Thursday, 19 August 2010

New Facebook Fan Page

We have a new Facebook Fan Page where we will be having competitions, giveaways, and all sorts of helpful stuff for nannies and parents. Go to our link to click "like" to keep up-to-date:!/pages/Auckland/NZ-Nannies-International/130756640300503

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What do experts say about Nanny vs. Daycare?

Question of the Month: What do experts say about Nannies vs. Daycare?

You may have heard of the Brainwave Trust. They are currently speaking around communities free of charge and make information available on their website.
I found it interesting reading this article in Grapevines Magazine about how vital Brain development relies on certain child care and that a nanny is by far in preference to daycare. The good news is that with NZ Nannies, it’s now affordable to get a nanny.

A Conversation with Simon Rowley
It’s widely known these days that the first two or three years of a baby’s life are critically important. These are the years, ideally, when babies get the chance to learn about life and love and faith and trust. (Of course, in the real world, sadly, they’re often denied that chance, and instead begin their career as a crime statistic or a social-work ‘case’.)
But what’s actually happening inside a growing baby’s head – year one, year two, year three, and beyond? And how can we mums and dads (and uncles, aunties and grandparents) help ensure that those happenings are the best they possibly can be for our little guys and girls?
To get some answers we talked with noted brain development expert and Kiwi paediatrician, Dr Simon Rowley. In fact, we talked to him twice! Our first interview was cut short because he had to dash off to attend a crisis and deliver a baby by caesarean!

GRAPEVINE: One of your favourite sayings is, “The first three years last forever!”
SIMON ROWLEY: That’s right. I’m a member of the Brainwave Trust, an organisation you can read about online. We’re trying to make sure that people have access to information about how babies’ brains are wired – how things they experience affect the way their brains develop, particularly during the first three years. We’re also making research available to those who work with children – such as doctors, pre-school teachers, care-givers, lawyers. In the last few years particularly there’s been an explosion in the amount of knowledge we have about early childhood, and people are realising how important those years are for brain development.

GRAPEVINE: Can we go back to square one: a newborn child? What’s actually going on inside that child’s brain?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, when you’re born, you’re only about 15% ‘wired up’. Your grey matter is all there (your brain cells or neurones), and it’s all ready to go – but only 15% of it is connected. That 15% is the stuff you need just to keep the organism going: heart-rate, blood pressure, and breathing – the bits that control your basic functions.

GRAPEVINE: Sort of, the ‘auto-pilot’ stuff?
SIMON ROWLEY: That’s right. But, from the moment of birth, the sensory experiences you start having cause the other 85% of wiring to happen. And most of it happens in those first three years.
Every time you touch a baby, cuddle a baby, tickle a baby, laugh with them, talk to them – all those things that happen through the senses – you’re helping the baby experience and sort out the world.
The first sense to develop is touch – the ‘mother of all senses’. Balance is the next. Smell and taste come after that. Then hearing. And seeing is the last one.
Touch is actually the most basic of our senses. Mothers reach out and touch their baby instinctively right after they’re born. But the other senses are also primed and ready to go, even before birth. And these are the senses by which babies experience the world.
Those experiences cause baby’s neurones to start looking out and reaching out...wiring themselves up...creating pathways and connections to other neurones. By the time you’re three, all of those things should’ve happened. Then, from three years on, for the rest of your childhood, you’re busy pruning those connections – and you only hang on to the ones you’re using continually.
But here’s what’s really vital (and there’s good research to support this): the experiences you get need to be the right ones. If you don’t get good, positive, warm, nurturing experiences, you’re in trouble.

GRAPEVINE: These experiences the baby needs are gained primarily from its mother – right?
SIMON ROWLEY: Yes – from its primary care-giver, who’s usually the mother. But sometimes it’s the father. Fathers are very important in baby’s development, too.

GRAPEVINE: And you’re talking about stimulating the baby – talking, reading, going for walks, singing, cuddling?
SIMON ROWLEY: All of those. And they’re all so important. But you can overdo it. There’s obviously a healthy amount of stimulation for the brain – too much can flood it and cause it to switch off the way babies do when they’re tired. However, most parents, fortunately, get it about right.
We’re talking about ‘good-enough parenting’ here – not ‘super parenting’. There’s growing evidence that playing ‘brainy-baby’ videos and all this ‘Baby Einstein’ stuff isn’t such a good idea... probably more detrimental than helpful.

