Sheryl Jesin

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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?


Ensuring safe sleep – meeting the needs of parents and child

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

When Dylan was 6 weeks old, I enrolled us in a mom and baby class at a local parenting center.   I figured it would be a good way to meet other moms and to force myself to get dressed and out of the house.

Up until that point, we had been happily co-sleeping.  It happened by accident – it was first suggested by a kind and wise nurse at the hospital, and continued at home.  When it was time for Dylan to go to sleep for the night, I’d get ready for bed too.  We’d both lie in our bed and he’d nurse to sleep and I’d doze off too.  As a new mom, it was good for me to go to bed at around 9pm.  We were both well-rested.  Or at least as rested as you could be with a newborn.

So back to the class.   It was run by a wonderful lactation consultant who helped me a lot in the early weeks, and a so-called, self-appointed “sleep expert”.  I believe that this sleep expert is well-intentioned and has probably assisted a number of extremely overwhelmed and sleep deprived families.  However, her sleep ideas did not work for us.

One week we were talking about infant sleep patterns.  The sleep expert stated that if a baby doesn’t fall asleep by him or herself, the baby will keep waking up all night and will need assistance falling back asleep.  So in my case, since I nursed Dylan to sleep, each time he woke he would require nursing to sleep.  He was waking quite frequently – usually he’d sleep for a 3 or 4 hour stretch when he first went to sleep, and then would wake up every 1-2 hours after that.  But since we were co-sleeping, the wakings were not that disturbing to me.   The sleep expert told me that I should try to get Dylan to fall asleep on his own, and that would stop some of the night wakings.   Also, she suggested that babies need an early bedtime, and a 7pm bedtime would be more appropriate than a 9pm bedtime.

So off I went home after this class.  I told Jake everything that the sleep expert had said.  She suggested that I nurse Dylan in a rocking chair with the lights on, read him a book, and then give him to Jake, who would rock him to sleep and then place him in his crib.  We tried this – at 7pm.  It actually worked the first night.  Jake got Dylan to sleep and managed to get him in his crib.   HOWEVER, Dylan proceeded to wake up every 40 minutes until I finally went to sleep beside him.

We tried this again the next night.  Even though Dylan was only 6 weeks, he caught on to our plan.  Jake couldn’t get him to sleep.  Dylan was crying and it was breaking my heart.  So I went in and nursed him and of course he went right to sleep.  I got him in his crib but again he woke up every 40 minutes unless I was beside him.   We tried this for about a wk, and it did not work.  I couldn’t stand to hear any crying, even if Dylan was in Jake’s arms.

After about a week, I stopped the insanity.  We went back to our previous routine of my nursing Dylan to sleep in our bed.  This felt much more natural to us and met my needs of getting some extra rest by having an early bedtime, and met Dylan’s needs of nursing to sleep and having his mommy beside him in bed.

Over time, as Dylan has gotten older, we’ve moved our bedtime routine to a double bed in his room.   And over time, Dylan started to sleep for longer and longer stretches on his own.  He is almost 2.5 now and sleeps in his own bed for the majority of the night because he is ready!  I still nurse him to sleep, but lo and behold he does sometimes wake up and is able to fall asleep again on his own.  Because he is developmentally ready – not because I “taught” him to sleep on his own.


Nursing to sleep – some more info

I often hear from new moms that their babies often or always fall asleep nursing. These moms are usually quite worried that they are creating bad habits or doing something wrong.  They are afraid that their babies will never “learn” to fall asleep on their own.

If you want to read about my personal experiences with nursing to sleep, I’ve written a post in the past about the Joys of Nursing to Sleep, and I recently wrote a post about how my 2 year old who has always been nursed to sleep has recently been sleeping long stretches on his own.

The Kellymom website provided me with some extremely helpful information when I was a new mom and unsure about nursing to sleep.  Kelly’s words made me feel good about my decision to continue to nurse my son to sleep, despite hearing from various well-meaning friends and family that what we were doing was WRONG!  My heart told me that what we were doing was natural, and the info below helped me strengthen my convictions.

