Empathy and Baby Sleep

baby sleep tipsHighly Sensitive People often need more sleep. I prefer a full 7.5-9 hours each night to be the best mom I can be. Turns out my kids also need their sleep. They are so much happier when naps and nights are restful, so we’ve made sleep a priority in our household.

We had a rough start when our eldest was a baby, but by trial and error we figured out what works best for our family. I’ve tossed all the old sleep books with a million tricks that didn’t work. I’ve banished the idea of “cry it out” and the opposite idea of “no cry”. We take a holistic approach to good sleep- biological hacks for their circadian rhythms, environmental hacks like setting up the nursery in a certain way, and a super healthy diet to ensure that digestive issues or hunger don’t get in the way of sleep.  But I think the psychological approach is what really allows babies to fall asleep on their own without a fight. Here’s what it comes down to…

  1. Think like a baby. Let’s think first about what will make baby feel secure at sleepytime. What will build trust between baby and the adult putting her to sleep? Let’s put ourselves in baby’s booties for a bit. Imagine falling asleep in your mom’s arms- you are warm and snug and you can feel her heartbeat. You easily drift off to sleep to the sway of her rocking. Then BAM! 20 minutes later, you wake up in a cold crib alone, mommy has magically disappeared. You cry and cry until mommy reappears, picks you up, and rocks you again. But this time, you better not close your eyes. You need to stay awake or mommy might magically disappear again! And like that, a “sleep fighter” is born. I regret all the times I let Sisi fall asleep nursing, put her in the crib, then snuck away. That must have been scary for her. Sneaking out was no way to build trust.thanks for your support!
  2. Less is More*: R.I.E. Founder Magda Gerber says “Do Less, Enjoy More.” She’s talking about parenting in general: sit back and observe while our kids accomplish things in their own way and on their own time. Free the babies! But I’ve applied that principle to sleep and seen amazing results. My goal is to intervene as little as possible when baby is falling asleep and having partial wakings between sleep cycles. Elaborate sleep rituals are often unsustainable, tiresome for parents, and can be overstimulating to a tired baby (which kind of defeats the point.) I know from experience. Check out Sisi’s overly complicated bedtime ritual here. A cozy Moses Basket or crib, a dark room and a sweet but simple sleep routine are all Matteo needs to fall asleep soundly on his own. Even if he wakes up earlier than I’d like, at least we didn’t invest a ton of time and energy into putting him down. There is nothing more frustrating than rocking a baby to sleep for 30 minutes, carefully placing them in the crib and sneaking out like a ninja, then hearing them wail again 20 minutes later. When Matteo wakes up between sleep cycles, I don’t rush in immediately. I pause a few minutes, reassess the situation, then comfort him as needed or continue to give him space to fall back asleep. We have been doing this since he was a brand newborn. Often, our attempts to soothe are stimulating to babies and interrupt with the natural going to sleep (or going back to sleep) process.
  3. Two-Way Communication: The only infant sleep books I recommend are Cherish The First Six Weeks (for newborns under 6 weeks) and Dream Baby Guide (for infants over 5 1/2 months). Both books stress the idea that good consistent communication is the foundation for a happy, secure sleeper. I bought the Dream Baby Guide book hoping for a quick fix to our sleep problems, but instead I got valuable advice about talking to baby respectfully, clearly, and not sending mixed messages. There is so much room for confusion when it comes to sleep.  Is it nap time or night time?  If I wake up, will mommy nurse me?  Or rock me? Or tell me to go back to sleep?  Is it morning yet or still the middle of the night?  Only we know the answers to these questions, so we must tell baby what’s up with words, routines, and other cues.  They are intelligent and they learn quickly!
  • I talk to my baby in simple, clear sentences: “It’s time to go in the crib and sleep now, bub.” “It’s time to nurse.” “It’s not nursing time, it’s sleeping time.”
  • I also talk via routines: If he wakes up in the middle of the night, going right to the nursing chair means it ok to nurse.  If he has already nursed once that night, I take him to the hallway to be soothed so he knows not to expect nursing.
  •  I also talk via cues/props:  We have a song for when I put him in his zipadeezip.  We use cues like the sound machine and closing the blinds to signal sleep time.  We use cues like opening the blinds to signal awake time.

