Tag Archives: Infant

Sleep and Baths

Having a bath is one of the things that I find most relaxing. It’s funny that I say that because I don’t think that I have taken the time to have a nice bath in over a couple of years. Particularly since I’ve had kids, there really doesn’t seem to be time for such things during my day, so it has been showers for me.

A bath, when done right, can almost be a mystical experience. Turn the lights down, light some candles, fill the tub with nice hot water, add some soap and slip into the bath. Nice deep breaths with your eyes closed, you can feel the tension from your day slipping away. Once you get out of the bath, you feel like rubber and could probably fall asleep within about a minute of your head hitting your pillow. All of this sounds like the perfect recipe for something that you would want to build into your child’s nighttime routine. Maybe throw in a story, a cuddle and a song or two and you might think that this is the golden recipe for getting your child to sleep, but you may want to reconsider.

Baby Bath Time Realities

bath-time
Would you go to sleep right after this?

There are significant differences between the type of bath time that your child experiences and the “adult” bath time that I described above. I think there are a range of reactions that children have to the mention of a bath. In our house, for example, it is usually like a party has been announced. Once they are in the bath, there is playing, laughing, fighting over toys and screaming from being splashed. Our kids are still not partial to having their hair washed, so there may be tears shed when it is time to wash their hair. Once they are out of the bath, they don’t look at all like I feel when I climb out of the bath. They seem fresh, awake, invigorated and entirely unlikely to go to sleep. Having considered the obvious differences between adult and baby bath times, you can see how it might not be the best part of a good bedtime routine.

Sleep and Sanity

The fact of the matter is that if your child is not getting the sleep they need, then neither are the parents. As parents become increasingly sleep deprived, they will also become much less able to deal effectively with their sleep deprived children. Avoiding bathing your child right before bed isn’t the sole answer to establishing a good bedtime routine, but it is a factor in the overall picture. I have written a couple of posts pertaining to sleep already:

Both of these posts are based on suggestions we received from a sleep expert who lives in our area, named Wendy Hall, PhD, RN, and I can’t recommend her advice enough. We have had our own troubles getting our kids to sleep at times too, but overall we have had a great deal of success using the methods that Wendy put forward. Building a good sleep routine for your kids takes time, and you may not get the results you want as quickly as you want, but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. If you have implemented a good sleep routine, but are still striking out with getting your child to sleep, then it may be time to consult an expert to help you consider other potential problems and solutions. Good luck!

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The “Big Talks”

Adult content is for kids too!

There are a lot of “big talks” that my wife and I are going to have with our kids and one of those talks will be about sex. I have a rough idea of how I’d like to approach the topic of sex. Very generally, my preferred approach is to start dialogue with my kids very early. In fact, some of the ground work has already been laid with my kids, as we have already given them some of the basic vocabulary that they will need to develop some of their own questions.

The (Not So) Big Talk

I don’t actually plan on having a talk about sex with my kids. Instead I plan on having a series of small talks with them as new questions arise. At the moment, my kids are really just observers that make comments about the world. They don’t really ask many questions, but they do have some of the vocabulary that they will need when they do decide to start making sexual queries.

When the first sexual questions arrive, my general plan is to provide simple answers addressing the questions that are asked. If more questions follow, then bring them on, but there is no need to overwhelm them with extraneous information. Providing simple and accurate information will be easier to present in a way that is not awkward and it will establish Jenn and I as a reliable source of information. My hope is that this will encourage good communication about sex as our children’s questions become more complex.

Starting Young

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day about this topic and I found it interesting when he told me that his parents talked to him about sex when he was very young. He said that the result was that he started trying to have sex from a very early age. Unfortunately the setting was not the right one for me to probe this topic deeper, and the conversation drifted to other topics. Without more context to this comment it is hard to make any useful commentary about this statement. I find myself wondering what kind of “talk” this person was given. I also wonder if he fully understood my motivation for opening up the dialogue about sex with my kids at an early age.

