Marni Matyus - Babywearing and Kangaroo Care

November 30, 2007 | 7 Comments

Carrie: You’re back with Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radio and I’m joined this week by Marni Matyus from The Sling Station and Peppermint.com.  Good morning, Marni. 

Marni: Good morning! 

Carrie: How are you today? 

Marni: I’m great!  How are you? 

Carrie: Very good.  I think it’s finally cleared up here.  We’ve had a couple days of sort of pseudo rain, which is kind of good, but we need so much more.  We’re having a bad drought right now.  It’s nice to see the sun, but I wish it would just really drench and give us some rain.  Well, we’re going to talk about kangaroo care.  Now, you’re obviously a baby-wearing expert with your website and your business.  First of all, for those who aren’t familiar with you and what you offer on your website, tell us about The Sling Station and Peppermint.com. 

Marni: Okay.  With both websites, we offer a wide variety of baby carriers.  We represent many of the major manufacturers and in addition to all the different types of carriers, we also have people on our staff who are baby sling experts, who have used the carriers with their own children and they are available by phone and by live chat or email to help moms design which carrier is best for their needs and also to use the carriers if they’re having trouble using their carrier after they received it. 

Carrie: And I’m sure that’s an issue because I know I’ve heard that from many moms, “Oh, my baby doesn’t like it,” or “I can’t get it to work.” 

Marni: Right, right, and that’s what we really try, to provide the service to those moms because when you first get it out of the package, it can be a little intimidating, but if you’ll just step through it and give it a chance and look at our videos on our website and we also have some printable instructions in addition to what’s provided by the manufacturers.  Most people, once they give it a try or give us a call and we can give you help based on your baby’s age and your particular situation what carrying position might be best for you or some tips to help you use your carrier. 

Carrie: Oh, that’s great.  Okay, so on the topic of kangaroo care and I’m sure most of our listeners are familiar with that, but if you want to just explain briefly what kangaroo care refers to. 

Marni: Absolutely.  Kangaroo care really is skin to skin. What happened is in the 1970s in Columbia, they didn’t have the money to buy incubators and they were having a lot of premature babies that were dying. So they tried using the mother as an incubator, so when these babies were born, they literally put the baby on the mother’s chest, skin to skin, the baby’s only wearing a diaper and actually inside the mother’s gown or shirt and the mothers wore the babies 7 x 24 and they actually slept in a semi-upright position with the babies tied to their chest. 

They found that those babies did better than the babies that were in the incubator and the hospital on the top of the hill, they did have money for incubators.  Surprisingly, first of all, these babies were surviving and then as we did more and more research and in other countries, kangaroo care is really implemented much the same as it was in Columbia back when it first started where the babies are held for most of the day on the mother’s chest. 

So, what we found out is their heart rates are more stable, their breathing is more stable, their cortisol levels and their stress hormone are at the 10x lower than a baby who is in an Isolette or an incubator.  The babies that are held skin to skin and held close to their mother were getting out of the hospital faster, they were nursing better, they were gaining weight better, and they have actually a higher survival rate. 

Carrie: Wow.  You know, I had read about the benefits of kangaroo care before, but listening to you tell that story, it occurred to me I wasn’t aware of the fact that they actually encourage the mothers to have the baby sleep on their chest. It made me think that kind of decries the whole “co-sleeping is unsafe” thing and I wonder how many women have done this.  Is it a large enough group of women that we could use those statistics to disprove some of the co-sleeping detractors? 

Marni: You know, I’m really not sure.  I do know that Niles Bergman who provided most of the information that I know of, they’re very specific on the way that the babies are tied onto the mother when they are sleeping, especially that they want to make sure particularly that the baby’s airway is protected.  That is a big concern to them, especially with premature babies. 

Carrie: That would be kind of an interesting thing to investigate just as a side point. 

Marni: Absolutely. 

Carrie: Well, you mentioned some of the benefits to the baby, but what about the moms and dads too?  Dads participate in kangaroo care as well, don’t they? 

Marni: Absolutely.  I mean it’s often focused on the mother because she’s obviously there.  She’s nursing the baby in a lot of cases, but when the mother cannot hold the baby or kangaroo the baby, obviously the dad is the natural choice.  For the mother particularly — for the mother, for me, it was getting my life back when I’m dealing with a newborn — when I had my first baby it was difficult to even get a bite to eat and with the baby held tight to my body, I could now fix myself a meal, I could actually eat using two hands, walk around, things that were difficult with a newborn that wanted to be held constantly. 

Now, with kangaroo care, we’ve actually found out that some mothers have a lower incidence of postpartum depression.  Bonding is easier and they are able to get to know their baby’s needs faster to understand what the baby is needing and obviously respond to their cries faster and then obviously just to be able to do some things that they might not be able to do otherwise. 

