The really hot days are upon us, so if you don’t have air-conditioning these suggestions will help keep you and baby more comfortable.

  1. An effective way to manage the temperature at home is to open all the suitable windows and balcony doors overnight to allow the cooler night air in. Then close same at the beginning of day to keep the heat out.
  2. Invest in some fans for the living areas and a small floor fan for your baby or toddlers bedroom facing away from the cot. It keeps the air moving and does lower the temperature a little to make it more comfortable to sleep in.
  3. Cotton singlets and wraps, cotton bed-linen, lots of fluids/breast feeds and regular light snacks are all hot weather essentials.
  4. ‘Just’ warm bath or shower may help (not cold please)
  5. And mums, same sort of care and attention for you too!

To find out more about Mothercraft for Babies services and support, please click here or call Beth on 02 8221 8877.

Most babies from around 2-3 months old start to respond to a more predictable rhythm or pattern to their day/night that reflects their developing needs for number of milk feeds, wake time and sleep cycles. Routines or rhythms that work have some flexibility that allows for the usual intrusions of daily life such as holidays, illness and busy schedules of working parents.

The arrival of siblings creates a greater need for flexibility and adaptation. For mum or dad you still only have one pair of hands!

Here are 3 things to keep in mind;

  1. Establishing an age appropriate rhythm or routine somewhere around 10 – 14 weeks becomes important for baby’s sense of expectation of the feed/play/sleep or feed/sleep cycles. Their circadian rhythms are developing (internal body clock) so distinguishing between night and day will evolve.
  2. Guiding this rhythm can be particularly helpful when the primary caregiver/parent returns to the workforce and having a flexible structure to the day can help you continue to breastfeed for example.
  3. When the inevitable disruptions in life appear such as sickness, holidays, moving house, starting day care, then it’s important to “park” the routine and meet your baby’s increased need for feeding, your comfort and reassurance.
  4. Your baby is a little individual, genetically blessed with a unique temperament, so their sleep needs and wake times will vary. Some days will go smoothly and others won’t. Generally if your baby is happy, relaxed and alert during their wake time then that’s your evidence that they are probably getting enough sleep.
  5. And what worked for your first child may not necessarily work for the next, different temperaments and different kids. Just when you thought you had it nailed!

We are only a phone call away if you need one one one advice and guidance. Call us on (02) 8221 8877 or click here to contact us online.

For those mums who are using bottles for breast/formula feeding…did you know that if you warm the milk a little more (feels warm, not hot please when it touches your skin, inside wrist) the milk flow will quicken through the teat? And conversely if you need to slow the flow down due to gulping/wind then just cool the milk to room temperature (test on inside of wrist and will neither feel warm or cool).

It’s really important to wash and clean those teats and bottles thoroughly before sterilisation as the milk curds can clog the teats and create havoc!

Finally, I am a staunch advocate of the Pigeon teats and their BPA free bottles, they have been on the market for a very long time and still do the best job.

Interview by Brooke Hunter – Originally published Femail Magazine

Beth Barclay, a registered Mothercraft nurse with over 20 years of experience supports the long held belief that baby massage has many benefits. It enhances baby and parent bonding through touch and skin to skin contact and helps reduce stress hormones while improving baby’s sleep patterns. To help incorporate massage into baby’s routine Cetaphil has launched its new Baby Massage Oil with shea butter.

‘Massaging baby helps parents to get to know their baby’s sensitivities to touch, what particular parts of their body responds to a soothing touch more than others. It is even known to reduce colic symptoms and improve digestion,” says Beth.

Cetaphil Baby Massage Oil is specially formulated to protect and nourish newborn and infant skin with botanical extracts including natural calendula, shea butter and sunflower seed oil. It also includes Vitamin E to gently moisturise and protect baby’s delicate skin.

Baby massage tips by Beth Barclay:

  • Choose a time when you are both calm and baby is alert
  • Ensure the room is a comfortable temperature
  • Start on the legs as it’s the least sensitive area
  • Start with long slow strokes to baby’s arms and legs and use soothing tones in your voice
  • Soft music can be played to help relax the parent and baby
  • Talking to baby and explaining in simple terms what you are doing will help baby be reassured by your voice
  • If baby shows signs of discomfort, then stop and try again another time
  • If baby is comfortable on the tummy, then apply long smooth movements from head to toes (great opportunity for tummy time too!)

Interview with Beth Barclay, Mothercraft Nurse

Question: Can you talk us through the benefits of baby massage?

