Tag Archives: Sleep

Babies + Sleep

April 27, 2017

Every single week someone emails me about getting their kid to sleep. Not because I am some sort of baby sleep wizard, but because for some reason my posts on sleep training pop up when you make frantic google searches at 2am while your baby is still trying to burn the house down. The emails all sound pretty much the same. It is either a sad, desperate mom who is ready to sleep train their baby or a sad, desperate mom who is not ready but just wants to say I’m not sleeping and this is the worst.

I have been both of these moms and I get it. The whole thing is hard and confusing and everyone just wants to do the right thing. My only real advice is this: give yourself grace along with an occasional babysitter so you can drive to the Panera parking lot and nap.

A few weeks ago I came up on the sixth anniversary of my blog launch, a fancy way of saying that six years ago I started sharing my very boring stories on pregnancy with my grandma and seven other readers while I waited for my first baby to be born. As the years have passed, much has changed. The Internet has gotten louder about parenting (blogs, Pinterest, Instagram). As for me, I have had two more kids and as a result, have become a lot quieter.

That said, I would love to have something to send to these dear, tired parents before my time as a mother to babies fades into nostalgia. As of today, in the year of our Lord 2017, I have gotten three very different babies to sleep and lived to tell the tale. For you moms who are doing that 2am Google, the rest of this post is for you.

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I am going to keep this simple because I am a simple person with a simple brain who does not like instructions with more than five bullet points. Once I tried to assemble a crib by myself and after 45 minutes of profanity, threw all the tools into a pile and told Austin if he didn’t do it, the baby could sleep in the laundry basket for all I cared.

So, you want your baby to sleep.

I am not going to tell you how to make that happen because you already know how. I know this because if you are desperate enough to read a blog post by a random mom about her kids sleeping, you’ve already read all the books and articles and forums on the correlations between college test scores and sleep trained babies. I am going to tell you what this ultimately comes down to which is: is it okay to let my baby cry? 

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, but isn’t it so terrible? No one tells you that someday you will have to let your precious, darling baby cry on purpose like an abandoned puppy left at the pound. But I guess that’s because if someone told you all the worst parts of parenting, you might need a Xanax-and-tonic to digest. The first time I did it, I waited until my son was 14 months old. The next time I waited six months because I knew waiting longer would make things much worse.

I have deleted most of my blog posts on parenting, but the sleep ones remain because I am still close enough to sleep training babies to remember how much it helped when another mom told me it’s okay to let them cry. So let me say it again: It’s okay when you’re ready and they’re ready and everyone is ready to have a Beyonce grade night of sleep. Just remember the old latin proverb that says if you sleep train a 5-month-old and potty train a 2-year-old in the same week you will die.

Lastly, I want to say that there is a difference between newborn sleeplessness and a six month old who wants to throw a 2am rager at the milk bar. If you are stuck in the former, may god bless you with coffee and an 1800s style night nurse who brings you a hot towel and then tucks you into bed for 12 hours (but probably just the first thing).    +

Happy sleeping, friend. Someday it will all be a memory.

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PS: Parenting manuals are the worst, but if you really do need a suggestion on methods, etc–this is my sleeping Bible. May the force be with you.

This Is Not Advice On Sleep Training.

September 4, 2013

photo (1)

I’ve written sleep training posts before, but after the consistent emails and realizing the sleep posts are some of the most read/googled–I thought I should write another one to let everyone know that 1) it gets better and 2) you are brave.

Waylon was 14 months when we sleep trained him. It was not something we ever intended to do. In fact, it was probably our first major parenting disagreement. I wanted to do it and Austin did not. He thought it was cruel and unnecessary, which was exactly how I felt about getting up 3 to 300 times a night.

For the first year, I didn’t mind nursing all night long. Despite some minor sleep deprivation, I felt great about nursing and co-sleeping. It was very bonding and lovely, and because I am lucky enough to choose to stay home–the baby and I could nap off and on all day to catch up on sleep like a pair of retirees. But then somewhere around 13 months, Waylon started sleeping poorly and we slept less and less. Finally a switch went off in my brain and my body said ENOUGH. I wanted my boobs, sleep, and husband back at night. I wanted to be able to go out in the evenings, go away overnight, and have more independence. I wanted some of my life back.

