Kangaroo Care and Cuddling your Baby

I was recently asked to share some thoughts on the benefits of kangaroo care. This article summarises the latest research on the benefits of cuddling your baby- some of these may surprise you!

If you are expecting a baby in the near future, you may wish to incorporate some of these ideas. For those of you with little ones already, I hope you enjoy cuddling them for a long time to come!

Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo Care


The contents of this article have also been used in the following stories:



I would love to hear about your experiences with kangaroo care? Feel free to leave your comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe for more parenting advice and medical information delivered to your inbox every week. Have a great week ahead!

Top Tips For Brushing Teeth

It’s the nightmare every parent of a small child has to face- twice a day! How to get junior to brush his teeth, or allow you access for long enough to do a half-way decent job? Here are my top tips for brushing your child’s teeth, and not losing your sanity in the process!

Rubber baby toothbrush

Finger toothbrush

1. Start early:

Basically, as soon as your baby has teeth. Most babies will start teething between 6 to 10 months (although some babies are born with one or two teeth, and a small number of children won’t have any until around one year of age). Get either a rubber or silicone baby brush that fits over your finger, or a round headed soft brush with a tiny spot of baby toothpaste; brush both the teeth and the gums twice a day.

2. Brush after milk: 

You’ve been told not to let baby feed to sleep before, but nursing to sleep once your baby has teeth will increase the risk of tooth decay. Aim to brush your baby’s teeth after the last bottle or the last breast feed before bed. If this is completely impossible, give a small bottle of water after the feed to rinse the milk off the dental enamel. Prolonged nursing throughout the night (for example, babies who co-sleep) is associated with an increased risk of dental caries.

3. Brush standing behind your child: 

This has a number of benefits:

  • Depth perception: standing behind your child, brushing towards yourself, helps you to gauge how deep you are going. You are less likely to hurt your child, and make him dread the experience.
  • You can sit your child on your knee: this helps you to comfort, and also control the situation!
  • Try positioning yourselves in front of the bathroom mirror so that he can see what you are doing. This also works well with slightly older children, as they can “teach” their mirror image how to brush teeth!

4. Talk about brushing teeth: 

As with most things to do with raising children, there are books you can read. These discuss what may happen if we don’t look after our teeth, and how important brushing our teeth is. There are also songs and videos on the subject (check out Elmo singing “Brushy Brush” with Bruno Mars). You can try singing these songs whilst brushing your child’s teeth- or make up your own silly songs!

5. Use a hero:

Sometimes this may be Daddy. You can try brushing teeth alongside Daddy in the mornings and using him as a role-model. Sometimes it may be Mummy. You may want to get creative and brush the “teeth” of a favourite toy or teddy. Alternatively, you could surf the internet for pictures of your child’s favourite film character brushing his test and paste a copy on the mirror- look who I found brushing his teeth…!

Favourite characters brushing terth

Darth Vader brushing his teeth!

6. Schedule regular dental check-ups:

Once your child reaches two years of age, you should start scheduling regular twice-yearly dental visits. You can begin to get your child used to the idea of going to the dentist before his first visit by allowing him to accompany you when you visit the dentist. Again, reading books about going to the dentist helps your child prepare for the visit.

Have you found any other tricks that work for you? Share your tips in the comments box below. And remember to sign up for regular weekly emails for parenting and medical advice. Have a great week!

Baby-Led Weaning: Fab or Fad?

It seems too good to be true: a new craze to hit the baby feeding scene that doesn’t require any troublesome steaming or pureeing. Instead, you just grab a handful of fruit or veggie sticks and away you go. So is baby-led weaning the answer to all our prayers, or is it just a fad?

Baby led weaning: fab or fad?

First introduction to durian (a very unusual tasting South East Asian fruit!)

Fans of baby-led weaning cite reduced fussiness with food choices, improved eating, and reduced risk of childhood obesity as potential gains from this method of feeding. Critics raise concerns about potential choking hazards and reduced nutrition, as well as limited choices (not everything can be given as finger foods). So what should you do?

