Saturday, December 18, 2010

Going Backwards or Forwards?

After a brief love-affair with The Baby Whisperer, I am ready to end the relationship. The package is bright and shiny, but underneath is a messy ball of contradictions not grounded in reality.

I've come to this conclusion as after a week of Henry not suckling on one of our fingers (and refusing to take a pacifier), I began to realize that his need was not disappearing like a bad habit should, but that his crying before going to sleep was because his need to suckle was not being met. Yes, he could still get to sleep and function without the suckle, but how unpleasant to be consistently ignored by your parents and really for no discernible good reason.

Now that Henry can suckle again, he doesn't always cry before going to sleep and I feel is more secure knowing that he is being understood and his needs met. His suckling does not last very long, and I am not as liberal with putting my finger in his mouth as before.

There are many BW practices which I will throw out the window. Starting with waking him up from any nap longer than 2 hours during the day. So long as it doesn't affect his night sleep, why not let him sleep when he's tired?

Then there's the routine I will no longer reinforce.

After he wakes his diaper is changed. Then he is offered food, even if he doesn't seem hungry. If he doesn't want to eat, that's ok, but at least he knows when it will be offered. (Why does he need to know this?) Then he has activity until he yawns. I then wind him down with some sitting/cuddling/story/food until he is ready to sleep and then I hold him until he's almost asleep. I try putting him in his crib in order for him to learn how to put himself to sleep. Most often doesn't work and I end up holding him until he's asleep.

Even the above is not quite up to BW standards. I should only offer the bottle every 3-4 hours, NOT as a way for him to prepare for sleep. Also, he should be put into his crib as soon as he's wound down so that he can learn to fully put himself to sleep. She recommends starting her EASY routine as early as Day 1, with obviously some weeks to implement.

Basically, now in lieu of following the Baby Whisperer's plan, I will instead listen to and respond appropriately to what my baby wants/needs. GASP! Of course I will be mindful of not creating bad habits, but who is this woman to determine that all babies will respond to her insane method?

I know I've been driving S crazy with my micromanaging:

"No, it's not time for Henry to be hungry, I know he sounds hungry but don't give him a bottle!"

"Henry should be waking up in 0.25 of an hour, but it's possible he'll enter into another sleep cycle. So be poised to get him up if he wakes (we don't want to create any trust issues) but let him cry a little in case he does just go back to sleep."

Seriously. Henry is a good communicator. It's not difficult to know when he's hungry/ tired/ bored and he doesn't over-eat, over or under sleep or have trouble playing.

The Baby Whisperer pretends to be about understanding your baby and treating them with respect. But I feel that a baby is still a person and should be treated as such.

I would not tell my friend that she couldn't eat in-between lunch and dinner just because she was hungry.

If S wanted to read a book after he woke up without eating first (God forbid), would I take his book away and force him to chow down some scrambled eggs and then give the book back?

So my conclusion is that the Baby Whisperer's approach is essentially flawed. Perhaps it can work for all babies who live in a bubble and are being groomed for military service. But our life like most people's is a little unpredictable.

On the upside, I feel more assured that should we need to get Henry onto a real schedule for daycare in a few months, that it won't be as difficult as I might otherwise have thought.

We are looking forward to spending the next few days and weeks celebrating the holidays with family and friends.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Dream Feed

Today is Day 6 of no ma & pa's finger and so far he has only suckled (frustratingly for him) on his fingers and a little on the bottle (another potential bad habit). Encouraged by this victory, I have started reading The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems more vigorously.

"What else can we get him to do? Learn how to paint a Renoir? Make me breakfast?"

"Can I get him to sleep straight through the hours of 11pm-7am?"

OK, so as I mentioned in an earlier post, at 3 months, Henry has managed to pretty much sleep through the night. He will wake once or twice in a 12 hour period and a few times he has slept a 10 hour stretch. Unbelievably lucky is how we feel. So what's the problem? The past couple of nights he has woken up twice, once around 1am instead of 4am for a full feed. Either way, he will then sleep until 6 or 7am.

