Cosleeping with a Toddler

Safe cosleeping

 

What is Cosleeping?

I had always thought cosleeping meant sleeping in the same bed as your child, but the term covers various sleeping arrangements. For example, for the first 7 months of my son’s life, he co-slept with us in a crib that we attached securely to my side of the bed. This is known as a ‘sidecar’ arrangement, and it allowed me to breastfeed him really easily at night.

The main types of cosleeping include:

  • Sharing a bed with your child
  • Sleeping next to your child while he or she is in a crib, either one that is attached to the bed or just placed nearby
  • Sleeping in the same room as your child

Safe cosleepingSafe Cosleeping

I wanted to cosleep with my son in the early months of his life, but I was worried about having him in our bed with us because I didn’t think it would be safe enough. Our bed was quite high off the floor, we had dogs that might jump up in the night, and I couldn’t find a satisfactory bed rail.

Since I was worried about safety having my son in bed with us, we chose the sidecar arrangement instead. My choice was the “Arm’s Reach Cosleeper” – a crib specifically designed to attached to the side of your bed.

You can read a detailed article about cosleeping from Dr. Sears here, and I will highlight some safe cosleeping considerations:

  • Ensure there aren’t pillows that could suffocate baby and avoid having our blanket above your waist for the same reason
  • Ensure your baby can’t roll off the bed – use a bed rail or position the baby between you and the wall
  • Your mattress should be firm – again to help avoid a scenario where your child could suffocate
  • Pets and older children should not sleep in bed with a young baby
  • Ensure no wires, cords, tassels, or anything that could strangle a child are near the bed

cosleeping with toddler

My Experience: Cosleeping with Toddler = Breastfeeding at Night

My son is 1.5 years old, but he rarely sleeps through the night. He did pretty well for a while, sleeping in his crib and waking up once, or maybe twice, per night, but quickly falling back to sleep after breastfeeding. But then slowly 2 night wakings became the norm, and then 3, and before I knew it, a good night was when he ‘only’ woke up three times.

A lot of people advised me to let him cry it out, and then a lot of other people advised me to try cosleeping. I tried the cosleeping route first. We’d put him down to sleep in his own bed, but after his first waking (typically around 10-11pm), I’d try to have him sleep in bed with me and my husband.

Let me tell you – the cosleeping DID. NOT. WORK. By now I’ve casually interrogated enough other cosleeping moms to realize that my son is a VERY restless sleeper. My husband and I would retreat to the far edges of our bed, giving our son a very wide space of his own between us – but it couldn’t contain him. He flops, kicks, crawls, hits, punches, even sits up, all in his sleep.

We found he actually slept better in his crib, where he wouldn’t wake himself up as often since he could only crawl into the side of his bed, instead of crawling on to mom and dad and wanting to play. The problem was I had to trek down the hall multiple times each night to resettle him when he woke.

Since I still wasn’t willing to let him cry it out, and any attempts at gently teaching him to resettle himself were failing, I continued getting up A LOT at night to attend to him whenever he needed me.

cosleeping with toddler

Sharing my Bed with my Son, Instead of my Husband

Then, my son and I both came down with hand foot and mouth disease. My husband was terrified of also getting infected, so he moved into the guest room. I had the master bed to myself, and I tried bringing my son into bed with me again after his first waking each night.

Finally, we were able to cosleep successfully, when my son had 90% of the space in bed to do his sleeping acrobatics. He still crawls into the headboard or kicks me in the face occasionally, but he mostly manages to stay asleep because he has enough space to flop around without waking himself up.

I don’t sleep quite as well with him in the bed, and cosleeping has not reduced the amount of times he wakes. So why am I still doing it? Because it is SO MUCH EASIER. No more stumbling down the hallway and struggling to pick him up out of his crib. No more sitting in the cold dark living room while breastfeeding him back to sleep. And I do get back to sleep much easier after each of his wakings, or even manage to breastfeed him while sleeping.

I miss sleeping in bed with my husband, and I wish my son would sleep longer stretches at night. But for now, we will continue to cosleep so I can get more rest.

Have you tried cosleeping or are you cosleeping currently? What works best for you? Happen to have any advice on night weaning a toddler, or cosleeping and night weaning? Share in the comments below!

