Are you considering adding a new little one to your family, but you still have a nursling?
Are you wondering about breastfeeding while pregnant, weaning in pregnancy, or tandem nursing?
Unless you have a friend or family member who has nursed during and perhaps through a pregnancy, you may not be familiar with options and resources for nursing while pregnant.
Here are a collection of FAQs and resources you may find helpful.
***As always, consult your medical provider for any questions about your specific situation.
How does nursing impact ability to conceive?
The hormones at work in breastfeeding can delay the return of the breastfeeding parent's fertility, so it depends on many individual factors as far as when and if one can conceive while breastfeeding. While some experience the return of fertility with in a few months of giving birth while breastfeeding, others may not until fully weaning. Because ovulation can occur before the onset of the first menses, some breastfeeding parents may conceive without every noting the return of their cycle, while others may experience anovulatory cycles before a full return of fertility. If you wish to understand and chart your cycle, a fertility doula is a great first resource as you navigate this time.
Is it safe to nurse during pregnancy?
Nursing releases oxytocin, which is the same hormone that causes uterine contractions. However, research suggests that this level of oxytocin, similar to that released during orgasm, does not pose an increased risk for miscarriage or preterm labor. There are certain situations of pregnancy or complications where you may be advised to wean, and these should be discussed with your medical provider.
Will I be able to provide for my nursling while pregnant or will my supply be impacted?
Whether or not you need to supplement with donor milk or formula will depend on your unique situation as well as little one's age and stage. For babies under a year, breastmilk or formula should still be the primary form of nutrition - and diapers and weight gain are the indicators of sufficient intake. (Always consult your medical provider if you have concerns about baby's intake.) Older babies may gradually transition to more solid food intake, and older nurslings may choose to nurse more or less frequently depending on changes in supply and taste. Kellymom notes that while a decrease in supply by the midpoint of pregnancy is typical, some notice a lessening of supply (and perhaps increased demand from their nursling) as early as the first month of pregnancy.
What are the challenges of nursing while pregnant?
While the experiences of breastfeeding while pregnant may vary to person to person, some challenges you may note include feeling touched out or aversions to nursing. You may also experience sensitivity and pain with nursing during different points in the pregnancy. If your nursling is a toddler, you may be successful setting loving limits around your nursing times that allow you to sustain this relationship during pregnancy.
What about colostrum - will my baby still get enough?
While pregnant, your body will switch from mature milk to the production of colostrum. This colostrum production continues until hormonal changes from the delivery of the placenta in the third stage of labor triggers a shift into transitional and then mature milk. After the new baby is born, you may want to make sure to feed the new baby first to insure he or she gets those good antibodies. And, your older nursling may experience some laxative effects from the colostrum, as well.
What is tandem nursing and how does that work?
If you choose to nurse an older sibling through pregnancy, tandem nursing - nursing two at the same time - is an option. A great resource on this topic - even for those just starting to think about nursing and pregnancy - is La Leche League's Adventures in Tandem Nursing. Full of evidence-based information as well as the personal stories of breastfeeding parents who have nursed through pregnancy and beyond - this book is thorough and truly helpful.
As far as what tandem nursing looks like for your little family, know that there is no right or wrong. For some, setting limits with the older sibling as far as when and how long he or she can nurse works to help the breastfeeding parent not become overwhelmed. For others, the opportunity to nurse both at the same time allows for more rest as opposed to nursing the new baby and worrying about what the toddler could be doing.
If you do find yourself needing to set limits for your older child, making sure to communicate your wishes, offering other options for comfort (snuggling, reading a book, having a snack or a drink), and being empathetic to any big feels can be so helpful. Here, making sure to have a solid postpartum plan to support you as you navigate these early days with sibling interaction can also be truly important.
Feeding a baby. We're mammals after all, right? Despite the fact that our babies and our bodies were biologically made for this, the work of breastfeeding doesn't always feel that natural. And, because the culture that we live in isn't the most breastfeeding informed, feeding your little one whenever and wherever they need to be fed can be a bit stressful at the start.
If you are choosing to breastfeed your little one, here are a few tips that may make those initial forays into breastfeeding in public more comfortable.
Dress for success. Finding the apparel that makes you feel most comfortable with breastfeeding can be key. While many companies make specific nursing clothing, a lot of nursing parents find that a deep v-neck is sufficient for access to the breast. Others use the "two shirt method," where a top shirt is pulled up and a tank or undershirt is pulled down, keeping all but the breast cozy in clothing. Adding a scarf can be nice if you are feeling like a little more coverage or in chillier weather when an extra layer keeps you and baby more snug.