There are so many times when Matteo will be practically begging to be put to bed.  He will be crying and cranky but as soon as I put him in the zipadeezip, he literally smiles.  He knows what comes next. I shut the blinds and see him yawn.  Then I turn on the sound machine, sing him his special song, tell him I love him, and put him in the crib.  I see him flop over onto his tummy and immediately conk out.  There is no struggle, no fear.  Just the comfort of a good night’s sleep ahead.

*Matteo was a pretty calm newborn, so putting him to sleep drowsy but awake was doable from the very beginning.  Babies with reflux, eczema and other issues may have a harder time with this and may need more help getting to sleep.  But I still suggest doing less- intervene as little as is possible.  That way baby doesn’t have to unlearn a ton of sleep habits that are no longer sustainable.

*Might I also add that this post is in no way intended to shame/criticize/guilt anyone who puts their baby to sleep differently.  I’ve been asked how my babies sleep so well many times, and thought I’d share the approach that works for us.

HSPs need more sleep.

hammock in sayulita, mexico.

I need my sleep. Really I do.

At least 7.5 hours per night, preferably 9 hours to function at my best. I had a friend in high school who just didn’t need much sleep to function well- she slept 6 hours a night at the most, and woke up perky and ready to go. Her mom frowned upon sleeping in late so she used to wake her up early on Saturdays to clean the whole house as a family. My mom knew that I needed to sleep in til noon on Saturdays to catch up from the school week. She wouldn’t even think of waking me up early, probably because I would be a hypersensitive grouch the rest of the day.

Turns out, most HSPs need more rest. In The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron says, “HSPs do worse than others working night shifts or mixed shifts, and they recover more slowly from jetlag.”thanks for your support!

This is definitely true for me. Why is this? Maybe it’s because daily life as an HSP is so stimulating for me, I need tons of sleep (and rest and downtime) to recuperate. Maybe it’s because I can’t rely on coffee to perk me up (HSPs are generally more sensitive to caffeine). Perhaps it’s because I just can’t deal with the sensation of tiredness- the heavy, achy, almost painful feeling of sleep deprivation (HSPs often feel sensations like tiredness, hunger, and pain more intensely.)

Every new mom expects to sacrifice some sleep, but my first child’s sleep issues caused me so much stress and despair. I do believe our sleep situation (both the feeling of failure I felt when she wouldn’t sleep, and my own sleep deprivation) contributed to my postpartum depression and anxiety. Thankfully, because both of us couldn’t tolerate sleep deprivation (highly sensitive children don’t wear sleep deprivation well), it forced me to come up with solutions to our sleep issues early on. I was determined to find a compassionate yet effective sleep method to help us all get the sleep we need. I’m so grateful that both my kids are great sleepers. Not perfect sleepers, but at least I can expect to get my full 8+ hours of sleep most nights. Just because I typed that, I bet both kids will wake up tonight.  Isn’t that how it works?  Never brag about your kids on the internet!  ha.

my soothing bed.
my soothing bed.

Why I Had to Quit My Floral Career

i quit being a floristWedding floral design seemed like the perfect job for me. I adore flowers. I can spend several minutes just examining a single perfect fuchsia or gloriosa lily. It sounds weird but I feel like flowers speak to me and tell me how they want to be arranged. I’m inspired by color and scent. I also love the planning aspect: coming up with a wedding vibe and color scheme, writing recipes for each arrangement, and making it all a cohesive visual experience. Brides told me I was really good at transforming their vision into reality, which makes sense because HSPs are good listeners and have great imaginations.

But now that I know I’m an HSP, I understand why owning my own wedding floral business was perhaps one of the worst jobs I could choose for myself. I had a fair amount of success in the industry, but the stress and anguish I felt pretty much all the time far outweighed the success.  The job required skills that don’t come easily to me (or most HSPs) at all.

