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Archive for the ‘baby care’ Category

Here he is — dirty, but loved dearly by so many.

  • Served dinner on the grass to make clean up easier
  • Self-feeding leftover spinach quiche
  • Pink bowl, even though he is a boy
  • Dirty onesie (from self-feeding strawberries)
  • Onesie snaps not done up to make it easier to change diapers/EC
  • Adorably happy and easy-going

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I know it has been much longer than the week I promised! My apologies.  I love blogging, but my life with 7 children just doesn’t allow me to do it nearly as much as I would like.  We have had some sickies/health stuff to deal with lately.  Our kids are super-healthy for the mostpart, so I am very spoiled.  One thing I am dealing with is trying to track down the cause of A.’s eczema.  It seems few people have any really good answers for us.  Right now, I am on an extremely restrictive diet which should give us an answer as to whether or not I will be able to do anything diet-wise to help him.

Anyway, onto gentle sleep teaching!

While I think the Lull-A-Baby sleep plan was good in theory, it didn’t seem to be working that well, so we moved to the stages of settling in this post. I like these stages because I felt like in the learning stage, A. needed some more hands-on help.  Having him howling for 45 minutes while I tried to sweet talk him, I thought, reinforced that this was unpleasant.  I prefer to help him enjoy going to sleep, so I worked hard to walk the fine line between minimizing crying and unpleasantness and offering too much help.  I was very pleased to see that I was able to back off a little bit at a time.  It was not a linear progression.  Sometimes, he needed no help and sometimes he needed more, but overall, he was moving toward more independence.

I have been so happy with our progress. I can’t say that I just plunk A. into bed and walk away and he happily babbles himself into sleep-bliss in a few minutes, but it isn’t too far from that most days.  I have continued to make the getting-to-sleep-part my focus and haven’t worried too much about the middle of the night.  A. is not sleeping right through the night, but at his age (nearly 5 months), I think that nursing 1-2 times a night is age-appropriate and he mostly just wakes once.

I am continuing to do our little routine which is outlined in this post with the addition that I say, “Nighty-night” as I lay A. down.  (This is just an extra step in re-enforcing that it is time to go off to sleep.)  I like our routine because it is nice and short and do-able.  It also doesn’t include reading a story, which I would feel very silly doing with a 5 month old or giving a bath, which I would never keep up every night.  I also like our routine because I can do the same thing for naps and nighttime.  I am at the stage where he really doesn’t seem to need me most of the time as he falls asleep.  I always stay in the room out of sight, just for my own comfort, but I rarely need to attend to him anymore.  Sometimes, I need to repeat, “Nighty-night”, our special cue words for time to sleep, from across the room, but otherwise he doesn’t usually need much of anything.  One thing that I find helps to keep me from jumping in too early to offer help (robbing him of the ability to fall asleep independently) is that I bring a book to read into the room.  This allows me to be there if he needs me, but to be slightly distracted.  I find that no matter how quiet and how well he goes down that it normally takes him about 8-10 minutes from the start of the routine until he is asleep.

On a typical night, A. goes down somewhere between 6:30-7:30pm. I don’t have a set bedtime for him at this point because I am working with the 90-minute sleep cycle.  He seems to be transitioning to a longer awake period in the evening as some nights he lengthens his awake time from 90 minutes to 3 hours, so I just go with how he is acting on a particular night.

A. continues to sometimes struggle around 11-12pm. I think our coming to bed disturbs him a little.  This seems to be when he has a cold or is getting a tooth (he just got his first one!).  Most of the time, he resettles himself quite well, but if I am needed, I don’t nurse at this point and he always goes back to sleep for a few hours.  Often however he sleeps through.

Most of the time, he wakes for the first time somewhere around 2am. I haul him into bed and nurse.  Feeling wide awake at the start of the nursing, I think I’ll just nurse him for 10 minutes and then put him back in the co-sleeper, but this never happens.  I fall asleep everytime and then put him back in his bed two hours later.  This is usually it for the night, but if he does wake at 5am, I nurse him again because I just want to sleep!  This hasn’t seemed to be habit-forming at all, so I’m not worried at this point.

I just love sleep.

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As I think back to where I was a week ago, I am thrilled at our progress! A. has always been a ‘good sleeper’, but I also think that I have learned how to draw out sleep habits that will lead to everyone getting more rest.  Besides the obvious benefit of restful sleep, I think one of my favourite things about a baby who sleeps well is the guaranteed time to myself in the evening.

