Breaking Bad Sleep Habits

As I rock both my babies until they’re drooling on my shoulder and completely dead weight, I reflect back to 20 minutes earlier when one was screaming uncontrollably after I’d already put him down for the night. I was starving and had just finished preparing my dinner plate so I rushed in and literally leaned over the bassinet and put my breast in his mouth until his eyes dropped shut. 

Hmmm, how do you break bad sleep habits?

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This topic was requested by a friend, and former colleague of mine, and I got to thinking how it’s definitely an area many moms struggle with (including myself!). It’s easy to create bad habits, but damn near impossible to break them. Yikes, I hear my baby fussing so…I’m looking at the clock…7:47, which means if he’s still fussing by 7:52 I can go in there). So, I guess my first piece of advice is DONT create bad habits. Easier said than done, huh? We’re all incredibly guilty!

Here’s a few really common bad habits I see that I encourage people to break and I have REFUSED to start from the very beginning.

  1. Projectors
  2. Mobiles
  3. CDs/Radio
  4. Fans
  5. Cosleeping
  6. Pacifiers

Oh sure, you saw the adorable stuffed hippo with the belly that projects rainbows on the ceiling at the baby store and the box said the word “sleep” on it so you thought, “Oh, I need that for my nursery to help my baby sleep”. The problem is that things like this suck and should be banned from the globe. An infant has enough trouble sleeping when there’s a brand new world to explore. They don’t need stimulating projectors with lights and shapes. Same goes for a mobile. Why would anyone want something spinning (unsafely I might add) over their face as they’re trying to sleep?

I’ll admit I’ve cranked up a lullaby on a music box at 2am to lull my boys into a trance a few times, but do not use CDs or radio to get your babies to sleep. It’s too stimulating and they will get used to the songs and the rhytm while sleeping and be unable to find their own rhythm and REM sleep.

Fans are just another above head stimulator, but also they dry out nasal passageways, which is primarily how infants breathe so…

Cosleeping by definition includes sleeping in the same room. I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to pulling baby into that fluffy, warm bed with you at 4am and nursing as you both conk into a coma. This is NOT safe and puts baby at risk for SIDS and you at risk for serious trauma and grief. If you’re going to lay in bed nursing your baby, be sure YOU don’t fall asleep and be sure all loose blankets and pillows are out of the way. I sleep with my babies in bed with me, but they’re in Snugglenests. They’ll be 2 months old on Monday and we’ll be transitioning into cribs asap.

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Pacifiers are great for soothing babies, but try not to let them fall asleep with it. If they’re in your arms and the pacifier gets loose in their lips because they’re nodding off, let it drop away and “disappear”. Keep rocking or jiggling baby to keep them drowsy, but don’t reengage them with the pacifier. It did it’s job and now it’s done. If they go to bed with it they may end up sucking in a light sleep instead of relaxing into a deep sleep.

Breaking the above habits should be easy. Turn off the fan, throw away the projector, and put the music player back in the closet. Now, there’s some other habits that are harder to break because there’s an emotional element.

  1. Rocking baby to sleep

I’ll admit this one is tough! First, ask yourself why you want to break this one. Are you doing it every night? Are you doing it before naps? Is it taking 30 minutes-an hour? Are you holding baby for half their nap? If you answered “yes” to any of those then you need to quit. Baby MUST learn to fall asleep on their own without assistance. When it’s naptime at my house I turn on their white noise machine, turn the lights out, put them in their Woombie and walk out. They go to sleep. I rock if one of them is drowsy and almost asleep, but the other is bright-eyed. This way I can keep them on the same schedule, but if they’re both drowsy…sianara. The best way to break this is tapering off. Try rocking for half the time…only until baby is drowsy, not fully asleep. If they wake up when you go to lay them down, that’s okay. Give them a kiss or a pacifier and walk out. It’s okay to let them fuss a little before you intervene and try again. Then, try dropping the rock altogether during naps and save rocking for bedtime, or better yet, morning love!

2. Picking up baby as soon as they cry

Believe it or not, your baby might not be awake when they cry. They might be transitioning sleep cycles, struggling with gas, or maybe they farted in their sleep and scared themselves, lol. Don’t enter the room just because you heard a whimper or a yelp. Wait a few minutes. If the “baby goat” cry escalates, then you can intervene, but try soothing your baby IN their crib before picking them up.

