10 Simple Ways to Build an Unbreakable Bond With Your Child, by Angela Pruess

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Our connection to our children means everything.

It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.

We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.

Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.

Reading

We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.

This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.

Art

Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.

When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.

Music

Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!

It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.

Nature

Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.

Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.

Play

Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-simple-ways-to-build-an-unbreakable-bond-with-your-child/

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Even Science Agrees, You Literally Can’t Spoil A Baby, by Wendy Wisner

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“Don’t you ever put that baby down?”

“Aren’t you going to spoil him?”

“Start teaching him to self-soothe now, before it’s too late.”

Yup, these were things actually said to me when my babies were newborns. Nope, not even when they were a few months old. When they were itty-bitty babies fresh out of the womb, I had strangers, family members — and yes, even doctors — question whether I was going to spoil my babies by holding them all the time.

Looking back, I know how absurd these statements were. My boys are 4 and 9 now, and whiz by me so fast I have to beg them to sit down and cuddle in my lap like they did all those years ago. At the time, though, I didn’t know for sure that my babies would be totally independent eventually, so the critique definitely got under my skin.

The thing is, holding my babies almost 24 hours a day like I did in those months was not exactly a choice. It was a necessity. If I put my babies down, they wailed their little heads off.

Maybe I could have let them do that, and maybe they would have learned to soothe themselves somehow, but every instinct in my body told me that if my baby was crying, he needed to be picked up. And I went with those instincts, despite the fact that I sometimes received dirty looks and judgment.

Turns out, my instincts were absolutely correct. Babies do need to be held whenever they fuss — and not just because they’re sweet and cuddly and their hair smells like heaven. It turns out there’s a ton of research out there to back up the claim that you literally cannot spoil a baby. In fact, holding babies is actually vital for their health and development.

Just a few weeks ago, a study came out in Pediatrics that looked at the effects of skin-to-skin contact on premature infants. It took the long view, looking not just at the immediate effects of holding preemies against your skin in their early weeks, but also how it affected these babies 20 years down the road.

The preemies who experienced skin-to-skin had higher IQs, significantly larger areas of gray matter in the brain, and even earned higher wages at their jobs than those who did not experience skin-to-skin care. The skin-to-skin cohort also showed less propensity toward hyperactivity and aggression in school and were less likely to experience school absences.

Of course, this study looked specifically at premature babies, who are especially vulnerable and in need of TLC. But studies on full-terms babies have similar findings.This 2012 study from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register showed that full-term babies who experienced skin-to-skin care in their early days had better cardio-respiratory stability, higher breastfeeding rates, and decreased crying.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.scarymommy.com/even-science-agrees-you-literally-cant-spoil-baby/

“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog”, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A Book Review and Analysis by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Dog

I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in child psychology or who works with traumatised children… or even if you just have a general interest in how our minds (and the developing minds of children in particular) respond to trauma.  The full title of this book is “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, What Traumatized Children can Teach us about Loss, Love and Healing” and the authors are Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, and Maia Szalavitz.

One of the things I liked about this book was that, despite saying that traumatic events can “leave indelible marks on the mind [and the]…impact of PTSD [Post Traumatic Shock Disorder] is actually far greater on children than it is on adults” [p.2], the overall tone is positive and hopeful, both for children who have been affected by PTSD as a consequence of  severe abuse and/ or neglect or due to witnessing horrific events, as well as for adults affected by PTSD.   Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy (USA and Canada) is the “voice” of this book, which he wrote together with Maia Szalavitz, an award winning journalist who specialises in science and health.  Perry compassionately and respectfully acknowledges the immense importance of “The Forever Years” (childhood) and the importance of investing in and creating a serious strategy of therapy for children  affected by trauma.

As a “lay person” (non-psychiatrist) I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” clear and self-explanatory.   On page 21 there is an excellent description of how our human brain develops: …“there are four major parts of the brain: the brainstem, the diencephalon, the limbic system and the cortex.  The brain is organised from the inside out, like a house with increasingly complicated additions built on an old foundation.  The lower and most central regions of the brainstem and the diencephalon are the simplest.  They evolved first, and they develop first as a child grows.  As you move upward and outward, things get increasingly more complex with the limbic system.”

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Source: “The Boy who was raised as a Dog,” appendix, figure 2, p. 248.

The younger a child is when a traumatic event occurs, Perry says, the greater the affect on the lower and most central regions of the brain.  This, he explains, is “developmental trauma” (as opposed to inherent anxiety or stress disorders caused in utero or by genetics).  Trauma in early childhood causes “altered receptors” or heightened sensitivity to “threat”: an over-exaggerated “fight or flight” reaction, based on triggers which the person may not even  be consciously aware of themselves and which, in others who have not undergone similar trauma, would probably not cause such a reaction.  A clear indicator, Perry realised,  was that children with this “heightened sensitivity” had, even when calm and resting, an accelerated heart rate at a level significantly above that of their non-traumatised peers of the same age and gender.

The responses of traumatised children, Perry explains, can be to create more “chaos”, as this has been their “norm” in the past and brain pathways of accepting chaos as normality have been set up.  Adults who undertake social work or foster care, for example, should be aware of this.  “The responses of traumatised children are often misinterpreted.   …new situations are inherently stressful… attempting to take control of what they believe is the inevitable return to chaos, they appear to “provoke” it in order to make things feel more comfortable and predictable.   …we tend to prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.”  This response to trauma can often cause serious problems for children when it is misunderstood by their caregivers.”  [p.55].

