for me in bed, lol! Now that I don’t nurse him to sleep anymore we read a bedtime prayer book and then lie next to each other on the bed, facing each other. He likes to hold my one hand and I often put my other arm around him. And then he happily nods off to sleep. I then get up and leave the room. He doesn’t cry if he wakes up (which is not often anymore), he will just call me, because he knows I will come straight away – as I always have. I have NEVER left him to cry himself to sleep or self soothe to sleep. I am not a believer in that and I don’t believe that it will hinder him to be there to fall asleep every time. Who doesn’t like to sleep next to someone they love? We do!
I remember the night we brought Ethan home from the hospital. I tried putting him in his bassinet but couldn’t tear myself away from him. And with the frequent nursing and checking if he was still alive (lol) I didn’t get a wink of sleep! Until I put him on my chest and he slept like a dream. And the security of sleeping nose to nose every night, was so soothing to me about his safety. Smelling his sweet and steady breathing soothed me to sleep for sure.
I was NEVER scared for hurting him or rolling on top of him. As long as you take the right safety precautions I believe that it is safer than for the child to sleep on their own. The other thing that co-sleeping teaches a mother is to rely on her motherly instincts which can be extremely strong and sensitive if you fully trust them. Its just you an him. You’re not relying on baby monitors and heart beat monitors etc.
I cant imagine a more simple and natural way to sleep and I would recommend it to ANY new mom! Ethan doesn’t even know what a cot is for, lol. I kept blankets and teddies in mine!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Big emotions for such little people (part 3)

So this is where the practical fun starts! These tips I have collected from a few trusted WISE mentors, like Dr Laura Markham (Aha parenting) and Dr Bill Sears, and personal experience. I've linked up their pages, and it will do you good to go have a look at their sites. There is a wealth of wisdom there.
  • Empathize, empathize, empathize! If our children receive empathy from us in their lives it will form the basis of empathy and compassion in their lives. And that is the cornerstone to successful relationships.
  • Give your child a voice, especially when they're too young to verbalise for themselves. Little people have some big emotions going around. Anyone who has a toddler know that they can go from extreme excitement to frustration and back to laughter in a matter of minutes. Like I said earlier, the world is a bright big scary place for a toddler, and they face many limitations in their day. Add to that any aggravating factors like hunger, thirst, tiredness, boredom and you're in the right place for a tantrum. They often can't verbalise their feelings and this can be very frustrating. Most moms can read their babies pretty well so what I try to do is say out loud to them what I think they are feeling. Like "Ethan really wants to stay outside and play. Ethan is sad and angry that he must come inside. But I promise we will play outside tomorrow and have lots of fun! why don't you race mommy to the bath and show mommy how fast you can run!" (I added some diversion there - another topic). This technique has almost single handily fused out most of Ethan's meltdowns. Its almost as if he thinks "mommy gets me, I don't have to argue her"
  • Remember that nobody enjoys a meltdown, even a toddler. Find out what the root of the problem is and fix it.
  • A toddler finds it hard to differentiate between a need and a want. When he was a little baby and probably up until a year, he was all needs - hunger, sleep, nappies, love etc. Now that he's a toddler he adds wants to the list (like the desire to explore and play) but can't yet tell the difference between his needs and wants. That's what makes them so demanding sometimes. Give them some Leigh-way, its developmental not behavioural.
  • If you get mad (and we do sometimes) be sure to explain that to your toddler and make right with them. Apologise to them if you need to. These have been some of my most special moments with Ethan and it teaches him a great lesson - that we also have emotions as parents but, we can apologise and its OK.
  • Point out and explain feelings in others as often as you can. Say "look, she is sad and crying. She has an eina on her knee". This gives names to emotions and opens opportunities to discuss and look at solutions.
  • STAY CALM. Our children need to see us as a safe environment, a lighthouse to help them in a storm of emotions. If we can stay calm in a turbulent situation our children will learn to soothe themselves by modelling after us.
  • Remember he is a kid. Have developmental expectations. Don't expect a 2 year old to have perfect mastery over his emotions, and get angry at him for showing anger if we ourselves are probably getting angry at his anger, lol! And we are the adults and should be the mature ones.
  • If your child defies you it is probably a relationship problem, not a behavioral one. Check your closeness. The goal is for them to WANT  to please you and listen to you our of love for you, not fear.
  • Decide what you can let by and what is non-negotiable. Life is a lot easier when you're less high strung, believe me. And if you can master this now then you will have a happy mom and happy child. Is it really that bad if he messes water on the floor because he is having so much fun with the water in the basin? You can shout and scream and get both upset, probably ending with him shouting and screaming too. Or you can just say "Are you having so much fun, my baby!", put some towels on the floor and join in on the fun.
  • Give them options. Giving them options in a reasonable manner gives them a sense of independence and makes life a lot smoother. Let him choose what he wants to wear, or have for a snack. I would always keep the options to two for this age, otherwise it might get a bit overwhelming. Even when it comes to setting boundaries you can give choices. for example you can say "we can leave to go home now, or in 10 minutes. You can decide." or "You can smear avocado all over the table but that means that you will have to help mommy clean it up later." That usually stops him a lot of the time. And you show him that you trust him to make the best decisions for himself. It adds to his self esteem and teaches him some great lessons in the process too. It also avoids situations where he's likely to oppose you.
  • See things from his point of view and get into his shoes.
  • Keep your promises. Do what you say you were going to do. They might be little but we'll be surprised how much they remember. You don't want to break that trust in the importance of your word.
  • Respect them. Treat them as how you would want to be treated. They are little people but they are complete people, with emotions and a desire for respect.
  • All behaviour comes from an attempt to meet a basic need. What is causing his behaviour problem - a need for more connection? More recognition? More sleep? Or does he just need to cry and let some big emotions out?
  • Play with your child. have lots of tickles and giggles in a day. Ethan loves chasing games, when we both act all goofy. Laughter is a great way for blowing off steam, for both of you. But especially for a little one who cant yet articulate his feelings. Laughter is a great way to destress and let out any big feelings he might have.
  • If he starts having a meltdown, what usually stops it straight away I give a genuine reaction of caring what is wrong. If he starts moaning or crying I make sure to quickly get down to his level, look in his eyes and ask him what is wrong. And then I try to articulate his feelings using words (previous point). Usually the suggestion I make which is met with a whimper is the thing that is wrong or that he wants. It really is quite amazing.
  • Don't tell your child to keep quiet or stop crying. It is important that they feel safe to show their emotions, especially with you. Making them dam down their big emotions is not healthy on any level and is not going to teach them emotional intelligence. He must know that his feeling are important to me, whatever they may be. Expressing emotions is a skill that is unfortunately often killed off, especially in boys.
  • Don't ignore the tantrum. A person who is upset needs to feel connection and empathy, not desertion.
  • Plan ahead of time. Explain to your little one what we are going to do, in that way he knows what to expect and wont be disappointed if he doesn't end up at a play park. This helps especially when you want to go grocery shopping.
I'm sure there is more but I cant think of any more right now.

Just remember that a strong will is a good thing. It means that your child has a strong inner-compass. Its the same skill that makes them persevere at building a tower of blocks after failing 5 times. And its a skill you WANT  them to have when faced with peer pressure later on! God gave us a free will after all for a good reason. Lets try not to punish it out of them.