Baby Bonding

Helpful Tips for Gentle Night Weaning

Night Weaning Baby

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely seen the acronym ‘STTN’ in all the mommy blogs, articles and Facebook groups alike. STTN or ‘sleeping through the night’ might seem like an unimaginable feat that could never possibly be accomplished by your baby. One of the biggest barriers to sleeping through the night can be frequent nighttime nursing. Night nursing is a perfectly normal and healthy practice for babies. However, if night nursing is interfering with your ability to get sufficient rest or function in your daily life, you may be considering night weaning. Here are some tips for gently night weaning your baby or toddler.

  1. Don’t night wean until your baby is ready: Although there are various schools of thought about when babies are ready to give up eating at night, it’s best not to try night weaning before six months of age. Young babies are not intended to sleep through the night and need the nutrition as their bodies undergo rapid growth and development. Talk to your pediatrician to see if they feel your baby might be ready for night weaning and as always, trust your motherly instincts first and foremost.
  2. Increase baby’s intake during the day: Often it can be a cyclical effect when babies don’t eat very much during the day and then love to snack all night long. Try increasing the frequency of nursing sessions or number of bottles and solid meals offered to ensure baby is getting adequately filled up during the day. If your baby is older and on the move, this may mean taking time out of their busy play schedule to add an extra feeding.
  3. Introduce a lovey: Quite often, if your baby is nursing frequently at night it may be for comfort and not because they are actually hungry. Begin the process of conditioning other comfort items such as a small stuffed animal or muslin blanket. Try sleeping with the lovey yourself for a while to get your scent on it and hold it in between you and baby whenever you nurse or bottle feed.
  4. Give more snuggles during the day: If your baby is nursing at night for comfort, increasing daytime touch may help reduce the need for those midnight snuggle sessions. Try wearing your baby in a carrier or sling during the day and giving lots of extra attention and cuddles.
  5. Break the eat-to-sleep association: Although feeding to sleep is a healthy and natural practice, many babies can ONLY fall asleep if they are nursing. Breaking the eat-to-sleep association by finding other ways to soothe baby to sleep can help with the night weaning process. Try rocking, patting, shushing, singing, snuggling and other forms of comfort to help baby help baby drift off to slumber.
  6. Get your partner involved: Getting your partner involved with the nighttime routine and with night wakings can help with the process of night weaning. Although your baby may protest this change at first, eventually your partner will develop their own routine and soothing techniques to help baby get back to sleep without nursing. 
  7. Feed your baby before you go to bed: As long as you’re still up, try sneaking in a dream feed before you hit the hay. A dream feed is when you feed baby late at night while they are still sleeping with the intention of filling them up. Adding a dream feed, particularly for younger babies, is a great way to get a few hours in before the next waking when you go to bed. 
  8. Shorten night time nursing sessions: Rather than cutting out night nursing cold turkey which can be distressing to your baby and cause engorgement issues, try gradually shortening your nursing sessions a little bit at a time. Cut back each session by one or two minutes over the course of a week and begin to break baby’s latch when his sucking slows but before he falls asleep. Then try using other forms of comfort (see #5) if he’s struggling to fall back to sleep.
  9. Create new sleep associations: If your baby is accustomed to nursing to sleep, they may have developed the belief that they NEED to eat in order to fall asleep. Creating new sleep associations can help teach babies new cues that it’s time for bed. Try incorporating some relaxing music, soothing scents like lavender or a nice massage at bedtime as part of the new routine. Be sure to use these new associations every night so that your baby learns when he hears the music or smells the lavender, it’s time to sleep.
  10. Create distance between you and baby at night: If you room share or co-sleep with your baby, adding a little distance between the two of you may help with the process of night weaning. Whether this means staying in the guestroom for a few nights while your partner works on their night soothing skills or simply moving baby’s crib a bit further away from your bed, a little distance between baby and his favorite snack may help with the night weaning process. 
  11. Stay calm if baby protests the new routine: It’s likely that baby will put up a fight over this change to his routine. Try to keep your cool and stay calm to demonstrate to baby that you are there to help him through this transition and you won’t be rattled. 
  12. When in doubt, consult the experts: Here are a few of the most knowledgeable experts on the process of gentle night weaning. They’ve done the research for you and have step by step plans for the process. 
  13. Talk to baby about the change: As silly as it may sounds, try talking to your baby during the day about the changes you intend to make. Your baby, and definitely your toddler, can understand more than you think. There are also a few great books on the subject like Nursies When the Sun Shines that can help your baby understand the concept that eating is for daytime. 

