The evolution of bedtime

I’m back!..for a bit..then I may disappear again, probably. That’s as much consistency as I can promise 😉 Busy work and home schedules aside, I don’t often have anything that interesting to post so I’d rather not write at all.

Anyway, last night, as I was leaving Frances’ room after putting her to sleep, it hit me how much our bedtime routine, as well as our night sleep, has changed [evolved?] over the past couple of years so I thought I’d write about that.

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First 3/6 months – The utter blur 

I still have painful memories of evenings spent bouncing a screaming baby from 6 to 8/9pm [purple hour(s) anyone??] and dreading the moment that my husband would text me saying that he was going to be late from work. That wasn’t bedtime, it was pure survival.

Sleep was [very] broken but I somehow remember the night feeds [and night-time online shopping!] quite romantically. The downside was to have to hold Frances upright for half an hour on end because of her bad reflux.

6 months to 1 year old – The sleep training phase

6 months was a turning point for many things, including transferring Frances into the cot in her bedroom. By that point, we had managed to create a bit of a bedtime routine involving a nice relaxing bath and quiet play and she was falling asleep at the breast [and at the bottle from 10 months onwards] around 7pm and I would then put her in her cot.

She was still waking up 2/3 times a night but it wasn’t even hunger anymore. She was starting at 11pm and on/off throughout the night, so our levels of exhaustion were an all-time high. Most of the time she wouldn’t go back in her cot or she would wake up the moment we’d move towards the door so we had to keep her in bed with us, raised on a foam pillow, and my husband would, more often than not, sleep in the guest bed, as he was too scared of rolling over her in his sleep.

After reading anything we could find on sleep training, methods and pros + cons, we set our mind on controlled crying [don’t judge us!]. Ah, the hope! Ah, the guilt!

It did work pretty well for us initially, although towards the one year mark she started waking up again during the night and we resorted back to bringing her into our bed in the middle of the night.

1 to 2 years old – The co-sleeping phase

A couple of months after Frances turned one, we went on holiday and had to share our room with her again. She really didn’t like the travel cot, which was only a few feet away from our bed, and after 2 nights of transferring her from there into our bed, we just put her in the big bed from the get go. And we made a very important discovery..we could sleep all night (ish) without having to even get up!

Needless to say, once we got back home we carried on with that routine. Just imagine how many times I heard the phrase “you’re making a rod for your own back”! Our nights weren’t entirely peaceful and uninterrupted, especially once Frances started pinching my eyelids for comfort (!). Even without that painful practice, we’d still be woken up by her asking for water twice a night. On the flip side, we didn’t have to do our zombie walk at any point in the night to go pick her up and take her into bed.

Bedtime was still around 7pm, or even earlier on very busy days at nursery, and she was, more often than not, falling asleep at the bottle or she would ask to be walked to sleep.

2 years old – Present – The big independent girl phase

On the eve of her second birthday, just a few months ago, we decided to let Frances sleep in her cot. On and off for a few weeks before, she’d been asking to be put into her bed once half-asleep and then we’d still move her into the big bed once completely asleep.

Leading up to it, we bought a bed guardrail  and on the night before her second birthday we put her down after she fell asleep at the bottle and didn’t transfer her into our bed. That first night she woke up around 3am and at that point I went to pick her up and brought her in bed with us. I didn’t want to go back to the old ways when she’d fall asleep in her bed and we’d then bring her in bed with us every night so over the next few days, I let her play in her bed with the guardrail folded down and that taught her how to get on and off the bed herself. That did the trick and since then we’ve had a good balance of sleep through the night and middle of the night wakings when she’s walked into our bed herself.

The bedtime routine has also changed quite a bit. First of all, she now goes to bed a bit later, between 8 and 8.3opm, unless she’s completely knackered after nursery. Whilst before she’d have her milk whilst sitting on my lap and then walk into bed, now she wants to sit in bed with a pillow propped up behind her back and she has her bottle whilst I read a story. More often than not, she just rolls over and falls asleep as soon as she’s drunk all the milk but in the past couple of weeks, she’s wanted me to ‘lie down’ next to her [basically just my head !] when she finishes the bottle and keeps me in a headlock until her body goes all floppy and I can escape!

