Alice & The Mums Issue 10: The Sleep Edition

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A L I C E & T H E M U M S November 2020 | Issue 10

£6

SLEEP IT'S THE SLEEP EDITION

My Fear of Childbirth Rhiannon's Story

Introducing

Kayleigh! Our New Columnist

Coping With Gestational Diabetes

A Pandemic Birth Story



CONTENTS Page 5 Page 7 Page 10 Page 12 Page 16 Page 19 Page 21 Page 24 Page 26 Page 29 Page 32 Page 35

But What About Me? Gestational Diabetes My Fear of Childbirth Alice's Birth The Sweet Life of Kay Q&A with London Fitness Mamas Infant Sleep Tips Sleep Training Let's Talk About Sleep, Baby! Sleep Deprivation Why I Won't Sleep Train Auntie K's Bedtime Routine Tips


EDITOR'S NOTE It's the thing we could all do with more of... It's the thing that everyone asks when having a newborn... It's the one thing we will likely never have enough off ever again! SLEEP! From the first week of life, we are asked whether our babies are 'good.' Essentially whether they sleep, or do not, is a measure of how good they are. Yawn... Then just when you think you may have nailed it, along comes a sleep regression, a change in temperature, moving from a Moses basket to a cot, etc, etc, etc. Even those who are winning at the sleep game will get another baby come along to throw a spanner in the works, or just th general stresses and anxiety of motherhood stops us from receiving a full 8 hours sleep as we lay awake tossing and turning and wondering how the hell we are going to make it through the week! Sleep is a hot topic in the world of motherhood- and always will be! Also super happy to have our new columnist, Kayleigh Williams on board! Enjoy her pages this month and every month going forward.

Alice King Editor ALICE & THE MUMS |4


BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?

By Rebecca Oxtoby

Author, Rebecca Oxtoby, shares a chapter from her best-selling book, Mum’s the Word: the sh*t nobody tells you about parenthood.

Nobody told me that I would lose myself. Nobody said that on some days, I’d crave my old life and all that came with it. That I’d miss the spontaneity, the freedom and my sense of self. That I’d even miss going to work. Then the mum guilt hits. How could I possibly grieve for my old life when I’m meant to be so overwhelmingly besotted with my new, shiny, shit-stained one? People would give anything for the gift of a child, I know, I’ve been right there in the fertility clinic with the best of them. But in amongst that infinite love and absolute joy was a little twinge of sadness as I realised that my life had changed immeasurably. Some days, even still, I find it sad that I can’t run off to New Zealand to do my PhD, or do another summer working at Disney World. And though Insta Mamas suggest that you ‘still can’, I’m not sure it’d be the same on 3 hours sleep and a tiny person sucking on your nipples. I’ve also changed as a wife. My priority isn’t Danny anymore. He isn’t my number one. And just writing that makes me cry. I’m too exhausted to make an effort at the moment.

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A wonderful GP whose own child was not much older than Isabelle, who too, knew what it was to lose your sense of identity. She told me it was OK. Normal, in fact. And she diagnosed post-partum depression. I knew it existed, and I knew it was common, but I still felt the need to overly explain my love for Isabelle to her. ‘It’s not that I don’t love her, I do, so so much, but…’ She stopped me. ‘You don’t need to explain.’ I had a period of counselling, only cut short because I didn’t particularly gel with the young, childless therapist who I felt just didn’t ‘get it’. I took Sertraline for 9 months. And, interestingly, as I shared my story, almost everyone I told shared something similar. Over the following months, with the little boost of happy hormones, I recognised that I needed to find me again. I love being Mum, but I love it even more when I’m refreshed after a little break. Nobody tells you it’s OK to want a break from your kids. Maybe a screaming toddler or a moody-ass teenager. But not a newborn. But here I was searching for breathing space away from the snuggles of a teeny helpless little anymore. I snap at him for the

her life, just out of the house without a

person. Not because I didn’t love her,

smallest of things because I spend all

massive bag full of baby shit. Just a

but because I remembered that I

day in the damn shithole of a house –

shower on my own. Just one full

needed to still love me.

which no matter how often you clean

night’s sleep.

still ends up a bomb site. For the first few months of Isabelle’s

I was breaking. I was miserable, and

And now? Now she’s 15 months, full of sass and bringing new challenges to

I hated that every single part of my life

the table. I’m back at work and the

life, I think we just existed. We survived

had changed: my body, my freedom,

routine, though hectic, brings a

day-by-day and our communication

my routine and the fact that my

structure to the day. Danny and I work

was purely based around what time

nipples leaked milk now.

at our relationship, and find time for

the new tenant had woken, fed or

I remember walking into the GP

us, and I’m off the meds. Nothing lasts

shat. I lived on auto-mum mode until I

surgery, pretending the appointment

reached breaking point when she was

was about a fungal toenail infection to

about 3 and a half months old. I

the receptionist. When I spoke to the

Word, is available to buy on

couldn’t be this baby feeding robot

doctor, I broke down. ‘I’m not enjoying

Amazon for £6.99.

anymore. She would scream

every second like I’m meant to. Some

constantly and I would cry right

days are shit’.

