Despite the posed pictures of her pushing a baby in a pram (I wonder if its hers?), Liz Truss, the minister for education and childcare, has made it abundantly clear that she knows bog all about small children.
Her starter for one was the proposal that ratios of minders and daycare to children should be increased. As Polly Toynbee amusingly pointed out, minders are supposed to take their charges out of the home once a day. Polly laid down a challenge to Truss: let’s see you take two babies and four under-threes out to the park.
Not satisfied with having put daycare nursery profits ahead of the needs of children, Truss then weighed in with a demand for our nurseries to be highly structured in their daily schedules. This would increase the educational value of the places (as is supposed to be the case in France, a country which has a negligent attitude to the needs of under-threes – mothers getting their figures back is put ahead of meeting the needs of neonates). Clearly, Truss has no idea that, for under-threes, play is the only really worthwhile activitiy. The words ‘structured’ and ‘play’ are as absurd when conjoined as the words ‘be spontaneous’. If an activity is structured externally, for a two year old, it ceases to be play.
Truss is a symptom of a much wider malaise. Very few, if any, of our present Ruling Elite have ever spent extended periods caring for under-threes. Speaking anecdotally, I would guess that very few of their partners have done so either – a high proportion of MPs or CEOs have partners who are also workaholic killer-drillers. They leave it to others to do the ‘boring’, ‘repetitive’ task of caring for small children. I have several times proposed that no MP should be admitted who has not spent at least one year looking after and under-three year old for at least one year. That would sort the negligent goats from the compassionate sheep.
What is more, as was so graphically illustrated by the recent documentary featuring Boris Johnson, a great many of the Ruling Elite were severely deprived of responsive, loving care in their early years. Small wonder then, that they have so little understanding of under-threes’ needs. In fact, they are allergic to meeting those needs. I would go further: they think ‘nobody loved me, why should under-threes get the care I was deprived of?’ Put bluntly, deep down, it gives the Ruling Elite pleasure to see under-threes being deprived of love and responsive care.
By Oliver James
Oliver James is the author of Love Bombing – Reset your child’s emotional thermostat
Oliver will be speaking at the forthcoming International Parenting Conference to be held at Cambridge University on July 20th and 21st. For more information about the conference, or to book a ticket to hear Oliver speak, please click HERE.
Why are the simplest solutions often kept hidden from us when we become mothers? With my firstborn (my son, Jackson) I did as I was told and have many regrets these days that I didn’t trust my instincts over the advice of health professionals, friends and family. In those days I had no one to tell me otherwise.
With Lola, things changed, although the journey was very tough. When she was two weeks old the babymoon ended abruptly and she became an unhappy baby. Unhappy, that is, when she wasn’t with me. Her latch became poor, she fed very very frequently, and she hated being laid down- I was either carrying her, or bouncing her to sleep in a bouncy chair- she couldn’t sleep in a basket etc. By 10 weeks old she was finally diagnosed as having Gastro Oesophageal Reflux (the “silent” type- not so-called because of a silent newborn, far from it. The silence refers to the fact that baby doesn’t actually vomit) and a posterior tongue-tie, and the medical advice I received (and took) was to give her infant Gaviscon for the reflux, and a tongue-tie release.
One dose of Gaviscon later, my poor baby was completely constipated and in distress. That was stopped immediately. I carried her about and rocked or fed her to sleep or just to calm her- all the stuff we’re not “meant” to do.
The tongue-tie release was done professionally and compassionately at a private hospital with a peaceful paediatric wing, on the NHS! Lolly fed immediately after, but I couldn’t say I noticed a difference in her latch. In fact, I think it “regrew” if anything- at nearly two (and still feeding) she still has it to a degree, even though the TTR was “successful”. I went to La Leche League, local breastfeeding counsellors and actually got great help from a couple of my peer supporter-trained Hypnobirthing clients, and so we continued- we plodded on, from one day to the next. I wasn’t going to quit whatever happened, but I wanted to try and make the whole thing easier on us both.
