Baby Bee, Mama Bear, Postpartum & Mama Care

Why I Decided to Stop Stressing About My Baby’s (lack of) Sleep Schedule

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me if my baby was sleeping well, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Sleep is perhaps the hottest topic when it comes to babies. Are they sleeping through the night? Do they nap well? Do they go down on their own? From day one, parents are under an enormous amount of pressure to coach their baby into being the perfect sleeper.

I myself fell prey to the constant barrage of questions about Baby Bee’s sleep and lost many nights of sleep over whether or not we were doing it right. I read all the recommended resources about how long your baby should be awake, how long they should sleep at each nap, and how you should be putting them down drowsy but awake. I tried the sleep schedules, tried keeping her up longer, putting her down sooner, but no matter what I did she would typically only nap for 30-60 minutes, tops. I took this as a sign that I was a terrible parent, and so I stressed some more.

And then, one day, I decided to stop stressing about it. After feeling like a failure for so long because my six month old wasn’t “on a schedule” yet and didn’t take long naps during the day, I decided that I didn’t care. At her age, babies should be getting an average of 11-12 hours of sleep at night and another 2-3 during the day. Even with our lack of strict daytime schedule, she is typically asleep for the night by 7:00-8:00pm and up by 6:00-7:00am. Sure, she has 1-3 night wakings depending on growth spurts and teething, and every once in a while she’ll be up for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but for the most part she gets her full 11 hours of sleep each night. And, yes, she still only naps for 30-45 minutes most days, but she does so 3-4 times a day.

What I realized is that it wasn’t that her sleeping pattern wasn’t working for her – it’s that it wasn’t convenient for me. Not being able to plan things out in advance because my baby naps at slightly different times everyday can make seeing friends really tricky. And not having more than 30 minutes to check things off my to-do list or just breathe can be really hard on me sometimes. But that is part of raising an infant – learning that it’s not all about you anymore.

So now we have a daily routine. Although our daily activities may unfold at slightly different times, we do the same things each day and in the same order. This helps her to know when naptime is coming and it helps me to cope with the lack of clock-based schedule. I still get to see friends (it’s just planned within a certain window of time as opposed to specific meeting time) and I still get chores done, with time blocked out for me each day.

Do I still envy moms who know exactly when they’ll be free because their children sleep at the same time everyday? Absolutely. Do I wish my baby would take 2-hour naps on occasion? For sure – I mean the house isn’t going to clean itself. But, when all is said and done, she wakes up happy and full of energy after each nap, and isn’t that really the whole goal behind getting your baby on a strict sleep schedule?

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Breastfeeding, Mama Bear

Mom Guilt: You Can Run From It But You Can’t Hide

Before my daughter was born, I was an absolute wreck, convinced that we would be completely overwhelmed by and unprepared for the world of parenting. But when she arrived something amazing happened: the moment she was placed in my arms, all of my self-doubt disappeared and I was filled with a overwhelming sense that it would be okay. I was going to be a good mom, mistakes and all.

After announcing her birth, I received so many reassuring messages from other moms telling me that I should trust myself and try not to be too hard on myself. I wasn’t sure how to respond because, the thing was, I knew I was a good mom and that when I did mess up on occasion it was totally normal. I had pretty realistic expectations about motherhood and didn’t get down on myself when things didn’t go as planned (because when do they ever?). With the exception of a few sleep-deprived incidents, I had successfully avoided the infamous mom guilt that haunts so many new mothers.

And then we went to her 6-month check-up. My big baby girl – who had been in the 90th percentile for weight at her 2 & 4 month weigh-ins – had suddenly dropped down to the 80th percentile. The doctor was a bit surprised but she wasn’t concerned, attributing it to her becoming more mobile and starting solids. She suggested upping her solid food intake and said she would see us again in 3 months. All-in-all, a pretty uneventful check-up.

And yet what I heard┬áduring the appointment was “You’re an awful mom. How could you not have noticed? Your baby girl is wasting away right before your eyes! How did you let this happen?” You see, my baby is breastfed … so that food source that had – in my eyes – failed to fatten her up over the past 2 months? That was me. I went home, put my daughter down for her nap, and then proceeded to sob for 20 minutes straight. I was overcome with such an enormous sense of failure that I suddenly felt incredibly unworthy of the beautiful baby sleeping before me. In my mind, I had failed the most basic mom requirement. I apologized to her over and over again for letting her down and felt so awful that she had been given to me, instead of the wonderful mother that she deserved. The past six months of love, laughter, and successful check-ups completely vanished from my mind.