Remember, that night weaning is a process that takes time, patience and a commitment. If something doesn’t feel right or your baby seems negatively impacted by the change during the day, consider waiting a little while longer before cutting out night nursing. Many babies still need to eat once or twice during the night at a year or beyond and there’s nothing wrong with that if it works for your family. For questions about night weaning, pregnancy, natural birth and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you beyond the birth of your baby!

Baby Friendly Activities for New Moms

Baby Friendly Exercises

Being a new mom can be isolating at times. Even though you are home and loving snuggling up to the new love of your life, you may also be itching to get out of the house and interact with other adults! The good news is that there are so many activities available now for moms and babies in the community. From swim and exercise classes to play groups and mom and baby yoga, with a little effort to get out of the house, you and your baby can be social butterflies in no time. Here’s a list of ideas and local options for new moms in the Twin Cities.

  • Breastfeeding Support Groups: Breastfeeding support groups are a great first social activity for mom and baby as you will find the littlest of little babies at these gatherings and you can gain valuable help and knowledge from a lactation consultant. This is a great way to get help with baby’s latch or transitioning off the nipple shield and many other breastfeeding challenges that may arise. You are also usually able to do pre and post-feed weigh-ins to determine how many ounces your baby is getting per nursing session. Here are some local options for moms looking to connect with other nursing moms.
  • Mom and Baby Yoga: Mom and baby yoga is another wonderful bonding activity for you and your little one in those early months. Most mom and baby classes are open to babies as young as 8 weeks of age and involve small motions for baby that can aid in digestion, sleep and soothing while providing a relaxing way for mom to distress. Mom and baby yoga classes are anything goes as far as breastfeeding, diaper changes and crying babes, so do not worry if your baby isn’t having a ‘Zen’ day. Check out these locations for mom and baby yoga classes in the community.
  • Story Time: You are never too young for the joy of reading. You may have even read to your baby in the womb! Now that your little one is here, baby story times are a great way to get out of the house, meet other moms and enjoy a story or two with your baby.
  • Baby Signing Classes: Baby signing classes are a great way to jump start excellent communication between you and your baby. Although your baby may not be able to return sign with you until 8 or 9 months, they understand well before they are able to communicate. The earlier you begin signing with your baby, the earlier he will be able to communicate his needs to you. Baby signing is associated with earlier ability to communicate, decreased crying and even possibly a few extra IQ points down the road. Here are a few options for baby sign language classes in your area:
  • Music Classes: What better way to connect with your sweet baby than through music, movement and play. Music classes offer the opportunity to expose you baby to different sounds, songs and instruments as well as meet other moms and babies in your community. There are a few great options for music classes in the community including:
  • Swim Classes: Parent and baby swim classes are the perfect opportunity to expose your baby to the water for the first time and begin to learn some basic safety skills like back floating, flipping over from back to front and brief submersion. Most swim schools will allow you to take your first parent and baby swim class around 6 months. Typically the classes will be short to accommodate baby’s needs but will allow time for some simple instruction, games and singing. It is never too early to begin educating yourself and your child on water safety. Here are a few options for baby swim classes in the area:
  • Baby Friendly Exercise Classes: Once you’ve been cleared by your midwife or OB for exercise, you may be wondering how in the world you will find time to work out with a baby. Fear not though, there are actually many options these days for the moms who love fitness. From stroller exercise groups to babywearing barre,  these are fitness classes where moms can actually bring baby along for the ride while she gets her sweat on! Here are just a few options in the area:
  • Mom’s Groups: Lastly, mom groups are a real thing these days. They are born on Facebook, Meetup.com, through churches, birth centers and friend groups alike. Some mom groups are brought together by certain parenting philosophies or interests and others are created simply by location. Whatever the theme or lack thereof, joining a local mom group will be one of the best things you can do in that first year of being a mom to connect with other moms who are going through the same phase of life and have children that are the same age as yours. These moms will become your buddies, the ones you can talk poop and breastfeeding with without batting an eyelash. Their kids will be your kids’ playmates and hopefully your spouses will even get to know one another during family activities. There are many ways to get involved in a local moms’ group but here are just a few ideas.

