This alarmist headline appeared across several newspapers yesterday and The Guardian’s article entitled: The Truth about Sleeping with Baby is worth a read before everyone gets hysterical. It has long been a contentious topic, that of whether it is safe to have your baby sleep in your bed with you, but as a professional who works with dozens of babies each year, I always feel that I must continue to point out the dangers because there is still confusion.
It seems obvious to many new parents that the risk to your baby would increase dramatically if either parent had drunk alcohol, was taking drugs (even strong pain killers can make you very dopey) or was a smoker (never with my clients). There is one more “if” … if you are exceptionally tired! Now, I don’t know many parents who, three or four weeks in to their journey with a newborn are not pretty exhausted. If you are lucky enough to employ an overnight nanny or live-in maternity nurse who bears the brunt of the night wakings by giving your baby EBM or formula feeds, then this impacts less. But even breast feeding mums with overnight help who are expressing may still have to wake up once or twice between 10pm and 7am to pump. This broken sleep has a cumulative effect on a new mum’s energy levels, so sooner or later she, like most mums, will begin to feel the effects of sleep deprivation.
It is all too easy to take the line of least resistance when one is exhausted – anything, but ANYTHING to get some precious sleep! The baby may be easier to settle to sleep when lying on its tummy on mum or dad’s chest whilst they snooze in bed – or even nestled in between both parents. Sure, this prevents the baby rolling onto the floor, but what about the duvet? Unless the parents sleep without anything over them, they are likely to have the duvet shoved down the bed, perhaps just covering their legs as they doze off to sleep with little one snoring happily away in between them. But what about when you get chilly at 2am – or turn over in your sleep and simply reach out an arm and pull the duvet up to keep warm? What if the duvet partially or fully covers your sleeping baby? Overheating would be one possibility … the other possibility doesn’t bear thinking about.
I tell all my parents about the risks of sleeping with their babies in their bed. Fortunately, I don’t know anyone first hand who has suffered such a tragic loss, but a member of an antenatal group to which one of my clients belonged did, so it was just one step removed. That is too close for comfort. The father had had one glass of red wine with his supper that night and coupled with the tiredness, this was enough to make him less tuned in to the presence of the baby. It was devastating, the marriage failed as a result and the ripple effect through the little group was heartbreaking.
So please – buy a co-sleeper crib to have next to your bed if you feel the need to keep your babies close – but never, ever bring your babies into your bed overnight if you have had a glass of wine, are taking medication which may make you sleepy or if you smoke. If you need to feed whilst sitting in an armchair or on a sofa in the night, bring along a little alarm clock or set a beeper on your mobile phone to keep beside you to prevent you dozing off in a place where perhaps the baby could roll off you and onto the floor if you are asleep. Keep the temperature nearer 18ºC in the feeding area – if it is 24ºC you are much more likely to fall into a warm and cosy dozy state, whereas the cooler temperature will keep baby alert enough to feed well and make sure you stay sharp.
Have a read of The Guardian article I’ve mentioned so that you are not in a state of ill-informed panic (newspapers love a good scary headline about babies, but many people fail to read the full article), but the best advice is generally accepted as:
Place the baby on its back to sleep using a flat, firm mattress and, when in a cot, pram or Moses basket, to place the baby in the ”feet to foot“ position with their feet touching the end.
photo credit: ??? Fufue ??? <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37129800@N04/4729633051″>To sleep or not to sleep</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
A long time ago in a job far, far away, I was introduced by a very open-minded mother, to the amazing world of Cranial Osteopathy for babies.
I’d never heard of it back then and agreed to go along with her whilst her little 3 week old baby was given the first treatment. I watched with a mixture of cynicism and boredom as the practitioner gradually moved her hands gently from place to place, cupping the baby’s head in her palms, holding him gently around the pelvis and laying her hand on his rapidly rising and falling tummy.
This particular baby had suffered with bouts of crying in the evening lasting as long as 4 hours. This was back in the day when I did live-in work so it was not only the mum who was tired, but I was the one pacing around half the night with an inconsolable baby. It was exhausting and upsetting for all concerned.
After a single treatment, the change in that particular baby was enough to convert me and, as soon as I possibly could, I began seeking out good cranial osteopaths in the areas where I was working. This was back in about 1996.
When my work began to evolve into what I do today, I realised that getting this type of treatment as early as possible would prove to be beneficial to both mother and baby. I had visited an osteopath personally by then for my own aches and pains, so when he and his partner set up their own small practice in North Clapham, I was over the moon. This meant that I could get many of my clients in to see them as my main catchment area is South West London. I trusted them completely and they have certainly never let me down.
