Thursday, 8 September 2011

The 'fourth' trimester

I've found this idea - 'the fourth trimester' - has cropped up a number of times and from various different sources, it's an idea that helps to make sense of those first few very demanding months. This is what it means to me from what I have read;
  • It usuallly concerns the period of time from birth to 3 months
  • Basically our babies are born too soon, although they have to be because our big heads (or more accurately 'brains') would be too large to pass through our hips if they stayed in there any longer!
  • Think about the huge difference between human babies and other live born mammals, such as a new born lamb quickly getting to its feet and learning how to function in its new environment. Compare that to the incredible dependance of human newborns, who are utterly helpless. It seems like they have been born too soon.
  • How we care for babies during the first few months involves using techniques that imitate being in the womb to sooth and comfort.
A couple of authors who have have picked up on this theme include;
  • Dr Harvey Karp in 'Baby Bliss' who talks about the evolutionary reasons for the early 'eviction' linked to the size of human brains. Also the need to mimic the womb environment to sooth baby who is faced with many new challenges such as hunger, wind and an unfamiliar environment. He particularly attributes colic to this theory arguing that those babies in particular need to feel as if they are still in the womb with it physical sensations soothing their tummies. It seems that cultures that carry their babies all the time e.g. strapped to them as they work the fields, experience no colic arguably because of the constant jiggling. 
  • See the 'sleep' tab above for Karps 5 S's to help sooth new babies.
  • Source
  • Also a book by an American author Amy Einhorn titled 'The Fourth Trimester - and you thought labor was hard.' Check out this great intorduction from the author;
The thank-you note real moms in the Fourth Trimester would like to send:

Dear ________ :
Thanks for sending us ________ . I’m sure __________ will love it as soon as _______ can do anything besides eat, sleep, cry, and run up the stock price on Pampers. Having recently entered the Fourth Trimester, right now my goals in life are to sleep more than three hours and shower before 7:00 p.m. So please excuse this impersonal note.
I’d love for you to come over and see _________ . But no helpful hints, no critiquing of the fact that I
(1) breast-feed without a cover-up;
(2) do not breast-feed and use formula;
(3) allow my child to use a pacifier;
(4) use a Swyngo-matic to hypnotize my child into a state eerily similar to an Ecstasy trip.
Do not tell me that __________ looks cute. I know that __________ looks like a cross between E.T. and Yoda. And no comments about my figure. I am not Cindy Crawford and, yes, those are maternity clothes I’m still wearing.
Bring rain gear and you’ll be well prepared for the nonstop torrent of liquid escaping from __________ and me. Can’t wait to see you -- of course, these days I’m even looking forward to having my mom and mother-in-law visit. I’ll take whatever adult company I can get.

So in summary...
  • Baby wanted to stay inside for a bit longer, that's why those first few months are so demanding.
  • Mimicing the conditions of the womb via swaddling, rocking, holding baby close and white noise or shhhing can help sooth baby and maybe even relieve colic.
  • Your new baby can't be spoilt during the first few months, they need lots of love and physical attention.
  • Thinking about the your baby in this way might make the challenges and anxieties a little easier to cope with as you get used to being a new parent.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Parenting styles

The fantastic Cherry Healey has done it again, presenting an engaging, informative programme on the different approaches parents adopt in raising their children - Cherry's Parenting Dilemmas.
Admittedly the parents interviewed were quite extreme versions of the 'type' but that made for interesting viewing and as always Cherry got right into their lives and asked probing questions.
Most of the people interviewed had older children (whereas Cherry's baby Coco is under 2) this made sense though as she wanted to explore the effects the different approaches had on the kids and their families.
Approaches included;
  • Strict parents who advocated and demonstrated smacking. Now I'm against smacking as an approach, but even those pro-smaking may have found the frequency a little too much in the case of this family, also the way it was used as a response to minor incidents e.g., going for some crisps when told not to, fussing about going to bed...
  • Indulgent mom who worked incredibly hard to provide an excess of material things for her kids (but should probably work less, sleep more and spend quality 'free' time with her kids who seemed fairly numb at the prospect of shopping for more 'stuff'.)
  • Liberal mum. Despite my initial reservations she was by far the most successful model with relaxed and happy children who also seemed to be achieving in their different ways. The 'liberal' part of this mums approach seemed to be well directed, with very individual and varied home schooling, such as going roller blading along the seafront for PE! Her priorities were good manners and a good diet and they all seemed very happy on it. This was in stark contrast to the little girl who had taken on all her mums worst fears of the many ways her children might get harmed.
As always I think the 'middle way' approach is best, but this programme helped to clarify the extremes in order to locate that middle e.g., to be firm but fair and loving, nurture and support your childs interests and talents and help them excel in those, encourage them to dream but help them to navigate reality, to be the 'bad guy' sometimes for their best interests but maybe give in sometimes to!

