How Children in Buenos Aires go to Bed Late

Different cultural sleeping habitsHave YOU ever questioned why we have this obsession with getting a baby to sleep all night long, alone in their own room?

When Melissa, my then 2 and a half year old, asked me ‘why do you sleep in daddy’s bed and I sleep on my own?’ it led me to question this myself; and believe me, I had no reasonable or justifiable answer for my little girl. Furthermore, when she asks me for a night time cuddle I also have to question ‘why not?’ After all, I regularly fall asleep with my husband’s arm draped over me, and often find it difficult to drift off when he’s away or working the night shift.

Yet in the UK (and USA) it is the ‘norm’ to expect your child to sleep alone. In fact, you are considered unlucky if your child does not do this willingly, and there’s a whole host of books and websites on ‘sleep training’ techniques – no cry, cry it out, controlled crying, modified crying; all with the aim, one way or another, to get your child to ‘self soothe’ and sleep on their own. But don’t you think it odd that we expect our own flesh and blood, our bundle of joy, the tiniest most important being in the whole world to sleep alone, rather than snuggled up close to the same person they were attached to for nine months?

In other countries around the world, the idea of ‘teaching’ a baby to sleep is a foreign one.

In fact, if I were writing this blog for a different audience, I may even have to define the meaning of ‘sleep training’ as it simply doesn’t exist in some cultures. In the UK and USA many parents view bedtime as a fixed 7pm every night. In contrast, in Latin America, Africa and Asian countries, toddlers are put to bed at a less fixed 10 or 11pm as parents want to spend time with their children after work. Furthermore for most of the world it is also standard practice to co-sleep (a whopping 72% in Singapore) and there are very few cultures that view a baby sleeping alone as acceptable or even desirable. We are in fact the minority!

Melissa asleep on mummy in the pubCertainly when we lived in Uganda last year we observed that the children stayed up late and often shared a bed with their parents or even a grandparent or aunt, compensating for lack of night time sleep with long leisurely after school naps. When we’re holidaying in Spain or Italy we tend to slip into the pattern of a two hour siesta followed by a late evening meal as Melissa plays with the numerous other children that are enjoying this cooler time of day. You can often observe babies and toddlers asleep on their parents’ laps whilst the adults chat and enjoy a glass of wine together.

Furthermore, you’ll find that many child development experts will admit that there’s actually nothing intrinsically wrong with setting later bedtimes, as long as children make up for it somewhere by sleeping in or taking naps.

‘As long as they’re getting enough sleep, it doesn’t make too much difference’

Richard Ferber, Sleep guru and Director of the Centre for Paediatric Sleep disorders in Boston.

And when it comes to co-sleeping, research supports the benefits. A study (Heron, 1994) of middle class English children found children who never co-slept tended to be harder to control, less happy, more fearful and tantrum more than children who always slept in their parent’s bed. Another study (Lewis & Janda, 1988) determined that males who co-slept had significantly higher self-esteem. Perhaps most importantly, rates of infant mortality and SIDS are at their lowest in places such as Hong Kong and Japan where co-sleeping is extremely common.

Yet even when all the evidence suggests otherwise, we have this obsession with getting our child to sleep on their own.

But WHY?!

In my opinion, and I fall into this category too, it is largely for our own convenience.

Our busy lives needs us to be more rigid about scheduling sleep. How else can we make sure the baby is up in time for nursery school or happy and contended in their swimming class? Furthermore, maternity leave is often painfully short (12 weeks in the USA) meaning that mothers worry that they won’t cope when back at work if baby doesn’t ‘sleep through the night’. Gone is the culture where night-wakings are expected and extended family members take it in turns to do night duty.

Compounding this problem is the fact that we live in a Western World that breeds competition.

It is considered ‘one-up’ on other mothers if your child sleeps through the night first. Couple this with the sleep deprivation and the general responsibility associated with parenthood and it’s no wonder that mothers feel anxious and judged for not doing their best or adhering to the ‘social norm’.

Interestingly, that actual practice of co-sleeping does not necessarily vary a great deal from culture to culture, just the social acceptance of it. In fact it’s likely that bed-sharing rates are grossly underestimated in the Western World just because people don’t want to admit to it. We’re told that we will spoil them, get into bad habits and make a rod for our own back.

