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Category Archives: Attachment parenting

Eight approaches for happier sleep

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Yesterday morning Ramona woke up at 4:30, full of beans. She planted some kisses on our faces, did a morning fart, followed by a belly full of giggles, and began climbing all over the bed. “Awake! Me! Pojo??” Pojo is her word for porridge, she was ready for breakfast and up for the day.

Grumpy is not the word. I was mad all day. Mentally flipping the bird at every stupid email I received, I stomped around the office, grizzled under my breath my whole cycle home. I was reminded what it is like to be deeply unhappy with a child’s sleep patterns.

I spent many of Ramona’s first months feeling this way. She’d take forever to go to sleep at the sensible time of 7 pm and then wake at the crack of dawn. I disliked spending an hour doing a night time routine and getting her to sleep, bobbing up and down the stairs to her throughout the evening, and then peering out of the bed covers at the clock and seeing 6 am shining back at me just a few hours after I rolled under them.

It was only when Ramona was a year old that I realised I wanted to take a more relaxed, less structured approach to her sleep, and since then we have all been much happier. Of course, we still have the odd terrible night, an evening with a wired tot who won’t sleep, or a crack of dawn morning. But on the whole my mind is free of sleep anguish, and that deserves a celebratory doughnut.

I’d say adopting eight different approaches helped me feel much happier about our sleep situation.

  • I got the “sensible bedtime” idea out of my head. The most sensible bedtime for a child is when they are tired. Sometimes, due to a late start or long nap this is ten pm. Mostly for us it is somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. It took me a while to get this, even 8:30 pm seemed outrageous to me, so I’d try and try and try to get Ramona in bed at The World Will Approve O Clock. Once I let go of this, our evenings got a whole load more relaxed.
  • I decided that beds were overrated. For a year, Ramona took her naps on me in the sling or on the sofa, but always began her night time sleep in bed. Once I realised she was often much happier falling to sleep at night time on the sofa I began to see the benefits. We’ll cuddle up amongst the cushions, then after she has drifted off, while my husband and I read or chat, we can put a film on, or continue the get-together with our friends. Because she is right with us she’ll rarely stir much and then I just take her to bed when we go.
  • We abandoned the routine. Sometimes the bath, songs, story schedule worked. Mostly though, Ramona hated the idea of going upstairs and leaving behind her crate of toys, the lovely people in the lounge and a kitchen of food. She’d be upset about being carted off somewhere else, or we’d end up doing story after story until she was ready to snuggle down. Not making such a palava of bedtime made the transition to sleep so much more natural
  • I watch her cues and set the scene. Sometimes Ramona will ask for “bed”, sometimes she’ll just ask for “mummy milk” (as opposed to “Daddy milk” which is what she she calls dairy! Mahaha…) or sometimes she may yawn, get a bit angsty. At this stage I will put the lamp on, quieten down the house and settle on the sofa with her. This transition is much easier for her mind to cope with!

  • I accepted that kids all have different sleep needs, and they are fairly good at meeting that need if we allow them. Ramona can rarely sleep more than 11 hours at night. If she goes to bed at 7 then that is a 6 am wake up call. ER, NO THANKS! Getting up at 8am makes us all happier but that does mean I have to accept that traditional bedtimes don’t suit us! She still naps for an hour, an hour and a half. But if she has a few short naps then she might go for a number 14 hour night sleep!! I just trust her in all of this and shrug off the concept of a 12 hour night.
  • I accepted our new normal. Once I got used to the idea that Ramona would continue to stir at night, and would continue to need me, my mind calmed down and my new state of contentment really helped! Instead of waking up and thinking “She woke 4 times and she is nearly two!!!” And being appalled at my poor parenting, I now simply recognise that she just has superior survival skills….because obviously, we are built to stir all night so we can respond to danger and stoke the cave fire! Also, perversely, the few times she has slept all night I’ve had a rubbish sleep due to a lack of lovely nursing hormones. Wrong, that is, I tell you!
  • I rejected the “creating good sleep habits” rhetoric. Mainstream parenting advice claims routines, sleeping through, self-soothing and sleeping in a separate space sets our children up for a lifetime of excellent sleep. Erm. There is an MAJOR flaw in this in that we have been repeating this record for decades and we are some of the worst sleepers in the world!!! Nearly 40% of us suffer from insomnia. Mainstream advice is clearly doing something wrong.
  • I embraced a “live intuitively” philosophy. I try as much as possible to let Ramona be self-directed, to eat when hungry, cuddle when she needs it, jump on the bed if she fancies it, and sleep when she is tired. I hope all of this stuff will allow her own gut to be the loudest voice when it comes to making important decisions, that she will be less reliant on the sways of peers and external evaluation. Learning to respond to her body and its need will surely give her a confidence and a wholeness that will give her a much needed resilience. Knowing that I may be suffering a little less undisturbed sleep than others for the big picture, the future well being of my daughter, makes it a tiny, insignificant suffering!