alongside her. I wanted out. Not out of

ALICE & THE MUMS |6

She changed my life right at that

forever. Rebecca’s book, Mum’s the


Coping With Gestational Diabetes


BY NICOLA DUFFY When I first started my pregnancy, I was naïve. I thought my

I was also so annoyed that I didn’t concentrate on my

chances were low to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Oh boy! I was wrong. Gestational diabetes affects 1 in 20 pregnant women. So, it is not uncommon. At 28 weeks pregnant I was advised to take the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) due to my BMI. So, I fasted the night before the test. Luckily, my test was in the morning. However, what they don’t tell you is that the solution you take is absolutely vile! So much so, after an hour I was sick. Having to take the test and coping with bad morning sickness was not so easy. I felt so unwell and I actually thought that I wouldn’t be able to drive home! When I got my results, it showed that I was on the borderline for gestational diabetes. I felt completely low and felt that I have already failed as a mum. I was so annoyed at myself. I was annoyed that I thought that I wouldn’t get it and was so naïve.

pregnancy diet. After I got my result, I was advised to take my blood sugar levels before breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. This was horrible and was so sore on my fingers by the end of the pregnancy. I was so frustrated I had to test my sugar levels. However, it had to be done. As a result of my diagnosis, I didn’t go out as much for meals. As I didn’t want to check my sugar levels out in public, as I felt, it was quite invasive. I also was very aware that people could watch me and I was scared of what they thought. I changed my diet quite a bit. The hardest thing I found the hardest was reducing my milk intake, as, I love milk and used to drink a lot. So, I changed my milk to semi-skimmed and limited my milk intake to only one glass a day. I honestly, did not think that there is a lot of sugars in milk! I also changed and limited my fizzy juice consumption. I changed to Pepsi max and only had the drink twice a day.

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I also monitored what I ate and changed my lifestyle. I used to have quite a lot of takeaways and microwavable meals. So, my husband and I decided to cook more often with recipes that are low in sugar. If my sugar levels were high, I would note what I ate. So, in the future I avoided that meal and found a substitute. Such as a frozen pizza. Instead of having a frozen pizza we would use a fajita as a pizza base and put on toppings of our choice. It was so delicious and fun to make.

We also went out for more walks. We would try to get out on a walk at least once a day. I worked so hard on changing my diet and regularly checking my sugar levels that I didn’t have any insulin prescribed. I had to phone the diabetes specialist nurse with my BM readings that they were happy with them. The changes that we made to our diet and lifestyle worked. I gave birth to a healthy boy weighing 7lbs 9oz. He was perfect.

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MY FEAR OF CHILDBIRTH BY RHIANNON WYTON I was so scared of having a baby. Not all the stuff after it. Although, obviously that is all very terrifying. I was scared of actually having the baby, giving birth, pushing a human out of my vagina. I always had been, I felt relieved that up to a certain my point, my life’s direction meant I was almost certainly not going to have one. Nope, no baby was coming out of me. Most of my twenties were spent in a relationship where there was no room for a child. For various and complicated reasons which I will not go into now, it was just not a place where I felt I could or would want to bring up a baby. But then my midthirties happened, a new direction, a new life, a new me and then a new partner. It was like he was the key to the next level, and the next level was BABY. Oh my goodness did I want a baby. It wasn’t a slow burn, it was a high-speed train, a tornado, an earthquake of a need. Everything changed and I knew I would need to deal with my fear of having a baby. I wasn’t alone, Tokophobia, the

ALICE & THE MUMS | 10

technical name, impacts a number of women for a number of very complicated reasons. For me it was not complicated, it was just born out of my earliest memory of childbirth. A film, a comedy actually, with a really depressing opener. Spoiler – the mum dies. She dies in childbirth and the film is then about the father learning to be a father and falling in love with the nanny. The mother, well, she’s barely even mentioned again, she’s a credit at the end of the movie. To me, this was childbirth. I couldn’t shake it. This fear, the fear that my life was finally on the path I was supposed to me on and that it would be taken from me, in a terribly tragic, never meet your baby kind of way. I was not scared of the pain, not scared of 108 strangers looking at my vagina. I was scared of dying and never meeting my baby. I was scared enough to write a letter to my partner and my baby in case I didn’t make it. I was scared enough that I looked into and discussed having an elective csection. In the medical world, a c-section is considered to be the less


safe option. It is an operation after all, it is big deal surgery, but it appealed to me. And the reason it appealed to me, is that it meant I was not the one in charge, my body, my mind, my strength and bravery would not be required. People who had trained for years would safely deliver my baby into this world. This, all of this, of course, is absolute nonsense. Surgery is scary, operating theatre’s are scary. Every woman who has undergone this operation to save their life, their baby’s life, or just for their own very personal reasons are ALL brave. In the end, I nearly had my way, I had a lazy placenta, placenta previa. Which basically means my placenta was hanging around at the bottom of my uterus blocking the exit like an organic fire hazard. I’m being very flippant, it can be incredibly dangerous and as such, you normally are required to have an elective csection about two weeks before your due date. But after several scans, an internal exam and an MRI, it was determined the placenta had moved and three weeks before my baby was due, I had to get used to the idea of a vaginal birth again. So, I did what any sensible woman in my situation would do, I sat down and watched 114 million episodes of One Born Every Minute. Unbelievably it was the best thing I did. I

cried an absolute river but I felt like I could do this, I was going to do this, I was going to join all these other majestic women and one way or another my baby was coming out. Anyway, another spoiler, I survived child birth. A baby came tearing out of my vagina on almost no pain relief as it happens, but that’s a story for another day. I know women have these incredibly traumatic experiences, and I really hope they are able to make peace with the memories. For me, it’s the bravest day of my life and the day where I thought, if I can do that, then maybe, just maybe I can be a mother.

