Travelling Emirates Business Class with a Toddler – Doha to Mauritius via Dubai.

Emirates A380

Lounge in Emirates A380; Photo: Emirates.com

It was my first times. First time travelling to Mauritius with my toddler but without my husband. First time leaving Doha. First time on Emirates airline. First time in Dubai. What a journey!

About Emirates

The Emirates Group operates across six continents with a 75,000 strong multi-national team comprised of over 160 nationalities — Emirates.com

In 1985, Emirates started its travels out of Dubai with only 2 planes: a leased Boeing 737 and an Airbus 300 B4. Now, it has a fleet of more than 230 planes, and flies to more than 140 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world.

Purchasing Tickets Online

The website (www.emirates.com) is very user friendly and it’s actually quite easy to plan and book a trip. Paradoxically, we managed to make a mistake while filling in the name of our daughter (!!!) but thanks to the phone assistance, it all got sorted straightaway (a big PLUS for Emirates airline). However because we had to make a separate ticket for my daughter, my name wasn’t linked to hers and unfortunately we could not check in nor choose our seats online.

Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport

Photo: aasarchitecture.com

Clearing customs at Hamad International Airport (HIA) was like a breeze. I was asked for my passport, boarding pass and my Qatari ID and those of my daughter. Being on my husband’s sponsorship, I wasn’t required to provide any other documents, which was a relief. Check-in was quite quick and efficient with helpful staff. Having 137 extra-wide check-in aisles surely makes a difference in terms of rapidity.

As soon as I went through the security checks (this went really fast too), I was stunned by the size of the terminal and the incessant movements. It was much busier than I had imagined; there were people and shops everywhere! The airport has an initial annual capacity of 30 million passengers and believed to be able to handle 50 million passengers per year upon completion. HIA has 8 lounges and 1 more opening soon. It also has a fitness centre, a 200-room hotel and quiet rooms. The airport works closely with Qatar Museums Authority and showcases many art works by local and international artists. HIA also has facilities like prayer rooms, parents’ rooms, family toilets and 5 activity nodes for children. Each activity node offers televisions, Internet browsing, toys, mini-rides and climbing frames.

HIA

Unfortunately I couldn’t try the Oryx lounge; I was informed it was on a different level and it was already 10.30 p.m., my daughter was on the ‘sleep mode’ and I was required to board at 11.00 for the 11.45 p.m. departure to Dubai. That would be for next time.

 

Emirates Boeing Business Class with a Toddler (Doha to Dubai)

The plane left for Dubai around 11.45 p.m. and given the late hour, I didn’t have the opportunity to use any of the ‘entertainment services’ provided on board.

On the Plus Side:

  • Friendly and helpful staff
  • Spacious
  • Private
  • Very short 45 mins trip
  • Cold dinner was served; we were both hungry so it was convenient.

On the Minus Side:

  • I was informed that my 2 year old has to sit by herself on a separate seat and not in my lap as she looked ‘old enough’ to be able to do that. Fortunately she was fine with that and both the take off and landing went well.
  • Because of the design of the seats, eventhough I was sitting next to my toddler, I couldn’t see much of her. Luckily for us the flight was very short.

Dubai International Airport

Dubai Airport

Photo: news.com.au

I requested for my luggage to go directly to Mauritius which was a good decision as being on my own, with my two year old, I wouldn’t have had enough time to go through the whole immigration/check-in process again for my next flight. We landed in Dubai around 1.35 a.m. and my next flight was at 2.45 a.m. Dubai time. No time to check out the lounge here either.

I was already quite impressed with HIA being so big and busy but when I saw Dubai International Airport (DXB) then I realised how huge the latter really is as compared to the former. This time I was really really stunned! When I got out of the plane I thought I was going to get lost among so many people and signs and lights and cafes and shops…Luckily for me, the signs were very clear! I was amazed by how easy it was to get to the gate for the next flight to Mauritius. After walking with my half-slept toddler in my arms for about 20 minutes including catching a light train to get to Gate A, I started to wonder why I declined the offer to book a stroller at the check-in counter!