You can read all about how it went, but to sum it up in one sentence: It was really, really sad and then really, really great. Waylon almost immediately started sleeping 8am-8pm with a long nap in the afternoon.

Every kid is different. Every parent is different. But sleep training (or as I like to call it “sleep teaching”) is necessary for us once everybody is suffering at night. There is a difference between tiny baby sleeplessness and a six month old (or 14 month old in our case) who is up every hour at night and wants to hang out.

Tips & Tricks

1) Routine. Routine. Routine. I know routine is annoying and you want to be the cool, flexible mom wearing a flowy skirt and watching the sun set in field of flowers…but you don’t have time for that right now because it’s 7:30 and time to start the bath, pjs, snack, stories, songs, lights out process. Sorry. Thank me later.

2) Get support. When you start sleep training, have at least 5 back up mamas to tell you that your baby won’t die and that it’s okay if you ugly cry into your living room pillows. It’s really hard.

3) Regression is normal. Every few months or so, it’s normal for babies and toddlers and kids to fight sleep during the day and during the night too. Deep breaths. It always gets better. Persevere. Guard naps like Braveheart. See #1.

4) Make sleep a positive experience. Talk about how wonderful it is to be rested and how comfortable it is to be in bed. Read lots of stories and sing lots of songs before sleep time. Even if you have work deadlines or fourteen phone calls to return, set it all aside to take an hour to cuddle and end the day on a positive note. If your toddler spits his toothpaste in your face and screams NO BRUSH TEETH–leave the room, count to 10, and remember ice cream and Netflix is within reach in the near future. (Easier said than done).

5) It gets better. Remember when your kid used to throw all his food on the floor or when he used to cry every time you put him in the carseat? That’s over now! You worked through it! It got better! It always does. Phases come and go, and while sleep is often a constant battle–you are strong, you are brave, and you know what’s best for your kid. At some point you and your spawn will sleep through the night and celebrate with brownies for breakfast. It will be a good day.

Sleep Teaching: A Success Story

August 27, 2012

I thought I was done talking about sleep training, but after receiving a dozen or so emails, tweets, and facebook messages about the details of what’s been happening over here, it seems the subject deserves one more post.

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The last time Austin and I let Waylon cry it out he was 9 months old. He cried for two hours and then threw up all over his crib. It was terrible and we swore we’d never do it again.

At 14 months, the experience has been much different. Night one was rough, Night two was better, and by Night Three he was basically sleeping through the night.

Here is the book we read and the schedule we follow:

So far he’s been consistently sleeping 8:30pm to 8:30am following this schedule. Honestly it couldn’t have gone much better, though I’d like to reiterate that every child is different and has a unique timeline for when he or she can sleep through the night. Also, I am not a sleep training expert. We’ve only been doing this for a week! I will, however, answer some of the questions I’ve been receiving via the Internet to be more efficient. As always, sharing is caring. Please feel free to leave your advice and experiences below.

1) Why did you decide to sleep train your son?

The short answer is that we both needed to get more sleep. We had be successfully co-sleeping for about 11 months, but over the past few weeks he was waking almost every hour and having trouble nursing back to sleep. This was frustrating for both of us. After talking to some of my most trusted momfolk about their successes with sleep teaching, I decided to give it another try.

2) I thought you put away your crib. What is Waylon sleeping in?

He’s back in the crib. Our goal is to move him back to the floor bed sometime before his third birthday or when he’s potty trained.

3) Are you still breastfeeding? How often?

Not at night (high five!), but I do still nurse him during the day. On great days we only do it 3 times; once in the morning and then before naptime and bedtime. On teething days like today, it’s more like 10 times.

4) Do you miss co-sleeping?

Yes and no. I miss him sleeping next to me but I do not missing nursing through the night. Austin has probably had the hardest time adjusting to our new sleeping arrangement. He enjoyed the family bed.

5) Is Waylon sleeping through the night?