"I DID WHAT ANY SENSIBLE WOMAN IN MY SITUATION WOULD DO, I SAT DOWN AND WATCHED 114 MILLION EPISODES OF ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE." ALICE & THE MUMS | 11


Alice's Birth Story

Part

Two

Of

Jo's Story

By Joanne Townsend

ALICE & THE MUMS | 12


In the last issue I talked about being pregnant during the pandemic. It was a challenging time and so was the prospect of giving birth. With so many changes such as partners only being allowed in once you was in established labour and no visitors, it made the experience a lot more worrying than when I had my first baby. In the first few weeks of lockdown I hoped that things would have eased by the time by due date arrived (28th May). But as time passed, I realised that it was unlikely to be the case. The midwife was reassuring as there was so much online saying that your birthing partner could only stay with you for an hour after baby was born. But she told me that until I moved to the ward or came home he would be able to stay with me and baby. As well as worrying about a birthing partner, I panicked about having the birth I wanted. I was in the birthing pool with Lucy and really wanted the opportunity to give birth in the pool if possible. Thankfully the hospital said that most of the facilities were still available. As the 28th May came, I tried to relax as much as I could while spending time with my daughter. I packed my hospital bag a couple of weeks earlier. After going to my midwife appointment and getting a sweep, I came home and aside from a couple of Braxton hicks, nothing occurred. Unfortunately, it felt like a long wait over the next couple of day as I became more uncomfortable. On the 2nd June morning, I woke up with bad backache and had a few cramps. I went to have a bath while my husband got my daughter ready for the day. My parents were popping some bits over and when they arrived I had started to have contractions. I calmly talked to them while bouncing on my birthing ball in our lounge with ‘This Morning’ in the background! I wanted to stay calm for the sake of my daughter. As the morning progressed, I became quite uncomfortable and lost my mucus plug. After taking two paracetamol, at 2pm I decided that it was time to go to the hospital where I had to go up on my

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own to the triage. The midwife checked me, and I was only

on the bed. All I remember seeing is the blur of the lights

3cm although she said my waters were bulging. She said

in the hospital and felt a deep panic that my husband

not to go home but to go for a walk with my husband. So

wasn’t there and that I hadn’t had any pain relief. They got

we drove to our local park where we had a good walk

me in an empty room and thank goodness my husband

around. The contractions were stronger, and I had to keep

was let through with a panicked expression as they said I

stopping and gripping my husband's arm. We headed back

was pushing. The next 15 minutes of pushing feels like a

to hospital for 6pm and I somehow made my way upstairs

blur and at 6.42 I pushed our daughter out into the world.

and the midwife checked me over and I was 5cm. I

Alice Bella made a very quick arrival into the world to say

explained I wanted the birthing pool so she left me to go

the least.

check on the room at 6.20. I quickly rang my other half to

Unfortunately, I was told I would have to stay in

come up and as I was getting dressed I suddenly felt this

overnight but to reassure others giving birth during the

big whoosh of water and an overwhelming cramping

pandemic, my husband was allowed to stay nearly four

sensation. I screamed out for help as the room was empty,

hours before I was moved to the ward. After passing all

but a midwife heard me and came rushing to me. Unable

the checks over the next 12 hours, we could go home at

to move in shock, she tried to help me remove my clothes

4pm the next day and my recovery went all well.

and lie me back down. All I felt was the urge to push. She

While I didn’t get to have a waterbirth, I’m pleased in

quickly called for other midwives and I remember her

some ways it was so quick. I don’t know how I managed to

saying I needed to be moved to get some privacy.

do it without any pain relief; I enjoyed having some gas

The next few moments felt like something from Casualty as the midwives pushed me quickly down the hall

and air when they did my stitches and removed the placenta. Alice is a wonderful addition to our family and will always be known as our triage baby!

ALICE & THE MUMS | 14



The Sweet Life of Kay INTRODUCING KAYLEIGH WILLIAMS- OUR NEW COLUMNIST!


FEELING CONFIDENT IN WHATEVER YOU WEAR... I feel like myself, and so many other mums really struggle to feel confident in certain things they wear. My body is certainly not the same as what it used to be before pregnancy, and while I've tried so many diets and exercises to try and fix it, I've learnt to accept the fact this is my new body, and looking at it as a positive change. I've learnt that life is what you make of it, and sitting there wanting to be someone I'm not is not going to make any positive changes to my life. I need to be me, and accept me for who I am, and so should you! Of course it isn't easy, but with the right mind set and support, you can feel confident in whatever you wear. Society has changed massive amounts throughout the year, and there's always the stigma of "fitting into fashion society". What does this really even mean? I didn't realise that in 2020 we have to fit into a fashion society, I've always dressed how I want because I like it that way, but nowadays you're laughed at for wearing something that shows your boobs too much, or that your trousers make your hips look funny. Let's stop the 'fitting in' and learn that we can wear whatever we want. I personally wear whatever now, because I've learnt that I can and will feel my best, whatever I'm wearing. I love wearing lounge wear because it's comfy and makes me feel cosy, but I also love wearing dresses and boots because it makes me feel like a boss mum. There's no right or wrong way to style, as long as you're happy wearing it then who is to judge? Also, the majority of the time people see you differently to how you see yourself also, some days if I feel like I look awful, I get a lot of compliments and it goes to show that you need to look at yourself in a more positive outlook. I used to never wear dresses because I felt too big in them, or people would laugh at me because I didn't look like Kim Kardashian. It's such a draining feeling, and us mums do so much already to protect our families, so why should we feel like we cant wear what we want? We go above and beyond for our little ones, only to feel judged and horrible about

