Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's a Momma Gotta Do To Get Some SLEEP?

This is the question I ask myself each morning as the alarm clock blares in my face and I open my eyes feeling like I have been asleep for mere minutes. I typically have a baby in/on my face, while my husband enjoys her adorable little toes jammed into his rib-cage. Yes, you are picturing it correctly-we look like a capital "H"; we are sleeping with one eye open so as not to tumble to our death over the edge of the bed, while Little Miss has the entire middle of a Queen-sized bed to her 22 pound self. I know.... you aren't supposed to sleep with a baby in your bed and yadda yadda, but the one night you get 3 extra minutes of sleep because you simply laid the baby next to you in bed, is the beginning of the end. You tell yourself that it was just this one time, that it won't happen again, that you haven't created a monster....But deep down, you are only fooling yourself. 

It wasn't always this way for us. Believe it or not, Little Miss was once a 2-,3-,4- and 5-month old who slept 10-12 hours EVERY single night (don't hate me, read on). Then, around 6 months, she stopped. I figured with her rapidly developing brain and new interactions with the world around her, she would experience a few regressions with sleep here and there, but never once did I figure she would stop her glorious sleep pattern indefinitely. No joke, she has MAYBE slept through the night without waking a handful of times since she was 6 months old, and she is going to be one in less than 2 weeks. My son, on the other hand, began sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old, and we haven't had a problem since...he is now 7 (you can hate me for this one). Needless to say, my latest review campaign came at, seemingly, the most appropriate time (although it would've been even more phenomenal 6 months ago): The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years by Dr. Harvey Karp.

My new book!

In our constant attempt to do what is best for our children, we oftentimes turn to books by professionals who  have worked with these little people on a larger scale. They can track trends and keep up on the current research, and we trust their opinions because, lets face it, we barely have time to shower everyday, let alone perform research and keep track of hundreds, and thousands of children. I guess that is why they are the doctors, and luckily, they are generous enough to share their findings and professional opinions with us. One such doctor is Dr. Harvey Karp (pictured below). He is the author of "The Happiest Baby" books, DVDs and products (you can access information on the entire collection here). If you are a parent, or do anything that has to do with young children, you most likely have heard of him unless, of course, you live under a rock.
Dr. Harvey Karp
Some key information provided in his new paperback, include:
  • How to encourage better (and longer) sleep - even for brand new babies
  • The magic of white noise, and which kind works best (low, rumbling)
  • The 5 S's of turning on the "calming reflex"
  • Everything you need to know about swaddling
  • "Powering down" at night - limiting the use of electronics/bright lights and over stimulation
  • Non-stressful tips and tricks for getting your little angel(s) to sleep, minus the meltdown

Dream come true, right? Chances are, if you have been missing out on sleep, you are wondering how to get your hands on this little gem too (the answer? right here). 

I love that this book is easy to navigate, with key points presented at the beginning, helpful tips scattered within, and a "crib notes" review section at the conclusion of each chapter. This makes it easy to start and refer back to the point in the book that is most relevant to you, your child, and your their crazy sleep habits. At the conclusion of each section (birth-3 months, 3 months-12 months and 1-5 years) there is a decent sized Q&A section too! On top of that, the first chapter focuses on the science of sleep, and more importantly, baby sleep because, yes, it differs from our own, and "sleeping like a baby" is actually NOT synonymous with 8+ hours of sleep at night. Plus, trying to mend the sleep issues in your home without understanding how a baby sleeps is like trying to build a house without the blueprints; bound to end in disaster.  


Sometimes parents, grandparents, friends and even strangers bombard us with their unwarranted opinions, and follow-up with "...I did that with my kids and look, they are still alive and doing fine" (which is always up for interpretation). I was pleased to find several "myth-buster" sections in this book which address some of these commonly held opinions. One myth: Do not wake a sleeping baby. I always thought that was such a big no-no, and come to find out, lightly arousing an infant before laying them to sleep encourages their ability to self-soothe. 

I have to say, after reading the first part of this book (which focuses on babies aged birth to 3 months), I wished I could turn back the hands of time and start healthy sleep habits the right way, from the get-go. Thankfully, there are other sections of the book that focus on older babies through young kids (up to age 5), the issues that can arise at those ages, and some easy, painless solutions. 

I, unfortunately, fall into the category of the parent that has accidentally made their child dependent on them to fall asleep. Do we have a bed-time routine? Absolutely! It involves her and I and lots of cuddling, and it is so rock solid that she will not even allow another person to put her to sleep at night. She has stayed up WAY past her usual bedtime a time or two awaiting my arrival home and our routine to take place. While I never intended for this to happen, I am almost positive that I am one of her sleep cues. I have already applied the advice from Dr. Karp to power down and introduce white noise and a lovey into our nighttime routine. I'm hoping that eventually (they say it takes 21 days to form a habit) these will serve as new cues that dreamland is just around the corner. So far, it has cut down the time it takes her to fall asleep by about 15 minutes, and with minimal effort on my part-Success! I look forward to tweaking our sleep-time routine with my new set of tools to help Little Miss become a confident, healthy, independent sleeper.

If you are having sleep issues with your child, or are hoping to create healthy sleep habits in your new (or older) baby, I highly recommend getting your hands on this book! It is very quick to read, easy to understand, and as I said before, you can skip around to get exactly what you need out of it. Again, you can learn more about this book and purchase your very own copy here. I give this book a 10 out of 10!

