Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Our Experience with Sleep Training

 

"You'll never sleep again." It's one of the comments I heard most often while I was pregnant. To be honest, Jack has had a hard time sleeping since birth. Our first night home from the hospital, he would not sleep in the bassinet we had planned for him to be in. Since he hated being swaddled, he thrashed around until I picked him up and he fell fast asleep while I held him. The first 2 months of his life, he would only sleep in my arms - and I let him, because survival mode kicks in eventually so we could all get sleep. We finally transitioned him to the Rock n Play, and he slept well at night in it from 2-4 months, until it was unfortunately recalled. I wasn't ready for him to be in his crib in his own room so we tried the Pack n Play next to our bed. He hated sleeping flat on his back. To help with the transition, we ended up co-sleeping for a couple weeks so he could get used to being on his back. Shortly after, he started rolling over and would flip over to his tummy as soon as I put him down. After a ton of research, I learned that he could sleep on his belly as long as he was strong enough to roll over, so I stopped worrying about it and embraced however he wanted to sleep.

From 4-5.5 months, Jack slept pretty well in the Pack n Play, waking up about 1-2 times a night. Greg would get up to check/change his diaper and then I'd nurse him back to sleep. Around 6 months, he started waking up 4-5 times a night. At first I thought it was just his growth spurt and development leap, and we tried to power through. But after 2 weeks of literally no sleep, I hit my limit. Every time he woke up, I would be awake for at least 30-40 minutes getting him and myself back to sleep. I didn't mind one wake up but the 3+ a night was too much. Greg and I felt foggy at work, started getting short with each other, having headaches that lasted all day, and just felt all around sleep deprived.

After much deliberation and research, we decided to move Jack into his crib in the nursery and start sleep training. I cannot bear to hear my baby cry for any amount of time and really didn't want to do the cry-it-out method because I thought I wouldn't be able to handle it. I read about every sleep training technique in depth and we ended up doing the Ferber method. In short, we would put Jack down in his crib, drowsy but awake, and check in every 5-10 minutes to help calm him down. We only patted and shushed him, never picked him up out of the crib or nursed him to sleep, and tried to limit our time in the room to about one minute.


We made sure his room was ready: blackout curtains, monitor camera set up, and the Amazon Echo queued up to play "thunderstorms sounds." On the first night, we did our nightly routine - bath, book, boob, bed. He fell asleep nursing but woke up crying instantly when I placed him in the crib. I said goodnight, walked out of the room and closed the door. We turned on the monitor and watched the clock. It was absolutely heartbreaking listening to my baby cry. I didn't want him to feel scared - he was in a new environment and for the first time in his life, we weren't tending to his needs immediately. After a half hour of crying and checking on him, part of me started questioning if we were doing the right thing. But then I remembered how exhausted we both felt and decided we need to be consistent and give it a fair shot for a week straight.

Greg and I took turns checking in, but Jack seemed to get more upset when I went into his room to rub his back and offer his pacifier because I wasn't picking him up to rock or nurse him to sleep. The first hour was torture. But after about 30 minutes, he started taking breaks in his crying, and we extended our check in time. The breaks started getting longer and closer together, until he fell asleep. He only slept for 45 minutes and woke up again crying. It was my turn to go in so I softly stroked the back of his head and shushed him for about a minute. Within 15 minutes, he was sound asleep. 4 hours later, he was up again. I knew he was probably hungry, and I was beating myself up but held strong in not nursing him. It took another hour until he fell back asleep but his crying time was shorter and we checked on him less often as it seemed to get him more worked up. He slept for another almost 3 hours and woke up so happy and smiley in the morning. I was nervous that he was going to hold a grudge and be mad at us, but he was so sweet! I went in to get him and joyfully said, "Goooood Moooorning!" I picked him up right away and he nuzzled right in and we snuggled for a couple minutes before opening the curtains and nursing him.


The second night went amazing! We fed him a little organic oatmeal with his solids (carrots that night) to fill him up a bit more. We did our routine again (bath, book, boob, bed) and he fell asleep nursing. He woke up when I laid him down but I left the room. He cried for about one minute, and within 10 minutes he was out. He slept for 7 hours straight! Mom & Dad finally got some real sleep - it was glorious! He woke up crying at 2am and we both checked on him once in the 45 minutes it took for him to fall back asleep. After 4 hours of sleep, he woke up in the morning so cheerful! I made the morning a big deal again and fed him a few minutes after being awake to kind of delay the gratification of breakfast.

