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.

Preparing for Postpartum

There’s a lot of focus on labor and birth–understandably, because it’s an amazing, intense, joyous, strenuous, life-altering experience.

However… it’s the short part. Postpartum is the long part, and there are many things to think about and do during pregnancy that could help it be a little smoother. I’ve been thinking about some ideas, particularly focused on mom.

All the basic things in your life are about to become considerably more challenging. Even just going to the bathroom. Not only will you be bleeding and sore, but your baby will still be expecting to be near you 24/7 like in the womb. It takes them quite a while to realize they aren’t still connected to you and be okay with that. I had to hold (and sometimes nurse) my baby while using the bathroom several times. Kinda TMI, but this is a postpartum post, sooo…. Yeah. Postpartum just is TMI. haha.

Anyway, here they are:

1. Food — Make and buy snacks/food that you can eat with one hand with little to no prep. (Also come up with a list of ideas for people who want to help, or church ladies who sign up to bring meals) Enough to get you through (think pregnancy hunger, plus some. You need about 600 extra calories per day) a couple weeks. It sounds silly now, but it’s ridiculously difficult to sit down and eat with two hands like a normal human for the first month + of your baby’s life. Babies don’t like being put down. Like, at ALL. They also like to nurse as close as possible to 24/7, especially during the 2 and 3 week growth spurts. There’ll be a loooot of snacking in bed and on the couch.

Veggie sticks, cheese sticks, berries, small apples, muffins, protein cookies, granola/protein bars, trail mix, peanut butter or almond butter (right off the spoon. you’re a mom now it counts as meal), jerky, liquid soups (drink from a mug), toast, wraps, etc. are some good ones.

2. Shower plan — you’ll need help at first. After that, plan to have Daddy watch Baby while you shower and/or bring him/her in the bathroom in the rock and play. Warn him of this. Haha. Also just be mentally prepared that this is going to be a Thing. It’s not a joke. It’s real.

3. Stock the bathroom — wash cloths, big pads, underwear, peri bottle, Earth Mama Angel Baby bottom spray (that stuff is the best!!!) etc. Also consider a stool softener and/or lots of prunes and other fibrous foods. It was difficult for weeks after giving birth. The drastic change in pressure on your bowels combined with the huge shift in hormones and all the time sitting/lying around causes some serious issues. Not to mention you’re rather sore. A stool also helps.

4. Drinks — you’ll be super thirsty. Tea (EMAB Monthly comfort is very nourishing for your recovering uterus), water, coconut water, recharge, broth, flavored water (with fruit), etc are good to have on hand. I was drinking 4 tervis tumblers a night (my husband was the refill guy, he was amazing) and much more during the day. You’re also going to want plenty of straws or a plastic or stainless straw. And a big water bottle.

***Make sure that before you’re alone for the day you have plenty of water and snacks close by the bed and couch.***

5. Healing — EMAB tea, sitz baths, arnica tablets (helps a lot with muscle soreness and bruising!) EMAB spray, coconut oil plus lavender (2-4 drops with 2 TBSP oil) for any stitches, cold rice sock for engorgement, warm rice sock for aches and pains, etc.

6. Entertainment — shows, kindle books, etc. There’s going to be a LOT of sitting and lying around while nursing or holding a sleeping baby. Embrace this time. Don’t worry about cleaning or anything like that. There’ll be time enough later on. If help is offered, accept it gracefully. Your job is to snuggle and feed and love your baby. That’s IT for the first month, especially, and really the whole first 3 months.

7. Clothes — You’ll need several things that are comfy, easy to nurse in (think button down or super stretchy), pretty-ish, and not maternity (I thought I wouldn’t care, but I really didn’t want to wear maternity after I gave birth) but bigger than normal. 😬 Robes are good, stretchy tunics and leggings are good, tops with short skirts… stuff like that. Also maybe some kind of accessories — new necklace, head band, etc. Something easy to make you feel pretty even in pjs.

Hopefully that is helpful for some of you! 😊

P.S. This isn’t an Earth Mama Angel Baby advertisement, I promise. I just really liked their stuff. Here’s a link to their postpartum goodies.

All the Baby Stuff…

… you don’t need. Living in a small condo has really helped me simplify and do without. I’m not a huge “stuff” person anyway, so it’s been relatively easy… but still a learning curve, especially with a baby. I had a hard time figuring out what I needed to register for and what I didn’t… I thought I’d help any others in a similar situation out.