Phew, this parenting lark is hard work :)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Milk Feeds: Breast & Bottle

No new parent can possibly miss the 'breast is best' mantra promoting breastfeeding over formula feeding. Personally I agree, I believe that women should breast feed at least initally to give baby the best start. HOWEVER...
The forceful and relentless way this message is given by healthcare professionals and promoters (individuals and the system whole) can be damaging for those many women with problems breast feeding. These might include (in their varying degrees of severity);
  • Latching on problems
  • Discomfort / pain
  • Infection
  • Difficulties following birth complications
  • Premature babies
  • Insufficient milk supply
[Please comment below with your own experiences]

Check out this article
I assume the 'breast is best' campaign is mainly aimed at those women who simply choose not to breastfeed and / or are not aware of its substantial benefits. However what is actually happening is that women who are sincerely trying to establish and continue breastfeeding are being allowed to struggle for too long.
For example, a mum having too little supply and watching their little ones' weight continue to drop as numerous midwives and health visitors try various ways to help. At no point does anyone say 'put a bottle in his mouth!' There is such resistence to bottle feeding for fear of baby rejecting the breast, but surely it is more important to have a fed and content baby and parents who are not constantly distressed and in tears. At best healthcare professionals seem prepared to suggest syringe and cup feeding small amounts of formula to ensure baby is getting some food....but if you've ever tried this you will know how difficult and upsetting a process it can be.
The difficulty is of course WHEN to give up breastfeeding (or combine it with formula feeds) when problems arise and this of course needs to be the parents decision. Where our current system fails parents is that it will not support or suggest the bottle feeding option soon enough or at all. New parents who have chosen to breast feed but are considering stopping will be very emotional about this decision and may feel a sense of failure, therefore the added pressure by professionals (and the wider media) may make parents delay the decision and make them feel even worse about it.
But what really matters? Surely if feeding difficulties start to impact on the babies health and weight and the psychological state of the parents and their positive bonding with baby, other options should be explored. One such option is combination feeding (breast milk and formula) which might be preferable for all sorts of reasons, and even if baby does reject the breast through this process a woman can still express and feed the breast milk via the bottle!

Presenter Cherry Healey recently made a welcome documentary on the issues around breastfeeding. This was a very honest programme presenting different difficulties women face including physical, social and psychological challenges, the emotional side to breastfeeding and also interviews with women who'd been successful in continuing to breast feed. See here for the first part of the programme.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Featured Site / Book: 'Baby Sleep Answers'

Sleep must be one of the biggest obsessions for new parents, the lack of it is something you brace yourself for during the first few weeks / couple of months. However if your baby continues to wake, or has difficulty settling to sleep month after month you may start looking at ways to help encourage better sleep habits.

There are many books on this topic (a few are suggested in the blog Amazon store) but one of the best has to be 'The Baby Sleep System' by Wendy Dean, here's why;
  • It is written clearly and concisely, so no wading through page after page to get to the main ideas.
  • The book collects together and explains several different aproaches drawn from many books, medical journals, the authors personal experience and reader feedback.
  • Includes specific issues such as naps, early waking, ditching the dummy...
  • Has a fantastic tie in website that offers free online support to anyone who has bought the book and further consultations if you want them.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Welcome to THE BABY BASE! 
Our aim is to collect together and share helpful information to support new mums. Everything from pregnancy and labour through to the first year, covering themes like sleep, feeding, equipment, weaning etc... We want to highlight products, websites and ideas that have been particularly useful. There is an Amazon shop on the blog with specifically selected items, we will not be advertising any products or companies just to make money!

So do keep popping back, have a look around as we grow and leave a comment to let us know your thoughts and experiences.