Following from this, Perry says that he and his colleagues recognised that “…the nature of a child’s relationships–both before and after trauma– seemed to play a critical role in shaping their response to it.  If safe, familiar and capable caregivers were made available to children, they tended to recover more easily, often showing no enduring negative effects of the traumatic event.  We knew that the “trauma-buffering” effect of relationships had to be mediated, somehow, by the brain.”  [p.66]

This is where the amazing capacity of our human brains to “heal” and create “new pathways”, even years after traumatic events which have occurred during early childhood (during the first, early stages of brain development) comes into play.

“…we tend to care for our children [and, interestingly, for ourselves as adults] the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, [so] a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.” [p.83].  Our “Forever Years”, then, are also effected by the “Forever Years” of those caring for us when we are young.  The diagnosis “failure to thrive” in a child ” (discussed on p.88) can stem from a parent or parents not having  thrived themselves during their own childhood years.   In extreme cases, even  when other, basic needs (such as for food, shelter and clothing) are met, if a carer is emotionally “distant” a child may fail to gain weight or be delayed in other ways (such as speech or other developmental milestones).  This is purely a “nurture” (or lack of nurture) issue, and nothing to do with anything innate in the child.  Perry talks about how until recently, doctors were “...unaware of the damage that neglect alone can do to the brain.  They assumed that something so clearly visible on scans had to be evidence of a genetic defect or intrauterine insult, such as exposure to toxins or disease; they couldn’t imagine that early environment alone could have such profound physical effects.” [p. 129].

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Neurologists say that the sizeable difference between these two brains of two different 3-year-olds has one primary cause: the way that their mothers treated them. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D./Ch Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chilling-brain-scans-show-impact-mothers-love-childs-brain-size-243328

“Fortunately the positive cycle is every bit as cascading and self-amplifying as the vicious cycle,” Perry says, [p.121] and while emotional scars may always be present, the intervention of a loving, understanding environment can reprogram reactions and triggers.  This is enormously positive  when considering the effect on  future social interactions (including romantic relationships) for traumatised children as they grow into adulthood and becomes parents themselves.  The more relationships are positively retained and jobs and parenting situations are handled in constructive ways, the stronger and more confident the “traumatised child now adult” will become, which in turn further aids healing of old, emotional scars.

Perry doesn’t just put this forward as a vague hypothesis, however.  Throughout “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” he gives concrete examples through case studies of real patients he has worked with (obviously, these children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy).   Each is an example of a child suffering from severe trauma, including the “boy who was raised as a dog,” who gives the book its title.  Through his work, Perry says, he and his colleagues “…only gradually came to understand how the sequential development of a child’s brain is affected by trauma and neglect.  It only gradually dawned on us that this understanding could help us find possible treatments. These insights led us to develop what we call the neurosequential approach to theraputic services for maltreated and traumatised children. [p.125].

I love the “neurosequential” approach Perry and his colleagues take, along with the immense positive ramifications it has for the children they are working with.  The nuerosequential approach works on the basis of assessing which areas in a patient’s brain have sustained damage or neglect from past experiences, and then addressing these one by one.   “We would use enrichment experiences and targeted therapies to help the affected brain areas in the order in which they were affected by neglect and trauma (hence the name neurosequential).  If we could document improved functioning following the first set of interventions, we would begin the second set appropriate  for the next brain region and developmental stage until, hopefully,… [the patient] would get to the point where his biological age and his developmental age would match.”  [p.139].

Just as our brains develop sequentially, then, neurosequential therapy is aimed at addressing “loss” in development (caused by abuse, neglect or trauma) in a sequential manner.  Perry uses the example of a boy called Connor (not his real name), now aged fourteen, who had suffered from severe neglect as a baby.  “In Connor’s case, It was clear that his problems had started in early infancy, when the lower and most central regions of the brain are actively developing.  These systems respond to rhythm and touch: the brainstem’s regulatory centres control heartbeat, the rise and fall of neurochemicals and hormones in the cycle of day and night, the beat of one’s walk and other patterns which must maintain a rhythmic order to function properly.” [pp.139-140].  For Connor, “treatment” began with massage therapy, as early neglect had left him with an aversion to touch which was affecting his ability to even make eye contact with others, and hence affecting his social relationships.

Perry goes on to describe the “levels” or “layers” of neurosequential therapy, each of which respond to and attempt to address a deficit caused by trauma earlier on.

White Layers

Touch

kangaroo-careTouch is, of course, our earliest form of validation and security from our carers.  This is the reason for the importance placed on giving newborn babies “skin to skin” contact and the psychological benefits of this can be seen throughout life.  (See previous articles on this blog about the importance of positive touch in early childhood and throughout life, by following the links below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/infant-massage-nurturing-touch-and-self-care-for-the-caregiver-by-erin-e-sonnier-from-nurtured-child-nurtured-you

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/touch-as-nutrition-by-john-tuite/

Music and Movement

Many of us parents take our preschoolers to “Music and Movement” groups thinking that that’s just “what you do” and that it gives us a chance to socialise with other parents and connect with and focus on our children in a child-centred environment.  All of this is true and the benefits of music to our babies and children has been well documented.  (Again, there is a link to follow below if you would like to read an article about the benefits of music to our kids).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/5-ways-in-which-kids-benefit-from-learning-a-musical-instrument-by-justine-pierre/

After reading “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog”, I came to realise that, beyond being merely “beneficial”, music and movement are essential in brain development, affecting crucial areas such as language acquisition and breathing and heart rate regulation. Music and humanity have been linked since the dawn of time, with every culture having songs and rhymes for children passed down from generation to generation.  They are part of the fabric of who we are.