Do it on the move. Sometimes finding a comfy spot to sit down for a feed can feel stressful - or less than ideal when you need to get an errand done now. Learning to nurse in a carrier can be a tool that not only makes breastfeeding in public - but parenting a tiny person in general - more sustainable. Not sure how feed in your specific carrier? Reach out to your postpartum doula or local baby wearing group - the latter being another great resource to find friends and support.
Find your community. Nothing boosts your breastfeeding in public confidence like seeing experienced breast feeders wrangle their infants and toddlers and feed in public around you. If you don't have any mom friends to call up for a trip somewhere low-key out and about, reach out to your local breastfeeding group. There are likely a dozen or more breastfeeding parents who would be happy to meet for coffee and be your support squad as you get comfortable nursing in public. And, getting out with other parents in the same stage of life can be so helpful to building your village, too.
To cover or not to cover? Many companies sell expensive scarfs or apron-like devices to cover you and baby while nursing. While some breastfeeding parents feel most comfortable nursing under-cover, others prefer to go without. There is no right or wrong, here - only what works to make you and baby feel the best. And, at different stages your little one may heartily protest being covered or do best with more coverage to prevent distraction - only time and experience will let you know.
Bottom line: what works for you and baby is what is good and proper. Trust in that - and feed that baby!
Advice from breastfeeding parents who have been there and done that:
While nursing tops are helpful, I found that layering a tank top under a regular shirt made breastfeeding discreet without a nursing cover. Lifting your shirt up (as opposed to down with a nursing shirt) covers the action and makes for quick access. The tank top underneath covers your tummy and sides while your shirt is lifted up. - Kelly D.
I liked having a nursing cover in my backpack.... not necessarily for covering up but for any spit up. - Megan F.
Mostly though I just have the attitude that I dare somebody to say something about me feeding my child, but keep a smile on my face so everyone knows I'm confident in my choice. My last piece of advice is to not think everyone is judging you! Most people are in their own worlds out in public and aren't looking or thinking about what you are doing! You can trick yourself into seeing a lot of negativity that might not be there . - Becca D.
I went to Plato's closet and bought cute, long tanks in sizes much larger than I usually would so either the arm hole or neck hole is much larger. That way I can just lift up the top shirt, and pull the tank to the side from the armpit. It's easy, discreet, and I feel cute. - Abbi B.
I personally feel like if I can catch baby a little early before she’s all out hangry, it’s easier to have a relaxed nursing session in public! When she gets hangry is when it gets a little treacherous for me getting her settled down. So I plan my trips out accordingly - (baby will need to eat around 2, will we be somewhere where I can easily sit down to feed her?) - Carli R.
[S]omething that really helped me was always having some enjoyable to drink myself. At the grocery store- I’d always stop by the Starbucks kiosk to get a coffee, or at a restaurant order a favorite cocktail, and always had my water bottle on me. I’d always focus on 1. my baby and 2. just enjoying a drink with my babe. It was almost a mindfulness thing... when I’d start to feel anxious, like people might be staring (they really never were), enjoying a sip of my drink would help me recenter. [. . .]. [I] also just reminded myself that by nursing in public- it’s just paving the way for other moms to feel able to do so as well. I remember seeing moms nursing in public prior to be a mom myself- also remember moms nursing their babies when I was a teacher in an infant classroom and those are the moms who normalized breastfeeding for me and showed me how important it is to be confident and able to do what we need to take best care of our babies and self! So I think that every time I nurse in public, I hope this will help a mama in the future do the same! - Emma B.
With my first I was so worried what everyone around me was thinking, and I didn't want to make others uncomfortable. I experienced a number of breastfeeding challenges with my first child and ended up needing to supplement and later wean much earlier than I would have liked. So with my second, I made up my mind that I was going to try not to care what anyone else thought or if I was making anyone uncomfortable. As a woman, we often find ourselves planning for and managing everyone else' s needs, emotions, expectations in our family and societal role. I continue to try to reject that expectation and focus on my ultimate priority, which is feeding and nourishing my baby. - Grace S.
Expecting and looking for a breastfeeding class full evidence-based information and nonjudgmental support? Nested Mama offers a convenient webinar Breastfeeding: basics & beyond.