DXB has three terminals and Terminal 3 is the world’s largest building by floor space at 1.5 million square meters and is exclusive to Emirates airline. When we landed in Dubai, all I could see was lights and Emirates planes lined on the tarmac (till the eyes could see..)

The airport has the capacity of handling 75 million passengers per year, with Terminal 3 having the capacity of handling 47 million passengers. DXB has exclusive lounges for its Emirates first class and Business Class passengers and a specific lounge for all Emirates passengers. It also has a luxurious 88 rooms and suites hotel, a Business Centre, a health club, a variety of world cuisines, an airport medical centre, quiet rooms, prayer rooms, a post office among many other facilities.

Emirates A380 Business Class with a Toddler (Dubai to Mauritius)

Emirates A380

Photo: nycaviation.com

WOW! I cannot find suitable adjectives to describe the plane. It was beautiful. I noticed some exotic fresh flowers to decorate the plane as well as some natural orchids. The seats were very comfortable and turned into a really flat bed. I was even offered a ‘mattress’ to put on my flat bed! That was awesome! It felt really nice to lie down and rest and I quickly fell asleep.

On the Plus side:

  • Meal time is like fine dining: foods by award winning chefs served in china tableware on tables laid with fine linen.
  • ‘Light bites’ served, a few hours into the flight.
  • Over 2000 channels of movies, TV shows, music and games to choose from. Also available: movies with Audio Description and Closed Captions for those who are visually or hearing impaired.
  • You can create your personal playlist.

    Photo: ausbt.com.au

    Photo: ausbt.com.au

  • There is an Onboard Lounge where you can meet people while choosing to eat from a selection of canapés and cocktails or hot and cold beverages, served by a bartender.
  • Different kit bags for men and women, both signed Bvlgari.
  • Personal minibar next to your seat.
  • Own tablet where you can access WIFI. (I didn’t try it)

On the Minus Side

  • Consistency Issue. This time I was told I had to hold my toddler in my lap for take off, as she looked too small to sit by herself!
  • The food selection was great but at 2.45 a.m. I did not see many passengers interested in eating. Many even skipped breakfast preferring to sleep.
  • Service Issue: although I told an air hostess not to wake me up for breakfast and I filled in a form (which was never collected), I was still asked if I wanted breakfast by another flight attendant. Lucky I wasn’t sleeping then.
  • When my daughter was sleeping I suddenly saw an air-hostess by her side, lifting her head up to put a pillow. I was both surprised and upset. Surprised as I had never asked for one and upset as she didn’t ask me first. My daughter doesn’t use a pillow and she could have woken her up by lifting her head etc. Resettling a baby/toddler on a plane in the middle of the night can be a real challenge (trust me).
  • I ordered some oats for my daughter and the attendant who went to get it never came back with it. When I asked another one, she informed me they only has Muesli and oats was not available.

My first time on Emirates and in Dubai was more or less a positive experience. The technology was a bit over the top for me, particularly at that time of the night; the flashy gadgets, not really for me. Some flight attendants can be over-enthusiastic and you’d be amazed at how some manage to keep a permanent smile on their face… Let’s hope this experience is going to be much more worth it when going back to Doha.

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Grocery Shopping in Doha — A Few Prices

Grocery Shopping in Doha

According to the 2010 estimate cited in the Economy Watch, the total value of imports for Qatar is US$23.38 billion, the main imports being: machinery and transport equipment, food and chemicals. The primary import partners are: the US (13.43 % of total imports), Italy (8.34 %), South Korea (8.33 %), Japan (8.04 %), Germany (7.31 %), France (6.26 %), UK (5.59 %), China (5 %), UAE (4.67 %), Saudi Arabia (3.96 %).

With such figures, it is of no wonder when doing your grocery shopping you will see more imported food than local produce. And of course, their prices are much dearer than local ones. At times you don’t have a choice either; it is imported or simply not available. It is estimated that Qatar imports almost 90% of its food items. Moreover prices are also dependent on the fluctuation of the international food prices.

