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Nighttime Teething Nightmare- Why Teething Makes Your Baby Cry More At Night and What May Help

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the generous support of Ready Rocker
Use Code: TLB-30 for 30% off your cart on readyrocker.com

 

Ever noticed that when your baby is teething their crankiness and discomfort seems to get worse at night? Or even how sometimes they seem TOTALLY fine during the day and then suddenly at night they can’t seem to settle and are fussy and cranky and you’re not even sure why only later to notice they have puffy red gums or even a brand new tooth?

It’s not your imagination, this really does happen and there’s a reasonable explanation too. Which means there’s also something you can do about it.

What’s the deal? Why are teething symptoms worse at night?


Teething babies are often at the age of exploration of the world around them. They are ready to move! Even if they aren’t very mobile, they’re rapidly taking in information, interacting socially, and physically developing new skills daily. A little bit of teething isn’t going to slow them down, they’ve got people to see, places to go, adventures to take, play to make! Even if they do have moments during the day, there’s a lot going on around them to distract them at least a little bit from what’s going on in their mouth and head.

Once regular night time and day time sleep patterns are worked out in the brain, right around 4 months, babies have the same general physiological cycles related to sleep in their bodies as adults do. During the day the build something that’s called sleep pressure in the brain which makes them ready to sleep at night (give or take… and that doesn’t mean they won’t fight sleep, just that their brain is ready for it biologically), their bodies naturally release melatonin as daylight fades and artificial light lowers, and their cortisol levels naturally drop to make it easier for them to sleep at night. Just like adults, as they get tired and ready for sleep, they can become more emotional and little challenges will suddenly seem bigger.

What does this have to do with worsening teething symptoms? Lower cortisol levels means that stressors like pain aren’t being managed as much by the brain and become more noticeable. Not only are there less distractions to take their attention off the discomfort, there is even less of the chemical cocktail the body produces that helps with coping with such discomfort.

Meaning more ouch.

That’s not all, either.

The body does most of the growing it needs to do during sleep. Sometimes our children literally do wake up bigger in the morning, their bodies having been busy during the night before. While asleep, the body can efficiently direct energy to growth and healing. Exactly why doctors have been telling us to sleep when sick, rest is essential for growth and repair. This includes teeth! It is very possible your baby’s teething symptoms get worse at night because their teeth really are moving more at night. A process that involves shifting bone and slowly cutting through gum tissue causing headaches, mouth pain, and general discomfort. No wonder there are tears!

With nothing to distract them, lower levels of chemicals that reduce pain, and more movement of the teeth at night all combine to create a perfect storm of middle of the night fussiness or downright screaming.

What can help?

While you can’t change the natural sleep patterns in the body, you can help make your baby more comfortable through teething. Nothing is a guarantee but every little bit of hope help and any of these steps may at least help reduce discomfort so there’s a bit more rest for everyone.

 

 

Respond quickly. Don’t wait for your baby’s fussing to escalate to full-fledged wailing in distress. Being responsive to their early communication that they need help will help them emotionally regulate and manage the stress of their discomfort as calmly as they possibly can.

Rule out other concerns. Just to be sure that your baby’s distress is about teething pain, check out your baby to rule out any other concerns. This will allow you to relax as much as possible that their discomfort is unfortunate but not alarming. With your anxiety lower, your baby will pick up on your calm and feel safe and secure that you are there with them even though they’re uncomfortable.

Nurse more! Breastfeeding releases chemicals in the baby’s brain that actually lower pain levels. Nurse is already co-regulating for emotional distress, the oxytocin released in calming and connecting but studies show that a baby being latched and sucking, receiving their milk from their parent, can reduce pain and even keep it from starting. Nursing more could be the ticked to getting through those nighttime teething pains.

Skin-to-skin. Easily accomplished with nursing but possible to do otherwise too, skin-to-skin as pain relief and soothing measures for pain is an incredibly effective non-pharmacological means to help your baby feel better.

Protect naps. Sleep begets sleep and lack of sleep can show up as hyperactivity at night. Protecting sleep during the day means that nap times are even more important. You may decide that more or longer nap times are worth the possible nighttime sleep shortening if teething is going on for a while and your little one just can’t seem to get enough sleep at night.

Earlier bedtime. If sleep has already been disrupted, having an earlier bedtime may help get more quality sleep in before the pain and discomfort kicks into high gear during the night. It isn’t uncommon for babies and toddlers to have difficulty sleeping after 11pm or midnight meaning you’ll easily see 1am, 2am, and 3am when they are teething if they’re really uncomfortable. Getting to bed earlier (you too!) may mean there’s more sleep happening that is better quality before the disruptions get started.

