My name is Kaysie, and I am currently 20 weeks pregnant. This is my 4th pregnancy and the first one where I have maintained a very healthy and fit lifestyle. I am a mom of three – 16, 13, and 7. After my last child was born I was the heaviest I had ever been and I knew I wanted better for myself. I wanted to set a good example for my children as they grew up. It took a year to lose the weight but almost 6 years to be in the best shape of my life, and I continue to maintain it!!
After I had lost the weight I competed in the NPC bikini competition in 2017 just to say I got up on stage and did it!! Even though the stage was not my favorite, the road it took to get there was what made me who I am today. I surrounded myself with women that empowered me and supported me. After a lot of hard work and dedication, I decided I wanted to be the light for someone else in a tough spot. I wanted to be the woman that supported and empowered other women to be the best versions of themselves. In 2018, I received a certification as a group trainer. Along with that, my knowledge of nutrition has put me in a place to teach others how important their food choices are along with exercise.
I think most of us know how important it is to stay healthy and fit throughout our lifetime. Whether we choose to execute this or not is the hard part. To some it comes easy and natural. To others it may be a very difficult task to complete daily. Now that you’re pregnant, it’s even more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and some type of daily exercise.
Personally, I am in the gym 4-6 days a week and my workouts last 1.5 hours-2 hours consisting of cardio warmup/HIIT, strength training, and stretching. I eat 1700-2000 calories a day and I carb cycle two days of the week and I drink 90-120 ounces of water daily. I choose to eat organically 98% of the time.
If you’re new to exercise, I don’t recommend starting out as heavily as I do. Even though my body has been used to doing hard exercise for a long time, I keep an eye on my heart rate and don’t go over 150 per my OB’s recommendation.
Here are some tips you can try daily to ensure you continue to have a healthy and fit pregnancy.
Exercise at least 30 minutes daily (please talk to your doctor/midwife/OB before starting a new exercise routine)
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. If you weigh 140 you should be drinking at least 70 ounces if not more.
Eat lots of veggies, some fruit, organic grains, and limit your fat content. Stick to healthy fats like avocados and nuts. (I personally chose to buy all my foods organic.)
Stay away from sugars. Try to only consume sugars from fruits and veggies
Get a good night’s rest.
Stay positive. Surround yourself with people that support you, uplift you, and motivate you to make positive choices for you and your family.
For more health and fitness tips. follow Kaysie on Instagram.
Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and scary milestones of a person’s life. It’s likely your emotions will run the gamut from excited anticipation and joy, to fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what’s ahead and how you’re coping with parenthood. Managing night time feeds, tending to your baby throughout the day, and trying to keep up with your other responsibilities as you acclimatize to parenthood can make sleep difficult. While this is somewhat expected, sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on the health of new mothers and their babies, so it is important to get as much rest as possible.
The importance of sleep for new parents
The diminished quality and quantity of sleep that new parents often experience can result in physical and mental fatigue and an increased risk of postpartum depression. Prolonged lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can also increase the risk of diabetes, weaken your immune system, reduce attention and focus, and impair hormone production, causing weight gain, loss of libido, and moodiness.
Because our bodies require sleep to function correctly – and a specific amount of sleep that allows us to cycle through the various sleep stages several times throughout the night – a dip in the standard or quantity of hours we accumulate asleep in bed can have a far-reaching impact on our health and quality of life. One recent study found an association between poor sleep quality and postpartum depression.
There are two main phases of sleep – NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement, when dreams occur). Throughout these stages, specific changes and functions are carried out in our bodies and brains. NREM phases are when most of the physically restorative processes of sleep are performed. Our muscles and cells are repaired, our immune system is boosted, and the deep sleep of stage three NREM is what’s needed to wake feeling refreshed in the morning.
REM sleep occurs around 90 minutes after we first fall asleep and NREM phases are complete. This is the dreaming phase and the time that our brains process the salient and emotional experiences from waking life. When our body doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, it is unable to consolidate all the emotional and experiential data we have collected while awake, neither is it able to complete the physically restorative processes we need to feel refreshed and energized. That’s why we feel fatigued, forget things easily, and may find it difficult to manage our emotions.
Tips for getting the right amount of sleep While some disruption to your sleep is to be expected as you adjust to the new normal; the good news is that there are a range of tactics and strategies you can employ to still get the amount of sleep your body needs.
Create the right environment for sleep:
When you do head to bed, it is important that you are able to drift off to sleep as quickly as possible so you can maximize your sleep time. To create the right environment for good sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. Light affects our melatonin production and signals to our brain that it’s time to get up. Turn the baby monitor down too so their snuffles and murmurs don’t disturb you, but you’ll still wake if they cry out for comfort. If you do have trouble falling asleep, try a wind-down relaxation or mindfulness meditation that will help calm your mind and body.
Share the responsibility:
Taking care of a baby is a 24/7 job that requires constant activity and emotional resilience. No one should expect that they can do this on their own.
Negotiate a schedule with your partner that lets you share nighttime feeds, diaper changes, and those evenings when baby just doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s necessary to ensure you have the right support so the sleep and health of you, your partner, and baby don’t suffer.