As you can see, although you may feel as though you’ve been one with your couch and the Boppy pillow since baby was born, there are MANY options for you and your little one to get out of the house and connect with other new moms and babies. Give different types of activities a try to see what works for you and your baby. Try out a couple different mom groups until you find your people. Being a new parent is one of the most exciting, wonderful, terrifying things you have likely ever gone through. Why not make a few friends to join you on the journey?

For questions about natural birth, pregnancy, postpartum opportunities, classes and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Is Breastfeeding An Effective Form of Birth Control?

Breastfeeding Baby

If you’re a new mommy and have passed your postpartum period of pelvic rest, you may be wondering how effective breastfeeding is as birth control. While you and your partner may be eager to be intimate once again, you are likely not looking to add another baby to the family anytime soon. Fortunately, exclusive breastfeeding is actually a highly effective method of birth control during the first six months postpartum and sometimes even beyond. Here’s how to make the most of your lactational amenorrhea.

What is the Lactational Amenorrhea Method?

Lactational amenorrhea is the term used to refer to the natural period of infertility that occurs after giving birth when a woman is breastfeeding her baby and is not menstruating. This period of infertility occurs because the hormones necessary for milk production actually suppress the hormones necessary for ovulation. Consequently, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method refers to when a couple uses exclusive breastfeeding as a form of birth control. You may be wondering just how effective simply breastfeeding your baby can possibly be at preventing pregnancy. The answer to that question is very effective, if a few important criteria are met. 

In order for the Lactational Amenorrhea Method to be as much as 98-99.5 percent effective, the following factors must be present:

  • Your baby must be 6 months or younger
  • You must be breastfeeding on demand during both day and nighttime
  • Your menstrual cycle has not yet returned
  • Your baby must be exclusively breastfed with no formula supplementation or introduction of solid foods to his diet

Even after six months of age, moms who frequently breastfeed their babies and who have not had the return of their menstrual cycle are only 6 percent likely to become pregnant.

What Factors will Affect the Return of My Fertility?

Although the average time for nursing mothers to experience a return of their menses is 14.6 months, there are a number of factors that may cause you to become fertile before then. These factors known to impact fertility include:

  • The introduction of solids to baby’s diet
  • A reduction in the number or duration of nursing sessions per day
  • Your baby beginning to sleep through the night
  • Regularly pumping in lieu of breastfeeding

Every woman is different and experiences sensitivity to hormones to varying degrees. Overall, the amount of time your baby spends at the breast each day will be the biggest factor contributing to the duration of your lactational amenorrhea. If your period has returned, breastfeeding is no longer impacting your fertility and you should not rely on this method for birth control. 

Can I Increase the Length of my Lactational Amenorrhea to Prevent Pregnancy?

Yes! There are several simple ways that you can attempt to maximize your lactational amenorrhea while breastfeeding. These include:

  • Continuing to breastfeed on demand past six months. Aim to put your baby to the breast at least every 4-6 hours, day and night.
  • Cosleeping to increase night nursing. Fertility hormone production is highest during the nighttime hours making night nursing a primary factor in preventing the return of fertility.
  • Delaying solids until 6 months and offering the breast before each meal.
  • Using nursing to comfort your baby.
  • Offering breastmilk exclusively. Do not supplement with formula.
  • Skipping pacifiers and postponing the introduction of bottles until necessary.
  • Keeping your baby close to encourage frequent nursing by babywearing.
  • Nursing lying down for naps and at night.

