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"The Baby Calmer", another new Certified HUG Teacher from Australia!

Anne Thistleton, aka “The Baby Calmer,” lives in Brisbane, Australia. She is in private practice as an infant/early years counselor and specializes in providing clinical and in-home parenting support and education.  Parents seek Anne’s help with issues ranging from bonding concerns, birth trauma, postnatal depression, infant crying and sleep difficulties, to parental stress and anxiety, family conflicts, etc. Anne is also a qualified Sandplay Therapist, Primary School Teacher, Mediator, and Infant Massage Instructor.

Anne has begun incorporating HUG Your Baby techniques into her in-home work with young families. Today she shares a story of using The HUG with Katrina and her eight-week-old daughter.

Katrina's eight-week-old baby was described, early on, as "unsettled." As an infant the new family member cried often, and the whole family struggled with sleep issues. Katrina frequently turned to her husband to care for her baby. She worried that the baby's distress, inability to sleep, and frequent turning away from her meant that her baby didn't love her. Understandably, Katrina felt anxious, and worried that she was not a good mother. With her husband taking over most of the care of the baby, Katrina sank deeper into postnatal depression.

Anne visited Katrina and her baby in their home and walked her through the HUG Your Baby "Zones and SOSs". Then together, over the next hour or so, they observed Katrina's baby's secret body language and noted each time she would "space out," "switch off," or "shut down." Learning to distinguish the three Zones helped this young mother become more able to gauge the intensity of her interactions with her baby and to know when to reduce the level of stimulation.

When Anne helped Katrina observe her baby assuming the fencing position, the young mother remarked, "Oh look, she has already started to calm herself down." Katrina began to talk to her baby and encouraged her to do what she needed to do in order to regulate herself, assuring her that she would stay right there with her and pay attention to what she was trying to “say.”

After vocalizing and playing for a while, the baby turned her head away from her mother. Katrina noticed and spoke to her baby, "I used to think that you would look away because you didn't like me.  But now I understand that you just need time to 'regulate your system' so that we can keep playing together!" Katrina's baby turned her head back to her mother and gave her a cheeky smile. 

When it seemed as though the baby was getting sleepy, Katrina wondered, "Is she ‘shutting down’ or going to sleep?" Anne suggested that they watch the baby for a few minutes before putting her immediately in her bassinet. To Katrina’s surprise, in a matter of minutes the baby was wide-eyed-and-bushy-tailed again! Katrina explained that, in the past, she would have experienced this behavior as a failure in her ability to help her baby get to sleep. This time, mother was fully prepared to postpone putting the baby to sleep. 

When it DID become time for sleep, Katrina gently rocked her baby to sleep in her arms and then placed her in the bassinet. But when the baby cried again, Katrina picked her back up and held her close. This mother explained that in the past she would have thought that this crying meant her baby was angry at her, and would rather be alone in her bassinet. However, Katrina was now able to understand that her baby needed to “reboot” a little before she could calmly re-enter the "Resting Zone". The crying soon eased, and the baby drifted off to sleep in her mother's arms.

This time, Katrina was able to transfer her daughter successfully to the bassinet, position her comfortably, and softly stroke her body as she shifted into deeper sleep. Katrina now understood about active sleep as well. When her daughter moved back into her light sleep with some wiggling, eye movement and vocalizing, Katrina comforted her without picking her up—and then, for the first time in eight weeks, her baby slept for a total of over two hours!    

Katrina explained that in the past she would have picked up her baby from this light sleep—and then spent the next few hours pacing up and down the hallway, bouncing her baby frantically, and desperately trying to help her back to sleep. "I'm surprised how much better this is," she continued. "I can't wait for her to be ready to wake up so that we can practice this together, all over again"!

Learning to understanding the HUG Your Baby "Zones", "SOSs", and sleep strategies reduced Katrina's stress and anxiety, increased her confidence as a mum, and restored her responsiveness to her new baby. At last, Katrina began to experience the joy of bonding with her baby.