Beth Barclay: There is a long held belief that baby massage has many benefits. It enhances the parent and infant relationship and allow parents get to know their baby’s sensitivities to touch, what particular parts of their body responds to a soothing touch more than others. It can reduce the stress hormones and help relax and settle your baby, improve sleep patterns and sometimes reduce the severity of colic symptoms.

Question: How does baby massage aid in bonding?

Beth Barclay: It helps parent and baby bond through eye contact, verbal soothing and skin to skin contact. And this is the way babies and children experience the feeling of love, through touch. It’s a good ‘wind down” time for both parent and baby, an opportunity to just be with your baby and connect. Some babies may respond quite quickly to the enjoyment of a gentle massage and they are more comfortable with being undressed. Other babies may take some time, so go slowly and patiently, small steps.

It is important to be mindful of your baby’s comfort and willingness to be massaged. If baby is becoming visibly uncomfortable or showing signs of disengagement by losing eye contact and looking away then you should stop. This is a good way for parents to understand their baby’s subtle cues when the enjoyment and relaxation of the experience has finished for them.

Question: What techniques are required for baby massage?

Beth Barclay: Always wash your hands before you start and make sure the room is suitably warm with no draughts so your baby won’t lose any body heat. On a safe surface, rub the massage oil between your palms to warm your hands and you can start with slow smooth strokes to baby’s arms and legs, quietly talking to him and explaining in simple terms what you are doing. Soft music may help relax both of you, particularly if you already use music as a ‘cue” for him to wind down for sleep.

When you decide to introduce massage to your baby choose a time when you are both calm and baby is alert. You may need to leave some clothes on as some babies do not like being undressed. Ensure that the room is a comfortable temperature away from any drafts so that your baby does not lose any body heat. The change table or suitable play mat on the floor maybe practical considerations.

It is important that you are both enjoying this time. If your baby is showing you signs that he is not comfortable then stop and try again another time.

The goal is a relaxed and happy baby and an important bonding time for parent and baby.

Question: How can massage be used to improve sleeping in babies?

Beth Barclay: You may decide to give baby a massage after the evening bath to help prepare and relax your baby for bedtime. This may help with the wind down and calming baby and give a suitable sleep ‘cue” that it is nearly time for bed.

Otherwise it is important that your baby is calm yet alert and feels part of the soothing bonding experience of a massage, having one on one time with the parent or caregiver.

Question: What parts of a baby’s body should we massage?

Beth Barclay: You can start with slow long strokes to his arms and legs, talking to him and explaining in simple terms what you are doing. Baby’s chest and tummy are sensitive areas so be very gentle using circular strokes avoiding the belly button if this has not completely healed.

You can massage their scalps with small gentle circles using your fingertips and similarly the same movements around their forehead and sides of their face. If all is proceeding calmly then roll baby onto their tummy and apply long smooth strokes from head to toes.

Question: Can you talk us through the importance of tummy time?

Beth Barclay: A massage provides a good opportunity to include some practise for tummy time which should be included in baby’s daily routine. Regular tummy time encouraging babies to lift their head helps build their strength in their neck, shoulders and back. This increased muscle strength helps with future milestones such as rolling, sitting up and good head control for starting solids.

Practicing tummy time on a daily basis can also assist and support with torticollis (favouring turning head to one side), (plagiocephaly) ‘flat head” spots. Keeping both sides of their neck strong and flexible can also aid breastfeeding and attachment so baby is just as comfortable feeding on both breasts.

Since 2010 our Mothercraft nursing team has helped hundreds of families overcome the parenting challenges that can arise from time to time. From this experience we know how much a “hands on” home consultation can almost instantly change your life showing you real results and positive change.

To add more value to your home visit package we have introduced a new personalised “Care Plan” for your baby or toddler. Your nurse will put this flexible plan together based on her assessment and recommendations so you can easily refer to it for guidance, support and peace of mind. It will include advice on milk feeds, wake and sleep time, settling methods, diet and solids and any specific advice relevant to the wellbeing of your child. There will also be a recommended Action Plan for you to refer to as we know sleep deprivation can mess with your short term memory!

The Care Plan can be attached to your fridge ( the best notice board in the house!) by our fun fridge magnet with all our contact details should you need our support again.

This past month I have been talking to many mums who are struggling to cope with caring for their newborns. It’s a pretty intense learning curve in the first few months, particularly if it is your first baby.

During pregnancy there is lots of accessible, valuable support and advice available from health professionals and your planning will include where you will deliver your baby and your chosen birth plan. A common theme in the feedback from mums is that the birth plan can be the part of the journey that doesn’t quite go to “plan” and may result in some intervention to ensure a healthy baby and mum. If this is the case it can change your physical ability to manage a new baby when you go home. Speaking with many mums the feedback has a common theme. It can be the start of an unfamiliar feeling of loss of control and free fall in this new role and journey as a parent.

