5 things that helped my toddler to sleep better

It was only a month ago that I wrote a blog post about how I was considering hiring a sleep trainer for E. I was at my wit’s end. She was waking up almost hourly, breastfeeding like a newborn and refusing to go back to sleep. Instead, she would throw herself around our bed, like a fish out of water, screaming her head off. Quite frankly, I’m surprised our neighbours haven’t yet called the police because anybody would think a murder was being committed in our house.

But I am pleased to report that things have changed dramatically over the last few weeks and we’re all getting considerably more sleep. I feel happier and brighter and able to parent better. And as for E, she is like a different child. She’s well rested and happier too.

So what changed?

1. We stopped co-sleeping.

E slept in our bed and had done pretty much since birth. She woke for feeds throughout the night and I just found it easier to have her in our bed for that reason. But even the little sleep I did get was rubbish because I had so little space, usually finding myself squeezed in-between a bed-hogging toddler and my 6ft something husband. (We had a bed guard on the side of the bed that E slept so she didn’t fall out.)

Putting E in her own room was the only thing we hadn’t tried and after several nights of having barely any sleep, I lost my sh*t and dragged E’s (at the time, unused) cot into the office (she’ll share a room with J eventually). That night, I stayed next to her cot until she fell asleep… and the next night and the night after that. There were tears from E (I never left her to cry, that’s not my style) and I was sad too, I missed her snuggles but after the third night, she got it. I can now feed her, put her down in her cot and she will wave at me and blow me a kiss as I leave the room. I genuinely can’t believe it.

2. We cut down nighttime breastfeeds.

Once E was in a separate room, she straight away began waking less often for night feeds. I guess not sleeping in a bed with my breasts inches from her face meant it was rather less convenient for her to wake up and have a sup on mama’s milk, so she stopped bothering (as much). I now feed E just before bed and again at around 10.30 but other than that one feed in the night, she sleeps through! I am planning to wean E completely later this month but that’s a blog post for another time. Watch this space!

3. We incorporated a nightlight into our bedtime routine.

On hearing all about my sleep woes, the folks at Lumie very kindly offered to send me a Bedbug Light Sleep Aid. “It won’t be the entire solution, of course – but it might help?” I had nothing to lose so decided we’d give it a go.

The Bedbug (which is endorsed by gentle-parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith) offers fully adjustable bedside lighting to change, feed and settle your child ready for bed. I use the gradual sunset mode when putting E to bed, it takes about 15 minutes for the room to go from being brightly lit to dark. This is enough time for me to feed E and place her in her cot and exit the room whilst she finishes settling herself to sleep. If I need to pop in at any point during the night to feed or comfort her, I can turn on Bedbug’s orange nightime glow. This gives me enough light to see what I’m doing but doesn’t trigger wakefulness.

I really do believe it’s been instrumental in setting up a good bedtime routine with E and now we wouldn’t be without our Bedbug. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get one for J as she sleeps with her main light on because she’s scared of the dark!

4. We re-introduced white noise.

I bought Ewan the Dream Sheep when I was pregnant with E. We never bothered with any kind of white noise comforters when J was a baby but I’d heard good things about Ewan and so he ended up being one of only a handful ‘second baby purchases’ (everything else we’d kept from J). We used Ewan a fair bit when E was a newborn and he was relatively effective, but his batteries ran out and he ended up being forgotten about, hidden in a basket full of other soft toys.

But after moving E into the new room, I’d get her settled and asleep in her cot each night and as I’d go to walk out of the door, the floorboards would squeak and I’d be rumbled! I bought some new batteries for Ewan and started using him alongside the nightlight when settling E in her cot, the white noise seemed to help send her off to sleep quicker and if nothing else, it certainly helped to mask the noise of my steps across the creaky floorboards!

