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The winter holiday season is nearly upon us! It’s my most favorite time of year - the traditions, parties, family gatherings….the food! Seriously, it’s just the best. But, even for the merriest and most festive of us, it can also be an exhausting and overwhelming time of year.
Perhaps no one feels this more than our babies (no matter their age). The traveling, visitors and all around joy can actually wreak quite a bit of havoc on their routines and sleep. If you’re like me then you definitely don’t want to miss all of the fun. But if you also don’t want to end up with the Grinch at your holiday gathering, then you’ll want to check out these 5 Pro Tips below!
Parenting as an introvert can feel a bit like a torture chamber. Introverts typically re-charge their batteries with quiet, peaceful alone time and can be easily overwhelmed or exhausted by crowded or loud environments (ie any kid-friendly activity!)
As an introvert myself, I was unprepared for the challenges my innate personality would lend to parenting. Being with my babies all day was exhausting. I came home from play-dates wanting to pull my hair out from frustration and overwhelm. I waited - not so patiently - for naptime so that I could be ALONE. And then I realized why... It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being with my children, it was that their constant presence literally wore me out.
Even though I’ve realized my limitations and try harder now to put better boundaries in place for myself, I am still learning how to keep up with the energetic (and constantly noisy!) household my kids create each day. But here are a few strategies I’ve learned along the way:
Do you forget to take care of yourself?
I know, it’s hard. I’ve been there. There are so many things going on in your life. So many stressors, right? For many of us, it’s REALLY hard to find the balance - and this is especially true if there is a new baby (or any children!) in the house.
So often we going through the day just trying to survive - juggling multiple plates in the air. Perhaps the deadlines and demanding boss keep you up at night. Or you’re so tired and end up arguing with your partner so much that you can’t concentrate at work. Or you’re exhausted by family drama – your parents, your siblings, your children? Or maybe it’s a bit of everything and you just have NO time for anything else. The plates are all in the air - they’re spinning, you’re spinning - and before you know it everything is crashing to the ground in pieces.
Life can be really amazing, but it can also really wear you down. This is why setting time aside and taking care of you is so important.
Are you confused about your support options after your baby is born? Many of my clients come to me exhausted, overwhelmed and utterly confused about how to get their needs met with their newborn baby. So, I am super excited to share a new blog series with you from Kari at From the Start! Kari is an experienced postpartum doula and Army Vet who is changing mamas lives with her personalized care. To start, here is a short excerpt and brief description of what postpartum doulas may help with:
No Cry? Controlled Crying? CIO?
There are SO many popular sleep-coaching methods to choose from. And, if you seek advice on your Facebook moms group, from your local friends or from sleep coaching books and blogs, you are likely to get very different – and very strongly held – points of view about which one is best. But, when you’re sleep deprived and foggy brained, it can all feel way too overwhelming…making it hard to choose an option or to even get started.
But, there is hope! Depending on your baby’s temperament and adaptability, you may not even need to sleep coach in order to improve their sleep habits. Before you decide to sleep coach your baby or consider which one method is right for your family (note: it’s likely a mixture of several methods!), taking these 5 easy steps will help to set your whole family up for success and put you on the path to better sleep:
Does it feel like parenthood has stolen your marriage? Do you worry that you feel closer to your kids than your husband? Do you snap at your partner for no reason? Or fight over everything? Are you so exhausted from the daily grind that you Just. Can’t. Anymore.
You’re not alone.
It’s well known that marriage is full of ups and downs, but the intensity of the downs after a new baby arrives often comes as a surprise to new parents. And the first few years of parenthood have shown to be some of the most challenging of those years. Everyone is exhausted, stressed, and pulled way too thin.
During this time, it is common – and completely natural - for couples to fight more frequently. Starting a family or adding a new baby comes with new identities, new family roles, and shifting relationship responsibilities. Each of these needs to be processed and adapted to - ideally together. Add in the sleep deprivation, and it can all feel overwhelming, desperate and so frustrating....almost as though you and your marriage are falling apart at the seams.