At the end of the day, there’s enough guilt associated with parenting to last a life time. I’ve learned that only you as a parent know instinctively what will and won’t work for you and your baby, no judgement implied.

If that means going against the social norm so be it.

Every baby is different and some methods just aren’t appropriate for whatever reason. All in all, when we engulf ourselves with Western books and websites, we have a very narrow view of the many diverse and amazing ways to raise a child, and nurture them to sleep well.

If you’re interested in exploring this concept please read ‘How Eskimos Keep their Babies Warm’ by Mei-Ling Hopgood. Which is where the title for this post came from. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I would also love to hear your views on this, please feel free to leave comments below.

 

 

Amazing Natural Remedies for Childhood Eczema

Melissa & feathers 1As a Therapist I am well aware of the suffering that eczema causes. From a mild slightly annoying tickle to an entire body being affected, covered it bright red excruciatingly itchy suppurating and bleeding scaly skin that devastates and debilitates a person’s social, work and emotional life.

A child suffering with severe eczema is a sorry sight. Parents often feel helpless as their baby claws at their face to relieve the frustration.

My mother has been a lifelong eczema sufferer and her father before her. In the Allergy Clinic and in my private practice I have treated numerous cases of childhood eczema so I am well versed at complementary therapies for this very common condition.

When I became a mum, I was determined that I would not let my daughter Melissa suffer with skin complaints the way that I witnessed others suffer. With Atopy in the family, and a history of skin problems myself, it became my mission to provide her with the foundations of health and a strong vital body so that she would be given the best possible chance of a beautiful healthy complexion. Although conditions such as eczema are genetic, you don’t have to be a slave to your genes; there’s always something you can do to help prevent eczema from occurring in the first place or lessen its impact if it does appear.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding reduces the incidence of eczema. If there is a family history of allergic conditions and atopy, breastfeeding exclusively for at least 4 month has been shown to help. This is particularly true when the nursing mother avoids cow’s milk. So if your child still develops eczema despite being exclusively breastfed you may need to look at your own diet (read more on that here). If for whatever reason breastfeeding isn’t possible and eczema does appear you may wish to consult your doctor about a hypo-allergenic milk formula, but do stay clear of Soy based ones as they are often just as bad – even a dash of soya sauce can cause a flair in my mum’s eczema.

Food Sensitivities

In general, it is young children with severe eczema who often have a food allergy as a trigger factor. The most common foods which trigger eczema symptoms include: cow’s milk, eggs, soya, wheat, fish and nuts. A study funded by the Food Standards Agency, Medical Research Council, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found that infants with eczema, are over six times more likely than healthy infants to be sensitised to a variety of foods such as egg, cow’s milk and peanut. They observed that the more severe the eczema, the stronger the correlation to food sensitivity, independent of genetic factors.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fats, omega 3 & 6 found in fish, nuts and seeds, are labelled essential for a reason; we need them to be healthy. The health of the skin is no different. Studies show that people with eczema have a block in the breakdown of fatty acids that distorts some markers of inflammation. Supplementing with a good fish oil such as Eskimo Omega Kids (for over 1’s), or Nordic Naturals Baby DHA (for over 6 months) may help. If breastfeeding, take an Omega supplement yourself to make sure your milk is rich in healthy essential fatty acids for your baby. Read more on the health benefits of fish oils and how to get your child to eat more fish here.

Vitamins & Minerals

It is common sense to expect the nutritional status of your child to play a role in their overall health. The health of the skin is no different. Melissa was a terrible eater at the beginning; she would refuse any food that I offered in favour of milk. Instead of getting into a battle at every meal time I realised that as long as my milk was nutritious she’d stay healthy. So to keep myself strong I took a good quality Multivitamin & Mineral throughout. If you’re worried your infant isn’t getting enough good nutrition I would recommend supplementing them with an easy to administer liquid multivitamin for babies and young children for example Animal Parade Baby Plex.