Have you ever heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? This isn’t just about the direct interactions; it’s all the support functions that are needed to raise a happy healthy child too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the cooking, cleaning, endless laundry, groceries, or just holding your baby for a while so you can have a shower and dress! The everyday, mundane tasks that were so simple pre-baby can take monumental effort to complete once there’s a baby in the house. Most people know this and will be happy to lend a hand.
Embrace the nap:
Babies rarely sleep for more than four hours at a time. While this is a major contributing factor to those interrupted nights, the multiple two to three-hour naps your baby takes through the day provides ample opportunity for you to rest too – if you let yourself. Resist the urge to catch up on chores and instead take a half hour nap that will help manage your fatigue. Avoid sleeping longer than 45 minutes though as this will adversely impact your night’s sleep.
Christine Huegel is on the Editorial Team of Mattress Advisor, covering a variety of topics pertaining to sleep health in order to help people get their best night’s sleep.
Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. She talks with us today about a woman’s monthly cycle. What’s “normal”? What if you don’t get a period at all? Is PMS a real thing? You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, and I’m here with Kristin. Our guest today is Dr. Nave, who is a naturopathic doctor at Health for Life Grand Rapids.
Dr. Nave: Hi!
Alyssa: We were excited to meet you – what was it, a few weeks ago? We presented to your team, and you – I was really intrigued. Tell everyone what you specialize in as an ND, and then they’ll know why I wanted to talk to you so bad.
Dr. Nave: I am especially excited about assisting women to reconnect to their identities, and the way in which I do that is by really looking at their hormones, their mental health, their physical health, and other aspects of their life.
Alyssa: Do you only work with women?
Dr. Nave: No, I do not, but my passion is women.
Alyssa: So today you’re going to talk about cycles, and I know you have a couple specific thing about a woman’s cycle that you want to talk about, so explain what those are, and then let’s just dive in.
Dr. Nave: Okay. I want to talk about what a typical cycle should look like, so this is how your cycle should look if nothing is going wrong. And then we’ll transition to talking about PCOS and what is going on with that.
Alyssa: And what does PCOS stand for?
Dr. Nave: PCOS is polycystic ovarian syndrome. In medical terminology, a syndrome just means a cluster of symptoms that fit this particular diagnosis, and so with PCOS, what’s happening is that the woman isn’t bleeding or she has skipped periods, and that is due to low progesterone, which is an important hormone that allows the endometrial lining, basically, in the uterus so that implantation of the fertilized egg can happen.
Alyssa: Okay. So let’s talk first about what it should look like.
Dr. Nave: Sure. With our cycle, there are five main hormones that influence a woman’s hormonal cycle. We have LH and FSH, which are the hormones that are produced by the brain to tell an egg to mature and to allow the endometrial lining, which is basically the build-up of tissue in the uterus that allows the implanted fertilized egg to become a baby. So we have those two hormones that are produced by the brain, and then we have estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone that are produced in the ovary.
Alyssa: All the time, or only if an egg is implanted?
Dr. Nave: At specific times. A typical cycle, in terms of what we would call the normal cycle or the optimal cycle, would be a 28-day cycle. We have some leeway in terms of, in the medical community, how we diagnose whether it’s too long or too short, whether it be above 35 days or less than 21. For me, I think it’s best if it’s 28 days because it’s kind of like cycle with the moon, so the lunar cycle, because it also helps with the math. So we’ll just use 28 for the typical just for explaining what happens. In the first 14 days, that’s what we call the ovulatory – like, the building up of estrogen. The brain tells the ovary, by way of follicular stimulated hormone, FHS, to make one of the eggs mature. So it’s like, hey, ovary, let one of these eggs become the mother, so to speak. The brain does that, and then the ovary responds by allowing one of the eggs to become mature. We have multiple eggs that are responding during this time in different life stages, but the one that is the oldest usually gets picked, in terms of its life phase. It becomes mature; the estrogen is being made by the egg itself, which allows for that ovulation to occur. FHS tells the egg to become mature, and then the egg itself makes estrogen so the egg can further mature. It’s a fascinating, interesting thing that’s happening.
Alyssa: That’s during ovulation?
Dr. Nave: Yes, so during the first 14 days of your cycle, the estrogen is building up so that the egg can fully mature. Then what happens is that there are two types of cells that are a part of the egg. One produces estrogen, and the other aspect makes testosterone, so those are the other two hormones that we’re talking about. Once the egg matures and it’s released, the thing that’s left behind is called the corpus luteum, also known as the yellow body. That then makes progesterone. All of this is sort of happening at the same time, so we say 14 days for the ovulatory phase, but really, it’s like the brain is telling the body to make progesterone at the same time it’s telling the body to make estrogen. It’s just that it’s at a lower level. Until the egg is released. You don’t really have that progesterone being made.
Alyssa: It’s ebbing and flowing based on the day of your cycle?
Dr. Nave: Yes, yes. Around day 14 is when the egg is released. It’s the highest level of estrogen at that point in time, and then the yellow body that’s left behind – the brain told the egg, by way of the luteinizing hormone, LH, to start making progesterone. Are you following?
