Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wearing Out My Whingy Baby

I think I have a difficult baby.  I don't really like to label her that way, but I think you know what I mean.  A spirited baby.  A baby that requires perhaps a little more intensive parenting than the average baby her age.

Her separation anxiety and fear of strangers started at 6 months and does not seem to have eased.  She gets upset if I disappear from view even for a moment, and there are only a couple of people she'll tolerate being passed to instead.  She whinges endlessly if she's bored, if she can't reach the object she's after, if I put her down and attempt to do the dishes even if she is at my feet.   If she wakes 5 times a night, that's a pretty good night, and if she wakes 3 times that's a rare and blissful event.  She refuses to let anyone spoon feed her 90% of the time, and once she's had enough of whatever fingerfood we give her she yells and yells until we get her out of the highchair.  She refuses bottles.  She refuses EBM or formula from a cup - although curiously, will drink water.

She has now started to reach the age that I can't substitute another object for the one she's interested in - it no longer distracts her, she just looks around for the original object and gets cranky.  She is also fairly mobile for her age, not only crawling everywhere but climbing up onto objects at least half her height - which would be fine if only she could get down safely again.  It doesn't help that she has also been teething continuously for two months, and has started biting (sometimes on the boob), or that she is mastering her pincer grip, which she likes to practice on my arm and which means she can get very small objects in her mouth.

Pincer grip practice - usually during bfeeding, when it is difficult to reach her arms to stop her.

It's at times like these that I start hearing all those little voices saying that I just have to be firmer with her, I just have to put her down and ignore her if she whinges - that I have created this problem for myself.  Even though there is no evidence that being attentive creates a clingier baby, there are certainly people around me who are very happy to murmur their conclusions on why Bethany is acting this way.

I have to remind myself that this is within the spectrum of normal baby behaviour, and that many of these undesirable behaviours are actually the start of good qualities in an older child / adult, that I do not want to stamp out.  I want her to communicate with me when she is upset, and I know she's too young to distinguish between what is an important or unimportant concern, or to go around solving all her problems in sensible ways.  I want her to be aware of her own hunger cues and to eat because she's hungry, not because the food is there or there is social pressure to eat / not eat.  I'm not worried about her long-term independence because I think at this age she still views me as an extension of herself.

Here is an interesting article from Scientific American about the tests they use to determine that babies start to form a mental image of themselves and a sense of self around 18-24 months of age.   Basically, a mark or post-it note or similar is surreptitiously placed on a baby's forehead (or nose), and they are then given the opportunity to look at themselves in a mirror.  Before 18 months, babies will try and respond to their reflection as though it is another person (albeit a very entertaining one), but around 18 months they see the post-it note and immediately reach for their own foreheads to remove it, having realised that the person in their mirror is themselves, and that the image's forehead corresponds with their own forehead (or nose).

For a more in-depth perspective on the stages of the development of self-awareness during early childhood, see this article - but be warned, it is not a light read.

It is fascinating that the mirror test not only reveals that babies develop the capacity to have a mental self image around a certain stage of development, but that the kind of sense of self acquired varies depending on social expectations.  In Western societies where babies are encouraged to be very individualistic, the children often respond to the mirror with delight or shyness, whereas in non-Western cultures the children respond to their reflection by 'freezing'.  These cultures, which tend to co-sleep, carry their babies constantly, and not leave their children to whinge or cry raise their children to view themselves as an interdependent part of a group, rather than an individual, and they are not used to seeing an image of themselves, as this experience emphasises their individuality rather than commonality with the group.

This casts a whole different perspective on what you are teaching a child when you pick them up / put them down.  We tend to think of what we are teaching as revolving around their behaviour - so when we pick them up we are teaching them we respond to their whinging, or when we don't we are teaching them to entertain themselves etc.  But it seems that what we are also teaching them is a 'sense of separateness', and that being an individual is more important than being part of a group.  This, presumably, has flow-on effects leading to more individual-oriented behaviour rather than group-oriented behaviour as they get older.  This would lead to the ironic outcome that early behaviour management may actually teach the thinking which leads to the very kind of behaviours it is supposed to prevent - particularly when it conditions a child to respond to punishments and rewards and so ignore other people's feelings as irrelevant (except when these are backed up by punishments / rewards).  This is a big and complicated topic, and I'm not expressing a view, except to say that there is more than one view.  It is food for thought that Japanese babies / toddlers are kept close and rarely punished, and that they develop a much stronger sense of empathy, as shown by this study.

For these reasons, I'm not keen on just leaving Bethany to whinge on the floor until she gets over it.  But I was finding the almost constant need to be carried a giant pain in the butt.  I'm also not keen on standing over her cot for fifteen to forty minutes to pat her off to sleep.  The obvious alternative, it has seemed, is to put her in a sling so that I can have my hands free to do the washing / cooking / vacuuming / read a book etc.

It was a big learning curve to work out how to get her on my back without assistance, but once I had it mastered... oh, so liberating.  Even my husband has started strapping Bethany on his back, just because it is SO effective at reducing the amount of whinging.  And it is a much more convenient way to settle her than standing over her cot.

Because I live in Darwin, it has taken some time to track down the best slings for the hot weather.  The only sling that's really sold in Darwin is the Baby Bjorn, so I found these interstate or online.

I already had an Ergobaby carrier (the Sport version), which is available at lots of large baby stores or online.  This is a shaped and padded baby carrier and is reasonably pricy (well over $100).  I hadn't used it very much because a newborn requires the newborn insert, which is like a padded blanket and was too hot for Darwin.  Then once she got older, she didn't want to be strapped on my front.  It was only recently that I decided to brave trying to get her onto my back.  I consulted this video:

Then I practiced in front of the mirror until I could do it.  The tricky thing is shifting the baby from your side to your back without the contraption falling off your shoulders and getting tangled.

Bethany on my back in an Ergo

The next thing I tried was a wrap - a Bali Breeze by Wrapsody, which is a very thin light-weight woven wrap, almost like muslin, but stronger.  I was a bit hesitant about getting a wrap because I thought it would be too difficult, but once you've got the hang of it I reckon it's actually a bit easier than the Ergo and more versatile.  With the Ergo, you have to kind of thread your baby's legs through the straps, whereas wrapping round your baby is a bit easier.  You just have to master shifting them onto your back.  I found this video really helpful - and I can do it in my Size B (4.6m) Bali Breeze.

This wasn't too hard to do in a general way, but hard to do well.  Here are my very poor examples as a new baby wrapper (baby is way too low - you have to adjust and tighten as you wrap in order to keep them up high), which Bethany nevertheless liked and which I was very proud of at the time.  Hey, you have to start somewhere!

