Category Archives: Naps

The Sugar Shack

Every year, close to springtime with snow still on the ground, my husband and I make a pilgrimage in the woods and head for a sugar shack. This is also known in our neck of the woods as “la cabane a sucre”, and it’s basically a chance to stuff your face. Bacon and eggs, beans in maple syrup, ham and cheese folded in a pancake, split-pea soup, and, if you have room, taffy on the snow.

What am I saying? Of course you have room! It’s the best part!

For the first time, my son got a taste. He loved it so much, he stole mine.

What do you get when you mix fresh cool air from walking through the forest and a jolt of sugar with the intense taste of maple syrup? A very sleepy baby!

 

 

I carried him out of the car seat like taffy slipping out of my arms and he barely fluttered his eyelashes. I plopped him down in my bed in full snow-gear and he had the longest nap in recorded history.

Sugaring off is such a short period of bliss. The very next day, the snow was gone.

Here’s a quick recipe I created to use up the maple syrup in a healthy way.

1 Comment

Filed under My Life, Naps

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?

10 Comments

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.

10 Comments

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

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!

5 Comments

Filed under Co-sleeping, My Personal Experience, Naps

Napping Schedule

Figuring out when your baby should nap is practically an artform. Their nap schedule is in eternal flux, they’re sprinkled throughout the day messing up your daily goals (modest may they be, like have a shower), but without them your baby will fall apart.

Here’s what I figured out…

First, babies need a lot of sleep and you have to work around their schedule. That means you may not have time to go out shopping, visit friends, or whatnot. Just thank God you got the time to do one thing, like go for a walk in the park.

Second, if you skip a nap, you will pay for it later. More precisely, your baby will be paying for it. He will not be a cooperative baby if he’s overtired. And don’t believe that they’ll sleep better because they’re exhausted. Think about it. When you go to bed super late, don’t your muscles get twitchy, doesn’t your brain hurt, aren’t you a tad sensitive? Imagine your baby going through that. It’s going to be a nightmare to put him down and keep him asleep. Don’t skip naps!

Third, figure out your little one’s sleep cues. This is the best way to figuring out his personal schedule. Yawning means, hmmm I could sleep a few winks. Staring into space, please put me to sleep. Rubbing eyes, I’m so tired I’m about to have a fit and I’m getting crabby. Crying means you missed the boat. Don’t delay a nap. If you see them yawning a couple of times, swoop them up, it’s time to sleep. If you catch it on time, it should be very easy to put your baby to sleep.

Lastly, a typical schedule for naps varies widely and greatly depends on the baby’s age. On average, a baby under 4 months old should not be awake for more than 2 hours at a time. It could be two naps in the morning and two naps in the afternoon. As they grow older, the morning nap may consolidate into one, with still two naps in the afternoon. Then, playtime starts lasting longer with a nap in the morning and one later in the day, until one day your baby only needs one nap a day.

Most sleep books only discuss bedtime issues, and explain very little about naps, except for The 90-minute Baby Sleep Program. So useful and easy! Don’t worry. This book will not force your baby into an arbitrary schedule. It helped me understand when my baby is tired and discover his ever-changing sleep pattern. Check out my short book review here.

Good naps mean good nights!

4 Comments

Filed under Basic Tips, Naps, Putting Baby to Sleep, Sleep Cues