Night 3 went great  - he fell asleep on his own in 20 minutes and slept 8.5 hours. He woke up one time but put himself back to sleep within 5 minutes, without us checking on him. By Night 4, he was a pro! He was sound asleep in under 5 minutes and slept over 11 hours! It's been about a week and a half since we started sleep training and he's been doing really well. He seems to love his crib and he understands that we won't pick him up until morning. We've had to check on him once or twice in the middle of the night when he wakes but he always gets himself back to sleep.

I'm sure there will be setbacks in the future (teething pain, sickness, etc.) but Greg and I are so happy we made the decision to sleep train. As hard as the first two nights were, it was so worth it. The whole family is sleeping better, and Jack's development has increased greatly. He was not behind on any milestones but he's getting stronger and more mobile everyday.  I read that babies are unable to self-soothe until 4-6 months, and I think we chose the perfect time for Jack since he took to it so well. He went from only being able to fall asleep from rocking or nursing, to falling asleep on his own within 3 days. For anyone considering sleep training, I highly recommend finding a technique that suits you and your child, and sticking to it.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My First Mother’s Day

{new ink commemorating the day I became this boy's mama}

It’s so surreal to be writing this post. Mother’s Day has always been important to me, as I have tried to make it special for my mom, but to celebrate myself this year is truly amazing. This time last year, I was newly-pregnant (only our parents knew!) and today I have a 5-month old baby boy. I feel so honored to now hold the coveted title of Jack's Mom.

I have a newfound respect for my own mom since becoming a mother myself. My mom is the most selfless person I have ever met. As a mother, grandmother, wife, friend, and nurse, she puts everyone's needs before hers, sacrificing without hesitation. She loves fiercely and her generosity knows no bounds. I strive to become half the woman she is, and am grateful that I have the most beautiful example of the mother I want to be. Seeing my mom with my son brings me so much joy. I'm glad we live so close and Jack has a wonderful relationship with his Nana and Poppy.

{11 days new, snuggling with Nana}

Becoming a mother has been something I’ve dreamed of, and it has been better than I could have ever imagined. The moment Jack was born, my heart instantly grew and gained a love I never knew existed. I look at him and cry happy tears knowing how blessed Greg and I are to have created life. Watching him grow, learn, and become his own little person is the most rewarding feeling.

This sweet boy has already taught me so much in such a short period of time. I’m learning to be more present and embrace the moment - good or bad because this too shall pass. There are tough days - the growth spurt fussiness, long sleepless nights, nursing around the clock, and feeling like I'm failing at times. But then the next phase comes full of smiles, giggles, cuddles and coos, and everything is worth it. I’m going to blink and have a toddler running around so I want to enjoy the hour-long naps with him on my chest while I can.

{candid capture by my best friend when Jack was 1 week old}

 I’m learning to trust myself and my gut-instinct. I’ve read and researched practically every newborn parenting topic in the last year and half but now that I’m in real life situations, I’ve handled things differently than how I initially thought I would. I’m learning that saying “no” is okay. I’ve always been a people-pleaser but now sometimes I have to turn down a request in order to do what is best for my son. As his mother, I am his provider and protector and I put his health, safety and comfort above everything else.

I'm learning patience. Looking at the world through my son's eyes has made me embrace slowing down a bit. The grocery store will still be there after he's done exploring the flowers by our front gate. I'm learning that there is beauty in the process, not only perfection. I'm Type A and a perfectionist in every facet of my life but he is teaching me that the messy moments lead to just as many laughs. Like when Greg and I took Jack to his first doctor's appointment and we forgot the diaper bag at home - he somehow went through 3 diapers in one hour at the pediatrician's office. Rookie mistake!

{mastering the mirror selfie}

I’m learning to love my body. As someone that has struggled with a past eating disorder and body image issues, pregnancy and giving birth has made me look at my body differently. It has created life, grown a human and was Jack’s first home. I’ve come to accept that my hips may always be a little wider than they were pre-baby and I may always have extra skin on my tummy from carrying my son for 10 months, but I love my body even more now because of the gift it has given me.