Interested in more of my ramblings on baby sleep? Or check out my useful baby jet lag tips!
will my child ever sleep through the night how to handle jet lag in kids

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Exercise & Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

safe weight loss while breastfeeding

Getting Back to Pre-Pregnancy Weight

I was really eager to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size as soon as possible after my son was born. I think that breastfeeding ultimately made my weight loss easier because I was burning so many extra calories. In fact, I returned to my pre-preggo weight without following any diet or exercise program. (Beyond walking a lot, I didn’t exercise at all – read about it here).

breastfeeding and weight loss dietThe trouble with getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight was that the number on the scale might have been the same, but my body was not the same as pre-pregnancy. I wasn’t quite the same shape. I felt flabby and lethargic. So, I embarked on an exercise and diet program (BBG) and learned a few things about exercising while breastfeeding along the way.

Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

Before you read on I’d like to remind you I am not a healthcare professional – these are personal tips from my own experience and I strongly advise professional advice if you have any questions or concerns when trying to lose weight postpartum. 

safe breastfeeding weight loss

My tips for exercise and weight loss while breastfeeding:

1)   It can be hard to do high impact activities when your breasts are full.

Some of my breastfeeding friends can go for a run without pumping or nursing first and not have a problem. I’m not particularly large-breasted, but I find it incredibly uncomfortable to do any high-impact cardio unless I have pumped or nursed immediately beforehand, even while wearing super-supportive exercise bras.

To avoid the full breast problem while exercising, I would often nurse my son before naps and then workout while he was sleeping.  I also wound up storing a manual pump in my gym bag to make sure I could be comfortable for high impact workouts.

Whether you empty your breasts before a workout or not, remember to make sure you have a well-fitting and very supportive bra. This is important not only for comfort but also to avoid issues like clogged ducts due to pressure from bra that doesn’t fit properly.  

2)   Very intense workouts may temporarily impact your milk supply.

This is a scary one! I did a really intense high intensity interval training session and then tried to nurse my son about 20 minutes later. Although it had been about 3 hours since he last nursed, I couldn’t seem to produce any milk! I had not fully cooled down and I was maybe a little dehydrated, so I attribute the temporary lack of milk to the combination of a really intense workout and not enough water. In the moment, it was really frightening because I had never had a supply problem before.

I have since heard anecdotally from other moms that they have had this same problem, but a bit of research online didn’t yield much information. After fully cooling down and ensuring I was very well hydrated, my milk did return. Since then I haven’t tried nursing immediately after an HIIT session but I also do shorter sessions because of the lingering fear of impacting my milk supply.  

safe weight loss while breastfeeding

3) You will be really hungry – and you need to eat enough!

The hunger I felt post-workout was like no hunger I’d experienced before! A 30 minute cardio session left me starving. This is pretty normal – my body was burning extra calories to produce milk. The important thing is to eat enough to make sure your body can still produce milk while you stay healthy.

On days I didn’t eat enough I would feel exhausted. No amount of coffee could get me going, and regardless of how healthy the food I ate was, if I didn’t consume enough calories I really dragged all day long. Restricting calories too much while breastfeeding is not healthy – I felt like crap and my milk supply suffered for it.

4)   You will be really thirsty – stay hydrated to maintain your milk supply.

Every breastfeeding mom knows how thirsty she gets without exercising at all. Add in a little sweat and you feel like you can drink a river! Staying hydrated becomes even more important if you are an exercising and breastfeeding mom so you can produce sufficient milk.

Do remember, though, that the advice on hydration is to drink to thirst. You don’t need to drink excessive amounts if you don’t feel thirsty. I fell into this trap early on and I was running to the bathroom more than once an hour. As long as you drink to thirst your supply will be fine. Based on what I pumped, over-hydrating did not translate to more breast milk.

If you are trying to lose weight, I strongly recommend avoiding high calorie drinks and focus on water as your main source of hydration. If plain water is boring, add a twist of lemon, or make up a pitcher and soak some cucumber, or mint leaves, or lemon, or anything you like to make drinking water more enjoyable so you aren’t drinking empty calories from soda, juice, or sports drinks.

And remember…

You gained weight slowly over the course of your pregnancy and the weight loss will also happen slowly. Crash dieting isn’t healthy while breastfeeding – you are sustaining a tiny human with your breastmilk and you want to maintain adequate supply!  

Looking for healthy, lactation-boosting snacks? Check out my some of my lactation recipes!

green lactation smoothie lactation granola bars recipe very berry lactation smoothie no bake lactation energy balls

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Surviving Jet Lag in Babies and Toddlers

baby jet lag tips

how to handle jet lag in kids

Surviving the Dreaded Baby Jet Lag

I am lucky to have been able to travel quite a bit with my son. But I do feel very unlucky when we travel to different time zones and face… baby jet lag.