There are many shops, markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets where grocery shopping can be done in Doha. Common names are Lulu Hypermarket, Almeera, Carrefour, Megamart, Family Food Centre, Spinney’s, Geant. Prices vary depending on whether you are buying imported or local and also which shop you are buying from. For example Lulu Hypermarket is believed to offer the lowest prices as compared to Carrefour and Almeera.

An Approximate Price List of Some Everyday Items at Carrefour (City Centre).

The following list is based on prices of articles during August, September and mid October 2015.

QR: Qatari Riyal

AUD: Australian Dollar

USD: US Dollar

MUR: Mauritian Rupee

The conversion rates used are based on the ones listed on Google’s website as per 18 October 2015 and are as follows:

1 QR = 0.38 AUD

1 QR = 0.27 USD

1 QR = 9.70 MUR

prices in doha

prices in doha

prices in Doha

Prices in Doha

Prices in Doha

Prices in Doha

Prices in Doha

Prices in Doha

Although I could unfortunately not include as many products as I wanted, I hope people moving over to Doha can get a rough idea of the price range they can expect for grocery shopping and have an idea of how the prices compare to their own country. I also hope I can add to this list as soon as I have the opportunity to do so. How do these prices compare to those in your country?

Fancy an Immersion into Art and Culture? Head to Katara Cultural Village.

Katara

KataraOne word to describe Katara Cultural Village: charming! What’s striking when you first lay eyes on the village is the architecture. It’s very different from Doha’s city centre which has so many modern skyscrapers with all different shapes. Katara is … charming!

In around 150 A.D. Qatar was known as ‘Catara’ and then later ‘Katara’, hence the name of the cultural village. The buildings and facilities have been built in a way to remind of the Qatari cultural heritage and traditional architecture; when you are there you feel you are walking in alleyways of the olden days. No skyscrapers, no modern buildings with glass exteriors. Some of the buildings have a shallow water canal flowing around them, just like it used to be long ago, when this system was used to keep the surroundings cool in warm weather. Very calm and relaxing.

The village houses heritage centres, libraries, art galleries, an opera house, cafes, restaurants, an amphitheatre, a drama theatre, a beach and several other facilities. You will also find many organisations and societies in Katara, such as: Qatari Society for Engineers, Qatar Fine Arts Society, Qatar Photographic Society, Qatar Music Academy and Theatre Society, Visual Art Centre, Childhood Cultural Centre. Katara Cultural Village prides itself to become “the largest and the most multidimensional cultural project of Qatar”.

It is a place where people come together to experience the cultures of the world. With beautiful theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities, Katara aims to become a world leader for multi-cultural activities. — Katara.net

It all sounds a bit hyperbolic but a few snaps of the master plan proves that this vision is well set on its path to become reality.

katara

katara

katara

Katara masterplan

Credit: All Master plan photos by Omar Chatriwala

Accordingly to Katara’s masterplan, only phase I has been completed; phase II is under way; Phases III and IV are yet to be executed.

Some Highlights

(1) The Gold Mosque: Stunning

A mosque covered with beautiful gold coloured mosaic tiles.

(2) Al Jazeera Café: Interesting Concept

You can enjoy some nice food in the café after choosing on the menu app from its tablets! You can also read the news from a teleprompter, edit your final recording and bring it home!

(3) The Amphitheatre: Unbelievably beautiful

Katara

I love the amphitheatre. It is pure beauty. It looks like it comes straight from Greece! With the seating capacity of 5000 people, events held there will be surely grand.

(4) The Beach: Appealing but Pricey

You have to pay to get access to the beautiful beach where you can enjoy various water sports. You could go for a Gondola ride or if you fancy a whole day at the beach, you could rent an air-conditioned tent for the day. All quite pricey.

(5) Numerous Restaurants: Yummy

Parisian, Italian, Egyptian, Indian, Turkish and Armenian cuisines plus a specialised seafood restaurant.

