Sleeping In The Suburbs :: Part 5

After scaring expecting or brand new parents with Part 1 and Part 2 of my series ‘Sleepless In The Suburbs’, then leading them on with a slightly more positive Part 3 and Part 4, it’s time to proclaim the good news of victory over all sleep demons.

Snoozing with her best friend.

Back in July/August of last year, after we started with the CIO (Crying It Out) method, Emma quickly showed that she was very well capable of sleeping for 12 hours in one stretch without the need for extra fuel or attention. She was 6 months old at that time. All this nursing in the middle of the night was simply because she wanted the comfort of Mama’s boobies. (Mr. Thrasher says, he can relate.)

For the first few months as new parents it seemed like a never-ending story and I kept asking God why He had to punish test us with such a difficult baby. Today, I can barely remember when Emma decided that napping in her crib is absolutely refreshing and that she would be ok if I just put her down in her own bed, said ‘Gute Nacht’ and left her in her room to fall asleep. After six stressful, sleepless, exhausting months for all family members, Emma had finally learned to not only go to sleep without fussing at night, she was also cooperating during daytime naps.

As lots of wise (wo)men, doctors, sleep experts and research confirms, babies need the predictability of a daily routine - including naps. (Thrasher Home is not a scientific or medical blog so you won’t find the facts here. But I encourage you to read more about it if you doubt it.) Therefore, we decided that Emma’s sleep schedule, especially bedtime at night, would take priority over our social life. And if that required for either Paul or me to stay home in the evening while Emma was sleeping or getting a babysitter, so shall it be.

The reward for our sacrifice is priceless. Let me share a summary of Emma’s sleeping habits as of the age of 6 months:

  • We do feed her before bedtime/naps but she’s always awake when we put her in her bed.
  • Emma doesn’t cry when put in her crib and left in her room to fall asleep on her own. Only when she thinks she doesn’t need a nap, she objects loudly. However, this doesn’t happen at night.
  • Bedtime is 6.30pm. She is fast asleep by 7pm.
  • She mostly goes down for her naps during the day without fussing.
  • At almost a year, she still naps twice during the day: around 9.30am and 2pm. I always try to be home or in the car around these times to give her an opportunity to sleep. (She refuses to fall asleep in her stroller.)
  • Starting at 6 1/2 months, Emma was sleeping through the night from 6pm to 6am. She usually woke up once around 11pm, fussed softly for less than five minutes and went right back to sleep.
  • Emma often plays quietly with her toys after waking up from a nap.
I know some of you have been exploring CIO? How has it been going for you? Tell me.

Where Is Super Mama When You Need Her? :: Parenting Challenges

I don’t have to deal with crazy deadlines, ever-changing briefs and tight budgets anymore like I used to when working at an ad agency. Now, I’m facing different kinds of challenges like how do I get my baby to like bath time, when and how often and how much do I feed her solids, how can I explain to my DH that Emma shouldn’t be playing airplane with him half an hour before bedtime, what can I do to teach her to fall asleep by herself, when is the ideal bed time and why is she suddenly throwing a fit every time I want to change her diaper.

At only 6 1/2 months, Emma already learned to pull herself up. According to her crawling is for babies. Of course, Papa and Mama are mighty proud of our Super Baby.

BUT, after we finally gained control over Emma’s sleeping patterns and taught her successfully to fall asleep by herself (as in: no more rocking, nursing or singing to sleep and no more checking in on her in the middle of the night – yeah!), we are facing a new challenge: As soon as we have put her down to sleep, she pulls herself up on the rail of the crib and just stands there. Since she hasn’t learned yet how to get back down, she eventually gets frustrated ‘up there’ and starts crying. Yeah, we’re not so proud anymore.

So we’re basically back to checking in on her and putting her down. We do that over and over. How fun.

Enter Super Mama with the solution: A sleep sack or wearable blanket or however you wanna call it.

Sleep sack by Steiff.

I love these things! Emma always used to wear them at night time but then I thought it would keep her from rolling on to her tummy. Her favorite sleeping position. So I stopped putting it on her.

Today I had the genius idea that a sleep sack might keep her from pulling herself up on the rail since her legs would be kind of ‘swaddled’. Ha, it totally worked! She is now peacefully snoozing on her belly. In her sleep sack.