I highly recommend that every breastfeeding mom read Nursing to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.   Kelly believes that nursing to sleep is completely natural:

Many moms feel guilty for nursing their baby to sleep. Nursing your baby to sleep is not a bad thing to do! It’s very normal and developmentally appropriate for babies to nurse to sleep and to wake 1-3 times during the night for the first year or so. Some babies don’t do this, but they are the exception, not the rule. Many children, if given the choice, prefer to nurse to sleep through the second year and beyond. Nursing is obviously designed to comfort baby and to help baby sleep, and I’ve never seen a convincing reason why mothers shouldn’t use this wonderful “tool” that we’ve been given.

Kelly answers a number of common questions in her usual reassuring and non-judgemental way.  These questions include:

Kelly includes an inspirational quote from Paula Yount, one of the moderators from the Kellymom forums.  I hear from so many moms that they feel like a human pacifier after many hours of nursing.  Paula explains her views on this:

You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort…. but you are not a pacifier!

It’s not surprising that so many moms feel guilty about nursing their babies or toddlers to sleep when there is so much information out there from so-called sleep experts about sleep training.   I hope that other moms receive the reassurance they need from the Kellymom site.   Nursing your baby to sleep feels natural and normal because it is!   It can even be joyful.

What have your experiences been with nursing your baby or toddler to sleep?


Babies Can’t Be Spoiled

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

From the moment Dylan was born, he liked to be held.  He was happy and would sleep soundly as long as he was in someone’s arms.  During the first few weeks, I’d spend hours on the couch at home with him nursing on my nursing pillow.  He’d slowly drift off to sleep and would have long, lovely naps as long as he remained on the pillow close to me.  As soon as I tried to move him and put him down, he’d immediately wake up screaming.

Peacefully sleeping on My Breast Friend
Peacefully asleep on My Breast Friend

I was very confused!  We had purchased all these “holders” for Dylan.  He had 2 pack n plays, a crib, a bouncy seat and a swing. And let’s not forget the very expensive stroller!  Everyone told me that we NEEDED all of these things.  And I naively assumed they were right!  I thought that I’d feed Dylan, put him in one of these holders, he’d fall asleep and I’d have time to do whatever I wanted.  Boy was I ever WRONG!

Dylan was in my arms, in my sling, or right beside me  24/7 for the first few months of his life.  He demanded it!  And it felt natural to me.  While it may have seemed natural and right to me, it didn’t appear that way to others.  On a daily basis I’d hear comments such as:

  • You have to put him down when he sleeps.  Otherwise he will never learn to sleep on his own.
  • He needs to self-soothe.
  • Why do you carry him around all day in that sling?   He looks squished.  It’s not good for him.
  • He should sleep in his crib.   Get him out of your bed now or he’ll be in there til he’s 12.
  • You’re nursing him again?  You must not have enough milk.  Give him some rice cereal.
  • Put him down already!  You are spoiling him!

Most of these comments came from well-intentioned family members.  They truly believed that both Dylan and myself would be better off if we weren’t attached all day long!  They thought that Dylan would learn to become independent and I would be happier because I would have some time to “myself”.

I believed that what I was doing was right, but I needed some evidence to back up my beliefs.  I started poking around on the internet and realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought that holding and nurturing a baby is absolutely vital.

Dr. Sears was a great resource for me:

New parents often ask, “Won’t holding our baby a lot, responding to cries, nursing our baby on cue, and even sleeping with our baby spoil her?” Or they ask if this kind of parenting will create an overly dependent, manipulative child? Our answer is an emphatic no. In fact, both experience and research have shown the opposite. Attachment fosters eventual interdependence. A child whose needs are met predictably and dependably does not have to whine and cry and worry about getting his parents to do what he needs.