Maternity wards are not conducive to sleep. If you are breastfeeding then you will be feeding every few hours or more around the clock and this may normally take up to an hour each time as your newborn will be sleepy and you are both learning the ropes. Breastfeeding teamwork and getting to know each other takes time and practice. And you may receive different advice from the nurses with each new shift, confusing to know which advice suits you.

Time for hospital discharge and taking baby home.

This is when you and the the real world meet face to face and the intensity of caring for a new baby starts. And maybe this precious baby has been planned for some time and the enormity of her anticipated arrival can be overwhelming. It’s exciting and exhausting, a rollercoaster ride like no other. Emotional support and understanding is so important but not always readily available in today’s busy and high achieving world. Family support is not always nearby.

Dads are often expected back to work within a week. Guilt is a debilitating feeling for both parents. Dads (also sleep deprived and unsure what their parental “task” list involves) feel guilty for leaving their wife and baby at home on their own. Mum may need to touch base with dad at work for reassurance/support. Dad needs to sleep at night if possible so that he can function and be “present” at work. Understandably mum needs some respite or support with the overnight feeds and settling baby. This new routine is a lot to contend with and teamwork becomes really important so you can allow each other some respite.

It is normal for your baby to feed often day and night for the first 6-10 weeks, particularly if your baby has been born early or the birth has been complicated. And I mean every few hours…and it is normal that it can take up to an hour from beginning to end of the feed. Your newborn will be sleepy and regularly fall asleep at the breast, their most favourite place on earth. And it can be really challenging to keep them feeding through the fore and hind milk which will help them settle whilst stimulating your supply. And they need frequent and small amounts to begin with as breast milk is meant to digest easily.

And if you feel you could benefit from some “one on one’ professional guidance and help to establish breastfeeding then don’t hesitate to call on a breastfeeding specialist to help you. The “drop in” times for breastfeeding clinics at your Early Childhood Clinic can be hard to navigate with a newborn, parking and sleep deprivation!

Developmentally your baby can find a feed/sleep rhythm rather than a “routine” for the first few months. After 6-8 weeks research shows that your baby’s circadian rhythm is developed enough to enable an ability to distinguish between night and day. So you can begin to establish some daily consistent rhythm to the end of “day” bath and feed to sleep.

It is well within normal expectations that your newborn will have unsettled periods every day. And those unsettled periods will often shift to different parts of the day and night. Their only way of communicating or signalling their high level of basic needs to you is crying. And it takes time, practice and confidence to understand and read their “cues” so you may successfully respond to their needs. If your baby is crying and distressed then hold them close to soothe and calm them. Leaving babies in their cot to cry without responding serves no purpose other than unnecessarily distressing you both. Your little baby is crying for a reason, it is not behavioural. The skill and experience is identifying the cause of your baby’s distress and needs.

There may be loads of well meaning advice from the internet/mother’s forums/ friends and family that may have worked for them and their babies very well. But this may not suit you, your parenting beliefs and your newborn’s temperament.

If needs be choose one or two trusted advisers combined with your wonderful maternal instincts and enjoy your baby. When you can take a breath, take stock of your changing priorities and let some “stuff” go. Accept any food deliveries, offers of shopping or support and short home visits from vaccinated family and friends in good health!

Love, patience and emotional and physical resilience are the foundations for this wonderful and unique relationship.


Recently I was fortunate to be on a safari observing a lioness stalk a water buffalo and its one-day old calf. Here in the wild, the calf’s life was completely in her mother’s hands. It was clear what a huge sense of responsibility it was for the mother buffalo and the importance of her never dropping her guard. It reminded me that humans are also primed to be protective, alert and ready to face any threat in this postnatal period.

Sometimes this biological and necessary hyper vigilance can present as overwhelming, all consuming and distressing when in fact there is really no imminent danger. There is no lioness lurking around the corner. This is what we call Postnatal Anxiety, which is under the umbrella of Perinatal Mood Disorder, occurring in at least 10 percent of women. In my experience in my clinical practice such a presentation seems more common than the mum who is depressed, although these symptoms can go hand in hand.

The anxiety can take many forms. The worry can be predominant, preoccupying and often accompanying difficulty with sleep. Physical symptoms of anxiety can be so intense, sometimes leading to panic. There can be obsessive-compulsive behaviour and thoughts, which can be intrusive and frightening. For example being afraid one might harm one’s baby, or repeatedly checking if the baby is breathing. The baby’s sleep can be a fixation for the mum with mums describing a knot in their stomach when baby goes down. There could also be avoidance as the fear of going out or being alone with baby gets in the way.