As a mom to so many children who are home all day with me, I am only just starting to appreciate how essential it is for me to take care of myself. Some women need spa time or outings with girlfriends on a regular basis.  Some need time to read or talk on the phone.  I like all of these things and am really not terribly fussy — I just need a little bit of time to do pretty much whatever I want for awhile.  If I know that I can put a baby to sleep and then have 3 or 4 hours to myself, it is Heaven.  However, if I have not helped a baby to learn good sleep habits, it is a tense time of trying to replenish my mommy-energy while wondering every second if I will need to rush upstairs to nurse a baby back to sleep for the 4th time in an hour and a half.

Because I know that in the evening, I will have this time, I can be a much better mom during the day. Knowing there is a time and a place for the things I want to do helps me stay on track with activities that are other-focused.  For example, I love sewing.  When I am on a real sewing-bender, it would be very tempting to cut the kids’ homeschooling short and rush off downstairs to whip out a very cool new nursing tank top.  However, being assured there will be time for the cool nursing tank in the evening means I don’t have to take the time from something else I should be doing.

I don’t know about your children, but ours go berserk after dinner.  They are about an average level of calm the rest of the time, but the after-dinner hour, when we would like them to settle down in preparation for bed, sees them running, jumping and generally acting like crazed-lunatics.  It is, truly, almost more than this introverted mama can bear!  However, knowing my personal time is only minutes away gives me just the patience I need to mother my children a little bit longer.

Anyway, onto our sleep teaching progress.

I was starting to feel a bit discouraged because by day 4 or 5 A. had started to cry as soon as he realized we were into our bedtime routine. (He would begin crying when I started singing ‘Twinkle, twinkle’…was I that bad?!)  I wondered when it would happen that I would just place him in his bed and he would happily chat himself to sleep and was feeling nervous that as gentle as I had tried to make this, he seemed unhappy.  However, we appear to have turned the corner.  A. no longer cries when I start our routine and I can mostly just sit and read a book or sometimes even duck out of the room as he falls asleep.  I’m so proud of him!

Our last 24 hours:

6:54am  Woke for the day
8:20am Bedtime Routine/Soothing (8 mins)
8:28am Fell asleep for Nap One
9:20am Woke Up (Nap One 51 mins)
10:52am Bedtime Routine/Soothing (12 mins)
11:05am Fell asleep for Nap Two
12:41pm  Woke Up (Nap Two 1h 36 mins)
2:24pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (8mins)
2:33pm Fell asleep for Nap Three
3:20pm Woke Up (Nap Three 46 mins)

It was tempting to try to keep him awake until 6:30pm since he often skips Nap Four, however, he seemed tired, so I put him to bed.

4:49pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (8 mins)
4:57pm Fell asleep for Nap Four
5:59pm Woke Up (Nap Four 1h 2mins)
7:44pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (14 mins — not too much crying, just took awhile)
8:00pm Fell asleep for the night
2:21am Woke Up; nursed 15 mins
2:38am Back in co-sleeper, fell asleep without help
6:19am Woke Up; nursed in bed with me (23 mins — but I fell asleep and woke to find him asleep still happily sucking away, so I don’t know how long he would have nursed if he didn’t fall asleep, too!)
6:38am Snuggled him in beside me and we both went back to sleep
8:01am A. Woke Up for the morning (I was long gone by this time!)

Well, that ends my daily sleep updates. I will post another update about our gentle sleep teaching in about a week.  It took me all day to get around to blogging, so I’m off to bed!

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A. just went down very nicely for his morning nap. I sure wish I’d worked on this with my other children.  I have only tried to work with two others, besides A., on sleep teaching.  In the past, sleep teaching went okay, but was more traumatic than it needed to be because I always found the timing tricky.  The sleep books make it seem simple to tell when a baby is first tired, the magic window where putting them to bed will be quick and easy.

In reality, while I feel somewhat competent to judge whether or not a baby is tired, understanding a baby’s 90-minute rhythm gives me the back-up confirmation I need to be completely confident that I am putting a baby down at the right time. (I know I sound like a broken record with the 90-minute thing!) Without this confidence, it is easy to second guess myself and wonder if I have made a mistake putting baby to bed too early or too late.  Shaky confidence is where sleep teaching will begin to break down…especially in the middle of the night when every cell in your body is begging you just to tuck the baby in beside you and drift off as you nurse back to sleep!

Our last 24 hours:

7:43am Woke for the day

Out of the house, AGAIN.  I had an Eye Doctor appointment, so I had my 12yo son come along with us so that when we arrived, A. could stay nestled in his carseat and continue his nap while I went in for my appointment.