3. Feeding all night long

Just stop. Seriously just stop. If your baby is a decent weight (and age), they should be able to go longer stretches at night without food. My boys started sleeping 5-6 hour stretches around 6 weeks, but some nights they only go 4 hours in between feeds. That’s ok, but not really what I want. If they wake up before it’s time to eat I try to soothe them with a pacifier or shhhing until it’s been long enough. I’m stretching them out to 4.5hrs between eating on those nights they wake up at the 4 hour mark and after a few weeks of that I’ll try to stretch out to 5 hrs. Eventually the nighttime wakings drop away. If your pediatrician is happy with their weight gain and your milk supply is strong (or you’re formula feeding), this shouldn’t be a problem.

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Be aware of things like teething and sickness. It can be really easy to slip into a bad routine during times like this when baby needs you all night long. do your best to provide the late night comforting, nursing, and snuggles while they’re struggling, but be careful not to allow these things to become the norm. Also, when traveling it’s important to stick to a routine.

Create “sleepy” triggers you can stick with. For us, it’s white noise, lights off, swaddled tight in a Woombie.

Night night,

That Girl

My Non-negotiables as a Parent

Being a Parenting Specialist, I’ve read umpteen million books on parenting and I’m a huge advocate for the Love & Logic curriculum; however, my personal approach falls in line with the way the French parent. The French don’t claim to discipline so much as guide. They believe in allowing kids to just be kids within the “cadre” or framework of a few non negotiables. When a child behaves outside the framework there are consequences, not punishment.

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The cadre, aka framework, are the boundaries for which the child lives. They are raised knowing what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and they live within those boundaries, rarely testing them because they don’t really need to. They have a ton of freedom otherwise.

The more control you give away, the more you keep. When children hear “no” more than “yes” and there’s a hard/fast rule applied to every area of their lives, you’re bound to get temper tantrums and angst because it’s human nature to want to be in control of our own lives. So, raise your children within a framework you’ve established and allow them to make their own choices within that frame.

My non negotiables (framework)

  1. Healthy eating

I DESPISE statements like, “that’s part of being a kid” and “he’s a growing boy, let him eat what he wants”. Why is gorging on chocolate donuts and pringles a “part of childhood”? Who says a “growing boy” should grow up drinking sodas and eating double cheeseburgers at the age of 7? Children are born clean, why dirty up their bodies with junk when you can help them reach their full physical potental fueled by fruits, vegetables, protein, calcium, and water?

2. Manners

It shouldn’t be rare for a child to use manners; it should be the norm. I may, or may not, choose to discipline my child for getting into a fight at school, but you’d better believe they’ll get the stink eye when I overhear them saying “what” or “yeah” to an adult. Hell no! There better be a “yes ma’am”, “no ma’am”, “please”, or “thank you” coming out of their mouths when speaking with adults. They will not smack, slouch, roll their eyes, use potty humor in public, or be disrespectful in any other way without being reprimanded.

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3. Screen time

I’ve seen the negative affects of introducing screen time via video games, tv, and ipads way too early. They get addicted, plain and simple. I’ve taught in classrooms where children look at you like you’re growing horns when you hand them a dictionary because they’ve only searched things on google. I’ve dealt with a teenager who grew up playing video games every day all day and can’t hold a conversation because he has no real life experiences. I want my boys to be raised outside! Phones will not be brought to the dinner table (ahem…dad?), ipads will be used for road trips or school projects and TV will be limited to 1-2 programs a day and only after other activities and homework. In fact, I don’t plan on introducing TV at all until years down the road.

4. Athletics

I realize not all children are athletic. My boys have the genetics to be athletic, but they might not be superstars on the field. This doesn’t mean they won’t still participate. From an early age, I plan on introducing them to the world of sports because it’s not about the performance on the field. It’s about mentorship, participation, teamwork, effort, commitment, friendship, sportsmanship, and goal setting. I want them to know what it feels like to get out of their comfort zone and try something hard. It may be football, basketball, or track, but it could also be BMX riding or skateboarding…I don’t really care. That choice is up to them, but they will be a part of something.