Here are a couple of other Mommy Challenges that I faced and eventually tackled:

  • Hating bath time: I used warmer water and put a wash cloth on her belly to calm her down and keep her warm.
  • Falling asleep while nursing (and not getting a full feeding in): Undress baby and use a wet wash cloth to keep her slightly uncomfortable.
  • Teething pain #1: Put a schnuller (pacifier) or wet wash cloth in the freezer. Makes a great teething toy.
  • Teething pain #2: Elevate the head part of her crib mattress a bit. It takes some pressure off her gums which are causing her so much discomfort.
  • Frequent night wakings: I’ve written a gazillion blog posts about how we solved that problem.
  • Making sure she wouldn’t be afraid of water: I never covered her face when washing her hair. I obviously made sure she wouldn’t get shampoo in her eyes but it taught her that running water over her face is not a bad thing.
  • Congested nose: We set up a warm mist humidifier in her room.
  • Not taking the bottle #1: Make sure the milk is warm enough.
  • Not taking the bottle #2: Don’t wait until she’s too hungry and frustrated before you try giving her the bottle.
  • Sleeping in a new/foreign environment: Have her sleep in the travel crib a few days before you leave for your trip so she can get used to her interim bed.
  • Freaking out over all the stuff that’s going wrong: Look at the things that are going well and give yourself some credit. Motherhood is the most challenging job you can ever sign up for.
I’m not writing about this to brag about my fantastic mothering skills. I’m still learning so much every day. I’m sharing this stuff so you can take it as an inspiration for solving your very own Mommy Challenges. Some of those tips I got from my experienced mommy friends so I can’t even claim to be the brain behind all of this. As always, I like to invite you on my journey because if someone already made a path, why not walk on it.
Ok, now YOU tell me how I can avoid those diaper changing fights with Super Baby before I have poop all over me. Please. Thank you very much.

 

Sleepless In The Suburbs :: Part 4

May I celebrate a tad bit with you, my dear readers? Here’s the report of our last few nights of ‘ferberizing’ our DD. Make sure to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to get the full experience.

As much as I appreciate and acknowledge the admittedly significant improvement, I still HATE it. Listening to my baby cry – even if it’s just for 5 minutes – is just plain awful. I know and keep telling myself that it’s for the better long-term because it will help Baby Thrasher and us sleep longer and deeper. But from all the crying she got hoarse! She sounds like a rockstar who partied too much. That poor thing. She usually talks up a storm but since yesterday she hasn’t talked much. Everytime she makes a sound it tears me up inside because I know I did this to her.

By the way, I don’t think I mentioned nap times before and how I tackle those. Emma has been a decent sleeper by day. However, since both of us are quite the social butterflies and doers, there had been plenty of opportunities to nap in the car. Which, in my opinion, doesn’t really count as ‘falling asleep on her own’.

Just to enforce our nightly endeavors of sleep training, I decided to follow the same method during the day. With minor adjustments: After two intervals of crying for 5 and then 10 minutes, I pick her up after the third interval of 10 minutes, rock her a bit and put her back down. That always works and I believe it’s not messing with the program. Also, I have to help her get her voice back and she obviously needs a break.

Ok, friends, I gotta run. Emma is about to eat Griffin’s tail.

Sleepless In The Suburbs :: Part 3

That’s it! Our spirits have been broken. It has now been 191 nights since we left the hospital with our baby girl. 191 nights without more than 4 hours of sleep. And that was only when she was a newborn. We had to change our pace in order to regain sanity and save our marriage.

I know I have blogged about this topic many times already but since we’re still in the midst of probably one of the most difficult stages of parenthood to date, I’m gonna keep sharing.

For the past three months or 91 days Emma had been waking up every 2-3 hours at night. We even had weeks of hourly wakings. Do you know that feeling of crankiness towards the end of the day when you’re really beat and just want to crawl under your covers? How would you feel when you finally fell asleep after tossing and turning restlessly at night only to suddenly awaken again shortly thereafter? Oh, and don’t think you could load up on coffee, Monster drinks or Red Bull to help you function during the day. Na, you’re still breastfeeding so none of that, lady.

We recently went to SoCal for an inexpensive vacation. While staying with Paul’s mom, Paul offered to take care of Emma at night so that I could get some good night sleep. What an awesome husband, hey. He and Emma along with her travel crib, one bottle of breast milk and a bottle of water moved into one bedroom as I went to bed in a separate bedroom. Dear Lord, that was amazing! I had forgotten how wonderful it is to sleep through the night without any disturbance. I was reborn. I was a new person. I was actually friendly and nice again. Seriously.

So peaceful...

Paul and I celebrated our victory over Emma’s nightly terrorism sleep issues. We were convinced that we had magically cracked taught her to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Ha! Not too fast. Back home she fell back into her old sleep pattern. Really? Why? What worked in L.A.? Was it the climate? The different day activities? We sorta kept her bedtime and routine the same so that couldn’t be it. Maybe it was that driving around for about an hour every time we had to get somewhere which always gave her an opportunity to rest/sleep.

