28 February 2011

The dreaded question - do you have a routine?

I am a routined person. I love order and predictability. I like to get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat the same breakfast and know what is certain in each day. As a Libran, I love balance and am always happier when things are in balance. For all of these reasons, I decided (like I was the one making the decisions) that when my baby arrived, I would have a routine for her. I read Gina Ford and Tizzy Hall on routines, I spoke with like minded mums and began memorising a daily routine for a newborn baby. The problem was that no one told Layla before she was born that we would be operating on this new routine and that she was to follow the plan I had established. She seemed to have plans of her own. For the first few weeks and early months, the routine became a burden and a desire that rarely worked. I read and re-read all the books. I talked to Layla about her behaviour but nothing seemed to work. One day I decided to sit back and watch to see what routine Layla wanted to follow. As it turned out, Layla had her own routine that I had failed to notice. From that day on, for the most part, I followed her routine. Today, Layla turns 10 months and we are definitely in a routine. Here are a few tips, mistakes, ideas and thoughts on getting your baby into a routine:
  • It is never to early to establish some sort of routine. While the exact times will change, having a bedtime routine is a good way to start;
  • No matter what the days brings, I found it helpful for my sanity and to teach Layla that every day has an end. For this reason, we have had a bedtime routine from day 1;
  • A bedtime routine for a newborn could look something like this:
    • 5/5.30pm - breastfeed or bottle (half feed);
    • 6pm - bath;
    • 6.20pm - baby massage and pyjamas on;
    • 6.30pm - breastfeed or bottle (half feed);
    • 7pm - bed.
  • As a successful long term breastfeeder, I am all for demand feeding. Layla only went to 4 hour breastfeeds once we introduced solids. I never withheld food. If she was hungry and wanted to feed, I fed her. I have always demand fed during the day. When Layla was 5 months old I started to drop night feeds and would not feed her when she cried but rather comforted her with my voice and touch. I don't believe in a routine that restricts breastfeeds for newborns;
  • Follow the guidelines for awake times provided by Karitane and Tressilian. Wake times range from 1 hour to 4 hours depending on the age of the baby. When the recommended wake times were coming to an end and Layla showed tired signs, I would put her down to sleep rather than waiting for her to fall asleep with over exhaustion. This gave me approximate times so I could organise things around sleeping;
  • As a drawback, I've taught Layla how to sleep well in her bed but she is not great at sleeping in the car or pram (unless she is exhausted). As a result, we spend a lot of time at home. On the plus side, when it's bedtime and we follow our sleep routine, Layla goes straight to sleep with no fuss or tears(most of the time!);
  • No matter what the day would bring in terms of sleeping (or not sleeping), bedtime routine always starts at the same time and the day comes to an end at the same time. As a newborn, I would never wake Layla to feed after bedtime routine. This was always her longest sleep stretch and allowed me to either go to bed early, spend time with Daniel or have some me time;
  • I used to wake Layla as was recommended by a number of the baby whisperer routines. After a while, I stopped doing this. I came to the realisation that if she needed to sleep then she should sleep. The only time I felt justified to wake her was when she was really small and needed to be fed;
  • I've followed various routines and find it near impossible to make Layla sleep for the recommended times. Her daytime sleeping periods vary from 40minutes to almost 3hours with no underlying reason. The sleeping times have also changed as she has gotten older. There does tend to be a pattern that forms (Layla tends to sleep longer in the morning than the afternoon) but this often changes just when I realise there is a pattern;
  • My Itzbeen Baby Timer - timing how long Layla has slept for
  • Some days things won't work. No matter what you do, there will be days when your baby will not want to sleep. I have wasted too much energy and too many tears trying to get Layla to sleep when she won't. You need to know when to stop and go out for a walk to clear your head. Sometimes, baby will fall asleep in the pram. A frustrated Mummy is no help to anyone;
  • Know that any phase is just a phase. Developmental leaps, hot weather, change and unexplained things can send your routine off the rails. Just remember that tomorrow is another day and you can start again.
Despite all our ups and downs, having some sort of routine has helped me deal with the uncertainty of becoming a parent. I hope my insights have been of some help.

20 February 2011

How Do You Wear Your Baby?

The practice of baby wearing dates back centuries and is common to so many cultures around the world.