Using breastfeeding as birth control is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy during the first six months postpartum and even beyond under certain circumstances. Most importantly, your baby will enjoy the limitless health and emotional benefits of exclusive breastfeeding during this critical time in her development. For questions about lactational amenorrhea or for anything related to pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. 

Nighttime Parenting Against the Grain: A Guide to Safe Bed-Sharing

Bed-Sharing with Baby

Bed-sharing continues to be a hot-button topic among parents and pediatricians alike and despite current AAP recommendations against it; the practice is on the rise.  A study completed in 2013 by the National Institute of Health showed that the number of parents choosing to bed-share with their babies more than doubled between the years of 1993 and 2010 from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent. Reasons cited for the decision to bed-share include strengthening the breastfeeding relationship, improved sleep for mom and baby and fostering a secure attachment. Renowned advocates of bed-sharing like Dr. William Sears and Dr. James McKenna tout its short and long term emotional and physical benefits for mom and baby and believe that it can even prevent SIDS when practiced safely. If you are considering bed-sharing with your baby, here are some tips to ensure that your baby sleeps safely.

  1. Choose a firm mattress with tightly fitted sheets: Remember that adult beds were not designed with infants in mind and therefore need to be tailored to create the safest sleep environment possible. In addition to a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet, ensure that your baby’s sleep space is free of pillows and loose blankets. Place baby slightly higher than you to avoid contact with your blankets and scoot your pillow away from him. 
  2. Position baby in between mom and the wall or mesh guard rail: The safest place for your baby when bed-sharing is next to mom. Mothers have been found to be more in tune with baby’s presence even when they are asleep and are less likely to roll onto the infant compared to fathers. It is very important to make sure that the mattress is flush with the guardrail or wall and that there are no crevices in which the baby could become lodged. 
  3. Make sure both parents agree to bed-share: Bed-sharing with your baby should be a unanimous decision and it is best if both parents go into the practice thinking as if they are the primary person responsible for baby’s safety and wellbeing at night. Never bring your baby into the bed at night without alerting your partner of their presence. 
  4. Invest in a large bed: The more space available to your family in the bed, the easier it is to create a safe spot for baby. If you plan to bed-share with your baby, consider the money you will be saving on a crib and invest in a king size bed instead.
  5. Always put baby to sleep on her back: Whether your baby sleeps in a crib or in the bed with you, the safest position for her is on her back. Even if you turn baby to her side to nurse, be sure to return her to her back before you go back to sleep.
  6. Ensure baby is a comfortable temperature: The safest temperature for baby while sleeping is between 65 and 68 degree. Dress baby warm enough that he does not require a blanket but don’t over bundle him. The use of a ceiling fan to circulate airflow has also been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. Also, do not swaddle a baby when bed-sharing. In the event that an adult does roll onto baby, it is safer if they have use of their limbs. 
  7. Don’t use sheepskins, stuffed animals, pillows or other fluffy objects around or under baby: Baby’s sleep space should be as bare and firm as possible to reduce the risk of suffocation. 
  8. Do tie up excessively long hair that may pose a strangulation hazard to baby.

DON’Ts of Bed-Sharing:

  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you smoked during pregnancy or are currently a smoker.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol, sedatives or any mind altering drug that may lessen your ability to rouse when necessary.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you or your partner is extremely obese.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby ever on a couch or a waterbed.
  • DO NOT allow siblings to bed-share with a baby under 9 months of age.
  • DO NOT bed-share if you are extremely overtired. 

DO NOT sleep with your baby if they are premature or low birth weight.

Bed-sharing is a personal family decision that must be made with a comprehensive understanding of the necessary safety precautions and the associated risks. Although there are many reported benefits to bed-sharing, the safest sleep arrangement for your baby is for him to have his own space. Co-sleepers and sidecar cribs offer a great alternative to bed-sharing and allow mom and baby to be close enough to nurse and touch while providing a safe and separate sleep space for baby. Whatever sleep arrangements you choose for your family, be sure that both parents are on board. For questions about safe infant sleep or for any and all inquiries about pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

For Dads Only: Bonding with Your Baby

Dad bonding with baby

If you’re a new dad or you are about to become a dad, you may be wondering what your role in your baby’s life will be. While many moms may feel the bond with their baby before they even arrive, for some dads it may take a little time and that’s okay! Your relationship with your baby is a unique and special one and it needs to be nurtured just as the bond does between mother and child. Here are some great ways you can ensure that you and your baby build a lasting and secure bond.