5. We started using Gro sleeping bags.

Gro bags aren’t new to us, we used them when J was a baby and they were fantastic. But because E shared our bed, I was reluctant to put her in any more layers other than her PJs and a cellular blanket, in case she overheated. Being the wriggly worm that she is, she’d often end up kicking her blanket off in the night and then waking up cold. As soon as we put her in the cot, we dug out the old Gro sleep bags and now we know she’s snuggly and warm all night long. One less reason for her to wake up at night! ;)

I don’t think that any one of these things would’ve made such a big difference on it’s own but the combination of all 5 has certainly helped us to get E into a better nighttime routine. We still haven’t mastered daytime naps (but you can’t have it all, right?), but for now, I am very pleased to be getting a lot more sleep. Fingers crossed, it continues…

Our bedtime faves*: 

Jenna xx

Related posts that you may also like to read:

Is it time to bring in a sleep trainer?
Bedtime Routines: The first baby vs. the second baby
10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding
A co-sleeping dilemma

 

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Is it time to bring in a sleep trainer?

My firstborn, Jasmine, was a fabulous sleeper. Ever since she was around 10 weeks old, she slept through the night. We were very, very lucky. And only now do I realise how lucky we were.

When I was pregnant with E, people warned me “Oh, you won’t get another one like that!” and I would roll my eyes. How on earth were they to know how my baby would sleep?! Well, it turns out, in this case – they were right.

Elowen is almost 15 months old and has never once slept through the night. She has bed-shared with us pretty much since birth and I’m still breastfeeding her. She wakes up every 3-4 hours at night for a feed and fusses, sometimes for hours, before going back to sleep. She doesn’t use a dummy or a soft toy as a comforter. Oh no, she uses me – more specifically my hair. She pulls it and twiddles it with one hand and sucks her thumb on the other hand. I wake up some mornings to find clumps of my hair on my pillow case. And aside from anything else, it’s really rather painful!

I realise it’s normal for infants (particularly breastfed babies/toddlers) to wake up frequently during the night. It’s why we’ve just carried on doing what we’ve been doing up until now. I figured she will grow out of it at some point. But also, I wouldn’t even know how to go about changing things up. I don’t know how to stop breastfeeding or how to get her sleeping in her own bed without her screaming the house down. I’m not prepared to do use any kind of Cry It Out methods – no judgement on those who do, that’s up to them, but I’m personally not comfortable with it.

It’s not just night times that are the problem either – she’ll only nap in the pushchair or in my arms and never for very long. This, I’m sure, is a big contributing factor to our night time woes.

Lately, I’ve found myself perusing the websites of local ‘sleep trainers’. These people claim that they can work with parents in order to get their child to sleep through the night. And perhaps, in my sleep deprived state, I’m just desperate for somebody to come in, work their magic, and give me back my 8 hours of sleep a night. But it sounds too good to be true.

I keep telling myself that some kids are good sleepers and others aren’t. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I keep telling myself that this won’t last forever. I’ll probably miss E tugging on my hair, one day.

I keep telling myself that the days are long but the years are short.

But honestly?

I can’t cope with the lack of sleep any more. Something has got to give.

Hubby and I dread going to bed every evening because we know we’re in for a sh*t night. We just don’t know how sh*t yet.

15 months of broken sleep as taken it’s toll on me.

I’m too exhausted to function properly. Simple daily tasks are a struggle.

I spend all day snapping at Jasmine and I feel awful that she takes the brunt of my tiredness. It’s simply not fair on her.

And this is why, I’m seriously considering hiring a ‘sleep trainer’.

I’ve looked at the prices of consultations and they can be hundreds of pounds. It’s an expensive option but feels like the only one I’ve got.

And even if it means I have to eat beans on toast for the rest of the year, it’s the price I’m willing to pay for my sleep and my sanity.

*Photo is an old picture of E. She’d never fall asleep on the floor now. Not unless there was a tranquilizer dart involved. (Ooh, now there’s an idea!)

Have you ever hired a sleep trainer?