After carrying your baby for 9 months, it is to be expected that your baby will want to be close to you for comfort. Baby wearing not only lets you keep your hands free to get things done, it also has health benefits for mother and child. It helps to calm fussy babies, encourages babies to feel secure and content as well as helping mothers become more in tune with their baby's needs. Read more about the benefits of baby wearing here.

Before I had Layla, I was unaware of the benefits of baby wearing. I bought a baby bjorn carrier in order to carry her and keep my hands free as a change from having her a pram. I was reluctant to purchase a sling but was extremely grateful when my Mum bought me a Mini Monkey baby sling shortly after Layla was born.
Layla asleep at a family birthday party
Layla asleep in her sling at my sister's wedding - I think she has outgrown it now!
I used my Baby Bjorn in order to keep my hands free for shopping and when we were travelling. The additional benefits include being comfortable and easy on my back. While Layla has fallen asleep in it on numerous occasions, I rarely used it to settle her. If I had my time again, I would still buy a baby bjorn or other front carrier because they are very handy and sturdy. I recently came across another carrier by Combi known as the Magical Compact Carrier. While I have not used one, it looks very versatile offering  a range of ways you can carry your baby.

My Mini Monkey baby sling is something very special. The sling created a magical environment where Layla felt close to me and was able to settle, sleep and remain calm. I used it from when she was just a few days old until only recently. I would use the sling when:
  • She would not settle to sleep at night, I was over carrying her and I needed to eat/rest;
  • At family functions when she needed to sleep;
  • Layla would often sleep in the sling in the afternoons for her final nap when she was little and I was tired and not up to listening to any more crying, patting or walking;
  • When I would leave her with my Mum and she was unsettled, the feel and smell of the sling would remind her of being with me.
Another advantage of the sling is that it is light and compact to carry so you can take it where ever you go. I miss the feel of baby wearing, the intimate connection and closeness.

If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn, look into the benefits of baby wearing. A carrier is convenient in keeping your hands free ( I remember cooking/preparing dinner with Layla in it once when I had to get things done). Wearing your baby in a sling or pouch or Mei Tai close to your body is a bit different and delivers wonderful results for you and your baby.

My sling has been one of the best and most important items in surviving the first year of motherhood. There is nothing quite like wearing your baby.

14 February 2011

LOVE IT, LOVE IT - Mustela Foaming Shampoo

There is an AMAZING number and variety of baby body products on the market. Whether you're after organic, fragrance free, traditional or new age, there is no limit to the range. Like her mother, Layla has a huge range of creams, shampoos and powders making bath time both fun and a special experience. I was given Mustela Foaming Shampoo for Newborns as a gift when Layla was born. We have used it almost everyday and after 9 1/2 months, it has not run out!
The foaming nature of the shampoo means that it is easy to rub into the hair and washes out with ease leaving no hard to remove residue. It does not sting sensitive little eyes and is hypoallergenic as well. We love this product and wanted to tell you all about it.
Layla loves her bath time - 6 months old

09 February 2011

Ummmm....this is not what I ordered

When I was pregnant I remember reading the books about sleep and routines. I 'knew' that babies are renowned for not sleeping at night and that I'd be tired as a result. As such, I wanted to make sure I was prepared, equipped and confidently trained to tackle the issue of sleep. It was my job to train my child in how to sleep from the earliest age. I got into my head that if I did all the right things, was strict and stuck to a routine from day 1, I'd have a baby who slept through the night from 12 weeks. You could say I put in my order for one of these babies......the sleeping kind.

Layla asleep in her Mini Monkey Sling with me - 12 weeks
Despite all my planning, preparation, training and confidence, it seems my order got mixed up. Sleeping has always been, and in many ways continues, to be a struggle. I have to preface this statement by saying that Layla does sleep pretty well compared to many babies I know. My approach has delivered some results with nights that do deliver large stretches of uninterrupted sleep (even if it's not a full 12 hour period). I wanted to give Layla (and me!) the gift of sleep from an early age. Unlike any other challenge life has set me, this one defies logic and will. No matter how much I want her to sleep, no matter the techniques I use, Layla is her own person who comes to things at her own time.

