It’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Let’s be honest: being a parent isn’t easy. No, I don’t take back what I said in my post earlier this week: I love being a mom, and I especially love being a stay-at-home mom. But like any full-time job – because who are we kidding, parenting is a job if there ever was one – there are good days and bad days.

Today just so happens to be a bad day.

Vivian is a remarkably easy baby. I honestly can’t think of a time when she has cried in public. Sure, she gets cranky, but she is usually easy to please. Even as early as six weeks old, she slept six hour stretches at night. She’s never been colicky. Besides for one stuffy nose, she’s never been sick (knock on wood). Like I said, a remarkably easy baby!

Except for – enter ominous music – napping. Oh, how this child hates to nap! The only way I could get Vivi to sleep as an infant was to hold her, and even then, she rarely napped for more than 30 or 40 minutes. Around 3 months, my back started to protest during her sleep-in-Mommy’s-lap sessions. I turned to the swing, and what a lifesaver it was! Vivian would even occasionally cruise past her usual 35 minute wake-up time and sleep for – gasp – a whole hour.

These days Vivi is sleeping solely in her crib. Nine times out of ten, nighttime is a piece of cake. She has fun in her bath, nurses for one last time, and goes down into her crib like a little angel.

That same little angel seems to think her crib is made of hot lava in the daylight. Today, for example, she woke up around 8AM and played for 2 hours. She started giving me sleepy signs, and when she nursed, she started dozing. I thought to myself, it’s definitely time for a nap! I put her into her crib, and HOLY HOT LAVA BATMAN, she’s awake and mad! Vivi cried for a full 30 minutes before I called it and got her out of her crib. I kept her awake for another hour, and let me tell you, she was not in the cheeriest of moods. Finally, she seemed ready to go to sleep. Hold onto your hats, she cried for another 25 minutes, but finally she went down. She slept for… wait for it… a whole 30 minutes.

Can I just say how demoralizing it is to struggle all morning for one measly 30 minute nap?

After Vivi woke up, I took the opportunity to get out of the house, hoping I could run an errand and make it back before the dangerous awake-for-two-hours sleepy phase hit. Why the rush? If Vivi catches even 10 minutes of sleep in the car, there’s no chance she’ll go down for a nap for at least another two hours. I hope you never have to deal with a baby who has slept only 10 minutes. Grumpy doesn’t begin to describe it. Long story short, car naps are only good for long trips. Otherwise, avoid them like the plague.

Back to today. You guessed it; I didn’t make it home in time. Despite my loud and obnoxious singing, Vivi caught about 20 minutes of snoozetime in the car. I even managed to get her into the house in her carseat without waking her. She snoozed for another 10 minutes before hollaring at me to get her out of her carseat.

Let’s review: since 8AM, Vivi had slept a grand total of an hour and five minutes, and it was now 3:30 in the afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, if she was a little bundle of giggles or even if she was sullen but happy to play, that’d be one thing. If she was happy and seemed to be getting enough sleep, I could deal with only an hour and five minutes. Instead she is quite obviously still tired. She gets frustrated easily and isn’t as easy to please as usual. I know she needs more sleep, but I don’t have a clue how to help her.

The good news is, I did get her to go back to sleep at 5:30 with only 5 minutes of crying. I’m hoping a third cat nap will lift her spirits (and mine). Luckily, I have great friends and fellow Mommy Warriors to talk to (well, text with) in moments of desperation. My friend Kristi recommended stretching awake time from 2 hours to 3, and my friend Shannon recommended music played throughout sleeptime.

Armed with these new”tricks”, I hope to defeat – or at the very least subdue – the Nap-time Monster tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tips welcome!

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The Terrible Awful. Sleep training – Part 1.

For the last week Brad and I have been sleep training Vivian, and let me tell you, “terrible awful” doesn’t begin to describe it. With a full seven days behind us, though, I’m finally to a place where I would also describe it as “effective” and “successful”.

Honestly, I never thought I’d use a “cry it out” method. It just doesn’t seem to jive with my parenting style; I veer to the attachment parenting side of the street (breastfeeding, babywearing, and the like). I feel like a good, healthy fuss is enough practice at self-soothing.

In the past three weeks, though, my attachment parenting approach was working less and less for bedtime. For the first 5 months of her life, Vivi was pretty easy to put to sleep for the night. I’d usually nurse her into a deep sleep, then I would put her in her bouncy, or if that didn’t work, Brad or I would walk and rock her to sleep. Sure, there were times when the “go to sleep” process took an hour, but in the end, she slept 9-10 hours a night, so it didn’t seem so bad. Other than a few times when I just wanted time for myself, I was happy to nurse or rock her to sleep; it was relaxing for us both, and I loved the cuddles. If she woke in the middle of the night (which she usually did 2-3 times a week), I’d nurse her right back to sleep without any issues.

