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Motherhood

Babies + Kids

The Ins & Outs Of Swimming With Baby

Yes, it’s -10°C outside. And yes, maybe the last thing you are thinking about is a dip in the pool.   However, Toronto’s indoor pools are pretty busy this season with parents finding indoor swimming and lessons a great way to keep their children busy as outside temps fall below freezing.

Swimming at all ages is awesome and it’s particularly amazing for infants for a whole host of reasons.

When can you take your little one for a dip?

Although a specific swimming age appropriate guideline doesn’t formally exist, most pediatricians and health practitioners advise parents to wait until their baby is about 5-6 months old before enrolling in swim classes. By this age your baby should have pretty good head and torso control. Plus, at that age your baby will be able to splash, kick and enjoy the water.

After spending nine months suspended in fluid in the womb, it’s not surprising that most babies have a natural affinity for water.  Babies have primitive reflexes that actually help them in the water.

Specifically, the laryngeal reflex (or gag reflex) allows them to hold their breath and avoid inhaling water in response to the sensation of water on their face, nose or throat.

 

The Benefits of Swimming in Infants

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that younger children may benefit greatly from swimming classes.

New data shows that early swim training may actually lower drowning rates in children under the age of 4.  Swimming also helps to develop a child’s confidence, as well as improve motor skills and co-ordination.

Swimming helps develop a child’s confidence and improve motor skills and co-ordination

Here are a few tips to turn your tot into a water baby:

  • Visit pools that have warmer water temps for baby’s comfort
  • Use bath time as an opportunity to get your baby used to the water.  Sing a song, use a cloth or sponge to dribble some water over baby’s face, splash, and blow bubbles.
  • Take your time and be patient.  Give her plenty of time to get acclimated to the water.
  • Start with slow, gentle motions like bouncing up and down together or swaying from side to side.  Once she’s more comfortable with her surroundings, explain and demonstrate some fun, basic skills like blowing bubbles or splashing.
  • Hold off on introducing floats or other floatation devices until baby is comfortable in the water.
  • Enjoy yourself.  If you are relaxed, smiling and having fun, your baby is more likely to be at ease!
Pregnancy

Q&A: Should I get a Midwife or a Doula?

Q. I’m pregnant with my first baby and a friend of mine suggested I hire a doula for labour and delivery. What exactly is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

A.  Although a midwife and a doula may seem very similar in their approach toward childbirth, their roles differ quite significantly.

In Canada, midwives are trained and licensed medical professionals providing care to women during pregnancy, labour and delivery.

Doulas are not health care providers, but instead offer guidance as well as physical and emotional support to the mother and her partner during the pre and post-natal periods as well as during childbirth. She provides physical support to the labouring mother including gentle massage, guided breathing and positional support. A doula often provides education and information to the couple so that they can make informed choices in their birthing experience.

Here are few things your midwife will do:

  • Run prenatal tests and monitor your health and the baby’s health during pregnancy, birth and post-partum period
  • Prescribe maternal health related supplements or medications
  • Perform physical examinations
  • Consult with an obstetrician (OB) if a medical complication comes up which is out of the midwifery scope
  • Do their best to help you experience a comfortable birth

Here are a few things your doula will do:

  • Give you information about medical examinations and procedures (but cannot perform these procedures)
  • Establish a pre-natal relationship with you and help you figure out your “birth plan”
  • Help keep you and your partner feeling calm and supported during labour
  • Use a variety of tools and techniques to help you manage the intense physical sensations of labour and birth
  • Ensure you feel comfortable and confident communicating your needs to your health care provider
  • Provide any post-partum help and support

Although doulas do not provide medical care, research has shown that having a doula present throughout birth decreases the likelihood of using medical interventions such as instrument-assisted births (forceps, vacuum extraction) and c-section births. Furthermore, women who use doulas report having more positive feelings about their childbirth experience.

Research shows that having a doula present throughout birth decreases the likelihood of using medical interventions.

Many women often choose to have a midwife and a doula supporting them through labour and childbirth providing a perfect complement of knowledge, care and comfort for the mama-to-be.

Recently I became a Doula after taking the DONA International Doula Course at The Toronto Yoga Mamas.  A few weeks ago, I attended my first birth and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!  If you have any questions about doulas or my role as a doula, please feel free to send me a message at hello@draliya.ca.