Play Therapy

mi1_675Perry describes how “play therapy” is used in treating traumatised children and in particular talks about Sandy (not her real name), a three year old girl who witnessed her mother being raped and stabbed to death, before having her own throat slit and being left for dead.  Sandy was alone with her mother’s body in their apartment for eleven hours before being discovered, taken to hospital and having the wounds on her neck treated. [p.33].   Perry discovered that Sandy had a need to role play the scene which had traumatised her again and again.  This involved  Perry himself lying on the ground, in the role of Sandy’s mother, while Sandy attempted to “wake” him and “feed” him, which she had done with her mother during the eleven hours after the brutal attack on them both.  [p.52].  “While she did this [role play] , I had to do exactly what she wanted: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t interfere, don’t stop.  She needed to have total control while she performed this reenactment.  And that control, I began to recognize, would be critical to helping her heal.”  Over the course of manyPlato-play+blue months, Sandy began to alter this re-enactment and, on her own, changed it to a scene where Perry would read her a story book, thus reverting to a positive memory of times with her mother before the attack.  This is not to say that Sandy wasn’t scarred by her extremely traumatic experience.  But “play therapy” in this way enabled her to process what had happened and move towards healing.  Perry says that, with ongoing therapy and encouragement, Sandy went on to lead a satisfying and productive life, despite her horrific early  experience.

The importance of “play” is something for all parents and carers to be aware of.  A particularly useful article on “Attachment Play” (especially beneficial to children being fostered or adopted, who may have attachment issues or disorders, but also beneficial to our children generally) was recently published by Marion Badenoch Rose, here on the “Forever Years”.  (To read it, please follow the link below):

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/an-introduction-to-attachment-play-by-marion-badenoch-rose/

Some other articles on the importance of play can be found at the links below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-remarkable-power-of-play-why-play-is-so-important-for-children-by-karen-young/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/let-the-children-play-outside-by-greenlife-matters-the-nursery-and-garden-industry-new-zealand/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/help-my-toddler-cant-play-without-me-by-janet-lansbury/

Interaction with Peers

kidsplaying-on-playgroundPerry says the next step in neurosequential therapy is being able to aptly interact with peers.  This is a big step, as adults make allowances and try to protect or help a child who they see as having “issues”, but successful peer interaction (and acceptance of and by peers) is necessary to be able to function throughout the rest of life, with implications for all future relationships.  Perry discusses the case of Peter (not his real name) a seven year old boy who was adopted at age three from an orphanage in Russia.  Due to early lack of stimulation and neglect during his time at the orphanage (where intentions were good, but there were simply not enough adults to go around, meaning that Peter and the other three year olds there were fed and changed, but spent all day in cots), Peter, who was an intelligent boy, showed behaviour which was young for his age and, inspite of loving and patient behaviour from his adoptive parents at home, this caused him to be rejected and marginalised by his peers… which in turn led Peter to having angry, bewildered outburts (which only served to further ostracise him from his classmates).

Mandela“The behavior of his classmates was predictable.  What was happening was a small version of what happens all across the planet in various forms every day.  Human beings fear what they don’t understand.  The unknown scares us.  When we meet people who look or act in unfamiliar, strange ways, our initial response is to keep them at arms length.  At times we make ourselves feel superior, smarter or more competent by dehumanizing or degrading those who are different.  The roots of so many of our species’ ugliest behaviors– racism, ageism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, to name just a few– are the basic brain-mediated response to perceived threat.  We tend to fear what we do not understand, and fear can so easily twist into hate or even violence because it can suppress the rational parts of our brain.”  [p.225].

The biggest predator of humans is humans and we have, therefore, a built in fear of other people who seem “different”.  Perry says, “...Peter was intellectually advanced, but socially clueless.  I realised that if he was going to catch up, he was going to need the help of his peers.” [p.226].

choose-wiselyWhat followed was an amazing (and yet simple) exercise in understanding.  Our fear reaction so often kicks in, but the empathy reaction can take longer to activate (in children or adults), but, it has been shown, empathy once activated is stronger than the fear reaction.  To get Peter’s peers “on side” in his healing, Perry (with the permission of Peter, his parents and the school) came along to his class and spoke about the brain… at a level at which seven year old children could understand.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of "The Boy who was raised as a Dog", "talking about the brain".

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of “The Boy who was raised as a Dog”, “talking about the brain”.  Source: http://davidsmithsegarra.com/born-love-dr-bruce-perry/

I talked about how they were exercising their “ABC” muscles [of the brain] in school and about the importance of repetition.  I described how they had many other similar kinds of “muscles” in the brain that also needed certain kinds of attention to grow big and strong.  I talked about how the brain develops and what makes everyone’s brain work, emphasizing how the brain changes.” [p.228].

Perry then went on to explain how Peter had had a different and more difficult start in life than the other children in his class.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

“When he was a little boy, he spent every minute of every day for the first three years of his life in one crib.  …  Peter was born in another country where they did not know very much about the brain.  … Peter never had a chance to walk around, to play with friends, to get a hug from any loving grown-ups.  His brain didn’t get very much stimulation.  … his new parents came… [then] Peter’s amazing brain started to learn so many things.  Even though he had never heard English, he learned English in just a couple of years. … every day in school, Peter learns things from all of you.  He watches how you do things, he learns from playing with each of you and he learns from just being your friend.  So thank you for helping Peter.  And thanks for letting me come and talk about the brain.”  [pp.228-229].

Perry says that, in the weeks that followed, the children’s “natural goodness” came to the surface and they “included him, protected him and, ultimately, provided therapeutic experiences that helped Peter catch up…. adults have much more influence over the process [of helping children understand those who are different] than they may believe.  When children understand why someone behaves oddly, they give him or her more slack…” [p.229].

