Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Entertaining My Baby in Self Isolation


We're in the midst of a Global Pandemic with Covid-19, and I for one am doing my part to flatten the curve and am staying home. While most friends and people I follow online are using this period of self-quarantine to practice self-care or maybe develop a new hobby, I'm over here trying to entertain and occupy my almost 8 month old baby while still staying sane.

Staying home while entertaining a young baby is no joke, and definitely requires a lot of time and attention. I find that we're hopping from one activity to the next, with me just hoping that something on Benny's play mat peaks his fancy for more than a few minutes. Some toys are a big hit one day, and fall flat the next. Sometimes I can entertain him for almost an entire day with regular household items. It honestly just depends!

Here are a few toys, household items and books that we've been using to keep 8 month old Benny entertained while practicing Social Distancing.

Baby Toys

Remember when I said that I would only buy aesthetically pleasing, wooden baby toys? I have to laugh at my pre-baby self. Our condo is definitely a haven for all of the brightly coloured, loud baby toys.  Honestly though, if Benny likes them then I'm on board.

Here's some of Benny's favourite toys, and those that we have on regular rotation at our place. I like them because they're small-space friendly, and seem to really catch and hold his attention.

1. VTech Turn & Learn Driver
2. VTech Busy Learners Activity Cube
3. Fisher Price Piano Gym
4. Soft Crinkle Books

Household Items


Sometimes, the best ways to entertain a baby is through everyday items found at home. We learned this lesson when we took Benny on his fist flight: if it's something that catches his attention (and isn't dangerous to play with,) then just go with it.

Now, we're a little more strategic with offering everyday items that we know Benny will enjoy and play happily with for a longer period of time. There are a few things that I reach for in a pinch, and Benny seems to love them!


  • Tupperware containers (non-breakable, plastic) and lids
  • Pots and wooden spoons
  • Wrapping paper
  • Clean cardboard boxes (ones that have not recently entered the condo)

Books


We're still trying to foster Benny's eventual love for reading, so having books available to him to have read and to play with is so important. Right now we're sticking to board books that have beautiful, colourful images and even different interactive textures.



The Jellycat Board Books are ideal for babies that are in and around the 6months - 1 year age range. Not only as a fun book to read with them, but also as a means of independent play with the mix of textures in each book.

Being in social isolation and quarantine is tough in the best of situations - it becomes even more challenging when you add a baby to the mix. With a rotating selection of toys, household objects and books, we've managed to find a nice routine when it comes to entertaining a baby.

We can get through this. Day 12 of social isolation and counting.

xo Joëlle
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Saturday, 7 March 2020

Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres with Air Transat



I remember being asked, while I was still pregnant, what I was most excited for once baby arrived. That's simple, I said - I was excited to take my baby on their first trip. It seems like a strange answer, but it's true. Travel is and always has been a huge part of my life. My family, due to being a military family and living overseas, were always going on adventures when my brothers and I were young and it made for the best memories. Not only did I want those same memories and experiences for my own child, but I couldn't wait to experience the joy that comes along with seeing my baby experience new things.

Imagine my incredible excitement when the opportunity arose with Air Transat to visit Mexico to check out the recently opened Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, a five-star luxurious family-friendly resort in Cancun. Both Brian and I were ecstatic! Not only would be we able to take Benny on his first trip at 6 months old, but we would be able to return to Cancun as a family - a beloved destination that holds many special memories for us.

So off we went, flying on our first flight with a baby with Air Transat and had the most amazing week in paradise. The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres was an actual oasis. The resort was the perfect choice for a first vacation as a family with a new baby. The experience could not have been more accommodating to traveling with a baby, while still staying in the kind of luxury us late-thirties parents had grown accustomed to. The whole week exceeded my expectations and set the bar for family travel extremely high.

Let me guide you through our week The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres. I know how important choosing the right resort when traveling with kids can be, let alone your first family trip, so I'm going to try to share everything and anything that made our week incredible and why I would recommend this property for family travel (or really anyone looking for a luxurious getaway in paradise.)












