Welcome to the Nurturing Sleep Blog!
My aim is to empower parents to support their children through sleep and parenting difficulties in an emotionally approriate way, so that each an every baby and child who experiences my Nurturing Sleep approach feels Happy, Safe and Reassured.
Enjoy the blog.
|Posted on 25 August, 2018 at 14:40|
The importance of prenatal bonding.
Prenatal bonding supports attunement between the developing baby and the mother, and partner/father. In the womb, the unborn baby is sentient, aware, social and communicative in nature, and actively engages with the womb environment (Chamberlain 1994). McCarty, 2012 provides further evidence of the prenates’ nature and consciousness; she describes the prenates subconscious ability for taking a witness perspective, facilitating mutual mind-to-mind communication and perception of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the parents. Therefore, parents’ attuned resonance with their unborn baby in thought, feelings, intention and a supportive, stimulating womb environment is important for the holistic and optimal development of the unborn baby.
Thomas Verny and Pamela Weintraub (2002) stress the importance for parents to balance management and nurturing during pregnancy. Specifically, its suggested parents aim to manage stress to balance with the nurturing of their unborn child, and work mindfully with active communication and partnership with the child. They stress that when babies are conceived within loving relationship and provided with optimal stimulation and nurturing within the prenatal period, the unborn child’s holistic development is enhanced and the foundation of secure parent/child attachment relationships established.
The feelings, emotions and intentions of the parents are communicated to the baby through what Verny and Weintraub, 2002, describe as molecular, sensory and intuitive communication channels. This view links to the view of the prenatal period in terms of prenatal umbilical affect, the transference of feeling states and toxicity through the umbilical cord and placenta (Appleton, M, 2017). The transference of feeling and emotional states is important for parents to understand because how they perceive the pregnancy and unborn child will influence the unborn baby’s developing belief structures. If the unborn child feels loved, accepted, welcomed and nurtured then, as Appleton (p100) describes, the unborn child will expand out with the expectation of being welcomed, having needs met, feeling pleasure and feeling emotionally safe to embrace life. A stressful womb environment however, as a consequence of parent’s stress, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, trauma and/or womb toxicity may result in the unborn child developing belief systems and structures based on the world as an unsafe, dangerous place, and therefore develop behaviours based on survival rather than growth. In cases of chronic stress the unborn child can become conditioned to contract away from the world, rather than expand out to being welcomed into the world, therefore, stress has a negative impact on the developing baby in the womb (Appleton, p100).
Ways parents can bond with their unborn baby:
The foundation of bonding starts before conception to ensure that the baby is wanted and welcomed, even if the baby is a surprise, he needs to feel the joy and a felt sense of being wanted and welcomed. How the unborn baby perceives the womb environment and the perceptions and beliefs developed in utero will reflect into life after birth, in his perception and felt sense of self, his parents and the world. In terms of prenatal bonding, Chamberlain, 1994, explains the importance of parents understanding and working with the unborn baby’s intelligence, receptivity and ability to communicate. Understanding of the baby’s integrative sensory awareness is important and will enhance successful and optimal prenatal bonding.
Chamberlain (2013, p179) describes bonding as simple but not always easy, with the foundation of bonding being the loving heart-connection between the parents and their heart-connection to the baby. In order for the heart-connection to open, expand and flow it’s important for parents to manage stress and address underlying relationship difficulties and previous trauma. This will reduce any adverse molecular communication of stress chemicals through the cord and placenta as well as reduce risk of development of adverse negative belief systems. Some moderate level of stress is beneficial though, because, as Myrna Martin, 2016, explains it provides the unborn baby with a felt sense of the parent’s ability to overcome and manage stress, which enhances the unborn baby’s feeling of emotional and physical safety and wellbeing.
The sensory communication channel as described by Verny and Weintraub, 2002, can be stimulated through touch and hearing. Babies develop tactile sensitivity from about 7 weeks gestational age, and an unborn baby will respond to the mother’s touch, caress and massage of the stomach with a full repertoire of movement responses, particularly during the 3rd trimester (Hill, G, 2017). Fetal listening is evident from about 16 weeks gestational age therefore, singing, reading and talking to the unborn baby with awareness, nurturance and empathy is also supportive of bonding. A variety of music is also interesting for babies and will support bonding as the baby will be listening and determining which music is reassuring and relaxing for the mother, and therefore, the baby himself. Myrna Martin, 2016, stresses that in the womb babies learn what helps the mother relax and become calm and what makes her happy, and they will respond in similar ways.
