Feeling True Love

I haven’t been writing much lately due to my new trauma, so here’s a short post with thoughts about a recent meme from my meditation app Calm.

It is really sad some people don’t know how to truly love. I believe that we love unconditionally as infants and young children but how we are treated as children can literally rip this ability away and cause mental illness that will not allow us to continue to truly love unconditionally.  This is so sad because they miss out on true love and end up hurting the people that they “love.”

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Guest Post: A Childproofing Checklist for Parents with Disabilities to Be By Ashley Taylor

Please join me in welcoming Ashley Taylor from disabledparents.org.  She is a parent with a disability and so when she asked me if she could guest post on my blog, I was delighted.  I have severe cerebral palsy but I don’t have children and sometimes that’s held against me.  So here’s a parent with a disability that is treating her children respectfully.  I hope you will enjoy her posts.

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Image via Pixabay

Childproofing a home before a baby arrives is a challenging chore for any expectant parent. And it can be especially daunting for parents to be who are dealing with disabilities. But getting an early start and tackling tasks systematically can help make your home safer for you and its new occupant. Here is some information and advice to get you going.

Background on Parents With Disabilities

Research shows there were 4.1 million parents with disabilities in the United States in 2014, or around 6.2 percent of parents with children under 18. And, though attitudes are starting to shift in some states, the majority have dependency statutes that allow courts to reach the determination a parent is unfit based on the parent’s disability. So, while it is important for every expectant parent to establish a safe environment in their homes, it could be even more critical for those whose skills might be scrutinized by well meaning family, friends, and officials.

Fortunately, some agencies provide services specifically designed to assist prospective and expectant parents with disabilities plan for life after labor or adoption. Services could include home visits to evaluate areas for safety purposes, lending out adaptive child care equipment for people to try before they buy, and performing follow-up visits as the baby ages. Advocacy agencies such as Through the Looking Glass are a good place to start when seeking resources and training programs.

What to Do Before the Baby Arrives

There are some things you should mark off the child proof checklist prior to a baby’s grand arrival in its new home. Here are some suggestions from sources including Redfin.

General Safety

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors if you have an attached garage or use oil or gas to heat your home. Check batteries twice a year.

 

  • Install and maintain functional smoke detectors. Check them monthly and change batteries at least once a year if your detectors require them.

 

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and have a fire escape plan in place.

 

  • Keep nightlights away from fabrics, including bedding and curtains, and opt for night lights that don’t heat up when used.

 

  • Put together a first-aid kit for babies and take an infant CPR class.

 

  • Install childproof locks on cabinets containing poisons, medicines, and cleaning supplies.

 

  • If your home has lead paint that’s peeling or flaking, hire a certified Lead-Safe professional seal or remove it.

 

  • Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120℉ to minimize the risk of accidental burns.

 

  • Install plates that slide closed over electrical outlets.

 

Furniture, Rugs, and More

 

  • Cover sharp furniture edges with bumpers or padding.

 

  • Stony or sharp fireplace hearths should also be covered and expectant parents should also install heat-resistant gates for when the fireplace is in use.

 

  • Put non-slip pads under area rugs that don’t already have non-slip backs.

 

  • Anchor heavy furniture that could tip over, such as dressers and refrigerators, to the wall or floor.

 

  • Consider investing in baby gates to block off areas that you plan to keep off limits for your little one, but avoid accordion-style gates that they might get stuck in. For rooms with doors, try knob covers that make it doors difficult to open for little hands. Test some options early to make sure they also meet your accessibility needs.
  • Install window stops or guards.

 

  • Clip looped window blind cords and install safety tassels. Fit blinds’ inner cords with inner cord stops.

 

  • Review safety suggestions and product recalls before buying furniture for the baby’s room.

 

There will be other childproofing considerations once your baby starts crawling and walking, but this list gives soon-to-be parents a strong start toward creating a home that will help keep all its inhabitants happy and healthy for years to come.

Love Should Always Triumph Over Manipulation

 

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I recently heard something similar to this quote, “Love should always triumph over manipulation,” on a television show and it spoke to me. Unfortunately, manipulation triumphs more than love does in the parent-child relationship.

It’s not always a conscious thing, though, sometimes it is. We unknowingly usually start manipulating children at birth by not respecting their bodies and feelings.  We force them to do things that their bodies are not yet ready to do such as “tummy time” or propping them up.  This is so uncomfortable.

