Category Archives: Co-sleeping

Operation Bad Mama

This week was my baby’s 18-month check-up, which comes with two shots, tears and screaching, and this time also a gentle lecture from his pediatrician.

Is he learning new words? Oh, good.

Is he eating well? Nice.

How is he dealing with daycare? Yes, that’s normal.

And how’s he sleeping? Oh. Really? Two or three times a night?

And here she began:

– This isn’t good for you. You need your sleep.

– But I’m sleeping just fine. I just roll over and comfort him. And if that doesn’t work, he breastfeeds for a bit.

She gave me the little pursed-lips look. The one that says, oh dear girl. Breastfeeding at night, apparently that’s a big no-no. My baby can get nursing cavities.

I thought that was just for bottle-fed babies who fall asleep with the rubber nipple in their mouth. A lactation consultant assured me that nursing a baby to sleep does not cause cavities, though many in the medical field have confused everything together. Now I don’t know who to believe about that. Oh, I hate conflicting opinions!

In any case, the doctor encouraged me to wean him at night. Really, I didn’t mind her opinion. I’m willing to hear anyone’s advice, just in case it might help. But she didn’t offer anything that I hadn’t tried before. No big revelation like, look there’s a special technique, sort of like the Vulcan sleep hold. Just the usual “remove the nipple before he falls asleep.” Tried it. It helped a little but didn’t go far.

I was ready to dismiss the whole thing, except she added this: “It’s important for him to learn to fall back asleep on his own and to be in his own bed. Otherwise, if he wakes 2 or 3 times a night, he’s not getting the sleep that he needs. And he’s not going to learn on his own. It won’t magically happen unless you help him.”

Anyone want to know my Achilles’ heel? It’s mom-guilt.

So now I’m working on Operation Bad Mama. Still not sure how or when would be best, but I’m working on a plan. I still like the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” technique. It’s been working well and he’s been nursing less and less and for shorter periods. So, what’s next? Should I wean completely? Will it actually help him sleep all night? Or will it somehow backfire in spectacular fashion?

The strategy begins…

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Will I jinx it?

Well, well, well… Should I wait and see how this new development pans out? Will I jinx it if I dare hope? I really should wait.

Nah! I have to share this good news immediately.

Last night, my little guy popped himself off the boob and fell asleep on his own. Such a small step for weaning, but it’s also a giant step for sleep independence!

Tonight he did it again. Before falling asleep, he stopped nursing and turned over on my lap. I caught him before he rolled onto the floor and carried him half-asleep to his crib. Then he rolled onto his belly, squirmed a bit (I held my breath) and then went to sleep by himself.

That’s all. Such a simple little thing. My brain is firing up endorphins, I hope not prematurely.

All mine!

 

OK, he still wakes up at night. And to maximize my sleep hours, I still bring him to bed after midnight. But I have a cute little story to go with this. Last night, he fell asleep by my side and started talking in his sleep. In a squeaky little voice he said, “Mine! Mine-mine-mine-mine-mine-mine-mine.” I stuffed my face in my pillow to keep from laughing out loud.

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Sleep Maturity or “Did I go wrong somewhere?”

My last post was a little harsh, I think. I’m worried that I’ve frightened some parents out there into thinking that it will never get better. That’s not what I meant at all, of course. My intent was just to explain that I’ve embraced my little one’s sleep habits, warts and all. I may always be a bit sleep-deprived, but what’s really important is that he’s getting the right amount of sleep.

Though sometimes, I wince at people’s comments.

“What? He still doesn’t sleep through the night?”

Doubt creeps in and my resolve weakens. So I wrote this retrospective, almost like a forensic investigation, to see if I went down the wrong path anywhere. In the end, I still believe that a baby’s sleep patterns change as they grow older, no matter what sleep-training techniques we use. Sleep maturity is a slow process.

When I look at the big picture, I see my baby has actually improved a lot. My sweetie went through several phases:

0-3 months

He was hungry all the time, so naturally he slept ever so lightly. It’s a simple question of survival. A newborn’s stomach is the size of a chickpea and it needs to refill often. In his case, every one to two hours.

Feedings would take 40 minutes, at which point he’d loudly POP off the breast and use my boob for a pillow. Adorable! Unable to move without waking him, we snuggled on the couch and I got to catch up on all the seasons of Mad Men.