Find my Q&A expert column and other great mama and baby advice & resources at babypost.com.

(Original post at babypost.com)

(Photo by babypost.com)

 

 

Babies + Kids

Your infant sleep questions…ANSWERED!

As a new mom, I remember spending endless early morning hours searching the internet in the hopes of finding the miracle that would help my little girl sleep through the night! Or even sleep a 6 hour stretch!  I know I’m not alone!  On every new parents mind is – SLEEP! When will my baby sleep through the night? What do I do to help?  Countless articles and books have been written around the subject of Infant Sleep.

Last year, when I was awake at 4 am researching the matter on the internet I came across Catherine Wright – sleep consultant extraordinaire and owner of Motherhand, offering supportive sleep coaching. Her approach and philosophy surrounding sleep is integrative and intuitive allowing parents the space to use a variety of sleep solutions and embracing all parenting styles.

We asked Catherine some of our frequently asked sleep questions – here’s what she had to say.

Q: When is a good time to start sleep training?

A: There is a wonderful book called Bedtiming, by Marc Lewis and Isabela Granic, which gives parents an overview of optimum ‘windows’ for making modifications around an infant or child’s sleep, based on where they are at developmentally.

The 5.5 – 7.5 month window is considered a good time for sleep coaching. At this age, babies are naturally starting to consolidate overnight sleep (and so we’re simply finding ways to nudge the process along). Developmentally, they tend to be focused on tactility, and more interested in exploring the edges of a sleep sack, or grasping for comfort buddy, than tracking parents’ whereabouts.

Because separation anxiety and social referencing tends to peak around the 9-month mark, this is not an ideal time to make big changes around a baby’s sleep.

The 5.5-7.5 month window is considered a good time for sleep coaching

Q: When is it too early to sleep train?

A: Of course, there are differing opinions on this.

Internal, biological forces like melatonin production (a sleepy hormone) and the development of the circadian rhythm start kicking-in around the 4-month mark, totally transforming the sleep landscape for a baby. It’s helpful to wait until these processes are underway, before helping a baby learn to fall asleep and resettle more independently (introducing new sleep associations and moving away from bouncing, holding or feeding a baby to sleep).

Some pediatricians and sleep experts feel babies as young as 2-3 months are ready to ‘sleep train’. In my experience, this is not always the case. I prefer to wait until a baby is 5 months before starting sleep coaching – parents can see marked changes very quickly, and changes tend to ‘stick’ at this age, when parents are consistent.

Sleep foundations should be solidly rooted before parents start with any sleep coaching method. Without foundations in place, parents often get frustrated or stressed because they aren’t seeing results, tears are not easing off as they’d hoped, or, if they have initial success, it starts to unravel within a few weeks.

Q: What is sleep shaping?

A: I think of sleep shaping as the gentle steps parents can take, starting on day one, to set their baby up for long term, healthy sleep. Sleep shaping is mindful of a baby’s developmental age and stage, and how the sleep ‘puzzle’ comes together over time.   Sleep shaping is essentially laying down the ‘sleep foundations’:

  • Ensuring baby’s health, nutrition and emotional wellbeing is in check
  • Creating a healthy sleep environment for baby
  • Cultivating simple routines around baby’s naps and bedtime
  • Ensuring baby is getting enough daytime and nighttime sleep for his age (being mindful of not overstretching wakeful periods during the day)
  • Establishing (fairly) non-variable wake-up and bed times

Once foundations are in place and baby is old enough, parents can start to teach their baby how to fall asleep with less intervention by giving them new associations around sleep which support self-settling.

Sleep shaping are the gentle steps parents can take, starting on day one, to set their baby up for long term, healthy sleep

Q: Will my baby ever sleep through the night?

A: Yes! When sleep foundations are in place this often unfolds organically, when baby is ready. There is also a huge range within ‘normal’ when it comes to overnight waking patterns in the first year of life, but most healthy babies are quite capable of this by 6 months (many earlier).

Don’t forget that all babies and toddlers wake frequently at night! The difference between a baby who is ‘sleeping through’ and a baby who is still waking at night is that the baby who is ‘sleeping through’ has learned some sleep skills which allow him to resettle on his own when he wakes and doesn’t have an immediate need.