Carrie: Yeah.  I know I always felt sorry for moms with preemies and one of the biggest reasons why is because when you see these pictures or footage of babies in these little incubators and the mommies cannot touch them and hold them, it always made me feel so sad for the mom because it’s just an instinct to want to just be close to that infant and protect them and everything and I thought, “Oh, that’s got to have some kind of emotional repercussions.”  So, that makes total sense to me that it would impact postpartum depression rate. 

Marni: Absolutely.  I think we have a physiological need to be with our babies because they have a need to be with us.  It’s a very natural phenomenon and it’s so much easier for the moms even in hospital setting if they can use a carrier to kangaroo their babies, they’re more likely to hold them longer to give them more skin to skin time, which the babies really need if they can sit there and read a book or if they can walk around the hospital a little bit.  Even if the babies have to be connected to breathing machines or IVs, the mom still has a little bit more freedom with physically having to hold the baby with her arm, so that babies tend to get more mom time, more skin to skin time.  Kangaroo care is not just for premature babies.  They’re also for newborns.  They experience the same benefits for newborn babies, which also have a need to be close to their mother.  They actually have the same benefits to a full-term baby as to a premature baby. 

Carrie: Right.  Well, back to that thing that we were talking about earlier about moms who say, “Oh, well, you know, I tried that (babywearing).  My baby just screamed.  They didn’t like the sling.  They didn’t like the carrier…” What suggestions do you have? 

Marni: First of all, starting early.  A lot of times, if you carry a baby from their very early weeks, they don’t know any different.  It’s very natural to them.  That’s a very natural place for the baby to be, so obviously it’s what they are used to. 

A lot of babies also are particular about the positioning.  So, with the newborn, the best position we found is upright on the mother’s chest.  So, with the baby’s head above in between the breasts you want to hold the baby high so that you can reach down to kiss the top of their head.  A lot of babies don’t like to have their heads covered and a lot of babies don’t like to be in a reclining position, especially if you have a baby who’s colicky or reflux, it may hurt them to be in a reclining position.  They do much better sitting upright and you want the baby to be facing you, so they’re leaning against the mother.  That way, they’re not having to support their own weight or their own spine. 

You want to fully support them so they’re leaning against you and then usually there’s fabric behind the baby’s back.  Now, when you have a little bit older baby and you’re just getting into baby wearing, you may need to show them that the sling is a nice place to be.  So, obviously, put them in a carrier and, again, for most babies, we still recommend almost at any age when you’re just starting to wear your baby upright, leaning against the mother, facing the mom.  Put the baby in the carrier, make sure they’re comfortable and walk around. 

So, the first thing you should do when you get the baby in the sling is take a walk, if the weather is nice preferably outside.  I found that just walking around and patting the baby, often they’ll calm down because for an older child that’s not used to being in a sling, it might be just something different, something they’re not used to.  So, they may be a little apprehensive.  If you can calm them down, they’ll soon learn that that’s exactly where they want to be is in mom’s arms.  So, the sling is a way for them to get what they want basically. 

Obviously, the other thing to think about is if the baby just is not happy in the sling, put it away and try it another day.  The other thing you can do to make the baby more comfortable is to make sure you’re comfortable with the sling before you put the baby in.  So, practice with a doll or even with a sack of rice and make sure you understand how the sling works before you actually try it with your baby.  That way, they’re not picking up on your apprehension or any insecurities you may have with the sling because they do pick up on our emotions. 

Carrie: That’s right.  You know, my oldest was a very high need baby and I picked up a sling when he was about 5 weeks old at a consignment shop and it was the worst sling for my body that I could have chosen.  That was one thing.  It was the wrong kind of sling for me because he was tiny and I’m kind of petite and I got a NoJo at a consignment shop.  I didn’t know that there was a difference among all the slings and it just so happened that the NoJo is about the worst possible sling for my frame.  I needed a Maya or something that I could adjust the tail independently to get him nice and tight, so that was one thing.  Secondly, for me, what worked with him was I had to put him in it and immediately start moving, almost be bouncing while I’m adjusting it and take off walking. 

Marni: Absolutely. 

Carrie: And that really helped us, but it was a lifesaver for me.  I always say that I was blessed with a high need child first because everything after that seems easier.  It was trial by fire. 

Marni: That’s absolutely correct. 

Carrie: Oh boy.  The sack of rice thing, I’ve not heard that.  I’ve heard of using a Cabbage Patch doll, but I think a sack of rice is better because it’s heavier and fluffier. 

Marni: Absolutely and if you’re afraid of your baby falling out of a sling, when you put a sack of rice in there, it’s slippery and it’s heavy and it has no arms and legs and if you can keep the rice in there, it probably is not going to be an issue to keep your baby in a sling or a wrap. 