Many books urge starting good sleep habits from the beginning. “Start as you mean to go on,” is a popular one. But the math just didn’t compute! It would take 40 minutes to feed him, and almost an hour to convince him to go to sleep in his crib/basket/side-car, then he’d wake up ready to eat again 20 minutes later. Guess how many minutes of sleep I got? That’s right. Zero.

Best place to sleep on earth.

Co-sleepers

At first, my husband and I took turns holding him around the clock. Finally, co-sleeping, for mama’s and baby’s sake, was the best solution.

3-6 months

Feed me again!

Baby was still hungry all the time, and still highly sensitive to noise and movement.

We were encouraged to swaddle him. We tried the burrito wrap. He was like Houdini. Really. People don’t believe me when I say swaddling didn’t work. We even tried the wrap with the velcro. Instead of falling asleep, he would wiggle for 15 minutes until his fingers poked out of the wrap. At that point, he could slide the rest of his arms out and burst out from the constraints. I’ve bragged about this before, but we really have one strong kid.

 

Me? No, not sleepy in the least.

We tried white noise, like a hairdryer. Oh, we tried many, many silly things.

At last, I learned to nurse half-asleep in bed. Ah bliss! At least I could rest as he continued nursing every 2 hours through the night.

 

 6-9 months

Deeper sleep and for longer stretches. It seems like he was physically ready to let go.

Eating solids helped only a little, but every little bit helped.

Another little glimmer of hope: he started napping alone on my bed. After nursing him, I’d extricate myself away and read a book or knit or nap next to him.

Crazy early milestone: My little guy learned to walk at 8 1/2 months. (I’m not kidding. I run after him all day long! Having a baby is the best diet I’ve ever been on.) I’m pretty sure this affected his sleep pattern. Too much going on in the brain.

At his check-up visit, his pediatrician deemed he was old enough to sleep through the night without breastfeeding. “Just pat him gently. There will be tears.” I dearly love my doctor, but I disagreed and continued nursing at night. I have never regretted this decision as it has helped him through many a cold and virus when he couldn’t manage solids at all.

9-12 months

Mr. Guy Smiley

Finally, I convinced him to nap in the crib using my patented Transfer method. I would also remove my nipple just before he konked out. The theory was he’d learn to fall asleep on his own. That never panned out, but I found that it kept my nipples from falling off due to constant suckling.

At this age, teething began in earnest with some slight separation anxiety, which affected his sleep pattern, but he was still napping on his own.

12-15 months

Transition to nights in the crib, after one frightful night of Tough Love. Since then, he flips on his tummy, instead of sleeping on his side. Somehow being on his tummy helps him wiggle less and settle down faster.

Self-weaning begins. With fewer feedings, he sleeps in much longer stretches. Wow, sometimes a whole 4 hours.

15-18 months

Arg, daycare stress, teething molars, colds and viruses… so back to co-sleeping and waking more often again.

Hope is a thing with feathers.

Now, after two months of daycare, he’s getting used to the new routine. His bedtime begins in the crib, and he’s sleeping longer on his own.

He still wakes up a few times, but I’m too tired to keep getting up. I need unbroken sleep to stay awake at work the next day, so I bring him into bed with me after midnight. This also gives us time to reconnect and make up for the separation during daytime.

What the future may hold for us?

I hope he will eventually fall asleep like a big toddler, with limbs sprawled and completely oblivious to noise as loud as a freight train. Perhaps when he becomes more verbal, I’ll convince him to stay in bed with his Elmo doll, even introduce him to a “big boy” bed. Maybe then, there will be a truce. Then again, he might just have an easier time of escaping his room and climbing into my bed. We’ll see!

So in conclusion of my forensic report into what-went-wrong, after considering his personality, his needs and my ability to fulfill them without becoming a crazy mommy-zombie, I can’t see doing anything differently. Do you?

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Filed under Co-sleeping, Daycare, My Personal Experience, Naps, Putting Baby to Sleep

Breaking all the Rules.

I have a confession to make.

All these basic tips and posts of ways to get your baby to sleep better, are only best-case scenarios.

Softly Sleeping

Every book you’ll read is selling you a dream… Because the idea that there’s a magical way to make your baby sleep uninterrupted all night is a sham.

I’m not being pessimistic! I assure you, I’m perfectly happy now that I’ve accepted that my little guy wakes up at least 3 to 4 times a night. That’s just who he is: a very intense, spirited child.

Some will say that I’ve created my own little monster. Yes, I have. Don’t we all? And I LOVE my little monster.