And here is the slightly different 'piggyback carry' shown in the Wrapsody instructions:

And here I put her in front cross carry a little like the basic Hug-a-bub style, and even managed a hands free breastfeed this way!

I ought to mention that the difference between a Bali Breeze and a Hug-A-Bub is that the Bali Breeze is a woven wrap and so is not stretchy.  You can't use a stretchy wrap for a back carry because there is a risk the baby can flip out.  The Bali Breeze is also wider and a lighter fabric.  A Hug-A-Bub is really only for a newborn and I found it a bit warm for Darwin, whereas I think when I have another baby I will be able to use the Bali Breeze from the outset.

I also have a Baby Rock Comfy Carry sling, which is basically a fancier padded ring sling with a mesh body that clips up and was designed for tropical Queensland.  You can carry a little baby sideways or an older baby sitting on your hip.

Bethany at about 6 weeks in the Baby Rock sling.

From about 3 months I could carry her like this.

It distributes the weight across your shoulders better than just having the baby on your hip, and you can at least in theory have both hands free, although I find my right hand always just wraps around the baby.  You can't put the baby behind you in one of these slings, but I still use it because it is so quick to get on and off.  It's great if I'm getting in and out of the car a lot or just making a short trip.  When she was little, I had to be careful that her little toes didn't get caught in the holes of the mesh, and usually used a muslin wrap around where her feet were.

I have also got two more wraps on order, and I'll post reviews on here when I get them.  The first is a Vatanai, which is still quite a light woven wrap but a bit thicker than the Bali Breeze, so I will be able to do a simple rucksack wrap like this one:

I figure it won't matter it's a bit thicker (and hence warmer) because it only has to go round her body once.  I have also ordered a Mei Tai style wrap made out of Solarveil from Keoni Slings.  Solarveil is a thin, breathable fabric that offers a fair bit of UV protection.  The company that made it no longer exists, or no longer makes the fabric, but some people have stocks they will make into slings for you.  A Mei Tai wrap is one where there is basically a large square which the baby sits in, then shoulder and waist straps that you tie - it is kind of half way between a wrap and an Ergo.

On the plus side, all this babywearing is finally doing what my (somewhat sporadic) dieting has been unable to achieve - I am finally getting out and going for walks and losing some weight.  I bought a large Bunnings umbrella so that I can walk with her regardless of whether it is brightly sunny or raining, since it is almost certainly one or the other in Darwin, and it was becoming an excuse not to walk at all.  But if I can, I go for an umbrella free walk at sunset, which is actually very pleasant.

The sunset at East Point is just lovely:

Monday, March 28, 2011

How much information is TMI?

Before I went on mat leave, a friend said to me, "Don't become one of those mothers who posts a status update every time your baby poos."

"Of course not," I said, and I have honoured this promise.  But the fact is I post a lot of status updates, and most of them are about the baby.

Recently, my baby was sick with a fever and throwing up, and sitting around looking spaced out with her eyes not quite open and not quite closed.  It turns out it was just a virus, and she's fine now.  But at the time time it was scary enough that we took her down to A&E at Royal Darwin Hospital, since that is the only place you can really take a baby here for an urgent check in the middle of the night.  The staff there were lovely, but the doctor was worried because she didn't seem to have gastro or a cold, and speculated that perhaps she was incubating something more serious - that in the past these kind of symptoms without a cause were associated with the start of diseases like chickenpox or measles.  He encouraged us to get her checked again if she still had the fever the next day.

When we finished up there I posted a status on facebook about what had happened and where things were at.  The next day she was still sick and we were back to A&E.  This time we decided to get a urine sample to test for a UTI, which had to be done via catheter, and after we left the hospital I posted a status about that.

Unfortunately, my mum read my status updates and was worried enough to not only try to call my sister and I, but called my mother in law to try and get hold of us.  My mother in law rang my husband, who was out fishing, who thought my mum was panicking and was upset that I was making people panic by posting status updates about Bethany's condition on facebook.  I didn't have any missed calls on my mobile, but later I saw my mum had posted on facebook that she was concerned, so I gave her a ring.  She says she wasn't panicking, but as my husband pointed out she had been worried to the point she decided to ring my in-laws rather than leave a message and give me a few hours to phone back.

Anyway, all this hoo hah to say I ended up in an argument with my husband about why I felt the need to post Bethany's medical information on facebook at all.

The answer is that I was looking for moral support, advice, and to share what was going on with friends and family, particularly other mums.  I live thousands of kilometres away from most of my family and some of my closest friends, and facebook is one of the way we keep a sense of what's happening in each other's lives.  I am also friends with a number of mums online, and sharing our experiences via facebook is one of the ways I have mitigated the isolation of being a new mum.

I tried to explain this, but my husband just cannot understand what possible benefit I would get from sharing the information.  He thinks it is attention-seeking behaviour.

Well, I suppose on one level it is.  I obviously didn't post the status update because I wanted to be ignored.  I was hoping people would post me well-wishes and reassurance, and they did, and it made me feel a lot better.  Is there anything so wrong with that?

He asked would I post a status update if I had a catheter, and the answer is I probably wouldn't.  I would feel this information was too private.  So why, then, should I post it about Bethany?  I suppose I did not think it mattered so much, because she was a baby.  I have to change her nappy, and deal with all her bodily fluids, and I don't think she considers these things to be violations of her personal space.  I don't think it would bother me to know my parents told people I had a catheter as a baby, as long as they didn't harp on about it at dinner parties or anything.  It's not like I'd remember it happening or associate it with any sort of humiliation.

But if it's ok for babies, what age do you stop posting that sort of stuff?  I suggested age 2 or 3, because that's when children start to feel embarrassment and shame etc, and when they also start to remember key things that happen to them.  Then again, it's not like your 2 or 3 year old will know what you're posting on facebook.  Perhaps it's a gradual winding back, so the information you post becomes progressively less sensitive and personal.

I'm afraid I have more questions than answers on this one, despite the fact that I am now working 2 days a week handling privacy complaints, and providing training and policy advice on issues of privacy, which covers these exact kind of topics, although to date I have not seen any discussion of the issue of parents posting about their children.

The ever-enthusiastic Victorian Privacy Commission's latest campaign.

A while ago there was a discussion on my mother's group about posting photos of nekkid bebbies, and views were mixed.  One mum pointed out that it doesn't worry her, since her kids run around without clothes on at the beach and it is a kid thing.  I suppose the difference is that unlike that day at the beach, which fades into the mists of time, photos and other information you post online can stick around forever.  I don't really want Bethany to have people digging up those photos when she is going through her teenage years, or applying for a job interview, or if she decides to run for parliament or anything like that.  Then again, would she really care?  I can't say I'd be overly worried if someone published a photo of me in the bath from when I was two, because I was two and what does it matter?  Still, I'm not sure so (with the exception of one newborn bath photo where you can see her bum) Bethany always has at least a nappy on in anything I post online.

