Sleep Training: The Saga Continues....

Just when you think you have it all figured out....

Juna's got our number. At three months old, she is already putting it together and making associations. She knows now that swaddling + shush/pat = the dreaded nap. After our week of sleep-educating her, she decided she would no longer respond to our program. It began taking longer and longer to get her down for naps. She'd cry and cry being held over the shoulder until finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she would quickly fall asleep. As soon as she felt a shift in gravity towards the crib, she'd cry, and as soon as you picked her back up again, she'd fall asleep, exhausted, on your shoulder. It took about four cycles of this before she'd stay asleep in the crib, but would wake thirty to forty minutes later, upset and miserable.

It only took a couple of days of this before I declared a cease-fire on the nap battle. Bradford and I decided we would do more rocking, walking and bouncing to see if we could get her into a peaceful drowsy state while putting her down. I would nurse her to drowsiness, then transition her. This worked beautifully. We got some wonderful, long naps and life seemed happy again. For three days. Until, of course, Juna figured out our ploy. She began to fight her naps even with the much gentler (more time consuming) ways of getting her to sleep. This has resulted in lots of crying (from the both of us!), and an overtired baby.

Even our nighttime routine, which I thought we had down-pat, has been disrupted. I used to be able to nurse her and put her in her crib awake or asleep and count on her sleeping four to six hours. It now takes about forty-five minutes to get her to sleep at night, and I have to go in usually thirty minutes later to resettle her. She is waking three to five times during the night to eat, play or get her diaper changed. What gives?? Growth spurt? Teething? Sheer determination to stay awake and take on the world? We are in the midst of an economic crisis after all...

Bradford and I have had many discussions about the best way to proceed. Juna needs sleep, and so do we. If she slept great in our bed, our arms, her vibrating chair, her swing, the car or the stroller, I would have no problems using those as tools to help our precious girl get some rest, but she fights sleep no matter where or when. Despite appearances, she sleeps best and deepest on her own and in her own space, so we persevere.

This weekend was particularly trying as Bradford was out of town for three days, leaving me to tackle all naps and nighttime sleeps by myself. I vowed to stay relaxed and calm, and go with the flow. Upon advice from a friend, I decided that whatever it took to get Juna and I some rest, I would do. My first full day, I nursed her down for every nap, and it worked brilliantly. She even slept for two hours in the afternoon. I was thrilled! I found something that worked! Bedtime was not as successful, and she woke four times in the night to eat. Sunday was less victorious; she took three twenty-minute naps, and was miserable for much of the day. We had the worst night we've had since she was born, with five wake-ups that took at least 45-minutes for her to eat and get back to sleep. Finally, at 5:30a.m. Juna decided it was time to get up for the day. So, I've been up since then, going on maybe four hours sleep, as I have been every day for the past few weeks. Thankfully, Bradford has returned to share the burden of naptime, and the joys of Juna's happy awake time.

I wish I had some philosophical insight to share on what we're learning from this experience, or why this is making me a better person and mother. Instead, I will just say that this sucks. It's hard and it's exhausting, and it's heart-breaking to watch a little person that you love so much in pain from lack of sleep. We feel like we are back at the beginning, and have no idea where to go from here, so we are going to work the original plan, adjusting as we see fit for special circumstances. It feels like something we are all going to have to just outgrow, and to stave off the extreme anxiety I feel over Juna's sleep habits, I tell myself that this will pass. In the meantime, we are enjoying Juna's new developments: her sweet little voice babbling all day (and night) long, her fascination with her hands and feet, laughing at the cute baby in the mirror, singing along to Mommy's silly songs...  As eager as I am for this sleep phase to be over with, I wouldn't mind if this little baby phase lasted awhile longer...

who could resist this sweet face???


Sleep Training: Summary

It has been a long and interesting week here at the Anderson home. Bradford and I have learned so much about sleep, patience, commitment and awareness. Even though we are still hard at work to help Juna with naps, our lives feel more peaceful and less chaotic. Now, when challenges arise, we have an arsenal of tools at our disposal. We are not experts, that's for sure, but I wanted to share with you some things we found helpful this week:

1. PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE! Don't go in too early, or leave too soon.... In our rush to get Juna to sleep, we weren't always allowing her the time and space to try to fall asleep on her own. With the first sound, or even when we'd see her squirm, we'd rush in to 'save' the nap. Now, we give her a good 10 minutes to figure it out by herself, unless of course she's crying hard. By the same token, we used to give up too early. If she cried a little, we'd change tactics right away, rather than waiting her out. As long as you know Baby is fed, clean, dry and burped, you can be sure s/he is fighting you because this is a new and different way to fall asleep. It takes time to learn any new skill! Once she's down, don't rush away just yet. Give it a few minutes with your hand on his or her chest and some gentle shush'ing until you are sure Baby is relaxed (we do this for naps, but for bedtime, we just take off and that works for us!).

2. Confidence! Choose a plan that works for your family. Just because one technique worked for your friend, doesn't mean it will work for you. In fact, one technique may have worked for your older child, but is not working for this one! Decide how much crying you can take, how much time you can devote and what your goals are by the end of the training. If you're happy co-sleeping and the whole family is getting the appropriate rest, wonderful! If you want baby in his or her crib and in their own room now, fantastic! Once you've decided how you want to approach your sleep training, be confident in your decision. The only true goal is a happy, rested family, so do what works for all of you, and forget the naysayers.