Jenna xx

10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding

1. Nobody told me that… my periods could return whilst I was still breastfeeding.

I know that breastfeeding has lots of benefits for my baby but one of the perks for mama is that your period stops. AMAZING! I’d heard of ladies going years without a visit from ‘Aunt Flo’ due to breastfeeding their babies/toddlers. Naively, I just assumed I’d be free from periods for as long as I was feeding E. Nope, at 8.5 months post-partum my monthly cycles returned! Gutted.

2. Nobody told me that… breastfeeding can be a little isolating.

0.5% of mums are still breastfeeding their babies at 12 months (in the UK) and whilst I truly am proud to be one of them, it sometimes feels quite isolating to be the only breastfeeding mum in the room. Don’t get me wrong, nobody has ever said anything negative (see point 5) but it would be nice to be able to discuss the trials and tribulations of feeding a toddler with somebody else who is also going through it.

3. Nobody told me that… some babies will only drink their milk from the source!

I thought the odd night out with my friends would still be possible whilst breastfeeding. I’d just express some milk and my husband could feed her using a bottle. Simple, no?

Except E won’t drink milk from a bottle, or a beaker, or a cup with straw, or from a silver chalice encrusted with rare diamonds. Nope. She’ll only drink her milk from the source.

I’ll be honest, and no pun intended, that kinda sucks.

I’d love to go on a night out with my friends once in a while. Or spend more one-on-one time with my eldest girl. But having a baby who requires boob on demand has made those things difficult.

4. Nobody told me that… I’d sometimes feel envious of formula feeding mamas.

Due to the combination of points 2 and 3, I do sometimes look at formula feeding mums and feel a tad envious.

14 months of…

…being the only person who is able to do night feeds (and fyi they’re still happening 3-4 times a night).

…not having a date night with my husband.

…or a evening out with friends.

…or having more than a few freakin’ hours to myself.

So yeah, for purely selfish reasons, I sometimes wish I didn’t breastfeed.

5. Nobody told me that…I don’t *need* an array of expensive breastfeeding clothes.

Breastfeeding clothes are expensive and (generally) pretty darn ugly. However, I thought without a wardrobe full of nursing clothes I’d struggle to feed my bambino in public without flashing my breasticles to all and sundry.

Not the case. Admittedly, I am a ‘t-shirt and jeans’ kinda girl so my outfit choices are relatively simple. But I’ve never had any trouble feeding my daughter whilst wearing my normal clothes. My advice? Invest your money in some good (non-wired) nursing bras as these do make feeding easier and help you to avoid getting blocked milk ducts.

6. Nobody told me that…. generally, other people are very supportive.

In the real early days I was nervous about breastfeeding in public. I’d heard so many stories about women being asked to leave shops and restaurants because they were breastfeeding (even though that’s totally bloody illegal). I’d heard tale of people, tutting and making rude remarks towards women who were simply trying to feed their baby. And I’m not saying that stuff doesn’t happen, because clearly it does, but in the 14 months I’ve been breastfeeding I’ve never experienced any negativity.

Instead I’ve found that, on the whole, people are very supportive of breastfeeding mums. I’ve had people bring me over hot drinks and glasses of water. Or help entertain my toddler whilst I wrestled with my hungry baby. I’ve had other mums (breastfeeding and formula feeding alike) cheer me on and tell me how well I’ve done.

There will always be those who disapprove of breastfeeding in public, but they are few and far between. Just remember, everybody else has got your back. :)

7. Nobody told me… not to bother with a cot!

Co-sleeping is, of course, a personal choice. But in my experience, when you’re exclusively breastfeeding, having bub in the same bed as you makes night feeds SO. MUCH. EASIER.

I mean, you don’t have to get up and go make a bottle… so why get out of bed at all?!

After several months of E’s cot gathering dust in our room, I sold it and used the money to buy a bed guard instead.

8. Nobody told me… I’d regularly ‘touch up’ my own breasts in public.

Let me tell you an easy way of spotting a breastfeeding mum in a room. She’s usually feeling up her own boobs.