Either way, we had to set an end to this. Paul was back at work and couldn’t afford to spend many more nights comforting Emma and even with a few nights of deep sleep I wasn’t able to make up for the past six months.

It seemed like there was only one more option and I hated to even think about it. Yes, that’s right. We had to let her cry it out. Even writing this feels like a fist clenched around my heart. (In Germany we say: Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende.)

So we put Pantley’s book No-Cry Sleep Solutions back on the shelf and investigated the Ferber Method. The Ferber Method is a sleep training strategy designed by Richard Ferber, M.D., the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston where he has been treating children with sleep problems since 1978.

The Ferber Method is not simply a “cry it out” approach to getting your baby to sleep. Instead, like some “no cry” methods, Dr. Ferber’s methods is supposed to help you teach your baby go to sleep and sleep all night without crying or with a minimum of crying.

But make sure to read up on Dr. Richard Ferber’s method before you judge. The folks at Babycenter.com have a great article about it. As much as I opposed any sort of crying it out sleep training (see Part 1 and Part 2), I never judged the parents who decided to try it.

However, I still feel very uncomfortable about this in my heart but my head told me that our whole family would benefit longterm from the ‘cold turkey’ method. And if you add up all of the crying your child now does when she wakes up in the middle of the night, especially if she keeps doing it for many more weeks or months, it will likely far exceed what she might do using the Ferber Method.

Well, here we are. Paul and I reading, talking, arguing and eventually deciding a game plan to teach Emma how to fall asleep by herself and let go of her sleeping aids: Nursing, bottle, rocking, shushing, lullabies, pacifier (not that she ever really used one) and mostly Mama and Papa picking her up.

Here’s our plan of attack:

  • Stick to our well-established bedtime routine and bedtime. Cuddle and hug her even more than usual before bedtime so she knows that we love her so much.
  • Then put her down awake, so that she is left to fall asleep on her own. (She has fallen asleep on her own several times before at night and during the day.)
  • Eventually, Emma will inevitably start crying. Allow her to cry for about 5 minutes, then re-enter the room to console her while only staying in the room for a short time – even if she is still crying – and not picking her up.
  • This second time we leave the room, we would wait 10 minutes before returning and doing the same thing.
  • The third time we wait 12 minutes, and set this as a maximum wait time for the rest of the night.
  • While listening in our bedroom to Emma sobbing next door in her nursery, we would pray together and encourage one another that we’re doing the right thing.
  • The following nights we will stretch out the intervals until we’ve reached the limit we allow our child to cry (12 minutes).

Stay tuned for more updates on our sleep training, how we tackle the daytime naps or hear me whine on Twitter in the middle of the night.

Boob = Pacifier? So What!

I am literally tired of them!

Who am I talking about? Well, the league of mothers or experts who discourage nursing your baby to sleep or back to sleep because it supposedly creates bad sleeping habits. (Ok, ‘tired of them’ may sound a bit harsh but I liked the word play.)

Nursing Emma.

Jodi Mindell says ‘While nursing to sleep seems like a healthy, enjoyable nighttime routine, it can lead to poor sleep habits that interfere with your baby’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.’.

Several studies support what most nursing mothers already know: Breastfed babies take longer than formula-fed babies to develop a pattern of sleeping through the night. Why? First, because breast milk is easier to digest than formula, babies get hungry quicker and wake more often during the night. Second, because breastfeeding is comforting and calming as well as nourishing, it doesn’t take long for a baby to make a connection between nursing and sleep. After a few weeks of nursing your baby to sleep, he won’t know — or want — another way of falling asleep. ~ Source: babycenter.com

Whatever.

I’m done contemplating the pro’s and con’s of what, how, and with which tools I can get Emma to sleep or back to sleep and what the implications may or may not be. If I somehow manage to get her to fall asleep peacefully and stay asleep for several hours (during the night) and at least 45 minutes during daytime naps, I consider myself successful.

Meine kleine Maus is a wonderful and happy baby. During the day she doesn’t wake up crying or needs me to attend to her as soon as she opens her tiny eyes. I wouldn’t call that a bad habit.

Last night, Paul took over the bedtime routine and put Emma to bed. He ain’t got boobs. So no nursing to sleep for Baby Emma. Guess what? She fell asleep right next to him on our bed. (I assume he was reading her from one of his geeky programming books again. No wonder, those put anyone to sleep.) When I was ready to go to bed, I just moved her into her crib. She slept for four hours straight, then woke up three more times that night.