Alyssa: Kind of, yeah. In my head, that little egg is moving along, following a timeline.
Dr. Nave: Right! At day 14, we have the highest estrogen, and progesterone starts to climb up.
Alyssa: And estrogen is decreasing and progesterone is increasing?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, estrogen is at its peak; progesterone starts to spike up a lot more. I’m grossly simplifying it, sorry! As the progesterone is being built up – so the corpus luteum is making the progesterone because the brain told it, hey, make progesterone by way of the LH, the luteinizing hormone. That causes, then, the endometrial lining in the uterus to build up so that implantation of the egg can happen. Towards day 28, which is when you expect bleeding to occur – basically, the reason why bleeding occurs is that the progesterone starts declining at that point because progesterone is necessary for the build-up of the uterine wall so that implantation can happen, but if there’s no fertilization off the egg, then it basically is a withdrawal of the progesterone, and then it just sloughs off.
Alyssa: So day number one is not the – is that the day your period starts?
Dr. Nave: Yes.
Alyssa: So day 28, then, is the day before you period starts? Okay, I’m seeing the timeline in my head.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Day one, when a doctor asks a woman, okay, what’s day one of your period, he or she is technically asking, when’s the first day of your bleeding. Technically, we’re always cycling, but we consider day one the last time you bled. That’s what the cycle should look like. Now, when we experience our periods, even though people consider it the status quo that we experience PMS, we don’t have to experience it. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: The hormonal changes don’t necessarily mean that we’re going to have the mental and – becoming angry or disorganized or frustrated?
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Seeing those symptoms for a woman, that would indicate to me that maybe the ratio is a little bit off. Some examples are acne or being really bloated. Being bloated, puffy, having water retention and having really heavy bleeding – that could be a sign that the woman is experiencing what we call estrogen dominance. Now, estrogen dominance doesn’t necessarily mean that she has high estrogen. It could just mean that her progesterone is low and therefore throwing off the ratio so that when she’s experiencing premenstrual syndrome, PMS, she’s experiencing these symptoms, even though if it were normal, she wouldn’t have to.
Alyssa: So you’re not saying that PMS is made up. It’s a real thing; it just means there’s an imbalance somewhere? It can be fixed, that you don’t have to deal with this stuff?
Dr. Nave: Absolutely. And the weepiness: estrogen. Estrogen is important for our bone health, our cardiovascular health. It’s the reason why we as women don’t get heart attacks until much later in life because it protects our hearts; it’s important for our bone health, which is why when you experience menopause or perimenopause, it’s very important to get your bone density checked. That’s the importance of estrogen. And then testosterone, which is produced by the egg, is important for sex drive and being able to be aroused.
Alyssa: What happens in a woman’s body when they’re aroused that helps with implantation?
Dr. Nave: When the woman is aroused, that allows the cervix to sort of pulsate so that when climax is achieved, the sperm can travel up into the uterus and, hey, let’s get to the egg wherever it is. It also allows for the vaginal canal, which typically is around three inches, which sounds crazy, but it actually lengthens and stretches. It’s a muscle that moves to accommodate the penis, if you’re having that kind of intercourse, or allow for artificial insemination in that way. So it increases the likelihood of implantation successfully occurring. It’s so cool!
Alyssa: We’ll pause so everyone can visualize!
Dr. Nave: Our bodies are amazing! In order for conception to occur, not only do the hormones have to cycle how they should, but you have to address your mental health; are you in the space that you can have intercourse or whatever it is? The ovary itself isn’t even attached to the uterus. There’s a gap between the two of them, and we have chemotaxis – basically a chemical, like how your body produces the hormones, that attracts the egg to go down the fallopian tube as opposed to staying in your abdominal area.
Alyssa: So every time you see a picture, it looks like…
Dr. Nave: They’re attached? Yes. But they’re not.
Alyssa: So they have to let go and then actually be drawn up by the fallopian tube and then into the uterus? They’re not attached?
Dr. Nave: No. We have connective tissue or fascia that’s in that area –
Alyssa: Which helps kind of push it in the right direction, probably?
Dr. Nave: Not exactly. It’s more like it creates this compartment so that your uterus isn’t just floating around in your abdominal cavity. We have this connective tissue that anchors it in that area so there’s less likelihood that a fertilized egg will end up outside of the uterus, which is why ectopic pregnancies are so low in terms of their incidence. But we also have these finger-like projections in the fallopian tube that brushes the egg along. So it’s not just the hormone that’s attracting the egg to where it needs to go and we have all these other signaling processing that are working.
Alyssa: I’m picturing a crowd surfer pushing it along.
Dr. Nave: We’re all supporting you! So that’s what a normal cycle should look like.
Alyssa: Ideally, that’s what it should look like?
Dr. Nave: Yes, ideally, that’s what it should look like.
Alyssa: And when a woman doesn’t have her cycle?
Dr. Nave: When she doesn’t have her cycle, then we have to consider two different things. Is it that she’s not bleeding at all, which we call amenorrhea, or are there greater than 35 days between each cycle, in which case we call that oligomenorrhea, or many menses, technically.