Keeping track of which breast you last fed your baby from is tricky – especially if you’re feeling hazy from night feeds or busy looking after your older children. So, the easiest method to know which breast to feed from next is to give them a good ol’ squeeze. One will be soft and squidgy, the other will have rock-like characteristics. Feed from the rock-like boob.

9. Nobody told me that… I’d become a human punchbag

Breastfeeding is often portrayed as this calm and relaxing bonding time between mum and baby. And sometimes it is.

The rest of the time I’m having my hair pulled, or being slapped, punched, kicked and pinched and on the odd occasion, bitten.

All I’m saying is, it’s a good job I love you, kiddo.

10. Nobody has ever told me… how to stop.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve reached our 14 month breastfeeding milestone. I honestly never thought we’d get this far, or even planned to breastfeed for this long.

The main reason I’m still going? I don’t know how to stop.

This was never covered in my breastfeeding classes and at the time it wasn’t something I thought to ask about.

I’ve Googled it, of course, many times. But I’ve yet to find any useful information on the best way of stopping breastfeeding. Most websites make you feel guilty for wanting to stop (useful, thanks) and others give very vague ‘advice’. “Just drop a feed each week…” If only it were that simple.

Is there anything you wish you’d been told about breastfeeding?

Jenna xx

Bedtime Routines: The First Baby Vs. The Second Baby

I was recently chatting to some of my mummy friends about the bedtime routines we have in place for our babies. This particular group of friends (mostly) consists of first-time-mamas. There was talk of nightly baths and baby massages and it was then that I had a sudden pang of guilt. I realised that I don’t put half as much effort into E’s bedtime routine as I did with J’s when she was the same age. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two different bedtime routines that I had/have for my first and second child (at around the same age) and to see if they slept any differently because of them. Read on to find out…

The first baby’s bedtime routine:

Jasmine was doing 5-6 hour long stints of sleeping at night by 9 weeks old and it was around this time that I decided I would implement a ‘proper bedtime routine‘ which went as follows…

Bath:

Every. Single. Day.

Heaven forbid we missed her evening bath.

Baby Massage:

After her bath, Jasmine was then treated to a full body massage – she’d be smothered head to toe in baby oil whilst I used the techniques I’d learned at our baby massage classes.

Bottle:

Her massage was followed by a feed. Jasmine was fully formula fed from around 6 weeks old. At 9 weeks old she’d have 4-5oz of milk at each feed.

Bed:

Jasmine would often fall asleep whilst having her last bottle before bed. I’d then gently slip her into her bedside crib. If she was still awake at the end of the feed, I’d pop her into the Bednest and turn on her ‘Freddie the frog’ Slumber Buddy (she still uses this now sometimes). She’d then eventually settle down to sleep.

4am: Jasmine wakes for a feed. She guzzles down her milk and then falls back to sleep.

6.30am: Jasmine wake ups and is ready to start the day!

Bedtime Routines: The First Baby Vs. The Second Baby

I blogged a 7-day diary when I introduced this bedtime routine – if you want to read it, you can find it here.

The Second Baby’s Bedtime Routine (or lack thereof):

Bath? (Ha!)

I give Elowen a bath about once a fortnight with ‘top and tail’ washes in between to keep her fresh.

Baby Massage? (Double ha!)

Sorry, baby girl – but I’ve spent the best part of the evening fighting with your sister to get her PJs on and brush her damn teeth. She’s finally down for the night so I just wanna chill. Is that cool with you? Cool.

The Dinner Time Feed: Elowen will demand a feed as soon as my dinner is ready (around 6.30/7.00pm). I stick her on the boob and watch my dinner go cold. I then pop E into her NUNA Leaf chair and crank that bad boy up to maximum sway. She might fight sleep for a little while but then gradually drifts off (usually whilst sucking her thumb). That’s her out for the count until I go to bed myself. I veg out in front of the telly or catch up with some blogging.

