“Whatever you can do, I can do better” sibling rivalry

Hello! My husband and I have spent a bit of time getting to know your son and daughter-in-law, Stephen and Nicole, and they shared with me your blog. We have four children, ages 8, 6, 4, and 10 months, and I have a question about sibling bickering. As in, how do I get it to stop!?!?!? :) actually, particularly, my son (6) and my 4 year old daughter…he has a difficult time really liking his sister, it seems. I don’t know if it is because she is the one who followed him first, and so he feels she challenges his place, or really what it is…how to correct and discipline a need to brag about something he got to do and she didn’t, or the constant correcting of her stories, or the frankness with which he insists on commenting: “that joke wasn’t funny,” or some such other comment… Ugh! Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Sibling bickering is found in every family but when it is constant it can be exhausting for a parent.   I think that your little man might be feeling out of place, perhaps a bit like the “middle child”.  In our family I had very little patience for sibling rivalry and most often ignored what was being said.   I would usually tell them to work it out and most often that is what happened.   Even today, I may hear rumblings but problems are solved between siblings via the family email center.

In your case you have a small child who is at the mercy of an older brother.   I would try to give him a sense of importance.   Is there something he could do for his younger sister?   Could he read to her, teach her how to ride a bike, teach her the alphabet…?   You could enlist him as the big brother helper and get him to see how his younger sister needs to be able to look up to him.   By putting her down, he will lose her esteem and she will try to out do him.   If he could only see that he already has a place of importance and that he could encourage her with her abilities, including joke telling!

I also think that one-on-one time is important and especially for Dad to do something with this child.   I’m not sure of the gender of your other children but boy’s day out might be a good idea if you have not already implemented this.  Does he have an activity that is unique to him?  Perhaps a sport or art or an instrument that he could pursue that his siblings are not doing as well? I would try the positive before the negative, BUT I would not allow a child to put down his sister or brother.   The saying: “if you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all” has as much validity today as it ever has.

Another thing we have done in our family is to have a time at dinner when we go around the table and say something nice about one person in the family.   Usually we would do this at birthdays or celebrations, but you could have a special-person day once a week.   So, if it is a day to celebrate mommy, someone would begin by saying  “What I like/love about mommy is … In voicing what we like or love about someone it can reinforce the positive.   There will always be relationships that are more difficult than others but by voicing the positive we give substance to it.

Another thing we did most evenings around the dinner table was highs and lows.   Everyone would tell their high of the day and low of the day.   Sometimes there would be no low or high but most often we would hear some very interesting things.   This can be extremely insightful for the parents (and we parents would share too).  This does take some time to do, and so if your family has a time crunch you might want to limit it to a sentence or so or perhaps do it only certain days of the week.   The important part is to have some sort of routine so that you come to anticipate doing it.   Once in place you will find that your children will ask to do “highs and lows”.

I probably have said this before, but so much of parenting is “hit or miss”.  There is no formula for parenting that is “one size fits all”.   Even today, I am still doing the “hit or miss”, hoping I am getting better at striking a home run after 37 years of being a mum but some days I only hit foul balls…

Parenting will always be our most rewarding experience but also our most humbling.

I wish you the very best and hope tomorrow you hit a grand slam!


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Breathing, contractions, transition, and snacking during labour

Questions on breathing, contractions, transition, and snacking during labour from a mom very-soon-to-be:

Hello Catherine,

I am 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby and I have some questions for you about labour.

What kinds of breathing techniques helped you during labour?

And did you practise these beforehand or did you naturally know how to breathe during contractions?

What do the contractions feel like in early stage 1?

Do they feel a lot different than the Braxton-Hicks contractions?

I’m worried about the transition stage. What are some tips to help cope at this stage of labour?

What are some good snacks to eat during labour? 

Do you recommend any books for my husband to read to help him prepare as a labour support?

thanks so much!



Dear Amanda,

What an exciting time this must be for you. You are in what I call the watch and wait phase of pregnancy. With every Braxton-Hicks you will wonder if this is the beginning of real labour. How will you know if it is real labour? The contractions will be regular and consistent. They will increase in intensity and they will feel like a sweeping wave tightening across your entire abdomen.

