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Showing posts with label Sleep. Show all posts

What Nursing Moms Really Need, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kindle (Guest Post)

My friend Kate and I met in a birth class more than 3 years ago when we were pregnant with our daughters.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her as one tough cookie of a mom and an all around wonderful lady.  I’ve been lucky enough to have her calming thoughts in my life, and would love to share them with you, our dear reader.  Take it away Kate…


It’s 3 a.m. Your baby has woken you for the umpteenth feeding of the night. You’re sore and you’re tired but you think, “Hey, at least I get to catch up on some reading.” So there you are, with your sweet babe nestled into her Boppy, while you do finger gymnastics trying to turn the pages of your book with one hand—until, inevitably, you lose your spot, the book goes splat on the floor, the baby snaps out of her milky reverie and starts screaming.

You think: Why won’t someone just invent a book that you can read one-handed in the dark already?

Dear reader, someone has. It is called the Kindle. Perhaps you already have one. Or perhaps, like me, you have a sentimental attachment to paper books. Perhaps you feel that e-readers violate the sacred intimacy between book and reader, that their tracking software intrudes on your private mind-space. Perhaps, like me, you tough it out with paperbacks and hardcovers while you nurse your first baby.

And then, pregnant with your second, you realize that you no longer require the crisp and creamy paper of a “real” book; you realize that privacy is a luxury that belongs to people with two free hands; you realize that, for about $100, the one thing you really, truly need to survive those sleepless newborn nights can be on your doorstep in one to two business days. You realize that you are ready for an e-reader.

So, what should you look for in an e-reader? If you want to read without having to turn on a lamp and wake up your partner, look for one that lights up. (Note: if you desperately want to wake your partner, I hereby empathize with and absolve you). The Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glow, and Nook GlowLight are among the readers with built-in lighting. You can also buy a clip-on light; there are plenty of choices under $15. Also recommended: a reader that features wireless downloading, because when you finish one book in the middle of the night, you want another one immediately, and good luck finding your USB cable with an infant attached to your chest. Do be aware that your book-buying judgment may be compromised by sleep-deprivation, and when you emerge from the postpartum haze a few months later, you may wonder why, exactly, you spent so many precious newborn moments reading Dune.

Actually, I take that back. You will not wonder, because it was awesome.

So, thank you, Kindle. Thank you for being there when I needed you. Thank you for 1:00 a.m. And 3:00 a.m. And 5:00 a.m. And 5:45 a.m. I do still love my real books—you know, the ones made of paper—but maybe, just maybe, I am learning to love you, too.


Kate Becker is a science writer who spends most of her time writing about astrophysics, cosmology, and other mysteries of the universe, like toddlers. Read more and get in touch at or

Still Kicking...

Just a note to let you know we're still around...

We're 3 weeks into the sleep training and things are definitely improving. This past week we cut out the last of the overnight feedings and wakings are down to 1 (or fewer!) a night. We've even had two sleep-throughs this week.

We've got some ideas cooking about new posts and we'll be back to our usual non-schedule in the next week or two.

Topics include:
  • - sunscreen for home and daycare
  • - how to pick a day care
  • - tips for work life balance
  • - how to encourage independence
In the meantime, we did use our sleepless nights to remember that lots of people interested in parenting things use Pinterest. So we set up a minor presence on Pinterest and, perhaps more importantly for you, add a "Pin it" button at the bottom of every post if you want to pin our stuff.

Happy sleep to you, and someday to us too...
Picture not related, just an excuse to show off the kids in Cardinals gear.

Pardon the interruption... Sleep Training in Progress!

Sleeping soundly in the stroller, one of the many
moving objects he prefers to a boring old crib
Those of you who are regular readers may have noticed that we are fairly open about the trial and error that is involved in our (and probably all) parenting. All issues regarding sleep for our second child have been more "error" than not. When he joined our family, we implemented all the same wonderful advice from Baby 411 that worked so completely for our first child. As a result, our sweet, happy, laughter-filled child learned to go sleep on his own every night. He knows how to self-soothe, we have a consistent sleep ritual, and we put him down while he's still awake. And despite all of this, without fail, he wakes up every 3 hours, mostly inconsolable, all night long. He is now more than 8 months old and we are very tired.