While the word doula may be most commonly associated with birth support, the word itself actually comes from the Greek word for servant or "one who serves."
What, then, is a fertility doula? A fertility doula is a trained professional who provides preconception support to individuals and partners as they follow their path to parenthood. Just as a birth doula brings non-medical, non-judgmental informational, emotional, and physical support to the time around labor and birth, a fertility doula brings that same model to preconception and (in)fertility.
Just as birth brings options for choices, so does the path to conception. For clients just beginning their conception journey, a fertility doula provides evidence-based information on tracking and charting fertility as well as holistic resources to support you along the way. Making sure you and your partner are on the same page with understanding how fertility works and maximizing your fertility window can save you stress and guesswork at the start!
For those couples who have been trying to conceive for 6 or more months, a fertility doula can be a lifeline as they navigate options for medication and reproductive technology. Your fertility doula is nonjudgmental and always in your corner - meaning you can feel free to express your concerns and wishes without the pressures that can come from others. Navigating options for infertility treatment can be overwhelming, as can finding supportive practitioners you can trust. Your doula is with you every step of the way, helping you evaluate your options and tune into you intuition as you make these choices which are so important to you and your partner.
As a trained Fertility Specialist, I bring a host of tools to support my fertility clients in their journey. These tools include a mind/body approach (which research suggests aids in conception). A mind/body approach complements any treatments you may receive and also provides you tools that can help you navigate the experience with less stress.
And, as a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Advocate, I understand that your journey to start and grow your family may have included experiences of loss. I understand, too, that pregnancy after loss and/or infertility comes with different emotions and challenges. Because of that understanding, I also extend my doula work to include early pregnancy support - providing the informational and emotional support you need as you move through the early weeks of pregnancy.
For many, experiencing pregnancy after loss or infertility comes with a desire to keep this stage of pregnancy more private, but this can also result in feelings of loneliness - with fertility doula support and early pregnancy support, you don't have to go it alone.
So, when should you hire a fertility doula?
When you first consider trying to conceive or intend to start your journey in the coming months, your fertility doula provides you the insight and the support you need to feel confident planning for this journey.
When you feel frustrated after a few months of trying to conceive and want some holistic tools, your fertility doula equips you with an evidence-based understanding of fertility and fertility tracking education to support this stage of your journey.
When you begin to investigate infertility options, your fertility doula provides the informational and emotional support you need to fully explore your options with no judgment.
When you are navigating fertility treatments, your fertility doula support includes a mind/body approach to complement and support these treatments.
When you are experiencing loss or conception after loss, your fertility doula provides wholehearted support and connection to resources - and most importantly, makes sure you don't feel alone in this experience.
When you move through early pregnancy after loss or infertility, your fertility doula offers continuity of support, walking with you in these challenging and exciting days and weeks of early pregnancy.
No matter where you are on your path to grow your family, your fertility doula will meet you there with empathy and understanding.
Want to learn more about fertility doula support? Reach out for a free discovery call today!
Are you considering make the jump into doula work or a related field?
Exploring all your options is sure to be exciting. Exciting and overwhelming, too.
As I shared in a previous post on my experience with another doula training and certification organization, I'm frequently contacted by those thinking of making the leap into this amazing work of supporting families in the childbearing year. While sometimes these individuals are interested in my work as a doula, more often they are seeking advice on where to go for training and for certification.
As I've written about before, any deep dive into doula training is sure to turn up some polarizing divisions between different organizations, and some doulas can be quite vocal in their preference for one organization over another. That's all well and good - and as I'll share later in this post, I've have my own preferences, as well.
But, what those conversations often fail to discuss is that you are an individual investing in this training, and it needs to be the right fit for your values and goals. So, even as I'll share with you my experiences with Bebo Mia *- and why I think they are a phenomenal option for training and certification - know that all that enthusiasm comes with the caveat that you should pick the best program for YOU.
Bebo Mia is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, but their programs are fully online, which means you are likely to encounter a diverse group of classmates when you enroll in any of their programs. Each certification can be selected individually or in a bundle for a discount - woohoo for that!
One of the aspects that appealed most to me as I explored Bebo Mia's options was their manner of course delivery. Being a busy homeschooling parent, I knew I needed any program to be self-paced and available online for me to make this work with my life.