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5. Faith

These are not in order of priority; faith would be at the top of the list. I was raised in the church of Christ and I plan on raising my children to know Christ, too. We will go to church on Sundays, be active members of the congregations, and I can hardly wait for them to be old enough for church camp in the summers.

6. Chores

Studies show that children who have responsibilities at home do better in school. The reason being they’re not living like an honored guest at home buying into the mentality of “someone else will do it”. With chores they learn if it needs to be done, they need to get it done. They have to make contributions to the family just like everyone else. Their rooms are clean and organized, their bathrooms kept nice, and they help with the cooking, the trash, and the laundry.

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If you’re thinking, “how does this help you avoid power struggles?” Well, these are the expectations that are set. These are the guidelines. This is the frame. Outside of these things they get to make their own choices. I won’t be behind them barking orders and setting limits all day over little mundane things. They get to live their lifes freely, be themselves, be loud, be silly, get dirty…but they must show good manners, live like a Christian, keep their spaces tidy, and nourish their bodies. Beyond that I  want them to take intiative, be creative, be curious, explore…I just want to love them for who they are and show them they’re valued!

That Girl

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Twin Life: My Best Decisions in the Early Days

I’m six weeks into motherhood (twin boys) and I keep hearing phrases like, “how are you out and about already?” or “I’m struggling with one, but you have two” and “you’re so lucky they’re so easy”. Ha! Twin moms will never say they have anything easy and my babies are not “easy” babies. I’m working my ass off for normalcy and to keep them calm and happy. I’ll share with you my best decisions thus far as a twin mom to keep things rolling smoothly. 

  1. Get them (and keep them) on the same schedule

This is, by far, THE most important thing a twin mom can do. When my boys were born, one was in the NICU and one was with me in the mother/baby suite. I wasn’t producing enough milk for two since I wasn’t nursing both so one had to be on formula. I called the NICU immediately and asked what time baby A would be fed each day. Then, I made sure to nurse baby B at that same time each day. Once we got home I nursed them at the same time every time. If one wakes up from a nap, or at night, before the other, I wake the other one up. If one has a short nap, the other will too. I feed, bathe, change and swaddle at the same time.

2. Breastfeed

Nursing one baby is taxing. Nursing two babies is literally twice as taxing; however, it’s also twice the savings financially, twice the calorie burn, and twice the health benefits. Think of how much money I’d burn through on formula trying to feed two growing boys! Can you imagine two screaming babies while you’re measuring formula for two bottles, pouring water for two bottles, waiting to heat two bottles? I figure I can either hunch over two babies with bottles or hunch over two babies with breasts. Either way, two babies need to be fed every three hours and this way I’m giving them the right amount of protein, carbs, fats, and nutrition with the benefit of antibodies and immunity boosters to fight off infections.

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3. Sleep routines

Immediately following their birth, whilst still in the hospital, I created “sleep triggers” I planned on using at home. I turn on the lavendar essential oil diffuser, lights out, white noise machine on. They slept almost 24/7 at first, but soon we began to establish Eat. Play. Sleep routine meaning I nurse them when they wake up and then we play before each nap. At first they could only stay awake about 45 minutes at a time, then about an hour, then 1.5 hr and now they last between 1.5hr to 2hr in between naps. I’m a clock watcher and I put them down as soon as it’s time AND they’re showing me sleepy cues. I swaddle them in their Woombie, turn on the diffuser and white noise machine and lay them down drowsy, but still awake. They put themselves to sleep within a few minutes. Twin moms, beware of rocking them to sleep or holding them while they sleep. They will keep getting bigger and this is not feasible forever. They’ll get used to being held while sleeping and that’s a hard habit to break.

4. Cloth diapering

This is probably my favorite choice and everone thought I was nuts. Originally I chose cloth diapers to save my babies from the nasty chemicals and toxins in disposables, but after learning that disposable diapers cost an average of 25 cents each I realized I’d be spending almost $5-7 a day on diapers! That’s iterally throwing away $150-200 a month ($2000 or more a year?). And cloth diapers are so much more convenient because newborns grow fast. I can’t imagine stockpiling a certain size of diapers just for them to outgrow them a week later. Or, running out in the middle of the night because we’ve run out of diapers due to unexpected blow outs.