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The moral of the story is that you can wear whatever you want, as long as you're happy in it that's all that matters. We're mums, we go through so much on a daily basis so why shouldn't we feel confident in our outfits? I know for a fact I would never ever judge a fellow mum on her outfit. We're all in this together at the end of the day, and if we can build each others confidences up, we can do anything.

ourselves. I personally don't want any mums to feel this way, ever. Remind yourself of how beautiful you are, your body's have gone through so much so don't ever feel like you need to impress anyone in this world. I know, when I gave birth to Harry my stomach was covered in stretch marks and I felt like I couldn't wear crop tops anymore, or dare even step foot into a bikini. I hated my body, I hated the overhang I had and it made me constantly wear oversized clothing, hiding who I really was deep down. The main thing I had to remind myself was that these oversized clothes were not an invisibility cloak, this is who I am. Want to know how I became confident in my outfits? I learnt to love myself. It was never an easy job, and it definitely didn't happen overnight, but I eventually learnt to feel confident in everything I was wearing. My first holiday after having harry, I wore a bikini because I said to myself "this life is what I make of it, and only I can determine my happiness." It worked. I no longer feel the need to worry everytime I wear a dress. I wear what makes me feel confident, there's no point in me trying to wear something I know isn't going to suit me.

ALICE & THE MUMS | 18

"MY FIRST HOLIDAY AFTER HAVING HARRY, I WORE A BIKINI BECAUSE I SAID TO MYSELF "THIS LIFE IS WHAT I MAKE OF IT, AND ONLY I CAN DETERMINE MY HAPPINESS.""


Q&A WITH LONDON FITNESS MAMAS TOP PRODUCTS ON AMAZON (UNDER £10) TO START YOUR RETURN TO EXERCISE

Trying to find the time to get a workout in is

. They also allow you to get some core work in

aligned. This means you can complete

quite the task when you are trying to get

too.

exercises like press ups or planks while

through the day as a mama. Even if you do find

Our favourite exercises are the pallof press

keeping the wrists comfortable. They don’t

the time to exercise, finding bits of equipment

for core stabilisation. Standing rows to help

come in a bag but they barely take up any

that doesn’t clog up your home can be even

with strengthening the upper back and

room!

more of a task. As with most children being

deadlifts to help with your posture.

born, their arrival brings a lot of new

There are many options on Amazon they all

equipment, toys and clothes into your

should do the same job. Search for pull up

household. Space is at a premium.

bands if you are struggling to find the right

So below is a list of kit you can buy that will

version.

cover all your muscle groups needed for recovery and results. They can all be packed away into a small space and don’t cost a fortune! This is a slightly shorter piece but its filled with some great little bits for you to look out for. This post is designed for new mamas, starting their journey into postpartum life. If you want exercise kit suggestions if you are a little further along your journey then let us know, we can let you know what to look for. As with any mama returning to exercise, we recommend that you speak to a Women’s Health Physio or a Pre & Post Natal PT beforehand. This is to ensure you are ready to start training again and to see if there are any red flags with your body after giving birth.

Resistance Bands First these are going to be a great starting point. Bands will allow you to work on every major muscle group. Exercises like chest presses, bent over rows, squats and deadlifts

Broom Handle Ok this is a bit of an odd one but they are fantastic for mobility and stretching. They allow you to open the chest out and keep great posture as you work through your movements.

Loop Bands These seem nice and small but they are in fact the horrible ones. Our clients have a love

We now use the StickMobility but these will do a job. Most of your budget home stores will sell the

hate relationship with these. They are usually

handles for £1 so they are easy to pick up. Or

used for monster walks and clam shells, as

use one at home if you don’t mind taking the

they work the glutes extremely well. They are

handle off and putting it back on once you

also fantastic for helping the knees stay aligned

have finished.

while you are doing body weight squats. The band should be around the thighs. The bands usually arrive in a brilliant little bag and take up no space at all!

Other Options There are other bits of kit you can use at home like TRX, ViPR, and dumbbells. But today we went for small products that you can store in a

Press Up Handles This one is for when you are a little further

small space. If you do want to look at other bits of kit then a set of dumbbells would be a great

down the line in your fitness journey but a

place to start. The other huge option is BODY

useful one to have in the cupboard. Your wrists

WEIGHT! Body weight exercises are fantastic

usually take a lot of stress from carrying your

and cost nothing! If you would like a little

little one all day. Feeding can lead to extra pain

weight to lift to make some of the exercises

in the wrist. Then while exercising, trying to

more demanding then you have an ever

keep the hands flat on the floor can lead to

increasing one in your child. They are great to

extra pain.

use for exercises like squats and shoulder

Press up bars allow you to keep the wrists

presses. But please be careful if you decide to do anything while holding them.


