Learning to Sleep

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.”

Any mother with an infant knows what Shakespeare was talking about. After carrying a tiny being inside of you for 9 months and going through labor and childbirth, all a mom wants to do is sleep. She deserves a nap, at least! But between round the clock feedings, 100s of diaper changes and learning how to care of a demanding little human, there’s no rest for new mommies.

As I mentioned in a previous post, sleeping is all I think about – for both baby and myself. All the books said that at 3 months, my baby would start to get into a nighttime routine and sleep longer lengths, but for us, it seemed to be getting worse. Charlotte was waking every 3 hours demanding to be fed. She slept with a pacifier, which put her to sleep immediately, but as soon as it fell out, she would yell until I plugged her back in. We had her in a cradle in our room, and she would wake at the slightest creak of floor, or sniffle of nose. I felt like a prisoner. I was a walking zombie, impatient, cranky, and frazzled.

Enter Ayleen Gelbart, RN. We met through my mom group, Perfit Moms, when she came to talk to the group about sleep learning. At the time, I half listened – Charlotte was 10 weeks old and still in her sleepy newborn stage (silly me, I thought that would continue forever haha). When I began to consider sleep training, I reached out to her and I’m so glad that I did! Ayleen has serious credentials – she’s been a Sleep Learning Specialist since 2006 and licensed Registered Pediatric Nurse since 2000. She’s also taken courses in Child Development, Infant feeding, and Pharmacology (to name a few) and she applies that knowledge when working with families. Through her company, ABCSleepyTime Inc., she’s helped countless families with nighttime sleep learning and daytime nap learning. SIGN ME UP!

First, a few points to make about sleep learning…

  • Charlotte was 3.5 months when we began sleep learning. Contrary to popular belief, this is not too young! You can start teaching good sleep habits to newborns and at 10 pounds, you can start teaching baby to sleep longer stretches of time. At this weight, they have enough reserves to sustain them through big stretches and ultimately, the night.
  • I do not believe in “cry it out.” And fortunately, neither does Ayleen. I wanted to teach Charlotte how to sleep at night without having her go into meltdown mode. I can’t handle the tears, it breaks my heart! Ayleen’s method is incredibly gentle, with minimal crying. Some tears are inevitable though as you are changing the baby’s routine.
  • GET RID OF THE PACIFIER FOR SLEEP! This was the toughest habit to break. We ended up going cold turkey and braced for a few days of bad sleep. But once she got used to the “new normal,” her sleep was so much less disrupted!
  • You have to be prepared to temporarily give up some freedom. The first few weeks were a major adjustment – bedtime was at 6pm and I tracked everything from awake time, sleep time, poops and feedings. The time between awake and asleep can be quite short depending on the age of the baby and requires dedication and routine. This really limited what I could do during the day (temporarily), which I found frustrating at first. But once I saw the results – it was worth it!

The first thing Ayleen did was to do a thorough analysis of Charlotte’s environment and overall behaviour. From there, she gave me a personalized plan to follow as well as daily support during our 3 weeks working together.

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Outfit & hair band from TicTacBow

Charlotte’s main issue was that she wasn’t getting enough daytime sleep, which was accounting for her frequent wakings at night. So my goal in the first week was to get her to nap as much as possible during the day. At the time, this meant limiting the amount of time she was awake. I honestly felt like I was always putting her to bed! We did 4 naps a day until we got the 4-5 hours of day sleep that babies her age need.

The second issue was the multiple feedings at night. Ayleen asked me why I was nursing her each time she woke up and I said it was because I assumed she was hungry. Wrong! Charlotte was waking out of habit, for comfort and because she had not yet learned HOW to sleep on her own or put herself back to sleep on her own. Babies wake multiple times through the night, but they put themselves back to sleep (much the same way adults do). So the goal here was to teach Charlotte how to sleep and fall back asleep without me intervening.

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Creeping on my kid while she sleeps. If you’re going to sleep train, invest in a video camera for peace of mind!

This wasn’t easy, but Charlotte took to the structure and routine that Ayleen offered right away! Rather than rush in as soon as the baby squawked, I waited the amount of time that Ayleen advised. If Charlotte fell back asleep then she wasn’t really hungry. If she started to whine and it built into a certain kind of cry, I could check in but not pick her up. FYI – this is an extremely simplified version of the “routine” – I promised Ayleen I wouldn’t give away all of her secrets 😉

Sure enough, within 2 weeks of sleep learning, Charlotte started doing 10-13 hours nights without waking. Every morning, I was greeted with a big smile and giggles. She’s also learned how to nap very well on her own and typically sleeps for 1-2 hours per nap. Though they can be a bit wonky (damn you teething!), overall, my happy baby is well rested and so am I! My anxiety and exhaustion has decreased and I feel so much more patient and relaxed. Developmentally, at 4 months, Charlotte has cut her first tooth, can roll over, “talks” to us, laughs, smiles, grabs at objects she wants and is learning how to crawl. I attribute all of that to a well-rested child.

