Month: September 2015

Soother, Pacifier, Dummy! Good or Bad!?

                               Soother, Pacifier, Dummy! Pros and Cons

There is a whole lot of information out there and one of the topics I hear a lot about is the use of soothers/pacifiers/dummy, etc. and whether they are “good” or “bad.” Some sleep experts subscribe to a “no-pacifier” policy, which may work well for you.  However, I must say I have no issues with the use of a pacifier during the first year of life.  That being said, there are things to keep in mind in terms of safety while using a pacifier.  I  feel that if your baby feels comforted, soothed and calm while using a pacifier and you wish to keep it, then go for it and keep it!  If you’ve introduced the pacifier but want to get rid of it completely, than that’s just fine as well.  And if you wish to never have a pacifier in your home, there is nothing wrong with that.  To me, pacifier use is a personal choice and I believe that a baby can establish healthy sleep habits with or without a pacifier in their first year of life.

Let’s take a look at some of the PROS and CONS of using a pacifier. 

PROS

  • Sucking is a natural instinct for babies.  Many babies have been sucking their fingers since they were in the womb. This sucking can be very calming and comforting for a newborn.  Newborns have a natural desire to suck and a pacifier can be a good alternative to the breast where baby may suck seeking comfort rather than nutrition.

  • It may help baby to self-soothe.  Because the pacifier helps to calm and relax an upset baby, it assists babies when learning to control their feelings/emotions and makes them feel secure and at ease.  Babies feel soothed when they can suck and introducing a pacifier may lead to a calmer baby and maybe, calmer parents.

  • The use of a pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS.  It’s not totally clear how this works, but doctors and paediatricians have stated that giving a newborn a pacifier for naps and night time sleep may reduce the risk of SIDS.

CONS

  • Eventually you will need to wean your baby/toddler off the pacifier and get rid of it completely.  This can often feel challenging for parents when your little one has formed a strong attachment to the pacifier. (If your little one is a fan of the pacifier, ditching it around 12 months may be an easier way to go about it, rather than waiting until they are older and even more attached!)

  • Research suggests making sure breastfeeding is well- established before introducing a pacifier so that there is no confusion for baby- since sucking on a pacifier (or bottle) is different than the breast.  Once breastfeeding is going smoothly, a pacifier could be introduced if the family wishes.

  • Regular pacifier use during the first year of life does not cause any dental issues, however, it is said that prolonged use can cause problems.  Use after the age of 2, top and bottom teeth can start to slant or shift.  Use of a pacifier at the age of 4 is where long-term dental issues can start to develop.

Tips for using a pacifier safely:

  • Choose a brand that is free of bisphenol-A (BPA)

  • Choose a pacifier that has ventilation holes in it allowing air to flow in.

  • Do not attach the pacifier to a cord or string during sleep times (this is a strangling hazard).

  • Don’t let babies share pacifiers.

  • Never put anything on it to “sweeten” the pacifier such as honey or sugar- of course this can damage your baby’s teeth.

  • Keep it clean.  Until your baby is 6 months, boil it frequently and (as long as they are dishwasher safe) run it in the dishwasher.  As they grow (6+ months) you can begin washing it with just soap and water.

  • Let your baby set the pace. Don’t force it on your little one if he is uninterested or refuses.

 Ultimately, the pacifier is a personal choice and I respect either option.  Whichever decision a family makes regarding the use a pacifier, to me, is the right decision for that particular family.

Our Personal Journey With Naps

My 14 month old daughter knows how to nap.  In fact, she’s a pretty incredible napper. However, in no way was this an ability she was born with.  Not even close. Getting to where we are today took work. Very few babies are excellent nappers all throughout their napping career without a little (or A WHOLE LOT) of guidance and support from Mom, Dad, caregiver, etc.  Sleep was a major priority for me as a Mom when I first had my beautiful baby girl.  This was probably because I am very similar to my daughter.  I don’t function well on little sleep.  In fact, I’m a “mama monster” without my sleep. This basically means, I find it very challenging to function as my best self when I am overcome with feelings of exhaustion and sleep- deprivation. So I knew from the beginning, that in order for me to be the best Mom and wife I could possibly be, we would all need to figure out a way to get some rest. 

 When my daughter was a newborn (0-3 months) she basically slept whenever/wherever when it came to day time sleep. Nights were spent in her bassinet but because naps are generally a lot more difficult for little ones to figure out, she was like every other newborn: sleeping in Mom, Dad, Auntie, Grandma or Grandpa’s arms at random and unpredictable times.  Around 2.5 months I noticed that she fell into a pretty consistent pattern.  She would nurse, be awake and “play” for 30-45 mins and then show major signs of exhaustion and scream bloody murder until we found a way to pat her to sleep in our arms.  This cycle of “eat, play, SCREAM, sleep” continued to be fairly predictable but the problem was, the only way I could get her to sleep was while I was holding and patting her, sitting on my couch.  Sounds ok, but as she grew bigger, my arms became tired and I desperately needed to be doing more than spending the day on my tush, patting and shhhhing on and off all day! Around 3.5 months I decided she was ready to start gently learning how to sleep on her own in her bassinet for naps, just like she had been doing for nights.  This didn’t mean she had to sleep every nap this way- but it meant we were going to start trying to get her to take 1 nap a day in her new sleep environment. 