Rocking, swinging, swaying. There’s a reason most of us automatically start swaying or rocking when we hear a baby crying even if we’re not holding the baby ourselves: rocking soothes the brain! Studies show that rocking or swinging lowers stress levels, reduces pain and discomfort, and soothes emotional dysregulation. As simple as it may seem, rocking your baby at night really does help them feel better and you too!

Pain relief mediation. Liquid infant Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen may reduce your baby’s pain enough for them to get the sleep they need… and maybe you too! Be sure to use according to directions and try not to use more than 3 nights in a row and check with your child’s healthcare provider before administering.

Teething gel. There are safe, soothing teething gel options you can put directly on your baby’s gums to help reduce inflammation and pain. Be sure it doesn’t have benzocaine or other numbing agents in them as that can create a risk of choking and impair their swallowing.

Teething tablets. With a safe blend of herbs, teething tablets dissolve easily for baby and 

Have realistic expectations. Cutting teeth IS painful. It’s a lot of work and it is understandable that your baby complains about it. They want help making the pain goaway for good reason. Having realistic expectations about teething will help you stay calm even when you’re exhausted and feeling helpless and your baby will be able to draw from your calm for their own calm.

Remember this is temporary. Teething does stop at some point. Your baby isn’t going to be cutting new teeth forever. There may be long stretches of teething (my baby once cute 12 teeth one right after the other, teething for a few months straight) which makes it really difficult to remember that this is temporary but keeping that in mind can help get through those long nights.


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If this resource was helpful for you, consider helping The Leaky Boob by giving back. Help us keep our information, support, and resources free by becoming a patron and get access to exclusive content just for our supporters. Join here today.

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Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

The Leaky Boob Nourish 2022: An Infant and Toddler Feeding Summit

The Leaky Boob Nourish Summit 2022

 

Nourish 2022

Infant and Toddler Feeding Summit

presented by

  

 

The Leaky Boob Nourish Infant and Toddler Feeding Summit is a free event in 5 sessions supporting families in their infant and toddler feeding journeys.

Featuring live webinar sessions on topics related to infant and toddler feeding, Q&A’s with experts, and giveaways, Nourish meets parents and caregivers where they are with information they need to make the informed decisions necessary for reaching their baby and toddler feeding goals. The underlying theme for Nourish 2022 is “what I wish I had known” and a look at some of the aspects of infant and toddler feeding that are often neglected or ignored in typical conversations and education about infant and toddler feeding.

Nourish presenters included hospital and private practice clinicians and educators recognized for their leadership in understanding some of the more complex social-emotional and physical feeding challenges facing parents today. With practical action steps families can implement immediately, Nourish 2022 presenters share evidence based information and give parents the tools they need to feed their children with loving confidence.

Each session was recorded live and is available to view or listen to as a video on demand.

Nourish 2022 Sessions

The Leaky Boob Nourish Infant and Toddler Feeding Summit is presented by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses with sessions sponsored by the following brands:

Lily Jade Diaper Bags (Discount code: TLB10 for 10% off purchases over $125)
Ready Rocker (Discount code: TLB30 for 30% off entire site)
ezpz (Discount code: LeakyBoob10 for 10% off)
Amara Foods (Discount code: TLB15 for 15% off)
Belabumbum (Discount code: Leaky15 for 15% off)
Milkies milk savers and storage trays (Discount code: LeakyBoob15 for 15% off your entire purchase)
MiaMily (Discount code: TLBAIR20 for $20 off the HIPSTER Air – through August 18th only)
Bamboobies

The Grand Giveaway for the summit totals over $2,300 and is active through August 31st, 2022! Click here to enter. 

The following brands and products are included in the Grand Giveaway:

Naturepedic– Certified Organic Pillow and Protector Set – Retail Value of $307



Ready Rocker– Portable rocker to turn anywhere into a soothing rocker! Retail value: $149.99 – 5 winners

Amara– $100 shop credit.

 

Bamboobies hands-free pumping and nursing bra, $35 value – 5 winners

 

Belabumbum– $100 gift certificate (Enora nursing bra and matching panties pictured)

 

ezpzFirst Foods Sets in Sage at a retail value of $37.49 – 3 winners

Lily Jade

Caroline in Old English Leather, super lux leather with faux leather options. incredibly comfortable and totally packable. Retail Value: $380

MiaMily– HIPSTER Air Baby Carrier, Retail Value: $159

Milkies– 1 Milk-Saver & Milk Tray, Retail value: $47.90.