(6) Chapati and Karak:  A Great Favourite

Karak comes from the Indian language meaning strong and refers to the strong tea, truck drivers used to have when they stopped on the side of the road in between their long distance drives. Karak is a spicy sweet tea and is a must have just like the sweet or plain chapati (bread) made with whole-wheat flour.

Karaks and chapatis are well known in Doha and are a ‘must-try’.

One or a couple of visits to Katara is not enough to see everything the village has to offer. I will have to go back; hopefully to attend an event or just for some more karak and more snaps.

Breastfeeding: Many Pros and a Few Difficulties

 breastfeedingThe World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until baby is around 6 months old; then, it can be a complement to appropriate solid foods until the age of two or beyond (until mum and baby wish for). Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines. You’ve heard it many times before: breastfeeding is best for your baby and the benefits, huge. Unfortunately it is not as straightforward and easy as it sounds.

Before deciding to breastfeed my baby, I only knew about all the positives. Had I known what I know today about everything that it involves, I believe I would have still made the same choice. However I would have been better prepared to face the journey. This post is mainly to help mums-to-be and new mums get a bigger picture of how beneficial breastfeeding is but also what to expect while doing it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as several other researchers recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as the advantages are manifold. It is not only good for your baby but also for you, mum.

Some of the Numerous Pros:

  1. Breast milk has all the vitamins, nutrients and immune factors that will help your baby fight numerous diseases. Anti-bodies in breast milk help babies fight these even beyond the breastfeeding stage.
  2. Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of your child becoming overweight or obese as a teenager or adult. (American Journal of Epidemiology). One of the reasons for example is more insulin in formula stimulating the creation of fat.
  3. There are various benefits due to the emotional bonding taking place while breastfeeding.
  4. Lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  5. Lower risk of post-natal depression (release of oxytocin while breastfeeding leads to relaxation).
  6. Lower risk of some forms of cancer like ovarian and breast cancer.

Breastfeeding is natural but not necessarily easy. It has some inconveniences and the start of the journey can be quite hard. It is recommended you start breastfeeding within the first hour baby is born and this may last for 6 months, 2 years or as long as both you and your baby decide. Hence, it is important you get it right from the start.

A Few Difficulties:

  1. The correct attachment is very important since the very beginning. So, make sure baby is attaching correctly; do not hesitate to ask the mid-wife/nurse or the lactation specialist for help in case of doubt.
  2. It can take a while for babies to learn to breastfeed. If you are still in hospital make sure you ask for help to get started.
  3. For the new born, you will be recommended to feed ‘on demand’; usually a new born feeds about every 2 hours; so, in between make sure you rest (particularly after delivery). You will need the strength, trust me.
  4. Bear in mind that you will have fragmented sleep for at least 3 months, so resting is important. Forget the 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep you used to have. It’s not coming back that soon.
  5. You need a network of supporters; be it neighbours, friends, relatives, well-wishers. You won’t be able to do everything on your own. If possible, hire someone to do the housework or the cooking or both. If you plan to do these while baby is sleeping, you will never have enough rest and will end up being a zombie, like I was.
  6. You also need a wardrobe with plenty of front opening tops/dresses. Else, it can be a real challenge at times to breastfeed your baby.
  7. Lanolin cream is your best friend; else you may end up with sore/cracked nipples, which will make it very hard to continue breastfeeding.
  8. Find the feeding position that’s best for you and your baby. Make sure you are comfortable, as a feed can take a while. Backache is a common problem.
  9. At the start, a feed will take a while and you might even doze off a few times; however while baby gets better at feeding, he may take about 10/15 mins for a feed.
  10. Avoid travelling abroad with an under 3 months old baby while breastfeeding unless you are ready to feed in public (lounge, airplane, and everywhere you call ‘public place’). It’s a very challenging situation to be in.
  11. If you live with an extended family, be ready to get in and out of a room most times of the day, in the first few months.
  12. If you are visiting friends, make sure you ask first if there will be somewhere private where you can breastfeed. Else, feed, go out and come back as soon as possible to feed again!
  13. Make sure you feed on alternate breasts, to avoid engorgement.
  14. If you feel lumps, have a warm shower and massage your breast gently in a rotating way.
  15. Read about blocked ducts and mastitis and if in doubt about anything consult your nurse or GP.