Probiotics

Antibiotics are often given routinely to mother and baby at birth. These wipe clean the good bacteria in the gut leaving it defenceless. It is valuable to your child’s health and wellbeing to replace these beneficial bacteria in order to preserve the immune system and help prevent or lessen the impact of eczema. Various research studies of mothers who took probiotics when pregnant and continued when breast feeding showed increase protection against atopic eczema in the first and second years of their child’s life. If your child has been given antibiotics at birth or following an infection, you may wish to consider replacing their good bacteria with a quality supplement such as OptiBac or Biocare Baby Infantis powder

How to stop the itch in order to sleep

Many parents email me to ask how to help their baby with eczema sleep. The itching associated with eczema is often worse at night and so getting an irritable baby comfortable enough to sleep can be a real challenge. Here’s what I’d do:

Herbal bath

Missy in the bathStart the bedtime routine with a herbal bath. In the centre of a muslin cloth place a handful of ground organic oatmeal (you can whizz oats up in a blender) and a handful of Calendula flowers. Tie up the oats and calendula into the muslin with a piece of string and let it dangle under a warm running bath tap. The bath should turn a milky colour. Also add 2 drops of lavender oil to the bath. Do not use any type of detergent on a baby or child with eczema. Just sweep any dirt off with the bath water and some cotton wool or a soft flannel and allow your child to soak for at least 10 minutes.

Soothing massage

Gently pat dry and then perform a baby massage (learn how to here) with a mixture of pure virgin coconut oil and calendula cream. As well as being an effective moisturiser, coconut oil has antibacterial properties that reduce the risk of eczema becoming infected. Marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis) have been used to promote healing and improve skin conditions for centuries. You may also wish to try some of these magic acupressure points to help your child drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Homeopathy and Flower Essences

If your baby or child is still distressed you may wish to try Nelsons Noctura homoeopathic sleep aid. I personally find this helps deal with the stress associated with itching and although Melissa never suffered with eczema, she had terrible chicken pox and also experiences several encounters with stinging caterpillars which produce an itchy burning rash that lasts for days, when we lived in Uganda. This product really helped her calm when the itch interrupted her sleep.

Andrea Tyrrell, Homeopath and Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner, says that Centaury Bach Flower Remedy and Five Corners Flower Essence are often indicated in persons with Eczema, although when choosing a remedy it is important to look that the personality profile of the individual.

I personally love Australian Bush Flower Calm and Clear Mist, for spritzing around the bedroom to create the calm atmosphere your child needs for sleep.

Do you have a child with eczema? Children often respond differently to treatments and you have to find what works for them through trial and error. I would appreciate it if you could please share your valuable insight into what worked for you.

 

3 Herbs that help your Child Sleep Better

Herbal sleep tea for childrenAs a qualified Herbalist I know the numerous medicinal benefits of Western herbs. However, many mothers often feel reluctant, confused and hesitant to take herbs when breastfeeding, or to give them directly to their child.

This fear is founded from the lack of modern day research on the safety of herbs. It saddens me because herbal medicines are the oldest form of healing known, and their medicinal properties are well documented. In fact, many modern day drugs are modelled on the actions of herbs, yet children are still being prescribed synthetic drugs in place of simple and safe herbal remedies.

If we allow this knowledge to be forgotten and the prescription of manmade drugs to take over, we turn into a nation of drug addicts and lose touch with nature and the valuable information that has been passed down from generation to generation.

I know for sure that Melissa would not even exist

….if it weren’t for the herbal preparations that I took for over a year prior to her being conceived. Furthermore, I would not have had such a healthy pregnancy, straight forward labour or quick recovery had it not been for the valuable support that Western Herbal medicines provided.

Melissa has grown up with herbs; in fact her name (Melissa officinalis) is Latin for Lemon Balm which in medicinal terms means a BIG HERBAL HUG. And she certainly is that – never wanting to be put down, she spent most of her early months strapped to me in a sling. Even now at nearly 4 years old her most frequent sentence is ‘I need a cuddle’.

In our day to day life, Melissa has seen me use herbs for all sorts of ailments – a Chamomile soaked flannel on a sore tummy or Lavender for a headache, a Thyme medicinal gargle for a scratchy throat, a Calendula wash on a grazed knee, even a Lemon balm herbal spray made up as mosquito repellent. So it’s unsurprising that she occasional gets given a cup of herbal tea to help her chill out ready for bed.

One of the most valuable actions found in herbs is their ability to calm and relax.