Alyssa: It seems like it would be the opposite because there’s a big space between. But either way, it’s a problem, and that will help determine how you treat it?
Dr. Nave: Yes. And so if it is that a woman isn’t bleeding, as in amenorrhea, then we have to consider why is that the case. Is it that she’s pregnant? That would be the first thing to assess. Is she pregnant? Okay, she’s not. What exactly is going on? One particular condition that I’ve been hearing or rather seeing more women experience is called PCOS. We mentioned it earlier, that PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome or Stein-Leventhal syndrome. Basically, what’s happening is that instead of the progesterone going up around day 14 to day 28, instead of it increasing, the body is changing it into another type of hormone. Just to give you some context, our bodies use cholesterol to make all our steroid hormones, which are all our sex hormones as well as cortisol. Our bodies use the cholesterol and then turn it into pregnenolone which is like the mother of all of those hormones. Pregnenolone can then become progesterone. It can become testosterone. It can become estrogen, which we have three different types of estrogens, or it can become cortisol. In PCOS, what’s happening is that instead of the pregnenolone going down to becoming progesterone, it’s getting turned into either testosterone, estrogen, or cortisol. A woman who potentially has PCOS or has been confirmed with that diagnosis – in addition to having amenorrhea, for her to be diagnosed with it, she also has to have two out of three symptom criteria. We have what’s called hyperandrogenism, which is high testosterone, and some of the symptoms she could experience would be cystic acne or hirsutism, which is just a fancy term for hair in unwanted places, like coarse, thick hair along your hairline or along your breast or in places that aren’t typical areas that you have hair distribution. That’s one, and then the amenorrhea that we talked about, and the last one is seeing cysts. The only way that we can really assess if there are cysts in the ovary is if we do a transvaginal ultrasound. I say we, but not me, but the actual tech would do that for you, and basically, they place a probe inside the vaginal canal, and they use an ultrasound on top of the abdomen to visualize if there are any cysts in the ovary. The reason why we get the cysts – to back up again to looking at the cycle, instead of the egg being released, the egg just stays there, because you need the progesterone to tell the egg, hey, release.
Alyssa: It stays where?
Dr. Nave: It stays in the ovary. And then in the ovary itself, you have all these eggs that look like they’re just about to release, but they end up forming what’s called a cyst. It can be fluid filled. Cyst is just a fancy term for a ball, kind of.
Alyssa: I didn’t know a cyst could be an egg that didn’t move.
Dr. Nave: That didn’t move, yeah.
Alyssa: So when people say they’ve had ovarian cysts burst, it could be an egg that didn’t move? Could be, doesn’t have to be?
Dr. Nave: Could be, doesn’t have to be. It could just be fluid. But in the case of PCOS, it’s like the ovary doesn’t release the egg, so it becomes mature, kind of, but not to the point where it actually releases because we don’t have any progesterone, or there’s minimal levels of progesterone so that if and when a woman experiences bleeding, if she has PCOS – so long cycle or no bleeding at all – in the long cycle aspect of things, there’s no egg. It’s just blood or tissue that got to build up a little bit.
Alyssa: So the egg still is stuck in the ovary?
Dr. Nave: Yes. I mean, you could have some release at some point if her progesterone can get high enough that that can occur, but it’s kind of scattered. You can’t really track it per se because it’s insufficient.
Alyssa: So she’s having them, just not – I guess 35 days instead of 28 – wouldn’t most women just go, oh, that’s no big deal; I just have a long cycle? What are the other symptoms? What else would they see?
Dr. Nave: She could have the symptoms of PMS but never actually bleed. So she’s still cycling, because remember you’re still cycling, always, whether you bleed or don’t bleed; the hormones are still doing their thing. She can experience the PMS symptoms but not bleed, which means that she’s not able to get pregnant. And even if you don’t ever want to get pregnant, our uterus is what I like to call an emunctory. An emunctory is basically an organ that our bodies use to detox or remove toxins. If we are not bleeding, that means those hormones are getting reabsorbed into our bodies, which for a woman, if she’s estrogen-dominant, it basically reinforces the estrogen dominance because she’s reabsorbing it in her intestines, which makes the symptoms to get worse. Because to get rid of our hormones, once they’ve done their thing and we’ve shed our lining and we bleed, the other way in which we get rid of our steroid hormones is by poop. So if you’re not pooping, then…
Alyssa: Is that another symptom or side effect? Is that a cycle issue, or not?
Dr. Nave: It could be a cycle issue. One of the symptoms that women sometimes experience is when they’re on their periods, either they’re constipated or they have really loose stool, and that’s because of hormones.
Alyssa: They call it period poop, and I never knew why.
Dr. Nave: Yeah, it’s because of the hormones.
Alyssa: So it’s normal? If you’re having a regular cycle and you have a day of poop that’s not normal, it’s just your hormones? That’s normal?