One of my favorite quotes I’ve read about motherhood is, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body." It rings so true for me - whether I'm at work, out on a date with Greg, or finally getting a moment to take a shower in peace, my head and my heart are always with Jack. When we're apart, it feels as though a limb is missing. But when we reunite and he flashes me that gummy little grin, I melt and fall even deeper in love with him.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms and mother-figures out there! And to the women in my life who may be struggling today, my heart goes out to you.

{4 month little nugget - I love his thigh rolls!}

Monday, March 4, 2019

Fourth Trimester Recap

{Jack post-bath at 10 weeks}

The first three months postpartum are referred to as the "Fourth Trimester" and it's an often overlooked time period for many women, but I wanted to share my experience and hopefully shed some light for my new-mom & mom-to-be friends.

Greg and I agreed to limit visitors for the first week, and only allowed our parents to come to the hospital when Jack was born. We wanted to fully enjoy that time just the three of us as a family, without feeling the need to entertain while I was recovering and we were learning about our new reality. Looking back, I wouldn't have done this any other way. After about a week at home, we were ready to have friends and family come by to meet him, and it was so nice to have one-on-one time with each guest, rather than the chaos of the hospital with multiple interruptions every hour.

{taking our little guy home from the hospital}

I was lucky enough to qualify for 12 weeks of maternity leave and decided to take the initial 8 weeks and then work part-time (3 days a week for 2.5 months) to drag out the last 4 weeks. This helped me transition well because leaving Jack is still so hard. My dad graciously offered to watch him two days a week so it’s a relief that family is taking good care of our boy. My parents’ condo is about 10 minutes from my office so I visit them on my lunch break to nurse him and get some mid-day snuggles.

Greg qualified for 6 weeks of paternity leave and chose to take the first 4 weeks and save the last 2 in case of an emergency throughout the rest of the year. Having him home with me for the first month was the biggest blessing. We were both in a new parent fog of sleepless nights but it was so special to spend that time to really bond with Jack, and each other. Watching Greg become a father has made me fall in love with him all over again. He is so hands-on with our son ( bonus: he changes every nighttime diaper!) and is beyond supportive of me. Knowing that I have the best teammate in this parenting game is the greatest feeling.

{Jack's first bottle of expressed milk}

Recovery was so much harder than I thought it was going to be. While I was pregnant, I created a kit full of postpartum care items but I was not prepared for how much pain I would be in. I had a healthy pregnancy and a relatively easy delivery (with a first-degree tear) but I felt like I had been hit my a semi truck for weeks! It wasn’t until a solid month postpartum that I started to feel “normal” again. I feel like postpartum care isn't talked about as much as it should be. Between the obvious physical changes and challenges mixed with the hormonal roller coaster, it's a struggle.  Thankfully I did not experience symptoms of postpartum depression but definitely had the “baby blues” for about two weeks. My best tip is to ask for help - no matter how big or small. Even the simplest task of Greg keeping my water bottle full was a life-saver.

After getting the 6-week all-clear from my doctor, I began going for walks around the neighborhood with Jack in the stroller. Getting some light exercise and fresh air did wonders for my mental state. I'm now back in my regular workout routine with weight-lifting which feels great! It's difficult to fit it into my ever-changing schedule, but squeezing in 15-20 minutes here and there adds up.

{Seminole fan at 6 days old}

One thing that I researched and felt so strongly about during pregnancy was breastfeeding. My approach was to give it my best shot for the first couple weeks and not beat myself up if it didn’t work for us, for whatever reason. I’m so grateful that I’ve had a wonderful breastfeeding experience so far. Jack latched on his first day of life and has been a great eater since (have you seen those cheeks?!) I enjoy it so much - the bond is indescribable. The middle of the night feedings are admittedly tougher but something about just the two of us being up together, snuggling and staring at each other is so special.  There’s nothing I love more than the moment he’s full and he slides off with his eyes closed, and the look of complete satisfaction on his sweet face. I could watch him sleep in my arms for the rest of my life.

Since I’ve returned to the office, I’ve had to pump which is a lot of work but I’ve gotten a routine down and it’s getting easier. We introduced the bottle when he was a month old, to ensure that my milk supply was established and that he was young enough to adapt. Jack doesn’t love the bottle while I’m at work but at least he’s being fed liquid gold. My goal is to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first 6 months. During my maternity leave I started a freezer stash, and it's comforting to know that we have a good reserve built up for those times when I’m unable to nurse.