Melissa lacked the ability to calm and relax herself and was a type ‘A’ personality from the start. She learned to stand at 6 months old, was crawling at 7 and was walking before she was 10 months (if you’d like to read her full story please click here). I’ve found many techniques over the years that helped her relax enough to fall asleep easily after wasting many hours rocking her to sleep in a darkened room. Some of these include ‘the sleep inducing acupressure point’, the power of baby massage, and sleepy foods, and now I want to add another one to the list.

There’s nothing quite as soothing as a cup of herbal tea before bedtime. Here’s a review of the literature on medicinal herbs and a recipe to help you and your child sleep.

Chamomile

Researchers have discovered that the constituent apigenin in chamomile tea works on the brain in a similar way to that of a group of anxiety-reducing drugs including Valium, but without the harmful side effects. In fact a Japanese study demonstrated that chamomile extract helped rats fall asleep just as quickly as rats that got a dose of benzodiazepine (a tranquilizing medication). Furthermore, another study demonstrated that chamomile has anti-anxiety properties and the FDA considers chamomile tea to be safe with usually no side effects. It is perfect for children that suffer from bedtime associated separation anxiety and an inability to unwind on their own.

Lemon balm & Valerian

Several studies have shown Lemon balm, Valerian and Lemon balm/Valerian combinations to improve sleep patterns and reduce stress, anxiety and hyperactivity in children. In one study a Lemon balm/Valerian combination was found to be as effective as the prescription drug Halcion (a benzodiazepine). Whilst in another study by Maryland Medical Centre of minor sleep problems, 81% of those who took an herbal combination of Valerian and Lemon balm reported sleeping much better than those who took placebo. Lemon balm is approved for “nervous sleeping disorders” by Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, however there a lack of data on Valerian in the long term, so to be cautious and use it only for a limited time.

Melissa drinking herbal sleep teaSleep tea:

1 tsp Chamomile flowers
1 tsp Lemon Balm
½ tsp Valerian root

Obtaining the herbs: The best way to get hold of herbs is in loose dried form through an herbal supplier such as Baldwins, or your local health food shop. These herbs may be of better medicinal value that those in bags in supermarkets. For example, if you are using teabags of chamomile you need 2-3 bags per cup for a medicinal dose.

Brewing the tea: The trick to this teas efficacy is to make sure you are brewing it properly. Place the above herbs in a tea pot, put a lid on to keep the oils from escaping; this way you get the medicinal effects of the tea. Steep for 5-10 minutes, strain and allow to cool before drinking. You can sweeten it with honey if desired (for over 1 year olds). Use chamomile cautiously if you or your child are allergic to ragweed (the plants are related). For adults you can double the proportions of herbs. Drink 1 hour before bed.

Caution: Valerian should only be used for up to 4 consecutive weeks. Chamomile and Lemon balm may be used continually.

If you are breastfeeding

Just in the same way that caffeine from your cup of morning coffee can reach your baby through your breast milk (read more here), so can the individual properties of herbal teas. Although some herbs are restricted when breastfeeding, you can take these safe herbs and use their relaxing properties to your advantage.

General uses

I’ve used these herbs to help Melissa, as a toddler, unwind in order to sleep. I drank the preparation myself to help with the insomnia that followed from coping with a child that doesn’t sleep well for many months. I’ve even known breastfeeding mothers who have drunk this tea to help their newborn differentiate between night and day.

Have you used herbal preparations? What were your experiences? Please feel free to leave comments below.

My BritMum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards Journey

Caroline Mentzer My daughter wont sleep wins BritMums Bibs2014For those of you who read the blog and have been following my BritMum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards Journey, I’m proud and honoured to announce that…

I CAME TOP of the Health Category!

On Friday the 20th June at BritMum’s Live Bibs2014 I met a wonderful collective of influential and inspiring bloggers at The Brewery in London’s Old Street. With a crowd of 700 dressed up lovelies (and a few gents), it was a glamorous event presented by famous mummy blogger Katy Hill no less (you may remember her from Blue Peter). Meeting my blogging community in person was truly wonderful.

Katy Hill & Caroline Mentzer selfieBrilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBs21014)

For those of you who don’t know, the BiBs is one of the most popular and prestigious blogger awards in the UK. Taking place annually, it highlights the best of parent lifestyle blogging and is an opportunity to recognise the most creative, inventive and compelling blogs.