Dr. Nave: Normal in the sense of it’s to be expected with what you’re experiencing, yes. Other things that can happen with PCOS, and this is not with every woman, is that some women gain weight. Some don’t. For a woman that does gain weight if she has PCOS, what’s happening is that the body is converting the progesterone into cortisol. And cortisol is the hormone that affects our sleep-wake cycle. So when you first wake up in the morning, the reason why you’re fully awake is cortisol. It spikes at that point. What happens when we’re under a lot of stress, or if you have PCOS, our bodies are making a lot more cortisol, and that cortisol allows for the breakdown of stored glucose and the conversion of other proteins and fats into glucose. This issue with that happening for prolonged periods is that the woman can experience what’s called insulin insensitivity, so her body is no longer able to respond to insulin, which means that when she eats, then she can’t stabilize her blood sugar, which means that the sugar stays longer in the bloodstream, which causes damage to small blood vessels and nerves, which is what happens in diabetes. That’s why for a woman with PCOS, having metformin might work, which is why some doctors place a woman with PCOS on metformin to increase her chances of conceiving. It’s not just the hormones that affect your cycle; hormones influence every aspect of our lives, from the moment we wake up and take our first breath to the moment that we pass on into the next life. It’s this orchestra that each hormone has a part to play and influence each other in term of how effectively each part is able to do their part.
Alyssa: So let’s say I came in and I had questions about my cycle. What’s the first thing that a woman could expect? Bloodwork?
Dr. Nave: The first thing I would want to know is what labs she’s already gotten done. Has she gotten her thyroid checked? And when I say thyroid, I don’t just mean THS because THS is just your brain telling your thyroid, hey, make the thing. It’s also looking at the levels of the thyroid hormones because you have two types of those. You have free T3 and free T4. Their ratio is also important. So thyroid function; CBC, which just stands for a complete blood count. It’s checking for anemia, because that could be another reason for amenorrhea. You may not be bleeding because you’re iron deficient. And then I would also want CMP. That’s a complete metabolic panel, and that looks at the kidney and liver function, which are affected if blood sugar isn’t being regulated effectively. On the CMP, there’s also a fasting blood glucose on there, so that would be something to look at. I would also want to review her symptoms. What symptoms are you experiencing? Are you experiencing acne? Are you experiencing bloating and irritability on your menses? Do you experience depression on your period? There’s also the consideration that we have PMS, and then we have PMDD, which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is basically PMS on steroids. It’s like the cycle overall is so horrendous that the woman can’t go to work. It’s affecting her daily life, affecting her mental health. She’s more depressed on her period, more irritable, or really angry, or in so much pain that she can’t leave her home. Looking at her as a whole person is what I’m about. And she’s the expert in her experience, right? She knows what it’s like to walk in her body, to experience these symptoms, how they affect her life, and then both of us taking our expertise to work together to get to the root of why this is happening and give the body the tool that it needs so it can rectify it.
Alyssa: You just reminded me that I need to make an appointment with you. I remember when I met you the first time, I was like, yeah, I need to see her, because not only have I turned 40, but I know my hormones are changing. My periods are changing. Just weird things happening. So how do people find you? What’s the best way to get ahold of you?
Dr. Nave: I am at Health For Life Grand Rapids, and you can check the website and look for my page. There’s a 15-minute free meet and greet and consult, so we can see if we’re a good fit. I can hear about your concerns, and you can get the cure that you need.
Alyssa: I love it. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re going to have you on again, and we’ll talk about some other intriguing topics. Again, thanks for tuning in. This is Ask the Doulas Podcast; you can always find us on our website and on Facebook and Instagram. Remember, these moments are golden.
Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months. She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically. Everyone was happier and healthier! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz. You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.
Megan: Yeah, thanks for having me on!
Alyssa: Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today. So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.
Megan: So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well. A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.
Megan: Yes, unknowingly.
Alyssa: I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it. You’re in survival mode.
Megan: Right. Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain. She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable. So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits. Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest. Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old. Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep. We couldn’t go on date nights. Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad. We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were. And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations. I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…
Alyssa: Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?
Megan: Oh, yeah! The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.
Alyssa: No, you weren’t at all!
Megan: Texting you all the time! The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done. She was like, I got this, Mom! I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!
Alyssa: And kids always surprise parents. They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.
Megan: A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing. I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule. She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night. And in the end, we sorted out some schedules. We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.
Alyssa: Yeah, I remember that. You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.
Megan: No, you can’t!
Alyssa: To have your baby sleep. That’s not feasible. But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?
Megan: Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.
Alyssa: Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?
Megan: No. Well, you…
Alyssa: Must have been another client. Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.
Megan: I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –
Alyssa: Until it becomes a habit.
Megan: Yeah, until it becomes normal for them. So we just had to get through that, and we did.
Alyssa: Well, and especially because she was going to daycare. Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.
Megan: Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together. And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies. It was all downhill from there.
Alyssa: So they just say, all right, nap’s done.
Alyssa: But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.
Megan: And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat. They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.
Alyssa: Oh, so she was in her own room?
Megan: She wasn’t. She was blocked off from the other kids. So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping. But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well. So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.
Alyssa: So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled. You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.
Megan: Yeah, I remember that!
Alyssa: It was like, we have to find a balance here. It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.
Megan: And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.