There certainly seems to be some good reasons to try to discourage your kids from having sex at too early an age.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Early timing of sexual initiation is important for two reasons. First, the younger the age of first sexual intercourse, the more likely that the experience was coercive, and forced sexual intercourse is related to long lasting negative effects. —Source

This quote seems to support the idea that people will benefit from becoming sexually active at an older age. I wonder, however, if youngsters are  more likely to have a coercive sexual experience because they are young or because they had bad sex education? More to the point, I wonder if bad sex education leads to a situation where people choose to have sex at a younger age than they would if they had better sex education?

One way or the other, the graph below shows that kids do start having sex when they are quite young. With that in mind, the intention of my approach is to provide my kids with the best information that I can give them about sex and sexuality to help them make informed decisions.

Percent of teens who claim to have had sex, by age

Age Boys Girls
14 7.9% 5.7%
15 14.6% 13.0%
16 25.3% 26.8%
17 39.4% 43.1%
18 54.3% 58.0%
19 65.2% 70.1%

I want my children to have good, fun and meaningful sexual experiences when they are prepared to have such encounters. This will not be possible without a good understanding of their sexuality and all of the implications of their sexual interactions. The point of teaching my kids about sex and sexuality isn’t so that they don’t have sex, it is so that when they do, they are prepared.

A Challenge That I Didn’t Expect

In hindsight, my decision to have children was about as informed as is the decision of a typical eight year old child to get a puppy. An eight year old thinks that having a puppy is a great idea because the puppy will provide companionship and a close bond. The eight year old hears that they will be responsible for the animal, but doesn’t have the adequate conceptual framework to comprehend the actual significance and meaning of this responsibility. I was much like that eight year old when I first started seriously entertaining the idea of having children. I had heard that raising a child was challenging for a multitude of reasons, but I lacked the insight to understand the implications of my decision.

The “Little” Difficulties of Parenthood

There have been many hurdles to overcome while on this trek called parenthood. To be honest, many of them revolve around the very basic idea of taking care of yourself. Having kids was, to say the least, a lifestyle change and I don’t think I fully comprehended what this entailed. Sleep, for example, is something that I had been told take at every available opportunity, but it is very hard to put myself to bed when I feel that I haven’t had adequate time to myself during the day to appreciate just being myself. As a result, I typically stay up much later than I should trying to give myself a little “me” time during my day.

Prior to having children, I had also been warned that having children might jeopardize friendships. Yet another case of hearing the words of warning, but not fully understanding their context. I think there are at least a couple main reasons that having kids can make you drift away from people that were good friends. Once you have children, you will have some pretty intense limits placed on the time you have available to partake in your pre-child lifestyle and this is likely to dig into the time that you have available for friends. Another strain on friendships is the inevitable change of your priorities. As a father, I still have all of my old interests, but since I am one of the major care takers for our children it stands to reason that the details of my children’s lives will be one of my primary interests, and I think this can be alienating to friends that don’t have children.

The frustrations that children present are another thing that I had been warned about, but that warning just didn’t quite sink in. I have worked a fair bit with slightly older kids and find them relatively reasonable. Infants and toddlers, however, I hadn’t had a lot of experience with and have since learned that they are almost entirely unreasonable. Don’t get me wrong, they are cute, beautiful and charming, but they are also incredibly unreasonable. It is both hilarious and exasperating to watch a toddler walk around and interact with their environment. They will generally make a move for anything that you don’t want them to touch; move random objects from one place to another without any obvious reason; repeat themselves ad nauseam; appear to make concerted efforts to obstruct any reasonable course of action; find that thing that is most likely to stain your carpet and hold it so that if it were to fall, it would only barely miss the table (which could easily be cleaned), and then with infuriating grace they will drop it on your carpet, thereby destroying any remaining hope you had of retrieving your damage deposit.

Although I had been warned about the aforementioned “little” difficulties, I still found that I wasn’t fully prepared to deal with them. Parenting has a momentum to it though, and I found that I certainly became prepared to deal with the little challenges very quickly. Having had the warnings was useful, because even though I didn’t have a deep understanding of exactly how these challenges would look when I was in the situation, at least I had a frame of reference. This made the act of becoming a father much less of a culture shock than it otherwise may have been.