  1. Pressure: Like most HSPs, I don’t do well under pressure. Talk about pressure: wrong flowers sent, flowers dying, crazy mothers of the bride, picky grooms with way too many opinions (the worst!), pulling all nighters to finish, stuck in traffic with a truck full of flowers on a hot day, huppah blows over in the wind 1 hour before the wedding ceremony. I’m getting all flustered just remembering these things.
  2. Selling myself. For days before each consultation I’d have to pump myself up. I am not a natural saleswoman. It was like having to do job interviews multiple times a week, every week, which is kind of hellish.  This did become easier with practice. I got quite good at consultations and booked a majority of the clients I met with because I’m friendly and can connect well with people in a short amount of time.  But I never stopped getting butterflies/mild panic attacks. I felt wired for hours after each consult- a mix of adrenaline and relief- even after 7 years in the biz. Just being honest.
  3. Responsibility: I took my job so seriously. Too seriously. It’s just flowers, right?  I wasn’t solving world hunger.  But I felt like there was so much at stake. I had one chance- one day- to wow them. I often feared being sued, ruining the wedding somehow or getting horrible reviews. Thankfully, these things never happened, but I’ve had friends who have had to deal with some serious issues.
  4. Delegation: As I hinted in the previous point, delegation, especially under pressure, is hard for me. When I am flustered it’s so hard to think logically. I was often so stressed out that my brain would kind of shut down and I couldn’t come up with a plan of execution, much less divvy up the work and clearly communicate my expectations to each employee. I’m also a perfectionist, so sometimes the temptation to just do it myself got in the way of handing things off to others.  Since becoming a parent, I’ve had to get better at delegating things to my husband and other helpers.
  5. Thick Skin:I definitely don’t have this. Thankfully, I had mostly wonderful, appreciative brides. But I do remember a few parents and grooms that were so hard to please.  HSPs tend to dwell on others’ criticisms and take them to heart.  As I get older though, I care a little less about what others think.  One of the best things about aging!
  6. Charging Enough: I also had a hard time pricing my designs.  I probably should have charged much more for my flowers, time and expertise. I respect my peers in the industry who continue to make a great living off of wedding planning, floral design, and photography. They know what they are worth and they have no problem charging for it. It doesn’t bother them to be turned down based on price. They are confident that the right clients will come to them.

    wedding florist career
    photo by Trista Lerit Photography.

So basically, owning my own floral design business was just not right for me. I kept at it for 7 years. When I had my daughter, there was no question I would quit. I felt a slight sting of grief, but never regretted my decision. Actually, I think it was brave of me to finally admit that a big part of my life needed to change.  Yes, sometimes you have to stretch yourself to fit your career, and I did, but don’t stretch yourself so thin that you disappear. Life is too short- find a career that suits your passions, skills, talents. Maybe it won’t be a perfect fit in every way, but at least you won’t be spinning your wheels wishing you were a different person.  You’ll be thankful that you’re you because you are awesome for that job.

I still get my flower fix doing flowers for friends’ small weddings and events.  It’s all the parts of the job that I LOVE, minus the pressure and stress.  I also wouldn’t mind helping out other florists if I needed some income.  If they want to do the business stuff and leave the pretty flowers to me, I’m all for it!

wedding flowers for friends: the best way to get my flower fix. Photo by Orange Turtle Photography.
designing flowers for my dear friends is the most satisfying way to use my talent. photo by Orange Turtle Photography.

Is your current job a good fit for your HSP qualities? What do you think is the perfect job for you, and are you going to go for it?  


Packing Light: My Diaper Bag

everlane diaper bagBaby in the front, backpack on the back, and hands free to help my 4 year old cross streets.  That’s how we roll.

Keeping track of our stuff- packing it, unpacking it, digging through it- makes me so flustered.  I can be a little scatter brained when I’m overstimulated, so I lose things a lot. I’d rather focus my energy on my kiddos and the task at hand (errands, playdates, whatever) than on my stuff.  Too much stuff just weighs me down physically and mentally.   I love having everything I need on my back so I can pretty much forget about it.thanks for your support!

I chose a super simple zip up backpack from everlane (<–this is my referral link, thanks!)  It is sleek, sturdy, smartly designed, and like all Everlane products, ethically made. Also, it’s gender neutral so husbands shouldn’t mind carrying it around.  I might get one for Joe and the mini version for Sisi!

top: main pocket. bottom: front zipper pocket.
top: main pocket. bottom: front zipper pocket.

