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Monday September 23, 2013 MYT 6:00:00 AM
Thursday August 1, 2013 MYT 3:15:20 PM
by sheila jaya poomy
Curiosity got the better of me when I saw Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s names sprawled on the cover of this book, with their glowing recommendations.
Meet Helen Moon – a celebrity supernanny – who shares her secrets having lapped, cuddled and cajoled babies of celebrities like Elizabeth Lauren, Andrew McCarthy, Max Mutchnick and hundreds others in her 25 years of playing baby specialist.
In just over 300 pages, the highly-certified and trained nanny offers tried and tested methods in equipping parents with ways to manage their newborn in the first six weeks of its life. But if you’ve read enough of American baby books in the last five years, this one isn’t entirely different.
She opens up by offering her strategy – acronymed CHERISH, representing Consistency, Happy habits, Eating and sleeping, Routine, Involvement, Self-soothing and Health – which become the barometer for decisions parents make and take in the first couple of months to have a calm baby, and boost their confidence.
The book outlines specific plans for each of the first six weeks. Each chapter also has a section on handling multiples – twins and triplets, with real-life anecdotes on how the author has helped families retain their sanity after the baby arrived.
Supporting illustrations are offered on the basics of breastfeeding, swaddling and burping the baby. If you’re already in your fourth week of parenting – don’t worry. She extends a guide to parents who pick up the book during or even after the six-week period. Here, they are given specific instructions on which week to use as a starting point even though the baby’s older.
The book also explains what’s happening with the infant – physical needs and changes, and with the mum – both physically, mentally and emotionally. This could help the reader work out what kind(s) of support is needed.
And this is the bit I thought was gold. Not many books in the market have enough focus on the well-being of the primary caregiver. Here, Moon wisely advocates for mums / parents not to expect so much of themselves, explaining that there will be stressful periods (to the point of exhaustion) which could lead to agitation and anxiety.
She says “part of being a good mother is knowing when to ask for help” – and being open to receiving it in the form of cooked meals, having a friend help with the laundry, or even take over the feeding while you get some “me” time. She goes on to address the necessities of beauty as dark uneven skin patches sometimes take over from the “pregnancy glow”, and hair loss, excessive sweating and stretch marks kick in.
By following her routine, Moon believes that both parents and baby are well underway to having a fairly consistent schedule by Week 4. This includes having a routine, including a “dream feed”, that is picking up and feeding the baby in his state of sleep – at precisely 10pm, each night.
And, if all doesn’t go according to plan, she offers a checkpoint on possible reasons the baby doesn’t feed and sleep like clockwork or cries excessively.
Even after three kids, I find it quite difficult to make a call whether or not to pick up the baby when she cries. There’s such a fine line to be drawn here – whether to pick up or not, when to pat, when to walk out of the room, when to re-enter ….
Moon says, at three weeks and younger, no baby should be left alone to cry. Gentle rocking to soothe, but not to sleep, includes laying the baby down in her crib, patting and shushing her until she settles. She repeatedly states that she doesn’t believe in letting the baby cry herself hours on end to sleep, but at the same time train her to “self-settle”.
Easier said than done.
While some books like Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall offer specific duration of crying (22 minutes!) before the parent should walk in and try to settle for say 11 minutes … this book espouses the mantra of consistency – especially during the “witching hour of 5pm to 7pm when babies tend to be extremely fussy” or when the baby is ill.
The thing about such books is the feeling of guilt it leaves you with if you’ve done everything as prescribed and yet not experienced the results. How is it that hundreds of other families have been successful, and I haven’t? And, in that stage of hormones being rebalanced, one needs to be careful not to slide into postpartum depression.
Having the baby sleep “through the night”’ actually means the baby has a shut eye for six to eight hours straight, that is 10pm to 4am, meaning you get that same stretch of snooze. The 12-hour 7pm-7am sleep log doesn’t really happen till they’re four months, according to Moon.
The eat-play-sleep routine advocated in this book works better if you live independently from family and have a limited support network. The challenge to conform, being in an Asian culture can be very trying for new parents who may experience more stress, if they choose to go against tradition and what the “confinement lady” says – some of whom insist on having their way. Pressure by in-laws and parents who “know better” often will put you in a dilemma as this is a departure from Asian-style parenting.
As Moon points out, there is no right or wrong way of doing things, but what works best for you, your baby and family – so long as there is no abuse or neglect. There is no such thing as a manipulative baby, contrary to what some baby experts have suggested.
“Spoiling the baby”, according to Moon, is by not taking charge and by creating bad habits, such as leaving the baby to suckle on the breast throughout the night.
The book cuts across some common myths and misconceptions – for instance, never wake a sleeping baby, or feeding a baby cereal will help him sleep through the night, or my baby doesn’t like the swaddle.
While some of the tactics offered are similar to what modern parenting books prescribe, Moon’s approach can be applied so that the parents and the rest of the family can get back to life as it was – well, almost. It gives parents the assurance that they know best, and are in control. And that goes a long way to having a calm baby and confident parents – with CHERISH being the magic formula.
Available at Books Kinokuniya Malaysia. For further enquiries, call +603-21648133, email email@example.com or visit BookWeb Malaysia.
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Cherish The First 6 Weeks, Helen Moon, baby, babies, parenting, family, book, review
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