Category Archives: SLEEP!

Happy Thanksgiving

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When you are child-free, its easy to pass judgement on other parents.  I remember looking at a kid’s behavior and thinking that my child would NEVER get away with so much,  Of course, I would have close to flawless discipline and my child would be punished swiftly and consistently.  Now that I have a toddler, it is much more complicated than that and I try and judge other parents as infrequently as possible.

Another layer of know-it-all-ness is when you read book about child-rearing or sleep training or whatever, and decide you know how babies work.  Then you have a baby.  And BAM!!  Humbled once again.  When Vi was born, she was a terrible napper for about a year.  Regardless of whatever methods we used (and I resorted to all methods), the problem corrected itself around her first birthday.  But we were pros at nighttime sleep training and we preached the Ferber method whenever we could, praising Vi’s nighttime sleep which was decent.

And then Malcolm was born.  He screamed for two months straight, got better, then decided to have a major sleep regression for the past month or so.  He has been going to bed awake most nights and putting himself to sleep with minimal crying for awhile which I thought was a good omen.  But he is back to continual waking throughout the night and will not go back to sleep without nursing.  So we thought, “hey! its time to bring out the big guns!”  We thought we would try and space out the feedings over a period of time.  Minimum four hours between feedings, no exceptions.  After two straight hours of Malcolm crying at 2am, I don’t know who was in worse shape–him or me (or Eric).  Well, humbled once again.  But this nursing 3-4 times per night is not sustainable and needless to say, we are a little frustrated.  And I don’t think I have the courage to listen to more than an hour of crying, maximum.  I’m not sure what makes him more pissed off–trying to comfort him or leaving him to cry alone.

And another thing.  I’m so OVER the whole baby thing.  Not just the experience, but TALKING and ANALYZING and just plain GUESSING WHY? WHY? WHHYYYYYY??  Teeth?  Growth spurt? Hunger? And secretly: “Do I just suck as a parent?”  It seems silly when I type it out, but isn’t that really why it feels like your heart is being ripped out when your child won’t stop crying?  Or won’t sleep?  Or breaking out in an angry red rash all over their face that the doc can’t make sense of (that’s this week’s debacle)?  Joe Schmo’s kid can sleep, then why can’t mine?  Even typing things like “sleep regression” makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little because I’m just over it.  Because I know in my heart that there isn’t a “right” way to parent.  Kids just aren’t textbooks.  They’re people.  And people suck sometimes.  Ha ha.

I have nothing to offer besides this vent of mine, but its real and its all I’ve got right now.  Ok, there are a few major things I can hang my hat on:  I have two (more or less) healthy, beautiful children.  I have an amazing husband.  And I’m thankful for things like vasectomies.  Thank you modern health innovations.  And Happy Thanksgiving!

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Aftershock and growth spurts

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Counting the minutes until Vi’s first nap of the day.  She slept until 5:30am today.  I suppose I should be grateful she did not wake up at 3am like she was doing.  Yay.  Its this growth spurt stuff.  Its messed with her sleep, but I think my milk supply has caught up finally.  Even so, the pediatrician wanted me to start Viola on rice cereal with breast milk in it.  I said no.  If its purely for “socialization” and not nutrition, I would rather not give her cereal–there are so many other starch alternatives with more nutrition in them than sludge.  I was thinking that maybe we can try sweet potatoes.  I was hoping to wait until Vi is clearly interested in food, but I’m thinking maybe an intro would be interesting.

I watched a movie called Aftershock yesterday.  Its a Chinese film about a family who fell victim to the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake.  The special effects were good, but it was super long.  I almost didnt make it through because the mom saw her kids buried under the rubble.  She had to choose between the two of them who to save since the slab they were under would crush the other one when one side was lifted.  I was horrified.  I think I’ve become soft especially when it comes to children in movies now.  I guess its better than desensitization.  The mother chooses to save her son, and is plagued by guilt for the 30+ years afterward.  It turns out that the daughter lives and doesn’t contact her mother for 32 years.  The daughter secretly surviving is the only clever plot point, and the rest was just filler.  I would recommend the first 20 minutes of this film, if only for the earthquake CGI and if you’re interested in that point in history.