Charlotte didn’t come with a user manual, but with Ayleen’s help, I managed to figure out how to hack the sleep game.

 

Need sleep help? Ayleen of ABCSleepytime Inc.  works remotely, so she’s able to help tired families all over the world!

Click HERE to visit her website for more information and LIKE her Facebook page!

 

Are you a tired mom? Want to commiserate? Or, do you have a burning sleep question? Let’s talk in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons I’m Thankful for Charlotte

‘Tis the season to be thankful and my heart couldn’t be more full of gratitude. 2017 has given us the beautiful gift of Charlotte, the luxury of enjoying our time with her, a new house and has changed our marriage in so many profound ways.

 

There are probably a million reasons why Patrick and I are so thankful to have Charlotte in our life, but here are the top 5 that my grateful, love-riddled mind came up with.

(Scroll down for bonus reason #6 to be thankful! Hint: it’s a coupon code to shop Charlotte’s outfit, courtesy of Petit Atelier Enfant!)

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Shop Charlotte’s outfit courtesy of Petit Atelier Enfant
  1. She brings us so much laughter. I don’t think Pat and I have ever laughed as much as we have with Charlotte. Sometimes her expressions or sound effects are so hilarious, it literally makes us laugh-cry. You can’t help but smile when she throws you a gummy grin! And when she starts to giggle uncontrollably, her infectious laughter makes us double over.
  2. She has taught me the power of my own strength. I never considered myself an exceptionally brave or strong person (I’m stubborn, there’s a difference). But going surviving childbirth, sleep deprivation and chomped up nipples has made me feel powerful and strong, like I can do anything.
  3. She makes me feel like I’m the most important person in the room. All you parents will agree…there is nothing like your little baby grabbing your face and staring into your eyes. Charlotte will stroke my cheek and gaze into my eyes and the world melts away. I love the way that her eyes search for me when she’s being held by others, or how she tracks my movement when she’s sitting in in her activity chair.
  4. She has changed our days so profoundly. Honestly, we don’t even remember what we did without her. Seriously, what did we do with all that spare time? How did we have any fun before we worked book-reading and tummy time and baths into our routine?
  5. She reminds us what life is really about. It’s not about work or money, or any of the millions of little dramas that happen on a daily basic. Life is about family and love and all that good stuff. The rest is just details.
  6. BONUS reason to be thankful! Petit Atelier Enfant is giving you 10% off their online store to shop beautiful, designer children’s clothes. I love their unique pieces! They’re comfy, super cool and one-of-a-kind.

    Use coupon code: JEN10. 

    (Coupon is valid for 1 time use, until October 27)

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What are you thankful for?

 

Share in the comments below!

The Coolest Baby on the Block

Before Charlotte, I never subscribed to the phrase “less is more.” For me, more has always been more! Why buy one pair of shoes, when you can have two? I don’t just want a new top, but a whole new outfit and bag to go with. Of course baby girl would have mountains of clothes, new outfits everyday and accessories to match. But as Charlotte quickly outgrew her substantial newborn wardrobe, I realized that most outfits had only been worn once or twice. What a waste!

With that in mind, I decided to do better. I set out to find clothes that fulfilled a few requirements. Firstly, with sleep training Charlotte (more on that in a later post), I needed outfits that weren’t super fussy and would transition easily from sleep to play. Secondly, I like clothes that don’t look like baby clothes – no cheesy slogans or silly cartoon characters. Thirdly, with Charlotte outgrowing outfits within 2 weeks, I was struck with the question of what to do with everything? I decided that I wanted to have more quality items for Charlotte, and that I wanted them to be local.

That’s when I came across Miles Baby. I have a personal connection to the brand as one of my favourite former co-workers, Marie-Helene, is the artistic director. She is super talented and I love her modern aesthetic. Miles Baby is cool, very cool. It’s playful and comfy and inspired by the neighborhoods that we all live in. What I love about the brand is that they seek to encourage local commerce and celebrate our communities.

Scroll down for a FREE SHIPPING COUPON!

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Nothing better than baby toes! Wearing the Playblock leggings from Miles Baby

 

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Wearing the Splashed Tunic & Playblock legging from Miles Baby

Charlotte is wearing pieces from the “From the Block Collection.” I love that they have a bit of an edge and don’t look like your typical childrenswear. Inspired by play blocks and buildings in our neighborhoods, the collection is playful and loungy, unisex and super cool.

