Sleep Training: Three Days Makes A Habit

Dare I say it? Chloe slept from 6 p.m. until 5:15 a.m. TWO nights in a row. I knocked on the wood desk just now because it seems dangerous to even utter the words. Sleeping through the night. Graham was still a month and a half away from sleep training at 3 months so we’re thrilled that she’s dropping her night feeding on her own. I’m fairly certain Graham was still waking up every hour and a half until we sleep trained him but that was another story entirely. 

I hadn’t planned to do any formal sleep training for at least another month but slowly Chloe’s shown progress with self soothing and suddenly it was 5:15 a.m. and we hadn’t heard a peep from her since putting her to bed the night before. I think that loosely following 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks helped structure her day but we didn’t apply any of rules besides her feeding schedule (every 4 hours during the day) and I was letting her fuss for a few minutes before going to her when she’d wake up just to see if she could settle back down. 

As far as bedtime, Chloe pretty much demanded to be put to bed at 6 p.m. sharp so we’ve stuck with that. I had been aiming at a 7 p.m. bedtime but she would have none of it and screamed until we swaddled her and put her to bed promptly at 6. Ok then. Bedtime is a little sticky since I’m usually alone and Graham doesn’t go to bed until 6:30 or 7 so he’s typically ramped up and running around while I try to sneak upstairs undetected to soothe Chloe to sleep. Last night, out of desperation (and two previous attempts to rock her to sleep and gently transfer her to the cradle), I put her down crying. I went downstairs to check on Graham, planning to return to Chloe for another attempt at rocking her, and by the time I got there, I realized it was quiet. She cried for less than 5 minutes. 

Progress is progress! 

well hello old friend

I’m a little embarrassed at the amount of time that has passed since my last post. A year almost to the day. In my defense, I’ve been busy raising a toddler and conceiving, carrying, and delivering a daughter: Chloe Ann. She was born on March 5 at 9:45 a.m. and weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces. What a perfect addition to our family!

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Life with two kids under 2 is crazy, busy, rewarding, and exhausting. But now that the black hole of newborndom is coming to an end, I hope to update here more often.

Sleep Training Part Three {Leaky Diapers}

“You’ll just have to wake him up in the middle of the night to change him.”

Um, no, thank you.

Nearly two months ago, Graham started waking up early. At 4:30 a.m. to be exact. Initially I chalked it up to Travis’ new schedule and Graham waking when he left for the day. But even on days when Travis was off, Graham was waking at 4:30 like clockwork. Then I realized that this started at the same time that I noticed he was waking up wet. Coincidentally this was also the same time we switched to exclusively formula feeding & Graham started sleeping through the night.

I’ve already written a lengthy post about breastfeeding and our  change to formula that I’m still debating whether or not to post. But in short, Graham wasn’t gaining enough weight from nursing and we switched to formula at the exact time he started waking up early and wet. My conclusion is that now that he’s getting the appropriate amount of calories, he’s peeing a lot more overnight. I simply sized up on his overnight diaper thinking that would solve the problem. The next morning he was still wet.

Morning after morning he would wake up happy but soaked through. I felt horrible that he was covered in pee not to mention annoyed about stripping his crib every day. I began the quest to buy every nighttime diaper on the market. All shapes. All sizes. The UPS guy was at my house every morning with a new package containing hope of an answer. (Thank goodness for Amazon Prime).

I tried size 2, size 3, size 4. Pampers. Huggies. Luvs. Off brand. Diaper booster pads. Double diapering. I even put a heavy duty maxi (thanks postpartum kit…) as a liner. Nothing worked. In the back of my mind I was panicked. He was only 6 months old! Would he be in Depends at 18 months?

Per usual, I scoured the blogs and forums for someone else with a super soaker like Graham. And then I found an interesting solution: cloth diapers. Now, back when I was pregnant, I announced to my family that I planned to cloth diaper. This proclamation was received with some snickers and “Why?”. I realistically assessed our current living situation and our terrible washer and dryer and decided that we probably weren’t properly equipped for handling cloth diapers at the moment. So I was secretly thrilled to head out to Bye Bye Baby and purchase two adorable Bum Genius 4.0 diapers. I got one with velcro and one with snaps to be safe. I figured snaps would be more durable but velcro more customizable in terms of fit. Turns out, I was bang on. I also picked up an extra pack of microfiber inserts.