Still crying, I made some tea and sat down to eat lunch. After refueling and taking a few deep breaths, I stopped crying and started researching some new nutrient-dense purees to make for my sweet babe. Slowly but surely, I started to feel like myself again. The good memories and knowledge that I am, in fact, a good mama bear slowly crept back into my mind. When my baby woke, I showered her with hugs and kisses – as I do every time she wakes up – and I breathed her in deeply.

A few hours later, when it had fully passed, it struck me that what I had just experienced full-blown Mom Guilt. Sure, I’d been hit by it before – but never this hard. This was like being brainwashed – I completely lost sight of the bigger picture and was consumed by the idea that I was the world’s worst mother. It’s something that happens to all moms at one point or another and I know, without a doubt, it will happen to me again. My hope for my future self and all moms out there is that, when it does strike again, I’m able to take a step back and put things in context. And, above all, to remember that one misstep does not a bad mother make. Because life will always have its ups and downs – and its imperfect check-ups – but, at the end of the day, I’m still a great mama with a baby bee that wants nothing more than to be showered with my hugs and kisses.

Breastfeeding, Mama Bear

Why Breastfeeding is Still Insanely Hard Even When It’s “Problem-Free”

Breastfeeding is one of the few things in life that – like parenting in general – is hard even when it isn’t hard. Even if everything goes according to plan (and that’s a big if), it’s still insanely tough. It involves so many working parts and requires so many things to go smoothly: at the very least, you need to have a decent latch, a good milk supply, cooperative nipples, and an affinity for sitting still for a very, very long time. Despite having all (or most) of these things, my first two weeks of breastfeeding were, without any exaggeration, the hardest two weeks of my life.

From the start, we were really lucky with Baby Bee; she was a champion latcher right out of the gate. I remember the lactation consultant coming to see us after she was born, once we had settled into our hospital room, and saying “Oh, wow! Did you take breastfeeding courses while pregnant? You guys are doing really well!” Nope, I hadn’t. I mean, there had been a fifteen minute segment at the end of one of the birthing classes we took, which I paid moderate attention to, but this amazing display of newborn nursing was all her. This was the one and only aspect of nursing that came pain-free. Good latch: check.

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When we got home, everything was still going smoothly. She was still latching well and nursing regularly. And then something happened that I had read about endless but, it would turn out, was no where near prepared for: my milk came in. And, when I say came in, I mean it came in. Imagine, if you will, lying down for a nap in the early evening and waking up an hour later to find that your boobs have exploded to the point that you suddenly have stretch mark on your nipples (sorry for the overshare). In the matter of an hour, you have become a porn star with the biggest, hardest boobs in the history of boobs, you’ve spiked a low-grade fever, and you feel like you’re going to be sick to your stomach. Welcome to the world of breastfeeding.

I immediately ran into the living room screaming “Fix it! FIIIX IIIT!!” at my husband who, having never had milk come in himself, was at a complete loss. After a quick google search, he had me sitting on the couch with warm compresses on my breasts (these were amazing), the breast pump hooked up and ready to go (we use a double electric one, which gloriously emptied both breasts in no time), a cold cloth on my neck, and a giant glass of ice water in my hand. It was brutal, but after that first pump-and-dump session, everything became manageable again. It took a few more of those pumping sessions – and lots of cold compresses after nursing – but my milk supply leveled out and, after a day or so, we were back on the path to smooth sailing. Good milk supply: check, check, check.

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That was until what I like to refer to as the Great Nipple Destruction of 2016. After my milk came in, we became a nursing powerhouse, with the Baby Bee nursing every hour and a half, often cluster feeding for hours on end in the evenings. Luckily, I didn’t have any issues related to the shape/size of my nipples but I did discover that I have insanely wimpy nipples. There was massive chafing, some bleeding, and even scabbing. If it hadn’t been for my beloved nipple butter and lanolin, I may not have made it through the week alive. But after a few intense days of nipple boot camp and constantly applying my arsenal of boob creams (and, let’s be honest, pain killers), my nipples toughened up and I was finally able to breastfeed pain free. Nipples of steel: check.

The part that I found – and still find – the hardest about breastfeeding is the long hours of sitting that are required. Growing up, I’d only ever looked after formula and bottle-fed babies, so I had absolutely no exposure to breastfeeding or what it entailed during the first few weeks home. What I quickly discovered is that breastfeeding a baby takes a LOT longer than bottle feeding. Breastfed babies often cluster feed, which is when they nurse for extended periods of time without pause or nurse many times back-to-back. For the first six weeks of her life, Baby Bee LOVED to cluster feed. Every night. For up to four hours in a row. As someone who used to love to get out for long strolls every evening when I was pregnant, this killed me. It was the one of the only aspects of caring for a newborn that brought me to tears on multiple occasions.

