Sheryl Jesin


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Dropping a nap

How do you know when your child is ready to drop a nap?  It’s a common question, and there is no easy answer.  Here’s a quick recap of my experience with naps with my 2 kids.

Months 0-6 – during these early months, my children napped whenever they were tired.   They nursed and slept “on demand’.  I generally nursed them to sleep either on a bed (if we were home) or in a carrier if we were on the go.  I kept an eye out for signs of sleepiness and always tried to nurse when they seemed sleepy, and if they were tired, they would usually fall asleep easily when nursing.  If they seemed tired but didn’t fall asleep nursing, I would hold them and bounce on a yoga ball (if at home) or bounce in a carrier if out, and they’d usually pass out within minutes!

Months 6-9 – with both kids, a fairly predictable nap pattern began to emerge.  They napped three times a day – usually 2-3  hours after waking either in the morning, or from a previous nap.   The last nap was usually a cat nap around dinner time.  During this stage, naps were mostly at home and sometimes on the go in a carrier or the stroller if we were out and about.  Kids were nursed to sleep.

Months 9-12 (or a bit longer) – at this point, both kids napped twice a day – usually once around 9 am and then again around 2 pm.  I still followed sleepy cues and would nap them a bit earlier or a bit later if necessary.  At this point, naps were almost always at home, and kids were nursed to sleep.

Months 12 – approx 2.5 years – naps dropped down to once a day, at around 12pm.  At this point, naps were almost exclusively at home, as I found they slept better in the quiet of our house, and I used the downtime to do things around the house.  Kids were nursed to sleep.

It’s always hard to know when a child is ready to drop a nap.  I found that there were two predictable signs – either the child wouldn’t nurse to sleep easily at naptime, or bedtime was getting really late.  When I noticed these signs, I would try to drop a nap and observe what happened.

There are also signs that a child is not ready for dropping a nap.  If you’ve tried dropping a nap, and the child is falling asleep at an old nap time either in the car or the stroller, or the child is super cranky around dinner time, it is possible that he or she was not ready to drop a nap, in which case I’d recommend reverting to the previous nap schedule.

Also, it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”.  Some kids benefit from a transition period – where they nap some days, and then don’t nap other days.   This can be hard as you really have to pay attention to your child’s sleeping cues, and you have to be really flexible with your schedule and be ready to nap your child when they need to sleep!

I should add that I personally have never been a big fan of carseat naps – I prefer my kids to nap at home so I can either get things done around the house, or nap with them!!

Also, as you can see from the above, the main sleep cue I use for my kids is nursing to sleep.  We don’t have a long, drawn out naptime routine.  If we are home, we go into a quiet room, turn on a sound machine, lie down, nurse, and usually the child is asleep within minutes.    An added bonus is that I get a few minutes of rest when I lie down with them.  When they fall asleep, I can sneak away. When I hear them waking from a nap, I always go to them quickly and try nursing again.  Quite often, they will fall back asleep and the nap is extended.  (I should add that my kids can nap without me, even though nursing to sleep is their main sleep cue.  Dylan was the star napper at his daycare and Jake can easily get Ben to nap by cuddling together.)

I’ve mentioned before that nursing to sleep has always been a wonderful experience for us.  I know it goes against all the advice that traditional “sleep experts” espouse.   I stopped listening to those experts a long time ago, and I’ve never looked back!

How have you been able to tell that your child needs to drop a nap?  Do you have a nap time routine?


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Birthday lessons

Another birthday has come and gone and I’m a year older.  It’s been a wonderful year – of course the highlight was the birth of my second son Benjamin last December. It certainly was an adjustment at first learning to care for two kids, but now I can’t even remember what life was like before he arrived!

I spent my birthday doing a lot of things that I normally do, but it was still a wonderful day.  Taking Dylan to school, snuggling with Ben during a nap, going out for lunch with my mom, going for an amazing 10k run, leading a LLL mtg, cooking up and eating some delicious healthy food, watching TV with Jake after the kids were in bed.  Nothing too out of the ordinary, but still a wonderful day nonetheless.  It got me thinking how lucky I am that I get to do all of these things on a regular basis, not just on my birthday.  Birthdays are wonderful and a chance for special treats – but what is more important is how we live our day to day lives.   Each day should be full of joy, spent with family and friends, doing things that make us feel good!