I have always been leery of the amount of work washing cloth diapers seemed to be. I turned to my favorite mommy advice resource, Amalah, and proceeded to read all of her cloth diapering posts. I also followed her care guidelines because we seem to have a similar approach to overly fussy instructions. Just do what works.

The following morning I raced in upon hearing Graham’s first peep and was thrilled to find that he was happy and DRY.

We’ve been cloth diapering overnight since then and never looked back. I have 4 diapers on hand and wash them plus 2  inserts per night every 3 days. To me it’s not really extra work, per say, since the other option was washing jammies, sheets, mattress protector, etc each morning. And now that we’re in our new house outfitted with our very own new washer and dryer, I’m considering doing cloth full time.

The only slight hiccup was a few weeks ago, when Graham had a growth spurt (I suspect) and started leaking minimally by the morning. I went to a local cloth diaper boutique and asked for some expert advice. She told me what I’d already considered – I needed some guidance getting the best fit and also needed to substitute a hemp insert for one of the two microfiber ones I’d been using. Also she showed me how to layer the microfiber insert over the hemp insert and fold over the ends to provide extra protection up front where boys (and tummy sleepers) need it.

It’s been smooth sailing since my visit to Comfy Bummies (Naperville) and I am seriously considering adding to my tiny cloth diaper stash and dipping my toe in full time cloth diaper. After we go through the mountains of disposable overnight diapers I’ve accumulated, of course.

 

 

Sleep Training: Part Two {Naps}

Seeing as it is now nearly April, it’s high time that I update on our sleep training.

Specifically,  naps. This is a topic where I found very little guidance and advice online or in books. I decided to tackle night and day sleep training simultaneously. We also transitioned Graham into his big crib and unswaddled him all in one fell swoop. Ripping off the band-aid and whatnot. We only had one long stretch of days where hubby would be off work to help so we just went all in.

Naps have been an ongoing battle and usually something he would boycott 1/3 of the day. I have continued to follow the EASY schedule (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You) and have recently adjusted Graham’s wake time to 2 hours. That means when we’re nearing an hour and forty-five minutes awake, we head to the nursery, change his diaper, put on his sleep sack, turn out the light, and turn on the white noise. I sway and sing to him for approximately three rounds of Rock A Bye Baby and then lay him down with a kiss and pat on the back. Generally he’ll flip to his side or tummy and start sucking on his sleep sack until he conks out. Some days he will still protest and fuss for 10-15 minutes and then fall asleep. And then there are the bad days when he is awake and fussing or playing for the whole hour. I stick to the original principal that he is in his crib for an hour – to sleep or play or cry or any combination.

Until about 3 weeks ago, naps were still a gamble. Sometimes he’d take all three, sometimes two, and then the rare dark day when he’d only take one. My rule of thumb for unpredictable napping is the same as the way I started: he’s in there for an hour. If he wakes early or simply doesn’t sleep, after an hour in the crib I’ll get him up, feed him, change him, and try again in an hour.

For the past week, Graham has been waking up unusually early from his nap – around the 30-45 minute mark. He usually averages three 1-1.5 hour naps per day with bedtime between 5:30-6:30. I was just going in to get him when he started stirring and chalked the early waking up to teething or a growth spurt. But two days ago, I just left him there to see what happened. And you know what? He settled back down and slept another hour and a half! For whatever reason, his first sleep cycle has been rousing him but he is able to get past it and resume the nap. With the exception of an odd day here or there (usually ill-timed when we have an outing planned!), he’s been sleeping at least an hour for his first nap, 1.5-2.5 for his second, and another hour or so in the afternoon. It is magical.

I think a major factor in successful napping is finding the optimal wake time length for your child at their age. I recently tweaked Graham’s wake time from 1.5 to 2 hours because he was just refusing to nap. I figured that he needed a little extra play time and voila! 2 hours was the sweet spot for 6-7 months.

The other benefit to sleep training has been Graham’s car rides. We have struggled since birth with him screaming in the car. Yes, this is completely atypical for a baby. Everyone always said, “but babies love the car – it puts them to sleep!” to which we rolled our eyes and continued to dread taking him anywhere. I’m assuming that because Graham learned that he could settle and self-soothe when he was tired, he no longer freaked out in the car seat when a “normal” baby would just take a nap. Feeling confident that you can leave the house without driving through a meltdown is not something I take for granted.