When I jumped into my first Bebo Mia course, I was so pleased to find a smart course design that makes learning truly a pleasure. Each module includes a video of class instruction as well as any supplementary videos, a detailed PDF document covering the class content, and engaging homework and assignments.
As an educator myself, I always value sustainable assignment design - that is work that has a purpose and a longevity rather than just a checkbox on your way to the finish line. I consistently found Bebo Mia's course content and individual work to further my understanding of the material and produce homework that actually moved me down the path of my knowledge and business goals.
Additionally, with each Bebo Mia course, you will be added to a private Facebook group just for that particular course and session. These groups allow you to engage more deeply in the course content, ask questions, and gain a sense of community with your fellow learners.
If you are on the hunt for a doula training program, know that Bebo Mia offers an in-depth MSP (Maternal Services Practicioner) Program that covers fertility, birth, and postpartum. Where other organizations may try to cover any of these topics in a weekend, Bebo Mia takes a seriously deep dive over 16 weeks. (While I haven't completed this particular course, my experience in three other courses leaves me confident that this 16-week program would be a solid choice for doula training. And, as I LOVE taking classes with Bebo Mia, I could see myself circling back in the future to take this training, as well.)
Currently, I've completed EcoBaby Certification and Infant Sleep Educator Certification, and I'm finishing the last steps in my Fertility Specialist Certification. I've found Bebo Mia's course design, support, and lived values to be incredibly consistent despite the varied topics and additional instructors.
If you are on the hunt for additional training, know that they also offer Diverse Families Certification, Childbirth Education Certification, and Breastfeeding Education Certification - all of which provide excellent opportunities for continuing your education as a birth professional.
If you are already a trained doula but looking for more support as you grow your business, I'd highly recommend you check out Bebo Mia's Don't Doula it Yourself program. For a super reasonable monthly fee, you get access to their library of business videos - covering everything from getting started, branding, social media, and more - as well as their private Facebook group moderated by a business mentor.
Additionally, that library of content is always growing with more masterclasses as well as live Q&A sessions where you can get answers to your most pressing business questions. Starting a doula business can leave you feeling overwhelmed and lonely, but with the encouragement of this generous DDIY community, you can get the support and community you need to grow your business.
If you haven't already, I'd encourage you to spend some time exploring the Bebo Mia website. Each program has a course outline, certification requirements, and ethics statement all right there, so you can get a good sense of what they offer and their values as an organization.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Pregnancy can be such a busy time - appointments with your provider, researching baby gear, baby showers, planning your leave from work, finding a daycare provider, reading ALL the pregnancy books, turning your house into a home for baby, and so on.
The thought of adding one. more. thing. can be overwhelming - I know I've been there.
There are also financial concerns to balance - anticipating the bill from the hospital, making adjustments for maternity or paternity leave, buying ALL the baby things, and so on.
Given the time and financial pressures of this moment, perhaps it seems like investing in childbirth education - especially outside the hospital classes - is something that can't quite fit.
I hear you. I do.
But, birth matters. Not just birth in general, but YOUR birth matters. You matter.
We often emphasize the importance of a healthy baby, but I maintain there is room for valuing a healthy and happy birthing parent in that equation, too.
As a childbirth educator who offers classes outside the hospital environment, I can share with you all the options and choices - the full birth buffet - rather than a menu limited by policy or staff preference.
As a childbirth educator who is also a doula, I believe in the importance of nonjudgmental support, and I carry this with me into the space and community of my classroom. There is room for your hopes and your fears in my classroom as well as your birth choices, whatever those may be.
Childbirth education shouldn't just tell you about birth, it should prepare you with a confident knowledge of labor and birth. It should support you as you craft a full toolbox particular to your desires to meet birth's challenging moments. And, it should inspire you with a fire to advocate for what is right for you.
And, birth is just the beginning. As a breastfeeding educator and sleep educator, I offer a series of classes to prepare you for life after baby and strengthen your partnership ahead of time to meet the ebb and flow of life with your new little one.
If you're feeling ready to invest in your birth with more classes, I give you a big high five. Come check out the full range of classes offered by Nested Mama, including group classes, webinars, and private classes to meet your busy schedule needs.
***update *** I've recently learned that Madriella removed their advisory board, including the midwife who created their rigorous curriculum. They also closed the Madriella-sponsored Facebook group, which created the rich sense of community support when I went through the program. If you are considering their program, I encourage you to make sure it is the right fit for you by asking any questions you need directly to the organization as this review may no longer speak to the current experience of students in the program.