My husband feels I just don't get it.  In one sense he's right - I don't understand why sharing my life on facebook bothers him so much.  But in a broader sense, I do get it - I understand that it does bother him, and that it is like any behaviour that is taboo in one subculture but not taboo in another.  I surround myself by people who post about their lives online.  He doesn't.  Most of his closest friends and family think posting personal information online is weird.  Most of mine think it's normal.  Most of my friends and family think it's a bit odd that he likes to go out and shoot pigs, but most of his friends and family think it's normal.  He doesn't need to shoot pigs any more than I need to post personal information online, we just like to do these things.  And why not, given that from our perspective it's not only normal but part of socialising with our friends?  I guess it just becomes difficult when circles of friends with conflicting values overlap.

I rang my mum to talk about what had happened, because I had got a garbled message that she was upset by me posting things about Bethany on facebook.  She said: "No, that's not what I said.  I want you to post these status updates.  That's how I know what is happening you with you and my granddaughter.  It's how I feel a part of your lives.  Please don't stop posting on facebook!"

So, I don't have any answers, but I'm interested to see if anyone else does.  Do you have any rules or limitations when it comes to posting information about your baby online?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If not the Wiggles and Mozart, then what?

In my last post, I mused on the fact I was not a fan of kids music and avoid playing it to my baby.  Some people have suggested that my resolve on this may give out eventually when the Wiggles become preferable to whining.  Which brings me to an interesting question, that I throw out there to the readers of this blog: What music or videos do you play to your kids?  Do you find there are any that both you and they can enjoy?

I have heard babies can find simple, repetitive music soothing - although that doesn't mean it has to be nursery rhymes.  Bob Marley, it turns out, has an awesome power to soothe babies:

And here is a three year old who finds Beethoven's Fourth Symphony the best fun ever, and it's not at all simple or repetitive:

If you want your baby to listen to classical music, you can download the great works legally and for free from a site like mfiles (just right-click to download the file if you don't want to stream them).  The movie Fantasia is great - apart from the bit with the dancing cherubs - and if you're not too fussed on perfect resolution you can see most of it on Youtube - eg:

What kid would not love this one, which answers the age-old question: What happens when you give a flamingo a yo-yo?

The opening - Toccata & Fugue in D minor

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (the one about the broomsticks)

Rhapsody in Blue set in depression-era New York

Youtube is just full of great stuff.  It's full of crap too, but if you sift through the crap the great stuff is there.  You just can't go past clips like this one, where a bloke called Jake Shimabukuro does an insane cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles on a Ukelele:

And now because this is my blog and I can, I'm going to ramble on with some personal reflections about learning music as a kid, because it may be useful to anyone who's thinking of getting their kid music lessons.  I think there were some things my parents did which were great and some that were not so helpful.

I grew up in a very middle-class household where my parents were very keen on the benefits of classical music, but neither had really studied music or knew much about it.  I remember we only had a few records, and they were pretty eclectic: Swan Lake, an early Beatles album, a Simon & Garfunkel album, and Hair: The Original Broadway Musical (yes, that's the show where they get their kits off, and there's a very cheerful song entitled 'Sodomy', though I had no idea what it meant until many years later).  I loved to listen to any of them.  

We went to music kinder, and I think the activities we did there were great.  We learned music is something you can make yourself (with simple instruments like clapping sticks, triangles, toy drums etc), and learned to follow the beat or rhythm.  I think I was about 2 or 3.  There were games where you put toys in different positions depending on whether the notes you heard were long or short, or high or low.  It just taught really basic musical concepts in a fun way.  I think this is something I'd like to do with my kids.

When I was almost three my mum started taking me to piano lessons using the Suzuki Method.  Once we started that, I had to listen to those damn Suzuki piano tapes (much of which is Mozart or something equally insipid, but some of which is great) all the time.  I studied piano for almost 10 years and at the end could only play to about a Gr 3 AMEB level, and could barely sight read at all.  And I didn't enjoy it.

The thing with piano was that when I was little I enjoyed playing too much to practice.  I enjoyed feeling the music, and the tactile experience of running my hands over the keys, but I hated just how long and boring it seemed to be to learn each new piece.  The Suzuki Method is great in theory, and it does provide a way to start kids young, but it is so rigid that for me, it sucked out most of what was enjoyable about playing piano.  And because everyone plays the same songs in the same order, the experience is constantly comparing how far you are through the 'curriculum' against the other children.

It didn't help that my best friend from kinder started learning piano at about the same time I did, but unlike me she excelled and at the end of 10 years she was being flown to places to play piano concertos with professional orchestras.  I couldn't help but compare myself.  And my mother, annoyed at my lack of interest in practicing methodically and repetitively as instructed by my teacher, started saying, "Melissa doesn't just play the piece as fast as she can, she practices properly." This then extended to the occasional, "Melissa makes her bed, why can't you?" and "Melissa never fights with her sister."

We used to go to the Suzuki music camp once a year and I remember one teacher giving a performance where she narrated the internal monologue of what 'you shouldn't be thinking' when you're playing music.  It was a comedy piece and the monologue was neurotic, constantly worrying about which note to hit next and how loud it was etc.  But at the time, I thought: "Wow, if that's bad I don't dare tell people what I think when I hear that music, cause I don't even think about the notes at all."  When I played or listened to music, I saw mysterious landscapes, and epic storylines.  And because I was young and everyone had spent so much time saying I had to concentrate on the notes, I actually thought the way I thought about music was a bad thing - that I was stupid and undisciplined.

The sad thing, in hindsight, is that I was good at music.  I just wasn't very good at playing precisely, and the Suzuki method, which focuses on Mozart and Clementini, is really just about playing precisely.  It is not about... say.. playing to express yourself.  Don't get me wrong, in the long run I know good technique is crucial to expressing yourself.  But that would be something I would be interested in when I was older, not at age 7, let alone 5 or 3.

I desperately wanted to give up piano, but my mother insisted on me continuing.  I don't know whether she felt it would build character, or that she 'ought to' teach me persistence, but I have to say that it didn't teach me much except that I hated practice, I resented her forcing me, and I felt like a failure.  In hindsight, while I agree that persistence is an admirable quality, I don't think you can teach it by forcing someone to do something they don't want to do.  The essence of persistence is self-motivation, which you are hardly learning by having someone else coddle or threaten you every step of the way.