Infant Development:

Although an infant as young as 4 months of age can grasp a toy or other object in his hand for a brief period, it is not until around 6 months that he can purposely reach for and hold onto an object. At around this time, he will also be able to put it in his mouth. However, he is unlikely to repeat this action frequently enough to achieve much in the way of nutrition at this age. He is just as likely to drop the fruit or veggie stick on the floor, or mush it into his eyebrows as get it into his mouth.

Infant Nutrition:

Breast or formula milk contains all the nutrients necessary for a baby up to 6 months. Beyond 6 months, a baby requires solid food to supplement the nutrition in the milk, although the milk remains the primary source of nutrition for an infant up to 12 months. Supplementary food helps to ameliorate the dip in iron stores that occurs at 9 months of age; it also provides additional calories for the increased metabolic demand of an increasingly mobile child.

Baby-Led Weaning:


  • Easy to prepare: compared to traditional purees, carrot sticks and chopped up fruits can seem a lot easier for a busy working Mom to prepare . However, care has to be taken to ensure a wide range of different foods are provided, including protein and foods rich in iron.
  • As this method of feeding involves a longer time frame (and a lot of patience!) the baby is less likely to overfeed, and more likely to respond to his body’s cues when he is full. This can lead to a reduction in childhood obesity.


  • If baby-led weaning is followed strictly, the baby only eats what he puts in his own mouth. In the early days of self- feeding this can lead to prolonged mealtimes and poor intake of nutrients.
  • Once a child has moved past the initial fruit and vegetable stages, it may become increasingly challenging to give sufficient meat and other protein sources as finger foods. It often involves a great deal of thought and preparation to provide a child with a nutritionally balanced food that he can self feed successfully.
  • Recent studies have shown that babies fed solely by the baby-led method are at more risk of iron, zinc and vitamin B12 deficiency. They are also more likely to choose predominantly carbohydrate-based foods. Turns out there is no super- easy way of getting good nutrition into your child after all!
Baby feeding

Baby enjoying feeding herself from a fork


  • Choking: critics of baby-led weaning often voice concerns over increased risk of choking. However, a recent study showed equal rates of choking episodes in babies who were baby-led and those who were weaned onto solids following more traditional methods. The choking episodes occured with similar foods in both groups (slices of apple and other hard fruits,etc.). The episodes were more associated with when and how various “high risk” foods were introduced rather than in the context of which feeding strategy was used. It seems the take home message is that you have to be careful whichever method you use.
  • Reduced fussiness: although there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence from parents who have baby-led fed their infants, no studies to date have convincingly proven this. Generally,  babies are often very open to trying new foods, whether puréed or via finger feeding: it is usually only as children approach the latter half of the second year of life that food preferences and food faddiness starts to appear for the majority of children. Often this has more to do with their family’s general approach to food and mealtime behaviour, rather that a specific methodology of introduction of solids.
  • Supporters of the baby-led feeding movement claim that this is closer to how our ancestors fed their babies, before steamers and blenders were invented. However, there are countless accounts of ancient civilisations pre-masticating their food for their infants (yeah, I know- delightful- but I guess they did what they had to do!). Turns out blenders aren’t all that necessary for making purees after all!



  • Mom is in charge of the spoon. This means that she can control the amount of nutrition that the baby takes (more or less).
  • This method of feeding is much easier for the neat-freaks out there! No huge mess all over the floor to have to clear up after dinner (or friends huge tips to waitresses at restaurants!). (Tip- for baby-led weaning parents: buy a plastic sheet from an arts and crafts shop and lay it under your baby’s highchair before mealtime- you will find cleaning up much easier).
  • It is easier to ensure your child gets all the protein and iron he needs when it is blended into a purée rather than trying to get a baby to gnaw his way through a steak or lamb chop. Babies tend to suck on large chunks of meat, taking the oils and fats, but leaving behind the protein and iron.


  • I won’t lie to you- it takes effort. Entire Saturday afternoons spent over a hot hob preparing countless chicken casseroles, spaghetti bologneses and salmon and brocolli purees. There is a little hint of satisfaction when you see all those little pots filled up though…
  • You can get stuck in a rut. Even purée babies need to start on finger foods and more textured solids. You must move your baby on from smooth purees onto lumpier, more textured foods by around 7- 8 months to avoid him developing aversion to textures.
  • Choking occurs just as commonly in purée fed babies as baby-led weaning babies. You still need to e a careful about what finger foods you give- and when. And never leave a baby unattended with finger foods.


