Breastfeeding, Holistic Sleep

The 4 month baby

Ah the 4 month baby.

You’re over the first few weeks, breastfeeding is beginning to be a bit easier, baby is starting to stretch out their feeds a little at night, they are becoming more efficient in the day, the smiles are coming thick and fast. Life is good. I’m nailing this….

Then BOOM! 4 months hits. OMG. What is this about? Have I broken my baby?

I make it no secret that I find this age incredibly challenging myself, when I’m supporting families. Let me share with you my list of gripes.

The 4 month baby:
* I will only feed for 3 mins & 21 seconds to ensure this is not long enough to settle me to sleep.
* During these 3 mins & 21 seconds I shall come off the breast multiple times to smile, look at the lights, see what’s on TV, ooh there’s a cat …
* My parent has to find another way to settle me to sleep. No, I hate the buggy. Rocking, no don’t be silly, ah the sling. But I will resist, resist, re….. zzzz
* Now I am asleep I will spend only 20 mins asleep before something wakes me up.
* I will then want another nano-feed to recover from the indignation of having succumbed to a nap.
* Now what, entertain me parent! No don’t put me down. No I don’t want that, I want that. Actually I don’t want that, can I have the first thing? No that’s rubbish too, what else can I do? I would like to go over there but I can’t. No don’t put me down. Oh actually I can practice my rolling, yay aren’t I clever? Oh I want to roll back. I can’t roll back, roll me back. Now! Ah that’s better. But I want to go over there. I will roll. Now I cant get back! Put me back! Maybe I better have another nano-feed to recover.
* What do you mean its bed time? Oh no, I will resist, resist. I want to play. Ooh look at that cat. Aw I love you mum. This breastfeed will. not. make. me…. sleeep…. zzzz
* Oh why am I in my cot? Help! Where are you? Oh you’re just there. Need a feed. to. go back. to….. sleeep……zzzz
* Oh I’m sleepy, I want to roll over, that’s nice I’m on my front…..
I DON’T WANT TO BE ON MY FRONT, I can’t get back, turn me over NOW!! Ah that’s better. Better have a feed to. help. me. back. to……. sleeep…….zzzzz
Repeat ad infinitum. Its a good job I’m cute! 

Breastfeeding, Holistic Sleep

Stopping Breastfeeding

So hopefully we all know that breastfeeding well into toddlerhood and beyond is recommended by the WHO and that it is normal to do so (although this message still seems to be a bit slow to filter through to some!).

But sometimes breastfeeding just isn’t working for the parent. Maybe they have aversion, maybe they’re feeling totally exhausted and touched out, maybe they’re uncomfortable with still breastfeeding, maybe they just need to stop!

Breastfeeding is a two way relationship and anyone who says a parent is breastfeeding their toddler for them hasn’t breastfed a toddler. It is INTENSE! They often seem to want to feed all day.

So the first step is try getting into a loose routine. A lot of parents find feeding first thing in the morning, mid morning before or after nap depending on whether they still feed to sleep, mid afternoon before or after nap and bed time works well. (They may still be having night feeds as well, I have written a separate blog on gentle night weaning, here. I wouldn’t try to do both at once!) You may find just cutting back a bit like this and taking a bit more control makes it more doable anyway and that then you feel you can keep going for a bit.

But if you still want to gradually wean then the easiest feed to drop is usually mid morning, especially if you go out to groups a lot as you can distract whilst out and baby will tend to fall asleep on the way home in sling, car or buggy. Have lunch ready for when for wake up.

Then once you’ve done that, try stopping the mid afternoon feed. Again get ready with drink and snacks to combat the post nap grumps if they happen.

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Once you’re down to morning and bedtime, a lot of people actually enjoy it again and hang on to those two feeds for a while. Once you’re ready to drop the first thing in the morning feed just get up straight away and have breakfast (although I left this feed until last as I preferred to stay in bed at 6.00am having a nice breastfeed than get up and make breakfast!).

For bedtime feed you can switch around the order of the bedtime routine. So instead of feeding to sleep or feeding as the last thing to settle, you can try feeding them first, then do teeth, pyjamas, story and cuddle to sleep instead. This breaks the feed/sleep cycle and will make it much easier to stop the feed completely. You may find babies are ok to cuddle to sleep instead. You may find that the association needs to be changed in a more gentle and gradual way. Try overlaying another sleep association alongside feeding. This can be a toy, blanket, song, arm, all sorts of things! Once this is established you can begin to remove feeding to sleep by gradually reducing the amount of time you breastfeed so they are not falling fully asleep and cuddle the last bit. This can take time but it is a very gentle transition that many parents find is far less traumatic for everybody.

Once you have weaned be very gentle on yourself as the drop in hormones can make you feel very down for a while. It takes your body a bit of time to function normally again. Lots of cuddles will get the oxytocin flowing and help everyone adjust.

