ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU
Emily Hills, Occupational Therapist and Brazelton Trainer, writes about how to survive Christmas
As Christmas approaches we are inundated with adverts and influencers on Instagram advising us on what we need to make Christmas absolutely perfect for our babies and families.
Beautiful handcrafted toys and carefully wrapped gifts are presented in such an alluring way that even I question whether my child might need this toy to improve his development (he is currently 17 and probably beyond redemption). However, when I think of my parenting or lack thereof, I don’t completely despair because at our Brazelton training we are gently reminded that we only need to get it right one third of the time.
We stand more of chance of doing this if we take the time to stop, look and listen to the language of our children. Our babies, children and teenagers will all tell us how they feel through their non-verbal communication. We know that the little signs of sensitivity including colour changes, pushing our hands and arms straight out or looking away all mean something. We need to stop what we are doing, listen and respond.
This is particularly important at Christmas, which for some people can be a complete sensory overload. For those who find the bright lights of the Christmas tree overwhelming, Auntie Daphne’s perfume too stimulating and the Christmas tunes deafening try to provide opportunities of calm. Find a quieter room, provide deep pressure, slow linear rocking is calming for most people, sucking on a soother (or a glass of prosecco) might help too.
Most of us don’t always have the skills to self-regulate and rely on each other for co-regulation. So this Christmas if it’s your four-week-old baby or your 100-year-old grandmother who finds it all a bit too much, look at their behavioural cues and help them co-regulate.
Lastly, Dr T. Berry Brazelton was always active in reminding parents that they are their baby’s number one toy. No purchased toy, no matter how wonderfully it is presented will take the place of a smiling parent. So in an over-stimulated world of social media, shopping and advertising know that this Christmas, you are enough.
My Baby Doesn’t Like Me
One of our Trainers, Jeanette Appleton shares her observations on how to understand the language of babies.
When babies are newborn they have to adjust to so many things, such as bright light, sounds, and being handled. Sometimes babies just need a break from this shiny, noisy world they now find themselves in. Babies may do a number of things to show that they need a break. Frequent sneezing, hiccuping, going pale or a reddening of their skin are just some of the signs.
At other times they may look away, just for short time before looking back. This sign of needing a break can often be misread. Several mums have told me that they thought when their baby looked away it was because their baby did not like them.
I would then sit with them and when baby looked away the next time, we just gave baby a break. Sometimes this was holding them up on mum’s shoulder. Other times it was simply stopping talking and waiting quietly. Sure enough, baby would turn back to look at their mum again.
“Just watch how baby always turns back to you when you give him the break he needs”.
Just this week I had this email from a health visitor who had completed a two-day training on Newborn Baby Observations (one of the Brazelton tools for aiding baby communication). She started to use this training the next day with a mother and baby. This is her email to my co-trainer and me.
I would like to thank you for the training yesterday and Monday it has been really helpful to enhance my skills within practice! I completed my first NBO today on a 6-week-old baby, the mother was feeling particularly low as another health care worker had made her feel her baby “didn’t like her” and she had struggled with this for a few days.
When I did the NBO mum brightened up and said- “I am so glad my baby knows me and loves me” and continued to talk to her baby throughout the visit. There was lots of reciprocity and mum was able to show a higher level of insight into her baby’s needs. Dad was equally receptive – he was off work with PND and you could tell he was very proud of his son!
Just thought I would share this as it was a lovely experience.”
Soothing A Baby The Brazelton Way
One of our Trainers, Jeanette Appleton shares her tips on dealing with a number one issue for new parents.
As a Children’s Occupational Therapist, I have worked with parents and their newborn babies for twenty-five years. I often meet parents just after their baby’s birth. I use the Newborn Behavioural Assessment (NBO), a relationship-building, observation tool with them and their baby. This is so that we can learn from the baby’s behavioural cues about how they are adjusting in the first few weeks after birth.
I also chat to the mums about how they feel about being a mother- what they love most and what their concerns are. So many mums have told me that they feel they could not cope if their baby cried when they were out, whether this was while shopping or meeting up with friends. As a result, they have often not been out at all prior to my visit.
Of course, if your baby cries, you are going to check they are not hungry or need a nappy change first, but what are you to do if there seems to be no obvious reason for the crying?
Berry Brazelton, who developed the NBAS, (another Brazelton technique), discovered that some newborn babies can calm themselves, if given time, and that a baby does not always have to be picked up and rocked to stop crying.
Try these steps next time your baby cries…
• Place your face in front of the baby’s and engage their gaze. It is amazing when a simple action such as this calms your baby.
• If your baby continues to cry, then start talking to them in a voice that baby can hear over their own cries.
• If they are still crying, place your hand on their tummy while talking and looking at them. Keep your hand still. This is very important.
• Give each stage time to work (approximately 15 seconds) before moving onto placing your hands over their arms and legs to calm their movements.
• If the crying continues, pick up your baby and hold them still in your arms. Some babies prefer to be held on the shoulder and others horizontally. You will quickly find out which your baby prefers.
• Only start rocking if the crying continues and rock gently rather than with a bouncing up and down movement.
• There are some babies who require more support, such as wrapping or offering a pacifier, or both. If you are breast-feeding you may not want to use a pacifier, in which case, help your baby to suck on his fist. If baby is still crying you can lightly wrap a sheet round them, keeping the baby’s hands free.
However, remember that babies should not sleep wrapped or swaddled as this may result in the baby becoming too hot.
I remember one mother was amazed when her baby stopped crying when I placed my hand on her baby’s tummy. “Great, “she said,” in the night I don’t even have to get up. I can just put my hand on her tummy as she lies in her cot next to me!”