Honestly, when I wrote my previous sleep training post in January, I wondered if Graham would ever be a good napper. I spent many hours hunched over the monitor willing him to stop crying and go to sleep. None of this has been easy, but after exhausting every other option, it’s obvious that cry it out worked for our family and has been well worth all of the effort. I’ve come to terms with the fact that Graham has been a “high need” baby and the first three months of his life were miserable at times. But sleep training absolutely changed everything. The stressful days of holding him for naps are now a faint memory. Some days I considered having a meal or putting him down long enough to pee an accomplishment. This is what being a first-time parent is about, right? You just have to figure out what works for your family and keep at it.

 

{6 months}

Dear Graham,

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I am woefully overdue for your 6 month letter…considering you’ll be 7 months in two days! This month was filled with milestones, struggles, and triumphs. One of the most difficult things that we went through was your 6 month doctor’s visit. We found out that you weren’t growing like you should and had lost weight in the past 3 months. I was devastated and scared. The doctor gave us 2 weeks to get your weight up by at least 1/2 a pound before we’d have to do a full battery of tests. I’ll save this for another post but long story short, you switched over to formula that day and stopped nursing by the next full day. But at your appointment 10 days later, you’d gained a whole pound! Baby boy, you love to eat.

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This month in addition to figuring out the delicate balance and type of formula, we started purees. I had it in my head that we’d do baby led weaning, but like most things child-related, things didn’t quite go as planned. Nonetheless you gobble up pouches of food like it’s your last meal. Your first favorite was sweet peas with mint but have since moved on to also enjoying sweet potatoes, broccoli, peas, & pears, and carrots, parsnips, & apple. You’ll try a few spoonfuls of the puree that I lovingly made in the Vitamix but evidently still prefer the silky smooth texture of the packaged food. I am eager and nervous to try other foods and textures but have a feeling once you get the hang of it, you’ll love eating all sorts of things!

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You have completely mastered rolling every which way but frequently get frustrated on your tummy because you’re dying to chase Rory & Lola or reach for a remote and can’t quite figure out how to get moving in the right direction. Try as you might, you seem to scoot backwards. I have a feeling you’ll be crawling everywhere in a matter of weeks and the cats won’t know what turned their lives upside down.

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Lately your favorite activity is the jumperoo – we’ve had it for a month or so but only recently did you realize you could bounce and shriek with delight. We are very ready to move out of this tiny apartment so we can expand your activity toy selection. You also picked out a toy lion (ironically named Rory) while we were shopping at TJ Maxx and you love to squeeze and chew on her while riding in the car. You also spotted a bright orange mama & baby fox stuffed toy set at IKEA and favor those.

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Everywhere we go, you smile and flirt with anyone in sight. People love to talk to you and always say how beautiful you are. And many times they mistake you for a girl in spite of my best efforts to dress you in clearly masculine outfits. You love to check out people in restaurants and make eye contact with anyone who glances your way. We have braved several restaurant outings this month with varying degrees of cooperation. I imagine once you’re a bit bigger, you’ll enjoy sitting in the high chair and having a meal with us.

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Since sleep training at 5 months, we haven’t had too many hiccups or regressions. You were sleeping from 6 p.m. – 7 a.m. like clockwork…until we switched to formula. You had a week were no matter what sort of MacGyvering we attempting with night time diapers and liners, you were soaked through and waking up at 4:45 every morning for a week. I spent hours poring over forums online looking for the holy grail of heavy wetters and finally tried a cloth diaper. It worked like a charm and we haven’t looked back. Except we’re still trying to break the 4:45 a.m. habit. I’d settle for 6 a.m. but 4:30 is a bit much. You’ve also greatly improved in settling yourself for a nap. At 2 hours of wake time, I put you in a sleep sack and briefly cuddle and sing to you and you’ll usually fall asleep within 10 minutes without much protest. Gone are the days of fussing for what seemed like an eternity! Lately you’ll wake after 25 minutes but I let you settle back down and you’ll typically nap for another hour or more. Thank goodness for our video monitor or I’d constantly go in to get you too soon!

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It’s completely surreal that you are more than half a year old. I know I’ll say this in every letter and probably every year of your life, but I can’t believe how quickly time passes and I can’t imagine my life without you. You’re the best little sidekick I could ask for.