Here is what I always carry:

  • 2 water bottles (contigo and contigo kids stainless steel bottles have stood the test of  time for us! Plus, the water isn’t sitting in plastic all day.)
  • lunch box (omie box is amazing!)
  • nursing cover
  • shoes for Sisi (she’s usually barefoot so I am always forgetting to pack shoes)
  • 3-4 diapers
  • grocery bag for dirty diaper
  • onesie (burt’s bees has cute/cheap organic onesies)
  • wipes (water wipes– the best for his bum!)
  • antibacterial wipes (these ones are all natural)
  • wallet, keys, sunglasses, phone
  • tissues
  • mints (special treat for Sisi on car rides and doubles as a baby rattle in a pinch)
  • a few baby toys
no editing at all- this is exactly what was in my bag at the moment.
no editing at all- this is exactly what was in my bag at the moment.

As you can see, it’s just the essentials, and it all fits neatly into my backpack with room to spare.  Now, HSPs are usually thinking a few steps ahead, and like to be prepared.  I keep things like an extra change of clothes for me, extra diapers, sun hat, chapstick, and baby powder in my car because it’s nice to have backup supplies nearby.  But I really don’t need to tote those things around everywhere I go, so I don’t.

everlane backpack
the perfect backback

Update 10/18/2016:  I still use this backback every day, have washed it numerous times in the washing machine (hung outside to dry), and it is still in wonderful condition.  I get compliments on it all the time.


I’m Easily Grossed Out

i'm easily gOne day, Sisi pointed out the only brown leaf on our liquid amber tree.  Leave it to a Highly Sensitive Child to notice and care about a leaf that looks slightly different than the rest.  I glanced at it, then did a double take.  There was a bronze smudge on it.  To my horror, the smudge was actually hundreds of sesame seed sized caterpillars sucking the lifeblood out of that leaf.  I wanted to throw up.  Any bug, even cute bugs like lady bugs and caterpillars, becomes disgusting in large quantities.  At least to me.  My husband didn’t think it was gross at all.

Every day since my discovery, my daily ritual is to examine these bugs with equal parts horror and fascination.  The O.G.s  have long since flown away, but I’m now noticing more of those bronze smudges all over the trees.  They are multiplying.  Hundreds of leaves munched away. There is caterpillar poop everywhere.  It’s gross.  And so interesting, but so gross.  It makes me all jittery when I see them, like they are crawling on me.thanks for your support!

I’m just easily grossed out. I always have been.  Moldy bread, ants eating a dead bug, that crusty stuff around a milk carton.  I gag!

I used to get so disturbed on rainy days as a kid because the the floor of a school bus was all wet with dirty water, smushed snails from kids’ shoes, stray hairs.  I tried to look out the window but found myself searching the floor for nastiness.  Please tell me I’m not the only one!

It’s not just sights either.  Gross sounds (swallowing, slurping, burps) can fill me with anger.  This has a term actually- misophonia.  I don’t think I have true misophonia, but I can relate to those who do.

It’s also hard for me to ignore gross smells.  My neighbors wake me up out of a dead sleep sometimes when they smoke on their porch.  I just donated several perfectly good towels because I just couldn’t get this slight mildewy smell out of them, even after many washings with vinegar and baking soda.   I can smell peoples’ saliva on Matteo’s head all the time- he’s irresistibly kissable so it’s no wonder.
baby caterpillars and eggs

Why are HSPs so easily grossed out? We are sensitive to subtle stimuli.  We notice gross things that others don’t.  And then we think about what we’ve experienced, holding onto it almost obsessively to wrap our minds around it. HSPs have stronger emotional and physical reactions to stimuli- perhaps we feel more jittery, nauseous, stressed out by gross things than the average person?  I’m just throwing these ideas out there.

Does this serve some sort of adaptive purpose?  Probably.  I can think of specific instances when my high sensitivity to gross stuff protected me. Like when I could smell mold coming from the wall (turns out we had major undetected water damage!)  I also swore I could hear very subtle scratching sounds in the walls at night that my husband didn’t hear (turns out we had rats living in the attic.)  I can smell when food goes bad much better than my husband, who gets food poisoning a lot more than I do.  But there are probably many times when this high-gross-out-factor has caused me unnecessary stress.  It also makes parenting a bit challenging.