These ways aren’t for everyone, I know.  If you are content with the fixed way you do thing, please, don’t change a dot!!! But maybe some of you are like us, and do want to take a more abandoned approach to sleep and parenting, and I hope our story will encourage you to do that. For me, stumbling across other families that did this gave me the freedom I needed to parent this way boldly, and not secretly! I liked these two pages, especially…

This collection of quotes from homeschool families who just roll with it, sleepwise. 

Letting kids find their own sleep patterns

Finding a bit of freedom around this whole sleep situation has been a part of my attachment parenting journey. For me attachment parenting is all about choosing connection, over control.  I am down with boundaries- i.e, I wouldn’t give Ramona sweets before bedish time, or have a massively exciting game of tickles just as she began to yawn, but integral to my parenting is a relinquishment of my need for high control. Allowing Ramona a certain amount of autonomy is important to me, and these approaches to sleep extend that philosophy to her bedtime.

So… *asks timidly, trying to be brave* … what do you reckon?!

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A sibling on the scene

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Every morning when my daughter Ramona opens her eyes, she snuggles up to my face and whispers “Hello, mummy”. These days, this tiny tradition is followed up by her scuffling down and pulling apart my pyjama top and murmuring “Hello, baby” into my tummy. With no bump to reveal my 4 month pregnancy just yet my belly button is getting all the attention.

Ramona is two and loves babies. She loves babies, imaginary babies and Things that Will Do.

Ramona Babywearing

Ramona constantly has to be either pushing a buggy or wearing a baby in the sling, and I normally have to accompany her, with a Cabbage Patch Kid tied to my front.

As I cooked dinner yesterday I could hear her singing sweet nothings “Oh, baby. Good? Baby? Oooh. Baby” and looked over my shoulder to see what she was caressing with her soft words and hands.

It was a bulb of garlic.

Obviously.

Minutes later, I had to help her undo the zip on her jumper because the garlic wanted “milkies.”

(Mind you, a few months ago it was me that had to nurse the obscure objects she chose so I’m quite happy she has taken on that responsibility herself. My days of breastfeeding toy cars and lego are over for a while, thanks.)

When my mum first heard our new baby news, she exclaimed “Crumbs, Ramona will have her nose put out, won’t she?!” I guess it was in reference to the intense attachment we have, and the practices that, for us, are a big part in it. When the baby comes along Ramona will have to deal with not lying starfish like along our bed between us, she’ll learn to share Mummy’s milkies (with a human and not a bit of plastic) and she’ll have to adapt to another little mite being limpet-like in the sling.

And of course, while I feel blissfully relaxed in this pregnancy and perhaps naively optimistic about a second baby, I can’t help but feel a leeetle bit intreipidly curious about what tandem nursing will be like, and keeping them both happy during the night times.

I am fairly confident that all those juicy hormones will smother everything in glazey eyed love for a while, making it all okay for me.

And hopefully Ramona’s love for babies (and I hope she loves the new one a little bit more than the ones she frequently sits on/ covers in Marmite) will help her ride out the changes. We just have 5 months to get her used to the idea that the new kid on the block will be a bit noisier than the garlic and a bit more demanding than my belly button!