SLEEP


LET'S CHANGE THE CONVERSATION AROUND INFANT SLEEP BY LIZZIE NOBLE EARLY YEARS & GENTLE HOLISTIC SLEEP & PARENTING COACH

Let’s talk sleep. It is such a big issue for us all and

with their sleep using only gentle, attachment based

especially for new parents. Everyone wants to talk about

responsive strategies.

it almost immediately after we bring our beautiful babies’ home! “Are they sleeping through yet?”, “How did they sleep last night?”, “Are they a good baby, do they sleep?”. Sleep, in terms of how much we are getting, or how

So, why do we do this, why do we suddenly interject ‘sleeping’ with an association of a good baby? Because news flash, babies don’t sleep, they actually have to wake for protective measures, feeding and comfort well into at least year and 80% of babies aged 6-18 months

much we are ‘not getting’ seems to be the hot parenting

wake at least 1-3 times a night for comfort, cuddles and

topic!

night-feeds (Hysing, 2014, Brown, 2015). I also know

My name is Lizzie Noble and I am an Early Years and Gentle Holistic Sleep & Parenting Coach and I am here to chat to you about normative infant sleep. I have personally had all these questions and more, as

anecdotally that a large number of toddlers and preschoolers will still wake frequently too. It is also biologically normal for your baby to wake and to be fed, cuddled, rocked, sung to and comforted back

a mother of a wonderful daughter who never slept for

to sleep. So please let’s change the conversations, lets

what felt like an eternity and who is my fiery inspiration

change the questions we ask mothers to - “How are you

behind my sleep coaching business ‘Little Sleepers_Little

feeling?”, “Can I help you with anything?”, “Do you want

Explorers’. Why I re-trained to degree level in evidence

me to pop over and cuddle the baby so you can take a

based holistic sleep in order to support other families

shower, or have a nap?”. Setting up positive support

ALICE & THE MUMS | 21


really can help our mindsets to cope better with these

daylight, whatever the weather is amazing to help set a

normative but exhausting sleep patterns.

natural body clock and it is also wonderful for our well-

However, the good news is there are many wonderful tips for sleep, ones which promote all the

being especially after a tough night. Big up the ‘physical active play’ too; often children

loving responses so you don’t have to leave your baby

can be under-exercised which has a big impact on

to cry or in distress. Here’s my top tips for establishing

quality and quantity of sleep. The use of white noise

healthy sleep habits for any ages from birth up to 6

and a soft comforter is a great aid for lengthening sleep

years.

cycles and securing attachment and takes them back

Bedtime Routines I know this probably seems quite an obvious one, but it really does make a big difference to sleep. Establishing a consistent and calming bedtime routine from early on can really make a difference in

to the wonderful womb. Also try to stay in the bedroom once you have started the routine, this helps sends the message that it’s time for sleep.

Naps Unfortunately, naps can become a very stressful part

setting up healthy sleep cues for your child. Bedtime

of sleep routines and really my advice is to try to take

should be about reassurance and connection and helps

the pressure of yourselves. No matter the age of the

to prepare for a calmer transition to sleep which has

child or their individual sleep needs, every parent can

huge benefits. The bedtime routine should consist of

at some point find naps a battle. But its 100% ok not to

the same parts, in the same order and be age and stage

have a strict nap schedule. It is more than ok to just go

appropriate. Things like:- bath, pjs, teeth, story, feeds,

with the flow, spend some time watching and reading

songs, cuddles are all common. The length is also

your little one to find their own individual tired cues

important, you don’t want it to be too long and they

and then respond to this. Naps are wonderful; they

can miss their cue for sleep and become overtired or

restore our little ones, they consolidate learning, they

bored, or too short and they feel rushed. Every child is

reduce cortisol and they can give us a break! Going

different and by reading their emotional state and

with your child’s pattern of naps is the best way to find

energy and being sensitive to this can really help to

out what works for them and you. I also urge you to not

figure out your optimal bedtime routine. The

worry about where they nap, unless it’s a problem for

predictability and security of this soothing routine

you. Big up the contact naps, the sling naps, buggy

holds huge benefits for them and you.

naps, car naps, cot naps, boob naps, skin to skin, they are all great restorative naps! Try to nap in the daylight

Sleep Hygiene This is a so important for your little ones, but also for

though, not in a darkened room as this can really imbalance the body clock. Keep night for night. If you find your little one is struggling with naps, then it can

us as parents. The environment we fall asleep in, the

be useful to consider the amount of time they are

habits and behaviours we have at bedtime all impact

awake between sleep. Aiming to even out the naps

on the quality of sleep. Thinking about the bedroom

across the day to reduce sleep pressure and not leaving

and sleeping space, is it too light, too dark, what does

too long gaps can help, this is very individual to your

the sleep space look like, is it warm and welcoming;

child’s needs so watching for their tired cues is a big

ensuring safe sleeping guidelines are being followed

help. If they are having short frequent naps, but their

too (The Lullaby Trust). The recommended room

temperament is ok, then that’s ok. But if they are

temperature is between 16-20°C. However, body

struggling to nap or finding life tough then considering

temperature fluctuates, so layers of clothing and

the average sleep needs for their age group can be

sleeping bags are great. Babies tend to get cold in the

useful. Just to see if they are having enough, too little

early hours of the morning, so popping on a pair of

or too much sleep in 24 hrs can help to find out what

socks can really help those early morning wake ups. I

works best for them. Setting up a calming consistent

do recommend black out blinds but also adding in a

mini pre-nap routine with a story, song, cuddle, feed,

red/orange nightlight is a great idea, to avoid chidlren

little chat and music/white noise can help transition a

feeling scared, but avoid any blue lights as this

reluctant napper into calmer sleep. Also again loads of

suppresses melatonin which is the sleepy hormone!

fresh air and active play before naps too!