We make them stand before they can. We try to quiet their cries by shushing them, distracting them with a toy in front of their faces, and/or leave them to cry-it-out.

As they grow, we try to force our own agendas onto them even more.  When they are acting their ages or doing something that is developmentally appropriate, we punish them.  We spank/hit, give time-outs, and arbitrarily take things away.

This is all manipulation. Young children are often accused of trying to manipulate their parents but they are not able to think that far ahead. They’re always in the present.  People who tell parents that children manipulate are usually extremely manipulative.

This can continue into adulthood.  But love should triumph over manipulation. Love should think of the other person and do what is best for them. This does not mean letting people of any age walk all over us!  It should mean putting others first as God wants us to do.

True love accepts all, puts others first, tries not to hurt people, tries to have empathy, and gently corrects when appropriate.

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I don’t know who’s quote this is but it is spot on!

Co-Sleeping Clarified

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants sleep in their parents’ room for at least six months to a year in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  I was very happy about this as the research done by advocates of co-sleeping show that it reduces the risk of SIDS.

The reason why co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS, when done safely, is because being near the parents helps infants to regulate their body temperatures, heart rates, and breathing.  And they don’t sleep quite as deeply and can even sync their sleep patterns with their parents, which may help them awaken easier to prevent them from dying.

In fact, for countries where co-sleeping is the norm, SIDS is virtually non-existent.  Most mothers in these countries have never even heard of SIDS.  That should say a lot about the benefits of co-sleeping!

Also, cry-it-out raises the infants’ heart rates and causes them to shut down eventually which can lead to a very deep, unhealthy sleep because it’s unnatural.

Yet, despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics is finally acknowledging the research showing the benefits of co-sleeping, when I shared this on my Facebook pages, many assumed that it meant bed sharing only and rejected it.  So I want to clarify what co-sleeping is in the hopes that parents will follow this advice and find the right sleep situation for their family. After all, it could just save infants’ lives!

Therefore, let me clarify that co-sleeping is having the children sleep nearby.  It can include bed sharing, but many parents use co-sleepers that attach to the side of the bed, a crib next to the bed, a playpen near the bed, a bassinet near the bed, or a cradle by the bed. You don’t have to bed share to co-sleep.  I am a big proponent of co-sleeping because, not only does it save lives, but it also makes nighttime parenting easier because the baby is right there.

Co-sleeping also aides in attachment. Being near their parents makes infants feel safe and secure.  They usually don’t have to work themselves up into a full-blown cry when they awaken in the night because Mommy and Daddy are right there to comfort them and meet their needs.

If you’re worried that they will never move out of your bedroom if you allow them to sleep with you, how many teenagers do you know who still sleep with their parents every night?  Yeah, none!  When you and the child are ready, you can transition him/her to his/her own room.

Please co-sleep with your babies in a manner that works for you.  It may save their lives!

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Why Interdependence Is Better Than Independence

As we celebrate Independence Day, I think about how our culture is consumed by independence.  We constantly push children from birth to grow up as fast as possible. We don’t value interdependence at all.

The first thing most parents push their infants to do is hurry up and sleep through the night. Now, I understand that it is exhausting to have to parent a child throughout the night, but sleep is a need, not a skill.  No one can force children to sleep.

As I have written about many times, some parents try to force their infants to sleep “independently” by letting them cry-it-out.  Since crying is an infant’s only way of communication, leaving an infant in a dark room to cry alone releases huge amounts of stress hormones to his/her brain.  Sure, infants eventually stop crying and “sleep” when left to cry-it-out, but it’s not the healthy sleep people believe it is. Rather, their brains are literally shutting down from stress.

Then the learned helplessness sets in. Infants learn to mistrust themselves and their caregivers when their cries are not consistently and respectfully responded to. Just because allowing them to cry “worked” and they appear fine, doesn’t mean damage didn’t occur. As an early childhood professional, I cannot recommend cry-it-out ever. Plus, just because they no longer cry out at night does not mean that they still don’t wake up hungry, scared, cold, hot, sick, in pain, or with a soiled diaper in the middle of the night.  They just don’t bother to cry for help because nobody will come.