We've tried many things. Beyond the tools we acquired from Baby 411 and the stuff we wrote about in our post about sleep, we went back to the source and implemented some more techniques from Ferber. We Googled and Googled and Googled (we may have even Binged once). We've owned and burned out the motors on multiple swings (though our Fisher Price Snugabunny is still going strong, if you're looking for a recommendation on swings). We've stepped up and down many different interventions, to only mildly improving avail. And so, now, we've finally gone to a professional and hired a sleep consultant. Did I mention how tired we were? Very, very tired.

We are now a week or so into implementing a new plan and things are improving overall. However, as with many behavior modification techniques, in the short term the medicine can be worse than the disease. Which is to say, our overnight sleep is getting worse as he's learning to put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night; we are all experiencing more interrupted sleep and more crying than we've had in the past. This, plus the upcoming Passover holiday, makes getting new content here a bit more than we can achieve.

We will be back in full force in a few days, once we've slept enough to at least remember which child is which. In the meantime, feel free to do one or all of these things:

Check out the Archives

How to drink a cup of coffee while caring for a 6 week old baby
Monitors: say no to the Kid TV channel
The nerdy mom's pregnancy reading list
Striking the balance between street urchin and sterile bubble kid
Out and about when you don't lactate (or choose not to)

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Guest Post for Us

Have you been reading and thinking "I know about this topic!" or "I tried this awesome thing that solved a problem and everyone should know about it" or just "The internet should hear my opinions more often"?

If so, send us an email stairwell @ acrossb dot com. Let us know what you'd like to talk about and we'll be happy to discuss a guest post.

Monitors: say no to the Kid TV channel

I am about to say something blasphemous. 

We do not have a video monitor. 

In an era of more and more devices that constantly report on the state of your children, we say no to anything other than the most basic of information. Frankly, I was skeptical of even needing any monitor at all - we live in an apartment after all. It's hard not to hear things. But I'll admit, it's given me the ability to go down to the basement storage unit when the kids are napping and has been useful in larger vacation homes or in adjoining hotel rooms. It was also good for peace of mind as we nervously moved our first child out of our room when she was a couple months old. 

Within a couple months of that, however, we turned off the monitor.  If she cries/yells hard enough that we can hear her in our bedroom, then she really needs us. Otherwise, I don't feel the need to listen and worry over every whimper.  

I (don't) want Kid TV

Almost every first time parent I know who has a video monitor ends up watching what I call "Kid TV." Kid TV is when you walk out of your child's room after bedtime and then spend the next hour watching them try to fall asleep. Entertaining as some antics may be, ignorance her has really been just fine for all parties. When I close the door to the nursery at 7:30 pm every night I assume everything is as it should be until 6:30 am the following morning unless proven otherwise. Questions which I blissfully have no idea how to answer - when does my daughter wake up? How long does she take to fall asleep? 

Anyway, you're a parent, isn't your "to do" list longer than the Oregon Trail (but with less dysentery)? Go eat dinner! Pack tomorrow's lunch! Take a shower! Watch actual TV!  Some people will say that they need the monitor to know if their kids are getting out of bed when they're not supposed to. Here's the thing - toddlers aren't subtle creatures. Do you think your 2 year old is actually able to play in the dark quietly (and if that's really the case, ask yourself why you care)? Do you think you won't know your kid got out of bed when they wake up in the morning hugging the dinosaur they took down off the bookshelf the night before?  I say that you should make your children's room a safe place (nothing dangerous within reach, safety outlets, bookshelves bolted to the wall) then walk on out of there with a spring in your step. I promise, anything you need to hear you will. 