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In Conclusion

The Boy Who was raised as a Dog” has many more examples of the amazing capacity of the human brain to recover from early neglect or trauma, including the story which gives the book its title.  Perry also worked with the children from the WACO Texas cult and talks about his experiences with them in this book.  While Perry’s patients are extreme examples of trauma or abuse, he says an estimated 40% of children will experience some level of trauma before they reach adulthood [p. 233] and that some of our current practices of therapy and childcare are actually causing more harm than healing [p.235].  He advocates for an “infant and child literate society” [p.239] and a nurturing of empathy– which is why we at “The Forever Years” love this book, which fits in so well with our own ethos, of viewing the world “through the eyes of a child”, an ethos which Perry certainly puts into action when treating children who have suffered from trauma or neglect.

Related Links:

Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/08/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-the-brains-critical-period/

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/529-baby-brain-map

http://nancyguberti.com/5-stages-of-human-brain-development/

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“Babywearing”: Through History and Today, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

1909 Maori Women FY

Babywearing is the act of carrying your baby hands free using a fabric carrier. Dr William Sears coined the phrase in the 80’s when his wife started carrying one of their eight children in a sling she’d made out of a bed sheet. She commented that she really enjoyed ‘wearing’ him, hence came the term ‘babywearing’.

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“Baby in a basket”: a traditional Chinese baby carrier.

It’s a growing trend here in New Zealand and many other Western countries, but for many of the world’s people babywearing is what they have always done and continue to do. On arrival in New Zealand the British observed Māori carrying their babies on their backs, “…an old man (if not a chief) might be seen toiling all day at his work with his little grandchild strapped on his back.” (Tregear, E. 1904). Carriers were made from muka of the harakeke (flax). It would have taken weeks to make enough muka strong enough for a baby carrier. When the old army issue blankets became readily available to Māori they mostly used these as baby carriers. From the 50’s the practice of babywearing was rare in Māori society. Dr Fredrick Truby King’s Mothercare book and nurses who worked for the newly formed Plunket society discouraged the practice of even holding your baby more than necessary for fear of spoiling them or passing on germs that might cause sickness or death.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that babywearing started to reappear in New Zealand and La Leche League played at integral part in the resurgence. LLL has always been a strong supporter of holding your baby close. With your baby secured against you in a carrier you are hands free to continue with jobs while still being able respond to your baby’s needs in the present moment, particularly that of breastfeeding.

yac FY

The Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle: a mother wearing her baby.

A pattern for the traditional Chinese Mei tai carrier was published in a NZ, LLL magazine in the 70’s. Along with the increased ease and decreasing cost of international travel, LLL being an international organization, provided information about how other cultures managed and treated their babies. Jean Leidloff’s book ‘The Continuum Concept’ was first published in 1975. After living with the Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle for two years she questioned the way in which our Western culture was treating it’s newest members. She developed the idea of the ‘in-arms’ phase of a baby’s life. A time from birth to 9 months or more, when the ‘rightful’ place of a baby is in the arms of another human being. She believed a baby has an innate biological expectation to be held, “…just as our waterproof skin has the expectation of rain.” (Leidloff, J. 1975). Leidloff’s controversial book, still read by many expectant parents today, contributed to the return of babywearing in the West.

The practicality of babywearing for parents is just one of many benefits. A study of Canadian mothers and their infants showed that babies who were carried more, (4.4 hours per day compared to 2.7 hours per day), cried for a significantly shorter amount of time “- a 43 percent difference.” (Barr, R.G. 1991). The frequency of crying was similar but the duration far less at the peak crying age of 8 weeks. A follow on study looked at whether increased carrying for babies labeled colicky at 8 weeks of age decreased the amount of crying for these babies.It was found that it did not. It might be concluded that increased carrying from birth may have a preventative effect when it comes to crying or colic.

A recent study by Ken Blaiklock of Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland showed that there is minimal interaction between a baby and parent when they are placed in a forward facing pushchair. Interaction and vocalizing increased slightly when the baby was orientated towards the parent but not many of these prams were observed. The conclusion was that interaction between parent and baby was at its highest when the baby was facing and at a similar height to the parent, notably when in a supermarket trolley. Although Blaiklock observed babies being carried there was no discussion of the levels of interaction occurring. Suzanne Zeedyk published similarfindings from her 2008 research in the UK. She stressed the importance of being able to see your baby to respond to their needs and to facilitate verbal interaction essential for language acquisition.

Source for this photo: "Yummy Mummy".

Source for this photo: “Yummy Mummy”.

Like everything you do or use with your baby there are some safety considerations you must know. The FITS acronym covers the main points. Your baby must be Firm against you, particularly through the upper spine with the base of the newborn or sleeping baby’s head supported by the carrier. This ensures the chin is lifted off the chest allowing for an unrestricted airway. Your baby needs to be In sight, sound or feel. The carrier or clothing should not cover your baby’s face. The Top of your baby’s head needs to be up at your neck height. This allows for easy monitoring and a more ergonomic carrying position for you. You must ensure your baby’s hips and spine are well Supported by the carrier. You can read more about this last point below.

