Friday, 24 January 2020

Baby Sleep and Sleep Training

Baby sleep: it seems to be the only thing that's on your mind once your bundle of joy arrives and dominates all baby-related conversation. Myself I found that I was answering the same questions over and over again from well-meaning family and friends. "How is baby sleeping?" or "Is he a good sleeper?" Coupled with the unpredictability of a new baby's sleep schedule and how important a mother's need for sleep is, it really does seem like sleep dominates your life.

This blog post will detail Benny's sleep patterns as a newborn, the inevitable and dreaded four month sleep regression we faced and our choice to sleep train. Sleep training is a personal choice, and one I found out that can be quite controversial. Let me be clear: I am an adult in my mid-thirties with a degree in Psychology and a capacity for rational thought. Both Brian and I were comfortable with our decision to sleep train, but totally respect the individual decisions of others. Infant sleep and the decision to sleep train is a decision that each parent makes for themselves and varies from one child to the next.

Now, with that out of the way, let me tell you about Benny's sleep from when he was a newborn, through the sleep regression and our experience sleep training with Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep.

Benny's Sleep from Newborn to 4 Months

It's known that newborns have a pretty unpredictable sleep schedule, but Benny really surprised us from the beginning by being a great little sleeper. While he never slept through the night, we were usually able to get multiple 3-4 hour stretches of sleep at night with multiple naps during the day.

Here's the details on sleep from Benny's early days:

  • We never had Benny on any sort of sleep schedule. We would follow his sleep cues for naps (rubbing red eyes, throwing his head and body back) and act quickly on them. 

  • Benny would breastfeed on demand with a pumped bottle of breastmilk in the evenings so aside from the bottle, his eating schedule lacked any sort of specific structure.

  • Benny slept in a bassinet beside our bed at night, and took his naps in the same bassinet that we would move into the living room during the day. We were never concerned with daylight or blackout conditions.

  • In terms of props for sleep, we used a pacifier to help sooth Benny to sleep for both night time sleep and nap. For night time sleep, we used a sleep sack. While we would sometimes use a white noise machine, most times we would forget.

So aside from knowing Benny's sleep cues and acting quick on them, the first four months of Benny's life saw very little structure. While he slept for fairly long stretches at night, his naps would cap at 30 minutes at the most. Sometimes he would nap at home, most times it would be in the stroller as we took on the city during the warm summer and milder fall months. While it wasn't perfect, and he certainly wasn't sleeping completely through the night, we were able to create a shared schedule around Benny's sleep cues that saw us both getting adequate sleep. We were even experimenting with successful naps with Benny in his crib! It was very do-able and we figured that we would naturally transition to longer periods of sleep.

4 Month Sleep Regression

Just when we thought we had a handle on Benny's sleep, the dreaded four month sleep regression reared it's ugly head. Naps, unless they were taken in the stroller, became nonexistent. I would spend longer trying to get Benny down for a nap than he would end of sleeping. The same went for night time sleep. We would spend upwards to an hour trying to rock Benny to sleep, only to have him wake up 1-2 hours after going down, and continue to wake up every two hours throughout the night.

Needless to say, our once rock-solid sleep routine that ensured that both Brian and I got adequate sleep to function during the day went out the window. It was Benny's world and Brian and I were just trying to survive on a mere few precious hours of sleep.

Now I've never been someone who needed a lot of sleep to function, but trying to survive the day-to-day with an infant on a few hours of sleep was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I found myself irritable, unable to hold a conversation and would get waves of nausea throughout the day. It's important to note that I work for myself as a freelancer and did not allocate any time for a maternity leave. Trying to not only survive but keep my business afloat during one of the busiest times in the industry (the holidays) was borderline impossible. I felt like I was drowning.

Sleep Training - The Process

Thankfully I had connected with Amanda Jewson of Baby's Best Sleep in order to create a custom sleep training plan with Benny. Amanda is one of those amazing women who's glowing reputation proceeds her, so I was actually very familiar with her work before she had even reached out. What I liked most about Amanda's approach is that it was completely tailored to not only Benny's unique situation, but Brian and I's preferences.