GRAPEVINE: You describe the baby’s brain as being ‘wired up’. Which all sounds very electronic – like a computer being fitted to operate a printer or something. But what about the human dimension? Take smiling, for example: what makes a newborn baby smile? How do they figure out what smiling means? Is that part of the ‘wiring up’ process?
SIMON ROWLEY: Yes, definitely. And what we sometimes overlook is that babies are ‘programmed’ as individuals to hit developmental targets at certain times. So at around four to six weeks you’re programmed to be able to smile.

GRAPEVINE: You mean the baby has a sort of pre-formed picture in its head: “This is a smile, this will make me feel good...?”
SIMON ROWLEY: No. The programming just provides that at this point your brain is ready to receive the information that’s necessary to stimulate a reaction. But you’ve got to have, environmentally, the warmth and social interaction that’ll trigger it.

GRAPEVINE: So a baby from a home where there’s little stimulation, not much caring or cooing – if it happens to catch a smile from a passer-by, it won’t necessarily know that this is a good, important signal?
SIMON ROWLEY: That’s right. And that’s an important developmental principal – repetition is essential.
In order to hard-wire pathways in the brain, the baby has to be exposed to things – even as simple as a smile – over and over again. That repetition then triggers what the baby’s been programmed to receive and act on.
So it’s got to happen frequently and consistently before it becomes ingrained. But when it does become ingrained, that’s really what makes us who we are.

GRAPEVINE: I often chuckle at a video we’ve got of our youngest grandson who, when he was too little to stand up by himself, was hanging in one of those stretchy sling things – and he started bouncing up and down in exact rhythm with the music his mum was playing in the background. It wasn’t a co-incidence, because several times he went off the beat. He’d stop, and listen, and then start bouncing again exactly on the beat.
Now – how does a baby know what dancing’s all about? “This is music!””This is rhythm!” Where do concepts like that come from?
SIMON ROWLEY: Fascinating, isn’t it? Music’s one of those things (as parents discover) that come in a window of learning opportunity. If adults try and learn a musical instrument they’ll find it much harder than young children who’ve been brought up in a musical environment. It’s like learning a language. Learning these musical ideas is the same as learning to talk.
This isn’t just a ‘gene’ thing – it’s also nurture. It’s very much influenced by baby being exposed to music from Day Zero – from ‘Day Minus’ actually, because a child is in the womb can clearly hear music, and picks up on things like beat.
So, if you come from a family where there’s lots of music, and everyone’s listening to it, playing it and dancing to it, then from the moment of birth you’re already being programmed to respond.
If you look at the brain-scans of professional musicians, you find that they have areas of their brain that are much heavily developed than the same area in somebody who’s not a musician. In particular, the cerebellum and other parts of the brain involved in co-ordination – in this case co-ordination of movement for, say, a violinist, who must get the fingers on the fret in just the right place. But the same parts of the brain also control the co-ordination of thought! And studies have been done on this...
If a child learns a musical instrument for a year, not only do her musical skills improve (both her listening skills and her playing of the thing) – but so, too, do her maths skills and reading skills at the same time.

GRAPEVINE: So these things are all inter-related?
SIMON ROWLEY: Right. Learning a musical instrument is very good for brain development, and I’d recommend that every child should be given that chance.

GRAPEVINE: How early should they start?
SIMON ROWLEY: Oh, I’d say from Day Zero really. As soon as they show interest.

GRAPEVINE: Are we still talking ‘good-enough parenting’? We’re not trying to turn our child into ‘Baby Einstein’ or ‘Baby Mozart’ are we?
SIMON ROWLEY: No. We’re talking about listening skills to start with. So you give the baby periods of listening to music – and he might bounce and jump around. Babies love dancing and rocking and all sorts of rhythmic things. Then, at some point in the early years, you might offer the child the chance to pick up and play with a musical instrument... the chance to enjoy and copy the parent. That’ll grow out of what they’re hearing.
But the ability – the ‘musical ear’, if you like – probably gets programmed in those early months. So music is a really important way of developing the brain.
I think sport is important too. It also combines dance, music, rhythm... those aerodynamic things where you’re developing the part of the brain that involves co-ordination and movement ...and therefore thought as well.