Attachment Daddy: Intuitive parenting

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My husband is a lovely writer, and a fabulous daddy, and has been on quite a journey with the attachment fatherhood stuff. I thought it would be WICKED to get his perspective on some of it all for this blogdiggidy. He agreed! What a LEDGE. So here he is, an intro post, on parenting by instinct.

Ramona is coming up 2 years old now.  I can’t actually believe how fast those years have gone.  It seems like only yesterday that I was looking in awe and wonder at Lucy’s growing tummy, trying to get my mind around the fact that a little life is growing in there.  I remember the moments when Ramona’s head crowned, followed by her tiny little body into the arms of the midwife.   While I was busy wide eyed exclaiming that we have a little girl, Lucy’s hands were already reaching back through her legs instinctively for this little life that was now newly apart from her.  “Give her to me.”  A mother and her daughter after a very long labour, that time completely forgotten melting into one another.

So the journey for me began.  My stumbling instinct, and Lucy’s primeval mothering one, together parenting Ramona Lily.
Things are always the hardest when you haven’t done them before, especially when popular culture seems to ever willingly chide your methodology.  My feelings swing from experiencing the beauty of waking with the snuggling cuddles and kisses of my precious child to the jealous desire to have my Lucy to myself, apart from this ever present little limpet.  From feeling Ramona snuggled safely and cosily around me in a sling, to lazily wanting her somewhere else so I can enjoy the cool breeze.  From wanting her to learn that I won’t always be there, to wanting her to know completely that I will.  Unconditionally, without question or hesitation.
My instincts seem buried much further beneath the expected norms of society and upbringing than Lucy’s.  There’s always a book that I should be reading, a documentary or article that I need to check out.  Sometimes I feel like I’m being coached in this strange new art, yet I don’t want that all the time.  Lucy and I talk often about parenting.  I think I am relatively open minded and good at listening as well as talking.
I was talking to a friend yesterday about choosing a home birth (or rather attempting to).  All my hesitations that I previously had had seem now totally ridiculous to me.  Worries no longer there with the benefit of hindsight.  Without a second thought we’d do it all again, with very little, if any, changes.  The doubts I have shelved, by all accounts lost, in the files of time.  Perhaps I’ll feel like that about all our parenting decisions too one day.  Why did I ever doubt?  Why did I ever question?
Ramona is by far one of the loveliest people that I have ever met.  She is (mostly) gentle, loving, engaged and curious, independent and graceful.  She climbs like a monkey, she runs with a bouncing carefreeness that I adore.  Her cuddles are like none others that I have ever experienced.  I am proud and happy of our growing girl.
Oh, nice one Tim. He is going to cover some of the practices of attachment soon. Cosleeping, extended breastfeeding and babywearing. Should be some nice honest stuff to come, I reckon. THANKS TIMPOP! (This is the sweet nothing 6 years of marriage has seen me ending up calling him- and also everyone I love. It is short for Pop-on-off. Sometimes it sounds like I am calling him Polpot so I shouldn’t really do it in public. But I do. An antique dealer actually once said to me: You can’t call him that! HARUMPH.) 

5 reasons I love toddler wearing

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I was queuing for a bag of chips last Friday when the gruff, bald, beer bellied Polish man behind the counter looked up at me and exclaimed “I love your style!”

Er.

He went on to explain “The way you are carrying your child, I really like it – we do it like that back home.” I had my toddler sprawled on my back, nestled in my wrap. I used to get comments like this quite commonly when she was tiny, but now more often than not all I get are those Raised Eyebrows of Consternation!

For the first 5 months of Ramona’s life I wore her in a sling every day, for most of the day. I just wanted to keep her close, I felt a small part of me to be missing if I were to let her snooze on the sofa! She would snuggle into me as  I cooked and protested and sewed and hiked.

I had a gorgeous ring sling a friend had made, but wanting to be completely hands free I made her a stretchy wrap. By the time she was 5 months old she was a corking 13 kilos and I needed to upgrade to a woven wrap that would made my load a little lighter! We invested in a Didymos wrap, a second hand one from Ebay, and has been serving us beautifully recently, with our little 21 month old Ramona.