Equally try to minimise or avoid screen time at least 2

Love Bombing

hours before bed for this reason and they are very stimulating for some chidlren. Being outside in natural ALICE & THE MUMS | 22

Often with little ones, a reason for troublesome


nights or reluctant bedtimes can be because they are

hand or stroke their hair as they fall asleep, then you can

feeling a little low on the love tank. Every child needs

do all this and more and know that you are creating

their love tanks filled and we do this instinctively every

healthy sleeping chidlren whilst nurturing and building

moment we respond, cuddle, talk, play, feed, touch and

their brains at the same time. Growing brains love

spend time with our children. However, sometimes the

oxytocin and this is released through touch and feeding.

love tank gets low and by providing some quality time

So, setting up your baby to sleep with these comforting

right before bedtime or naps can really help our chidlren

associations, actually helps them to be able to regulate

to feel supported, reassured and connected. This helps

and soothe into sleep much better over time. Follow

them transition into better sleep and secures

your instincts, follow your own ‘song’ and find your

attachment. Everyone needs a good ‘love bombing’ and

village of support. Self-care and taking cate of your

no one more than our kids. This can also help to take the

needs is a vital part of parenting, especially parenting

stress out of bedtime for us too, once we give into the

when sleep deprived. Practicing mindfulness and

fact that bedtime is for love and connection, we can

relaxation techniques are also a really great way to help

forget the pressures of sleep and just follow the child’s

calm and regulate ourselves and thus calming our

needs and bedtime becomes easier all round, as does

babies and children too. If you need to make some

sleep.

changes to their sleep needs, you can do so by slowly

No Bad Habits Yes, I said it, there are ‘no bad habits’, ‘no rods for

and gently transitioning from one thing they love to another like rocking to patting, to lying still and rubbing back etc. Layer up lots of associations and gently take one away at a time. You can help your child to move

your own backs’! Yes of course, there are some sleep

towards independent sleep by providing the

associations that can become unstainable and yes 100%

dependence they first need. Sleep isn’t linear it changes

there are gentle ways to transition to ones which are

all the time and at the risk of sounding cliché, it really

more sustainable for you. However, if you wish to feed,

doesn’t last forever!

cuddle, rock, sing, hold, bed -share, hold you little one’s

Good Luck & Sweet Dreams!

ALICE & THE MUMS |23


SLEEP TRAINING: WHERE TO START! By Sophie Clarke I’m going to start with the word intelligent. Babies are extremely intelligent, from the minute they leave the womb, your babies brain is like a little sponge, soaking

you would hope for as a parent, until it came to sleep training! My experience so far, probably the most challenging

up life around them, and when it comes to sleep training

as a parent to date, but please, if you're reading this

this is no exception!

don’t let that scare you off! It’s also been hugely

I am currently sleep training my almost 2 year old Harry! He’s a darling he really is, he does this really cute

rewarding. Rewind approximately 16 months. After 8 weeks of

thing sometimes where he draws on the walls with

exclusively breastfeeding Harry, he made his feelings

crayons, he is just so creative.... LOL.

very clear that he wanted to be in the bed with me, and

Really though, we have been one of the lucky ones,

this worked for us, thus we started co sleeping. We had

Harry is a great kid, he’s always slept well, eaten well,

lots of comments and concerned relatives, but

and he’s just generally a happy little boy, everything

nonetheless, we continued. Harry was sleeping well,

ALICE & THE MUMS | 24


I was sleeping well, everyone was a winner. Now Fast forward 18 months, Harry is only feeding in the morning and just before bed, he’s getting bigger and needs his own space, so we have decided to transfer him not just into his cot, but to his very own room! It’s a big adjustment for us all! After trying every other method and failing, lack of sleep got the better of me. Harry would not settle AT ALL for my partner, and it was very emotionally and physically draining, so we have decided to try the cry it out method, much to my dismay. Like all mothers, we hate seeing our babies cry, all of our motherly instincts tell us to hold our baby, to comfort them but you can’t, this was the hardest part for me. Night one Harry cried for almost an hour, and I cried too, but I stayed in my room, desperately wanting to bring him back into my bed, into my arms. My partner Rob reassured me, we are teaching him an important life skill. He told me that in order for him to understand he will be ok, and that we will be still be there in the morning, he has to go through this tough stage first, and he told me everything will be ok. The more I thought about it, The more I felt that I don’t want Harry to feel sad being away from me. When he’s older I want him to enjoy sleepovers at his grandparents or his friends houses, without feeling scared of leaving me. I want him to understand he can fall asleep by himself, and be much more comfortable, and have a much better, more peaceful sleep. To my surprise by night two, he cried again, but for half the time he did on night 1, as heartbreaking as it is to watch on the baby monitor, I felt a sense of relief, witnessing and knowing we had made progress, the cry it out method was working! At this point, what I started to realise was he wasn’t crying because he was scared, or upset, he was angry, angry because I left the room, and that’s ok because by night three guess what?! It took 10 minutes before he settled. Harry has been waking twice in the night, once at 11 and then again around 4am. We just go in lay him down and hold his hand to reassure him we are there, and he goes right back off to sleep! I’m hoping in time he will learn he doesn’t need to wake to make sure we are there, and he will sleep through the night. For now, it’s a work in progress, but progress is what we have made. And if you are reading this, going through it, or about to, trust me you will make progress too!

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Let's Talk About Sleep, Baby...