Bedtime: 

I tend to go to bed anywhere between 10pm and 11.30pm. I grab Elowen out of her chair and take her up to bed with me. This usually wakes her up so I take the opportunity to put a fresh nappy on her and change her clothes ready for bed. I boob her back to sleep again and then pop her in the Chicco Next-to-me crib. She’s still using her Purflo Nest but has almost outgrown it – this saddens me greatly.

Bedtime Routines: The First Baby Vs. The Second Baby

4am: Night feed. I usually end up latching her on and falling back to sleep.

6/6.30am: I wake up (usually by my toddler alarm clock) with Elowen still cuddled up in my arms from the 4am feed.

Time to get up!

Conclusion:

It wasn’t until I read this post back that I realised how similar Elowen’s sleep pattern is to what Jasmine’s was at around the same age. And that’s despite Elowen forgoing nightly baths and baby massages (poor, poor second child). I’ve definitely been more relaxed about bed-sharing this time around (although, I still follow the safety guidelines). I would have Jasmine sleep in bed with us during the fourth trimester when she was still adjusting to being ‘earthside’. And to be honest, it scared me, but sometimes it was the only way we got any sleep. Elowen on the other hand, is almost 4 months old, and I’m happy to bring her into our bed. I’m breastfeeding this time around so I find I can get a bit more extra sleep whilst she feeds.

You can tell from reading these bedtime routines that we very much dedicated our evenings to Jasmine’s bedtime routine. It’s clearly true (in our case at least) that the second baby has to fit around us as a family, and not the other way around. So yeah, the littlest lady of the family might miss out on nightly baths (she has majorly dry skin anyways) and doesn’t get those full body massages (I feel a bit guilty about that) but ultimately, it’s made no difference. They sleep exactly the same!

Our favourite baby bedtime products*:

If you fancy reading more posts about baby sleep routines and co-sleeping, check out these posts by some of my fellow mama blogger friends: Lucie // Kirsty // Georgina // Rachel // Rebecca

I’d love to know how bedtime works in your house if you have more than one child?
Or if you just have the one, what does their bedtime routine involve?
How do you feel about co-sleeping?

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The Newborn Diaries: <br> Elowen’s Fourth Week <br/>

After keeping a diary of Elowen’s first week earthside, I have decided I would carry on keeping daily notes for the next few weeks. The days all seem to roll into one at the moment (sleep deprivation will do that) and I know these early weeks will become such a blur all too soon. I want to be able to look back on them and remember as much as I can – the good days and the rough days.

Elowen’s fourth week:

Monday – Day 22:

I’m pleased to say that we made it to the church playgroup again this Monday morning. I love that it doesn’t start until 10am (lots of baby/toddler groups seem to start at 9/9.30am which is madness). Elowen slept the whole time we were there on my lap whilst Jasmine and I made paper crowns (ala the three wise men).

I’m so glad that Stephen has been making my lunch in the mornings before he goes to work. We got home from playgroup and I was starving (I’d had breakfast about 6am) but Jasmine needed feeding and Elowen was screaming for boob. Thankfully, I could just pull some chicken and salad wraps out of the fridge and chuck them down my throat. It’s the little things that make a big difference when you’re trying to juggle the demands of two tiny people.

Tuesday – Day 23:

Stephen’s using up some of his annual leave over the next week or so which meant he was off work today – woot! Jasmine was at nursery for the morning which meant we had some time to get some chores done. We had another estate agent round to value our house first thing. She told me I didn’t look like I’d just given birth three weeks ago. I could’ve kissed her.

I think Elowen is going through her 3 week growth spurt because she’s been on the boob pretty much ALL day. She’s quite fussy too – keeps latching on and then crying and pulling away. The lactation consultant I saw the other week warned me about this and reminded me that her constant feeding isn’t a sign that I’m not producing enough milk but a signal to my body to produce more. E has also been awake for most of the day which is very unlike her.

E had her first proper ‘Poonami’ today. Is there a milestone card for that? Anyway – bright yellow poo all the way up her ‘Best Little Sister’ babygrow. Sad times.