Carrie: Right, yeah.  The thing about going outside is great.  Sometimes I would have to do that too.  I can immediately walk outside because most babies tend to calm down the moment they get outside in the fresh air.  Yeah, that was a great tip too. 

Marni: Absolutely. 

Carrie: Well, you actually had an opportunity to educate some folks in Dallas, medical staff, about kangaroo care.  Tell us about that. 

Marni: I did and it was a fantastic opportunity actually and we had nurses, physical therapists, midwifes, like patient consultants and a few doctors that actually came to our workshop.  Obviously, most of them know about kangaroo care in general because they have lots of workshops.  They understand the value of kangaroo care for the baby, so we were able to show them how to use a carrier to implement kangaroo in there in a hospital setting and they are working with not only premature babies, but also special needs children. 

So, in the child life centers, they’re dealing with children that may have cancer, may have breathing difficulties, may have brain damage or brain trauma, and they found that the carriers are very calming to the babies that when they’re held, when they’re carried they’re much happier.  It’s sometimes easier to work with them with certain physical therapy activities or when they undergoing medical treatment.  We have had a great response.  The staff was very encouraged about what we had to show them and made it easier for them and easier for some of the parents and they are able to now go and teach the parents how to use baby carriers and to encourage them to do more kangaroo care with their babies. 

Carrie: That’s great!  You know, I’ve never thought about that, babies with special needs and how they could also benefit from baby wearing.  That’s great.  Well, what kind of slings or carriers do you recommend for that? 

Marni: Well, I showed them all of the carriers and my suggestion is typically a wrap and without fail, that’s always their first choice to use once they see the benefits and learn how to use it.  Some people are a little bit intimidated by a wrap at first, but really we find that the easiest carrier for moms to get the babies in comfortably and securely is also the most versatile when dealing with babies with special needs because you can position the baby exactly where you need them and then tighten the wrap around them.  You can also vary the carrying positions depending on the baby’s needs. 

Carrie: Well, that’s really interesting.  That’s good to know.  Well, Marni, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing that with us.  I know I’ve seen your banners from Peppermint.com, especially all over the Internet, especially the blogosphere, and you’ve got just a wonderful variety and great articles and stuff on your site, so I encourage our listeners to check you out and see what you have to offer.  Thank you so much for sharing this information with us today. 

Marni: Thank you for having me.

Raising a Responsible Child

August 22, 2007 | Leave a Comment

One of the goals of a parent is to raise a responsible child. But how do we do that? I always enjoy Mark Brandenburg’s straightforward approach and thought I would reprint his article here. If you know a Dad who wants to grow in his parenting, sign him up for Mark’s coaching!

Top Ten Ways to Raise Responsible Children

1. Start them with tasks and chores when they’re young.
Young kids have a strong desire to help out, even as young as age two. They can do a lot more than you think if you have patience and let them do it their way.
Young kids have a strong desire to help out, even as young as age two. They can do a lot more than you think if you have patience and let them do it their way.

2. Don’t use rewards with your kids
If you want your kids to develop an intrinsic sense of responsibility, they need to learn the “big picture” value of the things they do. They won’t learn that if they’re focused on what they’re going to “get.”

3. Use natural consequences when they make mistakes.
If they keep losing their baseball glove, let them deal with the consequences. Perhaps they have to ask to borrow one for the game. Or, perhaps they have to buy a new one if it’s lost. If you rescue them every time they screw up, they’ll never learn responsibility.

4. Let them know when you see them being responsible.
Specifically point out what you like about their behavior. This will make it more likely to continue to happen.

5. Talk often about responsibility with your kids.
Make responsibility a family value - let them know it’s important.

6. Model responsible behavior for your kids.
They’ll learn most of their responsible behavior from you. Remember that they have a VERY close eye on what you do.

7. Give them an allowance early in their life.
Let them make their own money decisions from an early age. They’ll learn their lessons in a hurry.

8. Have a strong, unfailing belief that your kids are responsible.
They’ll pick up on this belief and they’ll tend to rise to the level of expectation.

9. Train them to be responsible.
Use role play and talk to them about exactly what kind of behavior you expect from them. It’s hard for kids to be responsible when they don’t know what it looks like.

10. Get some help and support for your parenting.
At times it’s hard to know whether you’re being too controlling or too permissive as a parent. Talk to other parents, read books, or join parent support groups - whatever will help you feel like you’re not alone.

Warmly,
Mark Brandenburg
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
mark@eqnow.org
http://www.markbrandenburg.com

Also by this author: My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy! 

 

Dads And Anger

June 23, 2007 | Leave a Comment

I got permission from Mark Brandenburg to reprint this article here. If you have a Dad in your life who has a problem with anger, maybe you can forward it to him. :-)

“Get up to your room!” Frank shouted at his kids. The two of them sprinted out of the living room and up the stairs.