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Wearing the Miles Baby Neighborhood Top & Pompom Hat

BTW, Miles Baby has given me a sweet coupon for FREE SHIPPING!

Use coupon code: jenxmiles

Limit 1 per customer, Valid in Canada & USA only. No expiry!

 

I love supporting small, local businesses and hope you will too! 

Time Needs to Stop + Contest!

How is it that Charlotte is going into her 4th month of life? Time needs to stop. Seriously. It seems like she’s always been as big as she is right now, but as I look back on pictures, I find it hard to believe that she was once so small, and so squished. Everyone said it, but treasure the time you have with your wee ones. Although you may be dying of exhaustion, crazy with their screams and completely bewildered about how you will survive, absorb every moment with your little darling.

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about Charlotte is how she’ll go to sleep one way and wake-up to be a whole new baby! What I mean is, she literally learns how to do things in her sleep. Overnight, she goes from random movements, to determined motion. Seemingly, out of nowhere, she’ll grasp at colorful objects she used to stare at and promptly put them in her mouth. Or, she goes to sleep and the next day, she knows how to flip over! What is going on in that crazy brain of hers?!

At 3.5 months, I started introducing more toys to Charlotte that encouraged her new sensory skills. Of course, it was by putting my crazy Google-hat on that I came across KidzDistrict. What I love about their company is that they search for the most innovative, high quality products and they’re based in Canada. Whoo hoo! They introduced me to DOLCE, the cutest plush toys that combine playing and learning.

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Those cheeks! Just want to kiss them and squeeze them!
D.O.L.C.E stands for Develop, Observe, Learn, Create, Educate. One of Charlotte’s favorite toys right now is the Dolce Play & Learn Whale. It’s perfect for teaching hand-eye co-ordination and fine and gross motor skills. Crinkle fins, teether, embroidery and squeakers all add to the fun and learning.

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Discovering her Dolce – Play & Learn Whale
I reached out to my friends at KidzDistrict because I knew that all of you lovely followers might want one of these super-toys too! So, together we’re giving away the very adorable Dolce Play and Learn Monkey. It’s my very first contest, yay!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Like @justjenp and @kidzdistrict on Instagram.

  2. Find the post with this picture. 

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  3. Tag a friend who might like this monkey!

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    Dolce – Play and Learn Monkey, available at KidzDistrict

Easy right? I’ll be choosing the winner at random on Instagram on October 5th. Good luck everyone!

 

Charlotte at 3 Months

Time is moving at warp speed! Seems like just yesterday our little bundle of joy was coming home from the hospital. She was so tiny and fragile and we were equal parts terrified, determined and in awe of her. Fast forward 3 months and Charlotte is entertaining us with adorable performances of smiles, gurgles, squeals and coos. She kicks and grabs and our breastfeeding relationship is better than ever.

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Always talking! Just like her Mother…

It’s amazing how fast they develop and how quickly they pick up new skills. Last week, Charlotte’s hands would flail about at random, but now she holds them together like she’s praying, shoves them in her mouth and grabs things out of our hands! Seemingly out of nowhere, she started to drool and blow spit bubbles (oh great, teething in starting). And she’s started swaying from side to side on her back and pulling her feet up. Any moment she’s going to roll.

As a mother, I’m feeling more confident in my abilities and have cobbled together a schedule that seems to work for us. It required giving up some freedom and sticking to scheduled naps and bedtime, but it’s made the days more predictable for Charlotte and has lessened her mood swings (damn Gemini baby!) In terms of mommytime, I’ve been out a few times without the baby, I’ve joined a few mom groups that have been welcoming and supportive and have even started writing pro-bono for a friend’s publication.

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Having breakfast with my 2 loves

The months past haven’t all been sunshine and roses. The sleep deprivation is unrelenting. Charlotte hasn’t mastered the art of napping yet, refusing to go down more than 40 minutes at a time. This makes for one cranky baby by days end! She’s also developed an addiction to the pacifier and is unable to sleep without it. This means on top of feeding her twice a night, I’m up 10 times popping the thing back in her mouth after she spits it out. Very annoying! I’ve tried to stop giving it to her cold turkey, but she still hasn’t learned to self-sooth, so she’ll cry her eyes out for what feels like hours. And that, of course, makes me cry too. Any tips?