GRAPEVINE: Isn’t there a tension, though, between sport as a competitive activity and sport as a way of teaching kids co-operation?
SIMON ROWLEY: True. Some children seem really driven to succeed in competitive things, and others don’t. It can be hard to work out what programmes might best suit your own child – but a certain amount of its environmentally determined. If you’re competitive parents, it’s likely your children will pick up on that.

GRAPEVINE: So what’s your advice to parents? How can they ensure that their babies get the right kind of stimulation in the right amounts at the right times?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, most important is to have a warm, nurturing, loving relationship with your child. That attachment to the primary care-giver (or care-givers) is a vital developmental milestone for a baby. And it’s usually made with just two or three people (at the most) – typically the mother and the father, but it could be a grandparent or an auntie or an uncle, or somebody else, perhaps a nanny.
That relationship’s a mutual one, derived from the care-giving things that the adult does – like feeding, changing nappies, talking, singing, cuddling – and getting responses in return. And, as that relationship builds, it forms a bond that’s the basis for all subsequent relationships the child will have in later life. It’s vital, therefore, that you develop a secure attachment relationship... and that tends to start by about the age of six months. By eighteen months or so you may have moved past the ideal time, and it becomes much harder.

GRAPEVINE: How do you feel about the tendency these days for busy, working parents to drop their young children off to day-care?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, frankly, if you’re not being cared for by somebody who’s got emotional investment in you, then the risk is you’re going to struggle in this area.
If, for the main part of the waking day, a young child is with a lot of different care-givers (as happens in many day-care centres and crèches), then that child never really gets a chance to establish a firm attachment relationship with his parents.
He gets cared for by people who have no emotional investment in him – which means he grows up (for the major part of each day, if his parents are away working) with someone who’s just doing a job, keeping an eye on him, but not really caring for him in a one-on-one way.

GRAPEVINE: You’re talking about those very early years – right?
SIMON ROWLEY: Of course. By the time he’s tow and three the child tends to be playing alongside other children – ‘parallel play’. Then, from three onwards, the child tends to play with other children – interacting and using his relationship skills and abilities. In these later preschool years he need the chance to go out and practice those skills on his peers and other people – rather than being stuck in front of TV with a GameBoy or a video, where he’s getting no feedback from a human face.
So when we say we’re not happy about children in day-care, we’re not saying that those latter years are a problem. We’re talking about the early ones. It doesn’t appear to be a good thing to have a three-month old baby in day-care.

GRAPEVINE: Some argue the problem is really to do with the quality of the care given. If the child goes to a really good day-care centre, then the parents have no cause to worry. But does ‘quality’ day-care make any difference?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, yes and no. The problem with day-care is that most centres have a number of people on staff who are assigned certain tasks: somebody will do the nappy-changing, somebody else will do the feeding, another again will do the greeting at the beginning of the day, while still others are getting play materials ready, and so on. The child gets exposed to several different people in the course of the day – and the quality of that care varies according to the skills and experience of the individual people.
But the staff/child ratios are also important. If you’ve got a ratio of five children to one staff member, that’s not good enough. Even the recommended ratios are still a bit on the low side, in my opinion,
However, of course, there are some situations where day-care is preferable to home...

SIMON ROWLEY: Well, when the child’s in an abusive home situation – exposed, say, to family violence. That’s a really negative thing. It will affect the way the child’s brain gets wired up, and you don’t want that. So, to answer the question: a good day-care situation is obviously better than a bad home environment. But good and frequent interaction between parent and child in a good home environment is best of all.

GRAPEVINE: Does the length of time care-givers spend with a child affect the outcome?
SIMON ROWLEY: Yes, it does. And the same goes for the words a child hears. A child may develop poor self-esteem if he’s constantly being told bad things.
Several quite convincing studies have looked at the number of words that people in negative situations say to their child every day...compared to the words and vocab a child is exposed to in positive and reassuring households.