The Property


Upon first look at The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, I was struck by how absolutely gorgeous it is. Being only just over a year old and with beautiful, modern buildings and touches, this property makes an impressions before you even check in! Here's some quick facts about The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres and some things that I really appreciated from this unique and luxurious property.


  • The property itself it only 29 km from the Cancun International Airport, which for us translated into a very quick and leisurely 35 minute drive. This is especially important to consider when traveling with a baby - the less time in transit, the better.

  • There are multiple pools on-site, to suit every age range and taste! Ourselves, we mostly just used the two pools that are situated in the Family Selection area of The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres and they were excellent. I was also able to sneak away to check out the adults-only pool and it was gorgeous. There is also a large water park that any older children will absolutely love!

  • Fast, reliable Wifi is included and available throughout the entire complex.

  • The resort itself has over 600 rooms, and never felt overcrowded in the entirety of our stay - both during the week and on weekend. 

  • There is easy elevator access for the buildings. This is important when traveling with a baby and a stroller.

  • The on-site spa is Zentropia, which is easily the nicest and most luxurious spa that I've ever experienced. The services are available at an additional fee, and I found the prices to be reasonable (on-par with Toronto spa prices.)

  • I would classify the resort as a nice, medium size. Easily walkable, however with many options if you need get somewhere in a hurry. Normally if we were traveling on our own, Brian and I would have walked everywhere. However, traveling with a baby means that time is of the essence - especially when trying to get to a quick dinner, or getting back to our room for bedtime. We appreciated the many golf carts that were at the ready to assist, as well as the 100% electrical boats that offer a more scenic ride around the property.







Our Room: Family Selection


For our week at The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, we stayed in the Family Selection option for rooms. You guys - this was a game changer when it came to traveling with an infant. From the location of the room on the resort, to the incredible family-focused service we received, I could not recommend Family Selection enough. The perks for families seem to be endless; here are the features of Family Selection that really elevated our experience for our first trip with Benny.


  • The rooms with Family Selection are located in the most ideal area of the resort, in my opinion. You're close to the beach (in fact, I could see and hear the ocean from our balcony,) and are close to two family-friendly pools. Our favourite family-friendly restaurant on the resort, The Nest is in the Family Selection building itself so it was our preferred stop for a quick breakfast with Benny. 

  • Family Selection includes a family concierge service, and I honestly think that this service made our experience at The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres. From arranging our room to be baby friendly, bringing us sunscreen, a diaper genie, a pack and play - everything! We had two concierges, Louis and Fernanda and they were both excellent. Fernanda went above and beyond to arrange all of our dinner and spa reservations, laundry pick up and ideal housekeeping times that wouldn't interfere with Benny's naps. The attention to detail and the care provided to our family completely exceeded our expectations. Most of all, they both genuinely cared for Benny - you could just feel it from them. I was teary eyed saying goodbye to our family concierges, especially Fernanda. The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres will forever be a main pick for us when it comes to family travel because of the warmth and kindness that we received from the staff.

  • Room service is available 24 hours to guests of Family Selection. We took full advantage, and was a game-changer when we wanted to lounge on the balcony during Benny's naps. The coolest part about the room service is that you ordered from a menu on your TV! So modern, and so convenient. 

  • Our room was spacious and modern, with a large bathroom area and a soaker tub, and a large balcony that overlooked both the pool and the ocean. It was absolutely perfect. The room also included both a coffee and Nespresso machine. You guys know how much I appreciate in-room espresso, so this was a game-changer for me.

  • The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres is a reservation-free resort, however guests staying in Family Selection are able to reserve times at the à la carte restaurants. Making sure that we had set eating times was really helpful as we learned to navigate dinners with a baby on our first trip. Fernanda, our family concierge, made sure we had reservations for the week at all of our preferred restaurants on the first day.

  • Hydrotherapy services at Zentropia, the spa, are available at no costs to guests staying at Family Selection. Although the spa is adults-only, Brian and were able to enjoy a few sessions each by taking turns watching Benny for a couple of hours. 