Love you forever & always,

Mama

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Nicknames: Gray, Grammy Boo Boo, Peanut, Boo Boo, Squirt

Likes: eating solid foods, holding your bottle, laying on your back and kicking/flailing all limbs and laughing, jumperoo, practicing standing and sitting, chewing on fingers, cuddles, remote controls, watching the cats, baths & sucking on the washcloth

Dislikes: long car rides, changing clothes, being out of sight of mom & dad, empty bottles

Skills: scooting backward, “standing”, jumping, reaching for objects, practicing pincher grasp, learned when objects are behind, in front of, inside, etc. (like when I’m distracting him from an empty bottle or he’s craning his neck to look for Lola on the ground beside the rocker)

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{5 months}

Dear Graham,

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I can hardly believe that you are 5 months old. I know that I have said that the past few months and will likely continue to say it as the days, weeks, months keep whizzing past. I was watching videos of you at two and three months last night and cannot believe how much you’ve changed. You’re a little boy now…not a wobbly, tiny newborn. You have such a happy personality and love to smile and coo at everyone you see. After months of colic and fussiness, you are only truly unhappy at nap time and when you are hungry. Can’t blame you for that.

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You always demand to have a clear view of the room. You love to survey your surroundings…tracking the pesky cats with your eyes (just wait until you can crawl!), following daddy’s voice from the kitchen, and watching everything. Recently you’ll sit on my lap and focus intently on my face, grabbing for my mouth or nose or studying a design on my shirt.

Your face is so expressive – I can’t take enough pictures of you to freeze all of our moments together. I’ve become “that mom” who is completely consumed with her sweet baby!

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You are rolling every which way like a pro. I love to watch you push up on your tummy and smile widely with pride. Lately you’ve started talking and babbling when in your swing or in the morning while you wake up. You have so much to say and I am coaxing you to say “mama”.

You are very interested in watching mommy and daddy eat. You’re only a short month away from being able to try solid foods yourself. I’m excited to watch you try new tastes and textures but treasure our time together while you eat. There is such a strong bond formed by nursing and while it is sometimes challenging, I know 6 months (short term goal) and then 12 months (stretch goal) will be here before I know it. I hope you like avocados and sweet potatoes like your mommy and aren’t a picky eater like daddy. Maybe you’ll surprise us and love peas!

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This month you learned how to sleep in your own room, in your big crib, and put yourself to sleep! We are so proud of you and truly didn’t expect that our frequent night waker would suddenly sleep 12-13 hours each night. I try to get you to nap three times a day (though I’m usually happy if you consent to two). Some days you go along with it and other times you roll around and chew on your jammies until nap time is over – it is definitely a work in progress.  We start bedtime around 5:30. By 6:30, you’re in bed and sleeping without so much as a peep and usually don’t wake again until 7:15. Amazing what a difference a month (and sleep training!) can make. We are all much happier and well-rested.

Daddy just got a new job and we are going to pack up and move to a brand new place in a brand new town. It’s strange to think that the next house we live in will be where you will learn to sit up, crawl, and perhaps take your first steps!

Love you forever and always,

Mama

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Nicknames: Gray, Grammy Boo Boo

Likes: Freddie the Firefly, chewing on everything, “petting” the kitties, Sophie the Giraffe, playing on the floor, swinging,

“talking”, diaper changes always make you laugh, cuddles, being carried around by daddy, lots of kisses, things that crinkle, putting your toes in your mouth, baths

Dislikes: car rides (though an iPad with Yo Gabba Gabba seems to help! We’ve had a few successful car rides this month…hoping it’s a trend), nap time, changing your clothes, having mommy and daddy out of sight, loud upstairs neighbors waking you up

Skills: self-soothing, rolling front to back, back to front, trying to do crunches, “standing”, grabbing toys, moving all around but not crawling yet

Sleep Training Part 1 {Days 1-5}

Since birth Graham has struggled with sleeping. Due to his excessive fussiness/colic he spent all of his naps in our arms and only knew how to fall asleep with a swaddle while being rocked – sometimes with a binky. Additionally, as new parents we didn’t know better than to put him into the cozy cocoon of the newborn napper part of the Pack N Play. While it was comforting and handy for a newborn, he became dependent on slightly elevated sleeping and refused to sleep in his crib. For the past 4.5 months Graham has slept at the most 7 hours at night but after the dreaded 4 month sleep regression it was more like 2-3 hours all night long. I was exhausted and my nerves were wearing thin. Suddenly all of our old soothing tricks didn’t work and getting him to sleep became a nightmare and was becoming increasingly lengthy. Enter sleep training.