Sleep deprivation has been my curse. I used to be a great sleeper. I could sleep just about anywhere for short periods and feel refreshed. What I had not counted on was the effect of ongoing sleep deprivation. Days, weeks and months of not sleeping sent me mad. My tears and frustration were linked primarily with not having slept. It made me feel sick, crazed, hurt and possessed. Even when I did go to lie down, I could not sleep. If anything took away my enjoyment of having a new child, it was the lack of sleep. Nothing can adequately prepare you for it. 3am is a lonely time when you crave sleep. All you want is for the night to end just so you can press the reset button, start again and hope for a better day. Even now, at 9 months, when Layla doesn't sleep well during the day I feel cheated. I feel like I have failed. I feel frustrated and angry.

No one told me that it would be two steps forward, one step back. Illness, heat, strange locations and developmental leaps all lead to disrupted sleep. I thought that once Layla knew how to sleep through the night or knew the daily routine, she would adhere to the rules and sleep. Apparently I was wrong!

I was inspired to write this post after reading a blog post and accompanying YouTube video by Mia Freedman on her blog Mamamia where she talks with her baby whisperer about giving the gift of sleep. Sleep truly is a gift. It is a gift I had always taken for granted. Teaching Layla to sleep has been a focus, an obsession, a challenge and a frustration. If I had my time over, I'd do it all again. We have made real progress but this challenge is not one that is achieved and overcome. Everyday delivers wins and set backs. These days I'm a lot less tired, we're making progress.

For new and expectant parents, I want you to realise just how hard dealing with sleep issues really are. It is recommended that sleep training doesn't commence until your baby is 6 months old. As such, there is half a year of days and nights where sleep may become a project and an obsession. Some parents don't dwell on sleep like I have. They let their baby sleep when it wants to. Personally, I couldn't do that. I wanted some certainty. I wanted to give Layla the opportunity to learn how to put herself to sleep before she was overtired and dropped from exhaustion. At times this has meant I had less freedom, was stuck at home and endured feelings of frustration. While the frustration will be short lived, the gift should be life long. It is important to know that there is help available to deal with sleep issues beyond just reading books. You are not alone with these challenges. Nowadays I see the exhausted parents walking the streets and shopping centre that I previously never saw. People will ask you "Is she a good baby? Does she sleep?". It is the obsession of most new parents. Realise that whether a baby sleeps or not does not make them bad and is not a reflection on you. I too have to remind myself of this every time I have a sleepless night or a day of no sleeping. It may not have been what I ordered but I'm not sending this one back!

05 February 2011

Patting, Rocking, Walking & ....... Bouncing?

Layla is sick. She has been unwell for over a month now. I'll spare you all the gory details but let me tell you, there have been many special moments! With illness comes extremely unsettled behaviour. There are more tears than normal, wanting to be held all the time and extreme irritability. Along with these gems has also come a complete melt down of daytime sleeping. Every time we even contemplate bedtime, Layla has a complete freak out with absolute hysterics. This is from a child who used to just take her rabbit comforter and dummies, roll over and go to sleep. As such, I have been doing a lot of assisted settling. It has taken me back to the early days of rocking, patting and walking her to sleep when she was very small. I know that once she is better, we'll be able to work on her day sleeping and hopefully return to the good practices we had established. It seems that no one told me about the impact sickness has on babies' routines and behaviour. I know that sounds really dumb but until you have lived weeks and weeks of illness, it is hard to understand it's toll.

Rocking and patting a newborn baby one thing but doing the same with a nine month old, nine kilogram baby is something else. Layla is not only much bigger now, she is stronger and more assertive. She manages to wiggle and push me making it hard to rock her to sleep. I read of a settling technique this week that I wished I knew of months ago. Rather than walking and patting while carrying a heavy child, sit on an exercise/fit/swiss ball while gently bouncing and create a great and soothing rhythm.

I wish I would have know about this when Layla was smaller. This kind of settling is not something you want to do everyday. However, when everything falls apart and you need to get your baby to sleep, using an exercise ball as an aide is fantastic.

I bought my excerise ball from Priceline for under $20. I used it for exercise when I was pregnant and also used it when I was in labour. I've used it to strengthen my core muscles post birth and now it has come in handy in settling Layla. So many uses for such a small investment.