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Disclosure: I am participating in a book review campaign with One2One Network. I received this book from Harper Collins for the purposes of reviewing it. I have not received compensation. My participation in the campaign enters me into a drawing for a gift card. All opinions stated are my own.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mommas, Unite!

I am a Mom. I am not only a Mom, I am not just a Mom, and I definitely am not the Mom, but I am a Mom. It is a title I use to describe myself more than I even notice. That being said, I couldn't even begin to define what a "Mom" is. I'm not sure whether it is the fact that there are too many characteristics that can be used to describe a Mom, or if it is because it varies from culture to culture, family to family and mother to mother. Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of mother in the dictionary. I knew the definition would be nothing more than disturbingly inaccurate and disappointing (just to further my belief that defining the word Mom is too heinous a task):

          moth-er n. 1. female parent 2. that which gives rise to something else 3. head of a female 
religious community -v. 4. treat as mother does 5. give birth to
Taken from The American Century Dictionary

There is FAR more to being a mother than that. By no means do each of these five descriptions even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be a mother. (I will disclose that this dictionary looks like it is 584 years old, so if you find a more recent edition, I would be interested to see if there is any evolution of  the word mother. Or I could look it up on-line...)

For me, being a mother is the most natural thing in the world. It is the one thing that I was certain I would do when I "grew-up", and probably the only life goal I have followed through with. When you decide to become a parent (and my "decision" at 19 was a far cry from easy), you take on the responsibility of another human being (it sounds less epic than it truly is). Your life immediately changes, and from that point forward, you will NEVER be the same. Only when your first child is born and placed into your arms, can you begin to see the tip of the iceberg that is parenthood. It is an emotionally and physically overwhelming experience; one of those life moments that is forever stored in your memory, and marks the beginning of your new life.

This new life is miraculous, it's exciting, it is terrifying, and it is forever-changing. I remember, after my son was born, having a difficult time remembering what my life was like pre-child. He became such a part of our existence that it felt like he had always been there. I'd like to think that he was such a joy we just didn't care what life was like before him, but in reality, there is probably some adaptation-based, biological explanation as to why we don't truly remember what it is like to only have to be responsible for one person-our self. Add a baby to the mix, and instantly you are concerned about things that would've never mattered to you in your previous life; the temperature setting on the hot water tank, the colonies of germs on the cart at the grocery store, the anatomy of baby poop, the growing trend of Autism....The list goes on and on. Basically, you begin to worry about EVERYTHING. You question your capability of taking on this role EVERYDAY. And, worst of all, you compare yourself to EVERY other mother on the face of the Earth.  

It's true, we all do it. It may have been another mother who had her brood of perfectly behaving little angels at the mall while you had one kid kicking and screaming for a tenth ride on the merry-go-round and the other picking their nose and eating it. Or, you are having a fantastic day on the motherhood front and you witness a child behaving questionably and consequently, a mother who loses control. There is no RIGHT or WRONG to parenting (aside from the obvious here-I'm not referring to child abuse and neglect); there is no instruction manual, no one-size-fits-all guide to children. We learn, as parents, what it is our children need from us, and what we can, in turn, provide for them. No two children are the same, and no individual approach works with every child. There will always be bad days, and when they arise, you WILL be in a crowd full of perfectly behaving children, and glowing parents.  I've been in this situation before, and it is nothing short of embarrassing. You question your parenting abilities, you stress out, you replay the situation, and the judgmental stares over and over in your head-you become your own worst enemy.

Does it have to be this way, though? Are we not entitled to bad days, moments of weakness and imperfection? Shouldn't we band together as mothers and give each other a break? For all we know, the mom pulling her hair out could be a single mother, working her tail off to provide for her children who just recently experienced the loss of her most supportive family member. And to all of the onlookers on your less-than-impressive parenting moments, perhaps you, yourself are having the worst day of your existence. Do you want to be judged based on your worst ever performance? Of course not, and chances are, neither do they. I'm not saying we need to go out and offer our help to every mother out there who looks as though they need a break, but you would be surprised at the impact of a compassionate, nonjudgmental nod of the head and a smile. Sometimes just knowing that someone else has experienced a similar level of mortification can lessen our own self-doubt and depreciation. There is no woman out there (in her right mind) who will tell you that she is the best mother in the world, however, it is important to note that we, as Moms, are experts on our own children. We know them better than anyone else, and we don't need some else's unwarranted opinions and parenting tips in our lowest moments.

In honoring my belief that we need to be more supportive and less judgmental of one another, I took the StrongMoms® Empowerment pledge here (and you should too)! Whether we breastfeed or formula feed, vaccinate or not vaccinate, return to work or stay at home, soothe to sleep or cry-it-out, spank or use time-out, introduce solids early or wait....we do not make these decisions on a whim. They are oftentimes well researched and thought-out choices we make for our children based on our own personal circumstances. While we are all entitled to an opinion on the issues that arise throughout the journey of parenthood, we don't have the expertise (no matter how many kids you have raised) to judge another person's choices they have made for their family. We, as Moms (and Dads too!), must work together-as the proverb goes, "it takes a village to raise a child".

Take the StrongMoms Empowerment PledgeTake the StrongMoms Empowerment PledgeTake the StrongMoms Empowerment Pledge

Disclosure: I am participating in a blog campaign with One2One Network. I have not received compensation. All opinions are my own.