An Audio-Only Recommendation

Unfortunately there are very few non-video monitors on the market these days.  We have the VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Baby Monitor. It's sound quality is pretty good, you can buy a kit with a second parent unit, it supports two-way audio (which is nice when a nursing mom needs something), and the audio feed is digitally encrypted (so your neighbors don't get to try out You Radio). We're using it as long as my son is still nursing at night. Once he's done, we'll put it away until the next time we travel somewhere and want to have a drink on the porch after the kids go to bed.  Everyone will sleep better for it. Cheers!

Kicking and screaming to hugging - the saga of pregnancy pillows and Tums

Non-pregnant woman, sleeping peacefully.
When I think about the attitude I had towards pregnancy going into my first one, it's hard not to laugh.  I had this idea that I wasn't going to let pregnancy "change" me.  I was going to go about my life in exactly the same why I had been up to that point, and then eventually a baby was going to come out.  Then I would be the same exact me I had always been but with a cute new accessory.

Haggard pregnant woman, roaming the night, hoping to pass out in exhaustion.
One of the first places the reality of pregnancy really struck was when it came to sleep.  Pregnancy insomnia is a well documented phenomenon (here is a really great blog essay about it).  However, often throughout my pregnancy, even when I felt like I could fall and stay asleep, other things interfered.


Starting early in the first trimester I began to experience intense, fire breathing, life disturbing heartburn.   It would particularly peak any time I made the mistake of lying down.  Many women experience heartburn in their third trimester when the baby becomes big enough to press on the stomach.  Others of us are lucky enough to start with it a lot earlier.  (First trimester heartburn is caused by a hormone called "relaxin".  As the name implies, relaxin is released throughout pregnancy to relax the muscles and make room for the baby to grow.  However, it also has the unpleasant side effect of relaxing the muscles normally involved in keeping your stomach content where it belongs.)

Pass the Tums
Now being the tough cookie that I am, I was determined to just white knuckle my way through the pain rather than "endanger" my precious cargo with medication.  Thankfully, my husband had a clear head and a kind heart and did me the favor of looking up which antacids were safe to take in pregnancy.  This is how we came upon the incredibly safe (and obvious) solution of Tums.  Many of you are hopefully rolling your eyes right about now because who doesn't know about Tums?  However, since then I have spoken to enough pregnant women to know that many of them are suffering needlessly in exactly the same way I was.  Tums consists almost entirely of one simple and safe ingredient - Calcium.  That's right, it's a highly effective way to treat heartburn with a mineral that you're likely not eating enough of anyway.  Try it once and you'll likely be keeping a bottle on your nightstand, in your purse, at your desk at work, and anywhere else you can think of.

Note: If you also have to take iron supplements at some point during your pregnancy, be aware that calcium interferes with iron absorption.  This is unfortunate since iron supplements often exacerbate heartburn.  If you fall into this situation, I recommend taking the iron mid-morning.  That way you have something in your stomach so the iron is less likely to upset it, but you are hopefully far away in time from desperately needing the Tums to get some shut eye (the iron needs a 2-hour window to be absorbed fully).

Musculoskeletal pain 

This is a gift that just keeps on giving in pregnancy.  It is an extremely under-appreciated fact that a woman's spine literally shifts throughout her first pregnancy in order to accommodate the growing uterus (and never fully comes back to its original position).  Couple that with the weight gain, the round ligament pain, and a million other things, back and hip pain are extremely common, especially towards the end.  This can make getting comfortable in bed almost impossible. (I highly recommend prenatal yoga as a way to help your body cope with the changes.)

Many people will recommend that you sleep on your side, place a pillow behind your back, another pillow under your belly, and then another one between your knees to get comfortable.  Frankly those people are crazy because who sleeps perfectly still like that?  I will admit to resisting the pregnancy pillow for a long time because it looked huge and I surely wasn't going to need it and what was I going to do with it when I was no longer pregnant?  Then, somewhere around 6 months I broke down and got myself a Snoogle Total Body Pillow and haven't looked back.