My Unexpected Challenge

The negotiations went on long into the night

I have this underlying belief that fathers of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) are much more engaged in the raising of their children than fathers of singletons. I know that I had every intention of being a very involved father prior to finding out that we were having twins. Once our twins came along though, there was really absolutely no choice for me to do anything other than be a very engaged father, and because of the higher work load, I suspect that I took on more than I would have if we had one child at a time. As a result of me being so involved with my kids, Jenn and I both felt like every parenting decision that either of us made became quite the negotiation, and this is what I hadn’t heard anyone mention in the lead up to having kids.

To be clear, I think it likely that the parents of any child are often involved in negotiating how to do certain things, however I also think that the amount of negotiating increases with the level of involvement of the parents. It seems like a fairly natural association, because the more both parents are around and the more involved they are, the more both parents have at stake. Although the negotiations were a natural consequence of a high level of involvement from both of us, at times it was also quite difficult and both Jenn and I found it quite frustrating at times.

When deciding how to proceed with different issues, there were obviously times when Jenn and I didn’t agree on the best course of action. Generally we’d both give the other a chance to try their method, and ultimately this was a great learning tool for both of us. Trying an approach that individually we might not have tried started yielding some good results for both of us. It was a great learning tool and we have both had times when we benefited from trying something that is outside of our usual bag of tricks.

Although it is sometimes exhausting and frustrating, negotiating with your spouse on how to deal with parenting issues it’s certainly worth it. It implies that your child(ren) have two parents who are involved enough to care about how things are done and it has helped me to remember that there are usually multiple ways to achieve your goal. Moreover, there has been a benefit to my communication skills and with luck our kids will benefit from growing up in a house with parents that communicate fairly well.

Dealing With the Challenges That Twins Present

If I could sum up the most valuable bit of information that I could for parents who are expecting or have already had twins or multiples in a single sentence it would be this. Get your kids on the same sleeping and eating schedule! There we go, that’s easy enough right? A simple, grammatically correct, ten word sentence which contains a clear message. Looks like this parenting gig is going to be smooth sailing. Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not going to be easy at all. In fact, not only is parenting in general not that easy, but following my simple and grammatically correct nugget of wisdom is, itself, going to be harder than it sounds.

The Difficulties With Infants

I remember not really understanding why parenting was going to be so difficult before our twins came along. I heard that infants need about 15 to 16 hours of sleep a day. Before having kids, on a good night I usually slept 7 to 8 hours, so assuming I slept my maximum and my kids slept their minimum, that would leave me with a glorious 7 hours per day of “me” time. What I didn’t realize was that for infants to sleep and eat, it requires a lot of participation from the parents.

The Food Factor

Feeding
Tandem Feeding, Papa Style (my milk production was way down)

Assuming you are breast feeding, the amount of time that it can take to feed your infants can vary quite a bit based on milk production and how well your newborn has taken to feeding. For that reason it makes it difficult to talk specifics regarding the amount of time people spend feeding, but I have heard people talk about spending as little as about 3 hours per day to as many as 6 hours per day. The reason is that, initially, your infant will need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours (day and night) and each time it can take anywhere from about 20 to 45 minutes. In short, feeding your new bundle of sleep deprivation is going to be a very large time sink.

The point here, as it relates to twins, is pretty easy to glean. If you are feeding your twins one at a time, then you will end up spending roughly double the time doing so, and that could be anywhere from about 6 to 12 hours per day. This is a situation that will significantly eat into any “me” time that you thought you were going to get, and therefore, tandem feeding is really something that you should try to establish. It will also set the stage for meals as your twins get older, which will still be a time consuming and attention intensive task. So, anything you can do to coordinate feedings will help you to free up a little more of your precious time.