Intuitive communication is third channel of communication between mother/partner and baby. This relates to the parents understanding of the consciousness of the unborn baby, and through this channel the mother and partner/father’s thoughts, feelings, emotions and intentions are communicated to the baby. In the same intuitive way, the unborn baby can also communicate to the parents; this can often happen in the form of images and dreams (Verny and Weintraub 2002).
Schroth, G, 2010 describes an approach that facilitates deep intuitive bonding related to Dr Jenoe Raffai’s work on prenatal bonding during the 1990s. The approach requires the mother to lie peacefully with awareness of her breathing, feelings and emotions. The flow of images, feelings and emotions experienced create dialogue, a two-way communication between the mother and baby. Therefore, when a mother is encouraged to become peaceful, mindful and meditative, it is possible for her to become deeply connected to her unborn baby, his needs and emotions. In turn, the baby develops a felt sense of being seen, heard and validated, the foundation of trusting relationship and secure attachment.
The role of partners, fathers and siblings also play an important role in prenatal bonding because the baby has an awareness of the mother’s environment and relationships. According to Schroth, 2010, fathers or partners can play an important role in developing and enhancing the “social womb”. Partners/fathers can be empowered with the understanding of their role in supporting physical and emotional safety for the growth and expansion of the mother and baby bond during pregnancy, as well as expanding relationship between themselves with the unborn baby through touching, singing, talking and reading to the baby. Siblings can also be involved in bonding activities and the expansion of the social womb, promoting the unborn baby’s felt sense of empathetic and attuned resonance and relationships, as well as physical and emotional wellbeing and safety as foundations for optimal relationships after birth.
Ultimately, calmness and relaxation of the mother and partner/father is important for bonding. Myrna Martin, 2016, suggests mothers take “3 love breaks” each day. Love breaks involve slowing down and relaxing, tuning into and talking to the baby, and allowing time and space for the baby to respond and communicate. Martin stresses that a calm, relaxed pregnancy increases the chances of having a calm and relaxed baby.
Benefits of prenatal bonding.
Prenatal bonding can be evaluated in terms of benefits for the individual baby/child/adult, parents and family, and society.
The unborn baby’s experience within and of the womb will reflect into his life after birth influencing how he perceives himself, his relationships and environments throughout life (Ludwig, J 2002). The unborn baby builds a felt sense of his foundation for life, the blue print. As Grille, R, 2005, p285 describes, the most primal emotional competences are learned early in life. With optimal bonding, the baby’s feelings of belonging, his “right to exist” becomes established based on his perceived felt sense of the right to be recognised, heard and validated, which underlies the developing belief structures, attitudes, behaviours and therefore drives optimal development and potential.
Chamberlain, 1994, discusses outcomes from prenatal bonding programmes. Prenatal programmes have typically resulted in positive outcomes in terms of easier births and significant higher ratings in maternal and parent/baby bonding, as well as higher success rates in breastfeeding. These outcomes concur with outcomes from Dr Jenoe Raffai’s prenatal bonding programmes as described by Schroth, 2010. Schroth describes outcomes which include the mother and baby experiencing less anxiety and pain during birth due to enhanced synchronicity, there were fewer birth complications, less obstetrical interventions required and a higher incidence of natural vaginal births reported. The incidence of birth trauma was much reduced indicated by insignificant rates of excessive infant crying.
The benefits of prenatal bonding for parents and families are considerable; Myrna Martin, 2016, explains that the biggest predictors of calm, relaxed babies are a calm, relaxed pregnancy, flowing into a calm and relaxed birth. Schroth, 2010, concurs, concluding that after birth, babies of families who had established prenatal bonding had longer and deeper periods of night sleep, were more settled and experienced less crying. Bonding was also easier as parents experienced easier communications with babies, as babies demonstrated a deeper intuitive knowing and understanding of parents’ intentions and feelings as well as enhanced self-awareness and confidence. Postpartum depression rates were also very low at just 1% for the mothers within the programmes.