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Oh hey there! Just hanging out doing some tummy time

What has saved me the last 3 months has been the support of family. We are so lucky to have my parents and my mother-in-law close-by and not a day goes by where I’m not checking in. From asking them advice like “Does this poop look weird” or being able to vent “She won’t nap and it’s driving me crazy,” they have shared their wisdom and humor and made this crazy parenting adventure a little less scary. Oh, and they also make sure we are fed and that our house isn’t a pigsty. Thanks for that!

Going forward, we’ll need their help more than ever since we’ve officially SOLD OUR HOUSE! Details to come in a subsequent blogpost.

Any advice for a new mom? Care to share your 3 month sleep tips? Comment below!

No Rest for the Wicked

I am sleep obsessed. I find myself dreaming about a king size bed, with silky, white sheets, mountains of pillows, and a heavy, warm duvet. I spend my whole day wondering when I will get back to bed, how many hours of sleep I will get, and how rested I will feel the next morning.

Alas, sleep has eluded me for the last 2 1/2 months, which has only deepened my obsession. Now I obsess over my baby’s sleep. When to put her down, when to wake her up, how many minutes she’s napping, how many hours she’s sleeping. In the wee hours of the morning, I’ve googled countless ways on how to get your baby to sleep longer and have ordered hundreds of dollars of books. I now understand why they use sleep deprivation as a torture technique…

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Charlotte at 9 days old enjoy a joint nap after feeding.

After we brought Charlotte home from the hospital and got into our rhythm, I thanked my lucky stars that she wasn’t a colicky or reflux baby. Like most newborns, she was very sleepy and very hungry. Every 2 hours she wanted a snack, followed by a long nap. I thought naively, “Yay! My baby loves to sleep, this will be a breeze!” FALSE. Babies lull you into a false sense of security before they quickly change into zombie demons that refuse to sleep, no matter how hard you try.

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The irony of this picture amuses me

After complaining to nearly everyone I knew, many suggested that I pick up “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr Harvey Karp. One of the most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts, Dr Karp developed the 5 S’s to help calm babies and get them to sleep longer. He claims that babies are born 3 months too early and experience a 4th trimester from 0-3 months. During this time, calming womb-like sensations will quiet a baby and get them to relax. These include Swaddling, Side-Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking. I found that using a combo of these techniques, I was able to get Charlotte to sleep and to stay asleep!

My little one seemed to have mutant strength when I attempted to swaddle her and no matter what I put her in, Charlotte would burst out. As a newborn, I decided to try the SwaddleMe Pods. With it’s simple zip-up closure, it provides a cozy womb-like feeling which is ideal for newborns. I lovingly referred to this as a baby condom. After about 6 weeks, Charlotte was getting a bit big for them and I switched to the Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle, a 100% cotton muslin with simple, adjustable snaps. The combination of swaddling with lying her on her side or holding her on her side with her stomach against mine relaxes her immediately.

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SwaddleMe Pods
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Aden & Anais Easy Swaddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems counterintuitive, but babies sleep better with lots of noise! In your womb, they are constantly bombarded with noise like blood rushing through your veins and your heartbeat. Using a sound machine that has white noise reminds your baby of your cozy womb and will quiet them (I also found the vacuum and static on the TV to be quite useful!) I like the Skip Hop Nightlight Soother since you can set it on continuous and play soothing noises all night long. Once I turn it on, it’s Charlotte’s cue to sleep and she’ll close her eyes #babygenius!

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Skip Hop Nightlight Soother, Moonlight and Melodies

Nap times have always been hit or miss. Charlotte is so darn sociable that she gets FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when she closes her eyes, especially during the day. The only way to get her to nap is to put her in her swing. The movement reminds babies of the constant motion in the womb. From the start, Charlotte loved the 4moms Rockaroo Swing (thanks work friends for buying this!) She would do 2-3 hour naps in it and wake up happy as can be.

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4moms Rockaroo Swing

And finally, sucking. My lactation consultant was adamant to not introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding was established, around 6 weeks. YA RIGHT! Have you ever experienced the magic of the pacifier? A screaming infant will go from inconsolable to calm in an instant. I gave in around the 3 week mark when Charlotte’s screams were ear shattering. I liked the Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier because it can be used right side up or upside down – particularly helpful when you’re reaching in the backseat to plug it back in your baby’s mouth.

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Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier

The combination of these S’s has helped me immensely! But by far, my most favorite technique of getting Charlotte to sleep is what I call the “off button.” Did you know that if you stroke down ababy’s forehead to the tip of their nose, they will close their eyes? It’s a biological reflex and SUPER helpful when your little one keeps popping their eyes open. #THEMOREYOUKNOW

Wishing you sweet dreams!