{milk drunk}

Sleep has been the hardest part - shocker! This kid resists naps, with 20-40 minute catnaps being his sweet spot during the day. The old adage “sleep when the baby sleeps” is impossible to follow. I’m a notoriously bad napper - unless it happens organically and I dose off on accident, I spend the whole time laying down with my eyes closed thinking of the million other things I should be doing (dishes, laundry, workout, shower). After tracking his habits on a baby app, we are slowly getting a nighttime routine established. He tends to go to sleep around 6-8pm for a 5-8 hour stretch, which gives Greg and I some time to make dinner and actually eat together rather than in shifts. After that first stretch, he only sleeps for 2-3 hours at a time before he’s ready to eat again, but it’s progress.

Every cliché I’ve heard of parenting is so true. Some of the best advice I was given is that the days
are long but the years are short. The past three months have flown by and as much as I wish I could hit pause, I’m doing my best to truly treasure every day and stage. Watching Jack grow and his personality develop everyday is so rewarding. I am so lucky to be his mommy.
     
{chubby cheeks & chunky thighs}

Jack loves:
the boob buffet
sleeping on mama’s chest
bath time
naps in the stroller on outside walks
dancing to Jack Johnson with Mommy & Queen with Daddy

Jack dislikes:
red lights
tummy time
being swaddled

{little flirt}

A few things I never want to forget from this stage:

Our first Christmas morning as a family of three, eating cinnamon buns in our pajamas and staring at our little miracle.

His scent, which smells like sweet milk.

The sound of his coos and babbles.

How he fits perfectly in my arm when he nurses, with his head in the crook of my elbow and my hand over his little tush.

His gummy grin that lights up my life.

That feeling when his body melts into mine as he falls asleep in my arms when we dance.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Egg Muffins


Looking for something quick & healthy that I can eat one-handed (life with a baby), I turned to these egg muffins. With endless options of toppings, they are the perfect protein-packed snack. I whipped up a batch using what I had in the fridge: spinach, sundried tomatoes & mushrooms, and sprinkled with a little cheese. The final result was easy and delicious. I plan to make a tray each Sunday so I can have a couple every day throughout the week when the breastfeeding hunger strikes!

Ingredients
12 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
any toppings you want

Directions
{1}
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line muffin tins.
{2}
Whisk together a dozen eggs and add salt & pepper. Throw in any toppings you want (meat, veggies, herbs, etc) and stir to combine. Pour mixture into muffin tins, filling about halfway. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.
{3}
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack and store in the fridge. When ready to eat, simply microwave for about 30 seconds and enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Custom Baby Shower Invitations



Kicking off the New Year with a memorable craft project. I have teamed up with Basic Invite to create Jack's Birth Announcement, and absolutely love the way the final product turned out. There are so many different designs to choose from and I had a lot of fun playing around with the colors and font to make it unique. I saved some of the blue confetti from our gender reveal and made a personalized shadow box featuring his birth announcement with a photo from the hospital and all the details from his birthday, including the time he was born, his length and weight. It is such a special keepsake from the best day of my life, and is now hanging in the nursery so we can admire it for years to come.

Basic Invite also offers Holiday Cards, Thank You Cards, Business Cards, Graduation Announcements, and all things Wedding - Save the Dates, Bridal Shower Invitations, and even Programs. The templates on Basic Invite are completely customizable with over 180 color options to choose from and a variety of 40 different envelope options to really make your stationery stand out. The foil accent applique is so cool - you can add flat or raised foil in gold, silver and rose gold to any design.

So many of my friends are expecting babies in 2019 (yay!), and Basic Invite is the perfect place to order Customized Baby Shower Invites. They have everything from Baby Boy Shower Invites and Baby Girl Shower Invites, and some of my favorite themed invitations: Western Baby Shower Invitations NauticalSafari and Backyard BBQ - check out the BaByQ Shower we had for Jack here.

One of the best parts about Basic Invite is that you are able to request a sample before placing the order to see the quality of paper, photography and colors in person. Their address capturing service makes mailing out invitations a breeze by sharing a link on social media to obtain your family and friends' addresses, which then uploads to your account. With instant online previews and super fast shipping (5 business days!), it's so quick and easy to create your own custom stationery.

Basic Invite is offering my readers a 15% discount! Use code at checkout: 15FF51


 {Couples Shower Invitation}

{Foil Accents} 

{Baby Girl Shower}

{Wedding Suite}

{Graduation Announcement}

{Clear Business Cards}
countercounter