The reason that Brian and I decided to pursue formal sleep training is because we recognize how important Benny's sleep is to our overall quality of life, and it wasn't something that we wanted to mess around trying to perfect on our own. Based on the fact that it was basically a free-for-all with Benny's feeding and sleep schedule prior to sleep training, we knew that we needed to rely on an expert to help guide us into a more routine way of life. Plus, we know ourselves as a couple and could already predict that sleep training on our own would lead to differences of opinions, frustrations and fights. Best to just leave the important stuff to the experts.

After filling out a detailed questionnaire about Benny's sleep, Amanda doing a full assessment on Benny, having a formal sleep plan sent over and a phone call with Amanda, we were ready to begin the process of sleep training.

Now, because we chose one of Amanda's personalized sleep plans I'll go through the basics of what our sleep training plan included, however it's important to note that this plan is specifically for Benny. Amanda offers the same tailored and personalized sleep plans if you're looking for a more involved sleep training process like we were, however she does also offer a fabulous DIY online course for families who want to sleep train on their own.

Here's the nitty gritty of our sleep training:

  • The first night we started our new sleep schedule, and night one of sleep training, Amanda came to our condo to explain and support. I cannot even tell you how valuable this was, and how imperative I think Amanda being there was to our sleep training success. Although I knew that there would be some crying involved, with our personalized plan we were able to go in to the nursery every twelve minutes to sooth and comfort Benny. With Amanda's support, we were able to decipher between a true cry and a protest, and while we did go to comfort Benny multiple times, his cries never intensified (on a scale of 1 to 10, his cries only got to about a 6.) It took one full hour on the dot from the time we placed Benny in his crib to when he fell asleep.

  • We removed all crutches for Benny's sleep (for him that meant his pacifier) and placed him in his crib drowsy but awake. This allowed him to practice and learn self-soothing, something that continues to be a valuable tool for him.

  • We developed a solid and consistent sleep routine that we practice every night for night-sleep, and a modified version for daytime naps. For us, at night our routine includes feeding, a warm bath, gentle lotion massage, PJs, sleep sack, reading a book, white noise on and down in the crib. We practice the same routine (minus the bath) before all naps.

  • Our daytime nap routine depended on a 'wake window' of 2 hours in between sleeps, so our naps look different most days. It's hard to explain how it happened, because I honestly still don't know, but once we nailed down our night sleep the naps just started to fall into place. Now I can expect at least one nap that last's over an hour and a half per day, with two short naps as well. It's been a huge game changer.

  • Benny will now go down to bed extremely easily after our bedtime routine and will sleep through the night with feeding anywhere between 2 to 3:30am. To me, this is a huge success because previously he was waking up almost every hour and would be a nightmare to get down to bed. We're keeping his night feed until he has a good routine with solids because Benny is a bit on the smaller side and his doctor and I feel like he needs the extra calories.

Our New Routine (Roughly)

6:30 - Wakeup
-Feed twice during wake window

8:30AM - Nap 1 (crib)
-Feed another one or two times
-Lots of playing after nap

11:30AM Nap 2 (crib)
-Feed and play in between

3:30PM Nap 3 (usually in crib, but sometimes in the stroller for an afternoon walk)
-feed twice with lots of play time

6:30 - 7:00PM - Start bedtime routine

7:00-7:30PM - Bed time in crib.

Basically we try to operate on a 2ish hour wake window for naps during the day, with a longer stretch of awake time between Benny's last nap and bedtime. I like to feed Benny twice between each nap, especially since he's still breastfed and seems to do best when he's good and full.

My Thoughts On Sleep Training

Now that it's all said and done, we have a more predictable sleep routine and calm has fallen upon our household again, here are my thoughts on sleep training and the sleep training process:

  • Sleep training was a fairly simple process, but that doesn't mean that it was easy. I found it to be extremely tough and am so thankful that we chose to go with a personalized sleep coach. Honestly, without Amanda's support, I would have given up somewhere around the third day. I found it so helpful to not only have her expertise to answer questions that came up along the way, but also offer us a sense of accountability. 