Once Ramona got crawling, the cord that tied us began pulling a little bit and it seemed completely natural for her to want to crawl about, away from me and explore the dusty, crevices of our house.  I still wore her when we went out and about and for naps and for breastfeeding on the go. When she was 10 months old we found a buggy by a bin, a spectacular huge old Silver Cross and we  took it home and took Ramona for the odd spin in that. Ramona enjoyed it- she’d wave at everyone in a very Queen like way, enjoying a wonderfully novel experience, thinking she was the first baby  ever to get pushed about on a mini wagon; “Check out my WHEELS!”. It came in pretty handy for loading it up with our big supermarket shop and gradually we got used to using the buggy 75% of the time.

Then, a few months ago Ramona gave up the buggy –  couldn’t get her in it for love nor money. I buckled her in against her will once and the discombobulation of that haunts me to this day. The wrap is once again making an appearance daily and it feel so right!

Here are my reasons for loving it:

  • It saved a buggy strike from becoming an immobilising crisis! Understandably, once your toddler GETS toddling, they don’t fancy being clipped in and pushed about.  For Ramona it seems being up high helps her to feel okay with being carted around, she feels involved with her excellent vantage point.

    We zipped off to Berlin for the day with Ramona on my back

  • I like how unfettered I feel. I walk out the door with my handbag and Ramona on my back and that’s that. Because it is hands free, I can text/ eye up Twitter/ pick my nose whilst walking along, without having to negotiate 4 wheels. (Mind you that could be simply my lack of coordination!) Our buggy used to get layers and layers of stuff packed into it, and bags hanging off all sides. Pushing that around made me feel like that fella off The Road.

    Checking out the horses – Ramona LOVED this place

  • Ramona falls asleep SO easily in a back carry, I love to feel her cheek press into my shoulder as she drops off. If I sense Ramona is a bit excited, or if we have a tribe of souls at our place having fun, bed times can involve much convincing! Sometimes I’ll pre-empt it and will take her for an evening stroll and let her gently off. Transferring her into her bed from a back carry is really simple too – a much lower Wake Up Rate than the buggy to bed transfer!

    Schnoozing

  • It is especially good for navigating the city crowds and public transport. Going into the centre of the Big Smoke with the buggy used to fill me with dread; having to ask strangers for help up and down the stairs, getting stuck behind a platoon of slow walkers. Now we just whip up and down and right past those meandering snail like tourists and strolling romantics.

    Just hanging out back there, eating a corn on the cob

  • I feel close to her when I carry her. Like we are on the same bandwith. I guess it it just the equivalent of lots of cuddles but Ramona- like most toddlers I suspect- is such a busy bee that I only really really get the snuggles when I nurse and carry her! I just feel a lot more in sync with her – as if body was designed to drape over back, as if tribes of mamas from generations past are nodding knowingly at us.

I can only really carry for an hour without a break, I’m not denying she is pretty heavy. But not nearly as wearying as pushing a heavy laden pram, or as hard as people think it – I guess your body becomes accustomed and grows in a way to accommodate toddlerwearing. I use a Reinforced Ruck Carry (I think, there are about a gazillion different carries) but have heard on the street that a Double Hammock is the FUTURE so I am going to be studying this video for a bit:

Are you a babywearer? What kind of comments have you received? I’d love to hear all about ’em.

You are the expert in the topic of your children

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We have just come through a week of pretty angsty bed times. Some nights Ramona took a whole 1.5 hours to get to sleep. Even though we are just reading, nursing, singing and I should be able to think wonderful pleasant thoughts about spending all that extra time with my tiny delight, I don’t. I just get a bit annoyed inside, dreaming of being able to go downstairs and read without having a full-of-life  toddler flickering about around me.

And then, as quickly as the Bedtimes of Terror period began, it stopped. It stopped because I began trusting myself again.

You see, a week ago I read on a blog that I had been lurking on a bit (a blog that really resonated with me about lots of mothering practice) about children’s sleep. Sleep is always the thing that makes me a jittery mother – when Ramona was a baby I spent hours a week, it seemed, googling topics to make sure she was getting enough (or not too much!) After many months we settled into a pattern I was comfortable with and I stopped my obsession. Then I read a bit on that there blog about how crucial toddler sleep is, and how tots MUST go to bed before 7pm.  I was a bit stunned. 7pm? So certain? Just like that?  But she mentioned “circadian rhythm” with real conviction- I don’t know what this is but it seemed to be about syncing with the earth, which, y’know,  I am all for.