  • Concerns have been raised that since feeding purees is more passive, babies may be inadvertently over fed using this method. This may predispose to a baby being less aware of satiety, or “fullness” cues, which could lead to an increased risk of obesity. There is limited data currently on this.

So What Should You Do?

Do your research. If you are going to do baby-led feeding, then please don’t regard it as the easier option. You will still need to cook: meatballs; goujons; all sorts of foods that contain the same sort of nutrients found in purees but stuffed into infant hand sized balls or bars.

Similarly, if going the purée route, you should introduce textures and finger foods from around 7-8 months. Put a few sticks of fruit or vegetables, or other finger foods for your child to explore whilst you feed him the purée. Watch for cues that he is full, and don’t try to push beyond what he wants to eat. Increase the texture of the purée at around 7-8 months, either fork-mashing or finely chopping the food, and add pasta or risotto rice for interest.

Don’t be too much of a purist! The idea that spoons and forks shouldn’t be used at all is rather silly. By all means load some food onto your child’s spoon or fork to introduce new foods that couldn’t otherwise be introduced in a “true” baby-led regime. (I dare you to finger feed yoghurt!)

Enjoy the journey! Do what works for you- and be responsive to what your child seems to enjoy most.

7 common mistakes in baby feeding practices in Singapore

7 common mistakes in baby feeding practices in Singapore

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat to a journalist from The Asian Parent online magazine. We talked about common feeding practices, and how we can improve nutrition for young infants and children.

I hope you enjoy reading the article. As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below- I would love to hear from you. What issues have you struggled with in feeding your child? Have you experienced any of the problems in this article?

If you would like to receive regular medical and parenting articles, head up to the subscription area at the top of the home page. Have a great week ahead!

Growth Charts: What Is All The Fuss About?

Is my baby growing well? Is it okay if my baby’s weight is on a different percentile to his height? Is it normal that my two year old doesn’t seem to have grown at all in the past 3 months? Growth charts really seem to induce a significant amount of confusion and anxiety amongst parents- especially first time parents of young babies.


Let’s start with a basic introduction to statistics, so that we can understand what growth charts are all about. Weight and height follow a pattern of normal, or “Gaussian” distribution. This means that the mean and the median are the same. For those of you who are now feeling that school math was a very long time ago, here are a couple of examples to refresh your memory:

Mean: imagine you add up all the weights of the 30 children in your child’s class and then divide this number by 30- this gives you the “mean” average weight of the children in your child’s class.

Median: imagine you take those same 30 children and line them up in order of their weight from smallest to largest. The middle child has the “median” average weight of the class.

Displayed in graphical form, it looks like this:

Normal distribution

Gaussian distribution

As you can see, the centre point, or zero, is where the mean and the median lie. Most of the children in the class will fall into the yellow zone between the -1 and the +1, and would be regarded as having an average weight. These children would fall roughly between the 25th and the 75th centiles on the standard growth charts. Then you have the “normal” children; these children fall into the peach coloured zone between the -2 and the +2; their weight may be regarded as slightly below or above the average, but still normal. These children would have weights between the 10th and 90th centiles on the growth charts.

Finally, there are the children whose weights fall more than 2 standard deviations away from the mean (in the orange zone, between -2 and -3, and +2 and +3). These are the children that may have issues with being under- or overweight. I say “may” because some of these children will be perfectly healthy and it is genetically appropriate that they are in those zones. That is why it is important to look at the child’s height, as well as the height and weight of the parents before making a considered judgement about whether the child may have a growth problem.

What Influences Growth?

Growth is influenced by many different factors at different stages in a child’s life. It’s useful to have a basic understanding of these factors so that we can identify when and if a child has a growth problem.