  • Be prepared to grapple with a sense of guilt throughout the process. For me, I started to feel massive mom guilt once the process was almost over and we were onto a more regular sleep routine - how backwards is that?! The fact that Benny was getting long stretches of sleep made me almost miss how much time we spent together and I started to feel guilty. Thankfully that feeling quickly passed and I'm now just so grateful for daytime sleep and cry-free nights.

  • The process works, but you need to be prepared to put in the work. Myself, that meant canceling plans and clearing my schedule for a few days so that we could really work on our sleep routine. I'm not someone who does well with routines, so I had a hard time with temporarily slowing down my life and almost fought it at first. If I had just stuck with the routine right from the beginning and embraced a slower life for a few days, I'm confident that we would have completed the sleep training process earlier.

  • Baby sleep will never be perfect. Just when I think we have everything down, the routine changes. Currently we're dealing with teething and a possible shift to only two naps during the day. To me, this is when the true value of sleep training comes into play since I'm less panicked when our routine changes and have the tools to get us back on track. 

In the end, I'm very happy with our sleep training experience and am one hundred percent confident in our choice. I'm so thankful to Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep for essentially giving me my sanity back and helping me crawl out of a very dark period. I'm much happier these days, Benny is well-rested and thriving and in the end that's the best outcome that we could have ever hoped for.

What do you guys think? Have you ever tried sleep training your baby? Did you use a professional sleep coach? Let me know.

xo Joëlle

This post was created in partnership with Baby's Best Sleep. My thoughts, opinions and experiences are 100% my own.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Prince Edward County in the Off Season

I love road trips - I really do. There's something about just packing up as much or as little as you want, without restriction, into a vehicle and just taking off. Living in Toronto we're very lucky that there are so many beautiful destinations nearby, all within a few hours drive from the city. I've never turned down the opportunity to explore our beautiful province of Ontario, and I was hoping that the addition of a baby to our little family wouldn't change that.

For that reason, when we were getting a little cabin crazy from the time necessary to spend at home with a newborn, Brian and I decided to check out Prince Edward County in the fall. It would be our first road trip with Benny - our first trip at all! I have always loved Prince Edward County (in fact I have previously been on a girly brand trip, as well as with friends)  but had never visited in the off season. I knew it would be a slower pace, which would be welcome as we explored our first experience traveling with a baby. All in all, I couldn't wait to take off as a family of three and check out what The County had to offer in the Fall.

Where We Stayed

Because I had such fond memories of my last trip to PEC, and I desperately wanted to show Brian what I think is one of the nicest Airbnbs in the province, we decided on The Meadow House.  My goodness, do I ever love this light-filled, beautifully decorated space. Located in Hillier, which is a great starting point to visit all of our planned destinations in The County, The Meadow House is a literal oasis of style and sanctuary.

One of the reasons I love staying at The Meadow House is that while gorgeous, it's actually a very comfortable and practical space for a weekend's stay - or longer, if your itinerary calls for it. Traveling with a baby, I knew that we would appreciate the comforts that come along with staying in a proper house; a kitchen for meals, a second bedroom for optimal baby sleep and even laundry should we need it.

Visiting Prince Edward County in the off season means that your trip will have a slower pace as the hustle and bustle of seasonal shops and restaurants are closed until Spring. Making sure that the space that you choose to stay during the off season can make or break your trip. Besides, gone are the days of running from destination to destination - traveling with a baby forces you to slow down and spend more time enjoying your accommodations. I'm very happy that we ultimately chose The Meadow House.

*Check out my previous post on Prince Edward County for more photos and details on The Meadow House.

Where We Ate

While Brian and I knew that we would be taking a slower pace while visiting Prince Edward County in the Fall, so there would be lots of relaxing at the Airbnb involved, we did want to take advantage of the amazing restaurant scene that can be found in The County.

La Condesa

Right in the heart of Wellington, La Condesa blew our socks off with authentic Mexican cuisine and absolutely delicious cocktails. The restaurant just opened in the spring of 2019, so it was still fairly new when we visited, but WOW - what an incredible addition to Prince Edward County!

