Tag Archives: Sleep

Five Favorite Bedtime Books

Reading has always been a big part of our family rituals. I’ve been reading to Alex since he was a day old. I’d hold the book up for him and read out loud all the funny sound effects and voices. My husband is the best for the voices, throwing his voice an octave pitch high for little birds or low for big bears, acting out as silly as possible.

Now Alex can turn the pages by himself and excitedly points at his favorite parts. Every night, he gets to choose the books to read before bedtime. These are his most cherished stories.

What books do your children love? I need some ideas to throw in some variety!

Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman A sweet little story about a little birdie's determination and love to find his mother. The ending is so tender as they finally reunite.

Moo, Baa, La La La! By Sandra Boynton Alex gets to practice all his barnyard animal sounds, and loves to shake his finger at the three little pigs. "No, no, no. You say oink!"

We're Going on a Bear Hunt, By Michael Rosen You'll be chanting the rhythmic sentences as the family goes on an adventure through tall grass, mud, river, forest and more. And what happens when they finally find a bear? That's where there's a little excitement for the end.

Counting Kisses, By Karen Katz My favorite part is when he produces his feet so I can smooch his little toes.

Time For Bed, by Mem Fox And here we wind down the evening with soft, quiet moments between mamas and babies, and final sweet good-nights before it's finally time for bed.

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My very first guest post!
After many, many months of sleep deprivation, I summarize here my basic philosophy on how to cope with frequent night wakings.

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Woohoo!

Please play this song to best appreciate the importance of this post.

 

OK, it’s playing right? Here goes:

Last night, my little guy slept for 7 hours without interruption.

I put him down at 8pm, with the usual breastfeeding ritual, and he did not wake until 3am!

After 4 hours, I went to bed, convinced he’d wake up the moment my head hit the pillow, but not a peep. So I lay awake, waiting and waiting. At 1am, I heard a little cry and I sneaked into his room.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. My baby just rolled over and went BACK to sleep by himself.

I wanted to organize a block party and skip down the street in delirious joy!

OK, I was just delirious. And way too excited to fall asleep. So I wasted that precious time and got only 3 hours of sleep. I kept thinking this was the beginning of a new era.

Will the gods punish me for my hubris? Whatever! Let them try. I’m prepared for the inevitable setback, but I won’t despair because I know if he did it once, he can do it again.

But here’s praying he’ll do it again tonight, because I really need to sleep. Good night!

PS: I will be over-analyzing this moment in a later post. I’m wondering myself what I did differently, or what has changed in his life to achieve this momentous milestone.

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

Misery loves company.

When life gets you down, and you’re bummed out because you haven’t slept a wink, you need the company of friends. Preferably ones who are going through the same sleep-deprived phase of parenting. Or at least ones who will not brag about their babies who fall asleep on their own and sleep for 12 hours straight! I still love you, but I don’t want to hear about it!

Today, I came across this blog post – “Why is Making Mommy Friends So Hard?” – and I realized how lucky I am to have made so many wonderful mommy friends at local breastfeeding-cafe Melons & Clementines

 

Melons Cafe: where everybody knows your name.

… and through WordPress too. And when one is grateful, it’s good karma to say thanks.

Check out my blogroll of Cool Moms and Dads. Thanks to them all, in particular:

Knowing you are not alone, swapping horror stories (and learning that things could always be worse), or just getting a pat on the back, helps you bushwhack through the rough patches.

And if anyone out there reads this and needs some positive and supportive words, please drop me a line!

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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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The Transfer, part 3

Finally, here is the last part of my trilogy in Transferring your Sleeping Baby into the Crib.

So you’ve prepared everything in advance, as described in part 1, and you’ve tried my little blankie trick, part 2, to cradle his head for a smoother transfer…

You are now facing the crib.

 

This is the moment of truth, and as I have often faced it and failed, here are the final tricks that kept my little baby asleep.

Avoiding The Drop

Push your lower body against the side of the crib, then lean your entire upper body and lower your baby inside. The sensation of “dropping” out of your arms is a big culprit in waking him up, so keep your baby in your arms and against your chest for as long as you can before he gets to the mattress.

Keep your Arms in the Crib.

You made it, but don’t release your arms just yet! This is another crucial point and you will have to muster all your patience not to let go and peel out of his bedroom.

When you’ve laid him on the mattress, you will have one forearm under his head and your other hand over his legs and cradling his little bum. Stay in that position, leaning into the crib. I would count ten of his deep breaths before even thinking of letting him go.

First, wiggle out your arm from under his bum. Simply, pivot your hand under him until it’s out. Second, slide your newly-free hand under his head-blankie, to keep his head steady when you pull your forearm out from the other side.

Anytime he stirs, freeze. Leave your arms perfectly immobile. Try breathing softly close to him to reassures him of your continuing presence. Then count ten breaths again and resume your “extraction”.

The rest is just practice. If your baby wakes completely and cries, pick him up, cuddle him in your arms or in the rocking chair, or breastfeed him until he’s settled, and try again. At any time, if you and your baby have had enough, go back to co-sleeping and practice another night.

I know I must sound bonkers to describe every little step like this, but I’ve found that attention to every detail has brought me success. With time, I could be a lot more sloppy, because my baby got used to this routine.

In fact, one fine night, he decided to roll out of my arms and onto his tummy. My breath caught in my throat the first time, but he now falls straight to sleep with his bum in the air. So cute! At this point, I keep my hand on his upper back and again, reassure my presence until he’s off and dreaming.

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