A blog by Dr Lin Day



Co-sleeping – Benefits and Risks

All young mammals stay in close proximity with the mother, and human babies are no exception. In some cultures, the practice of sleeping with the baby is still common, but in others, co-sleeping has been abandoned in favour of cots, cribs or cradles. In some homes, the baby may sleep in a room separate from the mother, which is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – if the baby is less than 6 months-old.

Co-sleeping lost favour in the 13th century, when Catholic priests in Europe recommended that mothers should stop the practice for fear of smothering their babies. In the 20th century, babies were separated from their mothers in hospitals to protect them from infections. Other influences such as internet publications and the decline in breastfeeding have contributed to separation.

About 30% of babies share the parental bed at some point during the night. Many mums-to-be, who do not intend to bed-share, nevertheless do so after the birth. Bed-sharing is more widely accepted today, although the practice has its critics.

Benefits of co-sleeping

  • Helps the baby to fall asleep more easily.
  • Regulates the baby’s breathing patterns and body temperature.
  • Promotes bonding.
  • Enhances the physiological and psychological well-being of the baby and parent.
  • Provides security and comfort of body contact with the mother throughout the night.
  • Enables the mother to monitor the baby’s well-being.
  • Reduces stress for the parents.
  • Convenient night time breastfeeding for the mother and baby.
  • Less crying at night.

Even though the mother sleeps more lightly, she is more likely to gain a restful night’s sleep.

Both parents should feel comfortable with the decision to co-sleep, agree that they are equally responsible for the baby, and acknowledge that the baby is present.  Parents should not face disapproval if they have found co-sleeping to be an effective option.

Sidecar or bed nest

If co-sleeping does not work for one or both parents, a sidecar or bed nest placed against the parental bed, can provide an alternative. However, the side panel should always be lowered or removed so that the mother and baby have easy access to each other.

There must not be a gap or ridge between the parental bed and the sidecar or bed nest. Recently, a 7-week-old baby died of asphyxiation after manoeuvring herself over a ‘safety ridge’ on one side of the bed nest.

Risks of co-sleeping

Although there is an association between co-sleeping and SIDS, evidence suggests that it is not co-sleeping that is the risk factor, but the circumstances in which it occurs. For example:

  • If the baby is premature or of low birth weight.
  • Parental alcohol consumption.
  • Parental overtiredness or exhaustion.
  • Taking drugs or medications in the hours leading up to co-sleeping.
  • If one or both parents are smokers.
  • If the parent suffers from sleep deprivation.
  • Sleeping on a sofa or armchair, with or without the parent. The baby may slip face down into the crevice or get wedged at the back of the chair.
  • Leaving the baby in the parental bed alone.
  • Getting stuck between the mattress and the wall or furniture.
  • Falling out of the parental bed.
  • Suffocating on a waterbed, soft mattress, soft bedding (pillows, blankets, quilts, etc.).
  • Getting entangled in the mother’s hair if it is excessively long.

The mattress must be flat, firm and smooth. A soft surface such as a waterbed, sofa, beanbag or any other flexible and yielding structure increases the risk of SIDS. There must be no space between the mattress and the wall or furniture where the baby could become stuck. There must be no loose blankets or pillows that could obstruct the baby’s breathing.

An alternative is to place the mattress on the floor, making sure there are no crevices that the baby could become wedged in.

Ideally, the baby should sleep on the mother’s side of the bed. Research shows that fathers are less attuned to the baby’s movements and more likely to roll on top of them.

Co-sleeping is not recommended for formula fed babies because it is thought that the mother may not arouse as easily as the breastfeeding mother. However, more research is needed to substantiate this.

 Safety and SIDS

The practice of co-sleeping has benefits and risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that the risk of SIDS increases when babies co-sleep with parents who smoke or are intoxicated by alcohol, drugs, medications or sedatives.

 The following may also increase the risk of SIDS:

  1. Sleeping in the prone (tummy) or side position.
  2. Overheating.
  3. Chilling.
  4. Unfamiliar sleeping conditions.
  5. Covering the baby’s head or face.
  6. Mattress and bedding.
  7. Environmental smoke.

In the absence of hazardous circumstances, the number of co-sleeping SIDS deaths is no more than expected in the general population, in fact slightly less.

 What the experts say

Popular parenting magazines and the media have tried to discourage parents from co-sleeping with their baby because of the risk of SIDS. According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend against co-sleeping. In fact, co-sleeping is probably safer than sleeping alone (providing there are no risk factors), because the baby spends more time sleeping on his or her back.

Research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is normal practice. Information published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed more than 3 times as many crib-related infant fatalities compared to co-sleeping accidents.

