Sleep-Training Considerations: Part I

sleep training

If you’re a parent, you know sleep-training is a hot topic. Fueled with passion from both sides, some swear by it and claim that it’s the only thing that can be done to teach a child to sleep, while others say it’s not necessary and that baby will learn over time, without it. There’s so much talk about whether it’s right or wrong that folks don’t sit back, take a deep breath, and consider the implications of sleep-training and how it feels for them personally, away from all the chatter.

The two most-recommended sleep training methods are: 1) extinction, often referred to as cry-it-out (CIO), where a parent puts a child down awake and does not return until morning, and 2) the Ferber-method, where a parent puts down a drowsy child and increases the duration of time baby is left alone while periodically checking-in when baby is distressed; offering some reassurances (verbally, picking-up and putting back down, pats on the head or back, etc) until eventually the parent stops re-entering the room at all. Being that these two are the most popular and the methods that come with such heated debate, these are the two being considered for the purpose of this post. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s unpack what this looks like.

Night-feedings
It’s no secret that babies need to eat frequently. Some people try to convince parents that once babies have achieved a given weight or once babies hit a certain age, night-feedings are no longer necessary. The issue with this, particularly for nursing babies up to a year old, is that the intervals at which they feed and the number of feedings needed in a 24-hour period depends largely on Mom’s biology, namely her breast storage capacity and breast fullness. By prematurely cutting out night-feedings in the hopes of more sleep, baby’s total daily caloric intake is reduced. This has the potential to negatively affect baby’s growth, mood, and overall well-being. Additionally, it introduces the possibility of creating clogged ducts, mastitis, or supply issues for Mom.

Nighttime Parenting
As parents, clocking-in and clocking-out just isn’t an option. We need to have a realistic expectation that we’ll be up through the night with our babies for at least the first year, perhaps even longer. Reframing the idea of the often frustrating parental night-waking into “nighttime parenting” is helpful. While the sun is no longer shining and the goings-on of the day have wound down, the parent is still on-call, the baby is still fully dependent on the caregiver for all of the same things the caregiver provides during daylight hours. With that in mind, it’s important to reflect on how you respond to baby during the day. Do you let baby fuss for several minutes before responding? Do you wait to respond until baby is crying heartily, obviously needing attention? Do you tune out the cries and wait for baby to sort it out on her own? As parents, while we may deeply desire uninterrupted sleep, we don’t clock out at the end of the day. We’re always on and babies are relying on us. When considering how differently nighttime presents itself; the dark, the quiet, baby is often totally alone; one can clearly see how baby’s needs are likely to increase, rather than decrease. Instead of nighttime lending itself to a hands-off approach to parenting, nighttime is a time of high need for baby. High need for baby means the need for high responsiveness from parents.

Physiology of Distress and Self-Soothing
Babies are tiny humans so their bodily systems operate similarly to an adult’s. Being so much smaller however, babies’ bodies are more easily overcome by physiological changes than are our adults’ bodies. As babies cry and then cry harder, their physiology responds the way ours would as we get increasingly upset. Blood pressure increases, body temperature increases, heart rate increases, cortisol levels rise, respiration increases, skin may flush, sweating ensues. Baby may begin to get a headache, nose will run, voice will become hoarse.

No parent wishes this type of physical distress on their baby. However parents will willingly allow this to occur when convinced that baby is manipulating them or that baby is “only” frustrated and needs no intervention. Parents, with broken hearts and large glasses of wine, sit outside the door of their hysterical baby because they’ve been told that without this, baby will simply never learn to sleep-through-the-night.

The phrase “self-soothe” is mentioned again and again; along with the idea that babies can only learn this skill by working it out alone through tears, screams, and sobs. However, when taking a step back, one can see, as is pointed out in the chart here, that a baby’s capacity for soothing is virtually totally limited to reliance on the parent. And of course, the younger the baby, the higher that reliance.

Reflect on how it Feels
You’ve waited 40 long weeks (give or take) to hold this sweet baby in your arms. Now that your baby has arrived it seems like everyone is encouraging you to treat her like a hot potato. Don’t hold the baby while he sleeps, you must get baby sleeping in her own room, you must teach the baby to self-soothe, you’re going to spoil him, the baby will never learn to sleep along if you’re always holding her. How does that advice feel for you? When you hear your baby crying, does it feel in your heart like you want to tune the cries out or do you feel drawn to your baby? Do you feel a strong urge to snuggle your baby up and soothe the baby through nursing or rocking or patting? If there weren’t all the outside noise blaring well-intended advice at you, what would you do instinctually?