As I mentioned, my advice may be harder to implement than you realize and these are some of the reasons. It requires a fair bit of coordination and planning to tandem feed your twins. Breast feeding pillows and a helper are great tools to alleviate some of the awkwardness of getting your twins to successfully feed at the same time. The pillows help provide a platform to make it easier on mom’s arms, and the helper can bring the babies one at a time to allow mom to get comfortable and position them correctly one at a time. Getting a single baby to latch to it’s mother’s breast can be tricky enough, but with twins, you may only have one hand available to do any repositioning, but practice will help.

The Sleep Factor

Nap
Naptime

Surely, you may think to yourself, if I can’t catch a break while the little ones are eating, then at least I should be able to take some time for myself when they are napping or sleeping. Well, I can’t speak for every infant on the block, but for us that was patently false. When our kids were infants, initially they would generally fall asleep only if someone was holding them and bouncing, feeding them or if they were in a moving stroller. It would take about 45 minutes of lulling to get our kids to fall asleep, and there were 3 naps per day, plus bedtime, so there goes another 3 hours of your day and this doesn’t even count the two times in the middle of the night that you put them back to sleep after feeding. To be fair though, it didn’t take as much time to get them back to sleep during the night, but could still take 15 minutes each time.

Finally, the last major time sink relating to sleep has to do with their naps. As mentioned earlier, napping required pretty intensive parent participation. After having spent 45 minutes bouncing with them in our arms or walking them in the stroller it was really not worth the gamble of putting them down in their crib because that would likely result in them being roused from their sleep, so not only have you spent about 3 hours getting them to fall asleep during the day, but now you were also committed to walking them in the stroller, or holding them while they sleep which would take up 4.5 to 6 more hours of your day. On the plus side, when bouncing them to sleep and then letting them sleep on your chest, at least you can catch a nap yourself, of course the downside to this is that you are really only catching up on your sleep, and therefore this is not really that precious “me” time that you long for.

With twins, it should be fairly clear that if you don’t get your kids on the same food and sleep schedule, you are going to be run ragged and be out of time to do all of the other things that need to get done during your day. I give my wife, Jenn, full credit for really establishing the nap routine because she was the one that was almost always out with the stroller for long walks during nap time rain or shine. The great thing in our case was that we had met a really great group of new parents through a local parent group and the moms in that group organized a walking group that would meet up for stroller walks and this provided a bit of a social aspect to the napping process.

Sleep, The “Battle” Worth Winning

Early on during our pregnancy, my wife and I decided sleep was a “battle” that we really wanted to win. The fact that we were having twins made sleep quite important for us, and we knew there would be added challenges since we were having two kids at once. We joined a local twin group, and as a bonus there was a guest speaker giving a talk on children’s sleep. The speaker was Wendy Hall, PhD, RN who has done a great deal of research and work on sleep issues for infants and toddlers. We have seen her two times and have followed her suggestions and had a great deal of success in doing so.

I have found a YouTube video of Wendy giving a talk very similar to the ones that we sat in on and thought it was worth sharing. The problem is that the video is 1:10 minutes long and I know that finding that kind of time can be pretty tricky. In this post I have created a breakdown of the topics covered in the video with timestamped links to points in the video where she covers major topics, to try to make it easier to find information on the issues you are most concerned with. If you can find the time, I highly recommend watching the whole video. Let me know what you think of the points made by Wendy and if you have any ideas to contribute to the topic of sleep.

Entire Video

Why is Sleep Necessary?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 2:14 – 3:57)

  • Sleep is essential for developing brains and bodies
  • Increasing rates of children’s emotional and behavioural problems are linked to sleep problems
  • Children with ADHD have higher incidences of sleep problems and shorter sleep duration
  • Sleep loss is implicated in childhood accidents
  • Children have paradoxical reactions to inadequate sleep
  • Children who are over-tired will find it difficult to relax, struggle against going to sleep and have more disrupted sleep during the night

What is Sleep About?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 3:57 – 9:45)

  • Based on circadian and homeostatic (sleep pressure) processes
  • Circadian rhythm incorporates cues from the environment to regulate timing
  • Sleep pressure is relieved by daytime  naps and nighttime sleep
  • Sleep cycles (time 5:50 – 9:45) Important

What Does Sleep Look Like in Children?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 9:45 – 20:11)

What Are Sleep Promoting Strategies?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 20:11 – 24:36)

Sleep Problems and How They Can Be Managed?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 24:36 – 41:55)

What Are Some Effects of Sleep Problems?

