Sleep Training: Expectations vs Reality - Part 2

sleep training

In the last blog I offered a potentially unpopular view about looking at sleep training adults as opposed to our common cultural practice of sleep training our babies. Of course, I don’t suggest that parents sleep train themselves literally, but evaluate their relationship to sleep and recognise that perhaps it is those schedules, routines, and expectations that could change. After all, newborns cannot regulate emotions, understand action and consequence, or understand that change is temporary, so why is the sleep burden put on their tiny shoulders?

Infants are in a constant state of learning, processing, and growing in their first few months. This lasts into the first three years and we now know that it culminates in the most formative cognitive development period of our lives. Each day offers new challenges and new opportunities for skills to be learned and processed, and as a result I offer this suggestion: There should be no ‘schedules’, only ‘routines’.

A schedule suggests set expectations that are to be met. A routine suggests opportunities for creating healthy habits. If society started looking at infant sleep cycles like this, maybe parents could let themselves and their babies off the hook for a missed (or a too short) nap. Maybe they could let themselves off the hook for having a ‘bad week’ or even a ‘bad month’. Maybe we could stop using phrases like “I wish my baby was a good sleeper”.  Instead, we could look at each transition in and out of routines as an opportunity for growth and necessary change to meet new needs.

Let’s look at some scenarios where new parents might have certain expectations that might not meet the reality of a new baby.

Expectation: Baby sleeps in crib

Reality: Baby never wants to be put down

The reality here is that infants are hardwired to wake themselves for a variety of physical reasons, but also for safety through proximity to their caregiver. Some babies may be fine hearing their parent’s voice in the same room, but others may need constant touch to achieve the same level of comfort.

If you find yourself with one of these little humans who need your touch constantly, I feel for you. The amount of yourself you give to your new infant in its first few months is tremendous. The birthparent/baby dyad is an incredibly powerful and necessary bond. A common complaint is that errands, chores, and meals fall by the wayside because the baby always needs to be held. Baby wearing often and early can be a fantastic way to meet your infant’s needs and still have hands free (mostly) to accomplish necessary tasks.

There are many options available for baby wearing, so I won’t get into them all here. The advice I will offer is to try them with baby, after reading how to safely position your infant within the wrap. Even better would be to receive hands-on help and instruction from a store clerk or Doula (birth or postpartum) to help you with positioning. Hip dysplasia and neck placement are the most important concerns, and care should be taken each time your infant is placed in the carrier.

The benefits of baby wearing are amazing. Close, constant contact with a caregiver or birth parent regulates baby’s heart rate and breathing, lowers cortisol (stress hormone) which facilitates easier and more beneficial sleep cycles, and ultimately reinforces a foundation where the infant knows it is safe and cared for in this world.

Expectation: Evenings Alone (mat leave specifically)

Reality: Feeling too drained or exhausted to go out, clean, cook

When a newborn is fussy we ask ourselves: Are they hungry? Do they need a new diaper? Are they tired? I pose these same questions to parents when they are exhausted or feeling drained… okay, not the diaper change one!

A good place to start is looking at your nutrition and hydration.  Keeping on top of a balanced, healthy diet and a high intake of water in these first few months of parenthood is so important. Breastfeeding parents should intake 2100 calories a day at least, as well as 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Once those needs have been met, we can ask other questions. Have you exhausted yourself trying to keep up the house and cook ‘Martha Steward’ worthy meals? Let that go. Get a CrockPot and prepare meals in the evening or morning then walk away. Keep easy one-handed snacks accessible in heavily used areas of the home in containers so you can grab a handful of nuts, seeds, veggie sticks etc. on the go, or alternatively, if you’re stuck with a sleeping baby in your arms.

Re-asses previous expectations about how you thought your house would look, what you’d have time for, WHO you’d have time for, and let. them. go. The best analogy for this is the safety instructions given on an airplane: Before securing an oxygen mask on children or dependants, make sure you secure your OWN mask first. Take time for yourself so that you can take care of others. Make a list of non-negotiable self-care routines and get creative with your village to see how you could fit these into your new lifestyle.

It is an uncomfortable time in a new parent’s life when schedules and routines that used to bring cohesion and joy are disrupted. Feelings of not being good enough or that something is wrong with their baby are also very common. It is those feelings that lead some parents to choose sleep training as a last resort once they have reached a point of desperation. If expectations around what we needed to achieve during this sensitive time in a newborn’s development changed then maybe so would the frustrations with the reality when it doesn’t live up to the social media or TV/movie standards. My final advice remains the same: Be gentle with yourself. It is a great place to start.


sleep training

Jenna Inglis is a Toronto based Nanny, Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, and Infant Sleep Educator. She is passionate about empowering new families on their journey into parenthood; providing compassionate care before, during, and after birth.  With a background in Community Healing and Peacebuilding, she believes that building healthy happy communities begins with empowered parents making informed decisions that are best for themselves and their infants. 