9:00am Fell asleep in car for Nap One
9:45am Woke Up (Nap One 45 mins)
10:54am  Napped 22 minutes in baby carrier during our errands

Home

1:54pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (10 mins with lots of crying — maybe overtired?)
2:04pm Fell asleep for Nap Two-ish (we had that quick one on our errand)
4:41pm  Woke Up (Nap Two-ish was 2h 37 mins)
7:00pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (9 mins)
7:09pm  Fell asleep for the night
1:17am  Woke Up (I held back and then offered help)
1:19am Soothing (8 mins)
1:27am Fell asleep for 10 mins
1:37am Awake again, needed more help (6 mins)
1:43am  Fell asleep
3:22am  Woke Up; nursed 11 mins
3:33am  Returned to co-sleeper; he fidgeted without fussing (chit-chatted to himself and sucked his fist a little) and drifted off beautifully
3:40am Fell asleep on own!
6:54am  Woke up for the day

I thought it was quite a good night. I am continuing to work with A. on his going to sleep without needing so much patting. So far, so good.

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Last night wasn’t a great sleep night. At the beginning of our sleep teaching, I had high hopes that we would just get longer and longer periods of night-sleep until A. was going from 7pm to 7am without a peep.  Realistically, I knew this wouldn’t really happen, but a girl can dream, right?

In the big picture, though, we are doing really well and I am feeling so much better rested. I am expecting we will continue to see progress.  Today Nicole, from The Baby Sleep Site, posted the exact article that I needed to read, entitled, “How Sleep Training Progress Looks“.  She explained that although it would be wonderful if it were so, teaching a baby to sleep is not usually a smooth linear progression, but sometimes more of a roller-coaster.  She also busted the myth that it would be much better by the 3rd or 4th night, saying that she generally finds couples see a big difference in 1-2 weeks.

Jodi Mindell, author of the book, Sleeping Through the Night, also reminds parents that sleep teaching is not something that will need to be done once and never again. Many things can cause setbacks and necessitate some re-teaching, things such as:

  • Vacations
  • Babysitters
  • Special Occasions
  • Illness
  • Teething (Jodi says this is often wrongly blamed and hyped up as more of an issue than it really is.)
  • Developmental Milestones (such as rolling over and standing up in the crib)
  • Toilet Training
  • Switching to a Bed
  • The Birth of a New Baby
  • Time Changes and Longer Days
  • Going Back to Work
  • Separation and Divorce
  • Death in the Family
  • I would also add Starting Solids

The key is to be mindful that while these things may temporarily cause disturbances in a child’s (and parent’s!) sleep, if we want our children to return to peaceful sleep, we need to be sure we don’t allow old habits to begin again. For example, while of course I would nurse a little one several times a night who is struggling with an illness, when the illness is over, I will gently return that baby to his/her previous night-feeding routine as opposed to falling into the easy habit of simply nursing on every waking long after the illness is gone.

Our last 24 hours:

6:58am  Woke for the day
8:32am Bedtime Routine/Soothing (12 mins)
8:44am Fell asleep for Nap One
9:48am  Woke Up (Nap One 1h 4 mins)
11:24am  Bedtime Routine/Soothing (11 mins)
11:35am  Fell asleep for Nap Two
12:23pm  Woke Up (Nap Two 48 mins)
1:53pm  Bedtime Routine/Soothing (12 mins)
2:05pm Fell asleep for Nap Three
3:44pm  Woke Up (Nap Three 1h 39 mins)
5:20pm  Bedtime Routine/Soothing (after 15 mins, we were making no progress.  I was starting to think A. wasn’t tired, since he often drops this last nap.  Great for us, since Steve and I were planning a fancy, adults-only, at-home Valentine’s Dinner!)
6:33pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (9 mins)
6:42pm  Fell asleep for the night
11:59pm  Woke Up; Soothed for 4 mins, but A. was screaming.  Decided to nurse (9 minutes).
12:13pm  Back to Sleep in co-sleeper
2:53am  Woke Up (Again?!); soothed back to sleep
3:07am  Fell Asleep in co-sleeper
3:58am  Woke Up (Huh?!); nursed this time (9 mins)
4:08am Back to Sleep in co-sleeper
7:43am  Woke up for the day

I was grateful for that last few hours of sleep!

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While we all know that routine is extremely important for babies and toddlers both for their sense of well-being and for their sleep habits, for most of us, staying home to get them to bed every single day for all their naps and correct bedtime will not always be possible. There are times that naps are disrupted because of appointments, as much as we try to schedule otherwise.  Sometimes, something special comes up in the evening and bedtime is off-kilter.  Who would miss a sister’s wedding reception to put a little one to bed?

At these times, we have a choice. We can find creative solutions for their need for sleep or we can ignore it and hope for the best.  I find that hoping for the best may work with a toddler or young child, but for a baby, ignoring their needs will almost surely lead to a breakdown.