  • A small detail, but something that is so useful when traveling with a baby, is that Family Selection is allotted two pieces of laundry per guest at no additional cost. This was so helpful when dealing with accidents in sleepers, airplane outfits - basically the everyday messes that come along with a baby.



The Food


One of my favourite things about visiting an all-inclusive resort is having access to delicious food - with the bonus of not having to do dishes or clean up afterwards, haha! That being said, staying at a property for a full week means that the food needs to not only be delicious, but there should also be lots of options. Thankfully the food at The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres did not disappoint. Brian and I were particularly impressed with the quality at the à la carte restaurants. Coupled with exemplary service and beautiful, modern décor, every meal felt like a special occasion.

  • There are 8 beautiful à la carte restaurants, with one of them being exclusive to Family Selection. Although the property operates on a no-reservation policy, guests staying in Family Selection are able to make reservations. For those of us who like dinning early (Brian and I because of Benny,) getting a table was never an issue - even without reservations.

  • The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres takes food allergies very seriously. We were asked at every meal if anyone in our family had any food allergies. We even had a hostess show Brian, who is a pescatarian, around the main buffet so he knew where all of the vegetable and fish options were. We were very impressed.

  • The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres also houses a trendy coffee shop and even a sports bar that's open 24 hours. I'm not one for sports, but you know that I was at the coffee shop multiple times a day. 

  • Although Benny wasn't quite into a solids routine when we visited The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, we noticed so many food options for kids - especially in Family Selection. Fruits and raw veggies, small sandwiches, pancakes shaped like characters - they had it all! On top of that, every à la carte that we visited had high chairs and a fun kids menu.




After a week in absolute paradise at The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres, we were all sad to leave. Our first trip with six-month old Benny could not have gone any better, and I'm so grateful for such a positive entry into family travel.

Brian and I have always been very picky about the sorts of properties and resorts that we visit, but we had no idea how much staying at a family-friendly place can really make your trip. The Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres has set the bar very high for our first family trip, and was the perfect place for our first foray into family travel. If you're traveling with a baby and/or children, enjoy beautiful surroundings and appreciate attention to details and service then I could not recommend this beautiful place enough.

I hope to be back soon.

Thank you so much to Air Transat for providing our family with this beautiful experience. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
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Friday, 28 February 2020

Baby Flying Tips: Benny's First Flight with Air Transat


There are so many firsts that you experience with a new baby: first smile, first time they crawl, their first word. One of the major firsts that I was most looking forward to, and simultaneously gave me the most anxiety, was Benny's first flight.

Readers of La Petite Noob know that I love to travel, and really didn't want to see that love end once we had a baby. When the opportunity came up to take our first flight as a family of three with Air Transat, I was ecstatic! My dreams of traveling the world with a child were coming true, and I was counting down the days until it became a reality. Then the panic set in.

The thing is although I've flown countless times, sometimes as a pair, as a group and often by myself, I had never flown with a child - let alone a six month old baby. What would security be like? What do I pack? Will they cry? What is the protocol for takeoff and landing with a baby on your lap? There were so many questions that arose in the days leading up to our first trip with Benny, I found it hard to move past the fear of the unknown.

I'll save you any dramatics and just skip to how our flight turned out: it was excellent. Check in at the airport was a breeze, we sailed through security, enjoyed a (mostly) silent and sleepy flight to-and-from the Cancun Airport in Mexico, and packed some key baby essentials that made the day a lot easier. Flying with Benny at six months took a lot more planning than I'm used to, and there were a lot more nerves involved, but it was incredible and totally doable for the future.