I’ve been reading some amazing running/exercise/healthy eating blogs lately, and I have been finding them so motivating!  I especially like reading blogs written by active moms – I love hearing how they fit their activity of choice into their busy lives.  Swim Bike Mom is a great blog about a mom and full-time attorney who also just happens to compete in triathalons.   She recently completed a half-ironman in Miami (that is 70.3 km of swimming, biking and running!!!) – you can read her race report here.   At the end of her report, she lists some lessons she learned from the Ironman.  I loved this one:

5) No one cares.  I have done an epic thing (in my head).  But guess what?  No one cares.  People outside of triathlon think I am weird.  People at work wonder why I’m not in my office. People don’t care.  The lesson? When you do something “epic”—- you better care.  Because you’re all you’ve got.  You better tuck away your victories.  You better know.  Because no one else does….. and if they do…they don’t care.

She is so right!  When we do things in life, we have to do them for ourselves – because we believe it is the right thing to do, because we want to challenge ourselves and make our lives better!  I have learned that it is so important to be self-motivated, rather than relying on others for validation – because as Swim Bike Mom says – no one else really cares!  (They are probably too busy worrying about their own lives!)


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Co-Sleeping with Two Kids

When Dylan was born over 3 years ago I just assumed he would sleep in a crib.  Every baby I knew slept in a crib (or so said their parents).  Dylan, however, had other plans for us.   He wanted nothing to do with the lovely crib in his room with the beautiful bed skirt I agonized over at Pottery Barn Kids!  He also wasn’t a fan of sleeping in the brand new pack ‘n play that we set up in our room.  Dylan was happiest sleeping snuggled right next to me in our bed.  I struggled with this the first few months and wasted many hours trying to get him to sleep on his own.  After doing a lot of reading and research online, I discovered that many parents co-sleep with their kids, here in North America and especially around the world.  By the time Dylan was 6 months old, we gave up on the crib and began to happily accept our sleeping companion.  At a year, we dismantled the crib and put a double bed in Dylan’s room, and haven’t looked back since!

When we found out I was pregnant with Benjamin, there was no doubt in my mind and Jake’s mind that we would co-sleep with him.  In fact, we didn’t even set up the crib this time – it remains in storage.  It has been so easy this time without the sleeping struggles.   Benjamin’s sleep has really been a non-issue since day 1.

During the first few months after Ben was born, I’d put Dylan to sleep in his own room.   Then, Ben would sleep in the swing downstairs for a few hours each evening.   When I was ready to go to sleep, I’d bring Ben upstairs into bed with me.   Dylan would usually wake up at some point in the night and climb into bed with us.   And Jake would join us too!  I was always sure to keep Ben near me and away from covers, pillows and everyone else.   We have a king bed and we found the four of us fit quite easily.

Ben and Dylan in bed together back in May...my spot is between the two of them!

We kept up this sleeping arrangement for probably 5 or 6 months.  Everyone slept quite well!  During the summer, we were up at the cottage and the sleeping arrangements changed a bit.    At the cottage, we had one room with a queen bed and one with a double.  I didn’t think it would be comfortable or safe to have four of us in a queen bed.  So, I’d put Dylan to sleep in the room with a double, and Jake joined him when he was ready for bed.  The two of them slept in that room all night.   Ben and I shared the queen in the other room.   When it was just me and the kids at the cottage without Jake, Dylan would start out in the double and then join Ben and me in the queen at some point.

We kept this arrangement when we came back home in September.   Dylan and Jake sleep in a double in Dylan’s room, and Ben and I sleep in the king bed in my room.  This way, each child has an adult to snuggle with!  Ben wakes a few times a night to nurse, but always goes right back to sleep.   Dylan sometimes wakes up to pee, but otherwise sleeps well.  I should add that I now put Ben to sleep in our bed and sneak away once he is sleeping.  He doesn’t move much when he sleeps and I listen carefully on the monitor – if I hear him stirring I quickly go to him.  He also naps in our bed – I nurse him to sleep and then sneak away.