Today’s thoughts and yesterday’s first compliment

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There’s been a lot of different things on my mind lately: career, naps, my pants that still don’t fit… Not sure where to start.  I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

Naps are great this week.  Vi cries for two minutes, then she’s down for the count.  She up to 3-4 naps per day (one between every feeding).  Mostly short naps, but sometimes a long nap midday.  And beyond swaddling and a song, she falls asleep with no help from me.  But who knows?  It could change tomorrow.  She still wakes up a couple hours earlier in the morning (4am ish) than usual due to fussing through her last evening feeding.  But thanks to naps, I can get a nap too.

I’m thinking a lot about pursuing an interpreter’s certificate in ASL.  I don’t think its a coincidence that we moved within 20 miles of the deaf education mecca: Gallaudet University.  They have a Master’s Program in Interpreting.  But the four years of ASL I took in college fell right out of my brain, so I’m far from applying.  Plus, I don’t have the money to pay for school.  There may be scholarships, but like i said, there will be a lot to do before I can actually pursue a Masters.  I did a search for local ASL classes so I could brush up on my sign, but I haven’t had much luck… and again, we don’t have extra money right now to pay for a class.  I’m still looking.

My pants: one pair does fit, but the others don’t.  They didn’t fit before I was pregnant either, but I’m still cranky about it.  We’ve been getting free pies and cakes and such lately, and Eric and I have been really good at getting rid of them.  I’ve put the diet on hold for now.  Eric assures me I’m beautiful, so I’ll believe him for now until I get a new plan!

Besides some evening feeding issues, Vi has been great.  I’m LOVING the 3 month mark.  Looking back, the first two months suck because your baby is still adjusting to the world, and you are too!  Your new world.  I’m eating dairy again, and I don’t even know if the no-dairy approach did much of anything.  She’s such a happy little girly now, that its hard to believe how high-needs she was for a while there.  I know it will fluctuate, but its nice to know she’s adjusting well.

Yesterday, I drove all over downtown DC with her, and she did great.  In fact, she was awake for the whole two hours I was chatting with a friend in a coffee shop, just sitting on my lap, and taking things in.  A girl who was sitting across from us, came over, and told me what a good baby I had.  “I haven’t heard a peep the whole time I’ve been here!”  The compliment took me by surprise.  I have been so busy living day-to-day, I didn’t expect Viola to be consistent.    I replied:

“Well, she had a nap and she ate…so…yeah!  She’s pretty happy right now!  Thanks.”

I almost replied with, “Just wait an hour”, but I just enjoyed the compliment.  It sure beats the glares from old men at restaurants.

Nevermind…I’m NOT the nap master

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This is the part where I take my own advice and not get the idea that my kid is a textbook.  She’s more like a wacky finger painting or something.  I haven’t blogged in a couple days because I haven’t had the blissful, nap-filled Sunday that made me assume I could expect smooth sailing from here.  However, I think we’re making slow progress with nap time in the crib and not on my person.  She cries for a full 15-20 minutes before falling asleep…but after 20 minutes I give up.  Or I try and help her to sleep.  I try and gauge it…but its most certainly an adventure.  Honestly, its a temperament thing I realize.  Vi loves to be involved and engaged. She’s very social and a lot of fun.  And her daddy was home this weekend to play with her, so maybe thats why she went down for more naps: good daddy vibes!

Another thing that was brought to my attention is that Vi has one area of consistency I can be thankful for: sleeping at night.  Some parents don’t have that luxury, so I should just get over myself.

Here’s to a new day!

I’m the nap master (this week)

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The title seems somewhat arrogant, but I feel I deserve some self-encouragement because I’ve been pulling my hair out with the nap thing lately.  Up until now, I was completely fine with letting her nap on her own terms, as long as she slept at night (and lately through the night).  I would monitor her feeding times a little, but other than that, she seemed to nap when she was tired, be put to bed (with some crying) at 7:30pm, and wake up at 7:00am. It was a great deal.  Then…she stopped napping.  Almost entirely!  How does an almost three month old live on a couple thirty minute naps a day?  Answer?  Badly.

