Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On infant cues and attachment...

I am writing masters' competencies today, and I just thought I would share a little piece of what I'm writing.

This concept of knowing your child’s cues backwards and forwards makes a HUGE difference in the parent-child relationship. It made an incredible difference in my relationship with my son. We spent the first several months of his life in a constant struggle. At first we struggled just to stay awake for feedings, and he ended up in the NICU. Then once we got eating under control and came back home, I felt like he spent his second and especially his third months crying A LOT. I was checking books out of the library about colic and trying to figure out what I could possibly to do help us all get some sleep and some stress relief. Sometimes if I just couldn’t figure out why he was crying, I got into the crib and cried right along with him. Looking back on it, I think it was probably mostly a combination of reflux pain and having a mom who spent so much time figuring out feeding that I still didn’t know his cues. One of my son’s babysitters recommended to me that I “get my pH.D. in him” - that I do everything I could to get to know his cues. I followed part of the recommendations by the “Baby Whisperer” and put him on an eat-play-sleep rotation. That way, I stopped feeding him every time he cried, and it ended up teaching me what his hunger cry really sounded like. I read Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Sleep Solution”, and I learned what his tired signals looked like. I started the sleep routine at the first signs of being tired, and he fell asleep easier. When he woke up, I started to be able to tell if he was hungry. Instead of feeding him every time he was unhappy, I fed him when he was hungry. As I got a better picture of how much and how often infants generally sleep, I started realizing that babies weren’t supposed to wake up every half an hour - so I sat there in my sleep-deprived state and watched him sleep to see if I could figure out why he woke up. As I did that, I realized that because he was on his back to avoid SIDS, his startle reflex was kicking in and he was startling himself awake! So I started to swaddle him for sleep, and it was AMAZING how much better things went. By that time, I started to actually know his hunger cues and his tired cues, and the swaddling was getting us both some real sleep. I started to realize that he might have some reflux, and I started to make more of an effort to keep him upright after meals. Sometimes I gave him a little bit of gripe water to soothe his tummy. And we both started to get along SO much better. We liked each other better and understood each other better. I felt empowered as a parent, and he was getting his needs met. It was a powerful preparation for later on when he was sick, because I knew him so well by then that I really could tell what he needed.

So I just want to express my thanks:

  • to my friend who taught me about attachment parenting and gave me permission to not let him cry it out
  • to Timmy's babysitter who told me to get to know him so well I might as well have a Ph.D. in him
  • for the Baby Whisperer and to the No-Cry Sleep Solution for giving me the tools that I needed to do those things well and for making me feel like I really could be a good parent, and so that Timmy could have a few really good months before he got sick.
  • to the other friend who introduced us to Happiest Baby on the Block, which taught me the basics of how to calm a stressed out baby, although clearly Timmy taught me how to alter it to fit his own personal style.

1 comment:

knolenik said...

This is such great advice Lara!