How to Survive Rough Nights

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The first step is to surrender to the fact that they will happen, and that it’s okay. Babies are not machines, they are living creatures that are developing rapidly and experiencing many challenging things. Sleep is developmental; there will be many ebbs and flows. Don’t expect that at any certain age they will magically sleep 10 hours straight. It often takes a few years for them to get there consistently. There will be leaps, teething, growing pains, colds, and gassy nights. It’s okay. It’s part of life with a baby. You will get through. ❤

You will probably cry. You will probably get frustrated, annoyed, even angry. You will likely have thoughts of harming your child. But you will get through. Here are a few thoughts that help me during those rough nights.

This won’t last forever.

My baby needs me right now. I am glad I can be here for him.

I love my baby even when I don’t like him.

Sleep is developmental. It isn’t his fault he’s having a hard time.

Someday he will be a grown man (with his own baby who won’t sleep.)

I am learning patience.

I am practicing real love and surrender.

Right now there are women WISHING they could trade places with me. Women who desperately long to have babies but aren’t able to. Women who are mothers of angel babies who would give anything to have their sweet baby crying in their arms once again.

I would miss this terribly if something happened to him.

My short term comfort is not worth risking damaging his long term emotional health. (when I’m tempted to try some form of Cry it Out)

I am not alone. There are other mothers awake right now; pacing the floor and praying their baby will sleep.

Other things I do are…

… ask my husband to take a turn. I try to do it as long as possible, since I know I can nap and he can’t. But at the end of the day, we are both parents and sometimes I. Just. Can’t. handle it anymore.

… step outside for a minute with him.

…be gentle with myself the next day. Nap. Take it easy. Don’t try to do all the things, just do the essentials.

…Squeeze my baby and tell I love him. Over and over. Sometimes I need help remembering it. Ha.

… Pray

… Rock him in our big rocking chair in the living room

… deep breaths. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be.

Other ideas are lavender essential oil, soft music, etc.

If I’m really getting angry and realize that I may actually hurt him (sleep deprivation combined with the crying can really mess with your mind) I put him down for a minute and breathe.

What do I do with Noah when he won’t just nurse back to sleep? Well, I keep trying to nurse, lol. But after that–I walk him while gently bouncing. I pat his back to try to burp him. I change his diaper just in case that was the issue. I hold him with gentle pressure on his belly or in a sort of squatting position to help relieve any gas. (also can try bicycling their legs or massaging in a clockwise direction) I rock him. I hum or sing or just talk soothingly. I keep everything dark and calm, even if he’s acting wide awake.

Hopefully that was helpful to some of you. Much love and best wishes for many good nights and few rough ones. ❤

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Preparing for Sleeping with Baby

The first thing I want to say is that it’s going to be okay. I know a lot of people are super discouraging about how tired you’re going to be and how many millions of times baby will wake in the night. I’m not going to try to whitewash–you WILL be tired; but you’ll be okay. You’ll wake up after a rough night and your baby will smile at you and… you’ll be okay, after all. And you’ll get a nap. And you’ll muddle your way through with coffee or tea and lots of water. I’m a 9-10 hours a night kind of girl, and I’ve been getting very interrupted sleep for the past 10 plus months. And I can’t drink coffee. But I’m still functioning (almost) normally. You can do this. ❤

The second thing I want to say is that I am not a sleep expert. I’m just a mom who likes to read. And share what I’ve learned so far. But don’t take my word for it: research for yourself as well, and definitely don’t think that just because something was safe for us it’ll be safe for you. Everyone is different. Life in uncertain.

The third thing I want to say is that BABIES ARE NOT BROKEN. They are meant to wake up multiple times during the night for the first long while. They need the calories at night. They need the reassurance that they are not alone. They need help getting back to sleep between sleep cycles. They need to wake frequently to prevent getting into a really deep sleep– for a newborn, sleeping too long artificially (by a parent sleep training them) can be dangerous. They are still so new at breathing that if they go too deeply into sleep for too long, their brain may not keep signaling them to breathe. Sleep doesn’t really get consistent for most children till after age 2-3, maybe later. Don’t freak out! Just accept it. There are usually plenty of good nights mixed in there. You will be okay, remember?

There, got those out of the way. Now… here’s what I’ve learned and what worked for us.

There’s a lot of controversy about Bed Sharing. Many organizations will tell you not to do it at any cost. The problem? BABIES DON’T READ THOSE PAPERS. They don’t believe in sleeping alone on their backs on a hard cold crib. And why should they?? Sleeping alone is scary even for adults! No one likes a really hard bed. And no one likes being cold. ESPECIALLY not newborns, who have experienced nothing but warmth, mom, and being snug. So many parents, in an effort to reconcile both of these things, end up falling asleep while holding their babies… out of sheer exhaustion. They’re not in bed–they’re on couches or chairs.