Wearing your baby helps them to regulate their heart rate, tempperature and breathing and decreases their stress hormones. This is why skin-to-skin contact during Kangaroo Care is so beneficial for a premature baby. With all this regulation done for them by their parent their immature little bodies can put energy into growing and healing. The same is true for the full term baby. The security that babywearing provides decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels of a baby increase during parent-child separation and intense crying. Contrary to historic belief, when a baby’s need to be ‘clingy’ is met they become more confident and independent in time. The bond and trust that is built up between parent and baby when a baby’s physical and emotional needs are met in the present moment helps the baby to validate themselves as an individual and gives them confidence that they are worthy. Babywearing allows the infant to be close to their parent who can continue with everyday chores. As baby grows babywearing allows them direct and active experience of the world from their parent’s perspective.

Bub & Dad

A father wearing his baby

Fathers find babywearing an empowering parenting tool. They have the ability to provide closeness, comfort and security from the time their child is born as well as having a way to give their partner a break and get their baby to sleep. Babywearing is a powerful bonding tool for fathers and their babies.

Carrying your baby in an upright position provides support to the immature digestive system. Gravity helps food move in the right direction. The upright position in a baby carrier is similar to the position a baby is in during biological nurturing; the main difference being that your baby is higher on your body in a carrier. In the Spring, 2012 edition of Midwifery Today, Suzanne Colson discusses Biological Nurturing, “..the approach in itself encourages mothers to keep the baby in the right place, what Nils Bergman (2008) calls the “mammalian habitat”.

It is therefore not surprising that many mothers say BN helps them get to know their baby sooner.” In a baby carrier baby’s chest is against yours, with as much skin-to-skin as you choose, knees are tucked up above the height of their hips and slightly spread. The ideal baby carrier will firmly and securely support a newborn baby in this position known as the straddle squat or M position.

Another benefit of this position is that it supports the correct development of the baby’s hips and spine. A baby’s spine is in a C shape when born. The upper spine develops its curve around 3 months when baby learns to control his head. The spine continues to develop as baby learns to crawl with the lower spine developing its curveas baby becomes a competent walker. A good baby carrier and carrying style supports the spine in the natural C shape, not forcing it straight, which may contribute to incorrect development.

In the straddle squat position the head of the baby’s femur (thigh bone) fits correctly into the socket of the hip joint. In the opposite position with the baby’s legs pushed straight together or hanging straight down the head of the femur is being pressured outwards which may cause damage to the outer lip of the hip socket. Baby’s are checked for signs of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH) by midwives and Well Child nurses in order to pick up on this condition and correct it before it causes long term damage and effects physical development. The treatment is a harness that lifts the knee to hip height and out to the side (the straddle squat position). A baby diagnosed with DDH may have to wear the harness for 3-4 months and in severe cases may need surgery.

The upright position also takes the pressure of the baby’s soft skull. A baby who is always lying in the same position in ababywearingFTW car seat or bassinet is at risk of developing flat spots on his or her skull. As most babies sleep lying down at night having day sleeps and daytime upright in a carrier provides a break from pressure on the skull as well as providing cuddles, closeness and bonding for baby and parent.

In establishing breastfeeding babywearing provides the ideal situation of babyy being close and ideally in as much skin-to-skin contact as possible with mum. Initially it is best to remove your baby from your carrier when she wants to feed to ensure correct breastfeeding technique is established. When you are confident that you and your baby have breastfeeding sorted there are many ways you can feed your baby without removing them from the carrier.

Babywearing provides so many benefits for both parent and baby. There are now a multitude of carrier types available on the market at varying prices. This can be overwhelming for new parents. Wearing Your Baby DVD and Download is a resource created to inspire parents to wear their babies.  It has information on the safety aspectsof babywearing and includes step-by-step instructions on how to use the six most common carrier types in New Zealand. It also includes sections on wearing two babies and on improvising your own carrier, making babywearing affordable for all.

Anna Hughes

Co-director Wearing Your Baby

www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz

Past LLL member, babywearing, co-sleeping, ‘nappy free’ and breastfeeding mother of two boys.

References:

Barr, RG., Hunziker, UA. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. May 1986. 77(5):641-8.

Blaiklock, K. (2013). Talking With Children When Using Prams While Shopping. In NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol. 16. Pp. 15-28.

Colson, S. (2012). Biological Nurturing: The Laid-back Breastfeeding Revolution. Midwifery Today. Spring edition.

Leidloff, J. (1975). The Continuum Concept.

Tregear, E. (1904). The Māori Race.

 

My Personal Experience of Babywearing, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

 

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My babywearing journey started in my early 20’s, many years before I had my first child. I met a woman in a market place who had her new baby wrapped to her chest. I was struck by the feeling of how ‘right’ it seemed to me. I thought this is totally where a baby would want to be and where I’d want my baby. The woman gave some verbal instructions on how to make and use the wrap and I went ahead and made one for a friend who was about to have a baby. I continued to make these very basic carriers for friends and 7 years on I made one for my own baby. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the cotton lycra I was using doesn’t cut it for an 8lb baby.
Knowing it wasn’t right for baby to end up down by my belly button I had a few attempts at making the same wrap around sling with different types of material. Then my Mum bought me a woven wrap! Wahooo.
I found babywearing sooo helpful. My son had milk injected down his throat during most feeds and hated lying down with a

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Anna and baby… early days

full, uncomfortable tummy. Over-supply has its issues too. ‘Wearing’ him in an upright position really helped him to keep breastmilk down. Well, some of it! He wasn’t a great sleeper and I’ll never forget one of Brylin’s (LLL Leader for Dunedin West) first comments to me when I was reading a sleep book and commented to my Mum that Eli didn’t sleep anywhere as much as what this book said he was meant to. She said ‘It’s ok dear your baby hasn’t read that book!’ So true Brylin! I felt better knowing that I wore him a lot during the day, giving him the opportunity to rest and sleep whenever he felt like it. The sling was his mobile bed. My husband and I partied til midnight on New Years Eve with our 6 month old happily asleep in the sling.

