The reluctant minimalist

With the birth of our newest family member less than ten short weeks away, I find myself exploring ways to de-clutter and organise my home and my life to reduce mess and stress when she arrives. I’m not really a messy person and I am usually quite organised, but I form emotional attachments to things and am reluctant to let them go incase the memory goes with them.

I’ve been reading a bit about minimalism, and while I’m far too sentimental about stuff to practise a minimalist lifestyle, there are elements of the theory that appeal to me. Advocates of minimalism argue that you can benefit from removing clutter, rather than just organising it and this is why:

If you keep clutter and just organise it, you need to re-organise it regularly, which is time consuming.

Reducing clutter frees up your time. Less cleaning, less rummaging, less daily decision making.

Reducing physical clutter reduces mental clutter and visual distraction.

Reducing clutter can save you money by lowering your cost of living. Less stuff is cheaper to organise, clean and store .

Less clutter means more space. Simple as that.

By applying some minimalist principles to my life and reducing clutter in my home I hope to make my daily life easier. I started the process when we moved house about a month ago by culling things that hadn’t been used for a while, or that had no place to live in our new home. I’m now making my way through the house, culling a few things here and there each week and dropping them in the local charity bins. Some things are easily culled like dvds but more sentimental realms like my wardrobe require a softly, softly approach so I only cull a couple of things at a time.

The bulk of the clutter in our home belongs to Little Chop. She has so many books and toys, which I clean up over and over again everyday. At 30 weeks pregnant, this has become a huge drain on my energy. Little Chop is 18 months old now and understands most of what I say, so I’ve started encouraging her to put her own toys away, but she makes much more mess than she cleans up at the moment so it’s a work in progress.

The whole project is a work in progress really, so I’ll let you know how it’s going as we get closer to D day.

Wish me luck!

The countdown begins

Today I am officially thirty weeks pregnant – let the countdown begin.

Ten thoughts for the ten weeks I have left…

1. I can’t believe how fast pregnancy flies by when you have a very busy toddler to entertain.

2. I’m absolutely exhausted but due to co-sleeping with my 18 month old, killer acid reflux and aching hips, the deep unbroken sleep that I really need at the moment continues to elude me.

3. This pregnancy has been so much easier on my body than my first. I’ve had more energy, put on less weight and have less aches and pains than last time.

4. I feel more confident about parenting a newborn, particularly with regard to breastfeeding. Establishing breastfeeding with Little Chop was really difficult, physically and emotionally – it was extremely painful, she lost too much weight, I became disheartened and unsure of my ability to provide enough milk for her, but I was determined and we successfully breastfed for 16 months. This time I don’t expect it to be easy, but I am sure of my ability.

5. Am I physically and emotionally capable of parenting two children under two? To be honest, I don’t know. I hope so. I know that it will be really hard, I will be sleep deprived, I will feel stretched thin, I won’t have time to myself. But maybe it will be easier because I know these things. I am also very lucky to have family support nearby.

6. I’m so excited to have a newborn in the house again. It will be a different experience to bringing Little Chop home because I had all the time in the world to hold her while she slept and take millions of photos.

7. I can’t wait to introduce Little Chop to her baby sister. She adores babies, and while I’m sure she will be a bit jealous that mummy’s attention has been diverted, she will also be very interested in our new arrival.

8. This is probably the last time I will be pregnant, unless the universe sends us a surprise. We only plan to have two babies, so looks like we’re just about done.

9. I feel guilty about how little time I’ve devoted to concentrating on and documenting this pregnancy. When I was pregnant with Little Chop, I noticed every movement, I read up on her development weekly, I took pictures of my growing belly and videos of kicks and tumbles. This time around, I simply don’t have the time. I also worry that I won’t take as many photos of this baby as I did of Little Chop as a newborn because I won’t have as much time.

10. I plan to do a couple of things differently with this baby. I was always quick to settle Little Chop when she woke up during the night – I will give this baby more opportunities to self-settle. I will vaccinate at eight weeks instead of six because Little Chop had a week long vomiting reaction to her first set of vaccinations, and I don’t want to go through that again. I won’t be using Farex, as I found it to be really constipating for Little Chop so this time we’ll only be offering non-starchy fruit and vegetable purees as first food.

Anyone else expecting their second?

Three’s a crowd a.k.a sex and the co-sleeping parent

co-sleeping positionsThere were three in the bed and the little one said, “roll over, roll over.” So they all rolled over and Daddy fell out…went to the spare room and there he has slept for the past year!

Before Little Chop was born, I never really considered the effect her arrival would have on my relationship and how it would change. I knew that it would change, how could it not? A newborn demands your love and attention above everything and everyone including your partner, so you inevitably compromise and sacrifice things you enjoyed in your childless life to put your baby first – things like socialising, sleep and sex.

