Friday, January 30, 2009

Sleep Training

I use gmail and it constantly has ads popping up that somehow pertain to something about the e-mail I've written or received. They are distracting to me and I try to ignore them, but find myself reading them anyway.

Today, there was something about infant sleep and how to help your child sleep through the night. I thought about it for a minute, then decided to click on it to see what the information being disseminated to parents said.

I read the advertisement. Very convincing. Yes, sleep-deprived parents are a problem. The answer is that babies must learn to sleep through the night using specific techniques. But as I read my free tips to help my child sleep better tonight (which I don't need because my child is 5 and sleeps quite well unless he isn't feeling well), I felt a twinge of uncertainty.

There were a lot of assumptions: 1. Babies waking up is disruptive to the parents. 2. Parents need their sleep and so do babies or there are major health risks for both. 3. The only healthy solution for parent and child is to train the baby to sleep. 4. One of the tips is to use a transitional object so that when baby wakes up alone, he will have this object that is "with him" to help him go back to sleep and be comforted.

This assumes that: 1. babies shouldn't be waking up during the night. It is simply a bad habit and it is the parent's job to teach them to sleep, 2. That there is something wrong if they are waking up and 3. That separation and disconnection are the answers. How scary and sad that this is what parents think sleep is supposed to be about.

For babies who are separated from their parents all day while their parents are both at work, the child is expected to spend maybe an hour with parents before he or she is off to bed for the night. Where is the bonding and connection? It is absent.

In The Continuum Concept, I was amazed to read about cultures that don't have all of the rules about what night time sleep is supposed to be like. I read about one group who would regularly wake up, tell a joke, everyone would laugh and then return to sleep. We would never think of doing this sort of thing. Once you're asleep, no one is supposed to disturb you.

But what does it mean to disturb one's sleep? I think this is more about interpretation than anything else.

If I look at my child's waking as a major inconvenience and I don't understand that there are biological reasons for young children to wake, both for frequent breastfeeding and to keep baby out of the deep sleep states that are correlated to SIDS according to Dr. James McKenna, mother-baby sleep expert, I would probably do everything I could to "fix" this "problem." But what if it is we who have the problem of interpretation instead of a problem with our baby?

What if we brought our babies into our beds (following safe co-sleeping guidelines) or brought them into our rooms at night, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first 6 months of life? We would find that our sleep states synchronized and we would naturally be waking when our baby was waking. It is much less disruptive this way than when baby is down the hall and the sleep rhythms are different.

What if we redefined what was disruptive and instead looked at this night time as precious time with our little ones who will not be little for very long at all. In fact, when I think back on the time with my little ones, I look back fondly on those nighttime feedings once I realized that I didn't have to even get out of bed anymore and could doze as my baby nursed. I enjoyed being close and knowing that my baby's needs were being met all the time, but that mine were not being forgotten, either.

Babies and children pick up on our emotional states. If we are stressed, they will be stressed. And stress does not help anyone get back to sleep. When we look at ourselves and our own feelings and interpretations about our struggles with our children, and release the stress we have around those situations, sometimes that is enough to change the situation entirely. That means that we can make it different and we don't need to buy another book about sleep to make things different in our lives. Imagine that! We can be our own expert or our own life! We can focus on connection instead of disconnection and make our lives work for us! How empowering!

The answers are within you and you don't need another expert to tell you what to do. Turn inward and connect with yourself. Connect with your baby. That's where the answers are!

Happy sleeping...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cell phones can pop popcorn?

According to Snopes, this isn't real. However, it did get me thinking about the fact that I wrote and article last year about cell phones because I kept finding information about how it could alter children's behavior and brain function because of their thinner skull bones. The fact that they are still growing and we simply don't know what happens with long-term exposure warrants caution, especially where our children are concerned. I'm posting my article below for your reference and information. You, of course, need to make the best decision possible for you and your family regarding this issue.

Cell Phones: What You Need to Know

They’re everywhere you look; young children, senior citizens, everyone seems to be using cell phones. They’re convenient and seemingly necessary for our fast-paced life style, for parents to keep track of their children, and for parents to communicate with others for business and family obligations. Many of us have difficulty remembering what life was like without cell phones. Seriously, how did we survive without them?