This is FAR more dangerous than bed sharing safely. Even the AAP now says that breastfeeding mothers who tend to fall asleep while nursing should bed share. (Nursing, by the way, produces a hormone in both mother and baby that makes them sleepy. This is how it’s naturally intended to work. Keeping baby in another room is the artificial way.)

Here’s an article that talks about all that.

The beauty of bed sharing is that in most cases, it makes it so that you get WAY more sleep than people who don’t. No getting out of bed and walking to baby! Baby wakes less! You wake less! It’s amazing! (There is some getting kicked involved…. but otherwise it’s brilliant) Haha, sorry for all the exclamation points. 😛

So how do we safely bed share?

This is what it looks like for us…Noah is sort of cradled in my arm, and he tends to roll onto his back automatically.

My knees are bent up, both for comfort and to protect against my husband accidentally rolling on him. (this is far less of a concern in real life than in imagination, by the way, in most cases. I found my husband was hyper aware of him at first and has continued to be careful in his sleep.) Noah’s legs are all folded up these days, or failing around on my legs or belly. You’ll find you pretty much can’t roll on them when you’re like this. Not only that, but breastfeeding mothers are very aware of their babies, even in their sleep, and pretty much won’t roll on them. (I’ve found this to be true… I sleep deeply when he’s with me, but just the slightest hint of trouble breathing from him or other problems and I snap awake.)

So what can you do now?

First step… don’t bother with a crib!

A pack and play and/or rock and play are good for situations where no one is available to hold baby during naps, but MOST naps, particularly the first 3 months, should be on your chest or while being worn. It’s best for everyone. Your breathing stimulates theirs, for one thing. Your heart keeps theirs steady. Your breasts regulate their temperature up or down. Your presence is comforting. You’re their HOME, their safe place, their mother. It may sometimes seem like they will never nap alone… but it’s not true. All too soon… they will, and you will miss those sweet, sweet days of them sleeping so contentedly in your arms. So prepare yourself now for months of sitting and lying around with a baby sleeping on your chest. No guilt. Don’t stress about all the things you could/should be doing. This is a real Thing that no one but you and your spouse/SO can do regularly for them. It’s very, very important.

Second step… think about how you will keep your arms warm at night. You’ll want the blanket to stay low to prevent it from being a suffocation hazard. Also think about getting a lighter blanket if yours is heavy.

Third step… mentally prepare. Re read this if you need to. Learn about infant sleep patterns. Be aware that sleep habits changes many, many, many times over the first months and years, between teething, gas, development and so on. It’s actually likely that your newborn will sleep really well after the first couple weeks–but it will change, usually around 4 months. Our motto is “don’t get used to anything”. If it’s a hard pattern–don’t stress; it won’t last. If it’s a good pattern — enjoy it; it won’t last. Share all this with your spouse, whether by sending him articles or by sharing little tidbits as you learn. It’s important that they understand what to expect as well. It’s much less distressing if you are aware that it’ll keep changing.

And that’s about it before baby is born. 🙂

Preparing for Breastfeeding

img_6556Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things there is. It is a wonderful experience to watch your baby grow and be content from your milk. However… it can be very challenging, especially in the first weeks. Here are some ideas of things you can do during pregnancy to increase your chances of being successful at it.

  1. Find a good CLC (certified lactation consultant) or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, years more training and experience) in your area. Contact or meet her if possible. Otherwise, just keep her number handy. In your phone or on the fridge. You may think you won’t need one–I didn’t think I would since my mom was there and she’s nursed 8 babies. But… I had complications she hadn’t experienced, and I was so glad I already was aware of a local CLC who could come help.
  2. Build a support team. Educate your husband/SO as you learn. Let them know how much you will need their support and encouragement. Find another woman who has breastfed successfully and ask her to be your support person for late night texts and questions and commiseration and so forth. SUPPORT IS EVERYTHING. Breastfeeding during the first weeks and months is TOUGH.
  3. Join Expressions! Lactation Services group on Facebook. We have a couple IBCLCs and several CLCs on our team to help answer questions. You can also learn a ton just by hanging out there and reading. (I am one of the moderators)
  4. Buy/borrow a good book on breastfeeding. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the LLL is a good choice.
  5. Wear cotton bras and/or go braless when possible
  6. Get sun on your chest for a few minutes a day if at all possible
  7. Only use water to wash on and around your nipples. They’re self cleaning and soap will dry them out. Plus it is a good habit to be in for when your baby is born–you wouldn’t want baby accidentally eating any residual soap.
  8. Buy stuff… The only things you NEED for nursing are breasts and a baby. However, a nursing pillow (My Brest Friend is a good one, better than the boppy according to many women), nice cotton sleep nursing bras (comfy and you will probably want a bra on at night due to leaking), and reusable and disposable nursing pads are my suggestions as far as stuff. A pump is a good idea, just in case your baby can’t/won’t latch for the first couple days like Noah. (But otherwise it is NOT to be used until after 6/8 weeks.) Nipple butter  (or coconut oil) is nice, but you can also just leave milk on and let it air dry… works wonders. Nipple shields should NOT be used unless under the supervision of an IBCLC. They can cause issues and don’t really solve problems, just mask them. Nursing covers are optional, of course. Personally I just used a blanket to cover my breast. I don’t feel it necessary to try hide the fact that I’m nursing, but I do cover that much just out of respect for my peeps. Trying to ease everyone into this whole nursing in public deal. 😛 The two shirt method also works well.