Here’s my opinion: babies don’t always do what’s best for themselves…thats why we’re here!  This girl will keep herself awake to the point of over-tired exhustion.  Even beyond the capacity to calm herself with a feeding. And I keep her in the house most of the time, free of distractions and overstimulation.  And even then, I’d let her cry for awhile to tire herself out, and she’s scream her tired little head off for what feels like an eternity.  And still not sleep.  What must I do?!

I started letting her catnap through feeding times, hoping she’d get the rest she needed.  Didn’t help.  It got to the point that she would scream through her last feeding of the night.  We thought she was sick–maybe an ear ache…maybe evening reflux.  We determined she was too tired to eat.  We just swaddled her up and put her to bed.  Which meant her last feeding was around 5pm…which meant she woke up in the night…several times.  I was back to middle of the night feedings.  Blast!  She was completely capable of sleeping through the night, I knew, she just needed the tools.

I still hated Babywise, so I decided to have a goal of 3 (planned) naps per day: morning, mid-day, and afternoon.  It was tough, but in retrospect, a good place to start.  I tried to replicate bedtime routine by swaddling her, but I wanted to break the habit of her sleeping ON me all the time.  I LOVED it, but of course, nothing got done.  And I didn’t want her to become a two year old who could only sleep on her mommy and daddy.  Not sustainable, as my husband Eric would say.

The main problem I faced was second-guessing myself when I put her down for a nap.  I wanted to be absolutely sure she was tired, so I wasn’t torturing both of us when she wailed for an extended amount of time.  Whenever she started to doze, I would swaddle her up and put her in her crib.  Then she would be wide awake, slightly annoyed at her straight jacket, and I stood there, waiting to see her “act tired” again before I left.  Sometimes I would let her fuss, then stick my finger in her mouth, and her eyes would get heavy.  Then I left.  Then she screamed…for a long time.  Full on bloody murder for a full fifteen minutes.  Then she would be silent.  Success!  Then 5 minutes later, she’d scream.  For another ten minutes.  Then silent for 15 minutes, then scream…  This went on while I stayed downstairs blasting my music so I wouldn’t burst into tears.  An hour later, I got her up.  She probably got around 20 minutes.  Not even a sleep cycle.  Honestly, this is how it went for awhile.  I was determined not to give her my help as much…but three days later…I was exhausted.  She was still exhausted.  And still screaming through her last feeding.  It became regular habit for Eric to feed her a bottle at night.  She would do better with that since she could sit upright and not get distressed laying flat on her side to breast feed.  Even then, her nighttime sleep would be disrupted somehow.

I decided to change my strategy.  I realized I was doing one too many things at once:

1.) Starting her on a nap schedule

2.) Teaching her to soothe herself to sleep during the day.

I thought they were one in the same, but I began to suspect that was too much to expect from her all at once.  So I gave her a little more help–I let her sleep on me in the morning the next day.  She slept two hours!  She managed to sleep only about 30 minutes for the other two naps that day…and her evening was still bad, but just a little bit better.  She slept until 5am!  Good progress. I continued to help her to sleep–sometimes nursing her for five minutes–just to see her eyes start to close.  Then put her down.  She still wouldn’t sleep more than one sleep cycle (35-ish min).   Then yesterday, I put her down in the afternoon, and she slept three hours.  Seriously.  I didnt wake her up, hoping this was what she needed.  By the time she woke up, it was time for a feeding, then bedtime.  She was still pretty fussy, even after sleeping three hours, and took the bottle a little before bed.  Still woke up a few times.  I got up at 2am to feed her.  Then she slept until 7:45am.  Ok.

I began to think: if she only naps one sleep cycle, then she needs more naps!  Between yesterday and today, I (by accident!) fell into the suggested routine outlined in Babywise:

1.) Eat

2.) Wake Time

3.)  Sleep

I don’t wake her up from her naps, though.  She eats every 2.5 – 3 hours, and has gone down for evey nap today so far for 45 min-1 hour.  One huge thing I’ve noticed from today.  DONT WAIT UNTIL HER EYES GET HEAVY.  Noticing the sleep signs early helps her go to sleep quickly and sleep better.  As soon as she starts to fuss (thats her major cue.  Your child’s might be different), its almost time for the nap.  I kid you not…I put her down, wide awake and smiling at me, and she only cried for a few minutes before sleeping all the way through her nap.  Its been amazing.  I haven’t needed to nurse her or pacify.  Its a great feeling.