In the last three weeks, though, something changed. [Enter ominous music.] Vivi slowly began to resist falling asleep on the breast. Rocking her to sleep became increasingly difficult. Once Vivi went to sleep, she often only slept an hour or two before stirring; she just didn’t seem comfortable in the bouncy anymore. I decided to try moving Vivi into her crib, but no matter how deeply she was sleeping, the minute she got horizontal in the crib, BAM! She was awake, and she wasn’t happy about it! Once crying, I’d pick her up and start the nursing and rocking dance all over again.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came last Wednesday night. After five hours – yes, five hours! – of nursing, rocking, walking, car riding, and lots of fussing – Brad and I finally got her to sleep. Thursday night was just as rough as Wednesday night. Vivi just couldn’t fall asleep in our arms anymore, and the longer she stayed awake, the more miserable and exhausted we all were.

On Friday night, Brad and I weren’t sure what else to do, so we let her cry. After 15 minutes of crying in her crib, she got so frustrated and upset that she threw up! We were mortified and ended up snuggling her to sleep again that night.

As soon as she fell asleep, we started researching. One of my favorite parenting books, Baby 411, had highly recommended Dr. Ferber’s sleep training technique. After reading up on Ferberizing, we decided that we liked the approach and thought it handled “cry it out” in a more tender way than most. You don’t leave your baby crying alone for hours on end; you’re able to reassure them and tell them that you love them, that you’re still nearby, that they’re safe. Brad and I both reviewed the approach and agreed – on Saturday morning, we would start Ferberizing, otherwise known as “progressive waiting”.

The basic tenets of progressive waiting for nighttime are:

  • You have a regular nighttime routine for your child, something like bath, nurse, book, bed. The nighttime routine should be loving and relaxing.
  • After goodnight kisses, you put your drowsy baby into his or her crib awake.
  • You leave. Baby cries…. or screams.
  • After 3 minutes, you return to your baby’s room and reassure them that you are nearby but that it’s time to go to sleep. You can pat them, but you can’t pick them up (even if the baby is screaming and giving you the saddest look ever).
  • After no more than a minute or two of soothing, you leave the room. Baby cries.
  • After 5 minutes, you return to soothe. Baby will likely cry harder while you are in the room, but do your best to reassure him or her. Again, no more than 2 minutes of soothing, then out you go.
  • If the baby is still crying after 10 more minutes, you return to soothe… and then again every 10 minutes after that until the baby goes to sleep.

[Quick note: the 3/5/10 waiting progression is for the first night; each day adds additional waiting time. We modified the waiting times; we ended up using the 3/5/10 progression for the first 3 days, then we moved to a 5/7/12 progression on Day 4. On Day 7 we are still using a 7/10 schedule, though Ferber recommends a much longer progression (something like 20/25/30). My opinion on the waiting progressions: go with what feels right for you.]

So, the research was done, and the plan was in place. Now the hard work begins!

To get the play-by-play of our first week, check out Part Two here.

Not interested in the nitty gritty? You can find out what I learned and my tips for sleep training here.

What I learned. Sleep training: Part 3.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I did learn a few things along the way while sleep training Vivian. Here are a few of my tips for anyone starting a “progressive waiting” approach.