For parents who want to be more proactive around nudging their baby in this direction, they’d first want to ensure sleep foundations are in place, and then find a sleep coaching method that fits with their parenting style, household set up, and their baby’s temperament and age.

It possible to embark on sleep coaching while respecting that a baby still may need to feed overnight.

sleeping baby 1

Q: How about bedtime routines?

A: Sleep routines are possibly the most important sleep foundation for babies, toddlers and adults.

Wind-down routines offer babies a transition between ‘awake time’ and falling asleep – it is the predictability around routines that sets sleep in motion. Instilling routines early on makes it easier to help a baby learn to settle more independently, down the road.

Here are a few key ingredients for a bedtime wind-down routine:

  • Doing relatively the same low-key activities in the same order each evening before your child’s intended bedtime (bath, PJs, cuddles and books, lullaby, bed).
  • Turning off all screens in the home and dimming lights
  • Darkening baby’s sleep space (as dark as you can get it!)
  • Using a bedtime lullaby or ‘sleepy mantra’ around settling baby into sleep
  • Ending the routine ends in baby’s sleep space

Parents can start with a short, simple routine and build upon it as their baby gets older. Using continuous ‘white noise’ around wind-down routines and overnight can be incredibly helpful in the first year of baby’s life.

Wind-down routines offer babies a transition between ‘awake time’ and falling asleep

Q: What else can parents do to help with the sleep training process?

A: It’s essential to consider a baby’s health, nutrition and emotional wellbeing before starting on a sleep coaching plan. If a baby’s birth experience was traumatic in any way, if baby has had a history of reflux, colic, or difficulty latching or feeding – chiropractic care is tremendously beneficial and will support the changes parents are making towards improving their child’s sleep.

By optimizing baby’s nervous system (neural communication) and assisting any restrictions in his body, chiropractic treatments often make the sleep learning journey a much smoother process.

chiropractic treatments often make the sleep learning journey a much smoother process

Q: How would you know if your baby or toddler is a good candidate for sleep coaching?

A:

  • You have a 6-month baby (or older) who is waking frequently at night and having trouble resettling.
  • Bedtime is routinely a drawn out process, or fraught with tears or lots of protesting.
  • Your baby is 6 months or older and has very unpredictable routines around sleep.
  • You feel your baby or child is chronically not getting enough restorative sleep during the day or at night.
  • You’ve made sacrifices to accommodate your baby or child’s sleep but are now so exhausted your day-to-day life is affected and you’re not sure about the best way forward.
  • You have multiple children and are struggling to find peaceful routines around helping them to sleep in a way that works for your family.
  • Your baby is no longer a newborn but you are all sleeping like he is.
  • You simply want support around creating new routines for the way your family sleeps.

If you have any other questions or would like to speak with Catherine, visit her website at www.motherhand.com.  You won’t be sorry you did!

Babies + Kids, Pregnancy

Baby and Beyond: Learning by Trial & Error

As a chiropractor working with pregnant women and babies for years, I’m your girl when it comes to labour prep, solutions for colic, dealing with gas, breastfeeding, morning sickness and the like. I’m ready and willing to share!

But nothing could have prepared me for going through this process myself.   There is so much more to pregnancy, labour, childbirth and parenting than I could have imagined. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 14 months, it’s that every pregnancy, mama, baby is different. What worked for many of my friends, or even my patients did not work for me.   Unfortunately, there isn’t one way to conquer all that comes with pregnancy and having (and raising) a baby. What I’m slowly learning is that parenting is basically trial and error. As an analytical person, I like to follow rules, steps, flowcharts; motherhood doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Every baby is different and we are all doing our best to figure it out. You might get the hang of certain things – you’re good, you’ve got it under control… And then the phase changes. Sleep patterns are out the window, your toddler stops eating and you have something new to master. It’s a learning curve, and at times it can be frustrating but it’s also so gosh darn amazing!

So if you’ve tried everything under the moon to help soothe your teething, fussy baby (or your morning sickness won’t ease no matter how many tips you’ve tried), my advice to you is: Don’t Give Up! Just because your best friend’s way to burp a baby didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. You’ll settle into your groove and find a way that works best for you.

Chin up Mama – you’re doing great!