The Department of Health advises that the safest way for the baby to sleep is on his or her back in a cot with both sides fully up and secure in the parents room for the first 6 months. Back-sleeping continues to have a significant effect on reducing SIDS.

 

Visit: www.babysensory.com to discover more about you and your growing baby.

The Lullaby Trust provides expert advice on safe sleep for babies and raises awareness of SIDS. Tel: 0808 802 6869; web:www.lullabytrust.org.uk

New Baby and Sibling Rivalry

It is perfectly natural for an older child to be jealous of a new baby brother or sister. He or she has always been the centre of attraction.

The following can make a huge difference to your child’s behavior and emotions when your new baby arrives.

  • Being involved in the pregnancy.
  • Helping to pack your maternity bag.
  • Attending antenatal appointments.
  • Visiting the maternity unit.
  • Choosing baby clothes, nappies and equipment.
  • Selecting gifts and toys for the new baby.
  • Deciding how the nursery will be decorated.
  • Visiting friends and family who have new babies.
  • Looking at pictures of babies in magazines and books.
  • Sharing photographs of your child as a baby.
  • Discussing potential baby names.
  • Bathing, changing and cuddling a newborn doll.

Despite all the planning and preparation, your child may react by ignoring the baby or by demanding more attention. Rest assured that this is perfectly normal behaviour. After all, bringing home a new baby is a major life-changing event.

Any change, especially one that involves a different routine, will be very disorienting to your child. Where possible, keep set times for meals, play, reading, bathing and bedtime. A familiar routine will give your child the security that he or she still needs.

Even if your child appears to love the new baby, he or she needs to learn how to touch, where to kiss, how to play, and when to stop. If interactions go beyond the expected norm, getting cross will only make your child feel left out and unwanted.

The following can make your child feel loved and ensure continued cooperation:

  • Let Daddy hold the baby so that you can cuddle your child.
  • Spend quality time together after nursery or school.
  • Spend one-to-one time together when your baby is asleep.
  • Provide plenty of cuddles and expressions of love.
  • Snuggle up with your child and new baby and watch a DVD together.
  • Give positive praise when something has been done well.
  • Take an interest in nursery or school activities.
  • Point out all the things that your child can do that the new baby can’t.
  • Share a favourite story together at bedtime.
  • Have toys on hand so that you can feed your new baby without feeling that your child is being neglected.
  • Involve your child in changing and entertaining the baby.
  • Ask your child to help push the pram or rock the crib.
  • Take your child to the park or somewhere special on his or her own each week.
  • Ask family or friends to take your child out for a fun activity.

If your child becomes aggressive or acts up, encourage him or her to express feelings when safely tucked up in bed. Don’t be surprised if your child reverts to baby talk; it is part of the adjustment process.

Adjustment to a new baby will depend on pre-planning and preparation, your child’s personality, age and stage of development, and his or her relationship with you. Ultimately, your child needs to know that he or she is still loved and wanted. Cuddles are important at any major life-changing event, and also throughout life. They can make a real difference to how your child feels and behaves and to relationships in the future.

 

Visit: www.babyfoundations.com to discover more about you and your growing baby.

New Baby and Sibling Rivalry – By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Essential Travel Tips for Families

The school holidays are almost here, but how do you ensure that the journey to your holiday destination is stress-free for everyone?

Here’s how to make your baby or toddler drowsy:

  • Start the journey an hour before normal nap time. Allow time to run about and let off steam before getting in the car. The chances are that your toddler will play for the first part of the journey, and then fall asleep for the rest of it.
  • If your child is likely to be restless, a foot massage before setting off can trigger the sleep reflex.
  • Leave on time. There is nothing worse than being late. Your child will soon pick up on stress levels, which can increase wakefulness and anxiety.
  • Travel at night so that your child sleeps through most of the journey. Pyjamas and a duvet will help your child to settle when put in the car.
  • Clothes made from natural fibres are more comfortable than synthetic ones. A natural lamb’s wool fleece can relieve stiffness and provide a warm and cosy place to sleep. A folded blanket placed under bent knees can make a car seat more comfortable for your baby or toddler.
  • Ensure that comfort objects are available when needed. They will make the journey less stressful and help your child fall asleep more easily.
  • Use motorways whenever possible. The steady movement of the car will increase drowsiness and reduce the likelihood of motion sickness.
  • To promote sleepiness, keep the car cool (not warmer than 70°F). If travelling in the day, put up a portable blackout blind or sunscreen in the passenger window to reduce temperature and glare and to shield your child’s skin and eyes from the sun.
  • Offer slices of fruit, cucumber, carrot sticks and grapes to promote drowsiness. Avoid sugary snacks or caffeine-based drinks such as cola, which increase energy levels and the need to urinate.