Megan: And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply. That was a big thing, as well.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding changes. Your body eventually fixes itself…
Megan: But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.
Alyssa: Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere. I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!
Megan: Oh, yeah, been there, done that!
Alyssa: Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.
Megan: It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older. She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation. So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle. Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together. So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes. And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready. Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.
Alyssa: That’s really smart. I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them? When do I get to cuddle them? So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away. Don’t make the TV part of this process. Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss. Read the book, whatever. Just get all the snuggles in you can. They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Megan: I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there. But the quality increased. Her behavior got a lot better. And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well. So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.
Alyssa: That’s the key, yeah.
Megan: And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment. She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos. She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do. So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.
Alyssa: They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends. Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do? We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that. They’re not going to sleep in the next day. More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning. It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking. But yeah, that’s the key. You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed. She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.
Megan: It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine. The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule. So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30. You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.
Alyssa: Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.
Megan: Which we’ve done. When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine. We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play. We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead. Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.
Alyssa: Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it. You’re doing this because it’s worth it.
Megan: Yep, it is.
Alyssa: So then you called me again recently…
Megan: I did!
Alyssa: She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition. Tell me about that.
Megan: Yeah. She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries. Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there. My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this. So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months. And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler. And it wasn’t working. And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old. So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.
Alyssa: It makes no sense. She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.
Megan: No. And she can get in and out of the toddler bed. Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep. So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep. Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours. And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours. We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months. And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them! Just kind of a funny fact. But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do? A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help! Is there anything that you can help us with? And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers. It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!
Alyssa: I always wonder if it’s too much.
Alyssa: I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information. I think it’s imperative!
Megan: My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep. Oh, it was snacking! You had said — and it’s so true. A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily. Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns. We had no idea. I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?
Alyssa: That’s great! That’s what it’s there for!
Megan: Yeah, it was a lot of great information. And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated. You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us. You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine. Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.
Alyssa: And be confident.
Megan: Yes, we got the confidence.
Alyssa: Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever. So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now. Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months. Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months. You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do? Help!
Megan: And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like? So we definitely referenced it. But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.
Alyssa: Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.
Megan: Yeah. But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib. It was like she never forgot it. She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.
Alyssa: So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined. We’re going to have to start all over.
Megan: Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back. We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions. We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.
Alyssa: And for date nights, babysitters are easy?
Megan: Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again. I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.
Alyssa: “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”
Megan: And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!
Alyssa: It’s like the ninja role. Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.
Megan: Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up! Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door! Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head. I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on. Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.
Alyssa: Well, you are a bit crazy. I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!
Megan: And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us. Maybe my experience can help other people. I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.
Alyssa: Thank you!
Megan: I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.
Alyssa: it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.
Megan: Yes! I would call it that, as well! In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!
Alyssa: Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?
Megan: It’s worth it. It is what’s best for baby. It’s what best for you and your family unit.
Alyssa: And what if they’re scared? Sleep training just causes anxiety. Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience. My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.
Megan: But she wasn’t left alone. The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you. And I was totally okay with the plan. And what’s the worst that could happen? She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11? No, that’s not even going to be a possibility. We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper. We were hitting bedrock. So it could only get better at this point, and it did. It was a complete 180.
Alyssa: Well, I loved working with your family both times. You probably won’t need me again because she’s great. Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.
Megan: We won’t!
Alyssa: You’ll know when she’s ready!
Megan: We will definitely wait. Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed
Alyssa: Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?
Megan: You did, yeah!
Alyssa: Oh, good. I figured I did, but…
Megan: But this isn’t the end, Alyssa! I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!
Alyssa: Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?
Alyssa: So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared. SO we’ll talk about that next time.
Megan: I’d love to help you with some insight on there.
Alyssa: Thanks for joining us!
Megan: Yeah, thank you for having me!
Alyssa: If you have any questions for us, you can email as at email@example.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.
Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa. She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help. In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today. Hello, Chris!
Alyssa: You were a client of ours. You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me. So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.
Chris: Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!
Alyssa: So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep? How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep? Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?
Chris: Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.” It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period. I kind of don’t remember what happened. I know I wasn’t sleeping. I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7. But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything. So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things! So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid. And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information. My baby’s not sleeping. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Like, I just need to talk to a person! And that was when I reached out to you.
Alyssa: And how old was she? Six months?
Chris: I think she might have been six months, yeah.
Alyssa: That’s what comes to my mind.
Chris: I think so.
Alyssa: So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation? You were just gone?
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. There was no day and no night. And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him. And sometimes coughing loudly. “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning. But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well. She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time. She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level. We’ve got to do something here.
Alyssa: Right. I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.” I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out. But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.” So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training. I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep. We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help! What’s going on?”
Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa! So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day. Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go. And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there. And it ended up working super well. I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word. We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that! You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred. But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it. Like, significantly less. I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep. Like, what??
Alyssa: I remember you saying, “How is this possible? What did you do to my child? Whose baby is this?”
Chris: Yeah, what’s happening? Did you possess my child? So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever. What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day! So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.
Alyssa: I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps. It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap. We’re going to hit the hot tub. And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes! We did it!