 

Want to share your sleep story or comisserate over sleep deprivation? Send me your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

Adventures in Breastfeeding

My breastfeeding story isn’t unusual. Before having a baby, I figured that you put the baby at the breast and the rest was nature taking over. WRONG! Never has something so natural, been so difficult! I struggled…a lot! I thought about giving up nearly every day. I cried, cursed, screamed. I spent hours googling remedies for sore breasts. I joined lactation groups, had my own lactation consultant and became obsessed with finding out how I could make my misery end.

Let’s go back to the beginning. One of the questions I was asked repeatedly while pregnant was whether or not I’d breastfeed. My mom breastfed my brother and I, and since she is my guru on all things baby, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. Plus I factored in all the research; breastfeeding protects baby from illness, allergies, SIDS, as well as boosting your child’s intelligence and reducing mom’s stress levels and risk for postpartum depression. But other than that, I didn’t know what I was in for.

Naturally, being the Type-A person that I am, I signed-up for a breastfeeding workshop where nurses demonstrated how to get a baby to latch (i.e. suck your nipple properly) with a knitted boob. “Sure,” I thought, “seems easy enough!” I followed this up by reading my mom’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and felt like I would figure the rest out once baby arrived.

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#NormalizeBreastfeeding

At the hospital, in the post-partum recovery, a sweet nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. She literally squashed my gigantic 40DD boob into my little one’s mouth. As your body isn’t really your own post-delivery, I went with the flow and was encouraged when she seemed excited that the baby had latched. But, holy shit was it painful! I chalked it up to being a first-timer and continued this painful experience every 2 hours because Charlotte was a hungry little hippo.

The real drama began once the pediatrician told us that Charlotte had a tongue-tie. This means that the piece of skin that attaches her tongue to the floor of her mouth is unusually short. This restricts the range of motion and was the culprit behind the pain. She doctor offered to cut it for us and two minutes later it was done. But the pain in my nipples and breasts continued and was joined by a blood blister, bruises, bleeding and cracks.

When the nurse visited us at home the next day, she was concerned. Not only was the tongue-tie not totally revised, she told us that Charlotte was also lip-tied. Again, the little piece of skin connected the lip to the gums is unusually short and thick and prevents babies from flaring their lips when they breastfeed. Why is this important? A flared lip is what allows the baby to take your nipple deeply into their mouths and suck without causing you pain. To fix this issue, the nurse recommended a laser revision by a pediatric dentist.

Pat and I balked. We didn’t want Charlotte to suffer and it seemed a bit barbaric. I resolved to “tough it out” but after a week, I was in constant pain. Because my nipples were being re-traumatized each time I breastfeed, I developed vasospams. After feeding, they would turn white and burn from the inside. Nothing seemed to help.

I started delaying feedings because I was fearful of the pain that I knew was to come. Charlotte had lost nearly 10% of her birth weight and wasn’t gaining as quickly as desired. I cried and winced each time she latched. The beautiful, tender loving moments between mother and child were non-existent. Instead, my baby was a little devil, intent on destroying me. I knew I couldn’t continue on like this, so I started going to a local breastfeeding clinic. The nurses were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. They showed me how to compensate for the lip and tongue-tie issues. They suggested doing breast compressions while feeding, changing my breastfeeding hold, taking vitamin D, calcium and magnesium for the vasospasms. All of this helped, but still, Charlotte’s latch issues remained.

Finally, after discussing with nearly every parent I knew, we decided to have the dentist do the laser revision. I was scared – what if it burned my baby? I was sad – why am I putting my needs before my child’s? But I was hopeful. If this could change our breastfeeding relationship and I could continue without pain, then I would do it.

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Poor Charlotte pre-laser surgery, screaming her brains out. But looking so cute in this sunglasses…

The surgery itself was 2 minutes. The most awful part were Charlotte’s screams and the post-surgery exercises I needed to do 6 times a day to guarantee that the skin didn’t grow back. That was traumatizing for both her and I. But thankfully, I noticed a difference in breastfeeding  almost immediately. She was able to open her mouth wider and my nipples began to heal. And over time it keeps getting better and better!

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, my story isn’t unusual. But for some reason, nobody talks about the difficulties. The pressure that new moms feel to breastfeed and love it, is tremendous. When issues arise, we’re reluctant to speak out and seek help because we are ashamed. We feel like we’re not good enough, that we don’t love our child enough to be able to provide for them. ALL FALSE! FED IS BEST. Whether breast or bottle, what matters is that you child is being fed and thriving. My story had the outcome I wanted, but had I decided to switch to formula, that would have been fine too.

Did you have trouble breastfeeding? I want to know! Share your stories & thoughts in the comments below.