What to do if your child refuses to sleep on a long journey:

  • Ensure that favourite soft toys and books are available, but offer new ones to provide interest and excitement.
  • Favourite travel toys for babies include activity centres with wheels to turn, a toy telephone, a book filled with textured, sparkly surprises or a box or bag containing safe, interesting objects. Objects wrapped in paper will also keep little hands busy. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest.
  • A sticker book is ideal for entertaining toddlers. Stickers can be stuck on the window or the seat without any harm being done. A toy catalogue is great fun to look at and your toddler can colour in the things they would like to have. Action figures and magnetic boards with letters or numbers are also good choices.
  • Colouring and activity books are great distraction tools for toddlers, but if crayons are a problem, try an ‘Etch-A-Sketch’. Your child can draw on the wipe off-mat with the magic pencil and start again without having to change the paper. Be sure to have a collection of favourite sing-along songs on the car stereo system.
  • Older children enjoy ‘I Spy’, picking out letters or numbers on car number plates and classic travel games such as connect the dots, hangman and tic-tac-toe. Magnetic or electronic games such as chess and snakes and ladders can also make the journey zoom by. But, if you are looking for peace and quiet, an MP3 player with headphones or a portable DVD player may provide the answer.
  • Books about the geography, history, animals and plant life of the destination will also keep older children busy, but if car sickness is a problem, avoid books with small print.
  • If fidgetiness becomes a problem, dispensing healthy snacks at regular intervals or picking out picnic areas can give your child something to look forward to as well as the opportunity to stretch legs, get some fresh air, and enjoy a change of scenery before setting out on the road again.

Alternating seats can also break up the monotony of the journey and prevent arguments between siblings. A sponsored silence can work wonders when the squabbling starts and help everyone reach their destination in a more relaxed and happy frame of mind!

By Dr Lin Day, Baby Sensory (www.babysensory.com)

Baby Brain Syndrome: Fact or myth?

“Now why did I put my car keys in the fridge?”

Fact: Baby brain syndrome, the dippy feeling experienced by many mothers during pregnancy may be due to massive fluctuations in hormonal levels, sleep deprivation, loss of energy, difficulty in concentrating on anything other than the pregnancy, and lack of the essential fatty acid, omega-3.

Lack of omega-3 can result in 3 percent or more shrinkage in the mother’s brain, which accounts for the short-term memory loss that many women experience in their third trimester. The essential fatty acid is so important to the development of the baby’s brain in late pregnancy, that high levels are absorbed from the mother’s blood. If maternal blood levels are low, omega-3 is obtained from the mother’s brain.

Mothers can increase general brain function by eating oily fish rich in omega-3 such as organic natural salmon, sardines, halibut, and herring. Even small amounts can make a significant difference.

Raw nuts, flax, mustard, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach also contain trace amounts of omega-3.

Concerns

Regular intake of fish has reduced dramatically in recent years, due to the risk of foetal exposure to methyl mercury, which has been linked to birth defects and brain damage in the past. This is particularly worrying in the light of recent work that shows that many disorders are the result of poor intake of omega-3 during pregnancy. Recent studies have shown that methyl mercury in fish is not as toxic as was originally proposed. Individual cases of toxicity are very rare.

As a precautionary measure, the Food Standards Agency suggests that pregnant women and nursing mothers avoid large fish (e.g. tuna, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel) and only eat smaller fish such as salmon, sardines, halibut, and herring.

Supplements

For mothers who dislike fish or wish to avoid it, omega-3 can be obtained from algae-derived supplements. Cod liver oil should be avoided since it may contain high amounts of vitamin A, which can be harmful. However, mothers who take medication for blood pressure or blood thinning or bruise very easily should check with their healthcare professional before taking omega-3 supplements.

Fun fact: some research shows that mums expecting girls may be more forgetful than those expecting boys. Although the reasons are unknown, it is thought that the increase in oestrogen can have a negative effect on the hippocampus – part of the brain involved in short-term memory.

 

 By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be

When temperatures soar, mums-to-be will feel the heat more than average, but how do you stay cool?

Here are some tips from pregnant mums that will help you stay cool and remain hydrated. We’ve also included advice from the experts to keep you and your growing baby safe, healthy and well.

What the experts say

During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to the sun and more likely to burn, so you need to be extra careful. Mums-to-be should stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.