GRAPEVINE: “Good boy!” “Good girls!” “You did this really well!” – That sort of thing?
SIMON ROWLEY: Exactly. So we need to ensure we’re making it possible for parents (one or other of them) to be at home for their child. Although, regrettably, our modern lifestyle doesn’t help – it’s not the way things tend to work out.
Most parents feel they need two incomes...and nannies are expensive... so it becomes very hard to balance things. And when Governments come out with statements like, “We’re going to ensure that all mothers are working!” (Even in the first two years of their child’s life) have to wonder if this is good.

GRAPEVINE: How many children are we talking about? How many children today are not getting enough of the right kind of care?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, it’s probably around 50%. And the worry is we’re seeing an increasing number. Some parents have children – and then basically just pass their care over to other people, at a very early age. Some children are in day-care from as young as three months or six weeks?
That seems to me like a really bad thing to do for a child whose brain-development you’re trying to optimise.

GRAPEVINE: It almost makes you wonder why some parents have children
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, I’ve been quoted as wondering that – but let’s not go there!

GRAPEVINE: What are the happiest outcomes you’ve seen in your career?
SIMON ROWLEY: One of the nice things about looking after pre-term babies is you take a baby who’s very vulnerable – and, quite often, a parent (or parents) who are very vulnerable too. In the time that the baby’s with us (usually three or four months, when they’re getting to the stage where they’re healthy and they can go home) ... you not only look after that child, but you also look after the family.
Most of that sort of work is done by the nursing and support staff. Every time the mother comes in, they put their arms around her and ask her, “How are you?” “Is everything going alright?” “Do you need any help?”
And, quite often, the mother, who hasn’t previously had that kind of supportive environment, will change. In those three or four months, she starts to grow into her role as a mother and really take that up. She might be a 16 year old who’s suffered abuse, but in this new role she finds she’s now supported and nurtured. And at the end of that time she goes out a completely different person.
Those are the happy stories...

GRAPEVINE: And the sad ones?
SIMON ROWLEY: Well, they usually feature people who are socially disadvantaged.
We get the baby through it ... and we support the mother through it ... but then they go home, back into that terrible situation, a situation that’s just not compatible with a good outcome. And sometimes those babies really suffer.
We know, from our work with pre-term babies, that the social environment the children go back into is the most important thing in determining how well they’ll do. It’s not whether they had a very different time with a bleed in the brain, or punctured lungs, or a whole lot of gut problems, or bowel perforations –although those all do happen. What really determines the final outcomes, is the socio-economic status of the parent (or parents) and the family environment.
If they go home to a good environment, then that’ll virtually overcome everything – all the merely physical problems. But if they go home to an abusive environment, the outcome’s often very sad.

GRAPEVINE: I suppose the good news is: you can turn things around?
SIMON ROWLEY: Yes. That’s when we feel we’ve made a difference. I mean, anyone can keep a baby alive. But what really counts is actually sending a baby home with optimism for the future ...and that optimism starts with the parents and then gets transferred to the child.
Whether the outcome is good or bad also depends to a great extent on society. And one of the ways we can interrupt that cycle of social deprivation is to teach kids how to be parents at an earlier stage. So the programmes where people go into schools and teach prospective parents what babies need and how to look after them – those give us most hope for the future.
Young people need to learn how to be nurturing and care-giving before they being child-rearing. And that applies particularly to boys in our society. Boys need to learn to be tender and loving; to have feelings; to be able to cry when they’re sad, and not to have to put up this tough, unfeeling mask on the outside.

GRAPEVINE: What’s your advice to, say, a young woman who’s suddenly found herself pregnant – assuming she’s from a less-than-happy background?
SIMON ROWLEY: The first choice is for her to celebrate the birth of her child – and to acknowledge that here’s a new individual that needs caring and loving and supporting. This new baby needs her more than anything else in the world. And being needed is quite an important thing for people from this kind of background. Often they’ve not regarded themselves as having much value or worth.
I’d say to her: Try as hard as you can to celebrate the birth and make it into a positive experience. She probably won’t find that easy, because they’ll be financial pressures against her.
We’ve got to help her view everything she does with that child in a positive light... instead of regarding the child as a nuisance or a disaster or a mistake. Then hopefully, eventually, she’ll get enormous rewards from mothering.
It’s all about celebrating parenthood. The most important thing you can do with your life (if you decide to become a parent) is to be a parent!
Of course, it’s also the hardest thing you’ll ever do. And we’re not very well trained for it!