Prenatal Growth:

In the womb, growth is influenced mainly by the ability of the placenta to provide nutrition. If the placenta is small, or affected by maternal illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-eclampsia, then the baby may not grow as well as he should. Small sized or obstructed wombs (secondary to fibroids, etc.) can also affect growth. Occasionally, an illness in the baby can result in a smaller size than expected.

Sometimes the placenta can provide “too much” nutrition; this can occur in diabetes or in situations where the placenta and maternal nutrition are working almost too efficiently. This can result in a baby who is unusually “large for gestational age”. Many of these babies drop one or two centiles after birth to follow the centile that is more similar to their genetic potential. This should not be regarded as failure to thrive if the child is otherwise well.

Early Infancy:

Growth in early infancy

Early Infancy Growth

Growth in this period is mostly influenced by nutrition. However there are other factors, such as genetic potential, which may influence growth. Some babies shift onto a new centile after birth if the one at birth was inappropriately high or low based on their long term growth potential.

Babies generally lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first 5 days of life. Most of this is “water-weight”; babies classically regain this weight by around day 7-10 of life. Thus a baby with a birth weight of 3kg may lose up to 300g to drop to a weight of 2.7kg by around day 5 of life; he should be back to 3kg by around day 7-10 of life. A baby who loses more than 10% of his birth weight, or who takes longer than 14 days to regain his birth weight should be seen by a doctor or health visitor to see whether there is a problem with feeding.

Once a baby has regained his birth weight, he should gain around 30g per day, or 200g per week for the first several weeks.

Theory of Fetal Imprinting:

This is something I find hardly any parent knows about- but it’s crucially important. Studies show that babies who have poor nutrition in the womb but then gain weight rapidly in early infancy (rapid “catch-up”) are at risk of developing metabolic diseases. These include type II diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure from as young as mid-teens to early twenties. This phenomenon is thought to be due to “down-regulating” of blood pressure and insulin receptors in the womb; these are then inadequate to handle the large quantities of nutrition forced on them in early infancy- often by well- meaning relatives wanting to “fatten them up”.

How can we avoid this risk of metabolic disease? We should aim to allow a baby to gradually catch up their weight over a period of several months. For example, a baby born with a weight on the 3rd percentile should hit the 25th percentile sometime in the second 12 months of life- not the first 3-6 months of life.

Late Infancy and Early Childhood:

Nutrition continues to be an important factor in growth in late infancy and early childhood; decisions made in this period impact on eating choices for the rest of a child’s life. As a child becomes more and more active, it often becomes harder for parents to keep up with nutritional demands; additionally, some children can develop fussy eating habits. See Top Tips For Feeding Toddlers and Getting Your Toddler To Eat Vegetables for further information.

Children who drop two or more centile lines or who have two consecutive weight readings below the 3rd centile may be at risk of faltering growth. Such children would benefit from further assessment by a doctor or health visitor.

Dieticians are valuable resources to help parents increase the energy and nutrition density of their child’s food. Dieticians don’t just teach parents how to hide vegetables!

Some children start to eat too much, or too much of the wrong foods from this age onwards. Studies show that childhood obesity at the age of four years is a strong positive predictor of adult obesity. For advice on combatting childhood obesity, see Childhood Obesity: Is My Child Too Big?


Although growth charts are useful in tracking a child’s growth, they are not the only indicator of good health. Trends are more useful than individual weight measurements; if you are seeking a medical opinion on your child’s weight remember to take along previous weight and height measurements.

Remember that if you and your partner are both short, you are unlikely to have given birth to a basketball player! Similarly, tall and slim parents often have tall and slim children; children don’t always have to be on the same centile for height and weight.

Indicators of good growth are:

  • Roughly following a centile curve: some plateaus and growth spurts are inevitable, but falling past two centile lines on two consecutive visits may require closer attention.
  • Steady catch up growth for children born below the 3rd centile: not too rapid, but some improvement across the centiles should be seen.
  • Weight and height both increasing steadily; they don’t have to be the same, but steady improvement is appropriate.

Approximately one in 20 children will have a weight below the 3rd centile at some point or another. Around one in one hundred will have more than one consecutive weight below the 3rd centile. However, less than 5% of these children will be suffering with any medical disease. Seek appropriate help, make appropriate interventions- but try not to panic too much!