So here’s a review of my baby’s sleep progress in one line: it’s better but not perfect. I doubt it ever will be.

A few basic tips like

Creating a quiet environment,

Good habits,

Being consistent and compassionate,

Establishing a nap schedule,

do help considerably. Without these rituals, it would be a million times worse.

And we’ve outgrown other steps, like the Transfer (part 1, 2, and 3). Those tips were useful when he was very little. Nowadays, I can pretty much roll him out of my arms and he’s used to flipping on his tummy to fall asleep.

But mostly, it’s a work in progress… Like staying asleep, or falling back to sleep without my help. Since I’m pretty categorical about not letting him cry it out, I’ll just have to patiently continue rocking or breastfeeding him back to sleep. I pass no judgement on others who have “ferberized”, as long as they don’t judge me for using the boob or for co-sleeping.

So, hang it all to heck! Here’s another basic tip: Just do the best you can. Do whatever works for your family. Politely nod your head to anyone who has advice about your sleep issues, ask them to pass the guacamole, and carry on.

And if you can’t stand it any longer, make a plan and change it.

I’ve made my bed (harty-har-har) and I’m fine sleeping in it.

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It’s been a week of adjustments.

My darling dear has “survived” a week of full-time daycare, and so have I.

I can’t say I like it.

Well, the first day back at work was actually fun. Seeing my old work friends, taking vigorous notes in meetings, making a fresh start in the office with lots of great ideas… it was great, really. The second day, not so much.

It just sinked in hard that my little guy is in another world. I spend my day clicking on the daycare’s online webcam, which is both a blessing and a curse. My brain is constantly wandering away from work, worrying, about him. Do they realize he needs to be carried and snuggled when he wakes up from a nap?

Napping

Yeah, naps. Total disaster. At home, he used to sleep twice a day, for a total of 3 hours. Now, he sleeps for an hour or so in the early afternoon, simply by pure exhaustion. The caregivers have tried to do more, but he lets out a tea-kettle yell and refuses.

Goodbye boobies.

I fully expected this to happen. I knew weaning was going to cause trouble in the naps department at daycare. In the past weeks, I’ve neither refused nor offered breastfeeding, but he couldn’t let go of the habit of falling asleep while nursing.

After the first day at the office,  my boobs felt like they were about to explode. By Friday, I could feel that I was… a lot less buxom. This has been an unexpected sadness. At night, my baby still feeds, but squeezes me like a sippy-sack, then falls asleep. Breastfeeding is slowly winding down. I know I sound melodramatic, but it’s a bit like mourning an old life. It’s another link being broken.

Bedtime sleep.

I guess I’m going through separation anxiety, just as much as he is.

Yet, I think he’s gradually adjusting himself to this new reality. At first, he refused to sleep in the crib. No problem. I love co-sleeping. I feel like we’re sharing dreamland together, and somehow catching up on lost time. By the end of the week, he’d settle for longer periods in his crib (with his usual bum-in-the-air position) and we’d co-sleep later in the night. Now, he can make most of the night on his own.

Oddly, he’s snoozing in much longer chunks. Last night, a whole 5 hours. I don’t know what to make of that. I guess it’s the weaning. Just as I’ve always suspected, my baby was waking up regularly at night to breastfeed, and now that the well is running dry, he no longer has the incentive.

So to sum up:

  • We are in the adjustment phase. He still cries when I drop him off, but the daycare webcam later shows him to be happily playing with his toys.
  • Breastfeeding is now only in the early morning, after daycare, at bedtime, and whenever he wakes up in the middle of the night. I’m kind of glad to keep this little intimate connection with him for a little longer. I’m sure it’s comforting for him.
  • His naps suck, but he sleeps in longer stretches at night. So in the end, I think he gets an adequate amount of sleep.

None the worse for wear!

So it seems to balance out, except for one thing. It just feels unnatural to leave my baby in someone else’s care for over 8 hours. I can’t shake the feeling, despite my feminist beliefs, that I should stay home with him. I chose a great daycare, with a high caregiver-to-baby ratio, but they could never replace the individual attention I would give my son. And I miss him so much!

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Why I’m losing sleep now.

So, just when things are getting better, when my baby has finally cut through a few molars, when he’s not sick, when he voluntarily removes himself from my breast to fall asleep… a monkey wrench gets thrown in.

My little guy is starting daycare.