So let's get into the details of flying with a baby. First, the airline: we chose to go with Air Transat for our first flight with baby and it was such a good decision. You guys know that I've absolutely loved traveling and working with Air Transat over the years (we flew Club Class for our honeymoon) so I was already confident in the airline going into the flight. There are some definite perks to flying Air Transat with a baby that we took full advantage of, and that made our first flight much easier. These perks include:


  • A Family With Small Children check-in and baggage drop off line. As a couple who has not checked any luggage for over five years (Brian and I prefer to travel carry-on only) the fact that we would now need to allot time to drop off our baggage, but also check in with a baby added a whole other layer to the airport experience. Thankfully there is a special line for families with small children with Air Transat that allowed us to bypass most everyone in line and drop off our baggage in no time. We learned quick that time is of the essence when traveling with a baby, so the less time that we spent in lines with Benny the better. 

  • Extra Baggage allowance for Diaper Bags. Knowing that we were able to bring a dedicated diaper bag for Benny, outside of regular carry-on items, on our flight made packing so much easier. 

  • Gate Checking Strollers and Car Seats. Knowing that we would be doing a lot of walking through the airport with Benny, I knew that it would be important that we kept our stroller with us right up until we boarded. Thankfully with Air Transat, families are able to gate check one stroller and car seat at no extra charge, which was a lifesaver for us. Although we didn't use our own car seat on this particular trip, knowing that we're able to easily bring it with us makes traveling to Europe much easier.

  • Families with small children are also eligible for Pre-Boarding with Air Transat. It seems like those traveling with kids are on two very polarized opinions on pre-boarding. For both Brian and I, especially on our first trip traveling with baby Benny, pre-boarding was essential. We took advantage of the extra time that we had on the plane to sanitize everything around us, store our carry on and remove any items that we would need for Benny throughout the flight, and to get organized and comfortable. 

  • Friendly and Helpful Air Crew. The flight attendants and crew working on Air Transat flights are very well-versed in making people comfortable, and they went above and beyond with Benny. From helping us collapse and pack up our stroller at the gate, to briefing us multiple times during take-off and landing, to even bringing me extra water since I was feeding often during the flight: the crew took care of it all. Air Transat crew will even warm up baby food brought from home. A friendly air crew can make-or-break your flying experience, and our crew with Air Transat made sure that we had an amazing first flight with Benny.

After a successful first two flights with six-month old Benny, from Toronto to Cancun and back with Benny on our lap, I picked up a few tricks that I will implement on any future flights. Here's what made our flights a little more comfortable with baby.

  • I was initially worried about the change in air pressure and how it would affect Benny's ears on the flight, so I made sure to breastfeed during takeoff and landing for both flights. I'm not sure if it was this, the particular flight, or our individual baby, but Benny did not fuss whatsoever with changes in air pressure. In any case, I'm sure the sucking motion contributed to Benny's comfort and the feeding seemed to relax him - in fact, he fell asleep every time. If you're not breastfeeding then offering a bottle or a soother would have the same effect.

  • Because we wanted to make sure that we had desirable seats for maximum comfort on the plane, we opted to upgrade our seats on our own both ways to Options Plus. Options Plus is great because it allowed us to select our preferred seats in advance, enjoy extra leg room and gave us food from Air Transat's Bistro menu.  Options Plus also allows you to have priority boarding and our own check in line (should we not have had a child.) 

    Although not always an option, we were so happy to have upgraded to seats with extra leg room at the front of the plane. If you're not comfortable with an upgrade, I would suggest checking in 24 hours in advance of your flight to make sure that you're comfortable with your seating arrangement.

  • Babies are fickle, and I never really know which toys will entertain Benny on any particular day. For this reason, we packed his favourite toys, but also got creative for entertaining baby on the flight. When Benny all of a sudden tired of his beloved keyboard, an empty water bottle with stir sticks inside provided a solid 20 minutes of entertainment. Some other make-shift baby toys are a mirror, snack wrappers - whatever peaks baby's interest, just roll with it.

  • I'm a light packer by nature, so I didn't want to overwhelm our plane seats with too much stuff. The items that I packed for Benny on our flight were a muslin blanket, an extra set of clothes, 4 diapers and a pack of wipes, a pacifier and a pacifier clip, two toys and a package of pacifier wipes to sanitize soothers and toys throughout the flight.  We used everything that we packed, and I didn't wish for anything else.