Discussion

The Five Stages of Infancy

I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view on this post, but I have mentioned before that infants really aren’t my thing and I figured that statement could use a little fleshing out. I’ve done some research and broadly speaking it seems like you can get away with defining an infant as being anywhere between 0 and 24 months old and that is the age range that this post will address

Before I get myself into a world of hurt for saying horrible things about my kids, I’m going to preface all of this with the following. I love them both very much and have loved them very much since they were born, and before they were born, I loved the idea of them! In this post I am simply making some comparisons that I feel are apt, although possibly a little callous. For the overly sentimental, please look away at this point.

More Amazing Than…Everything

From birth until about six hours of age, your child(ren) are the bomb. They are nothing but absolutely amazing. There is not a single aspect of their existence that doesn’t take your breath away. The name of this phase is the “More Amazing Than…Everything” phase of infancy, but would more aptly be named the “Mommy and Papa Don’t Know Any Better Yet” phase. At this stage of infancy, my advice to you is to enjoy this feeling because it won’t last and it is a result of elevated hormone levels and your body playing some really malicious tricks on you for keeping it up for the last two to four days.

Better Than a Rock Garden

rocksThis is the rating I gave my kids from about six hours old until about two months of age. The primary benefits of this stage were that they were warm and smelled nice (sometimes). On the down side, they confused the hell out of me. I felt like I pretty much never knew what they wanted. My children had little to no empathy for me and my situation. I remember having a very rudimentary concept of personal dignity based on simple things like not letting people urinate, defecate or vomit on me. It was during this phase of infancy that I was robbed of this basic concept of personal dignity.

More Impressive Than a Pumpkin Patch

PumpkinThis is the designation that I awarded my twins from the time that they were two months old until about three months of age. One day our kids were having a nap which gave us a small break from our baby stand duties. We were startled by a horrible scream from our daughter. We went in to find her hand firmly latched on to her cheek with her nails digging into her soft newborn skin. She was not fully aware of how these appendages of hers worked, and one of them had attacked her. The pain and the resulting stress of her predicament was causing her hand to tense up even more. It was a vicious and self perpetuating attack carried out by herself, and she didn’t realize it. It was genuinely interesting for me to see and realize exactly how unaware my children were of their bodies and how utterly hopeless they were at controlling themselves.

What made my kids graduate to being more impressive than a pumpkin patch was their understanding that they were attached to their body. To be clear, at three months of age they still couldn’t control their bodies any better than (to steal from Hunter S. Thompson) “the village drunkard in some early Irish novel“, but they had clearly started to develop a concept of “self” and that is more than I can say for pumpkins.

Cooler Than a Cat, Although Just as Indifferent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe transition to this stage began at about three months of age and was marked by intentional smiles. We had seen smiles prior to this stage, but they were usually associated with the children relieving their bodily functions. At three months of age we were able to finally relate to our kids on a different level. We could do things that caused them to smile. We were finally interacting with them on more of a social and human level and it was a truly wonderful feeling, but… there was fine print.

Any interactions designed to illicit laughter or smiles from the children were subject to the following stipulations:

  • You must voluntarily surrender your dignity
  • You must understand that all attempts at humour are to be evaluated by a being with underdeveloped lower frontal lobes
  • Any failure to induce smiling or laughter will be punished by the infant’s choice of crying, screaming, defecation, urination, vomiting or any combination of said punishments

In my experience, most cats seem blissfully unaware of the intricacies of human social interactions. The fact that our children were able to start understanding and acting as players in social interactions made them a lot cooler than cats. Still lacking any real sense of empathy for me or others, however, left my children just as indifferent as the common house cat.