Lola was not that “good” baby people like to coo over and pat you on the back for. People called her “clingy” and “hard work”, unlike my “good” baby, Jackson- it made me very protective of her. She made my Hypnobirthing work a real trial, even though I worked from home! I had gone back to work a week after she was born, feeling fine in myself, but obviously knowing nothing about how to bed-in and set up good breastfeeding habits! At 11 weeks old we tried osteopathy- and for the first time, someone else calmed her. Sue, a wonderful osteo who I now refer all of my clients to, laid her hands gently and respectfully on Lola and did some gentle manipulation on her skull and diaphragm. It was truly miraculous, Sue explaining what she was doing (very refreshing after having various health professionals just manhandle my precious baby without a word of explanation) and Lola relaxing and sleeping on the treatment table- lying down! After one more treatment the reflux was vastly improved- Lola never liked traditional tummy time (BabyCalm have a solution for these babies!) but she could at least have her nappy changed without getting distressed!
And then, after finally cracking (my mother in law often commented on how patient she thought I was with Lola) and bursting into tears while on the phone to one of my previous Hypnobirthing clients who is also a peer supporter and a lovely friend, she suggested I brought Lola over to her house as she had an idea.
I’d heard about slings, but had no real idea what they would be used for other than maybe taking your baby hiking?! Chris had always wanted a carrier, so he’d bought a BabyBjorn when Jackson was a baby. I’d stopped him using it because I always thought it looked entirely wrong for a baby to be supported by his crotch! So I went to my friend’s house and she showed me her collection (a library in fact!) of wraps and soft carriers. I was worried I wouldn’t know how to put one on so she reassured me that a Close Carrier would be a good thing to try “babywearing” out with and wouldn’t get me in a muddle. So, feeling silly, I let her show me how to get myself into this odd, jersey cotton contraption with metal D-rings either side of my hips, and she showed me how to lower Lolly in (who was characteristically malhumoured by now) and tighten it. “That tight?”, “Yes, and close enough to kiss”…
Just as she did in the osteopathic clinic, Lola was calmed, instantly. I moved around a little, she nestled in, feeling closer to me than ever before (hence the product name I guess) and actually, she seemed happier than when actually being held. It’s like she should have been supplied with a sling at birth! It was honestly the missing ingredient! Since then we really turned a corner. I knew a marvellous way of helping her sleep, helping her stay calm so she fed more efficiently and therefore less frequently, keeping her safe and being able to get time to brush my teeth without listening to a screaming fit, not to mention being so much more mobile- I like to travel light, never been a handbag girl, so being able to go shopping without a pram (getting all of that “isn’t she a good baby!”, “oh how cute is she!” that she’d previously missed out on!) simply changed our lives. We used a couple of other types and still have a Connecta for the odd times I want to back carry her, and for all the carrying and feeling safe, secure and close to her mother, Lola is a very happy, sociable little girl- very much braver than her big brother too!
I passed this amazing knowledge on to my wonderful Hypnobirthing parents who come from all different walks of life, and like me, some of them never would have known about how the right sling can transform your everyday life. In time I read more, learned more, passed more knowledge on, to the point where I needed to make it official. Having spoken to Sarah a couple of times for professional advice before, the subject of BabyCalm came up, and Sarah suggested I train up as a teacher and help her and the other brilliant BabyCalm teachers rev up the Maternal Revolution. So I did! And amongst all of the amazing things that BabyCalm is, and does, I look at what we do and think, “if only it was around for my little Jackson and Lola, we could have had access to easier and simpler solutions to the problems we faced in those early days of their babyhood”.
By Melissa Wadey – Mother and BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm Teacher in Kent
Find out more about Melissa and her baby and toddler classes HERE.
Please note this is a collaborative post – for a list of authors please see the end of the article.
Every parent has despaired of their toddler’s night waking, no matter where the toddler sleeps and no matter the circumstances surrounding the desperation. Although there is great disagreement regarding whether infants should be able to sleep through the night, the expectation that toddlers can and should sleep through the night without wakings parents is generally well accepted—with this expectation being what is presented as the “healthy” outcome by many health professionals.
Recent research however shows us how incorrect this expectation is as science tells us that it is normal for toddlers to wake at night well into their second year. Thus, to understand toddlers and what they need during nighttime care, we need to be sensitive to the “why” of their needs, abilities and experiences, and to look for “what” drives behaviours. The same concerns are important at bedtime. Knowing why a toddler is resistant to going to bed or unlikely to remain in bed when they wake at night is key to helping toddlers and parents create a healthy, happy sleep environment. Herein we offer some insight into the whys and whats of toddlerhood and then some practical suggestions about helping infants, and their parents, sleep.