Anyway, I hated practice more and more.  I would still jump on the piano for fun and try to make pieces up, or figure out how to play a tune I had heard somewhere, but I didn't have the skills to do this very well.  We did change teachers, and while the new teacher was a jazz pianist (which was probably a better fit for me), he immediately focused on my technical deficiencies and prescribed me endless scales to do.  I think I was probably over piano by that stage, anyway, so I was still pretty half-hearted about the whole thing.

Then, at the end of primary school, an opportunity came up.  The school needed more cellists for the orchestra so it was offering free cello lessons.

What was initially just a novelty turned into a hobby that I became very dedicated to.  Perhaps because I was older and had some idea of what learning an instrument was about.  Perhaps because we were taught sight-reading from the start and I am a very visual learner.  Perhaps because cello is a social instrument where you get to play in orchestras and be part of something bigger than yourself, not sit alone in a room alone.  Perhaps because no one had forced me to do it, and I didn't feel as though I was a failure.  Within one year I was further along with cello than I had come in ten years of piano.  I started to think, "Hey, perhaps I am good at music after all."

This was when my parents were fantastic.  They were keen and financially able to support this new interest, which did not continue to be free.  Cellos are not cheap, and neither are cello lessons, or station wagons so the boot is big enough to transport them.  They drove me to orchestra practice and listened to endless concerts, and when I advanced past what the available teachers in Geelong could teach me, drove me the three hour return journey to cello lessons in Melbourne so I could keep progressing.

Gradually I realised that feeling the music rather than worrying about every note was not a guilty vice, but the very quality you need to enjoy performing and perform passionately.  It was the quality that eventually led me to actually enjoy practising scales and studies on the cello for hours, just because I got lost in them and wanted to hear and appreciate every sound.

The great thing about learning cello was that I discovered so many great classical masterpieces for the first time while playing them.  I had never heard Dvorak's New World Symphony when we started learning it for a music camp, and so heard it first in bits and pieces, as the various instruments stumbled through their parts, and didn't hear it complete until we performed it at the end of music camp.  That was an amazing experience - hearing the music gradually come together from the inside out.

This is the beautiful 2nd movement (as played by the Dublin Philharmonic):

I was lucky also to get a cello teacher whose starting point was not to lament my technique, but to give me a documentary on the life of Jacqueline Du Pre and tell me to watch it.  (Jacqueline Du Pre was one of the great cellists of the 20th century, performing with the London Symphony Orchestra by aged 20, but she contracted multiple sclerosis and died aged 42.  That documentary omitted some of the weirder aspects of her life, such as the affair with her sister's husband, as recorded by her sister and documented in the movie Hilary and Jackie).  At the end of the documentary, she plays the Elgar Cello Concerto, which seemed to embody all the triumph, tragedy, and passion of her life.  My teacher said: "One day, we will be able to play the Elgar Cello Concerto," as though there was no doubt in her mind, and there was nothing that could have inspired me more.  And like that, I was interested in doing all the scales and repetitive boring practice, because I could see the point, and because I was old enough to hear something interesting in something as simple as a scale.

It is one of my regrets that I never got to play it before I gave up cello in order to focus on my uni studies.  However, before that point I had years of playing wonderful pieces, and the opportunity to play in orchestras and at concerts.  I took music until the end of Year 12, and at that stage was far enough along I could have pursued it professionally - not as a soloist, probably, but in a professional ensemble.

I am glad I had the chance to experience and appreciate classical music, but I don't know I'd necessarily direct my kids that way unless they were keen.  The way classical music is taught, it is about performing not creating, and that ultimately is quite limiting.  The best thing I ultimately found about playing cello was that it could be meditative.  But it's not very versatile.  I think it's a shame that I studied music for so many years but can't bang out a tune anyone could sing along to.

Anyway, all this to say if you want your kid to get into music, the best thing you can do is encourage them to enjoy it (whatever they're into, be it classical music or death metal), show them role models who excel to inspire them, and give them opportunities to learn.  Don't worry about how good they are - and don't make it about how good they are with praise or comparisons.  If you really love music, that's not what it's about.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Rebecca Black and Kids Music

You have probably seen the banal viral video being circulated where a young teen named Rebecca Black fills us in on her thoughts about Friday, including that it comes after Thursday but before Saturday.  If you haven't, you can find it here:

While the video clip has been professionally produced, the lyrics and tune of 'Friday' sound exactly as though they had been written by a twelve year old.  One of the things that makes the song so funny is just how literal it is, as exemplified by the bridge:

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today it is Friday, Friday
We we we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards

If my thirteen year old daughter sang this to me in the loungeroom as something she'd come up with, I'd think it was a pretty age-appropriate effort.  Not terribly imaginative, but not ludicrously bad.

So I was pretty horrified to learn that Black did not write the song.  It was written by a bunch of so-called professionals at a company called Ark Music Factory.  Black was merely the singer cast in the video (see this story on wikipedia).  Black did pick the song from those offered to her, but chose it because she said she understood it, as opposed to the others that were about 'adult love'.

It is interesting, I think, that had Black had sung some equally stupid but much more familiar lyrics about making up and breaking up, the shock factor would have been less, despite the fact she is thirteen.  We are so used to hearing such mind-numbingly similar and uninsightful songs about love that we probably wouldn't have even noticed the lyrics.  

Aside: I love this video by Axis of Awesome on how to write a generic love song:

We are so used to teens dressing for and singing about sex - not explicitly, but still very blatantly.  Well, as much as I dislike having Rebecca Black's song stuck in my head, I'd definitely rather that my pre-teen be singing about days of the week and following a role model that looks like this:

where the worst thing you can say is 'hey, those kids aren't wearing seatbelts',  than the other teen singers who they are exposed to (eg. Miley Cyrus):

I think 'Friday' highlights that at the moment, children go from listening to Hi-5 and the Wiggles, to Britney and Miley Cyrus.  There are no Rebecca Blacks singing about important primary school questions like where to sit on the schoolbus, or longing to escape from school on the weekendso you can have fun with your friends.  (Or fun, fun, fun, fun, as the case may be.)  Kids have to go straight from Dorothy the Dinosaur to jumping on a plane to get slutty in LA.

Personally, I'm not a huge believer in playing kids 'kids music' - such as the Wiggles - since I think there is just too much merchandising and the songs are a bit repetitive, and I really do not want them playing on repeat on my car stereo.  I don't look down on people who do this, particularly if it gives them their hands free for a few moments to cook dinner or whatever.  But I personally don't want to have to put up with listening to it if it can be avoided.