We need to find our way back to our natural leanings as parents rather than listening to so-called “sleep experts” and well-meaning friends and family members. We are physiologically hard-wired to be hear and respond to our children. To attempt to desensitize one’s self to the calls of our offspring can prove detrimental to both parent and child. This period of such high physical need, while admittedly challenging, is short-lived but vital to a child’s attachment to parents and overall trust and security.

How did we get here?
If the claim is that we’re being coerced to deviate from natural responses to our children, it begs the question why. What has happened in our culture that some parents have made a choice to tune out a crying infant in order to catch some Z’s of their own? Are these heartless parents? No. These are desperate parents! Parents desperate for sleep, desperate for routine, desperate for the ability to function on the job.

This desperation is at least, in part, rooted in the fact that our society does not value parents in actionable ways. There is a major lack of support for parents in our country. Mothers are expected go back to work at 6 weeks postpartum; the “lucky” ones who can manage financially without pay, go back around 3-4 months postpartum. Neither is enough time to establish one’s position as a parent, let alone get the hang of breastfeeding, become accustomed to frequent night-waking, fully embrace the notion of being totally responsible for sustaining another human life. These are all huge emotional and physical undertakings and there is little to no cultural understanding of that. Then when returning to work, it’s often a struggle for breastfeeding mothers to fit in time for pumping and can require a lot of legwork upfront to get approval and space for pumping breaks.

The challenge for mothers to be able to perform at work without falling asleep at their desks in-between their rushed pumping sessions is very real. This weighs heavily on these women who are trying so hard to manage a very new and very stressful lifestyle. Going home at night only to lose precious sleep once again is enough to wear anyone down. Something has to give and oftentimes the promise of more sleep makes sleep-training seem like the only option.

Is there an Alternative?
There is an alternative to traditional sleep-training that improves sleep for both Mother and baby! Keep an eye out for Part II of this post which will address that.

Placenta Encapsulation… Again?

Placenta Encapsulation San Antonio

We polled a couple three-peat clients to ask why they chose to encapsulate
their placenta three times with The Nurturing Root. Below you’ll learn why placenta encapsulation was worth doing over and over.

Jillian, mom of 5 notes, “There are many benefits that I personally experienced with placenta encapsulation. My milk supply has been consistently amazing with no delay or dip. In my early
weeks and months postpartum, I had enough energy to keep up with my five small
children and I know I can attribute this to the capsules. I also noticed menstrual
support when my period returns. I take a few when that time comes each month.

“With my first two babies, I did not know about placenta encapsulation. The main
differences I noticed were increased energy, more emotional stability, and a robust
milk supply. I definitely noticed when I forgot to take them. Thankfully, I can get my
emotions under control pretty quickly with the capsules on hand.”

Dana says, “I chose to use The Nurturing Root’s encapsulation services because Carmen and her
team are highly knowledgeable. Not only that, I have seen first hand
that they truly care about the emotional health and well being of the mother.
Carmen has checked in with me several times even after her services were
complete. I sincerely appreciate that.

Carmen was professional, trustworthy and responsive. I trusted her. With my
second child, my husband had emergency open-heart surgery when I was 36 weeks
pregnant. Given our situation, Carmen jumped right in to be part of my support
system. She is an amazingly caring person. I have found The Nurturing Root to be a
wealth of knowledge when it comes to birth related topics.

“I will always recommend them to anyone considering placenta encapsulation.”

Placenta encapsulation may provide a myriad of benefits in which the individuals
above fully expressed. Please consider allowing us to help you be the best you
during your cherished baby moon. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you have an amazing postpartum.

Managing Expectations: Baby Sleep

As a new parent, you anticipate losing some sleep, you anticipate night-feedings, and you
accept a level of sleep deprivation. Once you’ve settled in though, things become so hard, so
fast. When that sleep deprivation compounds, you might find yourself vulnerable to all the noise
that all-too-often blares in the ears of new parents. The well-meaning advice about how to get
your baby to sleep so that you can sleep too.

With the lack of sleep you’ve been getting, you may buy into the idea that something is wrong
with how you parent and that’s leading to your baby’s sleep difficulties. Even worse, you may be
concerned that something is wrong with your baby. Take heart, your experiences are not
atypical, it’s not any one thing you are or are not doing that is causing your baby to sleep the
way she is sleeping. Babies simply do not sleep the way adults do because, well, they are not
adults.

This graph is a realistic representation of what sleep looks like for the first 18
months of life. Note that the peak of what is considered “good sleep,” is reached at around 3
months of age, leaving many parents relieved and expecting this to be a continued trend. A
quick look at the rest of the graph confirms that this, unfortunately, is not the way it generally
pans out. If parents knew not to expect it to stay that way, there would be so much less anxiety
about how to get baby to sleep in a way that defies their hard wiring.