And so we began to GENTLY work on naps in her bassinet. It took some time.  Some days were a disaster.  Some days I couldn’t bear the protest and we went for a little “walking nap” in the carrier. But we pushed through and were consistent with our efforts, and boy did it pay off. Around 5 months she got the hang of it and was taking 3 fairly consistent naps in the day.  Again- no baby is perfect.  Some days I couldn’t get her to take that last “end of the day nap” for the life of me.  Other days she seemed too good to be true.  But I always made naps a priority because I knew my daughter’s needs. She has always needed a lot of sleep (just like her mama) but often didn’t know how to do it all by herself.  It was up to me to guide her and support her as she learned these new skills. 

Around 9 months when she transitioned to 2 naps, she had really mastered her napping talents 😉  Heck, it’s because of these two naps that I have been able to study, organize and launch a business all working during naps and night time when she slept soundly.  Being able to depend on these predictable, consistent and consolidated naps (usually 1.5-2 hours each! I told you, she needs a lot of sleep!) has given me something I cannot fully express in writing.  These breaks have given me the chance to spend time doing what I love in terms of career, has allowed me to feel rested and refreshed each day, and has given me a new sense of love and gratitude for my daughter (rather than frustration and resentment that can build up over time when I was previously feeling exhausted and out of control.)

She is now 14 months and taking 2 naps a day. It won’t be long now until she drops that second nap, and we will be onto a new schedule of just 1 nap.  Sometimes the transitions are tricky, even a bit of a nightmare. Sometimes we have an off day.  But when we can be consistent with our efforts, we are giving our babies the gift of sleep, rest and rejuvenation.  It takes some patience and I’m definitely not saying that nap work is easy.  It’s actually the most difficult aspect of sleep to improve.  But it’s so worth it, for the sake of the entire family.  Very few babies are born “great nappers” but every baby has the ability to become a superstar napper 🙂

Tummy Rolling In Her Sleep! What Do We Do?

When your sweet baby first learns to roll onto his tummy in his sleep, this can feel like quite a curve ball being thrown at you! Sleep was going well, now all of a sudden your peanut is waking through the night because they have rolled onto their tummy and they do not seem to like it!   Like EVERYTHING sleep, responding consistently to any behaviour is the best way to go about things. 

When your baby wakes in the night, whether from rolling, standing or for any other reason, it’s important to have a basic “plan” of how you will respond to these wakings so that 1) you and your partner can be on the same page and so that 2) your baby receives a consistent response each and every time.  Often where we run into trouble is when we have little idea what to do in the middle of the night (fair enough) and we try 10 different things hoping to solve the problem.  Unfortunately though, the message being sent to your baby becomes very inconsistent and over time, this inconsistency begins to reinforce full fledged night wakings and crying. 

So, if we can head into the night with a bit of a “plan of action” in regards to how night wakings will be handled, we will be able to remain consistent with our baby.  Like I said, when it comes to sleep, consistency is the best approach. 

So what does this have to do with a baby rolling onto their tummies in their sleep, or learning to stand in the crib? Well, If we can get on board with sticking to a consistent response, baby will be able to work through this new experience with ease and in a quick manner. 

What typically happens, is that because baby is used to sleeping on their backs for the first 4-5 months of their lives, when they wake for the first time and find themselves on their tummy, they may cry out or even scream as though something is terribly wrong! Assuming they are 5+ months old and have the ability to turn and lift their head using their arms, tummy sleeping is actually fine.

However, because this position is completely foreign to baby, they will likely express some frustration!  Mom and Dad may have the tendency to go to baby, flip them back over, only to have them roll back onto their tummies a few moments later.  Again the cycle repeats: baby screams, Mom and Dad roll baby over, baby is back on their tummy later on that night.  What ends up happening is, Mom and Dad begin engaging in a little game of “Wack a Mole” or “Jack in the Box” when referring to standing in the crib.  They stand, you lay them down, they stand again! And sometimes this turns into an all night game!

While as a parent we feel we are doing the right thing for our child by returning them to their familiar position, we are actually interrupting their natural sleep cycle and preventing baby from adapting and transitioning into this new developmental phase of moving around the crib.  It’s important that parents try to refrain from interfering too much, so that baby is able to move and experiment with different sleep positions.  Many babies this age, when left to their own devices, end up figuring out that tummy sleeping is wonderfully comfortable, and sleep beautifully on their tummies.  We don’t want to interfere with this natural process. 

The reality of what this means is that there may be a few nights of interrupted sleep where your bub is experimenting with a new found sense of mobility.  My advice is to refrain from intervening so that your baby learns as quickly as possible.  If we get into the habit of constantly engaging in this game of “Wack a Mole” we are not giving our darling the chance to work it out themselves and this likely prolongs the process.  If you must, go in and roll your baby back onto her tummy and then leave it at that.  If you must go to her, make sure to flip her back onto her back only the ONCE.  If you can be consistent with letting her just be, the challenging part will only last a night or two.  They now have the capability to try out new postions in hopes of finding the most comfortable postion for them.  So many babies end up loving the coziness of sleeping on their tummy- they just need to work through the tranisitional part first 🙂

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