After giving birth, sex was the last thing on my mind. Having delivered a 4kg baby aided by an episiotomy and forceps I was quite content to never have sex again. Then my milk came in and the early challenges of breastfeeding took their toll. Sleep deprived with cracked nipples and a throbbing episiotomy scar, I waded zombified through those early weeks, often sobbing while breastfeeding with the pain that radiated from one end of my body to the other. My partner who was also sleep deprived and overwhelmed by our new arrival was patient and equally disinterested in sex…for a while at least.

Then my six week post-partum check-up rolled around and my partner started to get interested. Really interested. I was still in a fair amount of pain and didn’t feel physically or emotionally ready but I thought I should give it a go for my partner’s sake and to see how things were healing down there. Let’s just say that it didn’t go too well. I cried. It was painful and I was so anxious and self-concious about my squishy post-baby body that I felt tense and awkward. I told my partner I didn’t want to try again for a while and that was that.

By the three month mark, my episiotomy had healed and I was feeling more confident having lost most of my baby weight – I was ready. Within a few weeks, our sex life was almost back to normal, less frequent, but consistent. A couple of months later Winter rolled around and I started feeding Little Chop in bed overnight rather than braving the cold lounge room. She self-weaned from her dummy and no longer wanted to be swaddled. She would only sleep in my arms or by my side. We became co-sleepers. And so, my partner was sent to the spare room where he has remained for the past year. As my Doctor said, “Oh Laura, that’s no good for romance.” Mmm, you don’t say…

I had wondered about the sex lives of co-sleepers before I became one. I knew co-sleepers with more than one child so obviously they had managed to find a time and place to do the deed. If you’re curious, like I was, allow me to enlighten you. It’s tricky. You either need to plan ahead or be extremely spontaneous. It might be a nap time quickie or something you ‘book in’ for the evening instead of watching Masterchef. Occasionally, you’ll be interrupted when your child wakes unexpectedly and you’ll have to abandon the act because they don’t know how to self-settle. And, unless you have a spare room, it probably won’t be in bed because that space now belongs to your child. So there, now you know.

What my Doctor said is true, unfortunately. Co-sleeping is no good for romance. When you spend about twenty hours of the day with your child you tend to crave and relish in your alone time. Well, I do anyway. Nap time and evenings are the only times of the day I get to myself and sometimes I am reluctant to give that up, even for my partner. Maybe that’s selfish but it’s what I need to preserve my sanity. Sometimes I feel like I am stretched very thin and I don’t have enough time and energy to meet everyones needs. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a co-sleeper. I do miss the intimacy and comfort of sharing a bed with my partner and I know he misses it too. But, would I rather get up to settle my daughter multiple times each night? Or, let her cry herself to sleep? No. It is what it is and it won’t be forever so for now I’ll take my daughter’s warm sleepy cuddles over a torrid sex life and that’s fine by me.

Gentle ‘no cry’ sleep training for toddlers

Yes, it is possible!

I recently wrote about co-sleeping with my 16 month old daughter, an arrangement that has worked for us for over a year now –  an arrangement that I love and hate in equal measure – so it is with mixed feelings that I have taken the first steps in transitioning Little Chop out of my bed.

A month or so ago, as I moved into my second trimester of pregnancy with baby number two, I decided that it was time to begin some gentle sleep training with my snuggly little bedfellow. This has coincided with attempted weaning so it’s been an emotional, anxious and frustrating time for both of us. I say attempted weaning because although Little Chop’s daytime breastfeeds have been successfully replaced with cow’s milk, her overnight comfort feed has proven much harder to shake.

To set up our new sleep arrangement, I had my partner remove the infant side from the cot and replace it with the toddler side, then position the cot like a sidecar by my bed. I didn’t want Little Chop to feel imprisoned in her cot and I wanted to be able to reach into the cot to comfort her without getting out of my own adjoining bed.

We established a loose bedtime routine – dinner between 5.30 & 6, a few books, an episode of The Night Garden, into jammies, kiss Daddy goodnight, change nappy then cow’s milk bottle in bed at 7pm.

I sit on the end of the cot while Little Chop has her bottle. When she’s finished, she always sits up, burps, occasionally stands up, and will come to my lap. We cuddle, I rub her back, talk to her in a calming voice and shoosh her gently if she becomes too animated. When she is calm, I say ‘time to lie down’ and I lay her down on her back. She will usually sit up again a few more times. Each time I repeat ‘time to lie down’, I lay her back down and rub her belly or feet while continuing with the gentle ‘sh sh sh’ sound. If she gets up repeatedly, I say a little more firmly, ‘lie down now’. If this upsets her, I distract her by singing a lullaby or a soothing song – I like ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz. She often turns onto her tummy when she is ready to go to sleep and when she does, I rub her back a little bit then take my hand away so that she can try to go to sleep without my help.