Again, so what's the problem? Selfishly, if I don't go to bed until midnight, it feels pretty jarring to wake up only an hour later.

Now the Baby Whisperer recommends all babies receive a "dream feed" around 10:30/11:00pm to help them sleep at least 6 hours straight by the time they're 4 months old. Already, I should have realized that Henry is already doing this, so why change anything?

"But what if I can give him a dream feed before I go to bed and then be able to sleep straight until 7am?"

A very tempting proposition.

So I made sure to understand exactly what is and how a dream feed works before potentially ruining my son's slumber.

In a nutshell, a dream feed is administered without waking the baby. While they sleep, a bottle or breast is slipped casually into their mouth and the sucking reflex should automatically kick-in so they drink in their sleep.

"Ok. Sounds easy. And even if he wakes up, I'll just feed him and put him back to bed. No problem!"

So instead of turning in early, which I wanted to do, I stayed up to 11pm waiting to give him his dream feed. I took the bottle out of the fridge a little earlier to make everything as comfortable for him as possible.

At 11pm I walked over to his bassinet at the foot of our bed and found that I couldn't see his head, let alone his mouth. So I closed my eyes for 10 seconds (a tip I read in Nancy Drew) and then opened the door a bit more to let in some more light.

I could barely make out Henry, but enough to realize that of course he doesn't keep his head straight up when he sleeps. It is resting toward the side of the bassinet with Mr. Pickles sandwiched in-between.

Making as clear a path as possible, I inserted the bottle into what I could vaguely tell was his mouth. Nothing. No magic suckling. So I tried again. And again. It felt like I was seriously violating his right to sleep peacefully. I mean, what if he woke up and saw me bent into his bassinet shoving a bottle in his mouth? Has mommy gone crazy?

So I moved onto plan b and woke him up to feed him. Of course, still heeding the Baby Whispering advice, I didn't change his diaper (why not?) and just shoved a bottle in his mouth. He was well confused, but to my relief drank a full feed. It took him a little coaxing but he easily went back to sleep.

I then went to bed feeling a little tense but optimistic that perhaps I would now enjoy almost 8 hours of unbroken sleep.


Henry wakes up hungry. It takes me an hour to get him back to sleep because for him, it is almost morning and he's feeling quite well rested! But he sleeps from 6-8am.

Now if I had left him alone, not creeped into his bassinet with a sneaky bottle administered for my benefit, he would probably have slept from 7pm-1am, ate and then slept from 1:30-7am.

So now I'm tired and his day is thrown off!

Thanks Baby Whisperer!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reading Week Coming to a Close

It it Friday and my week of no-visitors and no-outings is coming to a close. It has been a marvellous week, but not exactly how I pictured it would be. My intention was to use all of Henry's nap times solely for reading. But Henry has been taking pretty short naps all week, 45 minutes here, 30 minutes there. This would be a cause for concern if he weren't sleeping through the night, but he is, so there's nothing to complain or worry about.

So in these short bursts of time, I have managed to read the conclusion of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein as well as a few pages in the Baby Whisperer Solves all of your Problems. Not exactly like finishing War and Peace, but still a little reading means a lot!

The reason I am re-reading parts of The Shock Doctrine is because I am trying to work the book into a stage adaptation. This may not actually end up on stage, but I find the process of creating very stimulating. In addition, the contents of her book are all the more timely considering the situation in Ireland, the G20 police brutality investigation in Toronto, the tuition fee protests in London...I'm sure the list could be very long.

In a nutshell, it is a book that throws a ton of hard evidence against Milton Friedman's school of thought on free enterprise.

Watch this video to gauge where you fit on this debate:

Politics aside, Henry and I are encountering our first battle of wills. Since a few days after birth, Henry has suckled on either mine or Stephen's finger for nourishment at first and then later for comfort. We had tried to introduce a pacifier about a month ago, but he didn't take to that so long as we kept offering our finger instead.