The Snoogle makes sleeping without pain (at first), and later in your pregnancy with less pain, possible.  Also, unlike the pillow construction described above, it allows you to roll over (assuming you are at a point in your pregnancy where you're still able to do that). I will admit that it is quite large (my husband referred to it as "the great barrier Snoogle" when it was in constant use).   However, the Snoogle people undersell it as a purely pregnancy pillow.  It comes with a handy sheet that tells you all the different ways you can use it for more than just sleeping while pregnant. As a frequent sufferer of colds and sinus infections, it has been a convenient way to prop myself up in bed in the years since. We keep it in a storage bin under the bed for easy access when someone is sick.

I still can't sleep

Yeah.... yeah.  Anxiety about your future, the constant need to pee, the kicking from inside, the Braxton Hicks contractions - all of these will keep you awake much more than you previously thought possible.  I wish I had something helpful to say here but I don't.  Nap if you're able during the day or when you get home from work.  If you're passing out in exhaustion at 9pm (only to be maddeningly awake at 4 am) go ahead and go to bed at 9pm.  Maybe 4am can be a zen time for you to read?  In any case, this will all come to an end eventually (though you may continue to go to bed 9 pm because kids are kind of exhausting).  The baby will be born and babies can always be handed off to a partner/friend/mom while you go and pass out in the other room.


Sleep like a baby? You mean terribly?

Anyone who's ever used the expression "sleep like a baby" has clearly never met a baby.  Human newborns, due to a quirk of biology, are all born premature compared to other mammals.  In particular, when it comes to sleep, newborns have underdeveloped nervous systems which is why they have trouble settling themselves.   For a more in depth discussion of this check out the sleep chapter of Baby 411. However that is not the topic of this post.  The topic of this post is how to set up a great sleep environment for your child to help stack the odds of everyone in the house getting some shut eye. 

Black out curtains

Once you've read up on sleep, you'll notice that almost everyone recommends that the room where the baby sleeps be dark.  Often this means acquiring some black out curtains.  However, most people have the baby sleep in the same room as themselves for at least the first 6 weeks if not longer (this is both for SIDS prevention reasons and convenience of night time feedings).   As such, you've probably already acquired whatever curtains you're using for your room.  You may not want to mess with the decor of your room to accommodate its temporary occupant. Likewise, you may have found the perfect cute curtains for your children's room, only to realize they do nothing to shield the room from any light (cough cough... I may or may not have done this...).  Have no fear, this is not a trade off you have to make. You just need to get yourself some Thermalogic Ultimate Window Liners. The great thing about these guys is that they get attached behind your existing curtains. This means you get to keep your decor and have a pitch black room - score!  Additionally, if you've had to get some for your room, you can use the same set for the kid's room once you're ready for them to be on their own.

White noise

Turning on white noise for the baby is another super common (and excellent) recommendation. Not only will this help mask the sound of you shuffling around your apartment while the baby sleeps (and any street noise as well) , but it will also help build some sleep associations for him or her to signal that it's time for sleeping.  For this many people use things like the Sleep Sheep or myBaby SoundSpa.  We, on the other hand, have decided to go in another direction.  We've taken an old, no longer used, cell phone and downloaded a white noise app on it (we use the airplane noise setting but there are many options).  We prefer this solution for a number of reasons.

  1. 1.  You don't have to buy anything new - woot!

  2. 2.  Cell phones are much easier to pack than sleep sheep. (If you're going to stay at someone's house you may not have to pack anything at all if they have an old phone lying around).

  3. 3.  If you forget to pack the spare old phone you normally use for the kids, it's easily replaced with your cell phone. Sure it sucks to have to give it up for the night, probably starting at 7pm (most children's bedtime), but it sucks a lot less than no one sleeping.

  4. 4.  You can also use the old cell phone to play music to your baby (any music you want, not just whatever, if anything, came with the thing you bought). We've found for some reason that our second child naps better with lullabies playing than white noise (though we still use the white noise at night).  This was a trivial accommodation to make using the phone.
And one more bonus suggestion. If your old phone's speakers aren't great, you can always hook it up to a speaker in the kid's room.  We found an adorable GOgroove Portable Stereo Speaker Panda (other animals available) that we've been using for the past 2+ years when we're home (on the road we just use the phone as is).

Good luck, and may the sleep gods be on your side!