Please leave your comments and questions in the box. As always, if you found this post useful, and would like to receive similar content, don’t forget to subscribe- leave your email address in the subscriptions box and I will do the rest! 


Breast Milk Banks and Informal Milk Sharing: What Do You Need To Know?

Informal breast milk sharing is not a new concept. Cross-nursing- where one family member nurses both their infant and the infant of a close relative or friend- has existed since the dawn of time. There are accounts of wet-nurses (women who nursed other people’s babies for a living) dating back several centuries. And more recently there have been moving accounts of female aid workers in disaster zones offering their breast milk to babies who have been separated from their mothers.

The WHO states that:

“The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances.” (WHO & UNICEF 2003, p. 10)

However, what do mothers do when they find that they are unable to breastfeed, or are unable to provide sufficient breast milk for their growing infant?

Informal breast milk sharing platforms such as Human Milk For Human Babies (HM4MB) have sprung up on the internet over recent years. These use social media platforms to offer the opportunity for potential donors and recipients to interact and share breast milk. However, concerns have been raised about this practice, and the potential risks involved.

The History of Breast Milk Banking:

The earliest recorded breast milk bank was founded in Vienna, Austria in 1909. Shortly afterwards, in the 1920s, another breastmilk bank was opened in North America. The number of breastmilk banks steadily increased until the 1980s, when concerns about HIV caused many to close.

Over the last several years, there has been a huge increase in the number of breast milk banks across the world. There are over 200 milk banks in Brazil alone. Europe has approximately 220 breastmilk banks; Australia has 5 and the USA has over 20, with more planned.

The majority of these breast milk banks exist to serve the needs of sick or premature hospitalised newborns. These babies are at risk of acquiring infections, and other serious conditions such as necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). NEC occurs almost exclusively in premature babies; around 90% of cases occur in premature babies. Breast milk has been shown to reduce the incidence of NEC, as well as other infections in sick and premature babies in the hospital setting. It is estimated that NEC occurs in approximately 2-2.5% of babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Australia estimates that the cost of treating babies with NEC is approximately $26 million AUD. The cost of setting up a breast milk bank is around $200,000-$250,000 AUD, with annual running costs of $200,000-$250,000 AUD. A recent Cochrane review estimates that 33 infants would need to be fed donor breast milk to prevent one case of NEC.

What Makes A Good Donor?

Milk banks screen potential donors for potentially serious diseases such as:

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Syphilis
  • Cytomegalovirus

Donors should not smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or be taking medications. They should be otherwise healthy and well, and be able to provide sufficient milk for their own infant. The donation is voluntary and non-remunerated (there is no payment involved) to discourage people from taking breast milk from their own infants for profit.

Once breast milk is collected, it is tested for bacteria and viruses, and then pasteurised (ultra-heat-treated). It is then tested again for potential infections, before being frozen and stored appropriately, ready for use.

Why Is Informal Breast Milk Donation Potentially Dangerous?

  1. There is no way of knowing whether a donor has a potentially dangerous infection; even she may be unaware that she has such an infection.
  2. The milk may contaminated with bacteria which would not be killed except by pasteurisation.
  3. The donor mother may be taking medications that could pass into the breast milk causing possible side effects in the baby.
  4. The donor may not be aware that she should not smoke or drink alcohol.
  5. The donor milk may not have been stored appropriately in a sterile container.
  6. The donor milk may have been thawed and refroze, increasing the risk of bacterial contamination.
  7. The breast milk may not be suitable for the recipient baby: breast milk changes over time to be suitable for the changing needs of a growing infant. Breast milk that is suitable for a 9 month old may not be suitable for a 9 week old.

What Can You Do?


Look for a formal breast milk bank near to you, so that your excess breast milk may be safely used to feed sick or premature babies in the hospital setting, and potentially save lives.