Kellymom was another:

My heart aches for the baby left alone to learn to “self-comfort”, to “cry it out”. Experts have told moms “not spoil their babies” and to “let them cry”. This is a good thing? What are we accomplishing? Babies need nurturing and it is not spoiling them to provide it. Spoiling means “ruining” and you cannot ruin a child with love and affection.

With Dr. Sears and Kellymom on my side, I began to trust my instincts.  Dylan is now 2 years old and is fiercely independent!  I guess we are doing something right!


Co-Sleeping with a 2 yr old

Our co-sleeping routine has changed and developed through time as Dylan has grown older.  A lot of people ask me how it works – who sleeps where, what time we go to bed, etc.   So I thought I’d share the details of our current routine.

Usually around 6:30 or so we start our bedtime routine.  If we are home and have enough time, this involves a bath, followed by getting into jammies and brushing teeth.  What comes after varies – usually we turn on Dylan’s sound machine (set to ocean waves) and then Jake, Dylan and I lie together in Dylan’s bed.  This usually happens around 7:30 0r so. We have a double mattress on top of a boxspring directly on the floor – it isn’t very high and Dylan doesn’t roll around much so we haven’t put up any bed rails.  If Dylan isn’t too tired, we read a couple of books, talk a bit, and then turn off the lights.

Most of the time, Dylan nurses to sleep.  This can take anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour.  His preference is for both Jake and I to stay with him when he falls asleep.  Obviously I need to be there if he is nursing, but he likes having his daddy there too, and we are OK with that!  It gives both Jake and myself some time to unwind after our busy days, and allows the three of us to spend some extra time together.

Up until recently, Dylan would wake up fairly often unless I stayed beside him.  I could always sneak away once he had fallen asleep, but he’d wake up usually around an hour or an hour and a half later. I’d hear him on the monitor and come back to his room quickly and nurse him back to sleep again and then sneak out again if necessary, or just bring him into our room if I was ready to go to bed.

I’ve found lately that Dylan is going for longer stretches by himself in his bed, without any coaxing from me and without my doing anything differently.  These days, he will stay in his bed for anywhere between 2-5 hours without waking up.  This is huge for him!

When I’m ready to go to bed (usually around 11 or so), I sometimes bring Dylan into our bed right away, or I sometimes go to sleep and leave the doors open in between our rooms.  When Dylan wakes up in his room, he comes into our room and climbs into bed with me.   I find it unbelievably cute to watch him run into our room, and don’t mind being woken up.  Sometimes I nurse him when he comes into bed with me, and sometimes he just falls asleep with some cuddling.   We have a king size bed in our room and there is plenty of room for me, Jake and Dylan.  In fact, the three of us often end up cuddling and only taking up a third to a half of the bed.  I should add that Jake often falls asleep watching TV on the couch downstairs, and joins us in bed anywhere between 12 – 5 am.

I’m never really sure what happens for the rest of the night, once Dylan joins me in bed.  I think he nurses occasionally, but I couldn’t really tell you how often or for how long.  We generally wake up for the day around 7 or 7:30 am.

There is nothing sweeter than watching a 2 yr old toddler sleeping.  I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to do it on a daily basis.  I truly feel lucky!  I cherish our time together at night even more now than I did when he was younger.  I know that at some point he won’t want to be in our bed anymore.   Also, on the days I am at work, it gives me a chance to make up for the cuddles and kisses that we missed during the daytime.   I don’t think I could work if we didn’t co-sleep.  I’d miss him too much!

Many people are genuinely surprised when I tell them we still co-sleep.  Many people think that 2 yr olds should be sleeping on their own in their bed all night without waking up.  And they also think that a 2 yr old should be falling asleep on their own.  I don’t think there are any hard fast rules about how any of us “should” sleep, toddlers included.  Each family has to do what works for them.  As long as everyone gets some rest and is happy, then anything goes!

What is your current sleep routine like?


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.