Who knows what’s next in the magical world of bedtime..One thing I know is that my little girl is getting more and more independent every day and that’s reflecting in all aspects of her life. I used to spend so much time wishing for the ‘next phase’ which I always thought would be better and easier but now I truly wish I could slow time down and savour the days when my little girl still ‘needs’ me.

 

One vs Two

I’m not talking about age, although I’ve  officially started to panic about F. turning 2 in less than a month! I’m talking about the number of children.

I am an only child and a happy one too. Growing up I don’t remember ever feeling that I was missing out by not having siblings as I had lots of friends, who coincidentally were only children too, and plenty of play dates. I’m sure that at some point I would have turned to my mum and asked for a little brother or sister but that never affected me much.

My husband has one brother and one sister. They are not close at all and have never been so he’s not grown up with the big family dream. It’s always been a ‘we’ll see’ scenario for us and he has always said that he was happy to take my lead on that as I’d be the one putting my body through pregnancy etc

Fast forward 2 or 3 decades and here I am, mum to a nearly 2 years old strong willed toddler, having to justify myself for not wanting any more children.

Why?

Pregnancy

2014-02-01 14.40.12I loved being pregnant and I had an easy one too. But it wasn’t easy to get to that point. In the grand scheme of things, mine wasn’t the worst struggle to get pregnant ever but I did have a miscarriage before Frances  and I still bear that horrible feeling with me. I’m all for ‘onwards and upwards’ but some things stick with you forever.
I’m not getting any younger either and am already in the ‘senior’ group for mummy age so that scares me too from a health point of view.

Labour and birth

Whilst my pregnancy was uneventful, labour and birth was a rather traumatising experience. Not going into detail just in case those horrible images come back to me! I also suffered from quite an ugly bout of depression and anxiety for the first few months. Not. to. be. repeated.

Sleep

2014-05-12 11.49.28I’m yet to have a whole night of uninterrupted sleep after 2 years. This alone should make up the argument! Jokes aside, we’ve had a very rough ride with sleep so far and that doesn’t fill me with one tiny bit of confidence about what we’d have to go through if we decided to have another baby.

Support

There are times when I seriously think about having a second child, maybe not now, but when Frances is a bit older and hopefully calmer and can communicate properly.

Then I think about all those fine balances we try to keep all the time. Two full time working parents with no support network around us, apart from one lovely babysitter who’s moving to India for a year in September.

People always say ‘if you really want it, then you’ll find a way to make it happen’. Then it probably means I don’t want it enough as just thinking about that one makes my nose bleed.

Money

2014-12-28 14.26.57I’m not going to deny that money plays a part in our decision. My husband and I both have good jobs and we have a comfortable lifestyle. I want my daughter to see the world,  and us with her, and I’d like to be able to make decisions about our future as a family without worrying that we are not going to get to the end of the month.

When I first had Frances, people kept repeating to me to ‘only do what works for you and your family’ and this is exactly it. I think we work very well as a team of 3 so whilst I have the out most respect and admiration for those people who decide to have more than one child and face all of the other above [and much much more], I think I’ll pass!

 

Whatever works

Oh my, have I really not posted anything since July?!

I hate using the whole ‘I’ve been busy running after my toddler’ excuse but that’s not too far from the truth! I actually found myself with too many ideas about this blog and not a clue about what to prioritise so the result was not posting at all.

I can’t possibly  recap all that’s happened in the past 6 months but I can certainly give you a snippet.

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What a difference 6 months make!

Co-sleeping saved our life
It was just after our holiday [or during, more like it] that we completely gave up trying to get Frances to sleep in her cot. Up to that point we had made an effort to keep her in her cot at least for the first part of the night and then we would get up and bring her into our bed when she was starting crying around midnight. Failing to do that would result into getting up an average of 3 to 4 times a night to put her back to sleep.

Then, whilst on holiday, one night she fell asleep in our big bed in the hotel room, and we didn’t have the guts to transfer her into the travel cot. That night she slept beautifully, like she [and we] hadn’t done in so long. When we got home from holiday, we carried on with that arrangement and before we knew it we were fully fledged co-sleepers, and still are.