Flying with a baby can seem overwhelming, but is completely doable and can actually be enjoyable! It takes a bit more planning, some extra stuff, the right airline and a few deep breaths. I'm already looking forward to our next flight with Benny.

What do you guys think? How was your first flight with your baby and/or children? Are there any tips that made the experience easier for you? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

This post was created in partnership with Air Transat. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
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Wednesday, 19 February 2020

6 Month Postpartum Update: The Good, The Bad and the Bloody



As I sit here and type this, I can hardly believe that we've had Benny in our lives for six whole months. When we were in the thick of the newborn phase, I was so sick of people telling me how quickly it goes by; turns out, they were right. Time is absolutely flying, and while I'm enjoying every new stage more than the last, I feel a anxiousness to try to remember everything as it is right now. It's a strange feeling.

This post isn't going to be about Benny though. Having a baby via C section as I had is a real shock to your body, and so much has changed since the hazy days that are pre-baby. I look different, feel different, and have different relationships with my loved ones. For real - postpartum is no joke, even 6 months out.

So I'm here to tell you what's been going on with me for the past 6 months since having a baby. The good, the bad - and the bloody.

C Section Scar


One big question that I've gotten from individuals online is how my C section scar is recovering. Although there is still a very noticeable red scar, it look so much better now. The scary red gash that once graced my entire lower abdomen is now fading into a lighter shade of pink, and is [slowly] shrinking in size along with my stomach. I do still have a bit of swelling overtop of the scar, giving me a 'C section shelf' but I'm optimistic that the swelling will also go down as I start to re-develop core strength.

I know that I'm supposed to cherish all of the scars that lead me to motherhood, but I'll be honest: when I first took off my bandages post-op after Benny was born, I cried. It's so jarring to see the body that you once knew so well change in such drastic ways, and that long bloody incision was just too much for me to handle. Although it's far from being invisible, it makes me feel a lot better to know that it's healing into something that is a bit more manageable.

Postpartum Period


Well, my period-less grace period didn't last nearly as long as I expected. Although I've been exclusively breastfeeding this entire time, and only recently started to seriously introduce Benny to solids, my period returned after about 4 months post-baby. And did she ever make an entrance!

This is when it starts getting real, so if you're squeamish then exit out. After having a copper-based IUD for over 10 years, I was used to a heavy period. That being said, nothing could have prepared me for the absolute madness that is a postpartum period. My Lord. You know the scene in The Shinning when the elevator doors open and blood just starts gushing out into a tidal wave of horror into the hallway? That's what's happening to my crotch every month, and it's not pretty. For this reason, I think the time has finally come to try out a menstrual cup to try and manage this bloodbath every month until my hormones level out. Or maybe this is my new normal. Who knows - stay tuned!

My Mood


I've talked about my prenatal depression and anxiety at length on the blog, and how I thought that postpartum actually provided a reprieve. I still think this to be true, however now that I'm looking back, I do think that I was experiencing postpartum euphoria during the newborn stage (Google tells me that this is indeed a thing.) Feelings of elation coupled with a pretty easy newborn cushioned the transition to motherhood. Coupled with the summer months and a sleep newborn, I was able to consistently get out of the house, absolutely crush work and exist in a pretty rosy bubble.

Now at 6 months postpartum the euphoric feelings have faded, teething and sleep regressions have hit and Brian has gone back to working long hours at the office. I'm still happy, and overall loving this new season of life, but I'm tired damnit. And irritable. And annoyed at the inequality in shared household responsibilities that seems to screw women.

I'm very happy for the most part, but I'm often pissed off. Pissed that I'm trying desperately to work at the same pace that I did pre-baby with way more outside responsibility and way less sleep. Pissed that trying to raise a family in the city will ultimately end up costing us all of the money in the world - and it still doesn't guarantee that we'll find a home. Pissed that gender roles are still very much a thing in 2020. I'm pissed that I can't seem to stay grounded and in a place of gratitude because my acute bursts of rage seem so encompassing at the time. I'm happy but I'm pissed.