And that’s about all you can do while pregnant. No need to take any supplements, rough up your nipples, etc., etc. Mainly just learn as much as you can and be super determined. Don’t give yourself the option to quit. It’s the most important thing you can do for your baby and yourself. It will improve your health (lowers chances of breast cancer and several other things) and your baby’s health while nursing and over the long term.

Make a list of reasons why you will keep going even when it’s hard and refer back to it on rough days. You can do it!!! ❤

P.S. I am not getting reimbursed for any of the suggestions I make here… these are just things that worked well for me.

Staying at Home

What’s it like to be a stay at home mom of one baby?

It’s lying in bed with your sleeping baby latched on; staying there because you know he needs you right now, even though other things are calling to you.

It’s laughing with your baby while you read a book with a sore back because of all the hunching over and lifting you do.

It’s anxious, fearful moments because you’re alone with your thoughts, your phone, and a helpless, non verbal baby.

It’s constant stopping and starting; never ending interruptions on the same tasks over and over.

It’s your heart bursting inside you with the overwhelming sweetness and brilliance of your baby.

It’s wondering what your life purpose is; feeling like you’re not doing anything worthwhile even though in the back of your mind you know there’s nothing better you could do.

It’s walks outside, enjoying the sort of fresh air, trying to push the overwhelming thoughts aside and just live… it’s so easy for babies, but not for mommies.

It’s being amazed at the fact that your baby is doing super basic things–but it’s so wonderful to you because you grew this person and they’re doing the things!!

It’s trying to eat. A constant battle, because you want to eat healthy but every time you actually try to cook/prepare something, either baby needs you before you’re able to do it, or baby needs you before you can eat it. So you end up not eating enough, and/or eating junk.

It’s the nap time dilemma–do I have time to shower? Should I eat? Maybe do a project? Just sit and veg? Clean? Read? So many things to do, so little time!! Nevermind, he woke up. (Or, I miss my baby….. wait why is he still sleeping?? Is he dead?? No, not dead, but now I just wasted a whole hour (or two) I could have showered! I could have made real food! I could have cleaned the bathroom! I could have painted!! Wrote a book!!! Ahhh!)

It’s trying to come up with activities for your baby but not having ideas.

It’s feeling like you’re not doing enough, like you should be doing more stimulation or something.

It’s being afraid to love them so much because what if something happens to them?

It’s being frustrated because you can’t seem to get anything done, but yet you can’t possibly imagine not having this sweet squishy mischievous little one in your life.

It’s praying and hoping that they’ll make a difference in this world, and then wondering if there even will be a world worth growing up into.

It’s being so lonely and anxious that you continually go to social media to distract yourself and feel connected, only to read something that makes you more anxious or feel less connected. But it’s hard to find another option so you keep repeating the same dumb cycle and feeling like you’re such a mess.

It’s going way too many days without a shower, but your baby sure is clean.

It’s precious moments of gazing into your giggling baby’s eyes, or watching them sleep and feeling like you can’t bear the cuteness.

It’s the wonder of watching them learn and explore.

It’s the frustration of them pulling everything within reach on the floor and chewing on it.

It’s never being off the clock; 24/7, you’re on call. Thankfully my husband shares in the load quite a bit, so it’s way better than it could be. But I still feel that constant “on”.

It’s feeling like your failing but being unsure of how to do better or what to change… having bursts of inspiration that are squelched by either your own tiredness and anxiety or just your baby’s constant neediness.

It’s beautiful, challenging, worthwhile, anxiety-inducing, thought-provoking, exhausting, hilarious, and so sweet.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity, and still working to figure out how to better manage my thoughts, emotions and time. It’s challenging, but it strange ways. In some ways it’s extremely simple–keep myself and the baby alive and relatively happy and healthy. But the mental/emotional side is much more complex, especially in our day.

So… I’m writing this in a dark room with my baby sleeping on me surrounded by boxes and thoughts. I’m wondering what’s going to happen after this–will he stay asleep if I put him in his bed? I can’t keep working on the boxes because it might wake him up. (One bedroom) What else can I do? I’m hungry. Again. Ugh. Better eat. And pee, that’s important. I need a shower but that’s tempting fate; besides I want to finish planning the menu and paint and shop for Christmas and I should do dishes……

Nap time dilemma strikes again.

I’m gonna try putting him down and see what happens. 😬

P.s. Isn’t he darling though??!