Apparently, babies eventually learn to fall asleep by themselves or figure out how to sleep through the night. Until then, Paul and I will do whatever it takes to help Emma enter the land of nod. Whether it’s nursing, feeding her the bottle, rocking, singing or just watching her get sleepy and sleepier.

In your arms or snuggled alongside you, your baby is nurtured by the snuggly warmth of your body and comforted by your familiar scent (pheromones). She hears the beat of your heart and the sound of your voice. ~ Source: thebabybond.com

Why would I want to break that ‘habit’? Emma will only be little for a few more months and soon enough the last place she’ll want to hang out will be her parents’ loving arms. One of my girlfriends and mother of a 4-months old baby boy shared this blog with me a while ago: kellymom.com :: breastfeeding and parenting. This Kelly Mom is my kinda girl mom.

Isn’t it reassuring to know your baby loves to nurse and is growing so well on your milk? I am very blessed to have an abundant supply of milk, I have no problems pumping (so Papa can get his share of dinner dates with his baby girl), never had a sore nipple and Emma has latched on perfectly from Day 1. I am ok to use my boobs as a pacifier every now and then and comfort my baby girl if necessary.

She loves it, and I love her. All good.

Sleepless In The Suburbs :: Part 2

You’ve probably read Part 1 so you know that I love my little girl to pieces and think that she is perfect in every way. BUT, and that’s why there will be plenty more parts to this series, she has become a horrible go-to-and-stay-asleeper.

Swaddling Emma worked wonders at the age of 10 weeks.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be blogging about our desperate efforts to teach our 5-months old Emma to go to sleep and stay asleep. Since she’s been doing quite alright during the day and is somewhat on a schedule, I’ll focus more on the night sleep (or lack thereof).

The ability to get back to sleep is key when it comes to snoozing through the night. Some babies seem to do this naturally. But if your baby doesn’t, it’s a skill she’ll have to master.

If your baby needs more help and you think she’s ready, you can try a more involved method of sleep training. Your options include various no-cry and cry-it-out techniques. What will work best for you depends on your parenting style, your personal beliefs, and your child’s particular needs. ~ Baby sleep basics: 3 to 6 months, babycenter.com

This chapter explains what we’ve been doing so far in regards to sleepy time and how and why we decided on proper sleep training.

So peaceful! - "Bedtime Story" painting by Veronika Nagy

Bedtime

Read To Sleep Or Not To Sleep Part 1 for our daytime nap schedule.

Emma’s bedtime is at 7pm. Our goal is to have her fast asleep by 7.30pm. She has then been waking once some time between 11pm and 1am which is when Paul comforts her and miraculously manages to put her back to sleep right away.

Bedtime Routine

An hour before bedtime, we start winding down and provide a calmer, quieter atmosphere – unless we’re still out and about which usually allows her to fall asleep in the car. Our ritual for the night consists of the following:

  1. a bath (every other day)
  2. diaper change and PJs
  3. feeding > ideally, Papa gives her the bottle (breast milk) so Mama can catch a break
  4. putting her down to sleep if she’s really sleepy
  5. rocking her before putting her down if she’s fussy
  6. reading, singing, praying
  7. while she’s in her crib or bassinet we put one hand on her chest

We have these little helpers ready to assist us – there is, however, no data to prove if any of these aids actually help:

Sleep Environment

Our Her sleep environment looks like this:

  • closed curtains allowing for some daylight for nap time/dark room with a soft night light for nighttime sleep
  • we’ve recently put her to sleep in her crib but are diverting to her bassinet in our bedroom on nights where she is extremely fussy
  • quiet and warm room temperature but not too warm
  • warm mist humidifier (since she’s had been congested for a while)
  • sleep sack (we retired the swaddle once she learned to roll over)
  • no toys (besides her security blanket), no blankets, no pillows

So far so good. Now, we need some serious help to get these ‘tools’ to be successful.

There’s lots of overwhelming helpful information on sleep methods available. Paul and I decided that – for now – we are against CIO (crying it out).

People often think this method of sleep training involves leaving babies alone to cry for as long it takes before they fall asleep. But “cry it out” (CIO) refers to any sleep training approach — and there are many — that says it’s okay to let a baby cry for a specified period of time (often a very short period of time) before offering comfort. ~ Baby sleep training: Cry it out methods, babycenter.com

Photo by Paco and Betty

When I see Emma’s little mouth shiver and I can tell she’s about to start wailing, I can’t help myself and have to comfort her. No matter how much sense this whole a-baby-needs-to-be-able-to-self-soothe thing makes, I just suck at letting my little one be in distress. So we ruled out the likes of Ferber and Mindell, no matter how gentle their CIO approach was.