Infants need a response when they cry. A little fussing with our support as they fall asleep is ok, but ignoring their outright cries is not. Keep your babies close and create a bedtime routine based on your and their needs.  The time you spend parenting at night will pay off and soon enough they’ll be sleeping on their own and you may miss the quiet time at night with your little one.

Another way that we push independence on infants and young children is that we manipulate infants’ bodies to crawl, sit up, and walk before they are ready. I strongly believe God created infants to develop naturally without our “helping” them along. We don’t need to push infants or young children to do things that they’re not ready to do. Don’t hold them back, but don’t push them either.

Also, when children are forced to obey out of fear of being punished, they further learn that their parents cannot be trusted. Plus, we force them to become independent before they’re really ready by expecting too much of them. Another thing is that they learn to hide stuff from their parents. They learn that they “themselves” are the only ones that they can truly depend on. This can negatively affect their adult relationships as well as their relationships with God.

We need to do our best to show our children they can depend on us and God.  I believe encouraging teamwork and interdependence within the family is the best way to grow independent children and adults.

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The Problem With The New Study Claiming Cry-It-Out Isn’t Harmful To Infants

Some researchers in Australia conducted a study in which 43 infants ranging from six months to 16 months were either allowed to cry for longer periods of time, had graduated extinction, or had their bedtimes moved back to help the infants fall asleep quicker claim that the infants who were allowed to cry-it-out had no negative effects.

There are a number of problems with this study from a scholarly standpoint.

1.  The  study was extremely small and did not specify what ages were in the different groups.  Allowing a toddler or older infant to fuss for a few minutes with our support as they fall asleep is much different than a young infant being left to cry for ten or more minutes.  This leads me to my second issue with this study.

2.  We are not told how long the infants in the cry-it-out group were allowed to cry.  Were they totally alone when they were allowed to cry-it-out or was the parent nearby?  Sometimes when weaning or adjusting bedtime routines, infants cry and if you hold them or rub their backs as they cry, their stress levels are much lower than just being put down in a crib alone with no support.

3.  The researchers claim to have “measured the stress hormone cortisol in the babies’ saliva in the afternoon and the morning during the treatment. They also used ankle monitors to track how often the babies in each group were waking throughout the night” (Bowerman, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/).  The morning and afternoon but not at night when the stress is happening?  This makes no sense.  Especially when many, many other studies measure the infants’ heart rates, blood pressure, and stress hormones have shown that being left alone to cry-it-out does, in fact, stress infants out.  Just swabbing the infants’ mouths twice a day and using a bracelet to count how long the infants stay asleep is not enough to conclude that cry-it-out isn’t harmful.

4.  They allowed the parents to change groups and the control group was the one that just continued with their bedtime routines. So, we are not told what the bedtime routines of the control group were. We are not told what the other groups routines were either.  We don’t know if the infants were teething, sick, co-sleeping, or what happened when the infants woke up in the night.  We are not told about the family life of these infants.  We are not told about their development.  So many things can affect an infant’s sleep pattern.

5.  So the study claims that infants allowed to cry-it-out slept longer.  This is not necessarily a good thing!  Being exhausted from crying does not lead to healthy sleep.  Any adult who has cried themselves to sleep knows that you don’t wake up very rested. Actually, you’re exhausted.  Also, for infants their brain actually shuts down from crying because of all the stress of nobody answering.  This is NOT healthy nor is it good!  In fact, reliable and valid research shows that:

”Sleep techniques that employ prolonged crying to ‘teach’ an infant to sleep simply teach the infant that the mother will not respond as he or she expects. As a consequence, the infant cannot rely on the mother’s care and for survival, and he or she must conserve energy, since the mother as a food source is now unpredictable. The infant therefore ceases to cry when crying fails to produce a response, and presents the appearance of sleep (shuts down activity). This leads parents to think they have successfully sleep trained their baby, while the baby is responding to the possibility it has been abandoned, and attempting to conserve energy to stay alive“ (Ball, 2015, http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/).

6.  There are years and years of research by credible doctors and early childhood professionals that prove that cry-it-out is emotionally and physically harmful to infants. And what about the studies by Rene Spitz, Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth, Emmi Pikler, John Bowlby backing up and proving how detrimental it is for infants if they don’t receive sensitive, respectful care 24/7?   Are we supposed discount all thes valid and reliable studies by top researchers in the field for this one very flawed study?  Gosh, children are people too!