GRAPEVINE: Is this the way ahead? Is this how we improve New Zealand’s child-abuse statistics?
SIMON ROWLEY: Yes, I think that’s the ultimate outcome. And we have an opportunity. If we can help families achieve ‘good-enough parenting’, raising children who are happy and safe and healthy and feel valued, we’ll end up with a society where most people are indeed loved and nurtured – and therefore less likely to be criminals and do awful things to each other and their children.
The way to bring down the high rate of child-abuse and neglect we see today parents being valued and supported. We’ve got to try and change the social setting and improve what’s taking place. There are obviously cultural groups and social-class groups who are the most vulnerable – and we’ve got to find a way to make them feel valued.
I think the way to change our society is to teach people how to nurture and love their children...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Self-Care for Parents

Becoming a parent has been so stressful and drains all my time and energy - there never seems to be any time for me. Do you have any advice?

It’s a huge adjustment becoming a parent - our focus goes immediately to our children because their needs and dependence are completely reliant on our responses. This can be overwhelming and the changes that take place in terms of our time and energy are considerable. However, it is important to realise that in order to be a good parent to our children, it is vital that we take our own needs into account as well as our child’s. There is no such thing as perfect mothering - but in order to achieve good mothering, all the family’s needs - including your’s - need to be balanced, and your children will benefit from your own needs being met, in that they will have a happier, more fulfilled mother attending to them.

First, begin to identify your needs and address them. Your needs are physiological: good nutrition, exercise, adequate rest. Your needs are mental and psychosocial: pursuing interests, socializing, time alone/having a break. Your needs are spiritual: participation in a church community or in prayer/meditation, spending time in nature - whatever feeds your spirit. It is true that there are times where some of those needs are temporarily sacrificed, such as sleep when caring for a newborn baby - but even then there is a lot that we can do to care for our own needs during that time. For instance, negotiating help from other people to attend to our housework and meal preparation so that we can sleep while the baby sleeps or take some time out.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself and achieving balance where all family’s needs can be met:

  • Don’t be a martyr - martyrs don‘t make good mothers. Remember that whatever is gained in giving in this way, is taken away with guilt
  • Write down 5 interests, pursuits or hobbies that are important to you to maintain after childbirth (if you are pregnant) or that used to be important to you that perhaps you’ve lost over the years or given up since you became a parent. Make these goals that you would like to somehow integrate with your parenting. Discuss with your partner how you might find ways to integrate them (in terms of childcare and time management)
  • Ask for and accept help from others
  • Pamper yourself: it doesn’t have to be expensive! Turn your bathroom into a ‘home spa’ with flowers, candles, essential oils, bath salts, relaxing music, and enjoy the relaxation of a sublime soak
  • Fit in even 15 minutes a day for your own time: journaling, meditating, reading a magazine with a cup of coffee, or just being alone with your own thoughts. Take the phone off the hook!
  • ŸFind ways of incorporating into your day, things that you enjoy. It might be where you choose to go for a walk with your baby in the pushchair (eg. around the shops, through a beautiful park/reserve), it might be that you go to a child-friendly café to have coffee with a friend while your children play together on the playground.
  • Spend time socially with others. It may be that you find this through playgroups or coffee groups - but don’t limit your socializing just to these, although there may be seasons where this is the only possibility. Remember your goals and pursue interest groups with other adults so that you have some ‘adult-time’ where the activities and conversation do not revolve around your children
  • Say no to demands that compromise your needs and your children’s needs. If you don’t learn how to say no to your children or to others, you are going to seriously burn yourself out
  • Discuss fears and concerns/anxieties about finances, loss of previous lifestyle, or the blending of your career and family with your partner - or find a support group (or coffee group) where you can talk out some of these issues with other mothers who can relate to your experience
  • If you have made goals to make some lifestyle changes so that you can attend to your needs that have been neglected, don’t forget to discuss your plans with your partner and your children. By explaining your need to change some things, you are going to avoid any unnecessary backlash/protests that might dissuade you from following through with your goals. Recognize, however, in order for there to be a balance in the family of needs being met, there will no doubt need to be a compromise. That compromise should not always be on your part, but ought to be shared
  • Sometimes it can be easy to focus on the difficulties parenting and raising children brings. Spend some time considering why you wanted to become a mother, and what pleasures being a parent brings you. For instance, it may have given you an enormous capacity to love that you did not possess prior to having children!