I also try to steer clear of Mozart for much the same reasons.  There is no passion in Mozart, just perfectly restrained phrasing.  I am certainly am not going to pay $20 or $30 for Baby Mozart, which is some crappy recording of Mozart on a synthesiser.  Just on that point, the 'Mozart effect' is a bit of a myth.  It was a 10 minute effect found on the ability of college students to perform spatial tasks, not some way of developing your baby's brain.  If I'm going to stick classical music on, I'll stick on something I'd enjoy listening to like Rachmaninov, or Jacqueline Du Pre performing Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor.   

We put on any kind of music in the background that we enjoy listening to, and sometimes sing her nursery rhymes, or Dad gets out the guitar and some tabs - playing anything from Cat Stevens to System of a Down.  I give her maracas to play with and try to hold her and dance to the beat.  Will this create any musical appreciation?  I don't know.

But just personally, I'm hoping my baby will avoid the Wiggles, Rebecca Black, Miley Cyrus, and Mozart, and decide that what she really wants to groove to is Eskimo Joe and the Smashing Pumpkins.  If not, well, that's what headphones are for.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Brief Adventure With CC Stops

We're stopping the crying today.  If it makes me feel this sick to listen to her, I hate to think what it's like for her.  I reviewed the situation this morning after a restless night where I had to try and watch the clock to decide when she was hungry and when she just needed to resettle herself, getting her in and out of the cot, lying there listening to her cry when she was resettling.

I have had a good long think about it, read and reflected on lots of different advice, looked at the effect it's having, and reminded myself what my objectives are.  I suppose a good proportion of people who resort to crying do it because they aim to get their baby to sleep through the night without bothering them, so they can sleep through the night themselves.  That's not my objective.  The night wakings don't bother me.

My objectives were:

  • break the cycle of over-tiredness where she was so wired she refused to sleep;
  • break a suck-to-sleep association so strong that she persisted with it even when she couldn't stomach any more milk, and that meant no one could get her to go to sleep in her cot or arms with rocking / patting.
We have done that.  We have had four days of 13-15 hours sleep (a lot for her), which I hope has caught her up on sleep and reset her system.  I can now settle her again with patting / gentle stroking in the cot - she resists a bit but she doesn't scream and arch her back any more, and it's taking 10-20 minutes (instead of forever with no result).  Her Granny should be able to get her to sleep while I am at work.

I think if I wanted true self-settling, I would have to be consistent and go the whole hog and leave her to self-settle overnight.  It would be at least one horrible night, I'd say, perhaps more, as she'd be starving.  Then there'd be more horrible days while we tried to get her on a bottle so that she'd cope with no feeds overnight and only one feed during the time I'm at work.  I wouldn't mind going to an occasional bottle so Dad could give her a feed etc if I was still able to breastfeed at other times, but I think the combined day/night withdrawal of breastfeeding is likely to practically wean her.  I'd be pretty sad about that.  8 months seems so young, and I can see how much it comforts her.  She doesn't have another comfort item like a pacifier to use instead - maybe she'd develop one if forced to, but not all babies do - she might just end up distraught and I would have lost a powerful way to help her.  I don't think I want to go down that path unless I actually feel I have to.

I want to go back to where we were before this all went haywire, which was gently, gently over time winding back the amount of assistance from me that she needed to get to sleep.  This is easier to do when she's in the cot, so we'll keep the cot for day sleeps and the first sleep of the night.  I'm introducing an mp3 player in her room to start getting her to associate sleep with particular music.  I'm preceding the patting and stroking with the bedtime ritual I used with the crying, which is to give her a big cuddle, then put her down, narrate give her a teething toy and a bunny blankie, and cover her with a light muslin wrap, and say "night, night, time to go to sleep now".

So that we don't end up in this situation again, I will try to avoid feeding her to sleep more than I have to.  I think as long as she still gets lots of practice settling without feeding, it should be fine.  I will try to aim the naps round 9-10ish, and 1-2ish, with a further nap round 4-5ish if the first two naps were both short, with bedtime round 7-8ish to see if some consistency there helps with the sleeping as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weissbluth vs Gethin & Macgregor

I have been doing a little balanced reading.  On the one hand, I have a copy of infamous cry-it-out sleep training advocate Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  On the other I have Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor's Helping Your Baby to Sleep: Why gentle techniques work best.  To some extent these books provide practical suggestions on how to get your baby to sleep, but much more of them is devoted to arguing why crying is either going to save your child from being an obese, delinquent idiot who you hate (Weissbluth), or cause your child to be a traumatised, anxious idiot who hates you (Gethin).  Ok, they don't say that in quite so many words, but that's the distinct impression you get.

Still, reading the two of them together wasn't too bad.  One was kind of the antidote to the other and vice-versa.

Here are some quick book reviews:

Let's start with Weissbluth

The good: 

If you are planning to do a crying method, then this is probably going to be the most comprehensive read into what works and why.  Rather than give you a rigid schedule that you follow by staring at the clock every two seconds, this book explains the biology of sleep and how it evolves over time, so that you can work out a schedule that is appropriately tailored to your baby.

Most of what he says on the biology of sleep is consistent with the research I've read, which is not surprising given that compared to most sleep parenting books, Weissbluth does at least support much of what he says with referenced studies.  The book advocates a range of non-crying methods that he suggests will probably work with about 80% of babies, although there is not enough detail on this and the focus of the book is how to use crying methods for the other 20%.

A little unusually for a CIO proponent, the book advocates breastfeeding (including feeding the baby to sleep) and even co-sleeping (the latter on a 'if it works for you' basis), and talks about how night feeding when co-sleeping does not really fragment sleep for you or your baby because neither wake up properly.  This makes a refreshing change from the 'co-sleeping is a crazy hippy idea' that many mainstream sleep training books seem to have, and shows that he has actually looked at the studies on co-sleeping and how it works.  There's also lots of good advice on how fathers need to take responsibility for parenting babies by being hands on and supporting mum.

The bad: 

The worst part of this book is the constant warnings, boxed and in bold, that infants who 'sleep poorly' (by Weissbluth's standards) are going to sleep poorly when they get older.  In support of this, he cites ONE study that apparently asked the mothers of college students how well their kids slept as infants.  The mothers remembered that the kids were problem sleepers.  There are so many variables this doesn't control for it's ridiculous.  I mean, what was a 'sleep problem'?  According to who?  And even if it were true, it doesn't show that 'sleep training' would have corrected the problem.  For all we know, those mothers did sleep train their kids because they were so difficult, leaving them to scream for hours, and the kids sleep poorly now because they have poor attachment.  Who knows?  This is a very poor basis for trying to scare the bejesus out of vulnerable parents so they will obediently leave their babies to cry.