After watching the video diaries on babycenter.com of two families on their quest to getting their child to sleep – one ferberized their child, the other went with Sears – Paul and I made a decision: For the next three weeks we will give the Sears family of doctors and their famous Baby Sleep Book a chance.

The book was delivered today. I sincerely hope our (bedtime) story is gonna have a happy ending.

(…to be continued.)


 

Sleepless In The Suburbs :: Part 1

And here I go again…frantically browsing through baby blogs, book reviews on Amazon, and asking experienced girlfriend moms for the ultimate baby sleep solution.

Between Dr. Sears, the Baby Wise method, Jodi Mindell, the Ferber Method, Dr. Karp, Pantley and any other self-proclaimed baby whisperers, I am completely lost.

Shhhh, baby is sleeping. (Or not.)

Here’s my story:

Emma is a happy baby. Period. She has the most adorable grin going from one side of her pretty face to the other for most of the day (and even during night feedings). She giggles a lot. Or whatever those cute sounds are. At the age of 21 weeks, she is quite advanced in her development according to her pediatrician (yes, I am one of those proud moms and not afraid to talk about it). Her rolling over is A+. She’s been rollin’ around for a few days now – onto her tummy and back onto her back. And just the other day, we reached another milestone: She fell asleep in her crib all by herself. Not in the bassinet. In her crib. In her room. No rocking, no nursing-to-sleep. No crying. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Ha, not so fast…

Here’s the problem: First of all, it has only happened once again since. Secondly, she won’t sleep through the whole night. There it is.

For the first stretch of the night, Emma sleeps up to 4 1/2 hours (see Part 2). But…then comes the night. At night, she wakes up about every 2 hours, wanting to be fed. I sure am totally guilty of taking the easy way out – feeding her until she falls asleep again without ‘working’ on getting a full feeding. Dang it, I am exhausted. How am I supposed to stay awake night after night to keep baby awake for a full feeding, burp her and gently ‘force’ her back to sleep? (All the while, trying to cast out any resentment towards not to wake my other half who’s in his REM phase and annoyingly peacefully snoring.)

During the day, Emma takes three naps: at 10am, around 2pm and 4pm. They used to be two hours long. Now, she barely sleeps for an hour.

Nonetheless, she wakes up happy. Cooing, smiling and ready to get up and play. She isn’t cranky or fussy at all. She may, however, still rub her eyes and continues to yarn = signs of tiredness.

Good night, sleep tight.

So what would the perfect mom do? Continue the existing ‘routine’ because she is after all a happy baby and developing just fine? Or making changes in an attempt to stretch out those naps? I’ve read plenty of times that babies who don’t get enough nap time during the day, end up waking more frequently during the night. Maybe that’s our problem…

They say, “do what you works for you”, “follow your instinct”, “a mom knows best”. Well, I don’t know best. There are days where I am confident and secure in my mothering skills and believe in myself and that I’m doing something right because she’s so happy. But on the contrary, she’s simply not sleeping well at night and I’m about to have a meltdown myself as I am beyond exhaustion. But this is not about me and my needs. An exhausted mother who doesn’t sleep during the night cannot be alert and energetically tending to her child.

All I know is that I oppose the CIO method (crying it out). It just breaks my heart to let my little one cry herself to sleep. Even just a little bit. I don’t want her to feel like I’m deserting her, leaving her alone, scaring her because I’m not there for her.

If only sleep training was as easy as learning a new language. Or training your dog. Who is, by the way, curled up and snoozing in the middle of the living room. And I didn’t even have to rock him…

(to be continued…)

Inky, Dinky, You’re So Stinky :: Nursery Decor

We were so excited when Käfer’s organic orthopedic cotton mattress got delivered: Another step closer to getting her room set up and ready for her arrival. As soon as Paul got home from work, he helped me remove all packaging to let the mattress air out. It was kinda smelly but we thought that would go away after a few days.

 

Smells like feet!

 

Fast forward two weeks. Let’s say the days have gone, the stink stayed.

Even worse, the mattress has meanwhile stunk up Käfer’s entire room! Needless to say that my super power pregnancy smelling sense is not really helping the situation. Every time I enter her nursery, it feels like I jumped into a dumpster full of old tennis shoes. Yikes.

After searching the entire web for old fashioned remedies to get that odor out of our mattress, it seems like we may be on the hunt again for a new mattress after we returned this one.

Boo for returning stuff.

Boo for having to start over again.

Boo for not wanting to buy organic again – at least not for a mattress.

Boo, boo, boo.