As it is my son isn’t a great sleeper, so I am doubly motivated to make sure each trip goes as smoothly as possible when it came to sleep. Here are my top tips for minimizing and surviving baby jet lag:

1. Consider staying on your home schedule if the time difference is small.

If we are travelling to a time zone that is different by 3 hours or less, I tend to keep my son on his home-schedule. This can mean some early breakfasts or late dinners, but it usually works in our favor because he isn’t cranky and his sleep is much more stable than if I tried getting him to bed hours earlier or later than usual.

2. For big time differences, understand the adjustment will happen slowly.

I have found that we need 3 days to get my son mostly comfortable with a new time zone and 5 days before he is completely settled. It is best to help them adapt to a new time zone by gently shifting bedtimes and nap times by an hour or so each day until they are sleeping at appropriate times.

3. Your child will most likely not sleep through the night at first – don’t be surprised.

Even great sleepers are thrown off by time differences. Your child might go down to sleep easily after an exciting day of tourism, but wake up in the middle of the night filled with energy because it is the time they’d normally be awake back home. Allow them to play quietly in the dark or with dim light for the first 1-2 nights as they adjust to sleeping in the new time zone.

4. Be careful with naps.

If your child does not typically nap during the day, avoid daytime naps at your destination because it will make it much harder for them to sleep at night. If your child is younger and still napping, be sure to give them naps during the day. You may want to limit the time of their naps, though. While we were visiting family in the USA (a 12 hour time difference from Hong Kong) my son was taking 2 naps a day. He would have his morning nap and wake on his own. But I found his afternoon nap could drag on for hours if I didn’t wake him, and then it was much harder to get him to sleep at night

5. Allow sleep on the plane.

 

When I travel on my own, I will make a point of staying awake or sleeping on the plane as a first step towards adjusting to the new time zone. I do not recommend this with children! If you are lucky enough to have your child fall asleep on the plane, in nearly all cases, I would say just let them sleep. I tried keeping my son up on a long haul flight and as a result he was incredibly fussy and unsettled. I was exhausted and frustrated, as were the surrounding passengers. Unless you have a child who is still very pleasant when exhausted, don’t try to get them on the new schedule until you’ve arrived at your destination.

 baby toddler kid jet lag

6. Use daylight to your advantage.

Daylight is key to adjusting to a new time zone quickly because daylight signals to your body that it is time to be awake. Get your little one outside as much as possible, especially in the morning and late afternoon when they are likely to be particularly drowsy.

7. Encourage eating at mealtimes in the new time zone.

Eating at mealtimes in the local time zone will help you adjust much faster, but it can be difficult to coax an overtired toddler or child into eating. Ensure they at least snack during the local meal times during the first 1-2 days so they can adjust to the schedule at your destination more quickly. By the third day they will most likely be eating on the new schedule.

8. Snacks are ok, and can be a godsend. 

Especially the first couple of nights, your little one might wake up hungry. Allow a snack the first night and a smaller the second if your child wakes again. By the third night if your child wakes up try to resettle them without food so they can adjust to sleeping at night in the new time zone. Also, during the day, if you are facing a cranky child, do not underestimate the power of a snack. 

9. Invest in a travel cot.

My son does not sleep well in an unfamiliar cot. After sleepless nights in several different cities, I resolved to always carry our Baby Bjorn Travel Cot with us when we travel. It is one more thing to carry, but it makes him much more comfortable. And it has the added benefit of knowing that he will always have a clean and safe bed. You would be surprised by the moldy, broken, or generally unsafe cribs we have encountered, even in very nice hotels.

10. The adjustment can be harder once you return home… but your children will eventually sleep normally again!

Unfortunately it is always true for us that it takes my son much longer to adjust back to his normal schedule at home than it took him to adjust to a new schedule while traveling. I am really not sure why this is and no matter how exciting I try to make our days when we get back from a holiday, it usually takes at least a week for normal sleep habits to return. Remember to re-adjust to the new time zone slowly. For example, bedtime can be moved an hour earlier or later each day until your child is back to their usual routine.

Have any tips to manage jet lag when traveling with kids? Share in the comments below!

 

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Will my child ever sleep through the night?

will my child ever sleep through the night

will my child ever sleep through the night

Will my son ever sleep through the night?

If you found this page because you have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night, I can’t tell you when he or she will. But I can commiserate with you. Being an older mom (advanced maternal age as they like to call it), I feel like every night of disrupted sleep is giving me additional gray hairs and wrinkles. And don’t get me started on the dark shadows under my eyes.

My son has slept 10 hour stretches a handful of times. Each time this happens I wake up so hopeful that they mark a turning point. I’ll think to myself “maybe he’s finally ready to night wean” and then the following night will be plagued with wake ups and we’re back to exhausted square one.