Last year there were more than 200,000 nominations and votes. So, you can imagine how thrilled I am.

Press interest

When I was shortlisted in May I was invited to talk on BBC Radio Oxford, Siren FM and had some coverage in local newspapers and the popular Mother & Baby Magazine. If you would like to listen to or read the articles please click here.

Awards Sponsors – Kids Company UK

The Health Category Award sponsors are KIDS COMPANY a charitable organisation founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996 which provides practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children.

This is a charity close to my own heart, because they share the same ethos as I do, which aims to provide a supportive, safe and caring family environment tailored to the individual needs of every child. Despite extreme challenges that these children face, KIDS COMPANY’S work empowers them to lead positive and fulfilling lives, with an opportunity to achieve their full potential.  We are honoured to be associated with this noble charity by means of these Awards.

Melissa and Mummy Brilliance in Blogging pictureThank you

Melissa and I would like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU ALL from the bottom of OUR hearts for your continued support. I am overwhelmed by everyone’s belief in me, and Melissa is chuffed to see her picture in the newspaper. All your encouragement has motivated me to keep writing, and I can’t believe how much I’ve enjoyed the journey so far!

It has allowed me to continue doing what I love best, which is to help parents overcome difficult parenting challenges and improve children’s health and well-being.

The Award Ceremony was one of the biggest highlights of my life. I will remember it forever. You have made one blogging lady very happy. Thank you!

Natural Solutions for Colic

Baby sleeping after colic massageIs your baby truly fussy or are they suffering from colic? This is the question many parents ask themselves when their baby just won’t stop crying in the early first few months. A visit to the doctors may leave parents none the wiser as they may be told that there is nothing wrong and that it should pass with time. This can knock your confidence tremendously as a mum and leave you believing that you are a terrible parent. Add to this the sleep deprivation and exhaustion from your baby crying all night and it is no wonder some parents are driven over the edge.

Sadly, colicky babies are more exposed to physical abuse such as shaken baby syndrome, simply because caregivers do not know what to do. When a mother feels she is in danger of reaching her limit with a crying baby, she should be given support and alternative avenues to help with her babies inconsolable crying.

In my time working at the Allergy Clinic and in private practice I have come across many new mothers like this; frustrated, alone and searching for answers about their baby’s unexplained crying. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not your fault. Sometimes colic happens no matter what you do because your baby’s digestive tract is still learning to work smoothly. However, when your precious child is in a lot of pain many parents do not have the patience for a ’wait and see’ approach. Thankfully, there are many natural strategies you can take to relieve the symptoms.

Firstly, identify that it is colic

Colic is defined as crying that occurs in an otherwise healthy baby for 3 or more hours a day, on 3 or more days a week, for 3 or more weeks. This criterion is somewhat vague make sure you also look for other physical signs, such as excessive kicking and drawing up of legs in pain, hard gassy tummy and frequent spitting up of milk.

If you doctor diagnoses colic you may wish to try the following

There is evidence to suggest that a good proportion of colic cases are related to a reaction to cow’s milk-based formulas. Some babies are simply unable to digest the large protein molecules in cow’s milk resulting in the symptoms of colic. Switching a baby to a formula based on goat’s milk (which is now a recommended infant formula in the UK) or a cow’s milk formula specially treated to break down the protein molecules, can often be very effective in reducing the symptoms of colic. If your baby has been weaned and not grown out of colic please read more on treating digestive complaints here.

Breastfeeding

Whilst breastfeeding reduces the risk of colic, it does not eliminate it entirely. If your child is exclusively breastfed and still ‘colicky’ you should avoid eating cow’s milk products yourself; as the milk protein reaches your baby through the breast milk (more on that here). Eating cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, onions and chocolate as well as cow’s milk products has also been shown to upset breastfed children and should be avoided.

Feed on demand

Another useful strategy in easing colic is feeding on demand. This may work because it allows the baby to take in as much milk as they require and keeps blood sugar levels even, as opposed to over or under feeding which can burden the digestive and nervous system. Using the correct feeding posture is also important so that that baby swallows less air.