Yes! Sometimes he’ll make a little squeak in the middle of the night, but he quickly goes back to sleep. This is amazing to me, but I also know it’s all subject to change with sickness, teething, and normal sleep regression. One day at a time.

6) Why do you think it worked this time but not the other times?

I don’t know.

7) What about naps?

We started sleep-teaching during naps on day 4. It was, by far, the worst part of the whole process. He cried for an hour and I almost decided to nurse him to sleep permanently for naps. I’m glad I didn’t, though. He now goes down for a nap with only a few minutes of crying. Usually I take him upstairs around 12:45, nurse him, sing a few songs, and then put him into bed. Nap time typically lasts from 1pm to 4pm.

8) Were there any moments of doubt?

The first half hour of the first night, I wanted to quit. The rest of the time, no. Although I will say that I did have a few moments of panic during the first few days when Waylon was much more clingy and unhappy than usual. I tried to blame teething, but in the back of my mind I worried that allowing him to cry without comfort was causing him separation anxiety. Luckily he was back to his old self by Friday (day 5).

9) Do you comfort him at all if he cries?

We follow the 5 minute, 10 minute, 20 minute check-in model. As predicted by most every book I read, it’s much easier for Waylon to fall asleep if Austin is the one who returns to pat his back.

10) Are you a new woman with all this extra sleep?

I do feel different, but it’s not any extra sleep. The most rewarding part of this experience, besides being super proud of my kid, is that I’m able to be more independent. Before, I wasn’t able to be away from Waylon for more than a few hours because I was the only one able to nurse to sleep. Now I’m able to leave him with Austin or my parents for the evening or (hopefully) overnight. This makes us all feel like superstars.

Someone asked me yesterday if I wished I’d done this sooner. Honestly I have no regrets about our first year of sleeping and breastfeeding, but I am excited about this new chapter. Thanks to everyone who gave advice or helped encourage us this past week. It’s been a tremendous support. We feel the love. Waylon, too.

Happy sleeping.

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Sleep Training a One Year Old: Night 2

August 22, 2012

For those of you who have already sleep trained your children or have no children to sleep train or who aren’t interested in sleep training, these posts may be a bit boring. But for those of you scouring the Internet, searching for answers, trying to figure out the hows and whens and whys of sleep training (or as I like to call it “sleep teaching”)–this is for you. Out of all the advice, statistics, and facts I found in my research–the most helpful information was real life stories with real life examples.

Continued from Night One

Night Two

Last night we followed the same schedule as the night before, except we started an hour earlier at 7pm. This was not intentional but necessary, he was exhausted.  I also had my mom around to help this time (Austin is swamped this week) so that I didn’t have to listen to the first part of the crying alone (the worst part). I actually left the house during the bedtime routine to hang out with some friends and returned around 9:20 after hearing he still wasn’t asleep. Apparently he cried the entire time I was gone, though it was never a scared or desperate cry. He just wanted to be picked up and nursed to sleep as he’d been conditioned to do.

When I arrived home, I immediately wanted to hold him–but my mom reassured me he was fine and that he was close to falling asleep. She had been staying in the room with him and patting his back every 5, 10, 20 (etc) minutes as instructed. Within 5 minutes of my return, he was asleep and he did not wake up again until midnight. Total crying time: 2 hours, 23 minutes.

When I first heard him awake at midnight, I was prepared for a repeat of the night before (or worse), having to get up every half hour or so to reassure him. This time, however, he simply whimpered for 5 minutes and then fell back to sleep on his own. He repeated this 3 more times until morning, putting himself back to sleep each time. It was amazing.

Morning

From the beginning I wanted to keep our morning snuggle and feeding routine, so I decided that anytime after 6 it’s okay to join us in bed and nurse. At 6:01am this morning, he started to cry and so I brought him into bed, fed him, and he slept until 8:15 when I woke him up to start the day.

Things I Know For Sure

If you are deciding on whether or not to sleep train, consider the following:

1) A support system. Get your family, friends, and/or partner involved to help reassure you and hold you accountable. Ask them to bring beer and cookies. Play games. Get out of the house. Listen to 90s throw backs and throw yourself a dance party (but do not under any circumstances listen to sad indie music). Surround yourself with supportive people, otherwise the pain of listening to your child calling for you will leave you in a pit of despair and Oreos.