Excessive UV radiation in the early stages of pregnancy can interfere with the synthesis of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which is especially important to foetal cell division and growth. The best advice is to stay indoors during peak UV hours. However, sun avoidance can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends a daily vitamin D supplement during pregnancy.

 Melt down

  • Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a ventilated or air-conditioned area.
  • Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home.
  • Rest or move about more slowly than normal – don’t rush to appointments.
  • Keep the bedroom temperature between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F) – you will sleep more comfortably.
  • Wet towels and bottles of frozen water will help reduce room temperature.
  • To prevent the sun heating up the house, keep the blinds/curtains drawn.
  • Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and generate more body heat.

Anna from Winchester says “Avoid using the oven – it heats up the house.”

Out and about

If you do need to venture out in hot weather, try scheduling activities earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.

It also helps if you:

  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton.
  • Avoid synthetic fibres such as polyester that can make you sweat.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.
  • Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.

Sarah from Figheldean says “Dust your skin lightly with corn flour – it absorbs sweat and makes you feel more comfortable.”

Avoid sunscreen – it may contain harmful toxic ingredients, which can cause serious problems in the growth and sexual development of your growing baby. Check out the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) guide to sunscreens that are chemical-free.

Stay hydrated

Due to hormonal changes, an increase in blood supply to the skin, and a slightly higher temperature in pregnancy, you are likely to sweat more and lose vital fluids. It is important to stay hydrated.

  • Drink more water than usual so that you never become thirsty. A glass of water every 30 minutes or so will prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid salty foods, which retain water and increase blood pressure.
  • Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Eat ice cubes and keep trays stocked up in the freezer.
  • Avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks.

Restrict caffeine intake to 200mg or less daily during pregnancy. High levels of caffeine can lead to low birth weight and may even cause miscarriage. Some ingredients in energy drinks are considered safe in moderation, while others are potentially harmful to your growing baby. Energy drinks can have as much as 200mg of caffeine per serving.

Stay cool

 A fan can cool you down and circulate air around the room, but don’trely on it as your primary cooling device during a heatwave. A cool shower, bath or sponge bath is a much better way to keep cool.

  • Wash frequently to help you feel fresh.
  • Sit in a cold paddling pool.
  • Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.
  • Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet at night.
  • Mist yourself with cold water or spray from a garden hose.

Vicky from Salisbury says “I stick my feet in a bowl of cold water. It is so refreshing!”

 Stay safe

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Strong, rapid pulse.
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Throbbing headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Fast and shallow breathing.

Your growing baby

The sun itself will not hurt your growing baby, but it may cause problems if your body temperature rises or you become dehydrated. If you become uncomfortable in the sun, find a cool area or seek an air-conditioned environment, rehydrate, and rest.

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Breastfeeding Information

The best preparation for breastfeeding is good information. The more information you have about breastfeeding before the birth, the less likely you are to encounter problems.

After the birth, a family member, midwife or NCT lactation expert who offers positive support can help you to succeed.

If problems do occur, there are ways to overcome them. Here’s how:

  • Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Feed your baby frequently to promote milk production.
  • Pump your breasts during and between feeds to increase milk supply. Milk can be pumped from one breast while your baby feeds on the other breast.
  • If your breasts are very full, express some foremilk before feeding to stimulate the let-down reflex and to elongate the nipple in readiness for latch-on.
  • When positioning to nurse, hold your baby so that her whole body faces you. Your baby should not have to turn her head to nurse.
  • Cradle your baby close to the breast, but avoid leaning over.
  • Use a nursing cushion to help support your baby.

Failure to latch on to the breast is a common problem, but the following can be really helpful:

  • Trigger the let-down release through skin-to-skin contact.
  • Offer a clean finger to encourage your baby to drop her tongue down before latching on to the nipple.
  • Try different nursing positions.
  • Smear your nipple with breast milk.
  • Apply a cold pack to your nipple to harden it slightly before feeding.
  • Compress your breast towards your chest (about 1½ inches (3.8 cm) from the base of the nipple) to make the nipple firmer. When your baby is sucking well, slowly release the pressure.
  • Talk, rub or pat your baby to maintain wakefulness.
  • Nurse your baby in a warm bath.

Listen out for clicking sounds, which may suggest inadequate attachment to the breast and/or improper sucking.

If normal movement of the tongue is affected, or your baby’s tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth, she may have difficulty in attaching properly to the breast. See your healthcare professional or cranial osteopath if feeding is affected.

 Correct latch-on

  • Your baby’s top lip should rest just above your nipple, generally leaving the upper part of the areola exposed.
  • Invite your baby to take the nipple rather than forcing it into her mouth.
  • Ensure that your nipple gets to the roof of your baby’s mouth. If it only reaches the gum line, then latch-on is incomplete and may cause soreness.
  • Your baby’s chin should touch your breast, but not her nose.
  • If you experience a pinching or biting sensation on your nipple or breastfeeding hurts, your baby may not have latched on correctly.