This isn’t a quick process. At first, it took about 45 minutes to an hour, but as Little Chop got used to the new routine it became faster and easier. She now climbs up into the cot herself and is usually asleep in about 20 minutes, sometimes less. When she wakes up later in the evening, as she inevitably does, I go in and comfort her, lay her back down and stay with her until she’s gone back to sleep. She also still wakes during the night and if I can’t settle her with shooshing and patting I bring her into bed with me. If she still doesn’t settle, I offer a breastfeed – but this is now my last resort.

I am flexible with the new routine and if Little Chop needs her mummy because she is sick or teething I put her to sleep in my bed where she feels the most secure and comforted, then back to the cot in a day or two when she is feeling better.

I don’t believe in using ‘controlled crying/comforting’ or ‘cry it out’ sleep training techniques – any method that causes distress or anxiety to my child isn’t an option – I’d much rather transition Little Chop slowly than risk damaging the strong bond that we have established.

If you’re after a quick fix sleep training method, this isn’t for you, but if you have time and patience, it may be an option. As with everything, the sleep training method that’s best, if you decide to use one, will depend on your child and what you feel comfortable doing – it’s personal choice. But whatever you choose to do, good luck!

 

* I am not a medical professional or sleep coach, I’m just a parent, sharing my experience with other parents who may be in a similar situation.

Co-sleeping – the ultimate parenting taboo?

Our mostly ornamental cot.

Our mostly ornamental cot.

I make no secret of the fact that I co-sleep with my daughter. It’s not something we’ve done since birth, nor was it a conscious parenting decision, but here we are, co-sleeping.

When I found out I was pregnant, I already had some ideas about how I wanted to parent my baby. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and that I wanted her to be surrounded by books and music. I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home mum until she reached school age and that I didn’t want to leave her in the care of strangers at daycare.

I had been told at birth classes that co-sleeping was dangerous and not recommended due to increased risk of SIDS, so I never considered that my baby would sleep anywhere other than her bassinet and then cot. What my birth coach failed to mention, due to hospital policy I’m sure, is that there are many benefits of co-sleeping, which I would soon work out for myself.

Initially, Little Chop slept swaddled and warm in her bassinet in the lounge room by day and by my side of the bed at night. Night time feedings were in the lounge room – she would feed and drift back to sleep and we would return to our close but separate beds. The temperate summer climate made leaving the warmth of the bed easier, and I was an eager new mum, doing things by the book.

Four months later the temperature had dropped, Little Chop no longer wanted to be swaddled, and her night time feeding schedule had left me feeling beyond exhausted. My ‘getting baby to sleep’ technique had gone out the window and she was wriggling and writhing, fussing and screaming, and definitely not napping in her cot. So during the day, I would lay down with her in my bed and she would drift quietly off to sleep. Hallelujah!

During the cold Winter nights, I would bring Little Chop into the bed to feed, then return her to the cot when she had fallen back to sleep. Until one night, out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep with her still in the bed. I woke up in a panic, “Shit! What have I done? Is she breathing? How could I let myself fall asleep with my precious daughter in the bed!” – she was warm, comfortable and sleeping soundly. Once I had crossed that bridge, it became a regular occurrence. Little Chop would begin the night in her bed and wake up in mine. After a month or so, Hubby moved into the spare room and Little Chop moved in with me. She was happy, I was getting more sleep and we weren’t trudging to the cold lounge room for nightly feeds.

In the end, co-sleeping, was something that happened organically for us because it complemented other parenting decisions I had made – to have my baby sleep in my bedroom, to breastfeed on demand, to practise attachment parenting. I am now in the process of weaning Little Chop as I am pregnant again, but we continue to co-sleep because I don’t believe in ‘cry it out’ or ‘controlled crying’ sleep training methods.

It’s widely reported that co-sleeping is unsafe, but I have never felt that I was putting my daughter in danger. I don’t drink and don’t smoke, I’m not overweight and not a heavy sleeper. If you don’t meet all these conditions, co-sleeping is definitely not the safest sleeping arrangement for your baby.

Since opening up to my friends and family about co-sleeping with my daughter, I have found that EVERY breastfeeding mum I know, plus one bottle feeding mum, has co-slept or currently co-sleeps with her baby, making up more than half the mums I know! Co-sleeping is a common practise around the world, especially in Asian countries, and in recent studies, about two thirds of the American and English families who participated said that they had co-slept with their children.

So next time you feel judged for co-sleeping with your child, remember, it’s not taboo, its normal.