Often what drives mothers/parents to neglect their own self-care is a list of “shoulds” that berate them mentally about what a “good parent” is. We need to challenge those thoughts. If we continue in our martyr role, not only do we become tired, stressed and resentful which obviously affects our ability to parent well - we are also a role model to our children about how we value and take care of ourselves and therefore, how they should take care of themselves when they are an adult and a parent. It’s important that we spend the energy finding a way to take care of ourselves while being a parent not only for our sake, but so that we are teaching our children that it is good for them to take care of themselves, too.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Pampering Competition Update!

Enter our great pampering competition now! ALL entries will receive a $50 voucher for the Exquisite Laser Clinic.
First prize is a $50 voucher for the Exquisite Laser Clinic, a free makeover & photoshoot AND $150 towards portraits from Photographers Inc, and a free haircut and blow-wave from Affordable Kutz & Kurlz!
Simply make a comment on ANY of our blog posts, then visit this page to complete your entry:

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Fighting Fair When Our Kids are Around

I’m concerned our kids might be affected by our arguing - what can we do?

Research has shown that children growing up amongst conflict such as violence/abuse but also including shouting/arguing are more likely to have mental health problems, learning difficulties, behavioural problems, abusive relationships, a tendency towards criminal activities, addiction to drugs and alcohol and suicidal thoughts. The reason for this is because their brain develops in a different way to a child who is not over-exposed to conflict. So it is certainly a serious issue, and it’s good to be aware of this and to take steps to protect our children. So how can we “fight fair” to prevent our children from suffering any ill effects?

The first step we can take is to avoid conflict escalating into arguing, shouting or worse. It’s helpful to remember our circumstances and how they affect our ability to communicate with our partner. For instance, sleep deprivation or changes in our family circumstance places extra stress and strain on us. It’s at times like this that we can have a tendency to “turn on each other” and become snappy simply because of being tired or stressed. It’s in those times that we should try to make more of an effort to control the urge to snap, and instead find times and ways that you might be able to talk out issues together, communicate needs, and find solutions that would help improve the situation.

Tips for avoiding arguments:

  • Assign ‘baby care’ and household duties. When partners know what’s expected of them, things run more smoothly, so discuss these and be prepared to review them if it’s not working
  • Start a discussion at the right time - not in the “heat of the moment”. Wait till you’ve calmed down and you have the energy and space to discuss it properly
  • Listen to your partner’s concerns without cricising them
  • Be honest but sensitive with how you word things
  • Try and use “I” statements rather than “You” statements, eg. “I feel… because…” rather than “You always do this…”
  • Try to keep focused on the issue rather than bringing up old ground (historical issues)
  • Try to be clear about exactly what is upsetting you rather than being vague or trying to make your partner guess what is wrong because you’re too afraid to be honest
  • Steer clear of generalisations such as “you’re always..” or “you never”. Try and put the emphasis on the action that you don’t like rather than making it personal. Make “neutral comments” rather than attacking the other person’s character
  • Avoid swearing or name-calling

If you do happen to argue in front of your children, there are ways in which you can deal with it in a way that helps:

  • Try and keep the above “conflict rules”
  • Positive arguing can in fact teach children how to resolve conflict - remember that you are a role model to them - modelling childhood and adult relationships and what is “OK”
  • Make sure your child sees you apologize to each other after the fight
  • Be honest about your fighting. There is no use denying that there is a problem or pretending everything is OK. Children can become very anxious around conflict. Discussing/addressing it with your children helps relieve some of that anxiety. If your children have witnessed you arguing and not “fighting fair”, it is helpful to explain to your children what you did wrong and that you are sorry and what you intend to do to prevent it from happening again

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Crying Babies

Our baby cries and cries - we try everything but nothing helps for long. What can we do?