Are you considering becoming a doula and completely overwhelmed by the options for training and certification? I know I was when I started looking into the education I wanted to build my skill set as a doula.
Because I field this question so frequently from prospective doulas, I'm sharing a bit about my experience with training and certification with Madriella Doula Network. (And if my review makes you jazzed to get started, you can use my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 to save $50 on the Professional Membership - woohoo!!)
If you've already made a foray into the many large doula groups on social media, you'll know that people often feel VERY strongly about their choice of training and/or certification program. While I am pleased with my training and experience, I tend to be a little more tempered in my recommendations because I think that your individual fit with a program is more important than my personal experience. You want a program that is the right fit for YOU.
So when asked about my recommendations the first thing I point out is that in my community, doulas have trained and certified with a variety of different certifying bodies. Because the doula industry isn’t regulated, my general recommendation is to look closely at the philosophies and method of training offered by those that interest you and find one that aligns with your values as well as learning style.
As I searched various doula programs, Madriella's philosophy resonated with me. (You can read about their philosophy, code of ethics, and history here.) Specifically, I like that the organization didn't seem invested in the divisive language that I found in some other programs. I also appreciated the efforts made to keep their training affordable.
When I dug into the program, I was thrilled to learn that the Professional Membership included not one but TEN courses including birth doula, postpartum doula, professional development, massage for labor, breastfeeding education, childbirth education, loss and bereavement, and placenta specialist (note: this course does not teach encapsulation). More recently, Madriella added two more courses to help better prepare doulas to meet the diverse needs of their clients: Understanding Developmental Disabilities and Young Parent Support Specialist.
If you know me, you know I am a serious serial learner, so the opportunity to have all of that knowledge accessible to me was a huge draw. A little over a year into my professional membership, I've completed five of those courses, and I'm currently in the midst of my sixth.
I also wanted to know that the courses were rigorous, and I would emerge from my training with the knowledge and skill I needed to feel confident in this work. Madriella's curriculum is written by a midwife and the birth course, in particular, is a major deep dive into what you need to know.
Because I was an avid reader about birth before my doula training, I wasn't expecting to be challenged as much as I was - but I was certainly pleased that this was the case. Because Madriella requires all members to complete the first three courses in order - birth, postpartum, and professional development - the courses naturally build on each other. Once you complete those three, you can move onto any of the other courses in any order you wish. I found this really helpful, because it naturally developed my knowledge and meant the other courses didn't feel repetitive.
When you look at doula training programs, it is important to consider your learning style and what course design can help you succeed. For me, reading and writing is my jam, and Madriella's course design works well for this. If I was a different kind of learner, however, Madriella may have not been the best fit - so here is where I really emphasize knowing yourself and what works best for you.
The other thing I needed from any training program was flexibility, and because Madriella is self-paced it fit this need quite well. As the primary homeschooling parent to three little ones, I knew I'd be fitting in this training into the nooks and crannies of life. Because I wrote my dissertation that way after having my eldest, I knew I could make it work if the program was flexible enough.
The flip side of that, of course, is that a self-paced program requires motivation on the part of the learner to complete it. Here, Madriella's online community can be a great help in finding accountability partners or engaging in the community as you move through the program.
In a nutshell, a rigorous program, a supportive community, and a self-paced course design made Madriella the right fit for me.
Is Madriella Doula Network the right fit for you? Jot down my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 and you can save $50 on the Professional Membership - how awesome!
Got more questions about my experience? Feel free to reach out! And, I'll be following this blog detailing my experiences with another doula training organization - Bebo Mia - soon.
*One of the ways Madriella succesfully keeps the program so affordable is by utilizing affiliate advertising. Please note that as an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you use my code to save on the membership.
If you are anything like me, all thoughts of jewelry beyond stud earrings and the occasional silicone teething necklace went out the window once I had little ones. I didn't like the feeling of a necklace being yanked as I held and wore my kiddos, and the thought of them mouthing most jewelry motivated me to keep it all in a drawer. That's why I'm beyond thrilled to share about a local-to-me, super stylish mama whose "mama metal" creations make beautiful and practical jewelry for parents of little ones a reality.
I know you are full-time working mom with two beautiful little ones. How did you come to start designing jewelry in addition to that?