 

Boba A Boba wrap and Boba X carrier bundle. Retail Value of $200
Use code BOBABABY15 for 15% off all products

Fat Brain Toy Co Nigi-Nagi-Nogi By Moluk, Retail Value: $16.95 – 5 winners
Use code GG-3836 for 10% off 1 item

Night Weaning Gently Workshop- One Night Weaning Gently Workshop registration. Retail value: $295

Weaning Gently Workshop– One Weaning Gently Workshop registration. Retail value: $325

 

Martin-Weber Relationship and Family Coaching- 1 Free Consult and 2 Free Relationship or parenting coaching sessions with Martin-Weber Coaching. Value $350

 

What you need to know about breastfeeding and postpartum contractions

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Naturepedic

This post made possible by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses for the whole family
Use the code “TLB15” for 15% off your cart at naturepedic.com.

Lactation can save your life, help heal your body, and be good for your uterus.

This is all true.

We talk a lot about how great breastfeeding can be for baby, but did you know it can be great for your uterus too? What your uterus wishes you knew about lactation:

It can save your life.

Potentially in more ways than one. But what really makes your uterus happy is that putting your brand new baby to suckle at your breast stimulates the release of oxytocin in your brain which helps your uterus to clamp down. These postpartum contractions are often called afterbirth pains. That initial latch of your wee babe strengthens the natural contractions and if you haven’t already, helps you expel the placenta and make sure you don’t bleed to death. It can help prevent a postpartum hemorrhage. But don’t worry if your baby doesn’t want to feed right after birth (give them a break, it was an eventful occasion, being born), this continues to work for as long as it takes for your uterus to reduce to it’s normal non-gestating size.

The uterus returning to it’s not-currently-gestating size gives room to the organs that have been squished, making it easier to breathe, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. It also means less pressure on the pelvic floor organs and tissue. This is an important stage of early healing. Often afterbirth contractions are more intense and painful with subsequent babies but it still does the job. Hate it all you want but it is way better than hemorrhaging and it’s the body’s perfect way to make sure you’re safe and around for a long time.

Every time you put your brand new baby to your breast, even if it doesn’t last long, and you endure a wave of contractions you may curse, swear, stomp your foot, breathe through clenched teeth hissing at your partner that next time they’re having the baby but those painful afterbirth contractions that your nursing babe brings on are important as they cut off the supply of blood to where the placenta had been allowing for healing and recovery to take place. Some don’t experience these contractions as much more than some mild cramping, others find them worse than labor itself. There’s a wide range of experiences, don’t be alarmed if you find that your own varies from that of others. 

Along with signaling to the uterus it’s time to shrink back down, breastfeeding can help you rest. For many that have just had a baby, life just doesn’t let them have the time they need to really heal and that open wound in their uterus doesn’t get the rest it needs which can lead to mom becoming anemic, fatigued, sore, and taking longer to heal. While there’s always a lot to do, breastfeeding can help busy moms take a load off in those early weeks with a hungry baby forcing them to sit and be still long enough to work on a good latch and fill up that little tummy. Taking time to have skin to skin fosters the breastfeeding relationship and can reduce their healing time, leading to sustainable recovery. And because it can help reduce postpartum bleeding and menstrual bleeding both in volume and length of time, some will experience a natural rise in iron levels which will be a real energy boost.

 

Fertility can be delayed with lactation. With my last baby, my 8th full term pregnancy, I got a break from my period until 21 months postpartum. Including pregnancy, that was more than 30 months off and no ovulation. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t miss it one single bit. This isn’t a guarantee but the majority of people experience a delay in the return of their fertility after giving birth if they exclusively breastfeed/chestfeed (meaning no supplementation). When baby is fed only with nursing, the body suppresses fertility to focus on continuing to grow this little person. This would mean no period sometimes until full weaning happens though any time solid foods, supplementation, or artificial nipples are introduced it’s possible their cycle will return. Sometimes that can be thrown off, usually if artificial nipples are used (yeah, even with bottles of their own pumped milk) but sometimes even if there is only ever exclusively nursing the cycle may return early in the postpartum period. But for those that experience suppressed fertility due to breastfeeding, it can be a nice break from their regular menstrual cycle. Because there are no guarantees though, unless you are hoping to get pregnant again shortly after having your baby, some kind of birth control measures would be wise.

Lactation can help with endometriosis and may help reduce cancer risks. Because it is common for the menstrual cycle to be delayed by lactation, those that have endometriosis may experience a stabilization of the progression of their condition which may lead to some relief. This won’t necessarily cure the condition but some do find it is no longer an issue. Causation or correlation, studies show that women that breastfeed have lower incidence of developing uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer. 