As far as breathing techniques, I used breathing patterns for every labour. Have you taken Lamaze classes? It helps to practice breathing and relaxing techniques before labour. I would do this with your husband as he can help you during labour especially when you feel that the contractions are overwhelming. He can help you get back on track should you lose focus. The internet is quite helpful for locating information on Lamaze techniques. It is important to remember that any technique you use will not necessarily diminish pain during labour but it will help you cope with that pain. I found that walking during my contractions and standing during a contraction were most helpful.

Most women are concerned and worried how they will cope during the transition stage of labour. The most important aspect to remember is that this is the SHORTEST stage of labour. Keep telling yourself this. Say it over and over again. SHORT, SMALL, LEAST,…… whatever adjective you can think of to minimize the effect of this stage of labour.

Breathing technique is helpful and taking one contraction at a time. During this time the contractions may pile on top of each other but there is always a bit of a downhill segment when you can get a second to let go and relax before trudging uphill again. Also, visualize the contraction opening your cervix and moving your babe closer to delivery. I would try and think of the cervix expanding for my baby’s head. In that way you are working with your body instead of trying to fight it. If you can see that your pain during a contraction is for a purpose, it will help you cope and focus on getting to the next point. I have always been up or at least sitting up during this stage. Some women like to be in a bath during this time. I needed to move with the pain. Some women need to vocalize during this time. For me, I became very quiet as it was such an intense experience. There is no right or wrong way to get through this period of time. You know yourself and your body and you might try to come up with a game plan for this stage of labour. What ever you do, don’t look at the clock or ask how long you have been in transition. Let your husband take care of that aspect and he should help you focus on one contraction at a time. He also can encourage you and tell you what a great job you are doing. You are free to let him know that he better be extremely thankful that you are doing all the work to get this baby out!

As far as snacking during labour, you will need to eat something that is easily digested. A banana, peanut butter on crackers, candy you can suck on, ice chips….. I was never very hungry during this time and often became quite nauseated during the later stages so I stuck with the ice chips. You do not want to put a lot of food in your stomach while having contractions.

I hope this is of help to you. I can elaborate more if you have more questions.

This is such an exciting time in your life and it brings back so many memories for me. We were so ready to take on the role of parenting and had no idea how much we would need to learn in the days ahead. Our blissful ignorance was a blessing in that I really did not worry about what lay ahead.

Enjoy each day and be confident in yourself that you have what it takes to get through labour. Holding your newborn is the sweetest moment in a mother’s life.

You are going to do just fine,

you are ready.

Blessings for you and your family,


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Premature babies and nursing

A question from a new mom(!) about breastfeeding:

Hi Catherine, love the blog, just discovered it! My question is, do you have any suggestions about getting my baby ‘back to the breast’ after having introduced the bottle? I needed to start giving him bottled feeds in order to get his weight up – he was born preemie and extra small due to growth restriction in utero, and his suck was not great due to a tongue tie (now snipped). So I pumped milk and gave it to him in a bottle from about 2 weeks (he was in hospital still, level 2 care nursery) and kept trying to breastfeed. But now, especially when he is very hungry – like during the night when I have missed the early cues – he cries and fusses when I try to breastfeed, then calms down and eats when I switch to the bottle. But I really would like to wean him off the bottle if I can! He is 5 weeks now.

Many thanks in advance for any suggestions,



Dear Monique,

First of all, try not to get discouraged. I also had a preemie, small weight baby. I found that if I took my breast and squirted or squeezed milk directly into the baby’s mouth that he would at least start to suck. The milk will flow quite quickly at first, especially if you are engorged. I would also try frequent feedings during the day and try not to offer the bottle. You could also make the bottle harder to suck from by using a different nipple or one that did not have such a large opening. There are going to be some frustrating moments for both you and babe. Your baby will get the hang of it eventually and as long as he is getting enough during the day, I would not worry too much about the night feedings. He may cry a lot at first, but he will settle after figuring out that he is not going to get the bottle. It is amazing how these tiny babes can get their message across to us without a single word!

I really think you may just have to put that bottle away. Is he a good weight now? Also, lamaze used to make a nipple that you could put over your breast. This was mostly for women with inverted nipples, but it may work in your situation. However, I still think locking those bottles up will work the best. Hope this is of some help.