As I share with you what we do when we need to take a young baby out over sleep time, I remind you that doing this on a regular basis will neither give your baby restorative sleep nor promote good sleep habits. This is for occasional use.  I can’t determine how many time it is possible to disrupt your baby’s regular sleep patterns without lasting effects, as all babies are different.  You, of course, know your baby best.

Handling Outings when Baby Needs to Sleep:

1.  If possible, time the car ride to your advantage. Either plan to leave home a little earlier so that baby can sleep in the car on the way or hold back a little to allow baby to nap as long as possible at home without waking him.  My sister’s sleep doula says that any nap under 45 minutes is not restorative, so if possible, aim to allow baby to sleep at least that long (though, of course, something is better than nothing).

2.  When you are out, watch the baby and the clock. You have often heard it said that it is best to watch your baby for tired cues.  I wholeheartedly agree.  However, watching the clock will give you the back-up confirmation you need.  For example, when A. starts to act tired, I have a look at the time I recorded for when he last woke up.  If I see that it has been an hour and 20 minutes, that is good confirmation to me that I need to act quickly to help him get ready for sleep.  I will change him and then start to help him wind down.  If someone else is holding him and I notice sleepy signs, I will ask for him back and move onto #3.  The main thing, here, is not to start waving toys in his face or, for an older baby, feeding him Cheerios (hee hee — get it, Cheerios?) to try to keep him happy.  This will backfire later.  If he has a need for sleep, you need to do your best to meet this need, just as you wouldn’t try to change his diaper or tickle his toes if you knew he was hungry.

3.  Every hour and a half, reduce stimulation to offer your baby an opportunity to sleep. He may not take this opportunity, but set the stage for sleep, anyway.  Perhaps you are at a family member or friend’s home and there is a quiet place for baby to sleep there.  However, most of the time when you are out, you do not have the advantage of putting baby to sleep in a bed, so you’ll have to be creative.  What I usually do in this situation is get A. snuggled in the sling and go to as quiet a place as possible.  If I am at church, I will move to the back of the room so I can stand and rock a bit (and leave quickly if A. fusses!)  I shush quietly in his ear, pat his little bum, and jiggle vigorously.  I am trying to help him shut out the world by reducing outside stimulation.  Once he is good and sleepy, I toss the tail of the sling over his head (or tuck him inside the wrap) and do my best to let him sleep at least 45 minutes.  Other moms may find it helpful to nurse baby to sleep.  They key when you are out is to do whatever it takes to allow them to sleep if they need to.  As a baby gets older, they will not need to sleep every 1 1/2 hours.  However, they do have a natural lull in their activity cycle that will benefit from a rest, so doing these wind-down activities will help them stay happier when you are out.

4.  If it is baby’s bedtime and you need to be out, provide an opportunity to sleep, treating it like a nap, but being prepared for bedtime. If you need to switch baby over to pyjamas and a night-diaper, now is the time, but if you will be out a lot longer, know that your baby will probably wake after a little sleep.  Even if it is not ideal, providing this opportunity for a rest will help baby to stay as happy as possible for the rest of your outing, not getting insanely overtired and miserable.

Our last 24 hours:

Today was a particularly unusual, disrupted day. I have not numbered his naps, since the morning was just junky, little catnaps.  Steve and I have a weekly date that A. used to sleep through.  Now that he is older, we are in the awkward phase of his being too young to stay at home and too little to sleep well on the go.  Our date is very important to us, though, so we all make the sacrifice.  In the evening, we attended a Valentine’s Dinner/Dance, so I implemented the strategy above and it went very smoothly.

6:33am Woke for the day
7:46am Fell asleep in the car
8:00am Woke up on transfer to baby carrier (14 mins sleep)
9:00am Another 20 minute nap in the car
10:27am 33 minute nap in car
11:42am Fell asleep in car
12:20pm  Woke on arriving home (38 minute nap)

Ahhhh…home.  I was expecting his next nap might be a bit on the short side from the disruption in the morning.  Remember that sleep begets sleep.

1:46pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (10 mins)
1:56pm  Fell asleep in co-sleeper
2:42pm Woke up (46 minutes — yup, shorter than his usual naps)
4:14pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing (5 mins)
4:19pm Fell asleep in co-sleeper
5:56pm  Ugh.  Had to wake him up to go, poor baby.  Nap was 1h 37 mins.

We had originally wanted to leave at 5:45pm, which would have necessitated us getting him up at 5:30pm, so we compromised by leaving later to help us all have a better night.