However, when approached in a healthy way, the ensuing conflict and disagreements can actually work in your favor. Of course, all couples fight. But happy couples have a way of embracing those disagreements instead of pushing them aside. They often use fights as an opportunity to work together, to find a solution and to move forward - while also maintaining respect for each other. They are a team. An approach and pattern that leads to a major strengthening in their marriage over time.
This type of approach to disagreements is not out of your reach either - no matter how much it may feel that way. It’s actually quite simple and a few easy steps can alter your marriage and the ability to resolve conflict peacefully with your partner - forever. Use this ultimate game plan to tackle the disagreements - and to maximize your marriage’s potential:
An effort to conserve energy during World War I is what led the US to adopt Daylight Savings. Now, 100 years later, we continue to (unnecessarily, in my opinion!) wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms twice a year. Although there have been movements and occasional uproars asking to eliminate this ritual, Daylight Savings remains a biannual obstacle for everyone - at least for now.
As adults, it creates a feeling of jet-lag. The loss of sleep resulting from the time change has been proven to be bad for our health (both physically and mentally) and has been linked to more frequent car accidents in the week following. But typically, we’re all exhausted and thrown off for a few days and adapt shortly after.
For a baby, the loss of that one hour can have a much more dramatic – and long lasting effect. If they’re already struggling with sleeping well, it can make the nights that much worse. If they wake early, it can make them wake even earlier (though, thankfully “springing forward” can actually help alleviate this one, if done correctly). When babies become overtired, they are much more prone to waking frequently at night, having trouble settling to sleep, napping well and waking earlier in the morning. In essence, what creates temporary grogginess in adults can completely throw a baby’s sleep into a downward spiral. Clearly, whoever was in charge of the creation of this ritual was not a parent!
So, what do you do?
Parenting is tough. Parenting with a chronic illness can feel downright impossible. As a mom with a chronic illness, I know the struggles you face. I know the feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach when you have to say, “I’m sorry honey. Mommy isn’t feeling well today.” For the 6th day in a row. I know the guilt you feel when you try to weigh what you can and cannot handle each day or when you have to cancel plans last minute. I know the fear you feel at night when you lie awake worried that your illness is negatively affecting your children. And when it’s all just too much. I know.
But - as challenging as it can be - we know it isn’t all bad. While there is likely more complexity in your motherhood journey, it can also be full of hope, happiness - and lots and lots of love. There is certainly something to be said for having the ability to really take advantage and enjoy the good days....to no longer take it all for granted like you may have done before. I didn't start motherhood with a chronic illness, but I've managed the last several years with one. It's been through this journey - and that of working with other mothers like myself – that I’ve been able to develop several key strategies for maximizing your parenting journey. I know it can be really tough to make it through the day sometimes, but I also know it can be done with as much grace for yourself as possible. Read below for the lessons I've learned.
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate motherhood with a chronic illness:
The first year of your baby's life can be full of joy and love. But when you have a newborn and are struggling with Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, things can feel like they are out of control. Many mamas often hear (or say to themselves), "It's just a phase... things are hard right now, but it will pass." But what about when it doesn't pass? Or when those word just aren't soothing.
Before we get into discussing the symptoms, I want to highlight something important. The thoughts and feelings associated with these mental disorders are normal feelings. Its normal to feel concerned about your baby getting enough sleep, enough to eat, feeling exhausted and even angry. Being a mother is hard, thankless work and we all reach our limits sometimes.
What's challenging is when they stick around to the point of becoming unmanageable (longer than 2 weeks is the DSM 5 criteria for a Postpartum Mood Disorder). None of this makes you a bad mom. I'm going to say that again; having any of the symptoms below does NOT mean you are a bad mom or that your child will be forever damaged by your actions or emotions. All mamas are doing their best. It's not hopeless or untreatable; and it is important to know when to ask for more support.
Below are common experiences and symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Hopefully they can help you gauge where you fall on the spectrum and help you know what the next step is for you. And if you're the partner of a new mom, these are very useful things to know too. It is often the partner who is first able to ask others for help.