Feel free to write anytime and remember the most important part of this is what you are already doing; loving your baby son.


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love song

Today I will sing a song about my true love
a song about how a couple of college kids
head over heels in love,
have journeyed for 37 years today
Years of growing up and growing together,
Learning about each other and ourselves.

Choosing to love beyond each other
First there were babies, now they are grown…
There has been sweetness and sadness,
highs and lows,
desperate times,
and days of relief.
The tears have flowed
but so many many times
it has been tears of laughter and joy.

We have held tight and let go
We have lived the “for better”, “for worse”
and “in sickness and health”
Always at my side, at my lowest moments, through soul searching, and chaos, through fearsome days, sunshine and rain, times of triumph and victory, and at the most extraordinary times,
has been my true love
No one knows for sure but me, he is my true love
So today I will sing a song about love,
my true love

and me…..

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Breastfeeding and Interrupted Sleep

a question from Sarah:

Dear Catherine,

I have two beautiful daughters. I co-slept with my first, which went very well and she transitioned to a toddler bed very easily at about 18 months. She has always been fiercely independent and a good sleeper once she was over the age of 1. Now my littlest one, Clio, is 14 months old, stopped co-sleeping at about 9 months (because she is a thrasher-tosser-turner in the night) and is in her own crib and room at night and for naps. BUT, she is up about 2 hours after we put her down, then up again at least two more times through the night. My husband and I are perpetually sleep deprived. I exclusively breast fed her for about 6 months, then introduced real foods and kept nursing in the morning and evening until about 12 months, at which point – and now – I just nurse for comfort and bonding if she is wanting a cuddle in the morning. I have a feeling that since I breast fed ‘on demand’ that she is still in the habit of needing little meals through the 24 hour day. HELP! I need sleep. How do I get her to sleep more soundly, and/or eat more before bed instead of through the night?

Kind regards,


Dear Sarah,

How familiar this scenario sounds to me. You had such a lovely time with your first daughter sleeping with you and making a smooth transition to the bed. Then your second daughter appears on the scene and what worked for one does not work for another. I too have been in such a situation. For now, the most important person in this drama is you. You are the leader and keeper of the flock. If you go down (or at least fall apart from lack of sleep), the entire family will suffer. Clio is 14 months and really not in need of nursing for food. I would wean her but if this seems unacceptable to you, I would refuse to nurse her at night. She has gotten into the habit of waking during the night and I’m afraid that there will not be any change in this unless you stop feeding her during the night. This may mean letting her “cry it out” for a few nights. I have been in the same predicament with our twins and Robb my husband insisted that they would be fine if I did not go in to their room when they cried. I had to go to another floor to sleep, as it was too disturbing for me to hear them cry. However, they eventually stopped waking during the night and when they started sleeping through, I thought something must be wrong.

Every child is a new experience and just when you think you have conquered one aspect of this complex practice of parenting it appears that you will have to start all over again. This certainly keeps us on our toes but I am confident that you will come out of this situation smiling. Again, remember that your health and sanity come first. Your husband also needs his sleep to be able to function through the day. Clio will not love you any less if she cannot nurse during the night or if you are not there to pick her up every time she cries. (The exception of course would be if she were ill or injured.)

I hope this is a help to you.

All the best in your days(and nights!) as a parent,


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Faith and Parenthood

Claire writes:

Are you a woman of faith? If so, how have you incorporated your faith into your parenting? 

I have a deep faith and it has sustained me in ways I am sure I will never know. This is something that is deeply personal and each person must come to his or her own conclusions about it. For me, my faith has poured out into all areas of my life, including parenting. I might add that through the years, I have matured and my displays or demonstrations of what I believe have changed. Sometimes we are so zealous about something that we become strict and inflexible. Although we think we are doing others a favour by sharing (or imposing) these beliefs, we can actually hurt others. This can happen with religion, but can also happen with other things. Children are shaped by us, but should not be hammered. My own children can attest to this. In many ways, our beliefs have helped our family, but there have been times when as a parent I have imposed something on my child that I should have left alone. Sometimes we do this out of fear. We are afraid our children will be hurt so we impose restrictions that sometimes are unrealistic. It is one thing to tell your son or daughter to be safe while driving as opposed to not allowing them to drive because you fear they will be in an accident. Or not allowing you daughter to date, because you are worried she will get pregnant. It takes a long time to sort out what is important and what is not worth making an issue of.

