My two-cents on sleep training

Sleep training was of major importance to me and I was asked by a friend to write about it. (Sorry it’s taken so long!) If you are one of those lucky people whose baby has slept through the night since they were 6 weeks old and naps perfectly, I hate you. Just kidding!! (Well, kind of) In the beginning I was desperate for a schedule and I was repeatedly told that it was too early. So I waited until the age my pediatrician recommended which was 4 months. Well, I waited until almost then. Brooks decided early on that he liked to be rocked and held when he slept. This was fine in the beginning but I swear he was manipulating me around 3 1/2 months. That little booger would sleep with one eye cracked open so he could tell when I was about to put him down and then he’d scream bloody murder. It was exhausting amd drove me to tears on more than one occasion. So I did as I always do, I became obsessed with information. I talked to his doctor, I read books (like 4!), I surfed the Internet, and I attended a sleep seminar at The Bump Club lead by Janeen Hayward of Swellbeing. I started with naps (not sure if this is recommended). For two terrible days I layed him down in his crib awake but sleepy. He screamed and I cried outside his door or down the hall. I tried going in to calm him down. I tried letting him cry it out (I lasted 30 long minutes). Nothing seemed to be working. After two days we were both exhausted. I told Chris I was determined to try it at bedtime. I knew I was being inconsistent and I needed to be stronger. I was mentally prepared for one hour of crying. We went through our normal bedtime routine (bath, massage, pj’s and sleep sack, nurse) and after holding him for only a few minutes I told him goodnight and closed the door. I took the monitor downstairs with the volume low. I waited…nothing! He fell asleep that night without a peep. I was so excited I literally jumped up and down. The next two nights didn’t go as smoothly but I was already a believer. I knew it was possible for him to put himself to sleep. I also truly believed that this is a valuable skill that I needed to teach him. By the fourth night something magical happens and they just get it. Since then on most nights Brooks won’t cry at all when I put him to bed. If he does it’s usually because he is overly tired and it only lasts for a few minutes. As tough as it can be to hear your little one cry it out, I promise you it’s worth it. I love our bedtime routine. It’s our special time together and it’s completely stress free.

 

So that took care of bedtime but apparently daytime and nighttime sleep are regulated in different parts of the brain so they are separate issues to fix. I decided on and still go by the 2 hour rule. Brooks is awake 2 hours between each nap and therefore takes 3 naps per day. (Earlier on though he’d go down for his first nap 1 hour after he woke up). He goes to bed at 7 (sometimes earlier) and sleeps from 7 pm- 7am. Anyway, naps need to be at least 1 hour long. Apparently sleep cycles are approximately 30-40 minutes and babies need to learn how to connect them. So if your little one only naps for 30-40 minutes you are supposed to let him or her cry until they’ve been in their crib for one hour. This too is easier said then done. Generally though, it’ll only take him about 10 minutes of crying and then he’ll sleep for another 30-40 minutes. He’s gotten better with practice at connecting his sleep cycles so I don’t have to let him cry nearly as much now. Although exact nap times differ each day which make planning a challenge he generally naps around 9 am, 1 pm, and 4/4:30 pm. The last nap of the day is the only one that doesn’t have to be an hour. He’s become quite used to this schedule and although there are days (especially weekends) when we digress he’s much happier when we stick to the schedule.

 

The final piece of this puzzle for us was getting him to sleep through the night without nursing. At the sleep seminar I attended, Janeen said that when babies are 12 weeks old and weigh 12 lbs they are capable of sleeping for 12 hours. Although I believed this to be true I had a really hard time with the idea of Brooks crying in his crib because he was hungry and me not getting up to feed him. It wasn’t until we came down to Florida that I decided to tackle this problem. My pediatrician had told me that she wasn’t able to do it with her first child (a son) and he’s 5 now and isn’t a very good sleeper. She said she did let her daughter cry it out and although it took 1 hour and 45 minutes of crying the first night, she’s now 2 and is a great sleeper. In our unit here in Florida our bedroom is on the opposite end of the condo as Brooks’s bedroom. Chris suggested we turn on white noise in our room and that’s exactly what we did. I went to bed, turned on my white noise app almost as loud as it would go, set my alarm for 7 am, and went to sleep. When I got up in the morning, I went in to get Brooks and he was smiling up at me, happy as can be. I used white noise for the next two nights and then on the fourth night I didn’t use it and by then he slept through the night. I’ll never know if he cried for hours, minutes, or not at all but for me oblivion is bliss.

 

We now have a very happy little boy who sleeps 12 hours a night and generally about 4 hours during the day. I know that every baby is different and I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to do sleep training. It’s a matter of what you are comfortable with and what works for you and your baby, but this is what worked for our family. It wasn’t all easy but it’s definitely worth it.

Random advice for new mommies

One of my closest friends just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I’ve been offering her random pieces of advice for the last 9 months (or 40 weeks and 6 days to be exact). Personally I didn’t know squat about babies before my son was born. I’m a reader who tends to get obsessed with information so I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Anyway, most of these suggestions are things that she’s already heard which is good because she’s not going to have any time to read this.