  1. Only accept breast milk donation from a trusted source, such as a family member.
  2. If possible, request the donor undergo testing to screen for potentially serious infections; if they were donating to a formal milk bank this would be a requirement, so should not cause offense.
  3. Ensure the donor is not a smoker, does not take alcohol and is not taking any medications- even over the counter ones.
  4. Talk to the donor about how she sterilised her equipment and stores the breast milk.

Formula milk is a safe and acceptable alternative to human milk, and should be used in preference to donor human milk in cases where there is any doubt about the safety of the donor milk. In the absence of appropriate screening of potential donors, and quality assurance of the storage and handling of breast milk, it is preferable to recommend the use of formula milk for those babies whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, or unable to provide sufficient milk.

For more on this story, watch:


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Establishing a Routine

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a Routine

We know that good routines are important for us; people are constantly writing about how routines, or regular habits, make us healthier, happier and more productive. But what about baby? Is establishing a routine beneficial for her? Will she even notice… or care?

Multiple studies have shown that establishing a good routine early in a baby’s life helps her to sleep better, and longer, and is useful in reducing infant and maternal stress. Infant sleep problems are one of the most common reasons for a visit to the paediatrician; over 90% of paediatricians recommend a regular bedtime routine as part of their intervention strategy.

It is important to note that, whilst bedtime routines are very important, routines and habits during the day are important as well, and can impact the effectiveness of the bedtime routine.

What Makes A Good Routine?

A good routine will provide a regular bedtime, and regular, age-appropriate daytime naps. A great routine will also schedule regular meal and snack times.

I see many parents who have tried and failed to establish a routine in their family. Often, they have read a book about establishing a routine and they attempt to copy it verbatim. Although I usually give parents a copy of my routine, I stress that it is a “template” for them to adapt to fit their family.

Each child is unique, and they live within the context of unique families with different cultural and societal factors. Therefore, no two routines are likely to be the same. In fact, I often find that a routine that worked perfectly for the first child in a family needs a bit of adapting to fit the second, and then the third child.

Older sibling sleeping

Older sibling sleeping

How To Establish A Good Routine:

You can start establishing a good routine as early as you like. It is possible to start very early on, but a good time is usually around the end of the first month, when you start to get your head above water again. Start with the beginning and end of the day. Set a fixed time to start the day- and stick with it, no matter how awful the previous night was!

Similarly, make sure you keep to a fixed bedtime. Set a bedtime routine or ritual; for example, a good one to use would consist of bath time, followed by a gentle baby massage, a milk feed wiht the lights dimmed and some gentle music playing, followed by laying your baby down in her cot.

Once you have the start and end of the day figured out, pay attention to the space in between. Does your baby seem to get hungry at around the same intervals? Does she display signs of tiredness at around the same times? Often, a little careful observation will give you clues as to a routine which will work for you. Take a look at Is My Child Getting Enough Sleep? for advice on  the recommended number of hours of sleep your baby needs.

Consider how your routine will impact on other family members. Do you need to be awake at a certain time to get other children ready for school? Or does bedtime need to happen a little later so Daddy can say goodnight? Does the afternoon nap need to shift to accommodate picking up older siblings from nursery, etc.

A Sample Routine:

The following routine is designed to give you a start in planning your routine. The best routine is one which is tailored to your family’s individual needs, so you will need to spend a bit of time thinking about this, and “customising” it to suit you.

Routine Template

Routine Template

For example, point one (waking up time, and approximately the time of the first feed) may be at 7am. The first daytime nap (point A) would fall approximately one and a half hours after the waking up time (8.30am if waking at 7am), and lasts around 45 minutes. Feeds number 2 and 3 would fall at around 10am and 1pm, after which baby would have a two hour nap (approximately 1-3pm). Feed number four may fall at around 4pm, with a short 30 minute nap afterwards, and the final feed of the day at approximately  7pm.

Depending on the age and weight of the baby, you may need to still do a 10pm feed, although by around 4-6 months many babies in a comfortable routine may be able to sleep uninterrupted from 7pm to 7am.

Usually, the late afternoon nap (C) is the first to disappear, at around 6-10 months of age. This is followed by the morning nap (A) at around 12-18 months of age. The midday nap (B) usually persists until around 2-3 years of age.