Nursing is no magic bullet that will save you, you may lactate and still get cancer, you may nurse and still experience a retained placenta or postpartum hemorrhage, you may bodyfeed and struggle with endometriosis or have your fertility return right away. But hey, a chance that you could get a break and make your uterus happy? If you can, it could be a chance worth taking.

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If this resource was helpful for you, consider helping The Leaky Boob by giving back. Help us keep our information, support, and resources free by becoming a patron and get access to exclusive content just for our supporters. Join here today.

______________________________

 

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

How to set up a lactation space you’ll love

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the generous support of Ready Rocker
Use Code: TLB-30 for 30% off your cart on readyrocker.com

 

There’s something comforting about knowing you have a space just for you, all set up with your favorite comforts. When you get there, you can really relax, you feel safe, everything you need is right there, and you can focus on what is really important to you. That is even more true for breastfeeding.

While lactation and baby or toddler feeding happens where it needs to, when it needs to, it can help to have a regular comfortable space or two set up for when you’re home with everything in easy reach so you can just focus on what’s really important. Being comfortable, able to focus, and able to relax can make a difference in getting a latch that works for you and baby without pain, encourage let-down, prevent stress on your body, allow for more complete postpartum healing, and support different positions.


To set up a lactation space you’ll love, keep in mind that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. We’re all different and that’s great! What works for one may not be what works for another. So get specific about what you like and don’t worry if you’re the only one doing it that way. Your lactation space, like your lactation journey, should be as unique as you and your baby are. Don’t pressure yourself to have the instagram ready lactation journey or breastfeeding space, let your journey unfold, seeking help and using the tools you need in the process. It may not be perfect (whatever that means) but it will be real and that is beautiful.

Some considerations:

Since nursing can be expected to happen at least 8-16 times a day (such a wide range) and be up to 30 minutes a session (and honestly, sometimes longer while you and baby are first learning), meaning 8 or more hours a day spent JUST feeding your baby, it’s important to be as comfortable as possible for those feeds. With that in mind, here are some considerations to take into account when setting up your lactation space.

Picking a spot- get comfy!

  • Quiet and away or in the middle of things?
  • Comfortable seating options? 
  • Is there room for position options and changes such as football hold or laid back positions?
  • Room for others or just you and the nursling?
  • Do you need to be near an outlet, entertainment remote controls, etc.?
  • Lighting- are you able to control the lighting to make it brighter or dimmer?

Once you’ve decided the specific space or two- it may work best for there to be multiple areas set up as a lactation space depending on the time of day or other needs of the family, it can save a lot of stress and headache to have the items you may need or will make you more comfortable within easy reach. What that is depends on each individual’s unique needs but there are some most find handy.

A basket, rolling cart, small tub, caddy, or bag nearby to contain the smaller items makes it easy to have everything you may need in addition to the seating and larger elements of your lactation space. This way you can move your lactation space as needed with easily portable items contained and elements that have multi-function or are portable can streamline the process once you’re more comfortable breastfeeding in other areas. This is why I love a charging adapter with multiple port types and the Ready Rocker for a rocking chair option I can take anywhere.

May be helpful to have…

  • Footstool
  • Water/drink (trust me, you’re going to get thirsty)
  • Snacks (nothing like breastfeeding hunger!)
  • Ready Rocker 
  • Nursing pillow or other supports
  • Cozy options (blanket, sweater, etc.)
  • Nursing pads
  • Heat/cold packs
  • Helpful tools (i.e. nipple cream, lactation massager, burp cloths, hands-free-pumping-bra, etc.)
  • Fidget or safe toy
  • Breast pump or silicone suction expression cup
  • Phone charger
  • Speaker or earbuds
  • Entertainment (phone, book, tablet, etc.)

Now all that’s needed is the baby!

Oh, and while not a part of the actual space, set-up for each lactation session by being sure you empty your bladder first and washing your hands. You don’t want to regret that step, that’s a sure way to make even the most comfortable spot miserable!

How do you have your lactation and baby feeding space set up? Is there anything you’d add to our considerations?


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If this resource was helpful for you, consider helping The Leaky Boob by giving back. Help us keep our information, support, and resources free by becoming a patron and get access to exclusive content just for our supporters. Join here today.

______________________________

 

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

How to reduce shrieking/screaming/screeching with babies and toddlers

By Jessica Martin-Weber

Originally published on our Patreon. With the support of our patrons we’re able to continue providing information to our online community. Become a patron today to gain immediate access to additional information while supporting The Leaky Boob.

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Have a screaming banshee of a child? Do they squeal when they’re happy? Feel like your eardrums are going to burst when they’re mad? Does your blood pressure shoot up when they’re excited and playing because of their shrieking? Are you totally overwhelmed with their screeching when they’re frustrated?