With enhanced bonding outcomes, lower crying rates and more consistent sleep, parents are more likely to feel empowered and fulfilled in their parenting. The parents’ empowerment and confidence will naturally continue to cycle to the baby and child’s felt sense of emotional security, self esteem and wellbeing, reinforcing the belief structures developed in the womb.
In terms of life long outcomes, prenatal bonding can provide the foundation for optimal development of human potential. Emerson, 1996, stresses that the individual is at his most vulnerable within the womb, and that prenatal events and experiences are most influential to how individuals respond to and experience future life events. Particularly significant is Emerson’s view that adverse prenatal and birth experiences impact on bonding, and can then recapitulate resulting in higher likelihood of violence and aggression in later life. Therefore, prenatal bonding can act as a protective factor in terms of preventing violence and aggression and promoting enhanced compassion and human potential within society.
The benefits of prenatal bonding for society reflect on the potential of reduced rates of caesarean section and interventions required at birth, reduced postpartum depression reflecting into reduced healthcare costs. Prenatal bonding also enhances mental and emotional health of mothers and families holistically. Prenatal bonding is more likely to enhance an individual’s felt sense of belonging, connection to self, family and community, and therefore, reduce rates of violence and aggression within society.
Implications and conclusion
Prenatal bonding has positive outcomes for individuals, families and society, therefore there is a need for focussed support for parents in preparing for and during pregnancy, and prenatal bonding programmes to support parents understanding of their developing baby’s abilities and needs to support optimal bonding, attachment and potential.
In relation to infant sleep and sleep consulting, a focus on enhancing prenatal bonding can prevent sleep difficulties and enhance sleep quality and length for new families. In synthesis, research outcomes also indicate a need for awareness and in-depth investigation of sleep difficulties which may have their roots in adverse early experiences.
Prenatal bonding provides the foundation for the unborn baby’s life experience, supporting relationships, development, life chances and human potential.
Appleton, M. (2017). Prenatal umbilical affect: The great prenatal conundrum. In Wilks, J. (Ed). An integrative approach to treating babies and children: A multidisciplinary approach. Philadelphia, PA and London, England: Singing Dragon.
Chamberlain, D. (1994). The sentient prenate: What every parent should know. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 9 (1), 9-31.
Chamberlain, D. (2013). Windows to the womb: Revealing the conscious baby from conception to birth. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Emerson, W. (1996). The vulnerable prenate. The Journal for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health. 10 (3) 125 - 142.
Grille, R. (2008 ) Parenting for a peaceful world. CP publishing: Croydon, UK
Hill, G. (2017). A Mother’s Touch may help to Bond with Unborn Babies. Retrieved from: www.medicalxpress.com/news/2017-05-mother-bond-unborn-babies.html
Ludwig, J. (2002). Impact of pre and perinatal psychology on society and culture. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 16 (3), 237-247.
Martin, M. (2016). Healing early developmental trauma video series.
McCarty, W. A. (2012). Welcoming consciousness: Supporting babies’ wholeness from the beginning of life. An integrated model of early development. Santa Barbara, CA: Wonderous Beginning Publishing.
Schroth, G. (2010). Prenatal bonding (BA): A method for encountering the unborn. Introduction and case study. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 25 (1), 3-16.
Verny, T. R, & Weintraub, P. (2002). Pre-Parenting: Nurturing your child from conception. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Resources for parents:
Edwards, M. (n.d.) Five Fun Ways to Interact with your Unborn Baby: retrieved from: www.disneybaby.com/blog/fun-ways-to-interact-with-unborn-baby
Mudie, C. (n.d): Seven Brilliant Ways to Bond with Your Bump. Retrieved from: www.motherandbaby.co.uk/pregnancy-and-birth/pregnancy/pregnancy-week-by-week/7-brilliant-ways-to-bond-with-your-bump
Virtue Baby: Bonding with your Unborn Child. Retrieved from: www.virtuebaby.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/bonding-with-your-unborn-child
Ann Caird. Copyright. 2018
|Posted on 3 April, 2017 at 9:15|
2 year with disturbing night wakes...
