Baby whis­perer Shar­lene Poole on how to han­dle the most chal­leng­ing time of day

Little Treasures - - CON­TENTS -

THE ‘WITCH­ING HOUR’ is some­thing com­monly agreed upon as part and par­cel of hav­ing a baby, par­tic­u­larly a new­born baby. It is a term given for ba­bies who, from 4-9pm, can be unset­tled – want­ing to sleep but can’t. Some re­fer to these ba­bies as hav­ing ‘colic’ when they are un­able to be put down. When I started my train­ing and be­gan work­ing along­side par­ents with ba­bies, I’d of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence the ‘witch­ing hour’ and be­lieved that it was nor­mal for most par­ents to go through. It wasn’t un­til I was two to three years into my ca­reer as a ma­ter­nity nurse that I started to see things dif­fer­ently. I now strongly be­lieve that this is some­thing to­tally avoid­able. I re­alised that it is a baby’s way of try­ing to tell us that we, the care­givers, have not set out the pat­tern of the day in quite the right way for them per­son­ally – we’re not meet­ing their in­di­vid­ual needs. I no­ticed over my ca­reer, as a ma­ter­nity nurse, that the more I un­der­stood com­mon links in ba­bies and all of the points listed be­low, the less I saw ba­bies be­ing unset­tled in the evenings. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for this ‘witch­ing hour’: 1 How much sleep they have had, bal­anced over the day (this in­cludes how much stim­u­la­tion they’ve had and if that has af­fected their sleep), sub­ject to their age and per­son­al­ity. 2 How well they have been winded and fed through­out the day. 3 Di­ges­tion is­sues or un­re­solved re­flux/al­ler­gies/in­tol­er­ances. 4 How con­fi­dent and con­tent the par­ent/care­giver was. 5 How well a breast­feed­ing mother is look­ing af­ter their diet. 6 Re­spect­ing their devel­op­men­tal mile­stones, ex­pect­ing change and growth in what was their daily rou­tine. Re­cently, af­ter a six-week, 24-hour job that I have just com­pleted, we had many vis­i­tors com­ment on how ‘good’ the baby was in the evenings, how ‘lucky’ the par­ents were, how their baby had ‘colic’

or was unset­tled. This brought me right back to those early years ma­ter­nity nurs­ing when I had many vis­i­tors or el­ders in the pro­fes­sion ques­tion my method or restrictions of sleep, wak­ing a sleep­ing baby, foods you can and can­not eat and so forth. On this last job, I would be given an odd look when, in the day­time, I was not al­low­ing the baby to be picked up when asleep with vis­i­tors. I was also lim­it­ing how many peo­ple han­dled the baby, would wake the baby for a feed if asleep and would take the baby away to a quiet place when large groups of fam­ily or vis­i­tors were get­ting too loud. All of these things in the early weeks of a baby’s life, sub­ject to their per­son­al­ity, can play a huge roll in the evenings. It is not just one day a week, it is look­ing at what hap­pens for the ma­jor­ity of the week. If I look at what would be the most cru­cial points above af­fect­ing the evenings, I’d say that it comes back to feed­ing and sleep bal­ance. Af­ter three weeks of age, ba­bies go through their first sig­nif­i­cant ‘mile­stone’ and growth spurt. So in the first two weeks, it is im­por­tant to be set­tled, cre­at­ing great feed­ing rou­tines for weight gain, and al­low­ing both mother and baby to have plenty of rest. Then, af­ter this, I look at how much sleep and how long they are awake for, sub­ject to their per­son­al­ity and how old they are. The old ‘up for an hour, down for two’ doesn’t stay the same all the way through their first three months, nor do all ba­bies have ob­vi­ous tired signs, and if you are not work­ing on a ‘time-based’ guide for set­tling and feed­ing, then some ba­bies need more guid­ance, while oth­ers are nat­u­ral rou­tine mak­ers. It’s about re­spect­ing the enor­mous amount of change that a baby is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing by com­ing into this world and grow­ing with their in­cred­i­bly fast de­vel­op­ment, which changes every few weeks! 

Shar­lene Poole is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed baby ad­vi­sor. Trained as an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor, Shar­lene worked as a ma­ter­nity nurse in many coun­tries be­fore re­turn­ing to New Zealand and set­ting up her busi­ness Lit­tle Mir­a­cles. Her suc­cess in work­ing with fam­i­lies in their own homes has earned her the ti­tle of New Zealand’s Baby Whis­perer.

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