Prenatal Yoga: 6 poses for the AM

morning yoga

Some of us hate mornings, some of us love them, and some of us are too busy and frazzled during the morning to think much about how we feel - yet most of us will noticed feeling stiff. That's perfectly normal - we don't move a lot while we sleep, we spend hours in the same position, and our body temperature drops. Stiffness during pregnancy is exacerbated - an increase in weight/water weight puts more pressure on our joints and our changing bodies decrease the versatility of our sleeping positions. Gentle movement in the morning can ease feeling stiff and sore. It can be also be really entertaining for your furry friends!

You don't need much for this - a yoga mat or a comfy blanket and a bolster or a pillow (of two). Begin by sitting comfortably on your mat/blanket - maybe you feel better with your bottom on a bolster/pillow(s) - give it a try and pick whatever feels best. Once comfortable, take a few consciously deep breaths in and out then settle on a steady breath pattern. 

1) Bound Angle Pose

From your seat, bend your knees and touch the soles of your feet together - allowing your knees to open wide. Pause and asses. Do you need to come off your prop if your bottom is higher than your feet? Do you need to put something underneath each knee?

You may hold this pose as it or you can slowly hinge forward, with a long spine, until you feel a gentle stretch. 

Spend 5-10 breaths here. 

2) Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

Despite the name, many of us don't actually get our heads to our knees - especially if pregnant. From a seat, stretch your right leg in front of you. Bend the left knee and bring the sole of your left foot inside your right thigh. Pause and assess. Do you need something under your right knee( (like a rolled up blanket)? 

You may hold this pose or slowly hinge forward, with a long spine, until you feel a gentle stretch. If your belly in the way, turn a little to the left. 

Spend 5-10 breaths here. Repeat on the left leg. 

3) Sitting Cat/Cow

Sit in a comfortable crossed legged seat with your hands on your knees. Inhale to hinge forward and gently arch your upper back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Be mindful to gently hug baby in as you do this. 

As you exhale, hinge back, rounding your back and curling your spine. Hug baby in more. 

Repeat 3-10 times. 

4) Side Stretch

From a comfortable seat, inhale and lift your arms into the sky. As you exhale, release your right arm by your right ride and take a gentle side bend to the right. Soften the right shoulder. 

Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left side. 

5) Gentle Twist

From a comfortable seat, inhale and lengthen your spine. As you exhale, hug baby in and twist to the right side. 

Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left side. 

6) Shoulder and Neck Stretches

From a comfortable seat, inhale to lengthen your spine. As you exhale circles your shoulders backward and forward a couple of times. 

Inhale deeply once more. As you exhale, drop your chin to your chest. Spend 3-5 breaths here. Roll your head to the right, spend 3-5 breaths here. Roll your head to the left, spend 3-5 breaths here. 

Bring your head back to centre - inhale and lift your arms above your head. Interlace your fingers and press your palms up, giving yourself a nice deep stretch. 

You're done! This routine can be done prenatally and during the postpartum period as long as your health care provider has cleared you for movement based practices. 

We hope you enjoy it!

Love, 

The Spectrum Doula Team

2018: We Grow and We Change

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We wish you a very happy new year! (if you follow the calendar year). May 2018 be full of growth, nourishment, and meaningful accomplishments - those are our goals at Spectrum Doula Collective. 

In keeping with that intention, in 2018 we are striving to better serve our community. This means making some changes and additions to our services. We will unveil these every month throughout the year.

This month we are addressing a topic that we are passionate about: accessible doula care. Our first pillar of A.I.D.E. is Affordability - we believe everyone should have access to the comfort and care of a doula. We understand that for some folks that is not financially possible and at the same time we firmly believe that doulas must earn a living wage. In order to address both of these we are making a couple of changes to our birth doula packages:

1) Birth Doula Packages now start at $1200

We decided to drop our prices this year in order to make doula care more accessible to everyone in our spectrum. While $100 may not always seem like a lot of money, for some people it may make the difference between having a doula or not. 

2) Ten percent goes towards pro-bono doula care

As doulas, we can work with several organisations in Toronto that match birth and postpartum doulas with folks in need to support that can not afford to pay any fees. This includes newly arrived immigrants, refugees, single parents, and low-income folks. This is pro-bono (free) work and many doulas, including ourselves, are passionate about it.