My partner and I decided to try Nurturing sleep after a recommendation from a friend. We had reached a point where the lack of sustained sleep was causing problems not only for our little girl but was also taking its toll on us as parents. We hadn't slept more than a few hours for over 6 months. We found Ann to be very approachable and professional but also caring and sympathetic to our situation. We all worked closely together and it was through communication and guidance from Ann that we were able to identify things which we could change and steps which we could take to try and improve our lives.
Our daughter responded very well to small changes and we saw a marked difference in the first few days. The work on emotional aspects really seemed to work for her and actually brought us closer together as a family unit. A few weeks on and we have had a few nights of complete sleep with no interruptions. Everyone is happier and life is somehow just that bit easier. Everything is not perfect, this is not some magical fix, but through continued work and support from us as parents and from Ann as our sleep consultant we know that things will just keep on getting better.
Parent feedback from evaluations:
On a scale of 0 - 10, how would you rate the overall quality and relevance of the information, support and guidance provided?
10. I love how personalised the guidance was and your gentle approach was totally in tune with how to wanted to approach any type of sleep ‘training’. Almost everything you suggested worked and if it didn’t any further suggestions seemed to work – just like magic!
we would both say a 10
How did you feel about the level of support provided via email/phone/skype? Was it adequate, too much, not enough?
Absolutely perfect. We felt completely supported throughout the whole process without ever feeling like we needed more or that any chat was a waste. And when things got a bit rocky you were more than willing to slot in additional chats at very short notice!
Just about right. Skype chats were useful and discussions were very helpful. Email was very good as well. Replies were very quick and advice was clear.
Did you find the written sleep plan and notes helpful? - was there anything that was particularly helpful or useful to you?
Very helpful! We went back to them on a number of occasions and really felt like they were completely customised to our situation and child. Also, the additional websites provided were incredibly useful and fully supported the notes provided.
Written notes were really useful. This was especially the case as we sometimes did not get to speak to you together but also it was written very clearly so we always had a base to return to.
Yes – the written plan and notes were extremely helpful – they were a great summary of the conversations had, avoided having to clarify small (often forgotten!) tips and were a useful point of reference. The introductory notes at the beginning of sleep work and the overview of the intended approach summarising the weeks ahead were so useful to help to understand what was to happen in the subsequent weeks. It made me feel less anxious about all of the changes given it was in a step-by-step approach and prepared me for the next step.
Was there any specific element of your sleep work that you felt helped more than others?
Understanding crying and play elements. I had to deal with my own hurts and fears first which then made me a lot more comfortable when dealing with my child. With play elements also brought the whole family together creating a stronger, cohesive unit!
The introduction of the notion of play was good and helped a lot. Also trying to understand why she was waking as opposed to just accepting that this was the norm was interesting. It was quite surprising just how quickly she changed.
Most notably, there were two aspects that stuck out for me which were changes I had no idea about, yet made a huge difference to sleep. The first was the play aspect & Secondly, understanding crying.
|Posted on 13 March, 2017 at 14:30|
At the end of the month, Sunday March 26th the clocks ‘spring forward’ an hour in keeping with British Summer Time. Adjusting to new times and losing an hour’s sleep can be disruptive for babies and young children’s sleep and may threaten your well planned daily and routines. With a little forward planning though, the adjustment to BST can be made easier for all!
Sleep experts suggest making changes to children’s waking/sleep times gradually in small steps, so start making changes 5-6 days before the clocks ‘spring forward’. The aim is to move your child’s day 15 minutes earlier every second day. To start then, if bedtime is normally 7.30pm and your child wakes at 7am, wake your child at 6.45am, so bedtime becomes 7.15pm. Do this for 2 days and move the day’s routines 15 minutes earlier as well. Then move the day forward another 15 minutes for 2 days, and repeat until you are putting your child to bed an hour earlier, to coincide with the clocks ‘springing forward’ an hour on Sunday morning.
Practical Tips for Success.