Listening to your baby crying breaks your heart and can cause you enormous anxiety and agitation - especially if you add to that your being sleep-deprived, particularly if it’s the early stages of your baby’s life.

The first thing to realise is that a baby cries because it’s the only way of communicating to you their needs. We feel frustrated when we feel that we don’t know what our baby is trying to tell us. It can often be desperate, exhausting attempts at trying one thing after another to see what works. But as we get to know our baby, we will begin to realise some of their cues and be able to respond to them, so be gentle on yourself and realise that it takes time.

The main reasons why babies cry:

  • Hunger - remember that some babies (especially newborns) need to be feed more frequently than others. Some babies get themselves so worked up when they are hungry, by the time they are fed they have gulped in a lot of air and then have problems with wind. The best thing to do is to respond early to signs of their being hungry, don’t wait. If your baby is in a routine, keep your feeding routine - don’t try and delay things if something else has cropped up. Feeding your baby is your priority and other things will simply need to wait! A baby doesn’t understand that you have other things to do in your day - and you may well pay for it if you delay your baby’s feed. And remember that babies do go through growth spurts, which may mean that they demand more at certain times than at others - so allow for this if you have your baby in a routine. Cues: If it’s been 3-4hrs since you last fed your baby, if he/she’s just woken up, or if you’ve just changed a very full nappy - chances are your baby is hungry. Remember that ‘rooting reflex’ your baby has early on - searching for mum’s breast, too as a sign that your baby wants to be fed.
  • Wind - having trapped wind in a baby’s belly can be uncomfortable and painful. Some babies are better at bringing up wind than others, and often newborns are particularly unpractised! It is also thought that breastfed babies have less wind than bottle-fed babies. To help your baby, always ‘wind’ him/her after a feed and between each side. Your baby may well wake up half an hour into their sleep, crying, because they still have trapped wind, so make sure that you spend the time doing this. Please see our previous articles on ‘Reflux’ and ‘Colic’ for more information on problems with feeding/wind. Cues: Your baby may bring his knees up to his chest or become restless - these are signs he might have some trapped wind.
  • Wet/soiled Nappy - some babies find having a wet/soiled nappy intolerable. If your baby is crying, regularly check and change your baby’s nappy to see whether he/she becomes more settled - and certainly let it be one of the things you consider if your baby is crying. Cues: Your baby might squirm or arch his/her back if uncomfortable.
  • Tired - there is nothing like an overtired baby. Once your baby has established a bit of a routine of how often they’d like to go to sleep, you do need to pick up on cues that your baby is getting tired. Your baby might yawn or just become fussy. Your baby may need a lot more sleep than you realise, particularly as newborn babies. Cues: Losing interest in toys, decreased activity, yawning, rubbing eyes, looking glazed.

If your baby is crying, have the above checklist in your mind and tick them off. If none of them seem to be what your baby is trying to tell you, then consider the following:

  • Overstimulation: If the room is noisy, there are lots of people around, there is music or banging or people trying to entertain your baby with rattles and other toys, it might all be becoming too much for your baby, particularly if baby is turning his/her head away from the noise. Try taking your baby out of the room and to somewhere peaceful where he/she can enjoy some gentle cuddles from you.
  • Frustration: Your baby may express his/her frustration at not being able to reach a toy or grasp/play with it in the way he/she wants to by crying. Your baby may just need a little help!
  • Loneliness: If your baby hasn’t seen you in a while because he/she has been lying on the floor playing happily while you’ve been hanging out the washing or cooking the dinner, he/she may start crying for you. A little time and some cuddles should resolve the problem! Remember, too, to try and put your baby down awake when it’s time for bed, rather than feeding off to sleep. The reason is that the last thing baby remembers is your face and when baby wakes up and you’re not there, he/she becomes distraught!
  • Boredom: Your baby has been stuck in a pushchair for a while with you shopping or catching up for a coffee with a friend. Baby’s crying might be loud and whiny, demanding your attention and simply wants a change of scene or to get out of the pushchair (or car seat or move to a different part of the house!)
  • Worry/Fear: Your baby may become uncomfortable in the arms of someone they don’t know, particularly if they’re not sure where you are. If his/her previous happy gurgles become unsettled cries, someone more familiar needs to take baby - especially you! Remember it takes time for babies to become accustomed to new people and new faces.
  • Too hot/too cold: Put a hand down your baby’s back and check his/her temperature. Your baby might be trying to say he/she’s too hot or too cold. The general rule is that baby has one more layer on than we do - we dress to the weather conditions and temperatures and so we need to adjust our baby’s clothes accordingly. Particularly if we have gone from a warm house to a cold hall (for playgroup or something) or outside in a cold wind.
  • Pain/Sickness: A painful cry might be shrill and followed by a pause (while your baby catches his/her breath) just like an adult cries when they are hurt. Check your baby from head to toe to see if you can find the source. Alternatively, your baby may not like the taste of your milk! If you are breastfeeding and have eaten something you don’t normally eat, and baby is fussy on the breast, consider what you have been eating that might have upset baby’s tummy. On the other extreme, your baby’s cry might be very weak - this may show signs of illness. Check your baby for a temperature and other signs that might indicate sickness.