Being a new parent is definitely rewarding – but it is also can be really hard. It’s a big transition and one that many new parents struggle with. Even if they’re very excited. Even if they’re in love with their new baby.
Even if it’s what they always wanted.
We now know that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, or other perinatal mood disorder. But studies show that, following the birth of their child, 1 in 10 men also experience postpartum depression. Researchers and doctors are unclear about whether this is truly postpartum depression, or whether it is a depression that happens to occur in the postpartum period for men. However, the result - a depressed Dad - is the same - and can have lasting effects on his partner and children.
In order to separate the two disorders, some researchers (and myself) call it Paternal Postpartum Depression, or PPPD. But just like with Moms, Dads can show symptoms as early as the first trimester of pregnancy and through one full year postpartum. Unfortunately, our society follows the belief systems (myths!) that men aren’t entitled to these feelings and that they should be stoic and in control of their emotions. In essence, that they don't get depressed. But PPPD is very real. And it can have lasting effects on a family, so it deserves attention too.
Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to a new Dad’s mental health:
When it comes to motherhood, there are many things that I hold onto tightly. Some of my favorites are - baby snuggles after a long day, the calm and connection of middle of the night feedings, and the way your kiddo looks at you like you are their person. But, motherhood has been full of challenges as well. In our household, we’ve dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety, premature babies and the NICU, sleep apnea diagnosed after a “blue” episode (so scary!), colic, reflux, developmental delays and more. It’s been a roller coaster - and I know that no matter what your journey has been like, you can relate to that.
But today, I want to talk about colic. Both of my children were quite grumpy babies, but my daughter was the one who screamed ALL day. I was a brand new mom and had no idea what to do. Literally, none. And I had to walk away - a lot. I was desperate. But, I learned a lot from her (and continue to do so). In fact, her birth and babyhood is what led me down this path of helping new moms - and what inspired me to create Mommy-SOS. Now, I want to share it with you!
When your newborn baby won’t stop crying, it can start to feel desperate. You may be worried that there is something wrong with your baby, that you aren’t a good enough mother, that you don’t have the instincts or that you won’t ever be able to connect. Yep, I understand. I’ve had all of those feelings. But the truth is that you can handle it. And you are a good mother! You just need to use a few simple tricks to soothe your baby's crying.
All babies cry. It’s how they communicate their needs – and desires – with you. But, depending on their personality and health, some babies cry way more than others. And some newborn babies have colic – my daughter did and we always referred to that as “next level crying”. Let’s look at some typical reasons why babies cry:
Acid reflux/Upset Tummy
But if you rule these out and your baby is still crying, there are definitely things you can do. As a Certified Happiest Baby Educator, I can assure you that you can actually STOP the crying. I’ve seen it done many times! Read below to learn how:
Surveys of new mothers have shown that between 50-70% felt guilt and shame related to the pressures of being the mother they were expected (or expected themselves) to be. In fact, a quick Google search will show the multitude of opinions on the best way to give birth, to feed and to care for your baby.
The truth is, the answers to none of these questions should be viewed as absolutes. But with the constant exposure to be what is expected of us as mothers, it’s very easy to start believing that there actually is a “right” way – and that you’re failing at it. The overexposure to the myths and expectations can make a new mom spiral into feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and overwhelm.
Through Mommy-SOS, it is one of my goals to help bring light to the common myths of motherhood. As you read the myths below, take a moment to review them yourself - and find what resonates for you. Let’s challenge the myths of the good mom, remove the guilt and enjoy motherhood in our own unique ways.
You find yourself awake in the middle of the night. Your mind racing. You’re unable to relax or take a break – even when the baby is sleeping. You can’t eat (or you eat mindlessly throughout the day). You’re afraid to leave the baby with anyone else (or be alone with the baby yourself). You worry constantly about something happening to your baby – or to you- or to your partner...
Does any of this sound familiar? You are NOT alone.
As many as 1 in 10 new moms experience anxiety - whether alone or combined with feelings of depression. With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about her baby's health and her ability to be a good mom. She is likely to worry about something bad happening. She may wonder how she's going to balance her work and home life, her relationship, or even caring for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, have disturbances with eating and sleeping, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia.