breastfeeding

Some Precautions and Pieces of Advice for Breastfeeding Mums

  • Make sure you have a healthy diet.
  • Resting is important.
  • Avoid caffeine (as it does pass through breast milk).
  • Avoid smoking, passive smoking, alcohol and drugs.
  • Make sure the medication you take is safe for breastfeeding mums.
  • If a few times after a feed, you notice your infant restless, crying, throwing up, consult the pediatrician, as there may be a problem with lactose tolerance or reflux.
  • Avoid using a soother while you are breastfeeding; once breastfeeding is established it can then be used when settling your infant.
  • Don’t worry about ‘stares’ or about negative comments; you will quickly learn that as a new mum (i) you will always be judged (too protective, too relaxed, not patient enough, too patient, too strict, too cool, etc. etc. and you can even be all of them!) and (ii) everyone knows better what’s best for your baby and how you should handle him. Just be relaxed and tell yourself everyone means well…

breastfeeding mumSupport is Essential to a Successful Journey

Many will tell you they understand how hard it is; if it is a breastfeeding mum then you can trust her! Talk to one if you are not sure about something. You may find the solution to the problem you are facing.

With breastfeeding, you will find yourself consciously unskilled at first; however with consistency, patience and determination, you will very quickly become unconsciously skilled! Mood changes are common during and after pregnancy, occurring in up to 85% of women within the first week after the birth, peaking on the third to fifth day. Very often, this may be a factor in discouraging mums from continuing breastfeeding. The blues will pass, so hang in there! If you still do not feel well, do not hesitate to talk to your GP.

It is important that your partner is fully supportive and also understands the benefits and difficulties of breastfeeding. The support of your immediate and extended family, of friends, of the community will be very helpful throughout this journey. Think about all the benefits exclusive breastfeeding will have for your precious little one; this will help you stay motivated.

Breastfeeding in Mauritius

In Mauritius, exclusive breastfeeding lasts for about 2 months and then there is the introduction of water and formula around 4 to 6 months. Mauritian mothers tend to breastfeed until around 2 years. The main reasons for the introduction of water and formula is the lack of information, the belief that milk is not sufficient and employment. The rate is very low as compared to the recommendation of the WHO: a survey found that only 17.9% exclusively breastfeed their babies up to around 6 months old.

Although there is no law about breastfeeding in public, I have rarely seen a mum breastfeeding a baby nor do I know of any designated rooms for breastfeeding in shopping malls, airport or other places. Although there are no support groups that I am aware of, help can be obtained from the local health centres.

Recently a workshop has been launched by the Ministry of Health to celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week, with the view of promoting exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months and continuing breastfeeding beyond. The ministry is also launching a campaign to sensitise people about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in Qatar

A study on breastfeeding by Sidra Medical and Research Centre has found that many Qatari mothers discontinue breastfeeding after 40 days, or after three months due to lack of information and access to professional lactation support. 
It says this is the major reason for low rates of exclusive breastfeeding among Qatari Women. The rate of breastfeeding in Qatar is significantly lower than the global rate.

I doubt it that it is ‘normal’ to breastfeed in public here, in Doha and I have not seen designated areas in shopping malls till now. In view of the World Breadfeeding Week, Sidra Medical and Research Centre has also launched an awareness campaign to sensitise mums, particularly working mums about breastfeeding.

It’s great that Doha Mums has a breastfeeding support group, which mums can join and where they can discuss common concerns over a cup of decaf tea or coffee!

Breastfeeding in Perth

Aligned with the WHO, The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around 6 months; then breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary food until 12 months and more (as long as the mother and child want to). According to a survey, it has been found that “less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months (less than 4 months) and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months (less than 6 months)”.