It seems that often, while the sleep deprivation does make things difficult, it’s the dashed expectations of the parents that ramp up anxiety and frustration. It’s the feeling that all the other babies in the world are sleeping soundly through the night and that your baby is somehow having major challenges that are outside the norm. This is made even worse by the near-constant talk of how and why a baby should sleep 12 hours by 12 weeks or how once a certain weight, a baby is definitely ready to snooze the night-through. All those loaded promises wouldn’t even sell books if it were in fact true that babies can, do, and should sleep solidly through the night.

Okay, so babies just don’t sleep the way we wish they did. Got it. What’s the solution then? That’s the big question. Co-sleeping, done safely of course, can certainly make overnight nursing access easier and allow for sounder sleep for parents and baby alike and that is a common recommendation among breastfeeding mothers. Nonetheless, the most significant solution to making baby’s sleeping patterns tolerable is to let go of expectations. Stop looking at the clock each time baby awakens, stop counting the hours of sleep you’re losing, stop tracking baby’s nightly sleep stretches. Those things tend to fuel the anxiety since each glance at the clock and each recording of precious-lost sleep is weighed against an ideal that is neither common nor realistic.

Rather, if you take a deep breath and reflect on the difficult transitions you’ve already managed your way through; the birth of your baby, the first few nights with your newborn, the breastfeeding challenges that have been overcome, to name a few; you will recognize your own resilience and your own ability to do this hard thing. You are not alone in your exhaustion, others have struggled with this too; find a tribe to stand with in solidarity.

Your child will eventually sleep through the night and this season, while seemingly so very long, will not last forever.

5 Interesting Facts about the Umbilical Cord

umbilical cord facts

One might think there’s little mystery to the umbilical cord, but it turns out there’s a lot to learn
about the lifeline connecting mother and baby. Here are 5 interesting facts about that special
life-giving link.

Umbilical Cord Forms Shortly after Fertilization
Soon after an egg is fertilized, it splits in two, half that becomes the embryo and the other half
that becomes the placenta. The umbilical cord is formed from the embryonic tissue and like the
embryo itself, begins quite small and grows as gestation carries on.

More than a Simple Cord
The umbilical cord, while always referred to as a singular product of pregnancy, is actually three
separate connections from mom to baby, housed inside one protective sleeve. There are two
arteries responsible for carrying blood to the placenta and a larger vein that carries blood back
to the fetus. This vein and two arteries are surrounded by a gelatinous substance called
Wharton’s Jelly that provides further protection and prevents the cord from kinking.

The Long and Short of It
The average length of the umbilical cord is about 20-24 inches long with wide variance among
babies. Some babies actually have no cord at all, referred to as achorida, while others may
have a cord up to 118 inches long. Any cord greater than about 40 inches is considered a long
cord. A cord with a length less than around 12 inches is considered short.

Knots and Nuchal Cords
With even the average umbilical cord being long enough for baby’s movement to twist the cord,
there are often fears associated with knots in the cord and the possibility of a cord being
wrapped around baby’s neck, called a nuchal cord. However, with the cord’s protective factors
(i.e. Wharton’s jelly and helical structure) in place, these issues are generally not dangerous at
all. If fact, about a third of all babies are born with a cord wrapped around the neck. And nuchal cords have not been shown to have adverse perinatal outcomes. This is reassuring for many pregnant women, especially with so much misinformation surrounding this particular issue.

Importance of Delayed Clamping
In the past, clamping of the umbilical cord after birth was often performed seconds after
delivery. Newer research shows that delaying the clamping of the cord, up to several minutes or
even after the cord has stopped pulsating, is likely a much better method as it provides baby
with more blood transfer from the placenta and has longterm implications for baby’s iron stores.
The umbilical cord is a fascinating piece in the even-more-fascinating process of gestation. It is
the physical connection between mom and baby and the catalyst for baby’s intrauterine growth
and development. The severing of the umbilical cord is often a special moment for new parents.
This seems appropriate since it allows a moment of reflection on this lifeline that has been with
baby from shortly after fertilization up through delivery.

No Place like Home: How Home-Birth Could Set the Stage for Long-term Health

homebirth microbiome

We’ve all heard about how vital a healthy gut is for one’s physical well-being. Gut health has been linked to a strong immune system and optimal metabolism. So, it’s no surprise that newborn gut-health has been receiving more attention lately. It’s not news that gut-flora has been found to be most robust in newborns who have been delivered vagainlly and for babies who are breastfed. However, new research has shown that there may be yet another factor that contributes to an even more diverse gut-microbiome. It seems that babies born at-home, away from the overly antiseptic environment in a hospital-setting, not only have superior gut-health at birth but that this remains the case for at least a month after birth.