Finally, Better Than a Dog

dogThe key traits of this stage of infancy are:

  1. Walking
  2. Talking
  3. Emotional development (empathy)

Now your child has the ability to recognize your mood, navigate over to you and (on a good day) say “Papa’s happy!” and give you a hug. Wow, you’ve made it, right? Yes and no.

At various points along my children’s developmental path, I have been tempted to think that things are going to get easier as various milestones are reached. It’s true that some things have become easier, but it’s also true that there are a constant stream of new challenges to overcome. Overall, although things may not be getting significantly easier, I have noticed that the level of enjoyment that I have gotten from being with my children has increased as they have grown and developed over the last two years. I think that this is why “infants aren’t really my thing”. I derive joy from the development of my kids, and obviously limited age yields limited development so for me, I am becoming increasingly enthralled with them as they grow. What is it about your children that gives you joy and piques your interest?

Surprise, We’re Having Twins! Part 1

The Story of Getting the News

10-week-ultrasound
10 Week Ultrasound

In November of 2010 Jenn, my wife, had her first ultrasound planned. It was at about ten weeks in to her pregnancy, which is earlier than normal, but we were going to a clinic that we’d never been to and they wanted to date the fetus. Because Jenn would be getting another ultrasound done at 20 weeks, and since it was a tricky day for me to get off work, we agreed that Jenn would go alone to the first ultrasound and I’d join her for the 20 week ultrasound.

After I was finished at work, I went to pick Jenn up from her work. When she got in the car, I saw the large manila envelope in her hand. I remember asking “Are those the ultrasound pictures?” and commenting about how exciting it was to have the pictures. The first thing out of Jenn’s mouth was “Oh, you don’t know the half of it”. -Pause- click, click, click. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Is it twins?” Jenn tries to distract me, I ask two more times, and again she tries to distract me. The Third time finally Jenn says “Yes, we are having twins.”

Before I go on, let me set the stage a little. It was getting dark, and it was raining, I had been at work all day and was fairly tired and just found out that my wife and I were having twins. My first thought when I got the news was “I really should not be driving right now”. I found a place to pull over and park, and my memory is a little fuzzy on the details at this point. I don’t remember when I first looked at the ultrasound pictures, but it was either in the car or in the restaurant that we decided to eat at.

My mind was racing with thoughts, but paralyzed by the magnitude of the news. The pregnancy was planned, but twins were obviously not. This presented a lot of questions that now needed to be addressed. How are we going to afford the added expense? What will happen with childcare? How can both of us maintain our career path with twins coming? The questions went on, but there was also the realization that we were going to have two kids that would almost always be around for each other while they are growing up. They had a built in teammate in life and that was a pretty special thing. Jenn and I had planned on having two children eventually, so this was quite an efficient way of getting things done, but the news still added a fair bit of stress to the situation.

Some Thoughts

People had told me that so much happens once your child is born and you are so short on sleep that you don’t really remember a lot about the experience. The point to be taken from this was to enjoy and remember as much as you can of the early stage of your kids lives. I took this to heart, but thought that I had an ace up my sleeve because I knew that we were always planning on having two kids, so by the second time around I’d have a better understanding of what to expect, so I might be able to get more out of the experience.

Twins didn’t afford me the opportunity to have my second crack at the whole experience of watching my newborn come into the world. At the time this felt like an opportunity lost, but I’m two years along the fatherhood path and now I feel like I have a few thoughts on the topic. 1) I found out that infants really didn’t interest me in the way that they seem to interest others, so honestly I think I would have been worried about having to go through that phase again rather than relishing the idea of getting to do it again. 2) This point ties in with the first point, but l really enjoy my sleep, and generally speaking my kids sleep pretty well now, and I am happy not having to give that up. 3) Even if I did have one child at a time, by the time the second one came along I think the added difficulty of having a toddler running around at the same time would have prevented me from getting any more out of the infant experience than I did the first time around.

The upshot of all this is that I worried about this too much. People were right, the first 3 to 6 months were a haze, but I do remember some great moments with my little ones. Roll with it, you will remember what you remember. Over thinking it may just ruin some of the experience.

Happy Father’s Day!