 

What would it be like if adults acted like screaming babies or toddlers?

This video might give you an idea on what it would be like (be prepared to laugh).

 

A parenting coaching client asked us for help with her shrieking, screaming, screeching toddler and as ours had just gone through the same stage, we had a pretty good idea of what she was going through. We gave our client what worked for our little one and some additional information and suggested action steps based on her values, parenting goals, and unique circumstances. We were thrilled when took weeks later she said the screaming had almost completely stopped and her toddler was doing much better.

Interested in a free one-on-one relationship or parenting coaching consult with the founding family of The Leaky Boob, relationship coaches, Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber? We’d love to, let us know here.

First of all it is important to remember that adults *usually* don’t act like this so rest assured your child is probably going to grow out of this stage at some point. Probably.

If you experience sensory overload when your child is loud and screechy, you’re not alone. And you’re not a bad parent to just wish it would stop or to want to run away. This is a very common stage of development but that doesn’t mean it is an easy one. Knowing it is normal can help when it is overwhelming and torturous. It isn’t that you don’t love your child or accept them where they are, it is that you would like to not be on edge with every big emotion they experience.

Shrieking/screeching/screaming babies/toddlers/preschoolers is really common and no, you haven’t done something wrong if your child is this way.

But there are some steps you can take to help reduce the overwhelming squawking right away.

*Note: sometimes shrieking/screaming/screeching is a part of neurodivergent expression. That’s ok, just a piece of information about your child. Together with other signs, loud high pitched vocalizations may be an indicator that further evaluation is necessary to understand and support your child’s neurotype.

 

 

Shrieking older baby/toddler tips

In the moment:

  1. Make sure nothing is really wrong (safety, check their body for possible cause of pain, diaper, hunger, overtired, etc.)
  2. Remember behavior is communication- they aren’t doing this to annoy you, they are learning how to express themselves
  3. Responding calmly and quickly helps develop a sense of security and reduces the need for escalating for a reaction
  4. Affirm that you hear them
  5. Match their energy to help them feel understood (don’t be too calm)
  6. Use words (speech and sign) that express that energy (“wow, that was really loud, you sound angry!” “I hear you, it is frustrating to drop your toy, do you need my help?” “What a shriek! You’re so excited!” “YAY! You did it!”
  7. Try different sensory input when you respond (hold their hand, gentle pressure on their arms, a soft rhythmic hum, etc.)
  8. After responding and listening, guide a gentle transition to a different activity or setting. Do not rush this or it is not respecting their process, the idea is to help them work through the moment by co-regulating with you and then shift the energy into something else. We are not redirecting or distracting.

In general (outside of the moment):

  1. Play with them using a range of sounds to model the range of tones and volumes model a range of vocal sounds, high, low, soft, loud, growling, singing, whispering, shouting, etc
  2. Introduce simple sign language and use it regularly with speaking and when  responding to screaming. Helpful signs: help, stop, more, hungry, thirsty, water, milk, eat, change, all done, please, up, down, yay (applause), hurt, etc.
  3. Assess their environment and note any patterns such as possible sensory overload, overtired, hunger, loneliness, etc.

To manage your own sensory overload:

  1. Take a deep breath before responding.
  2. Respond sooner rather than later to reduce the chance of the shrieking escalating.
  3. If possible, reduce other sensory input or stressors (i.e. turn off background noise, get more rest, remove visual noise (clutter), stay on top of your own physical needs, try noise reduction earplugs, etc.)
  4. Take breaks.
  5. Change the scenery for you and your child (go on walks, put them in the bath, try a new sensory play experience, etc.)
  6. Remind yourself that behavior is communication so you respond rather than react.

 

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For over 10 years, The Leaky Boob has been providing information on The Leaky Boob website and Facebook page helping countless families. If you find yourself compelled to give back, consider becoming a patron on our Patreon where you gain first glance of newly dropped articles amongst other firsthand perks for as little as $1. 

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Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 8 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

 

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A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

by Jeremy Martin-Weber, Relationship and parenting coach and dad of 8

The Leaky Boob 2021 New Baby Guide banner

this post is sponsored by The Leaky Boob New Baby Guide, available here and by Martin-Weber Relationship, Family, and Parenting Coaching, sign up for your free consult here.

 

A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

 

Congratulations, you’re having a baby! Or have recently had a baby. Or maybe it was a long time ago. Whatever it is for you, congrats! Having a baby is a wonderful thing that changes you forever. Even as the non-birthing parent, there is a lot of change when you welcome a whole new entire human being into the world.