Now that he's almost three months old (12 weeks old tomorrow!), it is time. Time to say goodbye to Mr. & Mrs. Finger. So what if he wants to suckle? I am trying to bring his hand to his mouth instead or distract him. His thumb is not quite the same size as my finger, so he finds it difficult to be comforted by his hand. So the solution so far, when nothing seems to work in his mouth, is to distract him. A change of scene does work to get his mind off the need to suckle (which was over-indulged before). Eventually he will become tired enough and fall asleep. So I can only hope that as each non-suckling day passes, his need for that stimulation will decrease. Or at least he will adjust to the size of his fingers.

This battle of wills is an important one in my mind as it lays the foundation for future events. So far it's been just over 24 hours of no suckling. But already I feel a sense of loss that our baby is no longer a newborn and is quickly growing up. We want him to be as independent as possible, but that will have to come with some disappointment for my heart.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


On Sunday morning when Henry woke at 06:00 the house was frigid. Normally there is a decent explanation for this as we have programmed the thermostat to run between 15-18 degrees Celsius. So instead of reprogramming the timer, I am constantly overriding the setting for about 20-21 degrees. Only this time, the furnace did not switch on.

The inside temperature hovering around 17 degrees, my nose and toes felt pretty cold, but I calmly fed Henry and put him back to sleep before I started to freak out. Envisioning a day spent wrapping Henry up in 3 layers of clothing and snuggling for body warmth, I marched down to the basement to have a look at the furnace.

Not knowing much about anything to do with running a house in the 21st century, I expected to find a gas leak or a pool of water on the floor. Maybe smoke or a grinding motor. Nothing. The furnace looked as stoic as any other day. We have a Lennox Elite you see. That's supposed to be good.

Thank goodness for service stickers. I read from the Mersey Heating sticker on the furnace that it had not been serviced since October 2006. Then I looked up and for the first time registered that there was also a duct cleaning service sticker. The last time the ducts were cleaned according to this record was back in 1996!

So I made an appointment with Mersey and had them do a clean/tune up of the furnace on Wednesday morning. The serviceman showed me how to put the thermostat on "hold" so that I don't have to keep over-riding the system. Of course we could reprogram as well. He said that the furnace was filthy but working fine. Our dehumidifier however is bust. Since it's an old model, we apparently can replace it ourselves without too much trouble, setting us back around $100. Or, Mersey Heating can install a newer model that self-cleans for around $500.

How necessary is a humidifier I now wonder? Most all of our plants suffer from "burnt tips" which is caused by a lack of moisture. Our wood floors our forever creakier and creakier. Would humidity help? And it should also help for it to feel warmer when the heat is on. Sounds pretty good to me!

Stephen & I will have to talk this over.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hurray for Henry

It seems that Henry and S. have settled in with each other. No screaming now for over 24 hours. The trick I think was for the two of us to be together around him so that he doesn't associate S. with the inexplicable disappearance of mommy.

We spent this evening with my brother and partner at their apartment for dinner. I was apprehensive about taking Henry out after 5pm, since he's usually winding down for the night. When we arrived Henry simply observed his aunt and uncle and the new surroundings. Then he was tired. It took him a while to get comfortable enough to sleep, but once in dreamland, he stayed solidly in dreamland until a couple subway stops away from home. Once home, he got changed, ate and fell back to sleep.

Ah, it feels good to be a little less homebound!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Henry is a Momma's Boy

Already, at 11 weeks, Henry is a momma's boy. Of course babies are often literally attached to their mothers for nourishment, but that is not the case with Henry. The first weeks of his life both S & I fed him via cup, tube and bottle. S probably fed him more at the beginning. But it's been about 2 months that Henry and I have spent 24/7 together, almost exclusively. Henry, being the whopping giant baby that he is, now sleeps from about 7:30pm-7:30am waking once in the 12 hour period. Lucky, I know. However, if daddy comes home a bit late, then Henry won't see his father at all in 24 + hours.