At Spectrum Doula Collective we are adamant about doulas earning a living wage and, at the same time, we want to encourage pro-bono work. Starting in 2018, 10% of the collective share from every birth doula package will be allocated to support a doula in our collective (or partners) doing pro-bono work. This 10% will go towards covering costs such as transportation, parking, gas, childcare, food, etc. for the doula.

3) Support for pro bono work

We recognise that we all have different means and we want to offer additional ways to support doulas doing pro-bono work. When purchasing a birth doula package, if you would like to pay a higher rate than our services for any birth doula package, any amount over our costs will be allocated to support a doula in our collective (or partners) doing pro-bono work. 

These are our first steps to make a meaningful impact in our community - stay tunes for the rest, coming through 2018!

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

Happy Holidays

happy holidays 2017

We love winter holidays - they're often cosy and full of hygge (even if we don't get any snow). And when we say winter holidays we really do mean any holiday - whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, or just good old Sunday. This year we thought we'd share some of our favourite foods and traditions:

Vegan-Inspired Dinners

We love a good baked brie just as much as the next person (who isn't vegan or lactose intolerant) but we absolutely adored Oh She Glow's Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf as the start of our holiday dinners. It's easier to make than it make look and it's delicious as leftovers! We pair it with home made vegetarian gravy (sauteed mushrooms, veggie broth, cornstarch, spices), a side salad (likely kale) and roast veggies! 

Homemade-ish Presents

We *love* The Make Den. This year we learned how to make draw-string sacks (to use instead of gift bags) and leather gift tags! We also big fans of offering baked good and home-made bath salts and scrubs as presents!

Taking it VERY easy on Boxing Day

This year we hope to spend boxing day reading, having tea and cookies, and maybe taking a nice long bath (unless we're at a birth!).

New Year's Wishes

While we don't exactly have new year's resolutions, we like to map our a vision with wishes for the upcoming year on new year's eve (a little like birth wishes!). We write a couple of wishes for each of the following categories: family and friends; romance; money; fun; health and wellness; home; career/work; hobbies/skills/self-growth. You can subtract from these and/or add your own categories! 

That's it for us - we'll see you in the new year with all the amazing things we've been planning! 

xo, 

The Spectrum Team

Winter Walking: 4 options to walk in Toronto

winter_walking

Movement is so important for promoting health and wellness in pregnancy and yet busy lives means that many of us have difficulty meeting our exercise goals. Thankfully there are many movements that can be incorporated into our daily lives. Such as walking!

Walking is often overlooked as a form of physical activity. It strengthens your legs, back and pelvis and improves your alignment and flexibility. These can help relieve prenatal aches and discomfort and prepare your body. It’s great during labour too!  A 2013 Cochrane Review showed that upright positions, such as walking, lead to greater comfort for the birthing person and a shorter length of the first stage of labour.

Walking for thirty to sixty minutes each day or several times a week is great option for meeting movement goals. As it gets colder and the days shorter, we often tend to become less active and its harder to find the time or space for movement. Luckily, there are many options for walking within the city even on the coldest days:

1. Art Gallery of Ontario

It’s easy to walk for an hour or more while enjoying exhibits from classics to contemporary canadian art. There are four levels all accessible by elevator, but if you’re looking to increase your activity use the winding ramp to move through the gallery.

Every Wednesday from 6-9 pm the AGO collection galleries are free for the public!

2. Allan Gardens Conservatory

One of our favourite winter activities is visiting Allan Gardens, a greenhouse conservatory in Cabbagetown. It is a perfect way to escape the cold, grey winter days into the warm, tropical plant gardens.

Every December, the conservatory hosts their Christmas Flower Show with hundreds of flowers and holiday plant displays. On weekend evenings the conservatory can be enjoyed by candlelight.

3. Holiday Markets and Pop Up Shops

All throughout December, there are holiday markets and pop shops that let you shop while being active. These markets are great for finding unique gifts and crafts, many of which are made locally, and your favourite holiday drinks and treats!

A full list of holiday markets is available here

4. Brave the Cold

We can understand why so many chose to stay indoors during these winter months, but bundling up and heading outdoors has its benefits. We love the freshness in winter air and the beauty of the sun shining through bare trees and grey skies.

Green spaces, such as High Park or Evergreen Brickworks, are great options for outdoor walks. On those cold days, we opt for routes where we can stop in shops and cafes along the way, such as the Distillery District, Queen Street West, or Roncesvalle Avenue.

** Walking is one activity that many can incorporate to their daily activities or holiday plans, however we acknowledge it and the above suggestions will not accessible for all. Of the ideas listed above, Allan Gardens and Art Gallery of Ontario are accessible for those requiring mobility assistance.  

Love, 

The Spectrum Doula Team