Now, I don’t want to get into the old debate about if or how co-sleeping ruins children and alters all balances in the family. It’s not that I’m in denial, not at all. It’s just that in nearly two years I have now accepted the fact that sometimes you gotta do whatever works for you, your child and your little family as a whole.

My daughter is happy. A happy and independent little 21 months old girl. She enjoys cuddles at night and we love seeing her cheeky grin first thing in the morning [even if she still doesn’t sleep past 6am on a good day]. We will get to a point where this solution is not going to suit everyone and we will find another one, like we’ve always done. End of.

Change is good
Unless it’s nappy-change and that’s still not fun! Around September time [which, like many say, is ‘the new January’] I decided to look around for a new job. I had been in my current place for 5 years, including maternity leave, and I was really in need of a fresh challenge. I had that thought in my head even before having a baby really, but for obvious reasons I stuck around. Then I wanted to make sure that F. was well settled at nursery and we didn’t have to leave work too often due to all her nursery-related bugs.

So, I started sending out my CV to a few places and one evening after work, I had a nearly 2-hour interview which was followed, the next day, by a job offer! I started the new job exactly 3 months ago, at the end of October, and I’m loving it. It’s the same remit I had before but the difference is that I am a one-person-team so all the responsibilities within the HR/Talent Development remit fall on me now. I wanted a challenge and I definitely did get one! I still work flexible hours so I can leave at 4.30pm and go pick up the little one from nursery an hour later.

Blah Blah Blah
Everyone says that, around 18 months, children have a ‘speech explosion’ [I’m pretty sure experts use a different term!] but I’d somehow missed the memo that said that the first word, and the second and the third, would be NO!

Would you like a banana / anything remotely healthy? NO
Let’s go change this stinky nappy? NO
How about we sit here and read a book / pretend to make tea / smear play-doh all over the house? NO [she may actually be up for the latter!]

Jokes aside, it felt like Frances’ vocabulary really did explode pretty much overnight. She started with the basics, Mamma and Papa, and carried on through to naming body parts, foods or names of toys. She can now put two words together, like Papa’s shoes or Mamma’s coat but she still doesn’t say her own name and refers to herself as Tata.

I only ever speak Italian to her and, whilst she speaks mostly English, she can understand everything I say to her and it’s amazing to see already that she doesn’t need any time whatsoever to elaborate that into her brain to understand what I’m saying. She just knows. Very fascinating. I’ve been told that it may take her a little longer to start talking properly because she’s learning two languages at once but I love the fact that for example now she can actually communicate her discomfort, by saying ‘itchy’ or ‘hand’ to point at something that is hurting. It has definitely made our life easier and her less frustrated as she’s now able to tell us what’s wrong.

Meet our new BFF, Peppa Pig
I am certainly part of that category of parents who swore they would NEVER put their kids in front of a TV or computer and I’m quite ashamed to admit that back in the day I also found myself feeling judgemental towards those parents who did.

Up to a month or so ago, I was kind of proud that F. wasn’t really interested in watching telly. We did try and leave the cartoons on, when we really needed a break, but she just wasn’t interested and I was happy with that.

Then during the Christmas holidays, we found ourselves stuck at home for a few days as the weather was so dreadful that it would have been crazy to go out plus F. had a bad cough too. We had a Peppa Pig’s CD and book which she loved and we were listening to it time and time again for weeks. So we just pulled an episode of Peppa Pig up on Netflix and we all watched it snuggled up on the couch and it was so lovely and probably the longest break we ever had all together at home.

Things have got out of hand a little recently as she’s asking for Pig constantly. She watches it before nursery in the morning and when she gets home [and we take turns to sit next to her]. I stressed about that initially but then thought of all the other activities that we do with her during weekends [playgrounds, aquarium, baby orchestra, etc..] and all the quality time that we have as a family.

During the week she spends 8 hours every day at nursery playing, reading, singing, running so if she wants to watch her little friend Peppa Pig and her colourful family I’m not going to stress about it any longer and I’m just going to join her on the couch and enjoy a break that we both need after a long day.