Further Reading:

You may wish to read further on the medical studies that have been done on routines and their beneficial effects. The following is a useful article published in Sleep Journal which summarisies the major findings.

A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood

Have you tried adopting a routine? How did it work for you? What were the factors that helped or hindered? Let me know how you got on in the comments below. 

As always, if you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to receive weekly parenting and medical advice direct into your inbox. Have a great week ahead. 

Date Night: Prioritising A Healthy Relationship

Prioritising a healthy relationshio

Date night

We’re wired to put our kids first. From the moment they’re born, we sacrifice. Actually, even before they’re born- we give up wine, soft cheese and sushi. We make sure we’re a healthy incubator for this amazing new life growing inside us. And after the birth we sacrifice sleep, sanity and normally sized breasts on the altar of our children.

Of course this is normal and appropriate. But sometimes, in our desire to give our children the  best possible childhood they could possibly have, we can overlook a major component of that happy idyllic childhood- a stable and happy relationship between their parents.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience and enjoy parenting as a couple. For some, it is a carefully considered choice; for many others it is a necessity, involving heartbreak, loneliness and sacrifice that someone on the outside looking in will never begin to understand.

Keeping a Healthy Partnership:

For those of us who do have the privilege of parenting as a team, there’s the risk of becoming so busy in the job of parenting that we forget what a privilege it is to share this journey. We forget that the relationship with our partner is just as worthy of nurturing as the relationship with our children.

In the USA, 53% of marriages end in divorce; in UK, the divorce rate is 42%. The average duration of a marriage that ends in divorce in the USA is 8 years. Certainly, there are multiple reasons why marriages fail, but the American Psychological Association reminds us that a healthy marriage is beneficial for children:

“…growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems”

But it’s not enough to provide your children with a happy home environment at all costs. Some couples stay together “for the kids”, only to divorce when their children leave home. Empty-nest divorce rates are increasing throughout the world. In the USA, one in four couples over the age of 50 will divorce, whilst in the U.K., divorce rates in older couples have increased by 33% between 2002 and 2013.

So how do we maintain a happy, healthy marriage? How do we ensure this stable home environment for our children to grow up in? And how do we make sure that we still love each other when the children leave home?

Date Night:

We need to start being intentional in our relationship with our partner. We spend time asking our children how their day went, but when was the last time you asked your partner how their day was? (Extra points if it was sometime this week!).

Think of your partner and yourself as the foundation on which you build your family. Take time to develop a strong foundation. Remember what brought you together in the first place. And date! Take time out to do things together that you love.

In our home, we have a modified approach to “Date Night”. I take no credit for this- this was entirely my husband’s genius idea. We have three children, and the benefit of grandparents who live near enough to offer babysitting! On the first Saturday of the month, we take our elder son out on a “date”; we deliberately choose activities we know he loves, or a movie that he has been wanting to watch, but is maybe a little too “old” for his younger siblings. In short, we make him feel special, and we give him time with us.

The second Saturday belongs to our middle child, and the third is number three’s. But the fourth Saturday belongs to us. A restaurant, a good movie; things we loved doing together before we had children.  A time to reconnect, and remember what brought us together in the beginning. Just as we spend time with each child individually making them feel special, we need to create time to spend with each other, making each other feel special and loved.


So Date Night sounds like a great idea, but what do you do if you don’t have grandparents who live nearby, or who are able to help with babysitting? There are other options:

See if you have any friends with mature and responsible teenaged children who would like to make a little extra money on a weekend.

Get recommendations from friends for babysitters, or search for reputable babysitting companies.

Make reciprocal arrangements with family members or friends, where you look after their children one Saturday evening, and they take your brood the following Saturday evening. This works especially well if the children are cousins or friends, as then everyone has fun. My kids love it when their cousins come round for some homemade popcorn, a movie and a sleepover!

What challenges have you faced in prioritising your relationship with your partner? What strategies have you found that worked for you? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Is Demand Feeding Right For You?

Feeding a newborn

Is Demand Feeding Right For You?

What Is Demand Feeding?