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5. Multitasking

Friends ask me how I get anything done and my only answer is that I’ve become a seriously skilled multi-tasker. I pump breastmilk while I use the restroom, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and put on my makeup after a morning feed (as long as the boys are content on their playmat). I do lunges and squats while filling up my water bottle, waiting on a frozen dinner to heat up, and calming a fussy baby. I do my arm workout for about 5 minutes at the beginning of each nap during the day and I take care of emails from my phone on an afternoon walk. There’s no such thing as down time when you’ve got twins.

6. Snugglenests (co-sleeping)

It’s ridiculous to expect your spouse to get up with you at night when he’s got to work the next day. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s just silly. Why should both parents be zombies? My husband sleeps in the guestroom right now and the twins sleep in the bed next to me. I line them up vertically down the center of the bed in their Snugglenests. I keep my nursing pillow at arms reach as well. When they wake up to feed, I pull them out of the nests. pull my pillow over my tummy and put each baby on the breast one at a time. Then I change them, reswaddle, and lay them back down. No muss, no fuss, no wasted time or energy feeling my way to the nursery in the dark. Once they start sleeping longer stretches at night I’ll move them into their cribs and invite my husband back to bed : )

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7. Uppababy Vista and Mesa

I made an impulse purchase before the babies were born for some crappy secondhand carseats. They worked when we left the hospital only, but by the time we got in the car again the boys were too big and I had to rethread the straps to resize. It was a nightmare! Both babies screamed frantically as I attempted to get the fit right and they still didn’t feel secure. I immediately went to Buy Buy Baby and purchased two Mesa carseats by Uppababy. They’re lightweight, adjustable with NO rethreading, have cooler fabric, side impact protection, support their head and neck, have sun canopies AND snap into the Vista, which I also purchased. At first we used the bassinet that comes with, but now I use the carseats as the stroller seats and it’s SO easy. Just snap and go!

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8. Mamaroo

It’s damn near impossible to calm two fussy babies at the same time safely and efficiently. Occasionally I can scoop them up at the same time and get to a rocking chair, but if one starts squirming or one wants a pacifier, I really need the other hand. In comes the Mamaroo! I have two of these godsends and use them ’round the clock. If both babies are fussy, I swaddle one at a time and place them in the mammaroo. Sometimes I have to bounce back and forth between the two of them until they calm, but they typically calm within minutes in these contraptions and will often fall asleep in them as well. Bonus.

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9. Water & intentional snacking

Twin moms who are nursing burn an average of 1000-1500 extra calories per day so it would be easy to just gorge on junk food you know you’re going to burn off. I; however, have tried to be intentional about what I eat from the beginning. Stick to high fat, high protein, high grain, and high nutrient foods to maintain energy, lose unwanted baby weight and increase milk supply. I eat alot of fruit, salads, deli meat on wheat bread, peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, nuts, fish, and avocado. Drinking a gallon of water a day is also important to keeping supply going strong, decrease swelling, and flush out postpartum toxins.

10. Don’t be skerred

Don’t be skerred to leave the house! Twins are nuts and unpredictable, but so are babies and so is life. You’ve just got to be as prepared as possible, get out there and go. I try to live my life the same way I did before, only now I’ve got babies in tow. Want to go to a winery? Cool, let me pack some blankets and sunshade. Want to meet for lunch? Meet me at my car and carry in a carseat. Want to go out Friday night? I’ll meet you after 7:00pm so I can put the boys down for bed myself.

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PS: Try not to be up in their faces all the time or be worried when they’re wide awake but “alone”. Give them some space to just be for a while and let them entertain themselves. Being awake is super stimulating for a newborn. They don’t need much else right now.

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If you’re a new twin mom and people are telling you, “it gets easier”, that’s not true. It doesn’t get easier, but you will get better at it. Taking care of twins has a major learning curve. My boys are my fifth set of twins to care for after I was a twin nanny for several years. I knew what I needed to do before they were even born. So, take my advice and apply what you can. You’ll soon find yourself a master twin mom!

Stay gold, 

That Girl