Thankfully, I've been seeing a therapist every 6 weeks since having Benny and it does seem to help. If anything, I find that when I actually sit down and articulate what is making me so mad, I realize how silly I sound and it actually helps to ground me. It also helps to have someone tell me that my feelings are valid and very common in the postpartum period. I'm enrolled in a program that allows me access to free therapy sessions for one year postpartum, and I think it's going to be something that I continue on my own when the program expires.

So that's it! I still love being a mother, more-so than I ever imagined that I would, but I'm also human and struggle with bad days.

My Relationship


Another big question that was asked on Instagram when I mentioned writing a post about everything postpartum was how my marriage had changed since having a baby. I'll be honest, I'm a pretty open book when it comes to most things but I try to keep my relationships offline as much as I can, out of respect for everyone involved. However, I have a feeling that people are asking because we're all struggling a bit to find not only ourselves postpartum, but also where we stand with our partners. So I will say this:

Marriage is hard. Marriage after a baby is harder. Even if bringing a human life into this world together acts as a bonding between you and your partner, as it has with Brian and I, there are still very real changes that can put a strain on a relationship. I know myself, I haven't been the most pleasant person to be around sometimes. I'm upset with the unequal expectations that society has for women vs. men when becoming a parent, and oftentimes those strong feelings get placed onto Brian for simply existing as a man. And here's the thing - he actually helps a lot! He's collateral damage to my anger at a still very flawed and gendered parenthood experience in 2020. I see him succeeding with his career and, while it makes me proud and provides more security for our family, it hurts to know that my own will have to take more of a backseat for the next few years.

I'm working daily to focus on more big-picture thinking instead of just focusing on the semantics of this particular season of life. In the long run, I'm really proud of both Brian and I for handling this change to our lives with happiness and grace. There is lots of love and laughter in our home, and that's all I want for our son. For two Type A, know-it-all, high strung Aries, it's nothing short of a miracle - haha!


Postpartum Hair Loss


Now here's something fun that I thought I had escaped, seeing as though I was 4 months postpartum when it started - postpartum hair loss. Ya'll, I currently have the hairline of a balding man in their mid forties. I can build a hair-doll of myself every single time I use a brush. And now as the hair loss seems to be (hopefully) slowing down, I'm dealing with a serious case of baby-bangs with my new hair growth. And here's the kicker - my new hair is almost all 100% grey. HAHA oh the joys!

My Weight


I feel like you can't talk about postpartum life without addressing the question that seems to be on the forefront of everyone's minds. This post is getting long, and I don't want to focus too much on weight because it really doesn't matter long run, but here it is:

Have I lost the baby weight? Hell no.
Does it bother me? Yes.
Am I being gentle with myself in regards to baby weight? Yes.

I've slowly started to get back into regular workouts and moving my body with purpose again. It feels incredible - if only for improving my sleep and moods! I'm back at Soul Cycle and am slowly trying to build up strength in my core again. It feels amazing, and I'm finally feeling like I'm ready to start building up a fitness routine again.





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Friday, 31 January 2020

Baby Travel Gear with buybuy BABY



From the moment that Benny was born, and even before while I was pregnant, I've been dreaming about our first tropical trip together. Fast forward to present day, and we're currently getting ourselves ready to take on a beautiful resort in Mexico with a baby! As excited as I am to travel together as a family for the first time, I'm a little nervous when it comes to baby gear and packing.

Long time readers of the blog know that I'm an advocate for only travelling with a carry on and while I know that won't be possible with a baby, I still want to pack light. With so much in terms of travel baby gear, I want to explore all of my options for this trip while still being mindful of the amount of stuff in our suitcases. It's easy to go overboard, but equally simple to forget to pick up something essential to travelling with a baby.