 

1. Lanolin is great but it will stain your clothes. I stained way too many tee shirts before realizing this.

2. Babies cry…a lot! In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic babies cry for 2 hours or more per day. (I would lean towards more)

3. Newborns eat constantly. It’s insane. You will feel like he/she is a permanent fixture on your boob.

4. Newborns also pee & poo constantly. I couldn’t believe how many diapers and wet wipes we went through. I recommend having changing stations in any room that you plan on spending much time in. Also, when you leave the hospital, they will tell you to keep track of these daily prizes. I used an app called Baby Connect. There are others that are very similar. Regardless of which one you use, it’s one less thing that you have to try to remember.

5. The alcohol in wet wipes irritates babies little bums. If your little one has constant diaper rash regardless of how much butt cream you paste on him, switch to wet wash clothes for a few days. Also, if you dare, let their little bum air dry a few times a day.

6. Babies have day and night time confusion until they are about 6 weeks old. Babies do sleep a lot but not necessarily when you want them to.

7. Buy a bassinet. When I was pregnant I decided that I wanted the baby to sleep in his or her own crib so we decided not to buy a bassinet. While this was a nice theory, due to facts # 3, 4, and 6 on my list, this did not work out for me. We ended up having him sleep in our room until he was 7 weeks old and then we put him in his crib and he did just fine.

8. Don’t schedule anything other than a pediatrician appointment prior to 11 am. They are the only ones that won’t comment or judge you for looking like the zombie that you are (or soon become). It takes about 12 hours to get 8 hours of sleep so don’t over schedule yourself.

9. Newborns take forever to nurse. They do get more efficient so hang in there!

10. An Ipad is a nursing gal’s best friend. Luckily it only takes one hand to work an Ipad. Surfing the net for 45 minutes in the middle of the night sure beats staring at the ceiling.

11. Diapers.com is amazing. They have a ton of other stuff besides diapers, they offer free shipping on orders over $50, and they ship stuff super quick.

12. Accept help when offered. Seriously, if someone offers to bring you dinner, do your laundry, or simply hold your baby, let them. You don’t win a prize for doing it all yourself.

13. Relax. I tend to worry too much and in the beginning I worried about everything! Is he getting enough to eat, am I holding him too much, does he need more/less stimulation, blah, blah, blah. The fact is that if there was one right way to do things then there would be one parenting manual instead of hundreds of books with differing opinions. Seriously, if the experts can’t agree, I don’t think we need to worry that we are doing something wrong.

14. Baby blues are real and can be really tough. More to come on this in a future post but if you are experiencing uncontrolled crying fits, this too will pass.

15. Having a newborn is hard work. I think the first 3 months were really tough. I don’t think people talk about this enough. It gets easier, I promise.

16. Being a mother is an amazing gift. While the days can get long, the weeks and months fly by. Cherish each day.

The Surprising Benefits of Breastfeeding

I want to start out by saying that breast feeding is a highly personal choice and I am by no means judging anyone who can’t or decides not to breast feed. As mothers I think we already put enough pressure on ourselves and we certainly don’t need other people making us feel guilty for the decisions that we make as parents. Breast feeding a newborn baby is a major commitment and it is a lot of work. It can be stressful and challenging. I don’t think that enough woman talk about this. Before I had my son, I just assumed that babies knew what to do and it would all be a breeze. I didn’t know that it is very time consuming to fed a newborn and that it is so frustrating not knowing if your baby is getting enough to eat. I remember my when my son was only a few weeks old my husband said, “there is no way that he can be hungry again.” Cluster feedings are exhausting and you feel like you are forever attached to your child. Being the only one able to feed the baby puts a lot of pressure on you and adds to the stress. The good news is that after the first 3 months your baby will become more efficient at sucking and the feedings will take much less time. Also, they will need to eat less often. My 7 1/2 month old son now nurses in about 10 minutes about 4-5 times a day. At this point it’s actually easier and takes less time than preparing and feeding him a bottle.

 

With ALL that being said I was perusing The American Association of Pediatrics website the other day and came across an article on breast feeding. I knew that breast feeding was good for my son but I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the following benefits.

 

In summary, benefits of breast feeding for the baby include:

– 36% reduction of SIDS

– 30% reduction of developing type 1 diabetes if baby is exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months

– 40% reduction of developing type 2 diabetes

– 20% reduction of acute lymphocytic leukemia & 15% reduction of acute mycloid leukemia in infants breastfed longer than 6 months

– 27-42% reduction of allergic diseases including asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema

– 15-30% reduction in adolescent and adult obesity

– 52% reduction in the risk of developing celiac disease

– 31% reduction in the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease

– 72% reduction of hospitalization for respiratory tract infections in the first year if baby is breastfed exclusively for the first 4 months

– 64% decrease in the risk of gastrointestinal infections

– 77% reduction in NEC (death of intestinal tissue)

– Higher intelligence scores in breastfed babies

 

As if those aren’t enough benefits, there are also benefits to you, the mother. For breast feeding mothers, there is a reduction in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.

 

For more information, or to read that article where I got all of these stats, please click here.