  1. Start before birth: Bonding with your baby can begin as early as when he’s still nestled cozily in the womb. Get involved with your partner’s pregnancy by attending her prenatal visits, taking prenatal classes, feeling baby kick and helping to prepare your nest for baby’s arrival. One way you can actually help your baby get to know you is by singing or reading to mom’s tummy. Somewhere between 20 and 24 weeks gestation, babies start to be able to hear outside voices with their little ears. This will help your baby connect with you once he is born as he will recognize the tones and patterns in your voice.
  2. Practice skin-to-skin care after birth: Kangaroo Care is not only hugely beneficial for mom and baby, but for dad and baby too. Infants who have skin-to-skin contact with their dad following birth and during infancy enjoy benefits such as better thermal regulation, reduced stress and less frequent crying. Also, dads who engage in this practice with their new babes report feeling more closely bonded compared to dads who do not.
  3. Get involved: Many dads may feel like it’s the mom and baby show those first few weeks of infancy, but really, dads are tremendously needed and can be invaluably helpful too! Help with the feedings by bringing baby to mom if she is breastfeeding and then offer to burp baby afterward. Have mom pump for a midnight bottle and be on night duty for special daddy and baby only bonding time. Use diaper changes as an opportunity to make loving eye contact and silly faces with your little one. There are many ways to help with a newborn that will not only give mom some rest but foster a closer connection between you and your baby.
  4. Wear your baby: There are a whole host of benefits to the practice of babywearing and they are not just for moms! Find a sling or carrier that you like, snuggle up to your little one and take a walk around the neighborhood or get stuff done around the house. Carriers are a great alternative to strollers as they allow for the benefits of physical closeness between baby and parent. They are also a great way to be hands-free so you can knock out some chores while cuddling with your babe. Check out this article for more tips on how to safely wear your baby.
  5. Take part in the bedtime routine: Whether it’s being the expert on bath time or choosing a special book that will be just for you and your little one, being part of the bedtime routine is a great way to bond with your baby. If your baby regularly nurses to sleep and needs mom to do the actual putting down at the end of the night, find ways to get involved in the preparation. Your baby will come to know and expect that special time with her dad and it will be a signal that the time to sleep is near. 
  6. Be a soother: Often when babies get upset, a dad’s knee-jerk reaction can be to hand her back to her mother. And if she’s hungry, this is the best solution. However, many times babies will cry for a variety of other reasons where dad can be just as helpful at providing a comforting snuggle as mom. If you’ve ruled out hunger as a possibility, try soothing techniques with your babe like rocking, swaying, swaddling, singing, shushing and bouncing. Often dads can be excellent soothers by just having a comforting voice and a rhythmic bounce. 
  7. Set aside special dad and baby playtime: Whether it’s an evening walk to the park, some silly time on the play mat or a nighttime snuggle with a favorite book, set aside time each day that is just for you and your baby. Not only will this give mom a chance to shower and grab a snack, it will create a predictable routine and special bonding time daily for you and your little one. Use your time together to engage with your baby by making silly faces, allowing him to study your expressions, telling him about your day, playing peekaboo or even giving infant massage a try. These are all fun ways that you and baby can build a lasting and secure bond.
Dad at birth

There are many great ways for dads to create their own special bond with their baby that will foster a mutually beneficial relationship. If you have a new infant at home and you are struggling to feel the connection, don’t worry, it will come. Give some of the above ideas a try and allow yourself time to explore the ways your relationship with your child will be special and unique. For questions about pregnancy, natural birth or postnatal care and infant bonding, please contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We’re here for you from conception to postpartum and beyond.

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