Parenting can be gross.  I’ve had to suck it up and confront things that gross me out.  Crazy diaper blowouts, snot sucking with the nosefrida snot sucker, open wounds, and vomit all come with the territory.  My duty and love for my kids far outweighs the gross-out-factor.  I’m the adult, so I jump in and do what I need to do.

Question: I’m super curious how HSPs in the medical field deal with all the blood, bodily fluids, smells?  Did it take some time to get used to it?  How do you cope?


No More Mommy Tantrums

mommy tantrums

You see it everywhere: Parents pushed to the limit.

At Macy’s, a dad mocks his sobbing child.  “Wahh wahh, I’m being such a baby!” he says, winking at me as if to say, “Aren’t kids ridiculous?”  The boy cries even harder.

At the library, a mom yells at her child, “Be quiet!  We’re going home now because you can’t remember to be quiet in the library!”  She drags her out kicking and screaming.

On the sidewalk I overhear a dad saying to his boy, “Man!  It’s only 8:30 in the morning and you’re already annoying me!  I seriously can’t handle you right now!”  His boy looks defeated.

You can tell I’m an eavesdropper from this post.  Sorry-not-sorry!  It’s partly an HSP thing– this hyperawareness of others’ emotions.  It’s almost impossible for me to pass over a parent and child in conflict without taking it all in.

Trust me, I’ve had my meltdowns, too!  I’m not really hot-headed or prone to anger, but when I reach my limit, I tend to get cold.  I shut down. I might roll my eyes and give a guilt trip.  I think that kind of coldness is just as hurtful as a full-blown mommy tantrum.

But fortunately, I’m steeped in enough awesome parenting resources that remind me over and over to be calm. Breathe. Be cool.  Your kids are people, too, even when they are acting crazy. It’s normal for them to act crazy.  They deserve to be treated with respect all the time, not just when they are angels.  I repeat these things like mantras almost every day.

Janet Lansbury calls it wearing your superhero suit like a shield.  I love that image.  Because to your child, you are a superhero.  You are your child’s fearless leader.  You are bigger, stronger, wiser than they.  You are their role model for how to handle overwhelming feelings.  We add fuel to the fire when we are anything besides calm, consistent, and compassionate.

It’s so very hard to exude this zen attitude when your kid is crying and flailing in the frozen foods aisle and you have to leave your cart full of groceries in a hurry (I speak from experience.)  But you’ve got to fake it til you make it. You’ve got to exercise those zen muscles until a chill response is second nature.

Here’s what it looks like for me:

Your child hits another child in public.  You are mad, embarrassed and panicked.  Breathe, walk over, and calmly but sternly say, “I won’t let you hit.”  Hold down his hands and look him in the eye.  If he hits again, repeat “I won’t let you hit.  We need to go home now.”  Pick up the kid and go home.  As he throws a royal tantrum in the car, say “You sound frustrated and mad.  You wanted to hit and you wanted to stay at the park, but I am taking you home. You can cry and let it all out. I’m here if you want to talk or cuddle.”

Calm, cool, empathetic.  I guarantee, this strategy works better to simmer kids down than a mommy tantrum or that cold passive-aggressive thing I do. Promise.

Why I Dislike Talking on the Phone

i hate the phone

That invasive ring-a-ling that comes out of the blue and fills you with a slight dread.  Uhhg.  I was so relieved to find out that hating the phone is pretty normal for HSPs.  I guess I’m not the only one who avoids the phone whenever possible.  This post made me laugh!

This phone aversion goes way back for me.  I used to beg my mom to make my phone calls for me, even as late as college.  I know, this is so ridiculous!  Now that I can’t rely on mommy, I try to set up appointments, RSVP for events, and order things online or via text instead of the phone, even if it usually takes longer that way.  I also prefer to text friends to set up face-to-face get-togethers, rather than have lengthy phone conversations.  For my bffs who live far away, I do make exceptions because I love talking to them and want to be a part of their lives.

So why do HSPs hate the phone so much?  What’s the big deal?

Here’s my take on it.