There a now more comprehensive studies that show that an enormous number of factors influence the sleep of an older child, and how they slept as a baby rarely has anything to do with it.  Anyone who cares to look at the hundreds of posts by parents on internet forums also can see that plenty of poor sleepers turn into good sleepers before 3 years, regardless of what the parents do in terms of 'sleep training'.

The second-worst part of the book is his complete dismissal of attachment theory.  Attachment theory is actually very well established and there are literally thousands of studies that show it does indeed predict behaviour of children as they grow older in many important ways.

He says there is no evidence to suggest that crying it out disrupts attachment, and in fact in the studies that have been done there was improvement in relationships between mum and bub.  Well, I've done my own research on this and you can see (research is under the Factual Info tab) these studies on crying methods gathered very limited data over a short time frame, the alleged improvements occurred mainly in depressed mothers with severe sleep deprivation who must have been at the end of their tether after they were provided with regular supportive meetings as part of implementing the sleep training, and when longitudinal follow-ups were done the improvements to the relationship were only temporary.  So yeah, be skeptical folks.  Weissbluth cites a study done on the babies of schizophrenic mothers who were hospitalised for their disorders, where the babies were observed as they were sleep trained, although this study was small and did not use controls, and I have to say I'd be cautious from generalising about baby behaviour from a study of babies of mothers with schizophrenia so severe they had to be hospitalised and have their babies removed from their care.  There are also studies which show that interventions that focus on developing a more responsive and sensitive response by mum to the baby massively reduce mum's perception of problematic behaviours.

He is critical of Sears for ignoring that children may have real biological sleep needs that are very important, and that parents may not cope with attachment parenting methods if the child is not cooperative.  This is a fair criticism, I think.  But then it is apparent that Weissbluth is just as judgmental about parents who prioritise attachment-style parenting, and uninformed about the literature on attachment.  For example, he labels any upset behaviour (including boredom, whinging, or displaying displeasure) as a sign of tiredness, which he calls being a 'brat'.  Apparently, in Weissbluth's opinion, babies do not have frustrations, boredom, or reason to be upset unless they are tired.  If they try to legitimately express their feelings, he labels them pejoratively - and although he doesn't blame the children, he blames the parents for 'indulging' their own feelings and 'allowing' a 'bratty child'.  Instead, these children should be promptly put to bed and if they scream, ignored.  Expecting constant pleasant, happy, and 'charming' behaviour (used by Weissbluth to describe a well-slept child at one point) is such an unhealthy, unrealistic attitude for parents to have.  In real life this will have parents constantly doubting themselves, overreacting to normal childhood emotions, and leading parents to set standards that are impossible for the children to live up to (or that the children can live up to only by suppressing/ignoring their own sense of self).

It is a travesty, I think, that Weissbluth has dug up one child psychiatrist to write a postscript to parents about how leaving a child to cry is healthy limit-setting.  Firstly, psychiatrists are not psychologists or psychoanalysts and are not experts in attachment.  They take a medicalised approach and are experts in prescribing drugs.  Karen Pierce M.D. writes in the postscript, "Being a child psychiatrist had taught me about nurturing and reducing frustration, but not about parenting.  Thus, believing the standard theories learned during my training, I feared I would 'damage' my child.  I was unable to let him cry initially."  She goes on to say she let him cry and they all got over it and everything was fine.  This is all she has to say about attachment, and apparently all she knows.

As to the healthy limit-setting, the stories here keep relating to two year olds and older.  You wouldn't give in if your two year old wanted a second helping of ice-cream, they write, so how is it different letting your baby know you won't give in to comforting him when he helps sleep?  This seems a very strange argument to me - there is a huge difference between the maturity of a baby's brain and the brain of a two year old, in both its physiological response to stress and in the child's capacity to interpret events rationally.  Weissbluth / Pierce also say that as your child gets older they will experience pain and frustration and get over it, so what's wrong with a bit of pain and frustration as a baby?  Again, I don't really follow this argument.  So my five year old might scream when she falls off her bike on the bitumen and skins her knee.  It does not follow that it is of any benefit to put my baby on a bike and let her fall off onto the bitumen so that she can learn about pain and frustration.  I think my baby is thoroughly frustrated many times a day by all the things she cannot do.  She is in pain every time she falls and hits her head, or gets a cold, or a mozzie bite, or an immunisation or... the list goes on.  I don't think I deliberately need to add to the list to 'teach her' about frustration or pain.

The verdict: 

I would not give this book to a parent unless and until sleep problems actually manifest.  While there is some gentle, reassuring advice in there for the first three months, the book is overall filled with so much scare-mongering that you would interpret even the smallest expression of discomfort from your baby when awake as a 'problem' and 'treat it' by leaving them to scream elsewhere.  However for those parents who are not coping with how the baby is sleeping, and who are turning to a crying method, this is an informative read that offers a lot of flexibility in how to do a crying method effectively.  And after all, if you're going to do it, you don't want anyone to be miserable for longer than they have to be.

Gethin & Macgregor

The good:

This book sets out in plain English the brain science and attachment psychology that suggests there are risks to crying options.  It is much plainer, for example, that my posts on this blog on the topic.  It has cartoons and anecdotes and 'key points' to make it easy for sleep-deprived parents to read.  Sleep training does not always even 'work', and the book makes parents aware of this beforehand.

The bad:

In the same way that Weissbluth knows nothing about attachment but presumes to judge, Gethin and Macgregor have either never dealt with or ignore the situation of parents who cannot cope with the night-waking or whose babies don't respond to gentle methods.  They refer frequently to the No Sleep Solution (which I think is a great book) but they imply that these methods will always work, or that parents always manage them.  They very much gloss over the fact that different babies have different degrees of demandingness, or just how difficult a truly bad sleeper can be for a parent to deal with.  The suggestions are useful but they won't work for some people, and this book will leave you feeling like you are a horrible, abusive parent if you cannot handle being supermum to a difficult baby.

Most concerningly, they fail to appreciate the potential risks to attachment by a mum who is so tired that she gets PND, cranky with her baby etc.  Attachment does not just occur at sleep time.  If you are withdrawn, unresponsive, or angry at your baby because you are not coping with sleep deprivation or prolonged settling through the day and night, how well equipped are you to be responsive to your baby's needs?  At the end of the day, it's responsiveness overall, not just at daytime or nighttime that is the issue here.  Some mums and bubs end up more distressed by sleep training, but some do not.  For some families it is a genuine quick solution to a real problem.  This is not acknowledged.