That’s a good thing! Not an easy thing but still a good thing. 

A lot of the time, energy, and focus has likely been lavished on your partner and the baby growing in their body. That’s understandable – growing babies is a big deal! You may feel unsure about your role in all this or how to best be engaged in caring for your new baby when they’re here, let alone before or even as they are being born. I’m no expert but I’ve been there myself, 8 times now. There’s always a learning curve to becoming a new parent. As the non-birthing partner expecting a new baby your role isn’t relegated to being on the side-lines, you have an active and important part to play.

In the partnered life, most responsibilities can be approached and divided between partners through a conversation based on each person’s strengths, interests, skills, talents, availability, and so on. It rarely comes down to who’s capable – most people are capable of handling most responsibilities – they may not want to, but they can. It’s completely possible to divvy up those responsibilities through conversation that leads to an agreement about who does what. 

There’s one area in particular where, for many, it simply can’t play out that way: growing, birthing, and breastfeeding babies. 

Typically, one partner does all that, and the other partner does… what? Puts the crib together? Smokes a cigar? 

Well, from one non-birthing partner to another, I can tell you that there are many ways for you to be involved that go beyond putting a crib together and maybe fertilizing an egg (or ovum, to be exact). 

For all the books and articles and even classes for the birthing parent, there’s not a lot for the non-birthing parent. So what exactly do you do? Besides wait for the kid to grow up and then you get to be the “fun parent?” (Hint: don’t do that, it won’t serve you, your partner, or your child well.)

What is the nonbirthing partner or dad role with a new baby?
The most important thing you can do is to regularly tell your partner that you want to be as involved as possible and then demonstrate that by being present, interested, curious, and active (that means taking the initiative and actually doing some stuff instead of waiting around to be invited or told what to do). Listen to your partner about what they actually need and want – don’t do something they don’t care for and expect appreciation and praise. The demands on them are massive, don’t make it even more. The biggest difference between you and your partner is that they don’t actually have a choice but to think about having a baby – their body is literally changing every day to make that possible. It serves as a constant reminder. And eventually, it’s not just their body that reminds them, it’s the little body inside their body that reminds them too! You, on the other hand, have a choice. And it comes down to the choice of being involved, or missing out, and it takes effort. Which, translated into your partner’s perspective means that they’re either going through this experience without you or together with you. Don’t wait. No matter how far along the pregnancy is or how old the baby is, it’s not too late to start demonstrating that you want to be involved – the longer you wait the harder it will be, so back to this: don’t wait. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t even have to know anything. You’ll figure it out together. Don’t expect your partner to manage you, you’re not an employee they have to work to direct, be a partner by being proactive.

Following is a list of some of the ways you can be more involved:

PREGNANCY

  • Don’t wait. Demonstrate that you want to be involved now, and every day. 
  • Tell your partner that you want to hear about what it’s like for them to be pregnant. 
  • Tell them that they’re not a nuisance for sharing about their aches and pains and the special parts. 
  • Massage them to help with the aches, but also for connection, and to help relax them. 
  • Get informed about pregnancy, birth, and babies beyond what your partner is willing to share. 
  • Don’t get cocky about what you think you know about growing a baby in your body. No matter how much you think you know, you still aren’t the one experiencing it in real time. 
  • Listen.
  • Be willing to talk about pregnancy, birth, and babies with your partner as often as they want to. It may feel like you’re talking about it all the time, and that’s all you two talk about anymore. GOOD. It won’t last forever, but your partner doesn’t get breaks from being pregnant, so you can deal too. 
  • As a matter of fact, don’t expect your partner to always be the one to bring it up. You go ahead and start that conversation too. Let your partner be the one to say that they want to talk about something else for once – they will, if they get a chance to talk about it enough. This demonstrates your invested interest in your partner, their experience, and the baby.
  • Be a more attentive partner. Offer to do more for your partner. 
  • Tell them they’re beautiful. 
  • Don’t forget romance – keep doing the stuff that reminds you of your love for each other. And it’s ok if that turns into talking about babies. It’s just the deal. 
  • As your partner gets closer to birth and things get harder for them to do, you do more of those things – unless your partner doesn’t want you to. 
  • Don’t coddle your partner, or treat them like they’re sick. Let them tell you when they need to do less. You can ask them about it, but don’t tell them what they can and can’t do. 
  • Talk about the birth. What they want. How you want to be involved. Discuss a birth plan together. 
  • Go to prenatal appointments with them whenever possible and rearrange your schedule to do so. 
  • When they start nesting, do all the things that they say need to be done in order for this baby to arrive in a safe space. It doesn’t matter if some of those things don’t make sense to you. They matter to your partner. 
  • Welcome all of your partner’s feelings. Listen and validate your partner’s experience. 
  • Pick out baby clothes together. 
  • Prepare for the birth together. 
  • Go to the birth classes. 
  • Go to the new baby classes. 
  • Talk with your partner about what you’re both looking forward to, what you fear, how you feel. 
  • Be more present. 
  • Your partner will need more time to be in their own head to sort out what they’re experiencing and how they feel about it, and just be in the moment. Do what you can to help make that happen – more responsibilities around the house, more cooking, meal planning, etc. 
  • If you smell bad to her because of what you eat, don’t eat that again until after the birth and don’t take it personally- pregnancy hormones can create the nose of a bloodhound. 