Brian and I started with hearty guacamole with home-made corn chips and tostones, which are fried green plantains with lemon aioli. Followed by nearly every taco they had on the menu and washed down with expertly crafted cocktails, we finished the meal wondering if maybe we should consider moving to The County if this is how they're eating (then we got the bill - still Toronto prices, you can't escape it!) The best part is that the staff were incredibly accommodating with Benny and his car seat, making sure that we had a table that would be able to accommodate and didn't make us feel as though we were an imposition.  

Ten out of ten. And the best part is that because we were visiting in the off-season, this hotspot was able to accommodate us for a table right away. We will be back

Bloomfield Public House

While we only stopped in for a quick coffee, Bloomfield Public House offers deliciously rich espresso-based drinks and looked to be a beautiful spot for brunch in The County and still very lively even in the off-season. The coffee was strong, and necessary after a morning of driving. So happy to see more options for espresso-based drinks in The County.

Drake Devonshire Inn

I couldn't visit Prince Edward County without stopping by Drake Devonshire Inn for brunch. The Drake is a beautiful spot to visit in the summer and proved to be just as busy during the off-season - I'm glad that we made reservations! 

Although I missed dinning on The Drake's lakeside patio, it was beautiful to have that same view while being toasty and warm indoors in the off-season. We enjoyed classic brunch fare and strong coffee to fuel us before we left The County.

Another family-friendly spot, the Drake Devonshire Inn not only accommodated Benny and his carseat without hesitation, but they also had a great washroom with a change table and offered me a quiet spot to nurse before we hit the road back to Toronto. 

Road Trip With A Baby: What We Packed

Seeing as though this was our first trip ever with Benny, we were a little clueless on what to pack. I'm someone who gets very overwhelmed with a lot of stuff, so we tried to pack as light as possible and make due with what was available to us at The Meadow House. Here's everything that we packed for a road trip with one overnight with a 4 month old baby:

  • Our Uppababy VISTA stroller
  • MESA car seat (can be clipped into the stroller base)
  • 2 sleepers
  • 2 baby outfits
  • 1 sleep sack
  • 1 swaddle
  • 1 toy keyboard
  • 1 book
  • Enough diapers and wipes for 3 days (just in case) with a portable change mat
..and that's it. Honestly I was happy to see that we really didn't need all that much stuff, considering that Benny is exclusively breast fed and was too young to walk or crawl at the time of travel. 

The one grey area for us came down to sleep. We were driving up in our compact car, so bringing a pack-and-play or any type of travel crib along with Benny's stroller wasn't possible. We ended up just co-sleeping for the night which, while it worked, proved to be quite stressful as it was something that we had never done before. If I were to change anything, I would have brought either something to facilitate co-sleeping (like our Snuggle Me Organic) or researched a compact travel bed. 

After a blissful weekend getaway (or as close to blissful as traveling with a baby will allow) we were back on the road to make the short trip to Toronto. I absolutely loved spending a quiet weekend away with our little family, and saw Prince Edward County in a totally different light. While you miss out on the hustle-and-bustle of the busy summer, visiting Prince Edward County in the off-season offers a beauty and tranquility that you wouldn't necessarily experience in the warmer weather. I'm so happy that we chose Prince Edward County in the Fall as our first family road trip, and I can't wait to see where else our little trio will visit next.

What do you guys think? Have you ever traveled with a baby on a road trip? Have you visited Prince Edward County in the Fall? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

Monday, 30 December 2019

Goals for 2020

Much like the end of a year being a period of reflection for me, I can't help but think about the year to come. I'm not one for resolutions - I would rather set goals. I like to state my goals and set my intentions every year; not only is it a great way to organize my thoughts, but it's also nice to reflect on at the end of a year to see what's been accomplished (check out my posts from 2018 and 2017.) This upcoming year will see my first full year of being a mother, my first bit of international travel with a baby and (hopefully) setting down further roots in Toronto. It's bound to be a year of learning, growth and likely challenges along the way. Knowing all of this, here are some specific goals for 2020 that I would love to move forward with as the year progresses.