The verdict:

I would suggest this book to a parent whose baby sleeps reasonably well (say, one-two night wakings and less than an hour of settling) who is considering sleep training, not because they need it, but because they've told they ought to do it (or they'll create a rod for their own back etc), or because someone's given them what may be unrealistic expectations (all babies sleep through the night by six, seven, eight months etc if you train them - all it takes is a couple of days of crying).  It might also be a good book for parents who find sleep training is not working for them, although something like Pinky McKay or Elizabeth Pantley would be more practical.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hmm... So This Is What's Happened Next

In my last post, after being exhausted, at the end of my tether, out of solutions to lull my baby to sleep, and bitten on the boob twice, I let my baby cry it out.  Well, it was controlled crying, really.  I went back in and tried to comfort her without getting her up out of the cot a couple of times.

Thank you to all the wonderful mums who have offered me their suggestions and support.  It has been lovely to have so many people care.

Here is what I know about me and my baby.  I cannot stress enough that I am not talking about your baby or your beliefs, which I am not trying to judge:

  • I believe different babies have different sleep needs - meaning they need different total amounts of sleep, and also that they have different levels of rhythmicity (meaning some love a very predictable routine while others have a more dynamic pattern).  There is nothing wrong with a baby sleeping 12 hours a day if that's what suits them, or sleeping less one day then catching up with more sleep the next, regardless of what 'experts' like Tizzie Hall say.  However, below 11 hours is not just abnormal, it's likely to be unhealthy.  I believe this based on reading large longitudinal studies of what is 'normal' sleep, and studies on when sleep deprivation actually does have an impact on brain development.  There are probably some babies who can live on less than 11 hours, and if mine seemed happy and alert I probably still wouldn't worry - but she's not.  
  • My baby has been sleeping badly for over 3 weeks now, in that she has been sleeping very little and seems sleepy when she wakes - often yawning and rubbing her eyes.  I think sleep deteriorated because of the cyclone, a cold, and teething (and possibly crawling too, though we were really past that).   However, these things have passed.  I think what has happened now is that her internal sleep regulation system thinks that she needs less sleep than she really does.
  • To further complicate matters, through these difficult weeks I have fed her to sleep almost every time.  I don't regret it.  She was unnerved / in pain etc and she needed soothing.  But now she nearly always requires boob to settle, and even that isn't always cutting it.  She's overfull and distressed till she throws up.
  • I believe my baby needs about 12-13 hours sleep a day, and that she doesn't stick to a rigid routine but is happy to go with a little less sleep one day and make it up the next.  I believe this because prior to all this disruption, she was quite happy sleeping in that way.  She settled super quick (like, less than 5 min, when she was tired with rocking / patting / feeding etc. without distress), and any attempts to make her bedtimes earlier just had her awake earlier too.  I think she needs about 10 hours at night and about 2 hours during the day.
  • I have tried every gentle method.  Rocking, walking, patting, shushing, putting her in a stroller, in the car, feeding her to sleep.  Many of these used to work.  Some never worked.  And some still work some of the time, but now there are often times when nothing works.  When they don't work, she just seems to not sleep and get overtired.
  • She hates slings for anything longer than a short period of time.  I have an ergo, a comfy carry, and a hugabub - for a short while I think they help if she wants to be near me, then she gets uncomfortable and squirms and cries till I let her out.
  • I don't think screaming herself to sleep in a stroller or carseat is any more gentle than screaming herself to sleep in a cot.  Sometimes she goes to sleep happily with movement, but this is often not the case.
  • I honestly don't think my baby would be cued by a long and complicated routine, but she has started to recognise familiar rituals.  For example, we live in an apartment and every time I get in the lift I narrate the doors opening and closing, pressing the buttons, moving down (or up) the floors, and getting out at the bottom.  She doesn't cotton on what's happening till we actually get in the lift, but as soon as I start the narration she can't stop grinning.  She grins like this too when I show her pictures of her dad and I, but not for other pictures.  So, she does like small, familiar rituals.
  • I believe attachment is important, and that letting a baby cry is counter to attachment principles.  Regardless of whether it 'works', there are risks attached.  I think the risk varies from baby to baby, and depending on the parenting style and home environment overall.
  • I don't think many babies really have sleep problems that cause a problem for them as opposed to a problem for the parents.  The percentage of babies who have persistent sleep problems is actually very small <10%.  The idea that you have to train your baby to sleep or they will grow up to be an insomniac is rubbish, and most babies happily grow out of sleep inconveniences by the time they are 3 years old.  However, different babies cause different levels of havoc, and different parents are up for tolerating different levels of stress.  Most of us don't live in communes where you can share the sleep deprivation and baby care around.  I know I don't.
  • I think my going back to work is disrupting her.  But I am also not prepared to resign my job so that I can be with her to help her sleep.  Firstly, I'm not even 100% sure that would help.  And secondly, I have managed to get an arrangement where I'm only working 2 days a week and she is looked after by her Granny (who is very loving to her).  This arrangement may take some getting used to, but it is a very healthy arrangement.  I am even still coming home at lunch to feed her.
  • I am happy to do multiple night wakings, co-sleep, spend time soothing and settling baby, and fight with other people (including my husband) who try and tell me to be 'tougher'.
  • But I am not happy to let my baby struggle on for weeks when she is obviously so tired she is unhappy, when I can't help her with gentler methods, when she's biting me on the boob if I comfort feed, and in pain and throwing up. 
  • I don't believe in the distressed cry / just protesting cry theory - at least not from the baby's perspective, although it does help parents feel a bit better about cc.  I'm sorry if this is what you believe but I honestly don't think there's a shred of evidence to support it.  According to this theory the baby is only really distressed when they make that screaming cry they do when they're in acute physical pain (you've heard it when they get their injections), but other times they're just chucking a tanty.  I don't believe it.  Sure they get upset over seemingly inconsequential things, but to them, the feelings are still devastating and they don't have the higher brain power to rationalise those things or put them in perspective.  I think they're genuinely distressed whatever kind of cry they're doing, although if they're doing the screaming acute pain cry I would be worried about their safety if you left them to it.
  • Being left alone to cry can work for a couple of reasons.  It can break a sleep association and the babies learn self-soothing habits.  It can activate the right frontal brain which puts babies into 'withdrawal' mode.  And it can teach babies that crying is futile because no one's here to help them.  These reasons aren't mutually exclusive.  The first is all good, but the second two are worrying.  (I believe this from doing a lot of research, which you can find in the Factual Info tab).
  • I think we have a genuine classic sleep association problem.  Bethany needs the boob to get to sleep, but she can't always have it because she's already full and more milk is just making her sick, or because I'm not available because I'm at work.
  • Bethany is an active, very stubbornly determined baby.  She's almost never in withdrawal mode.  She's so desperate to be doing things she protests at being strapped into a car seat or stroller.  She doesn't just want to cuddle.  She persists in trying to stand up a thousand times, even when she's tired or it is evident she's in pain.  I am not worried that she is already 'withdrawn' and therefore at risk of developing anxiety / depression from cc.  In fact, I was worried of the opposite - that she would desperately persist in crying for hours - which I would not have allowed, because I would have considered it too traumatic for everyone.
  • I believe cc is potentially damaging to attachment, because you abandon the baby to a traumatic experience - but if it's only done for a short period, and careful care is taken to be responsive to the baby at all other times, you can overcome any damage caused.  I want my baby to learn that I'm here for her when she's sad, angry, frustrated etc., not just when she's "being good", and that until she's older and can genuinely learn to deal with emotions in healthy ways, I want her to express them so that I know where she's coming from and we can learn to deal with them together.  Bottom line, I want a child who will not be abused by someone in authority because she's desperate to please, who can talk with me about it if she's in trouble without worrying about upsetting me, and who will be respectful of her own needs as well as empathising with others as a teenager and adult.  
  • I do not think doing cc with a baby this young has anything to do with teaching the baby how to respect others limits.  They are barely developing a sense of self, let alone an awareness of who you are or that you have needs.  All they know is that they are unhappy and afraid.  But parents who aren't coping need to set limits that will allow them to cope - and indeed to function optimally for all their parenting experience - since attachment is a 24 hour concept, it does not just apply at sleep time.  That said, my comfort is not really the issue in this particular case.
Having thought all this through, I have decided that we are going to use crying in an effort to teach Bethany to self-settle for sleeps.  I would love to be rocking or cuddling her to sleep but it's just not working for anyone, including her.