Another moment of ‘thank goodness for the sling’ was in the middle of the supermarket when Eli 6 weeks started head butting my chest in demand of a feed. Rather than leave the half full trolley to go back to the car I loosen the sling, wiggled him down and latched him on. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the shop. Babywearing win!
At 6 months old Eli was the youngest delegate at the NZ Association for Environmental Education Conference for 3 days. I can’t say I got to hear every presentation from start to finish, but I did get a lot out of it. For years I had people say, ‘Oh yes I remember you. You had the baby attached the whole time and he was so happy.’ He loved being in the sling. He could see things from an adult perspective yet tuck himself away when he’d had enough. Being a big boy I quickly learnt to wear him on my back where he could look over my shoulder. It was an even better view from there.
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Anna “wearing” her second son.

Babywearing was invaluable with our second child, Niwha. Life is so much busier with two. Feeding on the go as well as being able to help the older child without making the baby wait was important to me. As we know babies don’t do ‘waiting’ well.

There were very few babywearers in Dunedin at the time we had Eli. I really wanted more people to experience how helpful, fun and snuggly babywearing is. So I found someone to run a workshop on babywearing and raising a nappy free baby. I got some funding from the Council to run the workshop and out of this created a parenting group focused on supporting parents in practicing these techniques. By the time I had Niwha there were babywearers in town that I didn’tknow!
I was still surprised at how few parents were babywearing, outside of my little bubble. I decided it was time for more action. I formed a Babywearing specific group, including a carrier library started with second hand donated carriers. I was itching to challenge my brain alongside the challenge of raising two boys and decided that I’d write a book on Babywearing. A chapter into it I realised that it made far more sense to utilise my husband’s skills as a media producer, allong with my background as an educator and outdoor instructor to create an instructional DVD/Download.
We questioned our sanity a number of times over the years it took to produce Wearing Your Baby. They’re not kidding when they say never work with babies and animals.
I was determined to create something to inspire and educate parents, educators and health professionals to support the practice of babywearing. Babywearing may not be for everyone but I’m certain that secured to Mum or Dad’s chest is where most newborn babies want to be.
I could write many more pages on the benefits, reasons and ways you can wear your baby. In fact I’ve started and you can

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old blanket (to show that baby wearing needn't be expensive either).

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old sheet (to show that baby wearing needn’t be expensive either).

read them at www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. Wearing Your Baby is presented by 4 babywearing families, covering 6 different types of carriers; Mei tai and Podaegi, wraparound slings, pouch and ring slings and soft structured carriers. It also shows a few ways you can wear two babies of the same or different ages, breastfeed while babywearing and my favourite section shows ways you can improvise a carrier, often based on how different cultures carry their babies.

La Leche League New Zealand has ‘highly recommended’ the DVD for their group libraries so if you would like a copy ask your LLL Leader to get one, purchase yourself or gift it to a pregnant friend and inspire more babywearing parents. It’s now available through the LLL catalogue.
Happy babywearing 🙂
Anna whanau

Anna Hughes and family.

 

About Anna…

Anna Hughes is the Co-director of Wearing Your Baby http://www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. She is a former LLL member, mother of two boys who experienced bedsharing, being raised nappy free, breastfeeding and of course babywearing. She says she is also a wanna be writer!  (“The Forever Years” thinks she writes very well).

The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep, by Stephanie Meade

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We have a weird relationship to babies and sleep in the West. I was reminded of this when I spoke to my German sister-in-law recently. She had just arrived back in Germany from Spain, where she was visiting her little sister who had just had a baby. My sister-in-law commented that the baby was great, except “she doesn’t sleep in her bed, only in the arms, so that’s a little hard.”

The sleep of babies is a very profitable empire. We have many books and experts on the topic—Dr. Ferber, Dr. Karp, Dr. Sears and Dr. Weissbluth, to name a few. I’ve read them all. I may have even taken notes in the margins. Seriously. I had a colicky first-born, so in desperation I poured over every book I could find. The empire extends way beyond books, though; we have built a whole industry around the sleep of babies—creating the nursery (don’t get me wrong—I loved that part) and buying the crib, the crib set, the mobile, the rocker, the swing, and all the other gear. I remember my husband almost throwing up on himself on our first trip to Babies-R-Us in the U.S. when I was five-months pregnant. I insisted we needed the $300 five-piece crib set (bumper, blanket, sheet, ruffle and I can’t even remember the fifth item—oh yeah, diaper bag—who has time to be refilling a diaper bag?) and he thought I was out of my mind. I remember feeling quietly devastated we couldn’t agree on buying it because it was ESSENTIAL, couldn’t he see that?

In the majority of non-Western societies, babies sleep with their parents–if not in the bed, then in the same room. So do young children. It is only in industrialized Western countries that sleep has become a compartmentalized, private affair. In one study (Barry, H., & Paxson, 1971) of 186 nonindustrial societies, 46% of children sleep in the same bed as their parents while 21% sleep in a separate bed but in the same room. In other words, in 67% of the cultures around the world, children sleep in the company of others. Even more significant, in none of those 186 cultures do babies sleep in a separate place before they are at least one year old. The U.S. consistently stands out as a country where babies are routinely placed in their own beds and in their own rooms.