John Carr and Maria Sonberg have successfully treated dozens of babies (and their parents) with whom I have worked over the past few years. Their gentle approach, warmth and calm nature have instantly put anxious parents at ease and they have helped many of “my” babies with issues such as windy pain, stuck neck, fussing at the breast, reflux and even a baby who pooed a bit too often and was getting sore!
The basic principles of osteopathy are:
- The structure of the body affects its function
- The body is a self-healing unit
- A good blood supply throughout the body is vital for good health
- Restrictions in the body will eventually lead to disease
By applying incredibly gentle pressure (never more than resting a 5p piece on the baby’s head!) to various parts of the baby’s body, feeling for tiny signs and signals through their highly trained hands, stresses and tensions resulting from birth are located and released. I have found that babies who have arrived after a long and traumatic labour, C-sections, Ventouse and forceps deliveries have all benefitted in many ways from even as little as one or two visits to John or Maria.
If you are interested in finding out more about this gentle, non-invasive method, have a peek at their website or give them a call for a nice chat to ask any questions you might have.
With school holidays nearly at an end, many parents with young babies born earlier in the summer are considering snapping up a bargain offer for a short trip overseas in September/October. They have probably spent the first 6-12 weeks getting to grips with all the demands of this new little person and are seeing our British Summer slipping through their fingers. Even though we had a bad start, the weather has made up for it since. Even I have managed to lay on more than 2 summer barbecues where we weren’t running for shelter from the rain before the end of the first sausage!
Concerned mothers and fathers often ask me if their new babies can actually go out in full sun with their fragile skin. The safest answer is usually “not until they are 6 months old”. You need to make sure they are covered when in the sun and that you apply some sunscreen to any areas that might burn, keeping them protected from direct sunlight as much as possible by using buggy parasols, or even the trusty old muslin thrown over the buggy hood, clipped on with a clothes peg if all else fails! Even under the perceived safety of an awning or sun umbrella, the light bounces off the surrounding area and can still burn that sensitive skin. Don’t assume that because they are in the shade, they won’t burn. Always make sure they have some good sunscreen on – a minimum of SPF 15.
There are coloured creams which, whilst they may look a bit funny, will ensure that your baby is well and truly basted and you’ll easily see where you may have missed any bits as you spread it on those little chubby arms, legs and cheeks. Always make sure your little ones wear a hat – either one with a nice Paddington Bear type wide brim, or the “Je ne sais quoi” look … le French Legionnaire perhaps … with a nice wide peak with long strips of material which cover the back of their neck and ears. Do remember to rub cream over the tops of those little ears and over the tops of their feet and re-apply when they have been in the water; certainly at least every 2 hours when outside.
If you have concerns about the contents of some of the mainstream sunscreens from your local chemist, there is a super little shop in Wimbledon Village, close to where I live, called Skin+Care which sells fabulous products that are 100% organic, not tested on animals and certainly much better for your skin than most other products. Lisa is hugely knowledgeable about the products she stocks and I send many of my local mums to visit Lisa for nice pure stuff for their new bundles. If you want to put only good things on to your new baby’s precious little bod, pop in and have a chat with her.
You can read all about it on the website
Whatever you do, make sure your little ones are well protected …
Oh – and have a lovely holiday!
Did you know that babies have almost no control of their limbs until they reach approximately 3 months of age? They have a very sudden and uncontrollable movement called a Startle Reflex, where their arms shoot out to the side, almost as though they were falling. When babies get overtired, or sometimes as they are nodding off, this reflex can wake them up. For this reason and for thousands of years, we have swaddled very young babies for the first few weeks of their life.
This not only helps them feel snug and secure as they get used to life outside the womb, but also helps to prevent them thrashing and bashing themselves when they get over-tired. There is a knack to swaddling, but you can follow this link to give you some guidance.
I have used swaddling with every baby I’ve worked with and for many years I have used the Aiden & Anais swaddle. It is super soft, huge and very pretty. Our young Prince George was bought home from hospital in one, so I am sure the Duchess of Cambridge took a leaf out of my book!
There are several techniques which you could use to swaddle your baby, including a clever method where you simply secure baby’s arms, leaving the body uncovered. This is particularly useful for babies born at the height of a heatwave, although this is hardly a common occurrence on our soggy little island.
Once your baby reaches an age where his limbs are more controllable, he will gradually leave the swaddle behind and begin finding self reassurance in other things such as his fist, a thumb or a little comfort blanket or toy. This can be anywhere from 2- 4 months. Some of my babies have loved it so much, they have continued being half swaddled at bedtime until they are 5 months old!
Once they are happy to have their arms out, you can progress your baby to a sleeping bag, using different Tog Ratings according to the season. Some excellent and very pretty sleeping bags can be found here.
Whatever you choose to use, Night Night and Sleep Tight.