Whether you are expecting a baby or are purchasing for a new family, there are many (too many) choices when it comes to sleep. According to the Safe Sleep guidelines, the safest way for your baby to sleep is on his/her back in a safe sleep environment that is firm and free of extra items: no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads. Now that we’ve had 2 kids, difficult sleep journeys aside, I wanted to share the items that worked best for our family:
Infant Sleep Necessities
Bassinet – Although not necessary, we found it easier to have baby in our room from the start, allowing for easy access to breastfeed throughout the night. We found it more comforting to have baby close, and studies have shown it to be beneficial to baby as well. We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista, making it a great all-around purchase that we still use 4 years later!
Bassinet Sheet – These were hard to find, but make it easier to keep the bassinet clean – babies spit up a lot!
Rocking Bassinet Stand – We used the Jolly Jumper stand and had it rigged up to a belt to rock more easily without the parent having to sit up. Our boys were both rough sleepers, but it helped in the very early days.
White Noise – I’d call this absolutely essential, although we didn’t believe it at first. You can buy white noise machines; we used an iPad playing a waterfall track from iTunes in the early days, or an iPhone if we were on the go. In the first few weeks, the sound alone sent Damien to sleep. Now that he’s older, we still play white noise on an old iPod Speaker Dock to minimize the number of times his older brother disrupts his sleep.
Miracle Blanket – The recommendations on swaddling vs not swaddling keep changing. For our two boys, it was essential, but not long lasting. We tried regular blankets of many sorts and several specialty items. The longest one to last was the Miracle Blanket, since it was the hardest to “escape” from. Our boys both rolled early and were very mobile at night, so we stopped swaddling each before 6 weeks old.
Baby Sleep and Beyond Necessities
Our kids moved to their own rooms at 4 months, for Aiden, and 2 months, for Damien. I wish we had made the move earlier for Aiden, who struggled a great deal with the distractions of our room. For both of our boys, we have found the ideal set-up to be:
Convertible Crib / Bedroom Set – We made the unconventional decision to buy convertible cribs for both boys, instead of using a crib for both. Our logic is that we are buying not just baby furniture, but furniture for their whole lives. Ideally, you would buy a whole set:crib (with conversion kit to make it a toddler bed and/or double bed), dresser, bookshelf, side table. By buying all items early, we ensured the items will never go out of stock. Tip: when buying a whole set, envision the style that would be appropriate for a teenager, not just an infant!
Crib Mattress – Choose a mattress that is firm and ideally water resistant, eliminating the need for a waterproof mattress protector. Who wants to do extra laundry? Not me!
Sleep Sack – A wearable blanket in the appropriate weight and size for the season. Aiden wore these until he was almost 3, when he switched to a blanket. You never have to worry about tucking in with one of these! Tip: choose one with a hidden zipper at the front or side. Avoid ones with snaps at the top, which come loose easily.
Crib Sheet – Choose a sheet that fits snug and still has some softness to it. We have foundmany too loose. Our favourite crib sheet is from Skip Hop.
Breathable Bumper – Although bumpers pose a suffocation / SIDS hazard for young babies, and a climbing hazard for older ones, babies have a habit of getting arms and legs stuck in the bars of their cribs! We solved this with a breathable bumper.
Crib Rail – If your convertible crib doesn’t come with a safety rail for use in the toddler bed setting, a safety rail is essential. My 4-year-old still needs his (he rolls a lot) and we plan at least one more year in the toddler bed setting.
Video Monitor – Although not essential, it is so helpful to see your baby to know if they are crying in their sleep (totally unaware) or if they maybe need your help. Plus, for older kids, you can spot when they’re not in bed! We personally use wireless cameras we connect to our phones, but if you’re not tech savvy, any baby video monitor should work.