 

BIRTH

  • More than any other time in this experience of bringing a baby into the world, labor and birth needs to be all about your partner. Your job is to support your partner. 
  • Do everything you can to allow your partner to focus on the work their body is doing – in other words, minimize distractions, and don’t be a distraction. 
  • Let your partner call all the shots. 
  • Do what they say they need. 
  • Remind them of aspects of the Birth Plan as needed. 
  • Go to bat for them. If there needs to be a conversation about the Birth Plan or what your partner wants with a nurse/doctor/midwife or other birth attendant, you do it. Run interference when needed. 
  • Encourage your partner. 
  • Ask them if what you’re doing is what they need but don’t be needy about getting accolades that you’re doing the right thing.
  • Massage them when they need it. 
  • Keep your hand where they directed you to put it, and don’t move it! You’ll never put it back exactly where it was before. 
  • Tell them you love them. 
  • Say affirmations to them (you’ll want to have discussed them beforehand). 

 

NEW BABY

  • Support your birthing partner as they recover from birth. Encourage them to rest. Do everything you can for them so they feel like they can focus on their healing. 
  • Take on all of the household responsibilities, and it’s ok for the house to not be perfect. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok to just let the house go entirely. Dishes still need to be done. Laundry. Trash needs to go out. The house still needs to be clean, even if it’s messier. 
  • Spend time with your partner.
  • Bond with your baby as you change their diaper. 
  • Your partner gets to feed your baby – you get to enjoy watching them. At some point you may have more of a role in actively feeding but it usually takes WAY more work to pump than to nurse directly and you giving the baby a bottle could undermine lactation at first so just sit back and enjoy the bond your partner and the baby are developing through feeding.
  • Keep being attentive to what your partner needs – this will be a part of your bonding with the baby and your partner.
  • Go to baby well checks.
  • Hold your baby. 
  • Feel insecure about that, or other aspects of caring for a new baby? That’s normal. Ask your partner about it. You’ll become more comfortable and confident in time.
  • Talk about the birthing experience with your partner. Invite them to share what it was like for them, what they liked, didn’t like, what surprised them. 

 

As you can see, there’s plenty to do to not only demonstrate that you want to be involved, but to actually BE involved and strengthen your connection with both your partner and your new baby. Do it. Jump in. Don’t wait. You won’t regret it. Nobody ever looks back and says they regret the time they spent loving their loved ones. This time and stage may be consuming in the moment but it really is so brief. Neglecting your role in this time is something you’ll never be able to undo and could damage your relationship with your partner. You matter in all this, don’t minimize the impact you have in this time by not fully being present and participating to connect with your partner and baby.

Martin-Weber Coaching

Jeremy Martin-Weber, relationship family, and parenting coach has been married to his wife Jessica Martin-Weber for 24 years and is the father of 8 children. His background includes music performance, teaching, non-profit director, mentor, and running a non-profit coffee shop. To support as many families in their relationship goals as is possible, Jeremy co-created We’re All Human Here and helps administrate The Leaky Boob in addition to his work as a relationship and family coach. For a free coaching consult, sign up here: https://bit.ly/3akaRR7.

Breastfeeding baby to sleep, bad habit or ok?

by Jessica Martin-WeberNaturepedic
this post made possible by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses for the whole family
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Fan Question: My baby keeps falling asleep while breastfeeding, am I making a bad habit?

You bring your tiny new human being to your chest and after a little awkward fumbling they are successfully latched as you marvel at their tiny perfection and they suck, drinking deeply of your milk. They settle into a steady rhythm and you feel them relax more fully into you, a relaxation that in 5-10 minutes is fully heavy sleepiness. By the time they’ve drained your breast your baby’s eyelids are closed, their arms and hands floppy, their lips and jaw slack, and a dribble of milk rolls down their cheek as they breathe deeply in sleep. 

Warm, soft, snuggled sleep.