This is the bad stuff: She cries for me desperately.  She stands at the edge of the cot and howls (we have a video monitor).  She sounds sad, angry, desperate.  She buries her face into the mattress and sobs.  It's frickin horrible.

This is the good stuff: She has started sleeping properly for day naps, and when she woke up she was smiling a lot more and no longer rubbing at her eyes and yawning.  She also stopped needing resettles between feeds at night.

This is the worrying stuff: It was astonishing how much more placid she was.  Some people might read this as 'good behaviour' or happiness, but I didn't, because she's too young to understand that sort of concept or have much (any?) self-control, and it wasn't about being happier but being passive - so I read it as going into 'withdrawal mode'.  When I offered her my hands she didn't want to pull herself to stand.  She sat listlessly in her stroller and just stared, the way you or I might stare at a TV.

BUT: I gave her lots of cuddles and encouragement, carried her round, encouraged her to explore and interact, and responded to her promptly when she cried out, and she soon became more energised and active.

An anticipated but unwelcome side effect: She become scared of her cot.  I made a point of taking her in there to play a lot with me until she was happy in there again.  I also practiced our bed-time ritual with a teddy, so she could become familiar with the words in a non-threatening setting.

It's gone like this (I think - I haven't written down the times but I have been watching a clock): 25 min crying morning nap, 20 min crying when she woke after 30 min and I left her there to re-settle, 15 min crying afternoon nap, 25 min crying evening sleep, fed and co-slept through the night (4 feeds - co-sleeping feeds are all kind of like dream feeds), 12 min crying morning nap, accidentally fed to sleep at lunch, slept in stroller evening nap, 12 min crying night sleep, fed and co-slept through the night (3 feeds), 10 min crying morning nap.  I think there was an extra feed the first night because I hadn't fed her to sleep and she was hungry, whereas the second night she did a big feed, but just got put down awake.

So overall, I feel that doing this is unpleasant but that she's coping well and I'm able to address the side effects.

So far...

Friday, March 4, 2011

This sucks

So this is a personal post.

I just let my baby scream until she fell asleep.  I'm not proud.  I'm not converted.  I'm desperate.

For the past couple of weeks her sleep has been more and more disrupted.  I thought it was a cold, teething, the disruption of the cyclone, but that's all passed and it just keeps getting worse.  I know babies have different sleep needs, but we're down to 9-11 hours in a 24 hour block.  This is not ok.  This is not just a 'sleep problem' from my perspective.  This is not healthy for the baby.

Through this teething etc I have been feeding her to sleep often, which I don't mind doing.  But now she no longer settles with rocking or patting.  I've tried for well over an hour and all she does is cry until I give her boob or distract her with some activity.

The problem is that now she feeds till she looks sleepy, comes off and cries, gets up and crawls around, throws up, rubs her eyes and then cries because she's tired.  It's the constant throwing up that bothers me.  She's never had reflux, and she doesn't seem sick now.  There's no food she's been eating consistently enough to account for her doing this for 3 weeks.  She only chucks after she's fed and fed, so I think she's overfull.  She feeds to try and go to sleep but even that doesn't work all the time now.

My MIL has always been able to get her to sleep but she didn't sleep more than 20 min yesterday when I was at work, notwithstanding that she only slept about 7 hours the night before, and had only done about 1.5 hours of napping the day before that.  I gave her lots of cuddles last night and slept close to her.  She slept well apart from feeding, but she was awake for the day after only 9.5 hours.  Within an hour she was crying and yawning and rubbing her eyes.

I decided to lower her cot and see if I could get her to sleep in there again - because I used to be able to do it with patting and shushing.  I gave it a go, and it wasn't really working, so I decided to just feed her to sleep.  She bit me.  First time she's done this.  I was a bit shocked and couldn't think of what to do except pull her off and stare at her.  She cried and I stared for about a minute, so I gave her a cuddle and decided to have another go.  She bit me again.

I put her in the cot and walked out.  I wasn't sure what to do, so I turned the lullaby music on through the monitor and went and had a shower.

She was still crying when I got out.  I went back in and tried to pat her and shush her, which kind of worked for about 15 seconds then she started screaming again.  I felt so lost and helpless.  I wasn't prepared to put her back on the boob, and I didn't think cuddles would help.  So I walked out again.

I did that twice more and then she fell asleep.  I tiptoed in and she was kind of sobbing in her sleep.  It was horrible.

She went to sleep properly then, for maybe half an hour.  Then she woke up and started sobbing again.  I went in and gently stroked her until she was calm and looked almost asleep, which kind of worked, but then she started sobbing and sobbing and getting more and more worked up.  I have walked out again, and she kinds of stops and starts with the crying, but when she does cry it's more desperate (as opposed to when I was in there and it just sounded miserable).

Now I don't know what to do.  I'm sitting here at my computer crying.

I wouldn't mind helping her to sleep with patting and shushing if it worked.  I wouldn't mind putting her on the boob, but am afraid if she's not really hungry she'll just bite.  She won't take a pacifier.  I've been trying to get her attached to a lovey for months, but she's not really interested.

I cannot find any words to express this situation except: this sucks.