It is good to know that in Australia, it is your legal right to breastfeed in public and there are laws in place if ever you get discriminated against on this ground. There are 230 local Australian Breastfeeding Association groups throughout Australia and you can rely on their help.

Perth has a few shopping places with breastfeeding rooms: Myer, David Jones, Ikea. Given it is a modern and well-developed city, Perth could do more to offer specific breastfeeding areas for mums and bubs. I also wish Perth airport had one.

To Conclude

In Mauritius, the maternity leave has been extended from 12 to 14 weeks and in Australia, it has been extended to 18 weeks. We are unfortunately still lagging behind as compared to countries like Sweden (six months) or Denmark (52 weeks on paid leave)!

Breastfeeding is something that both mothers and babies have to learn to do; it may take two to three months to establish breastfeeding and feel you have it under control. Support is very important, first to get started and then to keep going.

I was fortunate to deliver my baby in a private hospital where the help and support were fantastic. I decided to stay up to 5 days to make sure I had it right. Given the numerous benefits exclusive breastfeeding has in the first 6 months and breastfeeding has for babies, it would be great if more could be done towards supporting new mums through more information and professional lactation support. Mums must be helped to get it right from the start so that this journey is a pleasant, stress-free one.

Do you think there is enough information about breastfeeding and support for new mums out there?

How to Help Baby Get a Good Sleep? Bedtime Routine is Your Best Friend and Consistency, the Key Word.

Bed time routine

We all know how a good night sleep can make us feel refreshed and boost our mood and morale. Babies/kids, in particular, need a good sleep, both day-time and night-time for their optimum growth and development. Insufficient sleep not only has an incidence on your child’s mood and behaviour (and on yours too!) but also on his development. All babies are different; some sleep through the night as early as one month old, others take 12 months to do it and some, even longer.

From what I have been through I have come to realise how a bed time routine is important and to be consistent with it is the key to a baby’s good night sleep. I learnt about its importance and about sleep associations the hard way. During one month I woke up each night every hour with my 5 months old baby until I was totally sleep deprived and had to go to Ngala for help. I lost a lot of weight and was a very sad person.

When my baby was born I assumed it was normal for her to wake up constantly at night until she would start on solids and then she would start to sleep through the night. I believe I made this assumption, as this was what everybody was telling me. Even during the day, each time my baby would cry, everyone would say ‘she is hungry’ and I would go and feed her. I remember when my daughter was going through a growth spurt (and I had no idea it was one since I had never heard of ‘growth spurt’ at that time) she wanted to be constantly fed. I used to feed her and she would throw up later and then cry again, I’d feed her and she’d throw up later … it was exhausting both for her and for me. I was more than often reminded that being a mum, I had no other choice than accept my situation as this was motherhood! I understood later how I was wrong to believe in all that!

I learnt that being a mum meant that I could have a life too and learning about the following was very helpful:

  • ‘Growth spurts’ and what to expect when baby is going through one.
  • Sleep associations.
  • Overtiredness — the number of hours baby can stay awake for his age, after which over-tiredness kicks in and trust me, this is your worst enemy.
  • Bed time routine.
  • The bedroom and bassinet/cot set up.

Growth Spurts

In the first 12 months babies go through several growth spurts and you will notice major ones when you see baby is crankier than usual; he will also require more feed and be more clingy. When a growth spurt happens, babies can suddenly take weight and height and after that you will notice baby has started to do new things and mastered new skills.

I only learnt about growth spurt much after my baby was born, so I had no idea why my baby was so cranky and why she wanted to feed all the time. I was even advised to check my ‘milk supply as baby was probably not having enough milk’(!!!). I started to worry until I learnt that my milk supply was fine and it was just baby going through a growth spurt.