  • Make sure you are committed, but be flexible.
    • If you are going to sleep train your baby, make a plan, but remember that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with flexibilty. Change it up if something really isn’t working.
  • Get your significant other on board.
    • There’s nothing like having a partner to remind you that you aren’t cruel, that it’s all going to be okay,  and that your baby is OKAY!
  • Set aside time to sleep train.
    • If at all possible start on a weekend or take a little vacation time to devote to sleep training. The first three to four days can be especially brutal. Brad was with me on Day 1 and 2, but I really missed his support on Day 3 and 4 while he was at work.
  • Be prepared to listen to some crying.
    • Your little sugar will cry. Probably scream too. It’s horrible, especially if you’ve really only heard that level of crying a couple of times before, like during shots at the doctor’s office. I cried along with her. Seriously, Brad and I both looked like we were sucking lemons for the first two days.
  • Wait until your baby is old enough to handle it.
    • I can’t imagine sleep training before 5 months old, personally. I don’t think most babies are emotionally able to cope before that age, but let’s face facts: sometimes you just have to sleep train earlier. Maybe you are going back to work and desperately need sleep. Maybe your baby is cranky all day long because they aren’t getting good sleep. So I understand sleep training earlier, but I’m glad that I was able to wait until Vivi was 6 months old. I don’t regret nursing Vivi to sleep for the first 6 months, and honestly, if it still worked, I probably still be doing it, but that’s just me!
  • Stick with sleep training for at least 7 days!
    • If I had given up on the worst day (Day 4 for me), I would have missed out on several very successful days.
  • Don’t be afraid to modify.
    • I struggled with “following the rules” to the tee, but once I gave myself leeway to follow my gut, Vivi and I were both happier. Listen – your baby is special! No book can plan for your little sweetling’s personality and needs. If the approach doesn’t feel right, make tweaks and get it right for you and your baby.
  • Nurse to drowsy, not to sleep!
    • Ferber doesn’t recommend nursing to sleep, and I have to agree based on my experiences. When I nursed to “drowsy”, Vivi went down easily. When I nursed her until she was asleep, she woke up shocked and distressed when I put her down into the crib. I can relate- I would probably be distressed too if  I woke up in a different place than I fell asleep.
  • Keep living your life!
    • Don’t let sleep training make your home a prison. If you need to run an errand or want to grab lunch with a friend but it’s Baby’s naptime, go anyway. Life is short!
  • Offer extra snuggles during waking hours.
    • Crying is tough for both you and Baby! Offer snuggles while Baby is awake. I use the baby sling around the house more often now. I’m not saying you should overcompensate by holding your baby all day long – no need to feel guilty – but a little extra love while sleep training is sure to make both you and Baby feel better.
  • Have a baby that won’t sleep anywhere but your arms? Use the swing before you start Ferberizing!
    • Vivi loooooved to nap on me when she was younger. Around three or four months I started using the swing for naptimes, and it worked great! If you have a cuddler too, start by letting your baby nap in a swing for a few weeks. They will get used to falling asleep, albeit assisted, out of your arms. Once used to sleeping away from you, the transition to the crib is easier.

Anyway, I’m sure to learn more as this little journey continues. I hope what I’ve learned helps someone out there in BlogLand! Good luck!

Daily Play-by-Play. Sleep training: Part 2.

After realizing we were scrapping the bottom of our “go to sleep” bag of tricks, Brad and I had decided to use Ferber’s sleep training method with 6 month old Vivi. Here’s what went down.

We settled on a nighttime routine that included a bath, a nursing session, and lastly, a “Goodnight Moon” style wind-down.  After a mellow bath, I nurse Vivi until she either pulls away or starts to fall asleep. Then Brad, Vivi, and I all walk around the house and tell it goodnight: “goodnight kitchen, goodnight front door, goodnight books” etc. For me, the “Goodnight house” step is  the most important part of the routine because it’s something that anyone – Mommy, Daddy, grandparent, or otherwise – can duplicate at any time of the day. For example, I usually nurse Vivi before naps, but even if I don’t nurse her beforehand, I always do the “Goodnight house” step.

I also opted to give Vivi  her “lovey”, a little stuffed elephant with a 12×12″ blanket attached. [Since Vivi is 6 months and rolling easily both directions, I feel that she is safe with the lovey, but that’s a personal decison for every parent.] Brad and I kiss her goodnight, hand her the lovey, and turn on her mobile. The mobile plays music and lights for a few minutes then turns off automatically.

After we settle Vivi into her crib, we close her door, and the rest is up to her!

Day 1 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 2.3 hours

This was probably a little backwards, but we started with her morning nap. Ideally, I think the first time using the technique would have been bedtime, but we figured since she was so tired from little sleep the night before, ferberizing during the first nap wouldn’t be too bad. Boy, were we wrong! The crying was rough. I mean, really rough! Vivi didn’t just cry, she screamed! To be honest, in her lifetime I’d never let her cry this hard, but we stuck it out. It was a huge relief to have Brad there with me for reassurance. I think I would have ended up in the fetal position otherwise. Also, quick note about naps – Ferber doesn’t recommend letting babies cry for more than 30 minutes before naptime, but because we knew Vivi was super tired from little sleep the night before (and because it was a first time sleep training), we pushed through until she fell asleep.

  • nap: cried 50, slept 30
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 40, slept 45
  • nap: cried 28, slept 25
  • night: cried 20, slept 10 hours

Day 2 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10.5 hours, Cried 1 hour

All in all, this day felt like a success. Vivi woke up well-rested in the morning, but she did seem a bit blue all day long. Brad and I both noticed her sad mood. This was, of course, disheartening. I was particularly concerned and began to wonder if the end justified the means. The 40 minutes of crying before bedtime was brutal! Brad shouldered most of that load while I scrubbed the shower in an effort to avoid hearing the crying. Upside: my bathroom has never been so clean!