At the Dinner/Dance:
7:50pm Fell asleep in sling as per our strategy above
8:43pm Woke up (nap of 53 minutes)

When I sensed A. was tired next, I changed him into his night-diaper and put on his hat and snowsuit since I knew we would be leaving the party soon and I didn’t want him to fall asleep and be disrupted again.

10:02pm Fell asleep in the sling

Seamless transfer to car and out of snowsuit (took it off in the dark in our bedroom) and into co-sleeper!  I feel like a seriously pro-mom when this happens.  🙂

4:35am Woke up and nursed for 13 minutes; left him in bed with me because he is so sweet and I just wanted to cuddle him before he grew up, got his driver’s license, went away to college and then got married.
6:39am  Woke up for the day.

Another really good night, despite the interrupted sleep.

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I’m sure you are all waiting with bated breath to see how A. has slept since I last left you, right? Before I get into how the next 24 hours played out, let me share with you a few resources I have enjoyed over the years and recently as I have been seeking for some answers on gently encouraging our babies to sleep for good, long stretches.

Parenting styles often lead to heated debates as parents join one ‘camp’ or the other. Either you are a heartless cry-it-outer or a sleep-martyr-co-sleeper.  I am finding that as I tuck more parenting years under my belt I am becoming far less judgmental than I was as a brand-new 21 year-old attachment parenting mama.  We all love our babies, we all want what is best for them and we are all doing the best we can with what we have been given.

Onto my favourite resources.

Books:

The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program by Polly Moore

Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell

The Lull-A-Baby Sleep Plan by Cathryn Tobin

Nighttime Parenting by William Sears

Secrets of the BabyWhisperer by Tracey Hogg

Websites:

The Essential Infant Resource for Moms has a lot of good information with ideas for different parenting styles.

The Baby Sleep Site is a wealth of information.  She seems like a compassionate and knowledgeable mother/professional who offers support services for a fee as well.  I haven’t purchased any of her resources, but her free information is excellent.

Our last 24 hours:
7:02am  Woke up for the day
8:10am Bedtime Routine/Soothing
8:19am Fell asleep on own in co-sleeper for Nap One
9:47am Woke up (Nap One 1h 27 mins)

Now, here is where things break down. A. had an appointment for a hearing screen at 12:30pm.  I was instructed to have him there asleep, so I had to try to gently hold off on his nap, while not overstimulating him.  So, he fell asleep in the sling in his snowsuit, so I could transfer him to the car when it was time to leave.

11:49am Fell asleep in sling; transferred to car
12:26pm Woke up at Hearing Test when taken out of the car (Nap Two 37 minutes.  He was happy enough, but obviously would have slept much longer at home in bed.)
1:13pm  Fell asleep driving home
1:29pm Woke up upon arriving home (19 minutes — hardly a nap)

Now we went to my parents’ place for weekly pizza night.  He slept in the sling there.

3:08pm Fell asleep in sling for Nap Three
4:18pm Woke up (Nap Three 1h 10mins — another fairly short nap; poor baby.)

At home, now.

7:05pm Bedtime Routine/Soothing
7:16pm Fell asleep for the night (was a little off because of junky sleep today, I’d say)

Steve and I headed off to bed early. No matter what, A. almost always senses when I begin to drift off and he will start to fuss.  On a good night, he settles himself.  On a bad night, he needs help.  Interestingly, in talking with some friends, this seems to be a very common occurrence.

9:55pm Woke up; Soothing Routine begun
10:00pm Fell Asleep
3:36am Woke Up and Nursed for 10 mins
3:46am Returned to co-sleeper; fidgety and fussing — needed help to resettle, did Soothing Routine
3:51am Fell asleep
6:33am Awake for the day

All things considered, I was quite happy with how the night went. Both Steve and I are feeling significantly better rested already.  Unfortunately, we have a couple of days where A. will not be able to sleep in his bed all the time.  For example this morning (which I will review tomorrow), we had our weekly errand/date.  A. is clearly getting too old to sleep soundly as we haul him in and out of the car and it was a morning of junky, broken sleep.  Unfortunately, he is too little to stay at home with his siblings, so we will just have to live with it.

Tonight, Steve and I and A. are going to a fundraiser dinner/dance that starts at A.’s bedtime. And, to make matters worse, Sunday night is our weekly homechurch meeting that usually goes until about 8:30pm.  I thought it might still be helpful to blog about our sleep teaching this week because I am sure you also have busy lives that don’t necessarily see your children in bed every single night of the week when they should be.  I really do feel terribly guilty about this for my little ones, but homechurch is very important to us, so I am just praying that God will make up for the one night a week where we are out later than we should be.

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