Dr. Bruce Perry is another person that shows neglecting babies’ need for touch and sensitive care has detrimental effects on their brain development. The first 5 years are crucial. So many people don’t understand just how vulnerable the young brain is. Yes, most survive harsh parenting practices such as cry-it-out andspanking/hitting but the damage IS there!!

7.  The researchers do not define what secure attachment is.  The children can seem attached on the surface but there are a number of attachment issues that can occur in children who are not sensitively cared for.  Please read this post I wrote for more info about different attachment issues.

In sum, this was a very flawed study.  It is not credible nor reliable.  Infants need sensitive, respectful care 24/7.  There are resources to gently help infants and parents sleep such as Elizabeth Pantley’s book, The No Cry Sleep Solution.

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References:

Ball, H.  (2015).   Cry It Out – 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It.
http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/

Bowerman, M.  (2016). Study: Letting baby ‘cry it out’ won’t cause damage.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/.

Child Trauma Academy.  (2016). http://childtrauma.org

Cox, S.  (2011).  Attachment Theory- Why NOT to Train a Baby.  http://whynottrainachild.com/articles/attachment-theory/.

Epstein, V. (2015).  Should You Let Baby Cry It Out?  http://www.kars4kids.org/blog/cry-it-out/.

Kim, M.  (2005).  Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry.  http://drbenkim.com/articles-attachment-parenting.html.

Narvaez, D.  (2011).  Dangers of “Crying It Out.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out.

Sears, W.  (2016).  Let Baby Cry It Out: Yes or No?  http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/letting-baby-cry-it-out-yes-no.

Word of Mom Blogs.  (2016).  BLOG: Letting Your Baby Cry It Out – Really Bad Idea.  http://www.whattoexpect.com/blogs/parenting-three-when-can-i-pee/letting-your-baby-cry-it-out-really-bad-idea.

Recommended Reading:

New Cry-It-Out Study Misses the Mark

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry

Gentle Sleep Resources

Validation And Distraction

As I am once again plunged into the dark place of grief since I just lost my grandpa only nine months after losing my mother-in-law (I was extremely close to both of them), I am confronted with well-meaning people trying to distract me in order to make me feel better.  I’m also confronted with people who are not compassionate at all towards my deep pain.  I had no idea I would have the latter problem.

But with this post I want to focus on validation and distraction.  From the moment infants are born, many well-meaning people tend to distract infants when they cry instead of validating them and telling them that they will meet their needs.

I mean shushing the infant and saying, “You’re okay.” is not validating them. They are crying for a reason and it’s up to us to validate them and figure out what they need.

Unfortunately, this tendency to use distraction over validation occurs throughout life.  People just aren’t comfortable with anyone of any age showing negative emotions.  And yet, the Bible says:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NASB).

The Bible also says:

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NASB).

We can rejoice easy enough with people, but when it comes to weeping and mourning with them, many run the other way.  I believe this is due to being taught distraction from birth.  It’s easier to say, “You’re okay,” and try to make someone smile and laugh than to sit down with them and listen to their pain and cry with them.

I find the most peace when people tell me that everything I am feeling right now is normal and to take my time. After all, to truly semi heal from great loss is to feel the pain and let it pass.  God never distracts us from our pain.  He is right here feeling it with us and comforting us.  Encouragement is also so helpful to anyone of any age.

All this being said, I believe there is a place for respectful distraction.  But it must always come after validation.  Offering a young child something to do after he/she has pretty much worked through his/her upset is fine as long as the child can refuse it.  Sending a funny video to a hurting person is okay as long as it is preferenced with “I know you’re having a hard time.  I thought this might give you a smile.”  Offering to take a grieving person out is okay as long as you are ready to hear them talk about the pain and maybe even see him/her cry.

Hurting, upset people of all ages need validation over distraction!  Yes, taking a break from our pain is important, but without the support and validation of others, it makes the healing process take longer.  It also causes children to learn that negative feelings are unacceptable and that they should repress and deny their pain.

If there is physical pain then validating it should still come before distraction.  I use distraction as a coping mechanism but I recognize that I must feel the pain too as, unfortunately, pain is a part of this life on Earth.