I’ve been dreading this for a long time, but like an unstoppable force, I could do nothing to prevent it. Yes, I have a great daycare, with a high ratio of fabulous caregivers, delicious food, fun activities, the whole works. Also, I started this week with little practice sessions, an hour at a time at first, working up to a full day by the end of the week. All these things help a little, but not enough to ease him into a big change in his life.

Since we started “daycare practice” this week, he’s been waking up every hour, sometimes every half-hour. The only solution: return to co-sleeping. My husband is worried that our son will get used to it again. I don’t care. All I know is that my baby is stressed out and needs comfort.

And I think I need comfort too. For the first time, I’ll be away from my sweetie all day long. Someone else will be playing with him, feeding him, cuddling him to sleep. Well, not really. He’s refusing to take his naps. The environment is so stimulating and the stress won’t let him relax enough to fall asleep.

So he comes home overtired, stressed, and urgently wanting to latch on and snuggle with me in bed. It’s the least I can do. Effectively, mommy-time has been reduced to 4 hours a day. Co-sleeping increases the cuggle quota he needs.

Despite this little drama, I know I’ve been lucky. I was able to postpone daycare until he turned 15 months old. Many mothers do not have that luxury. Like all of them, I hope my little darling will adjust to this separation and still get what he needs from me.

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Co-Sleeping

The first month of being a mommy was so hard. Let me rephrase that: it was the most exhilarating and disastrous time of my life.

Breastfeeding was a challenge, my baby got jaundice, the back-splash poop was staining everything, but mostly I was exhausted. My little baby just wouldn’t sleep in the crib, wouldn’t sleep in the side-car, wouldn’t sleep in bed next to me, wouldn’t sleep anywhere except in my arms.

So on the second night at home, my husband and I took turns every 3 hours holding him. Now that I think about it, 3 hours is a lovely chunk of sleep after a year of waking every hour or two on most nights.  But back then, 3 hours would go by in a wink.

On the third night, I devised a way to hold my baby and learn to co-sleep.

After breastfeeding him, he would just pass out. He wouldn’t stir unless I moved him out of my arms. So my husband would prop my legs up on the couch and I slept sitting up with my baby on my chest.

The next night, I arranged my bed with several pillows and leaned back with my baby cradled in my arms.

And after a couple of nights of baby steps, every time testing a minuscule change, I managed to lie all the way down and get my baby to sleep next to me.  With him in my arms and high up on my lap, I would scoot in bed and slowly lean back, while at the same time shifting my baby to my side and laying him down next to my body. Then, only after I was assured he wouldn’t wake up, I would scoot slightly over to give him enough space, but still kept my arm under his head.

For a long time, I could not reclaim my arm from under him. With time, and more baby steps, I was able to move him down my arm further and further, from my armpit to my forearm.

One night, after breastfeeding him in bed, my arm went numb because of the weight of his head. He was growing up fast and his head was getting heavier. I said, enough! And slowly slipped my arm, while holding his head with my other hand so he wouldn’t plop suddenly on the mattress. And presto! He stayed asleep.

From that point on, I would use a folded receiving blanket under his head while breastfeeding so I could easily transfer him off my arm and on my bed. Then I could lie next to him and sleep at last! (For more details on this trick, read my past post here.)

Now, my little guy sleeps in his crib. It took several months of baby steps to progress to a little sleep independence. Of course, if he’s sick we snuggle together again and I must confess, I do miss it terribly. Here’s the cutest little video that epitomizes the mommy-baby snuggle at its best:

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Sick and Tired!

The last couple of nights have been rough. My baby got a reaction from his recent vaccinations and had a mild fever for two days. Poor little guy!

Poor mommy too. I had to get up almost every hour to nurse him back to sleep. A few Tylenol drops helped, but not enough I’m sure to soothe the aches and pains when you have a fever.

When I realized that hourly wakings was going to be the pattern for the whole night, I brought my son back to bed with me. He still woke up every hour, but at least I was right next to him.

It was a bittersweet moment… I remembered how lovely it was to co-sleep with him. I missed his breathing next to me. Then, last night at 3am, he woke up pushing against me. His fever had broken and I was cramping his style. I nursed him back to sleep, put him back in his crib and he slept until morning.

I’m not out of the woods yet. Whenever a baby is sick, it takes a few days to recover completely. I just think how it felt for me when I was little and sick. It wasn’t so much the physical discomfort that I remember, but the need to snuggle because I felt weak and vulnerable.

And that thought provides me the extra patience to get through some dreadful nights.

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