Kathryn Stagg IBCLC – Oct2019


The Cave Baby

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You may have heard of the 4th trimester? And the fact that new babies don’t like to be put down? But why does it happen? Well from an evolutionary point of view, babies are still in the “cave man” period. A new baby does not realise it is born into the relative safety of the 21st century with video monitors, central heating and a lack of predators. To a baby being put down is a life and death situation. A human baby is very helpless, unlike many other mammals, and so relies completely on its mother for food, warmth, safety, security and love. The chest is it’s safe place where all of these are freely available. If it is left alone it thinks it will either get eaten by something, starve, become cold and uncomfortable! So when a baby realises it’s on its own, it cries in order to tell it’s mother to pick it up. It’s a warning sign. It’s saying “I’m here on my own and I’m in danger”.

Once babies get to around 3 months of age they start to realise that they’re not going to be eaten by a wolf, that their house is safe and warm and that they get fed regularly. At this stage they are more likely to tolerate being put down somewhere for a short time as long as they can see someone familiar nearby.

Then once they begin to explore the world they get a little braver. However, they like to make sure there is someone familiar around to make sure they’re still safe.

Holistic Sleep

The case for the floor bed

Many parents worry how they can get their co-sleeping older babies into their own room and into their own cots. However, there’s another way which can be much easier, much more gentle and less stressful for everyone. The floor bed!

The difficulty of using a cot is having to settle them into it. Contrary to popular belief, many children under the age of 2 do not lie down and go to sleep happily on their own. Many still need a feed or a cuddle to do this. But getting them to go into the cot after feeding or cuddling to sleep can be difficult. As soon as you lower them down and let go, they’re awake again, either almost straight away or at the end of the first sleep cycle.

A floor bed can remedy a lot of the problems. Either just a mattress on the floor, or on a low slatted bed base, or on conjunction with a cot (or two) with the side taken off.

Here are some of the positives:

* Baby is settled to sleep in the bed they are expected to sleep in. Often a baby falls asleep in its parent’s arms or bed as this is the easiest way to get them to sleep. Then when the baby wakes up, they find themselves in their cot, sometimes in a different room. This can be very disorienting as any adult who has awoken somewhere different to where they fell asleep can testify!

* If the baby wakes in the night, the parent can settle them back to sleep in the baby’s own bed easily with a feed or a cuddle. No need to move them out of their environment.

* The fact it is on the floor means it is safe if they roll out or get up and wander in the night. And they will not try to climb out of the cot! Ensure furniture is screwed to the walls for safety and nothing can be pulled on top of them. Parents can also use a baby monitor.

* Parents can co-sleep part of the night in baby’s bed if necessary ensuring a good night sleep for all. This also means that the other parent can remain in the parental bed. The co-sleeping parent can sneak back to their own bed if they are still awake once baby has settled.

* It is a very gentle way to encourage a baby to move into their own room or in with their sibling whenever the parents think this is the correct time for their family.

* Later on the parent can gradually retreat by lying next to the child, lying a bit further away, popping out for a minute, until eventually they are happy with a story, a kiss and a cuddle and then sleep.

So for parents wanting a gentle way to transition a child to sleeping on their own space, this can be an ideal solution.

Photos courtesy of Gentle Parenting Twins and Triplets UK & Ireland facebook group.


New mums, be more kangaroo!


I talk a lot about humans and kangaroos when supporting new parents. You see one of the few mammals who birth their babies at a more underdeveloped stage than us humans are kangaroos. Kangaroo babies crawl up into mum’s pouch and then latch on to the nipple and pretty much feed 24/7. Human babies, if left to their own devices after birth, crawl up their mum’s chest and then latch on to the breast. They then need to be fed very frequently. But unfortunately we don’t have a pouch. But we have strong arms, I nice curvy body to lie on and we can make a pouch by wrapping fabric to help our arms.

Humans are “carry” mammals. These include all the apes and marsupials. The “carry” mammals birth the most immature infants out of all the mammals. They are completely dependent on their mothers for food, warmth and safety. Our babies are fed frequently and because of this our milk has very low levels of fat and protein.

Other types of mammal are “follow” mammals such as horses and giraffes. These babies can walk soon after birth and feed quite frequently as they can keep up with their mothers. Their milk is a little higher in fat and protein than carry mammalsnas they feed a little less. “Nest” mammals such as dogs and cats leave their babies and return several times a day to feed. This means the milk needs to be higher in fat and protein to help them wait for their parents return. And then there are “cache” animals such as rabbits and deer. They leave their babies in a safe place and return every 12 hours or so to feed them. Consequently their milk is much higher in fat and protein in order to sustain them for long periods.

Many baby books seem to think we are nest animals. We aren’t. Human babies expect to be held constantly and fed frequently. Our milk is the perfect consistency for this. This is normal newborn behaviour.