Toddler Bedding – For older kids, choosing bedding is not easy. Depending on how much your kid tosses and turns and the temperature of your room, you could choose a quilt or a comforter. Since top sheets cause an unnecessary amount of “can you tuck me in?” requests, we use a blanket only. We learned the hard way to ensure that the blanket is larger than the bed area, so it doesn’t come off too easily. We now use a thick quilt from Pottery Barn Kids that mimics a comforter, but without the need to wash a separate cover.
Toddler Pillow – Pillows are very personal. The recommendation is to wait until age 2-3 before introducing a pillow, and then introducing one that is toddler-sized. Pillow cases can be hard to find (Pottery Barn Kids has them). Aiden at age 4 still doesn’t want a thicker pillow, as he still sometimes sleeps on his tummy.
Blackout Curtains – You need to block out the light to get babies to sleep a decent night, and particularly for naps. Aiden has blackout curtains behind his nicer curtains, though Damien has a thicker curtain with blackout sewn into the lining (from Pottery Barn Kids).
Those lists seem exhaustive, but if you’ve been to any baby store, you’ll know that you are pitched far more that you don’t need. You don’t need teddy bears that play heartbeats or fancy night lights or mobiles (distracting) or toys for the crib. Bedrooms are for sleeping – keep it simple!
When little Damien was 12 days over, Sarah of SarahJane Photography, came over to our house for a newborn photo session (and Nicole of Mary Kay came to do my make-up!). I’d actually won a shoot with another photographer, but decided to pass on it since we were so happy with our family portraits while I was pregnant. By the time Aiden was a dozen days old, we had set up several home photoshoots; the reality of two kids is that there are fewer opportunities to take photos. With that in mind, we wanted to make Damien’s memories just as special as Aiden’s. In this case, Damien won out – with the help of a pro, we have some truly amazing photos!
It took Damien about 2 hours to fall asleep, even though he’d been awake for an hour by the time Sarah arrived. Bit of a fail there. Since Damien was diaper free, you can imagine just how many accidents there were during this time period (and they mostly landed on me – gross). Anyway, once Damien was finally asleep, we captured some beautiful moments. He was amazingly pliable once he fell asleep and had a massive nap after the shoot finished.
We bribed Aiden with a bag of candy to participate in a few of the photos (he really didn’t want to participate). Mexx should pay us for this photo of him:
Since he was born, Damien has shown a distinct preference for sleeping on his back. Thanks in part to this, and to the ‘easy’ newborn period, we’ve been trying to teach him to fall asleep on his own. Generally speaking, if we keep his awake window short and put him down swaddled with white noise, he’ll fall asleep on his own.
Usually I give him a quick ‘bonus’ nurse if he seems fussy before he goes down, but I try at least once to put him down awake before scrapping the plan and moving to plan B, ‘nurse to sleep’.
I took the above video as Damien was falling asleep last night. At night, he is a little more fussy, so I employed the bassinet to help rock him to sleep. Downstairs, he sleeps in a pack & play and doesn’t use rocking (though I jiggle it for nap extensions).
Since Aiden was colicky and not a great sleeper, we ended up sleep training him when he was four months. He’s had many regressions since then; it’s just his personality. As a result, we know a lot about sleep and are trying to employ some of our knowledge (and patience) to slowly teaching Damien the basics. Since he is so young, we don’t push it, but wherever possible we work on falling asleep unassisted and on extending his naps if they’ve been less than 1 hour (it works most of the time).
Despite how awesome this all is, currently none of our little tricks work once Damien starts waking up at night. He hasn’t yet mastered the ‘going back to sleep’ skill at night and I don’t anticipate he will for many more weeks. Since night time there aren’t ‘awake times’ to get Damien tired again, we often are stuck with one big night chunk where he’s awake (day/night confusion) and the rest are easier to get him back down after a feed.