So why are prominent brain surgeons telling Larry King on CNN that they no longer hold cell phones to their ears? What do we need to know to make good decisions about cell phone use for our families and for ourselves?

Read the newspaper or watch the news on television and reports seem to fluctuate wildly: one day saying that cell phones are dangerous and the next stating that there is no danger in cell phone use. But cell phone use has been linked in numerous studies to brain tumors, genetic damage, fatigue, asthma, heart disease, headaches, depression, impaired learning ability, and cancer.

What we do know is that we could be on the verge of a brain cancer epidemic. There has been a 40% increase in brain tumors in the past 20 years, which coincides with the use of the mobile phone. At the present rate of increase, predictions of 500,000 cases as soon as 2010, and over a million cases in the United States alone by 2015. We know that cell phones do affect the brain; we just aren’t sure how much exposure to cell phone radiation is too much.

Children and Cell Phones

In the US, 40% of children between the ages of 4 and 18 use some kind of wireless device, with one in three US teens using cell phones.
Scientists at the Spanish Neuro Diagnostic Research Institute in Marbella found that a two-minute cell phone call can alter the electrical activity in a child’s brain for up to an hour afterwards! Disturbed brain activity can lead to psychiatric and behavioral problems and impair learning ability. As Dr. Gerald Hyland, a government advisor in the UK said, “The results of the Spanish study show that children’s brains are affected for long periods even after very short-term use… This could affect their mood and ability to learn in the classroom if they have been using a phone during a break time, for instance. We don’t know all the answers yet, but the alteration in brain waves could lead to things like lack of concentration, memory loss, inability to learn, and aggressive behavior.”

The French health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has taken such concerns public, issuing an alert in January urging parents to limit use, and reduce children's telephone calls to no more than six minutes. Her announcement followed a similar warning by the Health and Radio Frequencies Foundation, a research group backed by the French government that was created two years ago to study the impact of radio frequency fields on humans.
"I believe in the principle of precaution," Bachelot said during an interview. "If there is a risk, then children with developing nervous systems would be affected.”

In 1999, the UK Government formed the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) to examine possible effects of mobile phones and transmitter base stations. This group was made up almost entirely of biomedical specialists and led by the famous British biochemist and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sir William Stewart. Their report, Mobile Phones and Health, was released in April 2000. In regards to the use of mobile phones by children the IEGMP stated:

"If there are currently unrecognized adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones, children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head and a longer lifetime of exposure. In line with our precautionary approach, we believe that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children.”

Here are some suggestions for cell phones:

Reduce your cell phone use. Remember that the radio frequency fields affect adults, too, and you are modeling behaviors for your child. If you are on your cell phone all the time, your child will naturally want to do the same thing, too.

Keep your cell phone at least six inches away from your body. This means that you are not carrying the cell phone in your pocket unless it is turned off. Even when phones are not in direct use, they are still emitting a frequency. Also, using the speaker feature when possible will reduce your exposure.

Carefully consider a child’s cell phone use. If children are going to use a cell phone, teach them to use the speaker feature whenever possible and limit their phone calls. Because of their thinner skull bones, children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults.

Use your cell phone only where reception is good; the weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body.

Consider using a headset with well-shielded wires. However, be aware that if a wired headset is not well shielded -- and most of them are not -- the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain. Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded.

According to Dr. Mercola, the best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires, which still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.

I encourage you to educate yourself on this very important issue so that you can make the best, informed decision for yourself and your family. You’re worth it!


“Children and Cell Phones: Is There a Risk?” Reviews research from the world’s top scientists:

“Why Brain Surgeons Are Avoiding Cell Phones.” New York Times, June 3, 2008

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is "regulation?"

I just posted this in my forums in response to this question and thought that you might be interested to read about it. Below is my response.