In addition to the previously mentioned bias to anxiety at this time, we know that there are certain risk factors that would make a mother more vulnerable. (We mustn’t forget fathers can be anxious and depressed too). These influences include being someone who tends to worry, perhaps being accustomed to replaying conversations, imagining the worst-case scenario, or being up at night ruminating before a big work deadline.

Perfectionism can also be problematic, as when one has rigid expectations about how things should be, these are likely not to be met. This relates to not only how the baby would be, but also even the birth experience, the success of breastfeeding or the way one’s life is going to be when the baby comes. The tendency to believe there is only one way that things should be is likely to feed into anxiety. If the baby isn’t doing what the books say or as suggested by others, it can often lead to spiralling worry.

In addition, having a difficult and stressful pregnancy can contribute to anxiety. In fact often the anxiety begins prenatally. A traumatic labour or a baby having health issues can also make it a shaky start to motherhood. Let’s not forget the relevance of that phrase it “takes a village to raise a child”. Without much support the task of raising a baby is huge and not as nature intended. A woman is not supposed to be with her baby 24/7 and a break is often beneficial for the mother and baby. It is also important to consider if one has a family member, especially a parent who struggles with anxiety in some form. There may be a genetic vulnerability, with some clear messages about the world being a dangerous place having been heard growing up.

So the good news is that in the midst of this stressful experience, is an opportunity to change and recovery is very likely. There is indeed a place at times for antidepressants, which can improve functioning especially when sleep disturbances and elevated anxiety symptoms occur. They are in fact not addictive and need to be seen as part of a 6 month to one-year plan. Psychological input is extremely effective in addressing the anxiety.

Having an opportunity to manage these anxieties in an individual or group context with an experienced clinician can be most helpful. Exercise and nutrition also have a part to play, as ways of reducing anxiety.

Reaching out and not feeling shame around some often frightening thoughts, feelings and symptoms can be a turning point in putting a plan in place. Reminding oneself that although this is a time of vulnerability and unpredictability, it is not necessary to feel that
danger is around the corner. Oh, and the water buffalo was fine, his mum scared the lioness away.

Helpful websites:

Q: We find it hard to get into any kind of a routine as we have our baby cared for by his two grandmothers 2 days a week who love to rock him to sleep and leave him napping on their lap? Is this the reason he is not self settling for us?

Firstly how wonderful to have two grandmothers caring for your baby every week and no doubt showering him with love and cuddles! I can imagine that all they want to do is hold him forever and savour every moment when they are together!

I am not sure what age your baby is but in my experience consistency is a key factor in establishing a workable routine for you and baby and guiding/supporting him to gain the skills and confidence to settle himself. So I would encourage you to have a chat to both grandmothers and explain how important it is that they try to implement at least a similar sleep routine so there are no mixed messages. You could explain that if there is consistency in his routine then he will still be a happy, contented baby for everyone. He will be less likely to become overtired and grumpy and maybe even a bit confused from one day to the next. This is especially important at the end of the day for a less resistant and relaxed bedtime routine which will free up some quality time to spend with your partner!

So a good guideline to follow is the “feed, play, sleep” rhythm which works well with most babies from about 6 weeks to around six months (and remembering any plan requires a degree of flexibility). So when he wakes from his day sleep (hopefully 2 cycles) he should be offered the breast or bottle generally within 15 minutes or so, after a nappy change and cuddles/chat. Then some “play” or awake time, with suitable stimulus and there are guidelines for this relevant to their age. But soon enough you will be able to read the “tired” signs and they can vary with each baby. There could be one or more cues from yawning and rubbing his eyes to jerky movements with their arms and legs, staring into space or just getting grizzly and cross….! And try to keep the same “wind down” routine for each bedtime, so eventually your baby will understand your cues in preparation for sleep and resist less and less.

I understand that when your baby is being cared for by his grandmothers that the environment changes for him. But if the bedtime routine is reasonable consistent (for example swaddling, blinds/curtains dimmed, quietly talking/ cuddles/singing to soothe him, then he should start to improve his ability to self soothe.

I hope this advice has helped you, I know this chat with your family won’t be an easy one! It is important though for everyone who loves and cares for your baby, that some simple guidelines be implemented. Then everyone will be enjoying your new arrival including you and your partner!

I recently attended a Conference for Early Childhood health professionals and I am always pleasantly surprised that I am still able to take away interesting and sometimes provocative propositions from different experts in our industry.