Now, Ramona tends to go to sleep between 8 and 9, unless she is sleepy earlier. What a TERRIBLE MOTHER! That night I vowed to give her the opportunity to sleep at 7pm. It didn’t go down too well with her but still, for the following 6 nights I tried every trick in The Book to convince her that 7pm was the right, circadian time for her to go to bed.

Every evening after she finally nodded off I’d come down, Battle Weary (a loving, cuddly one but a wrestle of wills all the same) and annoyed at having frittered so much time away upstairs.

It took six days for me to regain trust in my parenting. Six days for me to realise that the sleep pattern we had woven for ourselves was the right one, despite what other mothers do and the experts say.  Six days to sod the Circadian shizzle.

See, when it comes to Ramona, no-one is more expert than me.

And when it comes to your child, you are the know-it-all; the person most in tune with his rhythms, the detector of her subtle signs, his soul-whisperer.

Childhood charts and sleep guidelines and “Musts” and “Ten Signs of” may be helpful for some – I am sure. But for others of us they undermine what we have come to understand of ourselves, our children, and our ways. When I read that Ramona is just under the “normal amount of sleep for an 18 m old” I am wracked with guilt, especially when it is followed up with facts about how vital sleep is for development. But then I take a moment to look at my daughter and see her joy, her exuberance, her calm, her growth and  I feel okay about it all again.
When I trust that she will sleep when she needs it and eat when she is hungry, our lives have a certain flow and a tangible ease.  (My role is to provide the right conditions for these things to happen, of course,  but I need to trust her to take the bite or rest her head.)   I also need to trust myself as a mother, trust my intuition and my instincts and trust my ability to interpret my daughter and muddle through our own path.

Sometimes when I read the stories and tips and facts about others I find all of this trust just eroding a little bit. If you are like me in this, I just want to say it again:

You and your child are the best experts in all of this. You are the same flesh and blood, and your hearts beat to the same rhythm. Embrace the fluidity of your lives – don’t hide it or be ashamed- too soon they will have boring meetings to arrive promptly at and all the Schedules of Adulthood.  Feel the freedom of knowing trust in each other, to be guided by each other. Not a soul on earth knows  or loves your child more than you. And that is just how you roll.

Right, this is me using all of my blogger’s monthly entitlement for cheeseball posts.  Please forgive me, I was just really feeling this today.

My tiny tyrant? Feminism and attachment parenting

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Er. Ramona has a new thing. It involves calling my breasts baps. “BAPS! BAPS!” she yells as she pats my mammary glands.

It isn’t particularly pleasing – clearly she is spending too much time in the company of those objectifying truck drivers and sweaty sexist builders. (Must get new baby sitters.)

I am currently wrapping my aching brain around the concept of feminist motherhood. (Yeah. One who loves a dash of fashion, who staggers towards bra-off-o-clock every evening, because, shiver my timbers, I do have to wear that thing most of the day.) I am wrapping; embracing it, wrestling with it, assuming it.

For these first 17 months of Ramona’s life I sat a little uneasily- kind of comfortable on the sofa of my new mummydom, but with a pesky toy car under my thigh- this small sticky sense that being a mother was gobbling me up;  my other identity, my desires, ambitions, hobbies.

Credit: The Radical Housewife

It is AMAZING that becoming a parent does that to you- you suddenly realise that you think NOTHING of yourself in comparison to your baby, without one single doubt you would put aside everything just to love them. Knowing that you have an intrinsic goodness, an inherent ability to sacrifice all of you– that is a pretty incredible human experience.

But, in practice it is the mother that actually tends to do that. Especially so when practicing attachment parenting, I genuinely do reckon that the first year of a baby’s life is like a second gestation. They need us, they want us, to be there every moment, our nipples in mouths. For most, daddies just don’t cut it. (Although, there is one society where moobs/ daddy breasts will dosome even lactating?!)