Chris: That’s one of my favorite parenting memories! It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.
Alyssa: I think it is!
Chris: Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad. My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived. I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat. It really affects you.
Alyssa: On so many levels. Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying? I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car. You just kind of get into survival mode.
Chris: Yeah. And I would just nurse her to sleep. I think I spent – oh, my God. I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake! So yeah, that was the beginning.
Alyssa: And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?
Chris: Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling. I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib. She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore. She hates that!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.
Chris: Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again! I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.
Alyssa: She’s, like, get away from me, lady!
Chris: She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop! So at that point – what did we do at that point? We stopped shush-pat. Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.
Alyssa: Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals. Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.
Chris: The first day, yeah. I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell! But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time. Like, I’ve done this a million times. I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep! It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately. So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore. But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.
Alyssa: So where is she at now?
Chris: Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!
Chris: I’m so happy!
Alyssa: And how many months is she?
Chris: She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.
Chris: Yeah, it’s amazing. And she goes down super easy for her morning nap. It’s not even an issue anymore. I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15. I can do this! And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.
Alyssa: Yeah, her body just knows it’s time. She doesn’t fight it. Incredible! Yay!
Chris: I know, it’s a game changer!
Alyssa: And you’re feeling good?
Chris: I’m feeling good!
Alyssa: Your husband’s feeling good?
Chris: Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.
Alyssa: Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?
Chris: I was just watching him. But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?
Alyssa: That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep? And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up. I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something. So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months. It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove. So you just need to figure out your groove again. So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.
Chris: I don’t know. I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor. I’m like, oh, is she okay?
Alyssa: So turn the monitor off.
Chris: What? You can do that?
Alyssa: Yeah! As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off. Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in. She’s just down the hall. If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup. I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that. Earplugs in.
Chris: Oh, my God. That’s genius. Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.
Alyssa: You’re going to hear her, absolutely.
Chris: But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay? And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.
Alyssa: No, she’s good. She’s good. Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.
Chris: Yeah. Okay!
Alyssa: They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed. You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep. And you didn’t have to get out of bed. But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.
Chris: You’re going to change my world!
Alyssa: Go buy some earplugs when we leave!
Alyssa: Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep. And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now. Every single little noise: oh, are they okay? Are they okay? They’re okay.
Chris: I love that.
Alyssa: And my daughter is six now. I always check in on her. I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind. I’m going to sleep now. I’m putting my earplugs in. I want to get a good night’s rest. She’s okay.
Chris: Wow. When do you think they started making video baby monitors?
Alyssa: I don’t know. Good question!
Chris: Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?
Alyssa: Not that long ago.
Chris: Not that long ago?
Alyssa: I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade. Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.
Chris: We survived!
Alyssa: Yeah! So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?
Chris: Oh, my God. Get a plan ASAP!
Alyssa: Don’t wait?
Chris: Don’t wait! I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep. First of all, I would have gotten out of her room. We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st. She was born in June!
Alyssa: That’s eight months!
Chris: We slept in the same room as her for eight months! Is that crazy?
Alyssa: Yeah. Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months. That’s their safe sleep guideline. For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle. You have to get up early for work; you have older kids. But some people do room share for six to twelve months. It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you. So it’s really up to the parent. It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.
Chris: Right. Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that. We were both keeping each other up all night. So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing. You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap. It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.
Alyssa: Well, and crying just to cry does you no good. I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours. I’m like, that was for nothing. That’s absolutely for nothing. And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress. You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan. Here’s how it’s going to work. Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing. And it’s so hard because people give up. Parents just want to give up. “I tried it; didn’t work. I give up. I throw in the towel. I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard. Or people will say, oh, I did this online course. I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you. They don’t know your baby. They don’t know your parenting style. They don’t know what you’ve tried. They don’t know what works and what didn’t work. So it’s really hard.
Chris: I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything. And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby. I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that. So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.
Alyssa: Right. “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?” Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.
Chris: Yes, or how to troubleshoot. Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next? And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her. Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!
Alyssa: Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no! This is not supposed to happen; what do I do? And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do. Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.
Chris: Yep. The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?
Chris: That was the 1000% game changer. Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know? You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there! Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this! One more minute! Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her. And I’d be like, okay.
Alyssa: Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.
Chris: Yeah. The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –
Alyssa: Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night? How did it go?
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Alyssa: Did you move out of that room?
Chris: Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!
Alyssa: Right. I’ll know! I’ll be checking your Instagram feed! Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!
Chris: But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.
Alyssa: It’s huge. That’s why I love it so much. I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep. Anything else you want to say?
Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say! Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!
Alyssa: There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning! It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.
Chris: Yep. Because we had no clue. I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep? Just go to sleep!
Alyssa: And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep? Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.
Chris: Exactly, yeah. So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain! Rely on someone else’s brain!
Alyssa: Right. “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.” It’s not! Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.
Chris: Is that for real? One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?
Alyssa: Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this. Yeah.
Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?
Alyssa: Probably eight hours. I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven. But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…
Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.
Chris: Scary. I believe it, though!
Alyssa: I feel it. Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space. That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve missed my own road! Seriously, multiple times! Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?