So, here I am! It’s good to be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and after

I’ve been neglecting my blog a little in the past week or so. It has been a manic few days at work coupled with terrible sleep-lacking nights.

One word: teething.

Premolars. Ouch.

Poor little baba.

As you can imagine and may have experienced first hand, teething comes with a range of challenges, including poor eating,  for obvious reasons.

So I just wanted to show how fun these past few dinner times have been..

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….

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Sorry for the speedy post but that’s all I have time for before going to clean the kitchen!

Now and Then

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This photo was taken exactly a year ago

I often think about what life was like a year ago. It happens especially when I bump into people who’ve just had a baby and that triggers the ‘aww bless, I can’t even remember Frances being that little!’

But I do. I do remember Frances being that little. I may not recall every single detail but those days, weeks, months are imprinted in my memory forever. One thing that often pops to mind is what most already-parents kept saying to me soon after I had a baby [and I say this to my parents-to-be friends as well now].

“Don’t worry, this is the hardest part”. They said.

Was it? Was it really the hardest part?

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SLEEPING

A year ago

Frances wasn’t even 2 months old then and was waking up about twice/3 times a night to feed. I was still recovering from giving birth [more mentally than physically] and I was absolutely knackered. Every feed seemed to last forever and afterwards, due to her having reflux, I had to keep the little one upright for at least half an hour to make sure that the milk stayed down.

Now

As I said before, Frances has never been a very good sleeper. We have been co-sleeping since the last bout of illness / teething over a month ago and have made no effort or plans whatsoever to stop this, as it’s working well for us, for now at least. She sleeps in her cot for the first part of the night, then starts crying, pulls herself up and keeps standing in her cot until we go in and bring her into our bed. Some nights this happens around 11pm, some nights she sleeps just fine until 2/3 am or some other [rare] nights she actually sleeps through [until 5 – 5.30am, of course..]

FEEDING

A year ago

I breastfed until Frances was over 10 months old. In the first few months, she was feeding between every half hour [growth spurt anyone?!] to two hours. She suffered from reflux until not long ago so feeds were often accompanied by screams and back-arching and always followed by a fountain of milk coming out, pretty much straight away

Now

Like all kids who haven’t learnt how to eat with a spoon yet, Frances eats with her hands and food goes absolutely everywhere. That is a result of food naturally falling on the floor while she’s stuffing her face AND of her just throwing food on the floor FOR FUN.

CRYING

A year ago

Apart from reflux / colic related episodes, Frances never cried just for the sake of crying [is there such a thing in small babies though?]. We did have to go through weeks and weeks of crying at dinner time every single night but got so used to dealing with it that we didn’t really notice when that actually stops

Now

One word. Tantrums.

Yes, we’ve entered that phase. And it’s hell.

She can’t touch the plugs. Non-stop crying until you distract her with the Xbox remote control

She can’t play with the toilet brush. I’m going to pierce your ear drums with my super scream

There’s a new safety gate in the kitchen. Why oh why are you doing this to meeeeeee? [She doesn’t talk but that’s what she would say in between tears if she could]

GOING OUT

A year ago

I felt quite apprehensive about going out initially. I didn’t particularly enjoyed breastfeeding whilst out and about. Not because I’m a prude or anyone else around me seemed to be, but because the combination noisy feeder + reflux baby didn’t fill me with confidence that we would be able to have a feed without making a bit of a scene.

Regardless of the above, I still went out pretty much every day, trying to time it around feeds. Whilst Frances was happily sleeping in her pram or just staring at the little owl we hang on to it, I could enjoy a cup of [hot] coffee and catch up on what was happening in the outside world.

Now

Frances has reached that phase where she’s only happy to be in her buggy if and when she’s asleep. Keep her in there any other time and you will have an unhappy baby [see the crying section]

Anywhere we go and anything we do whilst out is absolutely 100% limited to whatever reason we went out for in the first place, being that grab a bite or buy washing up liquid.

We just keep it short and simple. And if we can’t, we bring A LOT of distractions [which never work, but there will always be a straw or a napkin to keep the little one entertained]

IMG_20150526_125259ACTIVITIES

A year ago

The range of activities back then was quite limited. It involved staring at a non-identified point on the horizon, slapping toys in the play gym and generally stay still wherever we put her, being that a changing table, a sofa or a bouncer.