There are many fans of demand feeding, a type of feeding that relies on responding to a baby’s cues for feeding. At its best, it allows parents to be more in tune with their baby’s needs, and more responsive to cues such as rooting, sucking and hunger cries.

However, there are significant pitfalls with demand feeding. Some babies like to suck for comfort, even when hunger is satisfied. In the early days, “rooting” (moving the mouth and lips to find something to suck) is reflexive, and may not be a reliable sign of hunger. And, of course, babies cry for so many reasons. It may be hard for a first time parent to differentiate a hunger cry from a tired cry, an overstimulated cry, a cry for cuddles, or a cry of “sitting in a dirty nappy” discomfort.

How Can Demand Feeding Go Wrong?

I often see exhausted and tearful mommies in my clinic. They are feeding “on demand” as often as every 40 minutes, with each feed lasting only 10 minutes. They come to me emotionally overwrought and convinced they are failing their baby.

Some of these mommies are genuinely struggling to provide enough milk for their babies: weight gain is suboptimal, and their baby isn’t producing many wet or poopy nappies. But frequently I find a healthy, well- thrived baby, who is gaining weight well, and a mother who actually has an abundant supply of milk, due to the frequent stimulation of multiple short feeds.

Signs that demand feeding may not be working for you:

  1. Your baby feeds for 10 minutes and then falls off the breast
  2. She then appears hungry 30-40 minutes later, and demands to be fed
  3. You are constantly exhausted
  4. You’re worried you may not have enough milk

Why Does It Matter?

Apart from the sheer exhaustion that feeding a baby every 40 minutes can engender, there are other major considerations.

For the mother:

  • Depression: this can be due to a sense of hopelessness, and feelings of failure as a mother. It can also be due a sensation of being trapped- a new mommy may feel she cannot leave the house as her baby requires almost constant feeding
  • Anxiety: am I failing my child? Is she not getting enough milk? Is she starving?
  • Breast milk oversupply: all this additional stimulation may lead to milk oversupply with a risk of blocked ducts and mastitis. Be careful about pumping to empty an over-full breast, as this may contribute further to oversupply. If you must express due to pain or engorgement, try to hand- express a small amount for comfort, rather than empty the breast fully.

For the baby:

  • Poor settling: babies who take short frequent feeds often take only the thin watery “foremilk”, which satisfies their thirst, but not their hunger. After 30 minutes or so, the stomach is empty, and without the thicker, creamy, high-fat “hind-milk”, baby feels hunger again. She then repeats the cycle.
  • Increased gassiness: hind-milk is high in fat, and stimulates release of bile acids from the liver. These then aid in digestion. Without the release of bile acids, babies may get indigestion. This then leads to increased crying and fussiness.
  • Compromised weight gain over time: in the short term, babies may still continue to gain weight well. However, if this cycle is not reversed, the lack of fat from the hind milk may lead to poorer weight gain in the long term.

What Can You Do?

Firstly, make sure that your baby is receiving enough milk. Make an appointment to see a lactation consultant or your baby’s doctor to check her weight gain and nappy output is adequate. Your lactation consultant (and some doctors) will be able to check your milk supply too.

Once you have established that you have sufficient milk, it is time to regain control of the feeding schedule. I won’t lie to you- this is the painful part! You will need to stretch out the period between feeds- initially to 90 minutes, then two hours, and finally to three hours from the start of one feed to the start of the next feed.

As you stretch out the time between feeds, you should find that your baby becomes more efficient on the breast. She should “play with it” less, and suck more vigorously, and for longer, as she learns that mommy is not a snack dispenser!

If you find that your baby still falls asleep at the breast after 10 minutes despite stretching the time between feeds, you will need to wake her up. Be rude! You can stick you finger in her ear, tickle her toes or her belly; even change her nappy (a cold wet wipe to the bottom usually works well!). Make sure she is not too warm and cosy; don’t feed her swaddled or wrapped in multiple layers of clothes. Feel free to keep her naked for feeds; the skin- to skin contact is helpful for continuing to stimulate a good milk supply.

And Finally…

I would love to hear about your experiences with demand feeding. How did you get on with it? Did it work well for you, or did you experience issues? What did you find worked for you? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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