In my quest to figure out how to help Graham learn to self-soothe I read all the big names in infant sleep: Ferber, Hogg, Pantley, Karp, and Weissbluth. I pored over blogs and forums in search of someone with a child of similar temperament to Graham. My son will cry at the top of his lungs for the entire 45 minute drive to my parents’ house without missing a beat. The “horror stories” on the forums recounted 10 whole minutes of crying before the baby fell asleep. That was not my child.

I was convinced that attempting cry it out would result in a few nights of endless hours of screaming without improvement. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention all the helpful people on baby sleep forums brow beating sleep deprived parents who have tried EVERYTHING saying that they are child abusers for using the “let cry” method. That’s extraordinarily helpful while I’m frantically searching for help. I believe that cry it out can be an effective method and we monitored Graham with our video monitor. If he needed our help, we wouldn’t have hesitated. But in short he was pissed off that he didn’t know how to fall asleep without his props. I don’t know that I could have taken the approach of “put the baby in bed at 7 p.m. and don’t open the door until 7 a.m.” but that is each parent’s decision and I respect that.

First things first – the schedule. A few months ago I began to organize Graham’s day according to the EASY schedule. This seemed to be a common thread between all sorts of sleep training guides. It’s simple: Eat, Activity, Sleep & You. This way I was breaking the cycle of nursing = sleep.

Graham has only napped in my arms and I was lucky to get him past his 20 & 45 minute sleep cycles and resettled. An hour nap was a major feat. He could be completely asleep, mouth agape, and the moment I placed him into his napper his eyes popped open. So every day I spent hours rocking and holding my breath that a muscle twitch wouldn’t wake him up.

I spent a particularly awful 6 day stretch with Graham while Travis worked a long rotation and had literally come to an impasse. As guilty and terrible as I felt about trying cry it out, I knew that I was not being a good mother, Graham was overtired with circles under his eyes, and our family had to make a change. I had already moved his Pack N Play from our room to his nursery the week prior and he didn’t seem to mind. In fact I think he was sleeping better and we were thrilled at the prospect of going to bed without tiptoeing and worrying that rustling the duvet would disturb Graham.  I decided to go about unswaddling and sleeping in the big crib all at once with the self soothing. Graham had just learned to roll both ways and his days being swaddled were over.

On Saturday night we gave ourselves a pep talk and were ready for a few hours of wailing. We set off to bunker down in the bedroom to catch up on DVR without disturbing Graham. He cried for 5 minutes, fussed for 15 and then was asleep. We looked at the monitor in disbelief. Was he alive? He had flipped to his tummy and was sleeping practically face down in the mattress. We had been ready for an eternal battle only to find Graham was clearly ready for this.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re on Day 5 and still having major struggles during the day. Everything I’d read said that night time sleep training happens first and then day time sleep takes some time to work itself out. As I’m typing Graham is fussing and trying to settle for his second nap of the day. Listening to him cry is still torture every time. But yesterday afternoon (after skipping two naps) Graham surprised us by falling asleep after nearly an hour of fussing for 2.5 hours! And he took a fourth nap lasting an hour. Last night he went to bed without a peep. We heard him wake up at 10:15 but since it hadn’t been four hours between feedings I decided to watch the monitor and see if he could put himself back to sleep. He did and then slept nearly 13 hours. He has NEVER done that before. The best part? He woke up talking and cooing. This morning he succumbed to a morning nap for the first time since we began and after 52 minutes of fussing, he slept for over an hour.

I think the most important thing regarding sleep and nap training is consistency and guidelines. We set clear parameters so there would be no debate in the wee hours of the morning where desperation usually takes over. We agreed that he if woke up before 4 hours between feedings, he needed to go back to sleep without intervention. At nap time, he was to stay in the crib for an hour to cry or sleep or both. More than once he’s gotten to the last ten minutes of his hour and conked out. It takes a lot of self control to let him cry but his progress reaffirms that what we’re doing is working.

I definitely couldn’t imagine going through sleep training without a video monitor. I’m certainly glad I insisted on getting the top of the line model so we can move the camera without going into the room. Graham moves all over the crib and I have peace of mind that I constantly have an eye and ear on him.

Travis goes back to work on Saturday so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that night sleep continues to go well. I swear Graham can sense when Travis is gone and always ends up fussier than usual.

That’s all for now but I’ll update as we continue with sleep training.