In the rest of the world, babies don’t need their own cribs and rooms because everyone expects babies to be close to the mother after birth—they only just came out of the mother’s body, after all. But the majority of Americans expect them to be in a bed all on their own, rather than snuggled up close to the same body they were inside of for nine months. Seems odd doesn’t it? Most of us are taught this is the way. Because there doesn’t seem to be any other way, we have developed different methods within that way—no cry, cry it out, modified cry, etc. With my first child, I was both annoyed and baffled when she wouldn’t sleep in her crib. I assumed there was something wrong in my sleep training method or in my sleep routine even though it was flawless, just like all the books instructed. I didn’t think there was something fundamentally flawed in the entire approach.

Read more at the following link:

http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/08/the-wests-strange-relationship-to-babies-and-sleep/

Children Who Experience Early Childhood Trauma Do Not Just ‘Get Over It’, by Jane Evans

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Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

In fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for the hills from a predator, or get someone potentially threatening ‘onside’ we need this to happen fast. If a baby is scared, cold, hungry, lonely, or in any way overwhelmed this triggers their survival system and they cry to bring an adult to them to help them survive.

Read more by following the link below:

http://www.socialworkhelper.com/2014/10/08/children-experience-early-childhood-trauma-just-get/

Infant Massage, Nurturing Touch and Self–Care for the Caregiver, by Erin E Sonnier from “Nurtured Child, Nurtured You”

Baby massage CollageWhen Kirsteen asked me to contribute to this beautiful blog I was beyond excited by the opportunity.  Believing in the power of nurturing touch and the healing effects of self-care, I have come to realize one of the many layers of my life’s purpose and passion. It is my joy and honor to serve those with no voice and to guide caregivers on how to better look after themselves. Truth is, I simply love this work and I know if you try it with yourself and your little ones you will too.

Nurturing touch allows for a bond to form which lasts a life time and is also scientifically researched to affect not just the brain chemistry but the very essence of you and your child’s wellness.  I have worked with Infants, Children and Caregivers in this capacity for a year now.  It gives me great joy to share, with an open heart, passion and a voice to help caregivers understand the basics of how infant massage, nurturing touch and self-care can make a positive difference. Doing this work in loving service for those with no voice, and believing fully in it, its power to heal and nurture, is truly an authentic blessing to all who come to find it. The fact of the matter is: Infant massage has been practiced for years and years, spanning a large number of countries.   I believe it is now our time to reawaken its power to affect a child’s well being as well as to reawaken within ourselves, as caregivers, a way to serve our own sacred selves better, from a space of love.

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My hope is that through my own training with infant massage, education and fifteen years of life experience as a massage and bodywork therapist, as well as my passion for self-care, this article will enable you to become better informed on how to look after yourself and your family.

I offer basics of self-care and how infant massage can help you to better bond with your child and possibly help alleviate some common childhood ailments presenting themselves in the early years of a child’s life. I have also included some key points to consider before you decide to embark on the infant massage journey, and I share self–care techniques that have been found to help with caregivers who are simply exhausted and fatigued from a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can upset the body, mind and spirit balance, so I have added to the beginning of each class session I teach, some basic self–care techniques for your practice alone and with your child or whole family.

The benefits of Infant Massage are both for the caregiver and the child.  These can be generalized into four main categories:

1. Stimulationinfantmassage

2. Relaxation

3. Relief

4. Interaction

Each category becomes a key role in forming the whole of the infant massage experience.  The infant’s whole bodily system improves in function by maintaining health of all systems of your infant’s body.  Infant massage helps to aid in the well – being of skeletal, muscular, digestive, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems.   The benefits of massage for baby, caregiver and family are vast and the experience positively affects the child’s well- being for a lifetime.  An improvement of bonding, relaxation, communication, social interaction, development, confidence and fun can be experienced through infant massage.

infant-massage 2Secondly, there are some common childhood ailments which infant massage may help to relieve.  These are as follows:

Colic|Gas|Digestion

Congestion

Teething

With each ailment a specific massage routine will be taught by your facilitator to alleviate discomfort and help aid in relaxation.  When practiced daily with your child, this greatly increases chances that you and your child will develop a bond, as well as receive the benefits of the treatment fully.

Also to consider are contraindications and precautions for infant massage therapy and situations where infant massage may not be performed due to special healthcare needs.

When practicing infant massage on your baby you must be aware of behavioral states, cues and reflexes. The infant’s behavior is influenced by state, temperament and the ability of the infant to self-regulate.  Each infant is an individual being with a different personality and traits so this will determine how to cater your massage, just have fun with the guidance and listen intuitively to your baby with an open heart and see the beauty and bonding that unfolds with in each moment.  It is vitally important to keep an open mind when deciding to begin a session by honoring your infant’s cues.

Original caption: Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute has determined through many studies that stimulating preterm neonates increased their growth rate. They were also released from the hospital on average 10 days earlier than a control group. --- Image by © Louie Psihoyos/Corbis

Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute has determined through many studies that stimulating preterm neonates increased their growth rate. They were also released from the hospital on average 10 days earlier than a control group. — Image by © Louie Psihoyos/Corbis

One of the key topics I am personally very passionate about is not only providing bonding, relaxing and stress relieving infant massage but also providing self-care for the caregivers who attend my infant massage classes.  Not only do the infants receive amazing benefits, but so do their caregivers, thus nurturing the inner child in us all!  Infant massage, when applied, affects the levels of cortisol present in the infant’s body.  Massage reduces levels of cortisol (stress hormone) which is a vitally important hormone in the body that is secreted by the adrenal glands and is involved in proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, immune function and inflammatory response.  There has been research done by a passionate Touch Research advocate, Dr. Tiffany Field, on how infants who experienced massage therapy compared with infants in the rocking control group. spent more time in active alert and active awake states, cried less, and had lower salivary cortisol levels, suggesting lower stress.  You can read more about Dr. Field’s research here: http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/