Our parents have done it to us and I have made these mistakes with my children and they will probably make some with their own children. In some ways these areas are like having the perfect labour and delivery. It just may not happen. I always tell people that our children are not perfect because they did not get perfect parents. I also think that you can go too far on the other side and set no limits for your child. This too is disastrous. Robb used to say that child rearing is like holding a wet bar of soap in your hand. If you hold it too hard, it slips out and if you hold it too lightly it slips out. Holding it so it stays put, difficult!

This is an immense area and I will try to elaborate more later.

well, i am still in pjs, but managed to eat a big bowl of oatmeal

it’s off to the fields to work! (i.e. the office).

don’t forget to hug someone today and smile at someone you do not know


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Learning to breastfeed

Suzie asked about breastfeeding:

How long did it take for you to get the hang of breastfeeding? I’ve heard it can be very difficult for some mothers/babies.

How frequently does a newborn feed throughout the night? 

Let me first say that I am totally sold on breastfeeding. Most can do it with support. (it is much harder if you have inverted nipples, I on the other hand had grapes!) I did love to breastfeed, but I also made use of the bottle for a few of our children. I nursed for anywhere from 6 to 15 months. Naomi had it all: breast, pacifier and blankie. I put the twins on the bottle at six months after feeling more like a cow than a mum. There are some important points regarding this.

When beginning to breast feed, make sure the baby gets as much of the breast into her/his little greedy mouth. Get as much of the areola as you can into the mouth. This will help prevent cracked nipples. Sometimes I found that leaning over my baby to put the breast in was helpful. In the beginning I would let your nipples “air dry” for a while. Too much moisture will not allow a cracked nipple to heal. There are also creams available for this and  I would buy this  before having the baby (someone should ask about breast infections). Small babies need to nurse frequently, probably every 2 hours. Once your milk comes in, babies should be able to go about 3 hours in between feedings. And NO baby should be on the breast for an hour. Make sure you break the suction with your finger with your newborn when you change sides. It is pretty amazing how strong those itsy bitsy lips are!

If your baby is always wanting to nurse, I would go for the pacifier. We used to call them soothers. I’m not sure who it is soothing, the babe or the mum! Some kids just like to suck. I’m sorry but I am not a walking pacifier. If your baby is gaining weight, (this IS important) and has plenty of wet diapers, your child is doing just fine. Anyone who tells you that babies are not smart has not had one. It takes no time at all for them to out smart you. That sweet, beautiful, innocent baby can turn your life up side down and you will think you will never be able to get to the bathroom to pee again (or poop) let alone do things you might have done before. SO take my advice and go for a schedule. I don’t care what kind, but put your baby on some sort of schedule. Eventually, you will want the little darling to be sleeping through the night so that you can function during the day. It is my experience that children do best with routine. I started having babies right around the hippie days and people were into having your children in bed with you and nursing whenever and some did it till they went to school! It never worked for me or for my kids.

If you are going back to work soon after delivery then I would make sure that my baby could use a pacifier and take a bottle while they were still very new (around a month old). Also, get a good breast pump. Breast milk is going to be the cheapest even with an expensive breast pump. Forget the fancy toys, just get the breast pump on the list. Also, get your parents and in- laws familiar with you breastfeeding. I have never understood why women should have to go into hiding to breastfeed. Absurd!

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How soon after delivery were you walking? How soon back to normal?

How soon after delivery were you walking? When did you feel like you were back to normal?

As far as getting back to normal. Nothing is normal once you have kids. Every day brings surprises. It is a new journey and it will take you into lands you did not know existed (more on that later . . .).

After delivery, the first thing I wanted was a shower. As soon as they would let me get up, I had a shower. It felt soooo good to have a shower. I was always very fit so I think this was quite helpful for recovery. You should be able to walk shortly after delivery, unless you have lost a lot of blood. These days they send you home within 24hrs after delivery with your baby. Who is ready for THAT!