Probiotics

Probiotics provide the baby’s immature bowel with friendly bacteria which studies have shown eases the digestion and helps with colic. Probiotics are especially valuable if the mother or child has received any post labour routine antibiotics or previously for an infection, as antibiotics will wipe out any good bacteria the mother and baby has. It is important to give your baby the correct type of gut bacteria – Bifidobacterium infantis – the bacteria found in breast milk which should be bought through a reputable company such as Biocare or Optibac.

Massage with aromatherapy essential oils.

Massaging with chamomile and lavender essential oil after a feed has been shown effective in relieving colic. Make sure you only add a few drops of the essential oil to a carrier oil such as olive oil. Never apply essential oils neat to your baby’s skin. Here’s a video on how to perform the massage. Following the massage with a warm aromatherapy bath using the same oils is also soothing and beneficial. For more information on the importance and power of a mother’s touch please read here.

Herbal tea for colic

Herbal teas, in particular Fennel, Lemon balm, (which in Latin is Melissa officinalis – where my daughter Melissa got her name) Lavender and Chamomile, have been shown effective in the treatment of colic. If breastfeeding the mother may drink a few cups of this tea spread out through the day. If bottle fed you may give this tea directly to your baby, but do not sweeten it as honey isn’t safe for babies under 1 year.

Colic tea recipe:
30g of dried chamomile flowers
30g of dried lemon balm
10g dried fennel seeds
5g of dried lavender flowers

Combine all the herbs. Place 1 tbsp in a glass jar, add boiling water, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to 4 x a day. If your child is bottle fed and you wish to try herbal remedies, only give ½ tsp of the tea to your baby 3 x a day with the aid of a dropper. An alternative is to give the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla.

Cranial sacral therapy

I’m a big fan of Craniosacral Therapy and I believe that all mothers and babies should be given it to help overcome the physical and emotional trauma of birth (for more information on this please read – something all mothers should know). With regards to colic, the use of medical instruments such as forceps or ventouse during labour may cause a dysfunction in the base of the skull behind the ear. This restriction can often affect the Vagus nerve which has a direct impact on a baby’s digestion. A few sessions of Craniosacral Therapy can alleviate this compression and allow the Vagus nerve and thus the digestion to work more efficiently relieving colic.

Acupressure

Gently squeezing the acupressure point for pain between the baby’s thumb and finger (the webbing), as well as massaging the soles of the feet, may help to calm a fussy inconsolable baby. If you’re interested in using acupressure to help your child sleep better please click here.

Carrying baby

Carrying your baby can make a profound difference to the way she feels. One study showed that babies who were carried, cried and fussed 51% less than those that weren’t. So put your baby in a sling and get out into the fresh air. The change of scene and distraction will help you both.

Flower essences

When you’re parenting a colicky or fussy baby life can get pretty stressful. At times of need I reach for Bach Flower Rescue Remedy or Australian Bush flower Emergency Essence in a spray which helps the whole family ease tensions. Do also remember that Colic usually has a limited lifespan and passes by the age of 6 months. More information on treating emotional conditions in babies and children here.

Caution: Please seek medical help immediately if your baby has a high pitched piercing scream or high fever.

If you’ve had a colicky baby I would love to hear about your experiences. Please leave your comments below.

The value of having some ‘me time’

I was chatting to my sister-in-law over the weekend and I noticed that her nails were painted immaculately as usual. With two small children I wondered how she managed it, as I rarely get a chance (or can be bothered) to put a face of makeup on these days. Her answer was ‘I paint them late at night whilst reading my Kindle. I’d rather lose some sleep and have some ‘me time’. Every mum has their ‘something’ they don’t want to give up – what’s yours?’ And it got me thinking…..

What do I have that’s really mine?

Birthday pedicure finding some me timeWhen you have a ‘high demand child’ like Melissa, you’re a ‘high demand mum’ says Dr Sears parenting expert. Meaning that whilst you’ll always want to put your baby’s needs first, when you’re in demand to the point of exhaustion, you do need to make sure that your needs aren’t put last. The mistake most mothers make is spending any time they have to themselves catching up on household chores or doing the shopping. But this is all wrong. Every mother works hard, it’s a 24/7 job where even Christmas day isn’t a holiday. We should be finding ways to treat ourselves every day, and I don’t mean pounding the treadmill in your first free 20 minutes in a week, because nurturing yourself means you have more energy to nurture your precious ones.