  1. The surprise of a phone call.  It kind of activates a fight or flight response in me.  Sometimes I’m really in the zone- cooking, or cleaning, or just reading in bed, and then that ring just startles me.
  2. Awkward. There is some inevitable awkwardness that goes along with phone conversations.  The small talk, the dead silences, the interruptions, the lengthy goodbyes.
  3. You can’t rely on facial cues.  HSPs are really tuned into facial cues.  It’s hard for me to get the full story if I can’t see the person’s face or gesticulations.
  4. I can’t follow.  People talk too fast or don’t enunciate, which makes me flustered, and then I really miss what they’re saying.
  5. Traumatic past events.  I’ve gotten some pretty tragic phone calls (ex-boyfriend dumping me, notice of my dad’s death, etc.) so it makes me nervous when the phone rings, like “Great, now what??”
  6. Multitasking is not my strength.  It’s so hard for me to parent my kids while also talking on the phone.  Because everyone knows as soon as you pick up the phone, the kids need you desperately.

Who else is with me?  Thank goodness for texting and email.  And to my friends who love the phone, you are well worth the sacrifice 🙂

Disciplining a Highly Sensitive Child

disciplining a sensitive childHighly sensitive children are often extremely sensitive to tone of voice and facial expressions. A stern look or shush from an authority figure can immediately crumple their faces to tears. I knew very early on when my eldest was a baby that typical discipline measures (time outs, lectures, spanking) were not going to work for us.

Highly sensitive people usually want to do the right thing. We are rule-followers. We try hard. When we fail, we are crushed. We don’t need as much correction because we are already beating ourselves up for our mistakes. Even in high school, a stern correction from a teacher could make me sob in front of the whole class. I can remember several clear instances of this. I didn’t get in trouble often, but when I did, I was a total wreck for the rest of the day.  It was awful.

Why did I care so much? My brother was always in detention, even suspended once or twice, and didn’t seem all that phased. I understand now that my sensitivity to correction stems from my experiencing it- the disappointed look of a teacher, the harsh words of a parent, the sting of being caught, and the public embarrassment- much more intensely than the typical kid. Because of this, I tried so hard to be perfect.  But I’m a human and a sinner and perfection is not possible. My perfectionism probably made me an easier child to raise than my less sensitive brother, but it filled me with inner turmoil. I am trying hard to steer my children away from that same turmoil.

So, if I don’t lecture, spank, yell, or do time-outs, what’s left? How can we discipline children sensitively? I’m not lax in my parenting.  I run a pretty tight ship.  I have routines, rules, standards, but also allow a ton of freedom.thanks for your support!

I call it front-end discipline.  Taking a preventative approach.  Setting up the situation carefully to decrease the odds of misbehavior.

1. I set my expectations up front, clearly. Time-limits, expected behavior, spatial/behavioral boundaries. This is like 90% of discipline in our household. It takes a lot of time and effort to give a detailed rundown beforehand, but it is key to keeping the peace.

2. I pick my battles so I’m not always nagging. I offer lots of freedom within boundaries. For example, at restaurants, I often let my child choose her meal between a few healthy options I give her. I let her eat with her fingers if it’s easier for her to do so. I don’t force her to eat everything on her plate. I even let her play with her food a little (put the olives on her fingers, disassemble the casserole, stuff like that.) I know, horrible manners, we probably get judged. But I’m just not going there right now. If she sits and eats peacefully, I’m happy. As long as it’s not disruptive to those around her.

3.  There are certain realms that I just don’t enter.  It’s just not my business.  Giving kids control in these realms allows them to submit in other situations.

  • PLAY: She can play however she wants as long as no one is getting seriously hurt, she cleans up after, and abides by whatever boundaries I’ve set. I’m always baffled when I see parents butting into their kids’ play- “Honey, go on the swings now! Share your ball with Susie! Build a tower like this!” That seems like such a royal waste of energy. She knows much better than I do what is fun for her.
  • EMOTIONS: Her emotions belong to her, so I don’t discipline her for negative emotions (anger, grumpiness, jealousy.)  I discipline actions that stem from these feelings, like hitting, but not the emotions themselves.

3. If she has outright crossed my boundaries, I am calm but firm.  I calmly say, “I will not let you hit.” I don’t leave any room for argument, I simply tell her I won’t let this behavior continue. If necessary, I physically stop her (hold down her hands) or remove her from the situation if need be.  But always calmly (or at least, that’s what I aim for.)