One of the sessions of course, was about infant sleep presented by a Senior Nurse Educator at Tresillian, well qualified in Child and Family Health and Infant mental health.

Here is a snapshot from that presentation on the evidence based research regarding infant sleep between 1993 to now;

  • 20 – 30% of children will experience sleep problems during the first 3 years
  • Infants wake between 1-3 times per night on average throughout the first 12 months even when able to achieve blocks of consolidated sleep
  • At 6 x weeks of age babies will demonstrate clear day and night feed/sleep behaviours
  • Active and quiet sleep cycles change frequently during the first 3 months of age
  • Overheating your baby (too many clothes/wrapping, room temp) can affect the quality of sleep patterns as the release of Melatonin decreases instead of increasing to aid the onset of sleep

Some helpful tips!

  • Managing artificial light (using “red” or ambient lighting whilst feeding or settling overnight) can assist with better consolidated sleep patterns
  • Higher co parenting support and involvement by 3 months of age predicted better consolidated sleep patterns by 6 months of age for both baby and mother
  • Developing secure attachments between parent and child improved suitable responsive support and sustainable, improved sleep patterns

Sleep deprivation drives overwhelm.

Sleep deprivation can affect not only your baby and toddler but the whole family. The first year of your baby’s biological and behavioural development is full of changes, often exhausting. Whilst this is usually within the normal range of expectations, overwhelm can be debilitating and really impact your confidence in parenting and decision making.

Our expert Mothercraft Nurses see the challenges of new parents first hand, every day. Often it is the “fresh” eyes of a professional who can identify even small adjustments in feeding, settling and age appropriate routines that will make all the difference to your enjoyment of parenting.

Let us help you get back on track!

Xmas and school holidays are just around the corner, a wonderful time of year with just a little extra madness to test you as you keep kids occupied yet well rested.

Contact Beth Barclay (Chief Coach) and let’s talk about the best way we can help you get back on track!

Phone: 02 8221 8877

Another big year comes to an end and I find myself reflecting on the many consultations I have had with mums (and dads) when seeking expert help and support to help babies and toddlers improve their sleep routines. The feelings of anxiety and exhaustion were abundantly apparent but often the sense of personal “failure” was overwhelming.

The question most often posed is how to help your babies and toddlers settle to sleep with less resistance…and eventually self-settle calmly and contentedly.

At Mothercraft for Babies, about 75% of the customers we help with home visits or telephone/Skype consultations are about sleep issues. And mostly the reasons are overtiredness or unsuitable sleep associations due to missed “cues” when our little ones are trying to communicate that they need to rest their minds and bodies.

As new parents you will probably really struggle to make confident decisions for a while, overwhelmed with the amount of advice and research available to you and doubting your choices when different strategies don’t work. And when they arrive at the state of overtiredness all day, it’s pretty hard to work out when they need to be in bed!

Evidence will suggest that each baby has a different temperament and the parent child relationship evolves uniquely. It is a learning process as you each begin to get to know one another and find that groove for easy teamwork. It takes time for you as the parent or caregiver to suitably “read” baby’s cues and respond appropriately to those needs. And to develop the skills to best meet those needs with desirable results.

No two babies sleep the same way. You will know how much sleep your baby or toddler needs by reading the cues that tell you they are coping with their “awake” time comfortably and happily. When your child needs to sleep after a feed and play during the day, they will usually give you one or more cues.

So in turn, you need to give your baby and toddler your “cues” that it’s time to go to sleep. Reduce the surrounding stimulus and start the bedtime wind down mentally and physically. This ritual needs to be consistent so as there are no confusing “cues” if you are to have any success. Nothing elaborate or complicated and whatever you are comfortable doing to reassure and soothe your child to prepare for sleep.

There is no right or wrong way, it’s what works for you and your child and helps your child to self-regulate and manage their simple emotional needs.

Lastly be gentle on yourself. I have recently completed a parenting program called Circle of Security which is the latest evidence based research into developing a secure and loving attachment and relationship between the caregiver/parent and child.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting and neither is it desirable or healthy for the child.

It’s about understanding and responding to your child’s needs wherever possible, but taking charge when necessary. It’s about the parent being bigger, wiser, stronger and kind and responding to the feelings behind the behaviour not the behaviour itself.

The latest research says “good enough” parenting is all your child needs to feel secure, safe and loved.

The parents we work with every day, week and year, without exception, are all giving their kids 110% effort, love and support and doing their very best. This is good enough and your child is lucky to have you!

Research reference:
Circle of Security – Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell 2000

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