May we always validate each other so that no one must carry their pain and burdens alone.

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They Have Souls. They Are Innocent!

Psalm 139:13-18 (NASB):
“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.”

I love this Scipture for two reasons.

  1. God created us in our mothers’ wombs. Therefore, a baby has a soul from the moment he/she is conceived.  Even John The Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth while pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41). Therefore, it is important we recognize that babies are babies in the womb and help the pro-life movement by giving to pregnancy crisis centers. Picketing at abortion clinics does not help.
  2. The other reason I love this Scripture is that it says nothing about sinfulness.  Yes, the parents are sinful, but God creates babies. Babies are incapable of sinning.  Therefore, we need to respect them and treat them in a way that reflects God’s love to them.

Here’s another beautiful Scripture showing us how God feels about babies and young children:

“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:1-3, NASB).

If young children are so “sinful,” why would God have established His strength in them?  He is in our babies.  Shouldn’t we view young children the way God views them?

They have souls and they are innocent!

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Infants: Innocent or “Sinful?”

Many Christians claim infants are “sinful” and “manipulative.”  This is based on an inaccurate interpretation of Psalm 51:5 which states:

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5, NASB).

Even many Bible versions inaccurately translate this verse to say that David was “sinful” from birth. What I believe the verse is actually saying is that David’s mother was sinning when he was conceived.  Other verses seem to contradict the church doctrine of infants being born “sinful.”  Let’s look at some.

“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” ( James 4:17, NASB).

Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39, NASB).

“For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13, ESV).

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matthew 19:14, NASB).

As we can see, infants and young children are not ever considered “sinful” in the Bible.  We will all eventually sin in our lives and will need Jesus to save us from our sins, but infants do not even know what sin is, therefore, they cannot understand what sin is.  They re so young and are totally in the present moment.  They cannot plan ahead.

Also, if we truly observe infants in an objective manner, we’ll see that they are eager to interact with us.  And as soon as they can physically do it, they will offer toys and food to us.  It may be slobbery, but they love to share with us and interact with us.

A “sinful” infant wouldn’t get joy from taking turns with us and interacting with us.  A “sinful” infant would never ever be satisfied with us.  I must point out that some infants are born with special needs and can’t interact the way typical infants can.  Other infants are very high needs.  These infants are not “sinful.”

No infants are ever “sinful.”  Infants are totally innocent.  It is very important for us to understand that infants’ wants are also their needs. Infants are incapable of manipulating us during their first year of life. Yes, as they get older, they can wait a bit for a need to be met as long as we tell them we will meet it soon and follow through. But even wanting to be held is an actual need for infants.

Let’s do our best to treat infants in a manner that will allow them to keep their innocence for as long as possible instead of treating them harshly, making them learn to be selfish.

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Cry-It-Out: What Is It? Why Is It Harmful?

Cry-it-out means to leave an infant to cry alone without any type of response from us in order to sleep train.

Allowing infants to protest while we quickly do something that takes us away from them does not constitute cry-it-out especially if we communicate with them about what we must do. Our aim is not always to stop or prevent crying. Our aim is to validate them, support them, and be responsive to their needs.

Since crying is an infants only way of communication, leaving them in a dark room to cry releases huge amounts of stress hormones to their brains. Sure, they eventually stop and sleep when left to cry-it-out, but it’s not the healthy sleep people believe it is.

Rather, their brains are literally shutting down from stress due to crying so hard. Then the learned helplessness sets in. Infants learn to mistrust themselves and their caregivers when their cries are not consistently and respectfully responded to. Just because allowing them to cry “worked” and they appear fine, doesn’t mean damage didn’t occur.

As an early childhood professional, I cannot recommend cry-it-out ever. Infants need a response when they cry. A little fussing with our support as they fall asleep is ok, but outright ignoring their cries is not. Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. William Sears, and many others have done research showing that cry-it-out is extremely harmful.

Infants should have consistent bedtime routines such as a warm bath, nursing or bottle feeding, singing, and a book read to them. Children thrive on routines because routines are flexible in order to meet the children’s needs. Schedules are not designed to meet children’s needs. They are more for adult’s convenience. Eating and sleeping should revolve, mostly, around the infants needs. Catching infants before they become over tired can help them fall asleep easier. Also, some families may find safe co-sleeping helpful in nighttime parenting.

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