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By Courtney Griffin (@raisinggriffins) ‘Are they a good sleeper?’ the question asked daily amongst parents in baby groups across the nation. I mean, what are we considering ‘good’? I’m a mum of two humans (Poppy is 4 and Hugo has just turned 2) and I. AM. SHATTERED. My experience of sleep is very much a tale of two halves. Poppy was textbook; out of a cot before her first birthday, self-settled early on, slept through without needing much encouragement. Sometimes, dare I say it, we have to wake her for school! But oh hang on. Enter Hugo. Two years ago, this little (BIG) 9lb bundle of boy shot out into our world and what a ride it’s been from then on. Unfortunately, Hugo was a fussy little fella from day dot. Initially I put it down to him being a boy; ‘They’re different from girls”, ‘he’s just a mummy’s boy’ & ‘it’s because you’re breastfeeding’ were amongst some of the comments I received. I naively believed them. Little did we know. After some of the worst moments, Hugo was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, an oral aversion and bowel issues at 16 weeks old. As a result we spent a lot of his first year of life tube fed and frequented our local hospital enough times to warrant calling it home. Sleep, as a result of this, was and unfortunately still is poor. So here’s the deal. You pop a baby out your foof and the midwife hands you a leaflet on safe sleeping on your way out of hospital, the health visitor will mention cot death statistics at your first visit and the GP will ask if you’re getting enough rest by your six week postnatal check; but does any of that really help? Add all the Karen’s barking random statistics and unsupported opinions at you, the all-her-shit-together-mum that comments that her child slept through from the second she entered the world, and you’re done in. It’s a bit like ‘the first rule of sleep club is to not talk about sleep’. The truth is you can’t, and won’t, win. There will always be someone that has something bad to say, regardless of what sleep arrangements or choices you make. We can all do our research, make safe choices based upon the information we’ve read, without being

ALICE & THE MUMS | 27


given unsolicited and unwelcome advice from others. So, ironically, I’m going to give you my advice; do whatever works and whatever you feel is safe for you to do so. If it’s co-sleeping, do it. If it’s sleep training, do it. If it’s feeding to sleep, do it. If it’s sending the kids to the grandparents for a sleepover so you don’t completely loose your mind, sanity and identity, do it. Ultimately, You. Do. You. I never considered co-sleeping and I certainly didn’t expect it to still be the case two years down the line. To be honest, I don’t co-sleep; my son co-sleeps whilst I lay there co-awake being sporadically kicked in various body parts until the sun comes up and it’s time for coffee. But does it work? It works for now. We have a night routine that we stick to daily; he’s rocked to sleep whilst taking his bottle and by 6:30pm he’s asleep. By 10pm I’ll have been up and down the stairs to settle

ALICE & THE MUMS | 28

him more times that I even care to admit. By midnight, he’s in our bed. As we try to be functioning adults, we’ll take whatever sleep we can get and if that means he sleeps in our bed for now then so be it. Will he still be doing it when he’s 18, I highly doubt it. By then I’ll be craving these days back again; something that I try to remind myself when it all feels a bit too much. Not everything has to be textbook. Parents, however put together they seem, are all simply just winging it, I promise! However tough you are, sleep deprivation is a real killer; make sure you grab any offer of support with two hands, ensure you’ve got a safe place to vent (away from Judgey McJudgerson) and refill the cup you are pouring from! You are just as important as that precious bundle of newborn joy! You’ve got this (she says whilst typing with one hand and cuddling my little sleep thief with the other)!


How I Survived Sleep Deprivation (Without throttling my other half/turning into a recluse/functioning on only coffee)


Now I was an absolute nightmare of a baby and had very similar sleeping patterns to Ted, so I knew this was a good place to turn. We identified the biggest change in routine was Ted had been swaddled up until this point, but was now rolling and also strong enough to pull the blankets off of him. If we managed even just ten minutes over an hour sleep then I'd spend the next evening making sure the conditions were all identicalsame temperature, same blanket, same music on to drift off to. I became obsessed with recording his wake ups and lived in a bubble of 'how can I achieve more sleep? How? How? HOW?????' Through all of this, I'm pretty proud of how I managed to keep calm and carry on in my typically British nature. I certainly had moments where I snapped. I cried- a lot. But I never sat inside or isolated myself. I'd down two coffees, made sure I was nourishing my body with food that would increase my energy levels, covered my eyebags up with concealer and I'd venture out.

BY ALICE KING EDITOR For the first 4 months of Ted's life, we felt truly blessed with his sleeping pattern. He'd always sleep in at least 4-5 hour slots, sometimes more, and would immediately fall back asleep after the first week and I felt great. I was full of life and really felt like I'd mastered motherhood. I glowed as a mummy. Feeding was going well and I just felt like I'd smashed it. I was already dreaming about bringing another little one into the world, feeling completely lucky I'd had it so easy. Hahahahahahahaaha.... Don't worry, the 4 month sleep regression soon hit and wiped the smug little smile off my face! Ted slept in with us. I'd read lots about SIDs and I was unwilling to put him into his own room until that 6 month mark. From 4 months, until I'd say 9 months old, he slept for the most an hour before waking up for a couple of hours and then getting another hour sleep before then waking up again. More nights than not this was every half an hour. I was drained, completely and utterly drained. Now as you can imagine I spent hours on forums and Facebook groups wondering why on earth my child wouldn't sleep. The comments ranged from everything from it being my fault for breastfeeding him at night, (a completely misinformed commentbreast milk contains hormones to help babies sleep!), to him just having an active mind and not wanting to miss out. I ignored the endless jibberish of the online world and turned to science- A.K.A my ex-midwife mum.

ALICE & THE MUMS | 30


"I became obsessed with recording his wake ups and lived in a bubble of 'how can I achieve more sleep? How? How? HOW?????'"

I sadly never found solidarity in other mothers when it came to sleep. It felt like sleep was one of those things that the cliquey groups would boast about at mum groups. In fact I vividly remember nosily listening to a conversation in a Costa between three mums who were essentially trying to out-do each other with whose baby slept through the night first and which baby slept the longest. I rolled my eyes while sipping on my decaf (I convinced myself if I cut out caffeine Ted would sleep- FYI it didn't work.) Those 5 months felt like the longest months of my life. Well they were because I was awake for so much of them! One day it just clicked. Nothing changed, Ted just wanted to sleep and required little from me to get asleep. He went from barely sleeping to sleeping through or waking up just once. It was that simple.