4. Empathy, not shame. “I understand you are frustrated, and that makes you want to hit, but I will not let you.” Sometimes this sparks a tantrum, but usually it fizzles out quite quickly because a) I’ve left no room for negotiation, b) I didn’t make it personal by slathering on the guilt, c) I honestly allow so much freedom that she doesn’t feel the need to push back for very long. She accepts there are just a few big-time no nos, and that she must abide by them.

Sometimes even the gentlest correction brings forth a tantrum or tears, which makes me feel so crappy. But I don’t need to feel guilty about correcting my child so long as I did so respectfully. Correction is a part of life. I then give her a little space and say she can come to me if she needs a talk or cuddle.

5. Give them time. I find that if I give her time to choose the right, she often chooses it. If the night time routine is dragging, I will say, “Please brush your teeth and use the restroom.  If you dawdle, we may not have time to read books.” I’m simply stating the natural consequences of her actions.  99% of the time, she’ll pause, think, and then rush to the bathroom, no punishments needed.  I learned to pause and calmly wait for her to choose the right path from the amazing book Bringing Up Bebe.

Recommended Reading: I highly recommend checking out Janet Lansbury’s blog Elevating Childcare or reading her book No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.  Although she’s not directed at highly sensitive children per se, her ideas about respectful, empathetic parenting are especially well-suited for HSCs.

Question: Were you super sensitive to discipline as a child?  How did your parents handle it when you misbehaved, and how do you wish they’d handled it?

gentle parenting methods


HSPs and Labor: Why Home Birth Suited Me Best

birth should take place where you are comfortableLabor should be as comfortable as possible.  I don’t mean painless, although I do have a friend who claims she didn’t experience pain during her quick 4 hour labor.  I mean as stress-free, emotionally calm,  and positive as possible.

Home is where I’m most comfortable.  At home, I can control the level of stimulation, the music, lighting, temperature, who is present, what I wear, when to push, what position to labor in.  HSPs like control because we are so easily overstimulated and have to protect ourselves.  Home birth gave me a chance to control the aspects of labor that are controllable, which gave me more confidence to face all the scary unknowns.

I personally don’t like the hospital vibe.  I don’t like bright lights, beeping machines, sudden announcements, bleachy smells, and squeaking sneakers.  I know, I sound like such a princess right now.  I really try not to be high maintenance or make a fuss, but if I can avoid things that rub me the wrong way, I do.

I am also super intimidated by doctors (“white coat syndrome”) and tend to do whatever doctors say (or at least pretend to obey) whether they make sense or not. I feared not having the guts to stand firm if doctors recommended an intervention I wasn’t comfortable with.

For all these reasons, I decided to pursue a home birth.  Working with a midwife was so intimate and comforting. I never felt rushed or pressured or wrong.  They are trained to watch and wait, to let labor follow it’s natural course and pace.  They tend to not see every tiny hiccup as an emergency.  HSPs do not like to be rushed or pressured to “perform”, and I loved that I could just relax and let my labor instincts kind of take over.

Now, there’s the issue of emergencies.  HSPs tend to think and plan and worry about the future.  I did my research, and knew my midwives’ stats were far better than the surrounding hospitals.  Much lower C-Section rates, lower episiotomy rates, etc.  My chances of successfully birthing at home with no interventions was 90%, much better odds than in any of the local hospitals (the nearest hospital has a 60% c-section rate!)

HSPs supposedly feel pain more intensely, so why would I put myself through an unmedicated birth?  Because the thought of laboring in a hospital, hearing the screams of laboring women, dealing with the possibility of bratty nurses or curt doctors scared me more than the pain.

I can imagine some HSPs would prefer to labor in a hospital because they feel safer there and there is more backup in case of emergencies.  Maybe the hospital procedures are a comfort.  More power to you!  Like I said, birth should take place where you’re comfortable- at home, at the hospital, at a birth center, in a taxi (jk.)  Do your research, do some soul-searching, and honor your own decision.

Did your HSP qualities affect your birth plan or labor?  How so?  Please share by leaving a comment!

matteos home birth