Today I told Dylan that when Benjamin gets older, the two of them will share a room and a bed.   Dylan was really excited!  I’m not sure when this will happen – perhaps when Ben is 2?  Then Jake and I will have our comfy and spacious king to ourselves again.   But for now, our sleeping arrangement maximizes everyone’s sleep, and meets the needs of both the kids and the adults in our family.  I wouldn’t change it for anything!


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Short term vs. long term

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Lately I’ve been caught up in the daily grind of life with a 3 year old and a 6 month old: wake up at the crack of dawn, prepare and serve meals, clean up, breastfeed on demand, get baby down for a nap, keep preschooler away from baby during said nap, repeat until bedtime!  Let’s not forget the constant tidying up and laundry, and the herculean effort it can take just to make it out the door.   Getting through each day without any major meltdowns is an accomplishment of its own.  My thoughts are moment to moment and it can be hard to think beyond the next hour without getting overwhelmed, let alone the next week, month, or year!

Yet at the same time, it is so important for me to think about long term parenting goals or philosophies. Otherwise, I get lost in the minutiae of day to day life.   When I am caught up in the moment and short term goals, I forget about long term goals.   A few examples come to mind.   I often find myself taking off Dylan’s pyjamas in the morning while chasing him around the house.   The chasing continues as I put on his clothes for the day.   My short term goal is to get Dylan dressed and therefore I end up dressing him.   However, an important long term goal is to teach Dylan age appropriate life skills so he can feel a sense of accomplishment when he is able to do something alone.   The long term goal gets lost as I dress him in a rush so we can get out the door.   Here’s another example – sometimes during dinner I find myself feeding Dylan a few forkfulls of chicken or telling him to hurry up or asking him to finish the last few bites.   The short term goal is to finish the meal so we can move on to bathtime and bedtime, and to ensure that he’s gotten enough food in him so that he won’t be hungry at night.  The long term goal that I am missing is to allow Dylan to recognize on his own when he is full and what type of food he wants to eat, in order to create healthy eating habits for life.

Without long term goals in mind, life with two kids can be monotonous, boring and frustrating.   But when I stop and think about how my daily actions are influencing the lives of two little people, the daily grind doesn’t seem so bad. Instead of feeling bored, I feel inspired and purposeful.   Rather than being frustrated, I feel patient.

How do you reconcile your short term and long term parenting goals?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured‘s parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter’s first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom’s parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She’s come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations – Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It’s the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter’s life.
  • On Children — “Your children are not your children,” say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she’s using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it’s important for her daughter’s growth.
  • What’s a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh… — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there’s no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they’ll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she’s doing.


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Parenting a child to sleep

I’ve written a number of posts about the joys I’ve experienced nursing my son Dylan to sleep.  But getting him to sleep is not just about nursing, it is about parenting.  I’ve deeply valued the time I’ve spent parenting my son to sleep and plan to do the same with baby #2 who is due in December.

I find it quite disconcerning that anywhere I turn in the “mainstream” parenting world, I encounter people talking about “sleep training”, “controlled crying”, or “crying it out (CIO)”.  It sometimes seems as if many parents think they have no choice but to put their children in a crib, leave the room, and hope they fall asleep crying.  There are so many “sleep experts” writing books or websites touting the magical solution to getting your baby to sleep through the night through a variety of different methods that usually involve a baby falling asleep on their own in a crib – no wonder so many parents think they need to sleep train!

Dr. Sears warns about the dangers of sleep training for breastfeeding mothers:

Beware of using someone else’s training method to get your baby to sleep or get your baby on a predictable schedule. Most of these methods are variations of the tired old theme of letting baby cry it out. Before trying anyone else’s method, run it through your intuitive wisdom. Does this advice sound sensible? Does it fit your baby’s temperament? Does it feel right to you?With most of these baby-training regimens you run the risk of becoming desensitized to the cues of your infant, especially when it comes to letting baby cry it out. Instead of helping you to figure out what baby’s signals mean, these training methods tell you to ignore them. Neither you nor your baby learn anything good from this.