No

sleep training. No co-sleeping. Nothing. Just a little boy who decided he liked to sleep and decided to add a 3 to 4 hour nap into the mix too! If you're a mum going through this right now, don't panic. Please don't obsess or think you're doing something wrong. Every baby is different, and sleeping through the night is something they just achieve when they want to- I guess just like anything else. It's easy for me to say now, but keep going, keep giving your baby the warmth and protection they need. They won't be that little forever and one day you'll be going into their rooms and forcing them to wake up and get out of bed. Embrace the madness of it. Nap when you can. Look after your body and mind.

ALICE & THE MUMS | 31


WHY I WON'T SLEEP TRAIN BY HELEN MARSHALL

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"Eventually, the long, sleepless nights turn into shorter, more sleep-filled nights, but that also doesn’t mean that your child will always sleep well,"

As soon as you give birth, you’re immediately get asked how your baby is sleeping. People are obsessed. Babies sleep a lot, but they also don’t like to sleep at night. Eventually, the long, sleepless nights turn into shorter, more sleep-filled nights, but that also doesn’t mean that your child will always sleep well, or through, and that’s completely normal. It’s a survival instinct. I’m not saying it isn’t difficult, it’s so hard, but I still wouldn’t sleep train my child, simply because it’s not for me, my husband or my little girl. There’s a few reasons why I have decided against sleep training (i.e. Cry It Out and Controlled Crying). One of the main reasons I have chosen not to sleep train is that it isn’t necessarily teaching a baby or toddler how to sleep, it could be teaching them that you’re simply

not going to respond to their cries. A baby cries to communicate with you; that’s something you need to remember when you’re knee-deep in sleep deprivation. They don’t have any other way of telling you what is wrong other than crying. I attend nearly every cry my little one has, because I want her to feel secure and confident that her mum (and dad) will always be there when she needs them. In my eyes, that’s a perfectly valid reason to not leave them to cry. Another reason is that it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to work forever; it can very well be a temporary thing. I couldn’t think of anything worse than having weeks, months, years of good sleep and then it all going wrong. I’d feel like I was failing more; whereas, as my child doesn’t sleep ‘well’, I’m

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used to it, so if we have a bad night, I’m used to it and can cope (relatively) well. I also just physically cannot bring myself to do it. I can’t stand to hear my little girl cry, I hate it. In the night, I hate being by myself if I don’t feel safe, or calm, or content. If my child feels any of these things, my motherly instinct is to go to her, help her feel safe, calm and content. It might be knackering, but it’s how I’m programmed! Finally, it’s not permanent. I KNOW it can feel like in when you’re kneedeep in sleep deprivation, haven’t showered for days, you miss evenings with your other half, you’re desperate for some alone time, and those subtle

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suggestions from other mums/nonmums to just leave them for 5 minutes crying as it will ‘help them’ seem so, so very tempting, BUT it’s not forever. As I write this, I’m 20 months into this parenting lark, and one thing I can safely say is true for every child I know – it’s just a phase! Everything that seems hard happens for a reason, and these children go through more phases than I’ve had hot dinners, but it will end eventually. Just keep going, you’ve got this. When I found out I was pregnant, if you told me as my child was 20 months old that I would celebrate if she slept 3 hours in her own bed, I’d have (very nervously) laughed in your face, but here I am. We co-sleep once

I’ve gone to bed, and some nights, she’ll only wake up once, some nights, it feels like she’s never slept, but one day she’ll not come into our room and I’ll wake up in the morning petrified that something has happened to her. That day might take another year to happen, but I know that it will. Now, if someone asked me, “would you like your daughter to sleep all night in her own bed?”, would I answer “yes”? ABSOLUTELY! I still live in constant hope that one day she might do it. I still wish she was more of an independent sleeper, but that also doesn’t mean that I would change anything about her, or that I would force the change on her. I’m doing what I think is right for my child, and I can’t do any more than that!


AUNTIE K'S TIPS: CREATING A BEDTIME ROUTINE Having a bedtime routine helps children get the

Creating the routine - Your routine should

sleep that they need. Establishing good sleep

ideally be the same every night. What it

habits will help them to fall asleep and also stay

contains is up to you but keeping it calm

asleep. Introducing a routine from around 3 - 4

and relaxing is important.

months may sound too soon but implementing a routine then can help prevent sleep problems later on.

A suggested routine could be: A bath Clean nappy and change into night clothes

Teaching your baby the difference between

A bedtime story with their milk

night and day is a useful starting point and very

A kiss and a cuddle

easily done. During the daytime don't worry

Put down into their cot and say goodnight

about noise while they are sleeping and at night

Lights out

time keep things quiet, talking in a quiet voice and keep the lights dimmed.

It is useful to keep a similar routine as your child gets bigger, perhaps with a few tweaks and probably

Choosing the right bedtime - Follow your

starting earlier to accommodate a longer bath and

baby's lead and start bedtime when they

more stories.

are showing signs of sleepiness. There is no exact time but if your baby has a

If you are reading this and your child is over 4 months

regular feeding pattern and you know

old and you don't have a routine yet don't panic!! You

when they will be due a feed, start bedtime around 30

can get a routine in place at any age but the older

minutes before.

your child is the harder it can be.

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