But it might change… we’ll see.  I don’t even know how she’ll sleep tonight.  I’m guessing it will be better…

I guess my big piece of advice to others is to trust yourself.  You are the one who knows your kid the best.  Ask a lot of parents advice, read some books, and take what you need.  Your kid is not a text book.  What works today will change tomorrow.  Good Luck!

My Letter To Suzy

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I’m trying to sum up our experience with Vi’s screaming that began around week four…  I sent pregnancy book recommendations to my friend, Suzy who recently got pregnant.  After Viola was born, I had to send an amendment to my book recommendations…primary in reference to BabyWise.  After Vi was born, I wanted to burn that book.
The following is describing the process that led us to begin sleep training Vi at night.  It helped her a bunch.
Now that we actually have a baby, its changed a lot of what’s been helpful, primarily Babywise.  Babywise was not helpful for us because it assumed a lot about the habits of babies that aren’t true for all babies.  One example is the sleeping.  From around three weeks, Vi resisted napping during the day but consolidated her sleep fairly well at night.  That throws off the rhythm that Babywise takes, assuming that babies nap between every feeding.  Vi didn’t.  There are other things concerning “sleep props” that are good to know, but aren’t necessarily helpful if your baby goes through the phase that Vi did…
This phase is a normal developmental phase most babies go through where the baby can scream for several hours without cause.  Its really distressing hearing your baby cry like they’re in pain for hours into the evening.  There were nights when Vi wouldn’t settle until 10 or 11.  Then she would repeatedly wake up into the night.  After that, I took her to the pediatrician swearing it wasn’t normal for an infant to cry like that if there wasn’t something wrong.  The pediatrician said it was probably reflux, told me to stop eating dairy, and wrote a prescription for an acid reducer.  The meds didn’t work, so I got some counsel from some parents i knew.  They directed me to the book:
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  This was the first book I read that described the normal phase infants go through that resolves itself usually by 8 weeks.  And it has some great information about a child’s need for sleep.  It suggests using sleep props–whatever you can do to help your child get the rest they need.  I started working on getting her to nap during the day as much as possible.  That worked inconsistently, and she began to get less intensely upset at night.  But I could tell she needed more sleep.  So I called another parent friend of mine who I knew “sleep trained” her children.  She walked me through the Ferber Method–Dr Ferber wrote How to Solve Your Childs sleep problems.  This method involves letting your child cry for increasing intervals and eventually you can put them down at bedtime, and they will sleep.  We did it, and it works.  Its the most effective book we’ve read so far.  I got my evening back with Eric–it will save your marriage!!!  I havent done it during the day yet, but as I documented her daily sleep, I see how much better she sleeps at night.  I havent pushed the crying for naptimes.  Another really useful tool is a DVD called Happiest Baby on the Block. I think its a book too, but if you can locate the DVD, it takes 30 minutes.  Its the most effective methods to soothe a crying baby.  It really helps you use certain tools well, but not rely on them solely to make your baby sleep. I no longer think pacifiers are evil 🙂  But we use them sparingly.
Anyway, I wrote all of that to say your baby will be unique.  This is the journey we had.  You will have a different one, so I hope this helps!  Call me anytime!!!  I’ll forward you this helpful article too that puts a name to the evening crying fits.  
PS…most babies will be fussy in the evenings anyway.  This article refers to the constant inconsolable screaming.  Thats where the Happiest Baby on the Block stuff will work well until your baby grows out of it.  Vi was only bad for 2-ish weeks.  The sleep training helped a lot.  Lots of people dont believe in sleep training your baby so young, but I liked Ferber’s method of consoling your baby at increasing intervals.  You dont pick them up or speak, just rub their back so they know you havent left them.