Many breastfeeding mums start to introduce formula at this point, thinking they are not producing enough milk, that’s why their baby is behaving like that. With breastfeeding, the more you breastfeed the more milk you will produce. Once you decrease the feed the breast will start to produce less and less milk. Hence even during a growth spurt, it is best to feed baby as usual. Give baby lots of cuddle and reassurance. Baby will need extra comfort and trust me, it will pass. If you are still worried, consult your baby’s nurse or pediatrician.

Sleep Associations

Although I did read a fair bit about the Eat-Play-Sleep pattern, when my baby was born, I simply couldn’t understand how this would work. I could not understand how a baby could sleep on her own, without you feeding or rocking her. Eventhough I was given the advice not to let my baby sleep on the breast, this was exactly what was happening after each feed. Then I would take the upmost care not to wake her up before putting her (already asleep) in her bassinet. What I didn’t know at that time was that I was the one who was preventing my baby to have the optimum sleep.

I created a sleep association for her; she quickly learnt that she needed to be fed to sleep and when she woke up after a sleep cycle, she was not able to go back to sleep until she was fed again. This peaked when she was 5 months old and she was waking up after each sleep cycle. I became very quickly sleep deprived.

bed time routineWe can also create such sleep associations with soothers and rocking baby to sleep. Feeding, rocking and giving a pacifier are fine until it becomes a problem. Then your baby will need you to recreate the exact environment in which he fell asleep.

During the first three months, babies require regular feeding during both day and night and night waking is normal. Also, they haven’t developed their ‘clock’ yet so they do not know exactly when it is day or night. However around 3 months old a baby can fall asleep on his own and it is then that it’s very important not to rock baby or to feed baby to sleep or to give him a pacifier; this way baby learns to self-settle and do not have a sleep association which involves you!

It is important to play with your baby during the day, when he is awake; at night, keep lights dim, and do not talk to baby if he wakes up. If you need to change baby’s nappy, be quick and avoid eye contact. It is important for baby to understand that it is night time, he has to sleep and you are very boring at night indeed!

Bedtime Routine

Consciously or unconsciously, we all need a bedtime routine to have a good night’s sleep. Do you have a shower then brush your teeth and get into your PJ’s? Or do you just need to read a book? Most people go through some kind of routine before going to bed. It is the same for babies/kids. With my baby, it was hard at first to establish a bed time routine but I stayed consistent and, with time, it became easier for both baby and myself.

When baby is growing up and getting to know his environment, it is best to provide him with a relaxing bed time routine. Depending on what baby’s age is and at what time baby gets up, you can plan the day’s schedule. For example, a 6 months old baby will nap two to three times a day and can stay awake around 2 to 3 hours hours. So, when baby wakes up, you will know when is the next nap and then work out when is the bed time. About 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime, you can start the routine. For naps, you can do a shorter 10 minutes routine.

Bed time routine

Winding down is important for little ones before they go to bed as this calms them down and they get ready both mentally and physically to sleep.

Well, at first I wasn’t sure what to do nor how this would work out. I thought it would be good for my husband to be part of the routine just in case I wasn’t there some day. The bed time routine I used till my baby was around 18 months old:

  • Quick bath
  • Wear sleep suit and nappy
  • Get in sleeping bag
  • Feed and make sure she didn’t fall asleep (I omitted this step once I stopped breastfeeding and gave her a milk bottle – one with a straw – before she had her bath, when we were still in the living room)
  • Brush teeth (once she had a few teeth)
  • Read a book (big images, no bright colours, few words)
  • Say good night to some objects in the room
  • Say bye to her dad (if he’s there)
  • Switch the lights off (I keep a very dim night lamp on)
  • Say good night
  • Put her in her cot (which has a small blanket and a little doll)
  • Leave the room quickly

Most days, she would go to sleep quietly or just talk and sing till she’d fall asleep. Other days she would fall asleep almost straightaway and on odd days she could even take 20 to 30 minutes to sleep.

Some babies still wake up at night for one or two feeds until they are around one year old. In fact, 90 % of 6-month-olds can sleep through the night without snacking, says clinical social worker Kim West, author of 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. So if you start night weaning around that time, you don’t have to feel guilty.