It was my birthday last week and I booked myself in for my annual pedicure. As I sat there on the electric massage chair having my feet soaked I thought – why don’t I do this more often?

Finances aside, I think the main reason is Guilt!

Guilt is that nagging feeling that tells you that you could be doing more. There’s enough guilt surrounding motherhood to send you over the edge. And if that’s not enough, mothers have had a lifetime of hearing psychological terms such as ‘attachment disorder‘ and ‘maternal deprivation’. It’s no wonder the pressure is physically and emotionally wearing us out.

So what can we do about it?

First we need to change our perceptions. If you think that having some ‘me time’ means booking an exotic spa break, you’ll never get some valuable space to yourself. No, it’s about trying to factor in just 15 minutes a day for you. Even a small amount of time gives you the opportunity to re-charge your batteries and feel like the individual you were before you had children, as opposed to the mum of today squashed under the weight of other people’s priorities.

Decide what’s really important to you

Whether it’s painting your nails or reading your favourite book, mentally pencil it into your day. I know a mum who used to get up 30 minutes before her children so she could have a leisurely uninterrupted bath to herself. But if sleep’s too important find another way.

Shake off the guilt

If you’re a mum that runs around all day finding ways to entertain your child, don’t feel guilty for using the TV as a babysitter for 10 minutes if it means you get a shower in peace. Ask a fellow mummy friend to watch your child for an hour whilst you go for a run or get your hair cut, and you can return the favour. When you come back, you’ll have much more energy and really appreciate everything you have.

Start and end the day your way

Australian Bush Flower Essences Love system morning citrus face serumIf you’ve read any other part of my blog, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a big fan of Bach Flower Remedies and Australian Bush Flower Essences for treating emotional issues in Children. I’ve been known to carry a bottle of Emergency Essence in my handbag for the odd occasions Melissa (or myself) might need it.

A previous acne sufferer I’m fanatical about my skin and I find the Love System range which combines the power of Australian Bush Flower Essences with organic skincare absolutely delicious. Their Morning Citrus Cleanser is a great way to start the day as it contains specific essences that give tired mummies enthusiasm, strength and endurance for the day ahead allowing me to feel ready to ‘give my all’ to Melissa. Last thing before bed I also use their Gentle Exfoliating Cream and Purifying Evening Rose Serum which helps me let go of any negativity and find inner peace and calm to help me achieve a deeper sleep.

Life is really ‘full on’ when you’re a mum and it’s so easy to lose yourself. Sometimes I just want to be Caroline, not a mum or a wife and this little bit of ‘me time’ that I indulge in every day allows me to do just that.

Do you have ways that helps you survive motherhood with your sanity intact? I’d love to hear about them, please leave me your tips below.

 

 

 

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Sitting in a darkened room every night for up to 3 hours smelling dinner burning in the oven downstairs used to be the most tedious time of my day. Melissa was very difficult to settle at night as she hated being left on her own and I so craved a few hours to myself.

Separation anxiety is a natural survival instinct

Mummy and Melissa Summer 2011….and believe me Melissa is one hell of a survivor! She was only happy when in my arms, would make herself ill if I left the room and would barely let me even take a shower. She’d watch me in her bouncer which I’d dragged into the bathroom and ball her eyes out as I tried to wash myself as fast as I could whilst making funny faces up against the soapy shower screen. I soon learned that taking a bath together was a much more pleasurable experience.

Whilst I used to worry that it was all my fault, I discovered that separation anxiety is perfectly normal, and in fact an important developmental stage in a child’s life.

Nearly all children experience separation anxiety between the ages of 6-18 months, and some have more intense reactions than others. The development of separation anxiety shows that your baby has formed a healthy attachment to you. It also demonstrates that your child has grown intellectually into a clever individual. In other words, she has learned that she can make you come running when she cries and that she no longer has to passively accept the situation as it is. Whilst some might call this manipulation, I think that is unfair. Your baby has simply learned that without you, she would not have a chance of survival, and when you leave the room she does not yet understand that you will always come back.

In many ways, attitudes about separation anxiety are cultural.

In the West we tend to stress self-soothing and independence from a very early age. But in many other cultures, infants are rarely separated from their mother in the first year of life. It is worth thinking about this if you’re frustrated that your 6 month old baby won’t sleep in their own room all night long. Some children are naturally good sleepers, but as I found with Melissa, some just want their mummy there at all times, and who can blame them?