He will sleep in his bassinet if he’s having a good night, but most nights are not so good. His best chunks of sleep are snuggled very close to, or being semi-held in the lying down position by, either Mommy or Daddy ;)
I’m 35.5 weeks pregnant at this point, though I’m measuring close to 40 weeks. Yes, we’re having a big baby! We’ve had an ultrasound to confirm that baby is quite large already, though of course that data can be off by quite a bit. Still, I feel as big now as I did at 40 weeks with Aiden, so there’s that.
As I shared previously, it hasn’t been an easy pregnancy. I have pains in my pelvis, my back, and my legs to go along with my regular issues with my neck, shoulder and arm. As I approach my due date, my Braxton Hicks contractions have become quite strong – tricking me sometimes into wondering if labour is near. They are way stronger than they were with Aiden. Since I didn’t go into labour on my own with Aiden, I am always left wondering if “this is it”, even this early on. I spend at least an hour a day in the bath trying to calm down all the parts of me that get sore!
The midwives are currently in disagreement about when to induce me early, if at all. Nobody really wants me going past 40 weeks, but some advocate for an even earlier delivery. It’s likely I’ll be referred to an obstetrician, though I haven’t been called with an appointment yet. My blood pressure is also rising, so we’ll need to keep an eye on that.
I feel pretty useless most of the time, not being able to stand or walk very much at all anymore. It makes it difficult to be a mom to Aiden, which is the hardest part. I know he’s found it frustrating that I can’t play with him on the floor or run after him or actively engage in physical play with him. I miss it too.
I focus on just getting through each day right now. I’m so glad that Ianiv is currently working from home!
I’m just over 29 weeks pregnant now, finally getting close to the ‘finish line’, so to speak. I’ve entered the third trimester of the pregnancy and, though I still have to wait 11ish weeks (+/-) to meet our new baby boy, I’m quite ready to be done with the pregnancy!
My first trimester of pregnancy was very different with this baby. Though we vacationed during both of our early pregnancy days (a cruise while pregnant with Aiden, Hawaii while pregnant now), I struggled more with fatigue this pregnancy. And morning sickness. In fact, my morning sickness only just went away about a month ago. I was able to wean off the medication I was taking for morning sickness at about 15 weeks pregnant, though I would still get nauseous a few times a week, sometimes throwing up until around 22 weeks pregnant. Prior to that, the morning sickness was incapacitating me (not good when taking care of a toddler!) and aggravating my neck pain (nausea triggers my neck issues, just as neck pain makes me nauseous).
I put my back out in December, but thankfully have had no further back issues. I had very serious hip pain with Aiden, but all of that has been great with this pregnancy – I credit my year or so of training with Monika in helping rehabilitate my body from all my past (or recent) injuries, pregnancy included! I also have foam rollers at home to help work out kinks in my hips.
Unfortunately, I have had pain of another kind with this pregnancy. I’ve developed symphis pubis dysfunction (SPD), probably due to a mis-alignment of the interior of my pelvis. There’s not much I can do about it, though I’m seeing a physio this week to get some new exercises. It basically feels like I’ve been kicked repeatedly in the lady parts – not fun. The pain is made worse by standing or doing activities like walking (particularly uphill or stairs) or bearing weight (holding a toddler!). I usually end up having to lie down and/or take a bath to relieve the pain at some point during the day. Rest is the only way to minimize the pain – I’ve learned (and confirmed today with my doctor) that ‘pushing past’ the pain isn’t a good thing – it’s not just a muscle that needs stretching or strengthening! The last few weeks, I’ve had to cut more and more exercises from my fitness routine, which has been really disappointing after finally getting back some of my strength after my last car accident (phew).
Anyway, it’s been a frustrating situation. I can’t sit on the floor and play with Aiden anymore without severe discomfort. I can’t chase him around or do much with him. By the afternoon, I’m in so much pain that I don’t want to do anything. I feel like I say ‘No’ a lot and Aiden is definitely asking my when I will stop hurting. He misses playtime.
The next few weeks can’t go fast enough. Wish me luck!