For us, it never felt right to leave Dylan alone to fall asleep.   It felt right and it felt natural to be there right beside him as he drifted off to dreamland.  Some of my most precious memories of Dylan as a baby and toddler involve watching his eyes slowly close and observing the peaceful, angelic look that comes over his face once he is asleep.  Sometimes we’d have crazy, hectic, tiring days, where I’d lose my patience or just feel fed up.   Seeing Dylan’s sweet sleeping face at night always bring back tenderness to my heart and is often just what I need after a long day. 

I believe that parenting Dylan to sleep each and every night has helped him become the independent, fiesty and loving child toddler that he is.  I wouldn’t give up all those hours that I have spent lying beside him for anything.   I’m so glad that Jake and I decided to listen to our hearts rather than listen to “sleep experts”. 

 

 


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Summer sleep

We have spent the last week and a half up at my family’s cottage.  Dylan has been having a blast.  We’ve had a major heatwave here, with temperatures in the high 30s (or above 100F for you Americans out there!).  Dylan has spent hours each day in the lake, or his little kiddie pool, or running under the sprinkler.  It’s been so hot that I’ve joined him in all of his water activities (including his kiddie pool!)  Kids really know how to have fun!

The best time to be outside is the evening, when the sun is no longer strong and the temperatures cool off a bit.  That means we’ve been going for boat rides after dinner, or playing in the sand, or swimming.  This translates to very very late bedtimes – 10pm or later.  The very late bedtimes have unfortunately not led to sleep-ins, but have led to more daytime naps.  One day, Dylan lay down on a cot outside and fell asleep at 10:30 am.    Let’s just say he has NEVER done that before.  That day he had two naps – and he’s been down to one nap a day since he turned one.   Another day he asked to nurse at 9:45 am and promptly fell asleep, and had a little nap on the couch.  That was another 2 nap day. 

Dylan asleep on the couch

Our relaxed sleep schedule works up here because there is so much to do in the evenings and it stays light so late.  Plus I’m on vacation from work and I have help from my parents.  At home I need some time to wind down once Dylan goes to sleep, especially after a busy day at work, so I prefer an earlier bedtime.

What do your summer sleep schedules look like? Are your kids staying up late too?


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Stroller Naps

The last few days have been beautiful here in Toronto.  Warm, sunny…totally un-April like.  We have been spending tons and tons of time outdoors.  I always feel rushed on the weekends planning activities…it’s hard to get out of bed and get moving as soon as Dylan wakes up (usually around 7:30), but if we don’t, we run out of time and don’t get to do much before his nap (which is usually around 1 pm).  Spending lazy days at home was OK in the winter, but now that spring is here, I want to be out and about!

Saturday was an amazing day – we spent the whole day out of the house.  We went to Riverdale Farm in the morning, and then out for lunch to Chipotle.  Usually after lunch we rush home for Dylan’s nap. However, it was too nice out to go back home, so Jake and I decided to put Dylan in his stroller, hope that he naps, and explore our city a bit.  

Boy did he ever nap!  He slept from 1-4:15 pm.   Normally at home, Dylan will sleep for an hour – maybe two if I’m really lucky.   More than 3 hours for a nap?  That is unheard of!  I don’t know if it was the fresh air, or the movement, or the noise…whatever it was, it was great!  Jake and I walked and walked and walked.  We went to St. Lawrence Market, Harbourfront, and Queen’s Quay.  It was fantastic!

When Dylan was younger he hated his stroller! He rarely would fall asleep in it.   When we were on the go he spent most of his time snuggled into a sling or the Ergo.  Sometimes, once I had nursed him to sleep in a carrier, I’d be able to transfer him to the stroller.   I accepted the fact that Dylan preferred to be close to me rather than in the stroller, and quite enjoyed babywearing him instead of pushing him.

Nonetheless, I’m happy that we have rediscovered the joy of stroller naps these past few days.  Sunday and Monday were also gorgeous days and Dylan had long, peaceful naps in the stroller as I got some exercise and enjoyed the sunshine.   We are thinking of taking a trip to Europe in May, and it would be great for Dylan to be able to nap in the stroller while we are away.