Like many other childhood stages, separation anxiety will soon pass and usually does by the age of 2. That said, if you’re craving some ‘alone time’ but like me can’t or won’t try ‘Cry It Out’ techniques, all is not lost. There are gentle ways to help your child overcome night time separation.

Play peek-a-boo

During the day, play peek-a-boo with your baby so that she learns that even though you are not always visible you do come back. When you’re doing chores in another room, sing or talk to your baby so that she knows that you are still there. And during the day make some time to play in your child’s bedroom so that she learns that it’s a safe and pleasant place to be.

Most children learn to identify with a special toy or blanket that helps them feel safe. If your child is open to this you could encourage cuddles with this chosen favourite toy at nap and bedtime. Wearing a soft toy or blanket tucked under your clothes will help impart your scent on to it, which may give some comfort to your child when you are not there.

Eating sleeping inducing foodsMake dinner time an opportunity to give foods that help your baby slip into a soporific mood. Read more about sleep inducing foods here. If you’re breastfeeding, do make sure not to drink caffeine after midday otherwise your baby may receive a dose of stimulant just before bedtime.

Your baby’s fear of being separated from you at night is very real, so you’ll want to do your best to keep your bedtime routine as nurturing and as peaceful as possible. Start with a lavender and chamomile bath. A quiet book followed by a short baby massage and acupressure point routine. This combination is magical in that it helps your baby unwind and fall into a deeper state of sleep. The last feed can be given when you prefer either before or after the massage.

If your child is older and still uneasy about going to bed alone, tell her that you will come back to check on her soon. Leave it a couple of minutes and pop your head back in so that she learns that you are true to your word. Doing this a few times is often enough to reassure a child and you may find that she is asleep before you return to check on her.

However, if like Melissa, your baby has a strong survival instinct you may need some extra help.

One trick I used to do with Melissa

…….was to record my voice onto a CD and play in on repeat in her room at very quiet (almost subliminal) levels. So when she stirred in the night she automatically felt I was there and went straight back to sleep.

If your child is very fearful of being left alone at night you may wish to try the Bach Flower Remedy Mimulus which is specific for separation anxiety. Indigo essences also do a lovely spray call Sleepeasy which is for children who find it hard to relax enough to go to sleep. I used this product on Melissa when she had nightmares with fantastic results – read more here.

If after all of these efforts you believe that your child is experiencing unusual amounts of separation anxiety, I would seriously consider looking at allergens or sensitivities in your child’s diet.

As many as 8% of children have a true food allergy

but it is thought that as many as one in five children may react in some way to common foods such as milk, wheat, yeast, eggs and food additives, flavourings, colourings and sweeteners in their diet. Research trials confirm that allergies can affect any system of the body including the central nervous system leading to possible irritability, agitation, aggressive behaviour, nervousness, anxiety, and hyperactivity.

If you child suffers from colic, eczema, asthma, ear infections, hay fever, digestive problems or frequent colds then you may suspect a food sensitivity of some kind.

separation anxiety ready for bedWith Melissa the culprit was gluten. Being a Nutritional Therapist myself I was already wheat-free, but it wasn’t until we eliminated gluten completely from both our diets that Melissa’s behaviour improved and her anxiety reduced. Interestingly, Melissa demonstrated no other tell-tale symptoms, and gluten intolerance did not show up on a standard coeliac test.

If you suspect that your child may have a food sensitivity then you may wish to get her tested. The best test is called the IgG ELISA Yorktest; a simple home test that should be performed alongside the guidance of a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist.

An alternative method for identifying food allergies and intolerances is through an elimination diet. This involves removing any likely culprit from your child’s diet for 2-3 weeks and noting changes in their behaviour, sleep and physical symptoms. You can then re-introduce foods one at a time every 4 days. If you’d like more information on this please read SMART KIDS Food for the Brain. If you are breastfeeding and suspect food sensitivities do also remember to eliminate culprit foods from your diet, as your child can receive them through your breast milk. Please read more on that here.

Has your child experienced a moment of extreme separation anxiety? What did you do to help? Did it work? I’d love to hear your story.