Although there maybe some timings you can’t adjust, like baby groups, nursery or playgroup times, try to keep your daily routine as consistent as possible during your ‘adjustment week’. The timing of mealtimes for example helps set children’s internal biological clock and sleep/wake cycles, so move your child’s mealtimes 15 minutes earlier too in relation to waking time and planned bedtime.
Adjust naps according to wake-up time during the adjustment week. Try to avoid longer than usual naps - unless your child is unwell or there is another reason for an increased sleep requirement.
Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier too and keep it consistent and predictable. The rituals you include within your routine help create feelings of security and emotional wellbeing for children by providing a predictable, loving wind-down to sleep.
Keep the bedroom dimly lit during the bedtime routine and throughout the night, work with light and dark to support your goals.
Outdoor play will promote sleep and reduce sleep latency, that is, help your child to get to sleep quicker – remember, using light and dark cues will support you big time!
If a slow, gradual approach doesn’t work for your family due to activity commitments, try working with 1 big jump to the new time for older babies, toddlers and young children. Wake your child at the usual adjusted time, and start working with the new timings Sunday.
Remember, it may take your child a few days to adjust, especially if you take the 1 big jump approach. Think of the adjustment as similar to jetlag, which is temporary, but actually does settle over a few days.
|Posted on 13 March, 2017 at 0:15|
What is implicit memory?
Well, iimplicit memory is a subconscious memory related to previous experiences that are imprinted into your brain. If you tune into yourself deeply, and you become deeply aware of sensations, you can become aware that certain environments, sensations, smells, touches, tastes, sounds or situations will trigger a feeling and emotion related to a previous experience and time. Its different to our explicit or recall memory of daily events, like remembering last years holiday on a bleak January day!
We all have implicit memory;
Babies brains develop capacity for implicit memory as early as 3-4 months in utero, so from that time they absorb all the sensations we experience. So some experiences become imprinted in our memories, good and not so good. Birth experiences for example can become imprinted into our memory, and we know that birth can influence and affect us in many ways, including health, behaviours and sleep. Imprinting can go very deep, its linked to our implicit memory, but its the feelings and deep emotional memories that we hold.
When working with young children's sleep and behaviours then, Its important to look beyond the observable behaviours, the surface stuff as I call it, and dig deeper, teasing out what may be influencing them on the deeper, biological, social/emotional levels. Its only then that we can find appropriate and holistic answers to seemingly difficult sleep and behavioural issues.
Have a look at these videos about Implicit memory, Imprinting and how birth influences our lives - Enjoy!!
Ray Castellino and Infant Sentience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owc5xxVAASU ;
Microbirth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CTmwUU2iHU ;
Related article: Making Assumptions about children's sleep: http://maternityinstitute.com/making-assumptions-about-childrens-sleep/
|Posted on 5 December, 2015 at 6:50|
The festive season is approaching and preparations are underway in many households! Excitement mounts as anticipation of the big day snowballs…
Nativity plays, parties, Christmas shopping, gifts to wrap, decorations and baking! With all the extra excitement toddlers and young children can easily become over tired, over stimulated and find falling asleep difficult. So here are some practical tips to help maintain balance and good sleep for young children during this busy time, and that will also help keep parents feel calmer over the holidays!
Tip 1: Protect and maintain your bedtime routine; this can be tough! When there’s so much to do and with Christmas visitors and parties routines can go out the window!, However, do your best to preserve the bedtime routine because it’s your child’s familiar wind down of predictable steps to sleep time which will help them prepare their minds and bodies for sleep. From the emotional wellbeing point of view, providing that quiet, calm closeness provides vital connection time that will support your child’s feeling of safety, reassurance and calmness that supports restful sleep.
Tip 2: Remember to use the nap time routine; if our child still naps, do your best to preserve the nap wind down routine too. It often helps to extend the nap routine by 5-10 minutes if here’s been alot of change or excitement, just to give just a little more time to calm the system and prepare for letting go into sleep. If you haven’t used a nap routine until now, its worth considering one; generally I suggest using the same set of cues as bedtime – a darkened room, comfy sleep clothes, a story, lullaby, kisses.... and sleep wells... before finally settling into bed or cot.