Buy A House

Yes, Brian and I have finally decided to explore the possibility of home ownership. I honestly thought that we would be condo dwellers forever but there's nothing like sharing 750 square feet with three humans and a dog to really change your perspective on things. I'm not going to lie - the thought of being a home owner terrifies me. I genuinely enjoy the simplicity that comes along with renting a small space and condo living, despite minor inconveniences, is so damn easy. While I don't think that having a baby automatically means that you need a house, we really do need more space and I just want to make sure that we're doing the best to our individual abilities for Benny. Buying a house in Toronto is not for the faint of heart, and I expect that this will be one of our biggest transitions and challenges as a couple that we've faced to-date. I'm hopeful that we'll come out on top and move towards home ownership in 2020.

Develop (and stick to) A Fitness Routine

After a fairly inactive pregnancy resulting in a C section, my body is now feeling the consequences of a major abdominal surgery and a nonexistent fitness routine. My back and hips are in constant pain and I lack the energy levels that I once had. Not that I was ever a body builder or a gym person, but there was a time when I was going to regular SoulCycle classes that I felt amazing, my mood was great and I had lots of energy - I miss that. I need to get back into a solid fitness routine that I can sustain long-term. Having a baby definitely makes going to fitness classes more difficult, so my goal for 2020 is to develop an at-home plan for simple strength training and making walking a priority. Baby steps so that I can feel strong in the new year.

Get Back To Blogging

Since starting La Petite Noob in 2013, I've always tried to made this blog a priority. What was once a hobby for most turned into full-fledged business, with companies favouring Instagram and video content, I'm embarrassed to admit that I have not paid the blog the attention it deserves in the past few years. Business aside, there is something therapeutic to me with sitting down to write a blog post. I also feel as though you can develop a more intimate connection with your readers through a blog post - more-so than just a photo on Instagram or even a video. I miss it.

That being said, this blog needs a bit of an overhaul. I feel as though the user experience is lacking; there's virtually no organization and there's got to be a better way to search for relevant content through over 6 years of blog posts. I'm also a bit lost as to what people enjoy reading when it comes to blogs now - the landscape is so different than when I first started. City guides? Shopping round ups? More personal, diary style posts? Let me know!

What do you guys think? Do you enjoy setting goals for the new year? What are you working towards in 2020? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

Friday, 27 December 2019

2019 - Lessons Learned

To say that 2019 has been a year for the books would be an understatement; it's been the most transformative year of my life. With the birth of our sweet boy Benjamin, it's been a year thats brought me my greatest blessing. I never understood the joys of motherhood when people would try to explain it to me, but 2019 is the year that I finally got it. Benny has only been with us for 5 months, but it's hard to imagine what life was like without him.

The year, however, didn't pass without any strife. Spending the majority of 2019 pregnant really tested my mental and physical health. A near-crippling case of prenatal depression coupled with an emergency hospital stay for a kidney infection while pregnant definitely pushed me to my limit. For someone who typically remains in good health both physically and mentally, my struggles this year were unlike anything I've ever experienced.

In the spirit of reflection, and continuing on a tradition of blog posts that I've been keeping up from 2017 and 2018, here are some big lessons I learned in 2019.

Health Is Wealth

Being a former funeral director and witnessing health struggles from close family members, I've always been aware of how valuable your health is - but this year really hit that lesson home from me. It's so easy to get caught up in the frivolities of the everyday, and spend enough energy coveting material objects to really loose track of the big picture - listen, I'm guilty of it too. But it's true that if you're in good health then you truly are fortunate. No amount of money or material objects can buy the ease of a life of someone in good health. While it's near impossible to spend every minute of the day being grateful for your good health, I now start off with a quick thought of gratitude every morning and it's really made a difference in my perspective and outlook on life.

Not Every Situation Is Mind Over Matter

I have a confession to make: I used to be a 'mind over matter' person for most situations in my life. Although I recognized that there were situations that were beyond an individual's control, I just didn't think it applied to me and would attribute a strong mind to overcoming mental challenges and even your physical health. I can' tell you how many times that Brian would be coming down with a cold and I would be chanting at him to squash it with his mind - poor guy would be feeling like crap and I would be shouting at him to fix it with strong thoughts.