So here’s what you DON’T need, at least for awhile:

A Crib

A nursery

A changing table (changing pads on the bed or floor works well)

A high chair (we bought a simple, inexpensive one after six months when he started solids… if you have a table (we use a coffee table that lifts up) you can use a booster seat thing on one of your chairs.)

A swing

A bouncy seat

A bumbo

A baby bath tub (if you have a sink or a tub… we co-bathe or wash in the sink. Now that he can sit, he sometimes takes shallow baths in the tub “alone”. We did get one, but he ended up hating it. I wish we hadn’t registered for it.)

A baby monitor (He sleeps in the same room as we do, obviously, and the house is so small he’s hardly away from me… just a couple steps to go check on him.)

A noise machine (there are many noise apps, some free! We use Sleep Pillow)

A nursing cover (nurse uncovered (two shirt method works well for most women) or use a blanket/burp cloth to cover your breast. Noah hates covers as do a lot of babies.)

A diaper pail (use a wet bag instead)

Baby lotion (I have never used any lotion on Noah… just coconut oil occasionally. I just don’t bathe him too frequently and use very little, very natural soap)

Diaper cream (coconut oil again. Also cloth diapers.)

Baby powder (unnecessary and some of them are dangerous)

Formula

Pacifiers (but then if you want to use them, they’re pretty small.)

Baby dishes (we do baby led weaning, so he just smashes stuff on his high chair tray for now)

Baby hamper (we just wash all of our clothes in a hypoallergenic, dye free, natural-ish detergent so no need to separate clothes)

Diaper bag (we use Pete’s school back pack)

Swaddler thingies. Blankets work just fine for most babies. Also some babies hate being swaddled, like mine. Ahem. If yours loves it, you may want to invest in some.

Baby shoes. Until they’re like 6 months or older. They fit them for like a day before that. Plus it can be bad for their growth if the shoes are at all restrictive/hard.

Any gagety things

Cart cover

Hand mitt thingies. They use their hands/arms in nursing and to regulate temperature… so covering them can be an issue. Also if they do scratch themselves, it heals very quickly.

What you DO need, in my opinion/experience:


A baby carrier or two! Preferably one wrap type carrier and one soft structured carrier.


Diapers (we did disposable for the first couple months and then switched to cloth (Soft Bums for the win!) with cloth wipes. It’s actually not bad, especially when exclusively breastfeeding.)


Some baby clothes, but keep in mind they grow SO FAST so you only need like maybe 10-20 outfits per size. At least if you do laundry frequently.


Changing pads. The soft ones that fold up small.


Carseat. (duh) Read up on carseat safety! It’s fairly simple… but so important and so easy to get wrong.


Books (I love Usborne and so does Noah. I am a consultant if you’re interested. :))


Some toys, don’t go crazy… they don’t need much. Think toys that can be used for years. (Sophie really does live up to the hype, btw)


Those expensive big muslin blankets. Seriously, we used them a lot more than I imagined. As play mats, backgrounds, nursing cover, for comfort/warmth, etc.


Bibs. a couple soft ones for drool and a couple rubber ones for food.


Hooded baby towels, ’cause cute. But you don’t NEED them, technically. Babies can use adult towels just fine. Same for baby washcloths.


A pack and play (didn’t bother using it at all till after 3 months because we bedshare and newborns don’t do the sleeping alone thing too well), but after that we started doing some naps in it… and from around 5 months or so he starts the night in there.


A rock and play (one of the only places besides your arms newborns will be content for longer than 1 second)

The Wonder Weeks app (very helpful for understanding the developmental stages of your baby!! Big sanity saver.)

Sound machine app

Burp cloths (could use rags or wash clothes or prefolds)

A couple hats

Socks and/or footed pjs, though keep in mind that baby’s feet are naturally cold. Use the core temp (chest/belly) to determine layers, not feet or hands. If the belly is warm they’re fine. Also, keep in mind that being too warm is more dangerous than too cold for them. If they are held, skin to skin especially, it will help keep their temp just right. 😊

Nose frida/snot sucker (sounds gross but seriously, you will do many more worse things in your mom carrier. That thing works well and really isn’t as bad as it sounds.)


Stroller… I didn’t use it till he could sit up, personally, and I still carry him a lot. But strollers are handy for all the stuff you don’t want to carry. And sometimes it’s nice to put baby in there.

Nail clippers or scissors, though I just tore or bit his nails the first several months.

Tooth brush (we just use water for now)

………

That’s not an exhaustive list, but it covers a lot of the non essentials and essentials. A lot of that you can get second hand, and people also often are willing to chip in for bigger things. Having a baby isn’t as expensive or as cluttery as “they” say!!

Feel free to comment with your experience/items for either list!