If this sounds like you, I encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment to see a counselor. Postpartum anxiety is very treatable and can be managed well with help. But, if left untreated, it can interfere with your ability to bond to your baby – and enjoy motherhood as a whole. In the meantime, here are 5 ways you can begin to improve your mindset and manage your anxiety better:
As a mother of two troubled sleepers, a maternal mental health specialist and licensed therapist working with new moms and a pediatric sleep expert who has had the honor of helping thousands of families improve their babies, there is one thing I have seen make THE biggest difference in a baby's sleep. And if you ask anyone who has worked with me, they’ll tell you exactly what that is - white noise!
I truly believe that white noise is the miracle worker of sleep. Now, of course you're going to need to put other things in motion - like removing sleep props and altering a schedule - but using white noise takes very little effort on your part and can give you BIG gains in the sleep department. Everyone in my house – including the parents – still uses a white noise machine each and every night (despite my children now being 7 and 4). And we all sleep better because of it!
Ready to make some changes, but confused about whether a counselor or a life coach is right for you? As both a licensed clinician and a certified life coach, I get asked about how the two are actually different – a lot! The two professions do share some similarities, but they are also very different from each other in several key ways. So, when you’re considering what is best for your current needs, it’s important to take a closer look.
Having trouble getting your baby to sleep? Or to sleep well? Studies have shown that new moms lose a total of 44 days of sleep on average during the first year of their baby's life and are "dangerously exhausted". Because sleep deprivation has been linked to parental postpartum depression - both in mothers and fathers - it's important for families to try to create healthier sleep habits from the very beginning. When it comes to changing sleep habits and improving your baby's sleep cycles though, it can feel overwhelming knowing where to begin. But you don't have to make major changes to get a bit more sleep - or even to get your baby to sleep through the night. These are the top 4 most common infant sleep pitfalls and how to fix them:
When a new baby comes home, it can truly wreak havoc on a relationship – even one that was previously solid. Research done by the Gottman Institute shows that 2/3 of couples report significant decline in satisfaction up to three years of having a baby. Being happy often takes a backseat to just surviving! Yet, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to know what may be short term "baby blues" and what may be a more significant issue with a longer lasting effect on your partnership. Here a 5 signs that couples counseling could be beneficial to both your relationship and your own happiness:
Giving birth is a hugely transformational event in a woman’s life. While most pregnant women take time to prepare themselves for the event of childbirth – creating birth plans, researching hospitals or birth centers, interventions and taking birthing classes - most moms don’t really expect that the actual birth itself could leave long lasting psychological and physical scars. But studies show that between 25-34% of moms actually do have a traumatic birth experience - and that some of these new moms go on to develop PTSD from their experience. I was one of those women and I want to share that you CAN begin to heal. Here are 10 ways to start the process:
What is the biggest indicator of happiness in a long-term relationship? Intimacy! Intimacy can be physical, yes, but the intimacy that makes for a solid long lasting relationship is related to the feeling that your partner ‘knows’ you and that you have somewhere safe to seek support and comfort. For many, relationship intimacy and connection declines during the first few years of parenthood. Moms and Dads become entangled in the everyday woes of trying to keep the kids fed and well, alive. They spend their spare moments together discussing daycare, carpool, grocery lists, and the like. And because they are exhausted and spread way too thin, they often become short tempered with each other and have little left to give at the end of the day. If this hits close to home, then know that just a few small steps can help you regain that intimacy and communicate better with your partner – starting right now.
While exciting, there is no doubt that bringing a baby home can also bring a serious strain to your relationship. While it used to be just the two of you – sleeping, eating and playing whenever you wanted – now your time demands have increased exponentially. New parents are so busy nurturing their new bundle of joy - and trying to find their footing through the sleep deprived haze - that they forget to set time aside for themselves and their relationship. If you're in this phase on parenthood, don't lose hope! Here is how to improve your relationship satisfaction throughout those early baby years.
Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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