Eight months later, the scene isn’t much different, they’re just longer and rounder. Ten months after that the routine continues. Maybe not every feed but often and maybe it is the only way they go down for a nap or bedtime.

For many little ones boob = sleep.

This may worry some as they hear from others that breastfeeding their baby to sleep is creating a bad habit, alarm that their child will never be able to sleep on their own if they do this, and dire warnings that the milk will damage the child’s teeth. On The Leaky Boob we frequently hear from those wondering if breastfeeding their baby to sleep is a bad thing, fears that this experience that happens so frequently for so many will doom them and their child.

I have good news!

According to pediatrician Dr. Arthur Lavin and coauthor of Baby and Toddler Sleep Solutions For Dummies, breastfeeding your little one asleep is totally fine. 

In a live interview I had with Dr. Lavin on The Leaky Boob Facebook Page (view here), he explained that there’s no concern with breastfeeding your nursling to sleep and it is actually quite normal that breastfeeding would lead to sleep. In fact, it’s a part of how the brain works! The portion of the brain that regulates feeding is closely related to regulating sleep and wakefulness and releases a hormone called orexin which is why we feel sleep when we have full tummies even as adults. This starts from birth. Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin and dopamine in the brain which makes everyone involved feel sleepy. These hormones are a part of helping milk flow and contribute to bonding by making us relaxed, happy, and safe. It all combines to be a drowsy inducing cocktail of snuggles and feeding. What better way for baby to fall asleep?

For a newborn it just makes sense. Breastfeeding to sleep feels safe and the scent of the breasts and breastmilk is familiar, comforting, and warm. Being skin to skin is soothing and babies are programmed to want to be there, close and protected. Their food, safety, and everything they know is there. Cradled to your chest they can fill their tummy, get that relaxing hormone release, smell home, and be lulled to sleep to the sound of your heartbeat just like before they were born.

Breastfeeding your baby back to sleep at night helps protect your breastmilk supply while meeting their demanding nutritional needs. A baby’s growth rate for the first 4 months of their life is faster than it will ever be again (even teen boys don’t grow as fast!) and feeding frequently through the night not only ensures an adequate milk supply as it coincides with the time of day that the milk-making hormone prolactin is highest in the lactating parent’s brain, these feedings also provide a steady supply of calories for this rapid growth phase. Night-time feeds can be protective of breastmilk supply with higher prolactin levels at night and may make up to 20% of a baby’s total milk intake. Feeding to sleep is part of their growth strategy! (See this study for more info.)

Breastfeeding to sleep may continue long after birth as well, particularly around certain times of day as melatonin levels in breastmilk are higher in the evening and through the night. It’s no surprise that a year or even two years later your little one falls asleep best while at the breast. This may even contribute to a regular sleep rhythm for your child. (Read about melatonin in breastmilk here.)

But is it a bad habit?

According to Dr. Lavin, no. In our interview Dr. Lavin explained that just as adults can establish new sleep habits, so can babies and young children. If, at some point, breastfeeding to sleep isn’t working for you and your child, you can change it. Particularly with an older baby or toddler. If you want to night wean gently, check out our night weaning readiness checklist here.

So it’s totally natural to breastfeed your baby to sleep and it isn’t a bad habit but… what about their teeth? We’ve all heard of bottle-rot, won’t falling asleep with breastmilk be bad for their teeth?

Human milk isn’t going to cause human teeth to decay. Dr. Lavin shared with us that genetics and socio-economics have more of an impact on the development of cavities than breastfeeding to sleep. That doesn’t mean there’s no risk, it just means that the risk is pretty low and wiping or brushing the teeth after your child eats solid food or drinks anything other than breastmilk or water is adequate protection for your child’s teeth. It isn’t necessary to clean teeth after breastfeeding at night (don’t wake the baby!) if there has only been breastmilk or water since the teeth were last cleaned.

As always, it is important to practice safe sleep whether or not you are breastfeeding your baby to sleep. The AAP recommends that babies under 12 months should sleep alone on their back in a dedicated sleep space in the parent’s room, free of blankets, pillows, toys, and crib bumpers. While the AAP recommends against bedsharing it is better to prepare to practice safe bedsharing if there is a chance you will fall asleep with your baby rather than to accidentally sleep with your baby in an unsafe manner (i.e. falling asleep with baby in a chair, on the couch, in a recliner, etc.).

Breastfeeding your baby to sleep is a completely normal reality, particularly in the first few months. If at some point you desire to change that and establish different sleep habits, you can. No need to worry that it is a bad habit you’ll be stuck with or is causing problems later on down the road. If it is working for you and your baby, it’s not a problem at all. Happy breastfeeding and sweet dreams!

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