Alyssa: Yeah, you’re in a fog!
Chris: Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me today! We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening. Remember, these moments are golden!
Today’s blog comes from one of our previous postpartum doulas, Alex. Her nurturing soul shines in this post, giving us her favorite tips for stress management and self-care. Take the time today, and every day, to nurture yourself.
It’s no secret that stress is, inevitably, a part of life, and to some degree is healthy for the human body. But too much stress and/or on-going stress can have negative effects on your long-term health. Most people deal with it in some capacity throughout their lives, and becoming a parent can most definitely add more stress to your life. Stress can, but does not always, affect your immune system, sleeping and eating habits, digestion, mental well-being, and among other things it ages you, fast!
Sometimes stress is unavoidable. We live in a fast-paced society and there’s a lot of pressure for most people, especially parents. Luckily there are some proven things to help our bodies and minds against the negative effects of ongoing or heavy stress in life.
Meditation has been practiced for a long time around the world, and we now know that meditation has been shown to help alleviate some of the physical and mental effects of stress. It’s about clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing for an extended period of time, but even a short session of meditation has its benefits. It can help to give you a sense of calm and peace amidst the chaos. It helps you connect your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. If you can find the time, take even just five minutes to find a quiet place, close your eyes and breath in and out deeply, consciously relaxing all parts of your body during this. Many people tend to hold tension in parts of their body (tight shoulders, clenched jaw, etc) so this helps to let go. If your mind is racing, pick one thing and focus on it. I usually imagine a beautiful flower, flowing water, or roots coming from my feet going deep into the earth to help ground me. Even just focusing on the in and out of your breathing can clear your mind. Your circumstances may still be stressful, but you are likely to feel calmer, more grounded, and peaceful at the end of your meditation.
If you need some help, there are many guided meditations you can find on CD, YouTube, and there are even apps for your phone. Another practice that goes hand in hand with meditation is mindfulness. As parents, it’s a great skill to have and model to our children. What is mindfulness? Well, it’s just that. It’s actually stopping to be mindful of our surroundings and situations that arise instead of just reacting. Reaction if often out of emotion and when we are stressed it can be a negative reaction. When we train ourselves to stop and choose mindfulness in stressful situations it often times gives a different perspective.
Exercise is something that helps a lot with stress as well, if you are able. Exercise is great because it gives you a serotonin boost. If you are crunched for time, even a quick 10 minute jog outside can help alleviate stress. Riding your bike is wonderful too, and you get to be outdoors in good weather, which is also shown to help with stress. Gentler exercise like stretching, yoga, and pilates can relieve the body of tension and physical stress. A passive form of exercise I personally love for stress is massage! It’s great for the body and mind. If it’s too pricey for you, have a friend or your partner give you a 20 minute neck and shoulder rub at the end of the day. Foot rubs with some nice smelling oil are my favorite; I especially love lavender and it’s safe for pregnant and nursing mothers.
Nature has gifted us with several herbal allies to help our body and mind deal with stress. Teas are amazing. One of my favorite blends is chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, and lavender tea. Loose leaf herbs are available in many stores and online. I make a mixture of equal parts the first three and less lavender and add ¼ cup to a quart sized jar and steep it for an hour or so to make an infusion. It’s a nice, calming blend that the whole family can enjoy safely, especially for teething. I sweeten with honey for the kiddos (but no babies under 1 year!). Tinctures are plants steeped in alcohol or vegetable glycerin that get all the goodness out of a particular plant or a blend of plants. Passionflower is one I used during the end of my third pregnancy to help with irritability and anxiety. I got a lot of relief from this. There are also adaptogenic herbs, which help with your adrenal health, in turn helping many systems of the body adapt to stress. However, not all are safe during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, so use caution and always consult your care provider. One I use safely during nursing, but not pregnancy, is Rhodiola. It has been used for many years in Russian and Asia and is gaining popularity in the US. It gives steady energy, mental clarity, stamina, and enhances your mood on top of helping your body physically deal with stress in many ways. Essential oils are hugely popular but you need to use the utmost safety and caution when using them (I would say never ingest essential oils, and do not use on kids under two). Lavender is one of my favorites along with Ylang Ylang. Both smell lovely and are so relaxing. I put them in a diffuser or put a few drops in a relaxing bath with some bath salts for a nice soak.
Sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation only adds stress in your life, causing your body to become stressed more quickly. Being a parent can make sleep difficult. Between waking babies and older kids, most parents find sleep hard to come by. Having a solid bedtime routine is important; it creates a good rhythm with kids. And parents, if you can nap at all during the day, do it. I know it’s a stretch, especially with a job outside of the home, but even a 10-20 minute power nap is proven to do wonders for your stress and energy levels.
All of these methods of self-care can help you during stressful times. I realize stress can be unavoidable, but self-care is important and using some of the tips I’ve given (or all of them) can help you to take care of yourself so you can better care for your family. I hope this helps you find some peace.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. If you are suffering from stress or finding it hard to function, you may need to talk to your primary care provider. This is a blog post from my own extensive research and experience throughout several years of handling stress in a healthy way.