2) Don’t do it if you’re not comfortable or if you’re baby isn’t ready.

3) Ask questions and get answers. I texted my trusted mom-friends Candis and Erin a hundred times to ask them about the details. Like, can I still nurse him to sleep for naps? (For now) When can I bring him into bed? (After 6)  What time do I put him to sleep? (No later than 8)

4) Look at the upside. Amidst all the crying these past two nights, I’ve really tried hard to focus on the upsides. For example, goodbye sore nipples! Or the fact that I have much more patience in the morning after being apart all night long. If the pros outweigh the cons, there’s a good chance you and baby are ready.

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Sleep Training a One Year Old : Night 1

August 21, 2012

I’ve talked a lot about sleep; about co-sleeping and breastfeeding and Montessori beds. I’ve been honest about my doubts and happy about our choices. Together, as a family, we’ve learned and grown.

I knew it was time for Waylon to stop night-nursing a few weeks ago when he began waking often and sleeping poorly. It was a hard truth to swallow. I’ve been enjoying co-sleeping, but the twilight breastfeeding was becoming a burden, disrupting our sleep, and making both of us cranky during the day. The deal was sealed when I took the baby away this weekend on a trip he shouldn’t have been on just because I couldn’t leave him overnight. The point was further made on Sunday night when he woke at least a dozen times, tossing and turning and kicking me in the stomach. That night something clicked in my brain, something that said: IT’S TIME.

For months I’ve researched different sleep training methods and talked to a lot of moms about their successes and failures. What I learned was that every baby is different; what works for one child will not work for another.

For a while I considered doing the “crying in arms” approach, but dismissed it after realizing Waylon is a strong boy and would never allow me to hold him while he cried out of frustration. I also considered sleeping in his room with him so he wouldn’t feel scared or alone, but decided against that too–worrying it would be like dangling a steak in front of a hungry dinosaur. I settled on the teachings taught in the book Sleeping Through The Night, which is basically an updated Ferber method.

I’ll be honest, all day long I had a pit in my stomach the size of Texas about our new arrangement. I dreaded the night and longed for tomorrow. Mostly I didn’t want to hear my baby cry. I even talked myself out of it a few times, but when I thought about another night of battling the nursing monster, I knew I couldn’t do that either.

When it was finally time to start, I sent out a dozen or so SOS texts for back up because I knew I would need help, reassurance that this is a good thing and to be held accountable to follow through. Everyone responded promptly, two even came over and brought beer, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Here is what last night looked like:

6:30pm: Bath (High needs babies are often stimulated by baths so we don’t ever do it right before bed because he’s very awake and excited after).

7:30pm: Oatmeal and yogurt (to make sure his belly is full)

8:00pm: Diapered, pajamaed, and in his room for stories, songs, nursing, and cuddles.

8:30pm: Lights out, put in pack n’ play awake.

8:31: Utter despair.

I’m not going to lie, he cried a lot. The first 30 minutes was the worst. He screamed so loud I was sure the neighbors could hear. A few times my eyes filled with tears, and yet I never felt like he was scared or traumatized. He just wanted to nurse, as he’d been conditioned to do.

Most of last night is a blur, but I think his total crying time was probably around 3 hours. 45 minutes to fall asleep the first time, and then up multiple times between 12:30 and 3:30 to cry for at least 20 minutes each time. As instructed, I checked on him after 5 minutes, after 10 minutes, and then after 20 minutes. I never picked him up, just simply reassured him by repeating “I love you” and “It’s time for sleep.” I also helped him to lie down again and patted his back.

After the final bout of exhausted crying ending around 3:30, he slept until 7:50am. 7:50! My boobs were the size of watermelons and my heart was full of pride for my big boy.

Surviving night one gives me hope about night two and night three. It gives me hope that someday we’ll all be sleeping through the night and he’ll be back in his floor bed sleeping soundly. It gives me hope for early morning family bed cuddles without the expectation to nurse. It gives me hope for change.

Continue to —–> Night Two

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