I was just writing a chapter in my book about this very topic. Yes, it starts with the obvious level of calm and relaxed, but it actually refers to the regulation or calmness of the nervous system (which includes the network of nerves that run up the spinal cord and into the base of the brain that is connected to the rest of the body- we're talking about body level regulation here). When a person is upset, overly tired, cold, shocked in some way (like when the water for the shower is too cold), it is dysregulating at the level of the nervous system. If someone is saying that he is calm, but his palms are sweaty, his heart is racing, his stomach is upset, he is dysregulated on a body level and is thinking in part of his brain that he's calm. That's not what we're talking about.

Dysregulation can show up as hyperarousal or hypoarousal. Hyperarousal would be throwing things, classic ADHD, yelling or screaming- outward expressions of dysregulation. OR as hypoarousal, which is a shut down state. We tend to get less excited about a person who shuts down, but this person is just as dysregulated.

Regulation is learned through relationships, generally in the first 3 years of life when parents respond to their children's upsets with calm presence 100,000+ times and the child learns to do this for themselves. With high need children (i.e. emotionally reactive children, particularly those who have experienced early trauma of any kind), it takes much longer than this for them to learn to calm themselves down after a stressor. Regulation can also be taught to grown-ups, though, and it is never too late to learn. Our parents couldn't give us what they didn't have, but it doesn't mean that we're doomed to live a dysregulated life if it didn't happen.

Regulation is one of those things that is talked about very little in parenting books, but it is utilized by literally every scientific discipline. AND, chronic dysregulation, or the inability to calm oneself down after a stressful event (which can be anything, including being unable to tie his shoes the way he wants) is correlated to nearly every psychiatric disorder.

Such an important concept, yet it is strangely absent from parenting information.

To teach regulation, we need to be able to regulate ourselves as parents. When stressful things happen, we need to be able to remain calm all the way through, not just on the surface, in order to help calm another person's system. It takes connecting through relationship, which can be challenging when the other person is big and angry. But it is possible. And indeed, it is the only thing that really works.

AND when a person is dysregulated, we are not fully in our rational thinking brains anymore. We actually lose IQ points and the ability to reason. I'm sure this is something we've all experienced. Ever try to find your car keys when you're in a hurry and you're upset? Rarely does it work well.

So, that's an explanation of regulation (and dysregulation) in a nutshell. I could go on all day and all night about this (and indeed, I probably have in the past!). Feel free to ask any questions that come up for you as you read. I'm more than happy to explain this and to help others understand. That's why I'm here doing this!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Silence Experiment

So yesterday, I had oral surgery (long story) and was told that I needed to spend the weekend talking as little as possible. No problem, I thought. I'll just make sure my husband is home to handle the kids and we'll be fine. I'll get to rest (maybe even blog!), and he'll get some time with the kids.

I was not prepared for my youngest son's response to my silence. Even though I had tried to prepare him ahead of time for what to expect when I returned from my appointment, he just couldn't understand why I wasn't talking. It seemed that he needed assurance that I was OK and the only way it really clicked in with him that I was OK was for me to talk to him. After I did a little talking and he was reassured that I was OK, things settled down in a very interesting way.

It seems that I talk all the time. I didn't realize that I did this, as funny as that sounds. I'm not a loud person and I don't think that I am constantly chattering, but I think it is nearly impossible to be a silent parent. And that has become really obvious trying not to talk for the past 24 hours.

But the interesting thing is that everyone, from the girl at the counter when I was buying some juice at the health food store, to my children, have all responded differently to my lack of conversation. For example, my son just came into my office asking for a piece of printer paper. I pointed to where it was living. He got the paper and left the room without saying a word. There was a quiet acknowledgment from him before he left, but he didn't say anything. It seems like people around me are also quieter when they are near me.

I'm still communicating, though the nature of my communications have changed. It more resembles charades and is certainly comical for them, though sometimes frustrating for me. But I have found it interesting that the nature of their communication with me has also changed. Go figure. Perhaps if I want my house to be quieter, it means that I need to be quieter at times when I would normally have a lot of words.

Maybe we can all try this and see what happens with our children if we just stop talking sometimes when we would have said a lot of words to say and simply stop instead and listen. I wouldn't suggest going the oral surgery route to try it out, but see what happens if you are just quietly present with your children and see how they respond. I'd love to hear!