Tip 3: Keep consistent wake-ups and bedtimes – weekends and holidays too! As difficult as this may sound – it can really help to keep sleep consistently good! Children’s sleep is regulated y 2 main sleep processes, the biological clock and homeostatic sleep pressure. The biological clock is set to expect sleep at certain times during the 24 hour day, and sleep pressure builds to support the biological sleep times. However, if wake ups are too late, sleep pressure will be out of sync with the biological clock and falling into sleep may become problematic. A good example is jetlag, if we allow children to sleep in an extra hour (assuming they are well and healthy of course) their biological clock will be an hour out of sync. Sticking to a consistent daily sleep routine is good for adults too!
Tip 4: Maximise the impact of light and dark; when you and your children wake in the morning, make sure the lights go on too. Our biological clocks respond to light and dark cues; light switches off the melatonin (sleepy hormone) flow and turns on the cortisol – prompting our bodies to wake and be active. Sleep pressure then begins to build towards our next sleep time, and reducing lighting for the bedtime routine triggers the sleep hormone melatonin that supports relaxation and sleep. Outdoor activity and playtime in the fresh air every day not only supports the biological clock and daily rhythms, but also helps young children release tension and prepares growing bodies for sleep!
Tip 5: Avoid screens before bedtime!! Televisions, computers, ipads.... great ways to calm a child down, or maybe not! Many devices use LED lights which can hinder sleep.LED lights emit blue light which prevents melatonin – the sleep hormone secreting. The blue light ‘tricks’ the brain into thinking its still daytime, even when its past bedtime! So, after tea I suggest turning off the TV, avoiding screens – and engaging in some connection playtime, before moving into the bedtime routine. See my article about Calm bedtimes for more about the value of play before bedtime.
Tip 6: Be aware of how food may influence sleep; Christmas = rich food and indulgence! Its important to keep in mind though that some foods will hinder children’s sleep; processed and sweet food can stimulate young children and rich, fatty foods may cause digestive difficulties and disturbances. So with that in mind, do your best to ration processed, sweet and rich foods as much as you can. Also keep in mind that there are some foods that support sleep. Sleep inducing foods include healthy carbohydrates and foods containing calcium and tryptophan - so good sleepy food options include eggs, wholemeal toast, whole grain cereal, milk, bananas, pitta breads… and.. TURKEY!!!
Tip 7: on a practical level - Think about using white noise: This is just brilliant for masking all those unusual festive noises… whether they are parties next door, friends in for drinks, reindeers on the roof, sleigh bells and Santa coming down the chimney! It’s easy to phase in – and easy to phase out. I suggest using a natural sound, like rain or running water. Phase it in over a few days, playing it at low volume in the background during your bedtime routine and during the night and naps, then gradually increase the volume to about as loud as a human voice or soft shower so it masks and softens external sounds. Phase it out in the same way – reduce the volume night by night over a fews or week.
Tip 8: keep the bedroom peaceful; avoid putting exciting new toys in the bedroom… keep it calm, balanced without added stimulation. Bedroom play is great, I often suggest this for young children because it can support sleep, but keep the Christmas excitement away from the bedroom.
And what about parents? Well, my final tip is that parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents... follow the same festive sleep tips as those for the children!
In a nutshell:
• Consistent sleep and wake times and get some outdoor activity every day.
• Turn off TVs and screens a couple of hours before your bedtime – read a book or potter or write a list instead:
• If you have a lot on your mind – write it down before bedtime! Make a list of all the little things you may forget so you don’t lay wake thinking about them – then keep the list by the bed so that if you do wake up thinking about Auntie Sally’s present – you can write it down and stop dwelling on it!
• Allow your body to wind down for sleep – a relaxing bath or shower, book to read... a healthy bedtime snack;
• When you finally get into bed – relax!! Let your mind and body relax; See these 3 mindfulness meditations to support sleep from the Chopra centre, and focus in on each muscle group ad consciously relax your muscles... feeling the release and calmness in your body as you Let-go...
Three meditations to help you calm your mind and help you fall asleep. The Chopra Centre.