I was looking for some uniquely shaped centerpieces, as well as different options for chains. Fox + Bear offers a variety of options to personalize your chain including adding semiprecious gemstone beads, fine silver charms, and multi-strand chains. I love the addition of a charm because you can adjust the length of the necklace by changing where you clip the clasp.
Anyone interested in purchasing jewelry by Fox + Bear Designs can visit my page on Facebook @FoxPlusBearDesigns and send me a message. I have in-stock and ready to wear pieces listed in albums, and I’m happy to work on custom pieces. With Mother’s Day fast approaching I’ve set aside 10 custom spots for anyone interested in treating the special mother in their life or treating themselves to exactly what they want.
When I talk about baby or toddler sleep with sleep consultation clients, we always talk about parenting.
While the larger baby sleep industry may want to convince us that the path to rest as a parent is paved with an array of swaddles, self-rocking bassinets, and baby sleep training programs "guaranteed" to make our babies and toddlers not need parental support 12 out of 24 hours of the day, I believe that any approach to baby sleep worth having begins with and fully supports a heart-centered, holistic look at what truly matters to each family.
So, we talk about parenting.
We don't talk quick fixes. We don't talk gadgets. We don't talk training.
We talk parenting. But, what does that mean?
We talk long-view, big-picture family goals. We talk about how to support those goals in the here and now with how we respond to our children day and night.
We work to move away from a child vs. parent approach to sleep, one in which we see children as standing in the way of rest and self-care for the parent.
We work to see the myriad of possibilities for finding rest, getting self-care, and supporting our children through the phases where they need us intensely day and night.
Because, that's the wonderful, exhausting, bring-you-to-your knees beauty of parenting - it is day and night and forever and for always.
When I offer workshops and work one-on-one with clients, I support my clients' vision for who they want to be as parents and the values that shape their parenting choices. I provide the information they need to make choices that feel authentic to who they are as people and who they hope to be as parents. And, I provide them support such that they feel confident parenting from a place of love rather than fear.
So, yes, we talk sleep. But, we always talk parenting.
Looking to talk parenting and sleep? Join Nested Mama's next sleep workshop or schedule a one-on-one consultation. Want more on pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting? Connect with Nested Mama on Facebook and Instagram.
Let's talk some real talk about toddler sleep.
For some kiddos, the ebb and flow of sleep evens out after the first year, and they may ask for little to no nighttime parenting at night.
For others, even those who slept large stretches at night early on in the first year of life, toddler sleep can come with night wakings and a need for nighttime parenting.
As I've shared before (see blog), part of being a Certified Infant Sleep Educator means understanding sleep as developmental and deeply connected to attachment as well as a huge spectrum of normal variation from child to child, even in the same family with the same parenting. So what this means is not only is it on the spectrum of normal for your child to need you at night more (or less) than your best friend's child, it is also on the spectrum of normal for one of your own children to need you at night more than an older or younger sibling did.
For context, a recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics demonstrates that "sleeping through the night" (which they defined as a 6 or 8-hour stretch) is not found in the majority of 6 month olds and that even at 12 months of age a significant percentage of those in their study were sleeping less than a 6-hour stretch without nighttime parenting.
And, this does not account for how many times even those deemed sleeping through the night woke after that first stretch - meaning a 12-month-old could have slept for 6 hours and then woken every hour after that for nighttime parenting (for a total 4+ night wakings in a given night) and they STILL included that child in the group that slept through the night.
So what about sleep norms after year one? You can expect lots of variability based on child personality and developmental moment. For instance, a child working really hard on walking will likely wake more frequently than a child who has mastered this skill.
When I work with clients one-on-one going through a tricky patch of toddler sleep, one thing we talk about a lot is the notion of progression v. regression. While we tend to label these rough patches with more night waking as a regression, I often ask my clients to share with me where they are seeing progression in their child's development - motor, language, social skills, etc. Most often they share that their child is working on so very much at that exact moment.
How can framing rough patches of toddler sleep in terms of progressions help us? Instead of thinking of sleep and development as a line, I prefer the image of a spiral, where we picture our child moving on that spiral, working on some skills in that perfect developmental moment and perhaps needing more emotional support and physical reassurance from us before moving to a new place on the spiral.
Most significantly, when we recognize our children as working out something tricky and in need of more support instead of a quick fix, we can offer them what they need AND see that as caregivers in an intense season of parenting WE need more support to - asking for help and accepting it when offered.