Is this actually normal?

There are many, many people who will tell you a child’s night waking is normal. My son is 15 months old and while the common expectation is that he sleeps through the night, the reality is many children his age simply don’t. I would be much more accepting of his night waking if it weren’t for our second problem – he wakes up between 4:45 and 5:30 each morning and can’t fall back asleep.

He wakes up, still yawning and bleary-eyed, but can’t fall back asleep. From my unscientific research I would say this is a bit of a sleep problem. Something is preventing him from sleeping in. Maybe he can’t self settle at that hour? He’s hungry? His diaper is too full? The room is too light?  He’s used to nursing during night wakings?

We are at 15 months old and this problem started at about 8 months. Was it because we relocated around that time? Wouldn’t he be settled in so many months later?

will my child ever sleep through the night
                  A rare long nap

What about sleep training?

I’m going to bring up the controversial words “sleep training” now. Ferber, Weissbluth, whatever you want to call it. A cry-it-out-approach works for many families. To the horror of many, I’m going to tell you I let my son cry at bedtime and it did help him learn to put himself to sleep at bedtime (after our bedtime routine) and on rare occasions, self settle in the night.

Crying it out wasn’t easy for us. It was actually pretty dreadful. My son has always been on the smaller side and not a good eater. During the few days we were crying it out, he was so tired and overwrought during the day that he would hardly eat or nurse at all. I felt terrible that he was seemingly so frightened from crying at bedtime that he couldn’t eat and also worried since his weight gain has always been low.

I can’t bring myself to let my son cry-it-out again, so I’ve been trying gentler ways of reducing the night wakings and night feeding. Are they working? No.

So, will he ever sleep through the night?

Like I said at the start of this post, each time I think we’ve made progress I realize we haven’t progressed at all. I obsessively take notes on when he is asleep and awake to try to understand if he’s getting too much sleep during the day or too little, and try to see if anything is improving with his night waking. I have 4 months of notes and unfortunately they’re pretty useless.

After poring through as many baby sleep books and articles as I could, I’m focusing on consistency. Same bedtime routine each night, consistent naptimes and bedtimes, consistent mealtimes, etc. I think this helps because when his schedule is really thrown off due to travel or whatever, his sleep does seem to suffer. I am also working on gently night weaning by nursing for slightly shorter periods each night… this is easier said than done when you’re only half awake.

I try repeating “the nights are long but the years are short” to myself to stay positive while so sleep deprived…. It kind of works, sometimes.

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BBG Progress Update – Stalled at Week 10

lose baby weight with bbg

 

lose baby weight with bbgBBG – I’m Stuck at Week 10

I love the BBG program, but I’ve been stalled at Week 10 for almost two months now (I completed week 9 on September 3). Each Monday I tell myself I’m going to get back to it, and every week I have creative new excuses.

Ok, the excuses aren’t even that creative, it’s just life stuff. Since early September when I started taking this break I’ve been sick twice and my son has been sick 3 times. We also had family visiting for a while and we took a trip to Macau.

I have been exercising when I can and I *almost* managed to get through week 10 in early October, but I didn’t make it through in the end. I’m going to try not to make any more excuses and just be honest here… Week 10 is HARD!

I had last looked at my progress in week 8 – abs were flattening out nicely, plus I felt a heck of a lot stronger and more energized. Read about my initial BBG experience and see photos here.

A Look at My Progress

Now, I’ll share my progress today. Below are my pre-BBG and week 8 progress photos, along with a shot from this morning.

lose baby weight with bbg

I wasn’t looking forward to donning a bikini to take these photos, but you know what? I’m really happy with the result! While I haven’t been following the BBG program for a while now, I have squeezed in cardio when I can, along with the *very* occasional resistance session. 

I’m Happy with this Progress!

I’m really encouraged by my photos today because they made me realize something important – I’ve adapted to the healthy lifestyle encouraged by BBG. I eat wholesome and healthy meals, and exercise when I can. Before I started BBG a lot of junk food had crept into my diet and I feel fantastic now that I’ve stopped eating so much junk.

While I still want to finish round 1 and then do it all over again before round 2, I’m really happy to see that my lifestyle overall has changed for the better and now I’m a happier and healthier me.

Goal: Finish BBG Round 1 by the End of 2016

So, let me write out my goal here – finish BBG round 1 by the end of December. Sounds easy, but I don’t want to set up myself up for failure seeing as I haven’t managed to knock out the last 3 weeks in a period of almost 2 months. This way I can kick off 2017 with BBG 1, round 2!

Have you ever fallen into a rut or stalled out in a workout program? Share your experience in the comments below!

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