Posts tagged #sleep

Holidaying with Kids

"It always look fun in the photos"

"It always look fun in the photos"

My mum and I were just talking about the Google guy and his multi-billion dollar fortune.  We were discussing the impact that having that sort of money would have on your state of mind.  What sort of goals would you set yourself (you wouldn’t need to save for anything and you could get first class training in anything you wanted to learn)?  How much would it impact the things that money can’t buy…like love and contentment?  What we would spend it on?  Travel - that’s what I’d spend my money on.  Traveling the world and experiencing as many different cultures as possible.   I’ve got to admit, that’s probably the only thing I really wish we’d done more of before having kids.

Holidaying with kids is a whole different kettle of fish.  We took our first son to Bali with us – twice.   The first time went pretty well – the Balinese love little babies!  The hardest part was packing.  We survived on carry-on luggage whilst he required two full sized suitcases to accommodate nappies, formula, shelf stable foods, and about 35 spew rags and clothing changes. 

The second time we went back I was pregnant with my second child.  Looking back I do wonder if I was not actually temporarily insane at that point in time. Well, if I wasn’t then, I can tell you that by day three of the ‘holiday’ I certainly was. 

My son was (still is) a terrible sleeper, so we were up half the night, then from the crack of dawn trying to keep him quiet (impossible) in a hotel with adjoining walls.  Every outing had to be timed to coincide with his sleep times, which meant by the time everyone else woke up, we’d walk down the street only have to start heading back to the hotel again.  He was walking...Bali streets… need I say more?  He got really sick with a fever two nights in…resulting in ear syringing, strange medication, and one million rupiah less in our pocket.  Two days later he runs full pelt into the ocean and gets slammed by a wave landing us back in hospital.  The next day he tried his hand at concussion, slipping and slamming his head on the concrete floor.  He got eaten alive by mosquitoes despite every effort to protect him.  He wouldn’t eat the food, he wouldn’t sit still in the restaurants and whenever we tried to let him run free he’d take off full speed in the opposite direction.  It was a nightmare – made worse by the fact that I was painfully sober, pregnant, hot and (put honestly) FREAKING OUT!  We returned home to wind up in PMH a week later with our son being tested for malaria. 

At that point I vowed never to travel with children under the age of about 8 years old EVER again.

Consequently my husband and I haven’t been on a proper holiday together for a long time…so when the opportunity to travel over east for a few days presented itself recently, my husband and I were just a little excited!  Our wonderful family has offered to look after our babies for us so that we can get away for an extended weekend.   Imagine, dinners at restaurants – on our time (not at 5pm) and at our choice (not HJs or a child-friendly venue).  Imagine actually being able to eat your food whilst it’s hot, talk to each other (rather than the constant diatribe “sit still, just a minute, I’m just cutting it up for you, it’s a bit hot, it won’t be long, don’t touch that, sit down, put that back, leave your brother alone, get that out of your ear!”).  Imagine being out after dark, strolling down the street, contemplating a casino visit, or a late night cuppa.  Oh, and shopping, markets, tram rides, theatre shows, SLEEP-INS…yep, this is sounding like heaven!

I really wish I could be all Angelina Jolie and travel the universe with my boys…but I think it is just going to have to wait (until I win the lottery and can afford private jets and live in nannies) or at least until they are a little older!  In the meantime, let’s hope this getaway is a success so that we can get our little travel fix every once in a while!

What have your travel experiences been like?

Routine Disruptions

"I'll eat when I'm ready!"

"I'll eat when I'm ready!"

When I was pregnant, I had grand plans for my life with baby.  These plans were largely based on the stories and advice of other parents, both real and imagined (by ‘imagined’ I mean those gracing the cover of my Who magazine each week).  I envisioned café visits with friends - my baby happily sitting in its cradle as I chatted away.  Picnics in the park - pretty rug, cute kid giggling, me enjoying homemade sandwiches.  Family nights out - fish and chips on the beach, barefoot baby, sunset walks…

Seriously, was I on drugs??

Jokes aside, I knew that my life was going to change…a lot.  I knew that nights out would become rare and nights up with baby would become the norm.  I was well aware of the enormity of what I was doing and that significant lifestyle changes would result…but I was still clinging to this notion that if I could get my baby into a routine and get them ‘used to' going out and mixing with other people, then I would still be able to do all the things I’d imagined.  That is what everyone kept telling me – as if that was the simple key to successful parenting. 

When my baby came along I quickly realised that this was not going to be.  I didn’t get the ‘coffee and cake kid’, I got the ‘put a five point harness on me and I’ll find three ways to break out, two ways to launch myself out of the highchair, and one way to successfully end your café visit before your coffee is percolated’ child :).

So what did I do?  Well, what do most of us do at times like these?  We look for solutions, we look for ways to make things ‘work’ again.  We look for ways to fit square pegs into round holes.

That’s when I fell into the trap of trying to ‘fix’ something that wasn’t necessarily broken in the first place…

Just Google feeding or sleep times for newborn and you’ll be bombarded with information from ‘experts’ on how often your child should sleep, feed, poop, wig out…oh no, that’s right they don’t talk about the ‘wigging out’ ;).  There’s a world of information on getting your newborn into a routine, what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing – how doing everything you’re told to do will result in a baby that sleeps all night and a mum that can play all day.  Pressure much?

I remember scratching out my feeding times on whatever piece of paper I could find within arm’s reach, feeling inadequate because I couldn’t remember a simple thing like picking up the ‘mother’s journal’ someone had gifted me to neatly record each and every feeding time of my child for the first three months of their life.  I remember feeling so overwhelmed as I looked to other people for advice about how often to feed, when my baby should be sleeping, for how long, when their sleep cycles shift or decrease…because my child just didn’t FIT the recommended routine (at all). 