Enter buybuy BABY. Easily the most comprehensive children's store that we have access to, buybuy BABY was my first choice when looking for travel gear with a baby. I love the ease of perusing their website for travel gear that suits our needs, as well as how helpful the in-store staff is. After doing a lot of research, consulting the reviews on the website and some blind faith in my own mama instincts, here are the items that we selected from buybuy BABY for traveling to Mexico with baby Benny.



UPPAbaby MINU stroller


You guys know how much I love my UPPAbaby VISTA stroller - so much so that I wrote an entire post on why they're worth the investment. It is a little heavy though, and considering we would be making a few transfers from condo to airport, and then again from airport to resort, I thought it best to make the trip with a travel stroller. Because we are both so impressed with the UPPAbaby brand, selecting the UPPAbaby MINU was a no brainer. I love how the MINU has the same quality that you would expect from the UPPAbaby brand, but with added perks of a compact travel stroller - mainly how light it is, and how easy it is to collapse (you can do it one-handed!) I also picked up the stroller-specific travel bag that actually insures your MINU stroller, and adapters to use with the MESA car seat for any future trips.

I never thought that I would be one to get excited over a stroller, but I am so excited to travel with the UPPAbaby MINU. I think that we made the right choice going with a travel stroller, and it will continue to be useful for all other trips.


Crib Sheets


Keeping in the spirit of travelling as light as possible with a baby, we opted to rent a crib at our resort in Mexico rather than travelling with a pack and play or our own travel crib. Even still, I thought it best to bring our own crib sheets with us, and I found the absolute cutest ones at buybuy BABY! Look at those patterns - I can't! I'll be travelling with them washed, so hopefully the familiar scent of home with help Benny with the sleep adjustment when we get to Mexico.


PeaPod Travel Bed


Although we're relying on a crib for bedtime and naps with Benny at our resort, I wanted to make sure that he would have a shaded area to play and relax in while Brian and I are sunning ourselves by the pool. The PeaPod Travel Bed looks to be absolutely genius, and has the best reviews on the buybuyBABY website. When it arrived to our condo, I couldn't believe how small this travel tent folds down to - it can actually fit in a carry-on suitcase! I think the PeaPod Travel Bed will be a game changer, not only when we're in Mexico but also for summers at the cottage and any other warm-weather travel with baby.


Baby Float


Even before Brian and I were married, my heart would melt when we were at a resort and would see babies floating around in the pool with their parents. I knew that once the day came that we would be travelling with our own baby, I wanted the same inflatable pool toy. Of course I was able to find the  Anchor Infant Baby Spring Float with Sun Canopy at buybuy BABY - they seriously have everything! I love how this particular model has a shaded canopy on top to keep Benny safe from the sun. I literally cannot wait to put this toy to good use and play with Benny in our resort's pool!

Toys


Pool toys aside, I knew that we would need at least one toy to help keep Benny entertained while we would be lounging in our room. Finding toys on buybuyBABY is a no-brainer; their selection is absolutely incredible. For Benny, I know that he loves bright lights and music so this Baby Einstein Octopus Orchestra will be perfect. I'm confident that Benny will have the best time playing with this toy while mom and dad enjoy an in-room cocktail on the patio. HA - we'll see how that goes!



Sun Protection


Benny will be six months old when we travel to Mexico, so he will be at the age where it's safe to use sunscreen. I wanted to make sure that we selected a baby friendly sunscreen that was made from natural ingredients. Of course buybuy BABY was able to deliver, so we picked up the Sun Bum Baby Bum natural sunscreen with SPF 30. I also picked out this cute sun hat for Benny. I'm so impressed with the selection at buybuy BABY for sun protection - they even carry swimsuits and rash guards with UVA defence!




I'm so impressed with buybuy BABY; not only for the selection when it came to choosing travel-friendly baby gear for our upcoming trip, but also how easy it was with delivery to our condo. With our baby gear secured, our bags packed and some blind optimism for Benny's first plane ride, I'm looking forward to our first resort experience with Benny.

Bon Voyage!

Joëlle

This post was created in partnership with buybuy BABY. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
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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.
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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
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