The range of activities that I could do was fairly extensive. It involved watching two seasons of Orange is the new black in a week [what else to do during breastfeeding marathons?] or going to the loo without being followed.

Now

Frances is a ball of energy. She NEVER stops. She’s now almost ditched crawling and is 90% walking everywhere. Her favourite activities include walking whilst carrying one of my shoes or the heaviest toy she can find, throwing DVD’s on the floor or taking all of her clothes out of the bottom drawer in her room and then randomly putting them back in [this morning I even found my mascara in that drawer!]

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All in all, I think every new phase is the hardest. And that’s because it’s all new and mysterious and scary. Having a baby has taught me that everything is [relatively] easy once you’ve done it for a while. It doesn’t mean that you enjoy that particular phase but it just means that you get on with it!

 

 

One year on..

As of a few days ago, I’m the mum of a one year old. Officially a toddler, apparently. How did that happen??!

One minute I was changing size 1 nappies and battling with the colic purple hour every night and the next minute I was choosing the theme for my little girl’s first birthday party!

If I think about everything that (I can remember) happened in this past year I can’t believe it’s only been 365 days.

Some of the early memories are a mix of guilt and heart melting feelings. I wrote a post a while ago about the fact that I found the first weeks (months) difficult and probably only now I fully realise how blurred those days are in my memory. How much I missed at the very beginning because I was paralised with anxiety and worry. Every time I see a newborn now I go all ooohh aaawww and I feel this clench in my stomach as I know that I can’t take those days back.

Onwards and upwards though. So I want to think about all those things that I did experience with my little one and that will ALWAYS be in my memory, although I could have done without some of those!

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I want to think about the first time I breastfed my little girl and she then fell asleep on me

The first time she opened her eyes and stared into mine

When I gave her a bath for the first time

When I kept saying ‘I’ll switch to formula’ every other day and then carried on breastfeeding until she was over 10 months old

When she would scream blue murder for over an hour every night at dinner time or when I had to watch Suits standing up because she would cry if I sat down.

When I took her out in her pram when she was tiny and she would shift down to the bottom at each step on the staircase outside my building

When I dressed her in something other than a babygrow and she looked so funny in her tiny skirts and cardigans

Her first smile and each single one after that

The look on her face when I put her in the play gym for the first time and the look on my face witnessing her progress week after week, from slapping toys to actually grabbing them

When I could give her a lovely massage every night after her bath and she wouldn’t actually move (try and do that now!!)

When she started babbling and poking her tongue out

When she took the habit of doing explosive poos the moment we took her nappy off

When we took her on a plane and she spent the entire flight screaming and then fell asleep the moment the plane landed

When we thought we’d screwed our child up because we hadn’t given her enough tummy time

Her first solid food experience and the look of excitement on her face every time she saw the spoon getting closer and closer to her mouth

All those times I had to rock the pram back and forth in our living room to make her sleep during the day and then I couldn’t move otherwise the floors would squeak and she’d wake up

The hundreds (felt like thousands, really) of times she regurgitated milk and we had to have at least 5 spare bibs at hand (and the day, not long ago, that I realised that she had actually stopped doing that!)

When we moved her from our bedroom into her cot in her own room

When her first tooth cut through

When she started waving, clapping, blowing raspberries

That time when she went from crawling backwards to going forwards

Her first Christmas and the look on her face when she saw all the lights going off on the Christmas tree

Her face when she swam under water towards me during swimming class

When she spent 45 minutes playing by herself whilst sitting inside the laundry basket

When she pulled herself up on the couch and took her first step along the furniture

Her ticklish giggles and her amused laughs when we play peak-a-boo

Her face when we put her on a swing

When I took her to the nursery and her face lit up at the sight of all the toys she could play with

When she cuddles up to me even for a second and says Mamma

The way I look at her now and my heart explodes and I know that it was a long journey but we so got there in the end.

Happy Birthday my little munchkin, but also Happy Birthday to me and my amazing husband for getting through this challenging year and becoming stronger (wiser? probably not!) together.