  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 23, slept 40
  • nap: fussed 13, slept 40
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • night: cried 40, slept 10.5 hours

Day 3 re-cap: Napped 3.6 hours, Slept 9 hours, Cried 54 minutes

This was an interesting day. The first nap felt like a dream; she never really cried! She just fussed a bit and then slept. The next two naps were harder. I especially struggled with the fact that she was crying for almost as long as she was sleeping. She woke up red-faced and cranky. My heart was hurting, and she just wasn’t her usual happy self. Vivi’s never been a great napper, always preferring to cat nap several times a day rather than sleep in a long stretch. Towards the end of the day, she fell asleep while nursing, and I cuddled her while she slept an amazing hour and a half! I’m sure that’s against the rules, but I honestly didn’t care. Bedtime was a breeze – just 4 minutes of crying, and we had a sleeping baby. This gave me a little reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

  • nap: fussed 13, slept 45
  • nap: cried 20, slept 48
  • nap: cried 17, slept 35
  • plus: 1.5 hour nap in my lap!
  • night: cried 4, slept ~9 hours

Day 4 re-cap: Napped 1.5 hours, Slept 9 hours, Cried 52 minutes

This was my challenge day. I remember around 2:00 I called Brad and asked him when he would be home. I hadn’t felt that discouraged as a parent in a very long time. Vivi cried hard during all of her CIO sessions, and I was so stressed by bedtime. Honestly, the stress of hearing Vivi cry had really taken a toll on me. I felt like I had less patience than normal, and the waking hours weren’t as happy as usual. Luckily, I can now look back on this day as a turning point! I think Day 4’s issue was twofold: Vivi had an earlier than usual morning wake-up, and I probably pushed naps too much. Pushing a “every two hour” nap schedule just created more stress for both of us. At the end of the day, I decided to relax and loosen up, and I gave myself the leeway to use rocking and nursing when I thought it would help ease her into a relaxed drowsy state.

  • extension of night sleep: woke up earlier than usual, nursed, then stayed asleep when I put her back down in the crib. Slept another 1.75 hours
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried full 30 minutes so I ended the nap
  • nap: nursed her to sleep, she woke when put in crib, cried 5 minutes, slept 25
  • nap: nursed her to sleep, she woke when put in crib, cried 2 minutes, started playing… I eventually got her up.
  • nap: cried 3, slept 47
  • night: cried 12 (woke up briefly after sleeping 55 min, soothed herself then woke again at 1hr 7min, again at 1hr25 min – got her up and nursed her back to sleep), slept 9 hours

Day 5 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 51 minutes

This is really when I started getting the hang of meshing crying with my usual touchy-feely approach. I started nursing her to a relaxed state before putting her in her crib. She was relaxed and happy – no stress getting into the crib! I also stopped naps if she was acting super upset, especially if it was a third nap of the day. If she was screaming, I ended the nap. Vivi and I both were much happier with this more lenient approach!

  • nap: 27 min of talking or mild fussing but no crying, slept 25
  • nap: fussed 4, slept 1.75hr
  • nap: got her out after 15 minutes of crying
  • night: cried 5, slept 10 hours

Day 6 re-cap: Napped 2.5 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 15 minutes

By today, I was absolutely on the “sleep training works” bandwagon! Vivi went down for a nap and to bed with nary a sound. She actually smiled at me when I put her in her crib and rolled over to her side to fall asleep. It was like a dream! Sadly, every time I put her down isn’t that easy, but it can happen!

  • nap: didn’t make a sound! slept 1.5 hours
  • plus: quick 25 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 15, slept 30
  • night: didn’t make a sound! slept 10 hours

Day 7 re-cap: Napped 1.5 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 12 minutes

A totally different kind of day… we were go, go, go all day with limited opportunities for her to nap in her own crib. She ended up falling asleep in her carseat at the restaurant while I lunched with some friends. I was impressed that she was able to relax in a loud, interesting public place like that (with just a little help from Mommy, who rocked her carseat until she fell asleep). Nighttime was tough, but I wasn’t surprised – the poor darling was overtired. A super tired baby does the opposite of what you’d expect: instead of falling right to sleep, they fight sleep like crazy! When I put Vivi down for bed, she screamed so loud that I decided to “restart”. I got her out of bed, rocked her, nursed her…  and she seemed calm, we did the end of our nighttime routine again.

  • plus: 40 min nap in restaurant/car
  • nap: played for 20, slept 40
  • night: “restarted” when she was really upset, then cried 12, slept 10 hours

So, in the end, I do feel that this sleep training approach was very successful for us. Vivi is sleeping in her crib, and bedtime is no longer a struggle. Naps are still difficult, but I’ve decided to follow the beat of my own drummer. If I think a nap in the swing would yield better rest for her than a crying session in her crib, I go that route. If I just want to snuggle her while she naps in my lap, I indulge myself. If her cry is hurting my heart, I get her up. I was originally concerned that allowing her to nap elsewhere would hurt our nighttime efforts, but I’m happy to report, none of those things hurt her ability to go to bed at night.

I’ve definitely learned quite a bit along the way. Interested in my tips? Check out Part 3.