Self-care techniques such as breath work, guided visualization meditation, enjoying hands on play with song, plus 10672189_900910763285823_4536174660685035075_nspontaneous laughter, all create an environment for the caregiver to share and receive a bit of much needed relaxation and joy along with their baby at some stage of each infant massage session facilitated.  Sleep deprivation and fatigue, as noted above, is often the most common complaint with new parents or any kind of caregiver.  My aim as a facilitator has always been to understand this need for a space not just of bonding and education, but also nurturing and replenishment. With the demands of a caregiver being so draining at times, these sessions aim at reclaiming a sense of nurturing for you and for your child alike.

tina-allen-liddle-kidz1Nurturing is our divine birthright, it is time now to begin Nurturing You just as you Nurture your child, thus nurturing your inner child!  I thank my mentor, Tina Allen, for her contribution to serving children. Her writing and teaching have been referenced often in this blog article.  I am thankful for her guidance and expertise on this subject.  She is an internationally known master teacher of Infant Massage and Pediatric Massage Therapy.  You can visit her website to gain further valuable information beyond this blog at www.liddlekidz.com.  My aim is to continue my education with her for years to come.

 

forever-years iconA huge thank you as well to Kirsteen McLay-Knopp, who found the Facebook group I created months back after I successfully become a certified infant massage teacher.  She asked if it would be possible to post links to her blog onto our group- Nurtured Child, Nurtured You: of course I loved this idea! Since then, she has shared countless blog articles from which my heart has felt grateful for the presence of the words.  I am very thankful to have connected to The Forever Years blog and community and hope that my contribution today strives to further educate its followers and hold true to the mission of The Forever Years, which resonates deeply with my own mission and is a beautiful testament to children worldwide!

The mission of The Forever Years is to elevate advocacy voices for children through social media and to encourage the heart of parents and caregivers, providing a supportive interactive community for parents at any stage of their parenting journey. The mission of Nurtured Child, Nurtured You is to guide and facilitate infant massage, nurturing touch, breath work, guided visualization and relaxation techniques with caregivers in a way that is educational, playful and healing all at the same time, whilst understanding that healing, nurturing and wellness are our divine birthright.  The goal of Nurtured Child, Nurtured You is to educate caregivers with guidance and training on nurturing touch and self-care education, which helps aid in healing not solely for the children, but  also for the divine child within the caregiver.  It is our pleasure and life service to be a voice for children and to seek justice and education, to bring about the best outcome for health and well-being for children and those who care for them.

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About Erin Sonnier

indexErin Sonnier (based in Australia) has dedicated her life’s mission to serving humanity from a young age.  Through her own life experiences and natural evolution she’s realized how best to serve.  As a practicing professional massage and bodywork therapist for fifteen years, she values health and well-being and believes in the power of touch to aid the body in its own unique healing process. Erin believes all children deserve nurturing and bonding with their caregivers and has developed Nurtured Child,  Nurtured You to guide humanity in a way that is educational, playful and healing all at the same time.   Erin is passionate about giving voice to those with none and seeks justice and education to bring about better health and well-being for humanity, Mother Earth and her inhabitants.  Since 2011 Erin has been facilitating educational classes for caregivers. Erin was trained by Carey Smith, MSC- Director of the Center for Embodied Teacher Education in Siler City, North Carolina, USA. Erin believes in the healing power of touch to aid in health and well-being for caregivers, the growing child and all of humanity. In 2013 Erin began training with Liddle Kidz Foundation, an international organization with a focus on Nurturing Touch and Massage Education for Infants and Children.  She became a Certified Infant Massage Teacher in early 2014 and is actively teaching in the local Perth WA community. Erin’s personal philosophy is that we are all one, connected within a web of universal life which serves a purpose for us to integrate, heal, grow and evolve.

Contact Erin:

eesonnier@gmail.com

www.nurturedchild.com.au

Four Steps to Cultivating Compassion in Boys, by Kozo Hattori

Kozo Hattori interviewed researchers and spiritual leaders about how to raise compassionate boys. This is what he discovered.

 Boys CollageAs the father of two sons, I am trying to protect my children from the undercurrent of violence that is rippling through American schools in the forms of bullying, viral humiliations, and the occasional extremes of shootings and suicides.

Searching for an answer, I read widely and sought out public figures who have dedicated their lives to exploring and advocating for the alleviation of suffering—Dr. Rick Hanson, Dr. Dacher Keltner, Dr. Dan Siegel, Thich Nhat Hanh, Father Richard Rohr, and others.

(Continue Reading by following this link…)

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_steps_to_cultivating_compassion_in_boys

5 Things Your Kids Need From You NOW by Julie Holly

A great article by Julie Holly from the USA (see our “Guest Writers” section) about nurturing our children: and it comes with a challenge in humility for us all 🙂 “The Forever Years” likes this.

Peacequility

Parenting hasn’t been the gentle walk I envisioned, it’s been a tsunami that continually humbles me. Life would be easier if I had robotic children, but God wouldn’t receive a drop of glory because I’d steal it all and walk in my own strength.

This list of recycled life’s wisdom from my short experience in the parenting trenches represents the simple things in life that we quickly shelf.

1. Face Time (Apple products aside)

Slow down and look into the eyes of your child. I’m not referring to those drill sergeant moments when kids are commanded, “Look me in the eyes”. What about all the other times? When the day begins, when we pick our kids up, when we’re eating a meal. Take time to notice the awe, wonder, mischief and frustration swirling in the eyes of your child.

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