In a recent study, mothers and babies were followed from birth through to one month after birth.
All babies were born vaginally, breastfed exclusively, and given immediate skin-to-skin contact to control for factors speculated to also have an effect on baby’s gut-health. Stool samples from both mother and baby and vaginal swabs from mother were collected regularly and tested.
Part of what was revealed when analyzing these samples is that babies born in-hospital had higher levels of inflammation-causing microbiota, which can be responsible for a wide-range of potential chronic health issues. In contrast, babies born at-home had lower levels.

It’s not only the quantity of microorganisms in the gut that were different for babies born at-home versus born in a hospital, but also the type. For instance, those born in the hospital had higher levels of C. Difficile and E. Coli, both known to have the potential to cause some nasty illnesses. Whereas those born at-home had less of that type of bacterial colonization and a greater colonization of Bifidobacteria, a “friendly” type of bacteria often used as a probiotic to increase gut-health.

Researchers also looked at the microbiomes of babies born in water versus in air and babies born to mothers who had received antibiotics versus those who had not. All the recorded data is more extensive than this summary allows. The complete study article can be accessed via the following link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-33995-.

As is always the case with new research, further research is recommended. However, this information indicates that benefits of home-birth may extend far beyond avoiding unnecessary hospital interventions. There is solid reason to believe that homebirth could set the stage for the child’s long-term health. It seems Dorothy said it best, “There’s no place like home.”

New Childbirth Classes in San Antonio

birth classes baltimore

We have had the honor of providing Birth Boot Camp classes since 2014 and are so excited to be bringing this curriculum to the families of San Antonio. There are many reasons we love and use the Birth Boot Camp curriculum to prepare couples for an amazing birth. The materials are unmatched and the curriculum, which is updated with current statistics and research yearly, is the most modern and comprehensive we have found.

Since the program was launched in 2011, it has had amazing growth. Birth Boot Camp childbirth classes are now taught throughout the United Stated, as well as in Canada and Guam.  In addition to the comprehensive 10-week childbirth series, Birth Boot Camp now offers 5 additional classes to meet the different needs of birthing couples.

homebirth baltimore

 

 

Training Couples for an Amazing Out-of-Hospital Birth

This class gives you all the tools and information you need to know about the nuts and bolts of labor.  We will discuss the stages and variations of labor and tools to keep labor pain and discomfort at a minimum.  Waterbirth, labor positions, and relaxation techniques are also addressed. This 4-series class is $220 and includes a beautiful color workbook.

 

 

infant care class baltimore

 

 

Homecoming: Life with a New Recruit

Get parenthood off to a great start with this 2-series class.  Topics include: postpartum health, newborn procedures, babywearing, breastfeeding, and safe sleep.  This class includes a workbook and a 3.5 hour breastfeeding video download, which discusses feeding positions, common challenges, and pumping and returning to work.  The fee is  $115

 

 

food and fitness

 

Food & Fitness

Aside from preparation, staying low risk increases the likelihood of meeting your birth goals.  Join us for this 3 hour workshop to discuss how eating well and preparing your body can be the most effective way to remain low risk.  We will discuss nutrients that are crucial to a maternal diet as well as exercises and stretches to promote flexibility and stamina, giving you the most comfort during pregnancy and birth.  This class includes a workbook.  The fee is $95.

 

 

comfort measures class baltimore

Coping Strategies for an Amazing Birth

Explore tools and techniques to keep mom comfortable during labor, as well as a variety of labor positions and their benefits. Partners will leave this class with a deep understanding about how touch and intimacy can impact a person in labor. They will acquire skills and easy-to-use-tools to be able to effectively keep their laboring partner as comfortable and relaxed as possible in labor. We will conclude the class with discussion on the importance of relaxation in labor and a guided meditation exercise. Partners will approach their baby’s due date feeling confident in supporting their partner in labor and during birth. This class is offered monthly, comes with 2 workbooks. The fee is $95.

 

hospital birth Baltimore

 

Training for an Amazing Hospital Birth

Our hospital class is designed for the couple who wants more. More education. More fun. More relaxation and labor practice. More information on interventions, including medicated and cesarean births. They want to be able to make informed decisions as their birth unfolds. Workbook included. This class is typically taught over six 2 hour sessions costs. Fee: $250

 

 

We proudly provide our childbirth classes in Alamo Heights in San Antonio, TX.  To learn more about our classes or to see our class calendar, click here.

 

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