Do you hate me yet?

Nothing like having your body completely rocked by a surge and change in hormones to really put it all in perspective. I've mentioned how I was struggling with prenatal anxiety, but honestly it was bad. I spent the majority of my first trimester and a bit of my third in a very dark place, and nothing I could do would pull me out of it. No amount of strong thoughts, gratitude journalling, perspective - nothing. It wasn't until my hormones regulated that I felt any reprieve.

Needless to say, I've changed my tune on mind over matter. While the saying certainly applies in some situations, it definitely isn't universal.

Have Patience

With the immediate gratification we've become used to, waiting for a situation to unfold can feel like torture. While having patience is something I'm sure will be a lifelong lesson, but I'm working on deciphering between "hasn't happened yet" and "won't happen ever." Patience is a process, but I'm trying my best to surrender to timing of your own individual life and to enjoy the journey.

What do you guys think? What have been some of your biggest lessons for 2019? What are you looking most forward to in the New Year? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

Photos by Vai Yu Law

Monday, 9 December 2019

Banana Republic Luxe Holiday Gift Ideas

This post is sponsored by ShopStyle and Banana Republic. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and I'm getting right into the holiday spirit by planning my gift lists for all of the amazing people in my life. This year is a big one for me with the birth of Benny and I honestly could not have made it through the last few months as a new mom without the strong and inspiring women who all rallied around me to help out. Words could never describe how much I appreciate the support, so instead I really want to spoil them this holiday season with luxurious gifts that I know that they'll love. My ideal gift is something beautiful that I know the recipient will love, but would not necessarily buy for themselves.

Enter Banana Republic. I've been shopping at Banana Republic for luxurious gifts for my nearest and dearest for years. It's a place that I can depend on to find elevated pieces that can not only be enjoyed during the holiday season, but are always just great pieces to incorporate something special in your wardrobe on the weekly.

My first recommendation when choosing a luxurious gift is to consider a new coat. Now hear me out: if you live in a colder climate, sometimes it feels like putting effort into an outfit is all for nothing because it ultimately gets covered by a coat. BUT if the coat itself is something special and feels like a statement piece in itself, then the colder months don't feel like such a sacrifice to personal style! I'm loving the teddy coat trend again this season, and definitely have my eye on the Sherpa Cocoon Coat and Sherpa Car Coat from Banana Republic. For more of a bold statement, you may want to consider the Faux Fur Long Coat for a seventies vibe, or even a a Leopard Top Coat - because at this point, leopard print truly is a neutral. If the individual on your gift list veers more towards the practical side, then the Twill Utility Jacket may be more appropriate; this is a jacket that can be worn for most of the year and adds instant-style to any outfit.

Knitwear is a more traditional gift, but can be just as luxurious and special when gifting different cuts and styles. Take the Puff Sleeve Sweater; just as practical as a traditional sweater, but the puff sleeves make the design more current and fun! Such a treat to gift to someone that you love. For a real show-stopper of a gift, I have my eye on the Turtleneck Sweater Dress. Just as cozy as any sweater, but with a glamorous twist.

Something else to consider when choosing a luxurious gift is a piece of clothing in an unexpected pattern or with a fun detail that the recipient wouldn't necessarily splurge on for themselves. My absolute favourite is leopard print. Not only is it so on-trend for this season, it's a pattern that is truly flattering on everyone and can easily fit into most wardrobes. My picks that instantly stood out to me from Banana Republic are the Leopard Print Maxi Skirt (I have this same one and it's truly one of the most versatile pieces in my closet)  and the Leopard Print Peasant Midi Dress. For a touch of sparkle, and because you can never go wrong with a fun handbag, I love the Rose Gold Glitter Clutch.

I'm so excited to share my luxurious gifts from Banana Republic with my loved ones this season, with maybe a few gifts for myself as well haha.

What do you guys think? Do you like to treat your loved ones to luxe gifts for the holidays? Which is your favourite piece from Banana Republic? Let me know!

xo Joëlle
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