General tips

If your baby repeatedly falls asleep at the breast, gently tickling her feet, undressing, nappy changing, rocking or walking may keep her alert.

If your baby is not strong enough to latch on to the nipple, offer expressed breast milk from a bottle or sterilized dropper, until she is ready to breastfeed.

If your baby has lost weight, wake her every 2 or 3 hours until the birth-weight milestone is reached.

Only offer a dummy or pacifier when breastfeeding is fully established and weight gain steady.

Give yourself and your baby time to enjoy feeding, skin-to-skin contact intimacy, and eye contact. Anxiety can make your baby tense. A dark, quiet, and comfortable place to relax or a warm bath with your baby aids breastfeeding. Rest or sleep when your baby sleeps.

If your baby’s head was compressed during the birth process, there may be tension on the nerves and muscles of the lips, mouth, and tongue or other areas of the body. Any imbalance will make it difficult for your baby to trough the tongue, maintain a seal around the nipple, or milk the breast during feeding. Early cranial osteopathic treatment can reduce facial tension and help alleviate feeding and latch-on problems.

20 Vital Facts for Mums-to-be

From the moment of conception through to the birth, the following may help you maximise your chances of having a brilliant pregnancy.

For example, did you know that?

  1. Food aversions in early pregnancy may prevent you from eating foods that contain harmful bacterial toxins, which can cross the placenta and affect the health of your developing baby.
  2. You are less likely to get morning sickness if you eat corn-based foods, which have low levels of potentially harmful toxins.
  3. Craving for chocolate may signal the need to consume more calcium or fat in your diet, whereas craving for sweet foods may suggest the need for glucose.
  4. Tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks contain caffeine. High levels (above 200 mg) can lead to low birth weight, and may even cause miscarriage.
  5. Alcohol consumption can damage your baby’s brain and organs at any time during pregnancy. No amount is considered to be safe.
  6. Skincare products (including sunscreen) may contain harmful ingredients, which can enter your baby’s body through the amniotic fluid, and affect brain, organ and reproductive development.
  7. Organic coconut oil, which is completely safe for you and your growing baby, can reduce the occurrence and appearance of stretch marks.
  8. Recent studies suggest that the pain-killer Paracetamol may increase the risk of reproductive disorders in male babies if taken regularly during pregnancy.
  9. When painting your nails, use water-based, non-toxic nail colour. It is much safer than polish that contains fixing agents and solvents, which can cause birth defects.
  10. Powerful hormonal shifts during pregnancy can intensify the sense of smell and heavily influence your taste preferences and food choices.
  11. If you want to paint your baby’s nursery before the birth, avoid exposure to oil-based, enamel, latex and spray paints, which may contain lead. Even small amounts can severely damage the development of your baby’s brain.
  12. Regular hand washing, not sharing eating or drinking utensils or kissing infected individuals with cytomegalovirus, the virus that causes cold sores, can protect against stillbirth during the early stages of pregnancy.
  13. Most fat is deposited on the hips and thighs in weeks 14 to 28 to provide energy for labour and your developing baby, but almost no fat is stored in weeks 29 to 40.
  14. Extra calories are not needed for the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. It is only in the last 12 weeks that you need an extra 200 calories a day.
  15. In the later stages of pregnancy, your body retains more fluid, which can lead to swollen ankles and feet, and an increase in shoe size.
  16. The veins in your nose may swell in response to increased blood flow causing nasal congestion and nose bleeds, particularly in cold, dry weather.
  17. Fluid retention and downward pressure of the uterus compresses your bladder, leading to the need to use the loo more often.
  18. Omega-3 from oily fish is important to your baby’s brain development. If your diet is deficient in Omega-3, the essential fatty acid will be derived from your brain, which may account for memory loss and vagueness in your third trimester and after the birth (‘Baby brain syndrome’).
  19. Numerous studies show that contractions usually begin somewhere between midnight and 4 am in the morning. Estriol (oestrogen produced by the placenta) and oxytocin hormones peak at night causing the uterus to contract and the cervix to dilate.
  20. When labour starts, continuous walking or moving around may dilate the cervix and decrease the total amount of time spent in childbirth.

Whether you are expecting your first or your first baby, you will have lots of questions. Whatever the question, Baby Foundations (www.babysensory.com) can help you learn as much as possible about your pregnancy so that you are better prepared for the challenges ahead.