When the weekend arrives, S of course wants to spend time with Henry and also give me a much appreciated break. However, Henry has become so used to his mummy, that he often screams, cries and sometimes so much that he vomits.

S stoically works through it and usually Henry just passes out. So it is difficult for them to have quality time. How long will this last we wonder?

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Husband is a Very Special Man

Today Henry and I visited S at work for their Open House. This was the first time that I had seen his office or met his co-workers. It gave me the opportunity to put the names to faces and to paint a clearer picture of what part of the community he's involved with.

S works with the homeless population and therefore works closely with various charities, religious organizations and the local government.

Essentially, he drives a van around the city to find homeless people and encourage them to use the services available to them. The appropriate service could be a shelter, housing program, or to be treated for various addictions or mental health problems.

Not exactly a job I would jump out of bed for every morning. But he does just that.

What I realized yesterday is that unlike police officers, medical professionals, or military personal, the occupation of social worker is not elevated or appreciated by the general public. And perhaps that has to do with the type of person who becomes a social worker.

In my experience, S's coworkers tend to be the most down-to-earth, generous people I have ever met. But then throw in copious amounts of booze and cigarettes (to cope?), and you have some real characters. Most of them are very frank and have a dark, dry sense of humour. It is never a dull night when they meet up after work. Nice clothes don't fly very well when working with the disenfranchised. So on the surface, a social worker might appear as needy as those they serve.

I know plenty of people who have the impression that social work is a flaky job, that people who have no other direction in life find themselves in because there must always be vacancies. Personally, I would rather be a dish washer than to deal with the hard reality of our street-involved citizens. It is a tough, depressing and demanding job.

Their "clients" generally follow a common story. Often a person who was physically and sexually abused as a child, came to the city, got into drugs, has been through the shelter system and at 40 or 50 years old is not able to integrate back into "normal" life. So what do they do? They live on the street, drink and do drugs. Perhaps they prostitute themselves as well. These are people that I do not know how to talk to.

"I'm sorry about your troubles John, but you know everybody has their own struggle. You should think about taking care of yourself, exercise, eat right, sleep, get a job..."

Really. I mean how would I relate to their experiences in life in order to even converse with them?

So how is it that my husband can not only understand their needs and match them with an appropriate service, but he is able to convince them to take that much needed step forward for themselves. This is something I will probably never witness, but I am nevertheless impressed. That he has managed to house the homeless, get drug-addicts into rehab, negotiate with a landlord why a particular vulnerable tenant should not be evicted, and who knows what else. I am very proud of him.

Without social workers like S, there would be much more pain and hardship out there on the street.

My Husband is a rock.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Becoming Mrs. Allin

I am becoming Mrs. Allin again. I will be known to Henry's daycare, schools, doctors, friends and so on, as Mrs. Allin. I will see about switching my name at work and possibly legally changing my name to Mrs. Allin as well. The goal is simplicity and consistency. If the daycare or school need to reach me at work, they should be able to ask for Mrs. Allin (Henry Allin's mother presumably), and for whoever is taking the call to know who to direct it to.

While that's all well and good, I find that becoming Allin goes hand in hand with my transforming into a mother. I feel focused in a new way and have a need to build a secure life for little Henry. And I think this task requires a solid and dependable name, like Mrs. Allin.

"Ask Mrs. Allin if it's ok to come over and play this afternoon."

"Mrs. Allin, you make such wonderful cookies."

"We will now hear from Mrs. Allin on why boys should be taught home economics."

It doesn't have the same ring as:

"Mrs. Westberg, how do you keep your clothes so clean and crisp?"

Try it now with the other:

"Mrs. Allin, how do you keep your clothes so clean and crisp?"

SO much more believable.

For me, Elisabeth Westberg is for play. Elisabeth Allin is for getting down to business.

Waves and Rocks.