They’d been lucky this time. Although they’d been terrified by his screaming, they were far enough away to avoid the blows that sometimes followed. And as they huddled together in their room, they hoped they wouldn’t hear the footsteps coming up the stairs. For if they did, there would be more anger, and more fear.

Sadly, this scenario plays itself out in millions of households across the country. For centuries, men have learned to use anger in an attempt to control their kids. And while it does have short-term results, the long term damage is tremendous, both for the children and for the fathers who carry this anger.

In fact, a 2002 study on men’s anger at Johns Hopkins University (Archives of Internal Medicine 2002; 162: 901-906) showed just how damaging anger can be. The study followed 1,055 men for an average of 36 years following their schooling. It examined the risk of premature and total cardiovascular disease associated with anger responses to stress during early adult life.

The results of this study were that young men who quickly react to stress with anger have three times the normal risk of developing premature heart disease. Also, these men were five times more likely than men who were calmer to have an early heart attack, even if they didn’t have a family history of heart disease.

While it has been clear for a long time that anger damages relationships, the health problems associated with anger have never been made as clear. Anger not only hurts your relationships, it can kill you.

Anger like Frank’s damages relationships more than any other single factor. It hurts loved ones, and creates mistrust. It has caused his own children to fear him. And it prevents him from getting underneath his anger to experience his own fears. For underneath all of his anger is fear. Fear of not being able to control his kids, or even a fear of failing completely in his life.

Frank, like many other men, keeps this a very private matter. A sense of failure and shame surrounds men who struggle with their temper. These feelings cause these angry outbursts to “stay in the family,” causing the cycle to stay the same, or even worsen. And the simple truth about men improving their anger is that it’s a matter of choice. It’s a choice to continue to alienate loved ones, and it’s a choice to take responsibility for your anger.   

Here are some options for men seeking to improve themselves:  

 

  • You are the only one who can make you angry—accept this responsibility and you’ve a come a long way towards getting better. 

  • Write down the irrational thinking that contributes to your anger (people should always treat me kindly, etc.). Ask yourself where you developed this thinking and give yourself some alternative thoughts that are more productive. 

  • Become more aware of tuning into your body when you begin to become angry. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to do this. The idea is to focus on you, not the “target” of the anger. 

  • Prepare yourself before a stressful situation and “practice” your new, calmer response to it. Be aware that it might take some time to feel comfortable with this new response. 

  • Find the stressors in your life that might be contributing to your anger—do what you can to reduce these stressors, and add some self-care into your life. 

When talking about health hazards for men, anger needs to be included alongside the other lifestyle factors that can shorten men’s lives. Managing your anger is a learnable skill, and it benefits everyone around you.

And just as importantly, it may save your life.

Warmly,

Mark Brandenburg

Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC

How Does Breastfeeding Benefit Dad?

January 18, 2007 | 3 Comments

How Breastfeeding Benefits a Daddy

You know that breastfeeding is best for mother and child, but what’s in it for Dad? Isn’t he going to miss out by not getting to share in the joy of feeding the baby? Let’s see how Dads benefit when a Mom chooses to breastfeed their child.

Cost Savings
This is a big one for Dad! Whether he’s the sole income provider or not, adding a new member to the family can be a source of worry for him. Let him in on the fact that one year of breastfeeding can keep over $1,000 in the family budget. That’s just for bottles and formula, that doesn’t include extra Doctor visits and prescriptions that happen when baby is formula fed.

More Sleep
Let’s face it. He doesn’t have the equipment to handle the job of night feedings. While some Moms choose to pump and let Dad offer a bottle at night, for many Moms, snuggling up with baby at night to nurse is the norm. In a lot of families, this means Dad can head off to work with a full night’s rest.

Proud Papa
When Dad sees how baby’s cheeks and thighs are filling out on Mom’s milk alone, he tends to view her as some kind of Dairy Queen. What an amazing capacity she has to help his child grow and thrive! Many Dads become huge proponents of breastfeeding when they see how healthy their babies are.

Health Benefits
Dads are especially impressed by the fact that breastfed babies gain an average of 8 IQ points over their formula fed counterparts. Breastfeeding also means that Mom is less likely to get ovarian or breast cancer. The extended nonfertility that many nursing Moms experience is also a plus in Dads book.

Focus on Mom
Since Mom is breastfeeding, Dad can find other ways to bond with baby and be a support to Mom. Some ideas: take baby for walks, burp and bathe baby, sing baby to sleep, massage baby and read to baby. He can also be in charge of helping Mom stay fed and hydrated in the early weeks while she recovers from the birth. And since Mom is handling the “input”, Dad can be in charge of “output”. Dads are far more likely to be willing to change diapers since a breastfed baby’s poop doesn’t have an unpleasant odor (until solid food is added!).

How does your baby’s Daddy feel about you breastfeeding?