You don’t have to do all the above steps for a good bed time routine. Whichever steps you choose, make sure your baby has enough time to wind down and you are consistent: do the same things in the same order. After doing the same things over and over again, baby will know bed time is approaching and he will get ready for it; he may even start feeling sleepy once the routine starts. Do not give in – stick to your routine and be consistent.

So, let’s say, your 6 months old baby will go to bed at 7 p.m., you can start the routine around 30 minutes before and before that make sure she is not over excited by screens or by some sweet foods/chocolate.

A Note on Overtiredness

Many parents do not follow a routine with their babies. It is fine if both baby and parents are happy. Many parents say the baby is not tired so he will nap later or maybe in the car or maybe not at all and at night he will only sleep when they will sleep, even if it means 9 or 10 p.m.

Babies can stay awake only for a certain number of hours depending on their age. If they go beyond that, then overtiredness sets it and YES they will not sleep, get over excited and will even sleep later at night or have a very rough night and wake up early. If you watch out for the number of hours baby is meant to stay awake and then no matter what, follow baby’s routine and then put him in his cot, I bet you baby will sleep. (Moreover, for baby’s development he requires a certain hours of sleep; make sure you are giving him all the opportunities to have that.)

bed time routine

Even now, at 2 years old, if I don’t tell my toddler to pack her toys away and insist on her having a shower, she will continue to play and will insist she doesn’t want to go to bed. She even starts crying at times saying she will play and not sleep. At this age, specially, she tries different tricks to delay her bedtime but she knows we won’t give in. She gives in after trying a few minutes and some pretend crying (with real tears!) She’s got some good acting skills! Toddlers do!

Do not wait for your baby to get overtired to put him down for his nap or bedtime. Watch out for the signs of tiredness: yawning, rubbing eyes, avoiding eye contact, clenched fists, crying or shouting for no reason, etc.

Bedroom/Bassinet/Cot set up

When asked, most people will hate to have to sleep anywhere, with lights on and lots of noise and people talking to them all the time. Babies/Kids are the same. Therefore it is essential to create the right environment for baby to have a peaceful uninterrupted sleep.

If possible, it is best to avoid putting baby’s toys in his bedroom. It is important for him to understand that his bedroom is for sleeping and not for playing. Decorating baby’s room is nice but make sure it doesn’t become a distraction to your baby.

I remember during my baby’s first 6 months, she was in her bassinet and there was a mobile with three sheep which were rotating most of the time above her head. I didn’t know at that time that it was a BAD idea to have a mobile in there! I was sending baby the wrong message: when waking up from a sleep cycle, I wanted her to sleep but then I showed her some toys! Confusing!

As mentioned previously, it took me around 6 months to learn about the above points. After 6 months, each time I put baby down for a nap or bedtime I made sure the room was dark and there were no distractions in the room. She definitely slept better.

To Sum Up:

  • Get informed about when your baby is making growth spurts so that you are ready for his behaviour and know how to deal with it.
  • Do not get baby to have a sleep association involving you.
  • When your baby is around 3 months old, start to give your baby a bed time routine and stick to it. Be consistent.
  • Watch out for signs of tiredness and make sure you put your baby down to sleep before your baby is overtired.
  • Create the right environment for baby to sleep.

Some babies sleep through the night as early as one month old and parents do not have any of the above-mentioned problems. That’s great both for the parents and the babies. Other parents are happy with their babies sleeping throughout the day, or at whatever time suits them and also in the car and in the pram, then that’s great too as it’s their choice. If parents are happy to rock baby to sleep for however long it requires then there is no problem in that.

However, for those parents who are finding themselves sleep deprived and want their babies/kids to have a routine, if they believe both baby and themselves require a restful night and not a fragmented sleep and some good daytime naps, then it will be really helpful to work on the above listed points. Having a bed time routine and being consistent will enable you to give your babies/kids the opportunity to have a good sleep. It will not be easy but I believe it is worth the effort for both you and your baby. Does your baby still wake up at night after 12 months?