I was delighted to be asked to speak at the Happy Parenting summit (online) that started this week. It’s 25 experts from around the world giving advice about a more happy parenting experience and the affect on their kids. (My piece on teaching meditation to kids is on Friday 9th August 2013 but it’s recorded so you can listen later).
I decided to listen in on the talks too (as well as taking part). Today there is a wonderful peace on Attachment Parenting by Barbara Nicholson and what was intriguing was the part where she talked about breast feeding (and bottle feeding) and how to be really aware of your child as you do this – smiling, eye contact, holding them close – in other words feeling the energy of love. It was fascinating.
It struck me that this was exactly what I touch on in my Calm Kids book in the section ‘meditation for babies’ . I talk about how important it is to be mindfully aware as you hold your baby. Maybe you think you are but often our thoughts are stressed out with what we think we have to do or how our babies should behave. However Barbara also made me consider the feeding part and how this was a perfect opportunity to practise mindful awareness to reduce your stress.
Bending the Rules
I was babysitting recently. We had been given clear instructions about feeding the baby (extracted breast milk so we knew it was precious!) and then putting the baby to bed. Well she was having none of it! Crying and howling from the moment her parents left. We spent some time trying to follow the ‘rules’ but realised it wasn’t working. I remember feeling anxious as we tried to feed her and obviously that anxiety was transferring to her (she’s 10 months old). And… she just wasn’t interested. So we decided to have some gentle play time with her – to distract her away from the awareness that her parents weren’t around. She calmed down (as had we).
I then took her upstairs to her bed (cue the crying) but this time we could see she was really tired but fighting it. So we put her in bed and I lay my hand on her tummy (she grabbed by hands, still crying) and I just focussed on feeling calm and sending love to her. It was amazing as she started to calm down and she started to fall asleep. It took about 10 minutes, but eventually she went to sleep for a few hours. (A wet nappy woke her up so we had to do it all over again).
Trusting your Instincts
What it showed me was that even though we had been given ‘rules’ we had to trust our intuition and what felt right at the time. And it was important to really feel calm (hard when a baby is crying loudly) but because of my meditation practice, it was possible and it helped her calm down.
So when Barbara was talking on the summit today, she mentioned the idea of being connected to your child as you feed… and this made me think of my experience. That when you are feeding that this could be an ideal opportunity to practise your own meditation and mindfulness. This calm, centered feeling that you experience will transfer to your child and as Barbara said – so many neural pathways are being developed as a baby that this experience gives them a sense of trust in the world as they are nourished by those they love.
So a top tip for you as you try to feed is to notice your breath, count it if this helps, and just focus on the full in and full out breath. Do this as you pick up your baby, hold your baby, feed your baby. Notice tension in your body and breathe into it – keep doing this to help you feel calm and at the same time watch how your baby responds. They are simply teaching us to be in a calmer place!
The Happy Parenting Summit commenced on 7th August 2013 and runs for 30 days – talks are recorded so you can replay then at a time to suit you.