I was so consumed with being able to plan my days around my child because everyone else seemed to be able to lock in solid ‘catch-up’ plans with me whilst I was scratching my head, living from moment to moment, never knowing 30 minutes ahead of time when my baby (IF my baby) would sleep…that I lost sight of what was possibly much more important. 

I didn’t bring my baby into this world to fit neatly into my life.  I EXPECTED that my life would be turned upside-down.  I expected that I would need to make changes and adjust my lifestyle.  I guess I just didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to let go of the false expectations I had set up during pregnancy.  Everyone said it was just a matter of getting them into a routine, while nobody mentioned that some babies have feeding issues, sleep issues, digestion issues etc that make a ‘routine’ virtually impossible. 

I also hadn’t anticipated how much all the external pressures and expectations of others would impact me.  People assuming that because they could do it, I could too.  People that forgot what it was like to have a newborn and expected that you’d be able to turn up, on time and (how dare they expect it) fully-dressed.  I didn’t anticipate the pressures that are borne through COMPARING your child’s sleep/eat routines with others.  Amongst all the chasing, comparing, trying, wishing, questioning, needing, wanting, begging, recording, charting, researching…I lost sight of one key point.  My baby needed me.  They needed me to feed them when they  felt hungry.  Put them to bed when they  felt tired.  Change their nappy when they  felt wet. 

Children don’t come with a manual for a reason…they, like us (as parents) are all different.  Sometimes there’s peace in letting go and accepting things for what they are.  It’s ok to break the rules sometimes, and to go against the advice of experts, friends and family.  It’s ok to follow your gut or to do all the ‘bad’ things if it means you’ll get an extra bit of sleep, or a break from the crying.  These days don’t last forever, it will fall into place eventually and you will get your life back and some semblance of routine.  The time to get there just sometimes takes a little longer...but why cause yourself further stress by trying to do things that just aren’t working just because it is the best approach for the majority?

Blocking Out The Noise

"Sleep is for the weak!!"

"Sleep is for the weak!!"

Swaddling, controlled crying, bedtime routines, bottles, falling asleep at the breast, self-settling techniques, lavender oil, lullabies, static noise, co sleeping, sleep clinics, singing, midnight showers, block-out blinds, Chinese medicine, cranio-sacral osteopathy, chiropractic, gripe water, early introduction of solids, formula at bedtime…

We tried just about every technique under the sun to get our first born to sleep…yet nothing was successful.  He woke several times a night (hysterically as a rule of thumb) until around the age of three.  When he did sleep, he literally slept with his eyes partially open!  There are a number of factors that impeded our success, but when all is said and done – we just didn’t win the “Sleep Lottery” when our little boy came into this world.

Truth is, every child is different and what works for the ‘majority’ of children, may not work for your child.  Once I stopped focusing on what everyone else’s child was doing, and what everyone was telling me I should be doing, I felt an enormous amount of pressure lift.  Why couldn’t I feed my child to sleep?  Why couldn’t I rock him?  Why couldn’t I use a dummy?  In the grand scheme of things, is it really worth getting that caught up in what everyone else is doing?  After all, what is researched and supported today, may be debunked and rejected tomorrow anyway.

Learning to trust your gut is a very valuable life lesson.  Even when you think you’re running around clueless, if you stop still for long enough to listen to what your first instinct is in a situation, it will be the right one for YOU.  You really are equipped with all the necessary tools to be good at this mothering gig – it’s just all the noise coming from outside of you that keeps you from hearing what’s in your heart.  

Trust yourself – you are the expert on YOUR child and YOUR child is as individual as the techniques that are used to settle, sooth and support babies all over the world.

Zombie Mama

"Something ate my braaiiins..."

"Something ate my braaiiins..."

Sleep deprivation is a very effective torture technique – it “can cause impaired memory and cognitive functioning, decreased short term memory, speech impairment, hallucinations, psychosis, lowered immunity, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stress, anxiety and depression.” Source

I didn’t realise I was signing up to be tortured when I decided I wanted to become a mama! ;)

But that is what it is like – in my experience, it started at around 6 months pregnant (my reflux was terrible!)…and it’s only just now, four years on, that the torture is starting to subside.  Is it any wonder then that our tempers are short, our relationships are strained and our usually enthusiastic selves end up shelved somewhere amongst the spare buttons, odd socks and the ‘I-forget-what-these-are-fors”??

So how do we cope?  What can we do?  Well…don’t do what I did!!  If you’re offered the opportunity to sleep whilst someone minds your child – take it.  Dishes don’t clean themselves and clothes (though some of my kid’s clothes look like they could) don’t stand up and walk themselves to the washing machine, I hear you thinking.  I know, I know…there’s certain things that need to happen in order to keep life ticking along.

But, if you have this notion in your head that you need to be a domestic goddess as well as a mum to a newborn – LET IT GO!  Don’t set yourself impossible tasks just because you think everyone else is handling it so much better.  They may have a great sleeper, they may have a “nanny” or a “cleaner”, they may have a huge support network that you don’t even know about.  Grab the sleep where you can, and let the other stuff slide for a while.  What’s important in all this is you.  You can not shine, you can not succeed, you can not survive, you can not be the mum you so want to be – if you do not look after your own health as a priority.

Aside from the practical (and obvious, yet extremely hard to action) advice just to catch sleep where you can, there are a number of ways you can support your sleep deprived system.  Naturopath Tara Ross of Harmony Natural Medicine Clinic has been kind enough to offer her valuable advice to readers in a number of guest blogging articles that you can read here.