This doesn't mean we have to simply "wait it out" - if you feel resentful of your sleep situation and are called to make a change, gentle, respectful transitions are totally possible, and perhaps just what your family needs. (If you think gentle and respectful sounds awesome, but you need more support to get there, check out my one-on-one consultations where we develop a Sleep Strategy Package tailored to your specific family values and unique sleep situation.)
Because all toddler sleep situations are varied and family sleep situations are unique, it can be hard to provide generalizations that speak broadly to toddler sleep. Instead, I'm going to share with you a snapshot of toddler sleep in our house RIGHT NOW, and how we work with the flow of the spiral.
***Because sleep situations and family situations are UNIQUE this is not a prescription or a "should" for you - rather, it is a personal account of our little family. What works for YOUR family likely looks very different, and that's okay!***
If you follow along with Nested Mama, you'll likely know that not too long ago my littlest made a grand leap and asked to start sleeping in her "little beddy" rather than the "big bed." (Read that adventure over here.)
While that first night was, ehem, eventful to say the least, she has gone on to start every night in her little bed and even wakes a majority of mornings still in that space, with a nighttime pilgrimage to the big bed occurring a few times a week in the early morning hours. This gentle transition to solo sleep with occasional shared sleep works perfectly for our little family in our right now.
Long view, littlest will move to share a room with big siblings (and she has even asked some nights to start out in their room!), but for now, we wait until she seems fully ready to make that choice on her own.
Having made this transition and finding it works well for us all, does that mean she never needs nighttime parenting? If I'm honest, I find I sleep more deeply without her often horizontal positioning in our bed - those rib kicks can be brutal! But, as I'd expect for her age and personality, she still wakes some nights and calls out for parental assistance.
Why then does she wake?
-wet nighttime diaper
While many of these are areas we actively encourage independence (grabbing a drink of water from the bottle next to her bed, taking herself to the bathroom, taking off her pjs when hot, and so forth), she still feels most confident announcing even these independent actions to us - and that's okay.
This sleep situation works for ALL of us - no one is frustrated or resentful. We feel confident that she will manage these nighttime needs when ready and make her way on the spiral in her own time.
We've found balance in our nighttime parenting where everyone's needs are met, and we know that a transition to more independence is on the horizon.
So what does toddler sleep look like? As with baby sleep, can look different from night to night, month to month, and child to child. But, most importantly, it isn't an all or nothing, you vs. your child thing - at least, it doesn't have to be. With understanding, support, and gentle transitions when needed, it can be exactly what you all need it to be.
Registration now open for Gentle Transitions: a toddler sleep workshop taught LIVE via small group webinar. Find all dates and details here.
Want to follow along for more discussions of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting? Connect with Nested Mama on Facebook and Instagram.
My reaction: I love reading books that gather and work through the research, and Nichols certainly does that in this book. She also nicely includes highlighted statements and summary sections, so if you are more interested in her conclusions than how she gets there, you can get a nice handle on the material in a short amount of time. I especially enjoyed Chapter 4 where Nichols works through recommendations on lunch meat, alcohol and more. I also appreciated the balanced approach she takes when she notes that first-trimester nausea may make a diet overhaul unrealistic, but that it is something you can work toward as you feel able. And, she also shares that eating "real food" doesn't have to be all or nothing. As with so much in pregnancy and parenting, having the information you need to make the best choices for your family - even if those choices include small-scale changes in prenatal nutrition rather than following her advice to the letter - is what truly matters.
Some quotes of note:
"Part of listening to your body is recognizing when your food choices don't leave you feeling well and making a mindful choice to opt for a more nutritionally balanced option the next time you eat. Your body deserves nourishing foods and you deserve to enjoy your food. There is a place for these two things to coexist" (27).
"Calorie and macronutrient needs vary widely and there fore there's not a single meal plan that will work for all women" (82).
"When you ignore your hunger cues, you tend to ignore your fullness cues as well" (26).
Real Food for Pregnancy gives you all the research with practical ways to apply it to your eating during pregnancy. While some nutrition books can load you with pressure, this one incorporates mindfulness and emphasizes that we are all different, making plenty of room for you to take what you need from the book without feeling completely overwhelmed. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to trouble shoot their pregnancy nutrition or make changes preconception.
Looking for more evidence-based info as you prepare for birth and baby? Nested Mama offers a full range of classes including childbirth education, breastfeeding, infant sleep education, and planning for postpartum.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.