And just a few more tips you could try if you’ve tried everything else:

  • Hold your baby (try arms, slings, front packs)
  • Provide motion (rhythmic swinging, rocking or jiggling)
  • Turn on some white noise: vacuum cleaner, fan heater or fan
  • Swaddle your baby nice firmly so baby feels secure
  • Baby massage - stroking your baby gently, or try patting on baby’s back or bottom
  • Let your baby have something to suck on: might be your breast, a pacifier, daddy’s finger or a teething toy
  • Distracting baby: just a change of scenery such as walking outside to look at the trees and the birds can calm a baby quickly

Take Care of Yourself

If you have tried everything you can think of to soothe your baby, don’t feel like a failure or incompetent as a parent. It is a common problem for babies - don’t add to your load by heaping guilt on yourself! Remember you are doing the best you can. Once you have taken care of baby the best that you can, take care of yourself:

  • When you feel yourself becoming agitated and worked up, put baby down in his/her bassinet or cot for ten minutes out of your hearing while you calm yourself. Baby will not be harmed by his/her own crying and sometimes you need that short breather in order to be able to manage. Take some deep breaths, put on some relaxing music.
  • Support one another as parents - give one another some time out (take turns if you need to) and some encouraging words. Don’t turn your frustration on each other - remember you are in this together and be kind to one another.
  • Get help: talk to Plunket or your Doctor if you are worried. You can call Healthline on 0800-611-116 to speak to a ‘Well Child Nurse’ for advice. Call a friend/relative for support - have someone take care of the baby while you get some rest or some time away.
  • When you are taking a break from your baby, remember to truly have some self-care: have a long warm bath, put on some relaxing music, go out for coffee with a friend, read a magazine, get some sleep. Take care of yourself - don’t use the time to do housework or run an errand!
  • Don’t demand too much of yourself. Lower some of your other expectations such as getting all the housework done or going out to playgroup activities for example. You need to be realistic about what you can cope with. Figure out what helps you and what makes things worse (you and the baby more tired). Ask for help with some of the things you need to do - such as housework, grocery shopping or errands you need to run.
  • Above all, remember that it will not harm your baby to cry. It is a source of communication, and usually a phase that will pass. It’s helpful to remember that it won’t last forever, and it may just be that you have more of a “crying baby” than other babies. Accepting this can help you to get through it. Find strategies that give you the strength to be able to cope with it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Enter our Parent's competition!

How would you like to be pampered? Well, just for being a special client of NZ Nannies International and a deserving parent, we are offering you the chance to win the opportunity to do just that:

  • A $50 gift voucher to go towards a luxurious facial or another treatment of your choice
  • A free cut and blow wave
  • A free one-hour makeover and one-hour photo shoot plus $150 towards portrait photos

All you have to do is to win the “Post of the Month.” Post a reply to any of the articles that we have posted on this blog. Then enter your details so that we know how to contact you if we select your post - enter your details on our website - just click here for the link:

We will choose the “Post of the Month” as our winner. This offer expires on October 9th 2009.

Happy posting and good luck!!