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Over time, however, it became routine and I started to look forward to our evenings in because it meant quality time with my husband, hanging out on the couch and watching a movie together. To be honest, since bringing Baby Bee home, we hadn’t had very much (okay, any) time together and I was finding that really tough. Cluster feeding forced us to take a time out, relax, and enjoy a few hours together every night. So, while I still sometimes found it hard to be stuck inside on a beautiful night, I was also grateful to have that time with my husband back and learned to cherish it. Affinity for long hours on the couch: check.

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Mama Bear, Postpartum & Mama Care

The Rule of Five: How I Learned to Slow Down & Still Get Things Done

When you’re preparing for the arrival of your first baby, you get a lot of advice – some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t. The most popular were the classics: “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “enjoy it – it goes by so fast!” Makes sense, I thought, and I made a mental note to do both of them.

What I didn’t hear very often -and what I wish I’d paid more attention to – was the advice about taking it easy, about not aiming for supermom on day one, and about letting the dust fall where it may (literally). I wish I’d paid more attention because, as my pregnancy drew to an end, I decided to do the exact opposite: I would be the new mom that could do it all. I set myself up for success by preparing two weeks worth of frozen meals and loads of baked snacks. I cleaned the house from top to bottom and washed everything that could be put in a washing machine. I packed baskets of swaddles, cloths, and diapers, and left them in strategic places around the house. I was ready.

When the baby arrived, things went really well at first. The frozen meals and snacks were a godsend. The house practically sparkled, so my cleaning efforts were minimal. Thanks to my husband, the laundry piles were nonexistent. And then, after the two-week honeymoon, my husband went back to work, the food stores ran out, and the laundry suddenly ballooned out of nowhere. And, my god, can newborn babies ever create a lot of laundry in a matter of minutes.

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Nevertheless, I stayed determined and carried on cleaning the house and doing multiple loads of laundry everyday, as well as entertaining guests and cooking dinner when my husband got home. After a couple of weeks, my husband sat me down and asked how I was doing. He said that he thought I was taking on too much, that I was putting myself at risk, and that he was worried. “You just had a baby. You need to take it easy for a while and let yourself recover,” he said,”I know you want to be able to do everything but, just for now, why don’t you try limiting it to one thing a day?” I almost laughed out loud. Me, do only one productive thing a day? Not likely. I’ve been a compulsive cleaner and organizer for my entire adult life. I get stressed out by a single dish left unwashed or one shirt tossed out of place.

He was right though: I was pushing myself too hard. I wasn’t getting the rest I needed and I was starting to feel the physical effects of overdoing it. After letting out a huge sigh, I suggested a compromise of limiting it to five things everyday. Those five things, we agreed, would include anything that went beyond feeding and dressing myself and the baby. So, showering, bathing the baby, going for a walk, having visitors, vacuuming, doing dishes, cooking dinner, doing a load of laundry: it all counted towards my five things. And, just like that, the Rule of Five was born.

During our discussion, my husband also suggested that I needed to start taking more time for myself each day and doing things that I found relaxing (and, no, he said, cleaning doesn’t count). So, I decided pretty quickly that having a shower and going for a walk would be standing items. That left me with 3 slots each day. At first, it was a legitimate struggle for me. I could no longer get everything done at once. The dust lingered for a few days longer than I would have liked. The laundry piled up more than usual. The dinner shift was often taken over by my husband (I love the man, but he’s no master chef). But, you know what? After a few weeks, I grew to love The Rule of Five. I felt such a sense of accomplishment knowing that, if nothing else, I had done 3 things each day and still managed to take care of myself. I came to really appreciate that I now had time to breathe, time to cuddle with my newborn babe, time to enjoy the fall weather on our daily walks, and – perhaps most importantly – time to heal in all the ways that a woman needs to after birth.

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Now that my daughter is older, I could tackle more each day if I wanted to. But, surprisingly (to me, at least), I don’t want to. I’ve come to love the slower pace of life and being able to spend more time in each moment with my husband and daughter. Sure, I still get annoyed when the dishes pile up and the laundry hasn’t been done for a few days, but it doesn’t cross my mind nearly as often as it used to. Despite what I thought, having a child has actually caused me to slow down, to pack less into each day, and to breathe more. Life is more chaotic and messier, sure, but it’s also filled with more smiles, more hugs, and more memories now.