Wednesday – Day 24:

Just when I thought that Jasmine was over her little night waking phase – she was up at 3am again last night. Stephen ended up going downstairs with her again. I know you’re ‘meant’ to try and put toddlers back to bed but trust me when I say, it ain’t gonna happen. Once Jasmine’s awake, that’s it. Elowen on the other hand slept well between feeds (which were fairly short and frequent throughout the night).

It’s safe to say we are all feeling the effects of lack of sleep today. Jasmine fell asleep watching a film on our bed 9am. I left her to it and took Elowen downstairs – she was still cluster-feeding like a crazy baby as I worked my way through a tub of Celebrations. Whoops!

I had to wait in for some online shopping deliveries (the only way I’m getting any Crimbo shopping done this year) so it was a good excuse for a film and duvet day… not that we needed an excuse after last night’s shenanigans!

Right… Elowen needs feeding again…

Thursday – Day 25:

My poor bubba has a cold. I knew it was inevitable because the lurgy has been going around our house for weeks. Elowen has really been struggling with feeding and cries after latching on because she can’t breathe. I felt so helpless. I jumped on Amazon and ordered ALL the baby cold supplies – Snuffle babe drops, nasal aspirator and saline spray.

Friday – Day 26:

Elowen just wanted to be held today (as per usual) so I popped her in the carrier and made Paw Patrol cupcakes with Jasmine. The day went a bit downhill after that. Jasmine’s been particularly needy and attention seeking today. It’s been exhausting. At several points throughout the day both girls were crying at the same time. It was the sort of day I has been dreading before becoming a mama to two. To be fair, I thought I would’ve had a a fair few days like this already so far but coping with two hasn’t been as bad as I feared. (Famous last words.)

E was still suffering with her stuffy nose, especially when laying on her back so bed time was… interesting. I used the Snuffle Babe drops in my diffuser which seemed to help ease clear her airways a bit. I really hope she’s feeling a bit better soon.

Saturday – Day 27: 

Elowen had her first ever bath this morning! I was so worried about her losing that ‘newborn smell’ and her super soft skin that I had been putting it off. Basically I didn’t want to wash away her new-ness! She was so chilled out and hardly seem phased at all. I’m happy to report that she still has that new baby smell and her skin is still super soft! :)

My dad came up from Bristol to visit us today which is kind of a big deal. We’ve had a pretty crap relationship over the last few years and to put that in to context, until today he hadn’t seen Jasmine since she was 6 weeks old. We’re both making more of an effort to stay in touch these days though and I’m glad my girls will get to know their grandad.

Sunday – Day 28:

Slept in this morning and felt better for catching up on some sleep. I feel like I constantly need a shower at the moment as I seem to wake up smelling of sweat and sour milk (E has a habit of spitting milk back up all over my bra!). My skin and hair are both awful at the moment and I just feel a bit ‘meh’.

Anyway, enough of my whinging…. my baby is 4 weeks old. 4 WEEKS! I can hardly believe it. I’ve noticed in the last few days that some of her newborn babygrows are already becoming a bit snug. My Baby Button-Nose is growing like a week.

I’m so happy that I’m still feeding her and on that note, I’ve not used the nipple shields for at least 24 hours so I think we’re pretty much weaned off of them now. VERY happy about that.

Here’s her ‘4 week’ photos…

The other night I sent a message asking my one of my best friends, who is a neonatal nurse, how long a baby is classed as a newborn for. (Google gave me lots of different answers). She told me that at her work they classed babies as ‘newborns’ for 28 days. Waaaaaaaah! I wish I’d never asked. ;)

I’m probably going to stop writing these weekly ‘newborn diaries’ now and give myself the chance to write some other kind of blogs posts (I’m only finding enough time to do about one post a week at the mo). I’ve really enjoyed keeping these little notes over the last 4 weeks and no doubt they will make for interesting reading in months/years from now  (basically when I’m feeling broody and nostalgic).

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