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What does pushing feel like? Like pooping? (and other pooping questions)

Another great series of questions from Suzie:

What does “pushing” feel like? Like pooping? Will I poop on my baby?

Is going to the bathroom extremely painful after delivery (when can I poop after delivery)?

None of the books answer my pooping questions!

When it comes down to it, as long as you can poop and pee, most people are happy (this happens to be true for babies, up to and including old folks). There are few things relative to pooping in pregnancy that can be issues.

First of all, sometimes in pregnancy you can become constipated. Eat lots of fiber, get exercise, and if need be take some miralax. It is quite safe and will help prevent getting hemorrhoids, which can be very painful and yes, after childbirth make pooping difficult. SO, take my advice and keep your bowel movements soft and regular. With regards to the delivery, it is true that some women may have a small amount of poop escape while delivering, but do not fear, you are not the first and you will not be the last. I was quite concerned about this myself and as far as I know it did not happen while delivering. Most often before labour, your bowel movements are loose and it is common to empty your bowel in early labour. I have been a labour coach and have watched some women who while pushing have expelled a small amount of poop. It is very quickly wiped away and no one really takes notice. Believe me, you are focused on pushing that baby out and all modesty is thrown out the window. I have never quite understood why some people want to film this. It has never been my most photogenic moment.

Now, when delivering, the perineum is stretched and it feels extremely tight and it does feel like it could tear and indeed, some people do tear. The key is to have a slow delivery and hot compresses on the perineum really help (it would be a long shot to say it is like pooping, unless you have had a 7-10 lb single poop! It is true though that the feeling of stretched skin is similar, just a much larger area)

As far as pooping after delivery, it will depend on several things. If you have had a large episiotomy, this may be quite painful and may affect you ability to bear down while pooping. I have to confess that I am old school in regards to childbirth. I did not have medication, nor an epidural and I had an episiotomy for the first two children and after that used hot compresses and never had another episiotomy. This subject will require a lot of writing and discussion, so I will probably not discuss it at this time. I am not really in favor of epidurals, though it appears most women have them during labor today. My husband, Robb told me during my first labour that he had never seen anyone die from pain, and I guess it stuck with me, because I always thought of that while in labor (every time I went into labor, I also said to myself that I had a very short memory and asked myself why I was doing this again!). Back to pooping . . .The same things apply to post pregnancy as pre-natal: eat lots of fiber, drink lots of water (good for your breast milk as well) and if you are constipated, do the miralax.

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Most comfortable position to labor in before pushing

Suzie asks another great question:

What was the best/most comfortable position for you to labor in before you starting pushing for delivery?

I am a firm believer in having women walk during labour. I did not do this my first labour and I wish I had walked the entire time. I have small hips and had quite long labours. Most were 10-15 hours. My first labour was 24 hrs long. I also think breathing techniques are great and having a good coach. Robb was really into this so I never had anyone else, but I was a coach for many women and believe me, some men have very weak stomachs and just can’t take the labour, delivery thing (it takes a WOMAN!). If your partner has not been much help for the prenatal classes and you think he may not step up to the plate when the time comes, I would get a second person to help you. There were so many times during my first labour that I wanted to throw in the towel (of course this is not possible, but at one point in my first labour, I probably would have swallowed a brick if I thought it would get rid of the pain), but Robb kept telling me that we were going to just do one contraction at a time.

When you get to transition, it really is the best way. They (the contractions) tend to pile on top of each other, and it is difficult to walk, but I would tell myself that I was one step closer to having my baby. My transitions were much better when I could stand up and it makes sense that the baby is going to descend much easier if you are upright (have you tried pooping laying down?). Hope this does not sound terribly grim. To give some perspective, I recently did my third triathlon and when I was in the middle of my 5k run, I asked myself why in the world I was doing something so ridiculous ( I had already done the swim, then biked 20k in 40 degree weather while wet!). As I was making my way through the run, it occurred to me that doing a triathlon was much like going through labour. And just think, I have survived 9 labours and done three triathlons. I think I felt just as tired after labour and delivery as I did after doing a triathlon. However, there is nothing in this world as wonderful as holding your newborn and I mean NOTHING!

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