And in practice is really does have an impact on our empowered selves. This nurse all night, lugging on backs, mothering option we choose can seem to subsume who we are, our newborn tyrants rejecting the space we have carved out as Women with Rights .

Yet at the same time, there is a freedom in it -it allows us to get on with life. To go where we need to go, heedless of nap time and nursing  schedule. Attachment parenting turns its back on normal parenting structures, built by “experts” and imposed onto already guilty and harassed parents.

Blue Milk (brilliant blog, must read!) suggests another place that attachment parenting and feminism meet. Attachment parenting is about treating your child as if they too have rights, respecting their personhood, regardless of anything (in a child’s case, them being so small) – an idea central to feminism.

There isn’t quite enough nuance involved in mothering conversations, don’t you think? I am an attachment parent, I buy whole heartedly into the principles and have practiced nothing but. However, a lot of non-nuanced attachment parenting  philosophy would despair at me going back to work. When in fact, despite it being one of the hardest decisions to make, turns out to be one of the best I have made.

I work 2.5 days a week, my husband the same, and we share work and parenting equally, an ideal situation. And something I never thought would ever, ever happen has happened I am enjoying it as much as I used to pre-Ramona. For real, I didn’t think it could happen. Maternity leave was AWESOME, I felt fulfilled mothering but had the opportunity to get involved with Occupy London and spent days hanging out with other activist mamas. Being a full time mother has huge, under rated, potential for world changeyness.

And yet here I am now, loving my days at work as much as I love my days at home. I love my colleagues, the activists I work with, the campaigns I work on.

And it allows me to be who I am- which is exactly the person Ramona needs me to be.

A recent F Word article by Jane Chelliah heralded a new groups called Outlaw Mothers – “An outlaw mother is an empowered mother who believes that her personal self-fulfilment is a key enabler of her child’s happiness”. I love that – I am so in.

I am going to be thinking about this a bit more… with some posts in the pipe line imaginatively called “Routine Schmoutine” and “Rules Schmules”. Hehe.

Meanwhile I am off to see if I can teach Ramona how to say “Mamm-a- ry gl -an ds

Hippyshake

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In some ways I am your typical modern hippy. I am a cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding mama with a nappy free baby, I reckon my parenting probably belongs in a cave with a tribe. I am in love with the earth, trees and flowers and wild swimming and that, and want to live in a way that loves it. Which has kind of meant I have stopped washing my hair and am creating a home out of recycled leftovers. I am addicted to jumble with a stubbornness that means I can’t buy anything new and RELISH revealing my latest thrifted swag. I love to craft; I think making stuff puts you in touch with your soul and generally feel that being eco-thrifty (as opposed to pound shop thrifty) is a beautiful, subversive political act. I have had hate mail, accusing me of communism. I was proud. Like a coming of age.  I am a ranty liberal, bicarbonate of soda loving, organic- obsessed telly-spurning, sometimes a leetle bit too dirty, hippy. (I hope none of this sounds smug? You can’t be smug when confessing to being a bit dirty can you?)

But. Alas.

It’s my eyeballs, you see.

THEY LOVE TO BE PLEASED.

They like style. They enjoy the absurdities of fashion. They want the whole world to look like the Mad Men set. They are 1950’s eyeballs embedded in a 1982 body.

I spend way too long combing my quiff, toying with clothes, admiring interiors. These blinking eyeballs really don’t like earthy. Browns, greens, a hempy vibe just won’t satisfy them.

I really think I COULD live in a yurt, I really do, but only with my Midwinter Crockery and some stylishly framed tea towels.

So, sorry, world. You only get hippy with a twist, a shaky hippy, one prone to wobble when faced with another unnecessary vintage dress.

And unless I cast out these rapscallision eyeballs of mine, it will simply have to do. 

 

My daughter, Ramona, on the other hand, now SHE is The Buisness. Proper bonafide hippy. Check her out in her knitted technicolour dreamcoat.

How hippy are you? Would loooove to hear about your most hippy or most unhippy practices!

PS I am also in the thralls of the internets, way, way, waaaaay to much. Gosh darn you Twitter, tarnishing my hippydom some more.