3. Support. My husband and I did this together, with the additional support of Sasha, our pediatrician and readers like you! Support works in two ways: it gives you a boost when you feel discouraged, and also makes you accountable. It is so easy to give up when the going gets tough, but just when you want to quit is usually when things get better. Sasha reminded us of that this entire week, and I'm so glad we stuck it out. Find support wherever you can, and make sure that person or people are truly behind your efforts. Having someone in your home who can take the duty of a nap or two is immensely helpful, especially if you're a single parent. Don't feel like you have to go it alone!

4. See the Big Picture. It's easy to say "this nap isn't working, this child needs sleep, I'll do whatever it takes to get her to rest", and then you're stuck with a baby in your arms, on your boob or in your bed. When we have a failed nap, I try and remind myself that this one nap isn't that important. The process is. Know that the week or two you devote to sleep training is going to be challenging, exhausting and frustrating. You will want to quit, you will feel it doesn't work. Instead of seeing that moment as a failure, look at it as practice for the next time. Assess what wasn't working: was your shush too aggressive, your pat too fast? Did you wait too long before put down, did you put down too early? Did you miss the 'sleep window'? Resolve to try again at the next sleep period. You are devoting this time now so your baby learns to fall asleep on her own. What a wonderful gift to give your child!

5. Be practical. Make sure Baby is fed, dry, burped, well-swaddled and comfortable before trying to put him or her down during your sleep training. Keep the room your child sleeps in cool, quiet and dark, with fresh sheets and fresh air. Don't try and do too much this week. Stay home, rest when baby rests, order take-out, leave the laundry. These little things are practical ways to save yourself a lot of stress.

I wish you all the best in your sleep journey. I wish you and your family peaceful days and restful nights.  Thank you for the support you've given me as we work towards getting Juna some sleep. This is just the beginning, but I feel hopeful and encouraged by our progress this week. If anyone is interested in learning more details about our plan, or would like information about our consultant, please feel free to contact me.

Back in the day when Juna would sleep anywhere..... 


Sleep Training: Day VI and Night VII

Last night was the first time in weeks that Juna had only one wake-up. After discussing her three wake-up habit with Sasha, we determined that should she wake up before two or after four (assuming she ate for the dreamfeed and once between two and four), we would not feed her, and do the shush pat instead. I loathed the possibility of a huge crying fit in the middle of the night, so I was determined to make sure she had some really good meals to tide her over in hopes she wouldn't wake up. Voila! It worked! I realized what I had been doing wrong: instead of giving Juna a real 'meal' I was just nursing her back to sleep. This time at the dreamfeed I was a little more aggressive in getting her to eat from both sides for at least 7 minutes. She didn't wake again until 2:45 (a vast improvement from 12:45!). I again made sure she ate well, and included a diaper change in between sides so I could nurse her down. She went back to sleep at 3:15a.m. and didn't wake up until 6:30!! Success!

This was Juna's demeanor this morning:

And then it was time for our first morning nap. Bradford did the honors, and what we got was an hour, yes, an hour, of frantic screaming. He'd get her calm, and go to set her down in the crib, she'd jerk herself awake and start howling again. After an hour, a very frustrated Bradford came downstairs, and I nursed her to sleep in my arms for 20 minutes. We had her 3-month pediatrician appointment today, and since she normally has a meltdown there, I wanted her to get at least a little rest. 

The good news: Juna's a healthy girl! We talked to our pediatrician about our sleep training efforts, which she commended, and mentioned the difficulty we'd had getting her down for naps the past two days. She asked about my caffeine intake..... ooops. I have a small but strong addiction to Diet Coke (I know, no lectures please! We all need a vice, and now that ice cream is out...). I had been drinking caffeine-free for a couple weeks, and decided to get the good stuff to help with my exhaustion from all the night wakings the past few days. Big mistake. According to our ped, some babies are extremely sensitive to caffeine. What a shock: our baby is! It's an easy fix, no more caffeine or delicious ice cream for Mommy. New vice suggestions welcome.... 

Juna fell asleep in her carseat (miracle!) and we transferred her right to her swaddle and crib when we got home. It took her awhile to settle, but we just left her alone in her crib to work it out and once she did, she slept for an hour and a half! She was a happy girl upon waking, and since the day was going so well, I decided to get a half-hour massage down the street. Bradford stayed home with the baby, and put her down for a little catnap around 3:00 as she was a bit fussy. She again fought the nap, though not quite with the gusto she had before, and slept again for another hour. She and I had a lovely afternoon together while Daddy went to watch 'the game' (there's always a game...), and after a walk around the neighborhood, we started our bedtime routine. 

Bedtime was uneventful. Bath, massage, jammies and dinner, then into her crib awake but drowsy. She passed out cold after about four minutes. No crying. No fussing. What a dream! I hope tonight goes as well as last night. Tomorrow, we are going to try and get back on track with our naps. We talked to Sasha about her napping trials today, and she assured us that naps are the hardest to nail down. She also said we should feel great that bedtime is going so well, and eventually that will carry over into her daytime sleep. Overall, it's been a long, but satisfying, week, and we have seen so much improvement, both in sleep and temperament. It could be that Juna hit that magic 12-week mark on Monday, but I know much of her happiness stems from better rest, both in quantity and quality. 

Juna's afternoon demeanor. Happy baby now! 


Sleep Training: Day V and Night VI

We had a rough start to the day, and Juna fought all three of her naps, finally giving in and sleeping for 90 minutes during her catnap time. I allowed her to sleep, since she seemed extra fussy today, and I want to reinforce her moving through that 40-minute transition on her own. I watched her roll around, open her eyes a bit and then resettle herself. It was a proud moment for me!

We're not sure what caused her fussiness today. It may have been the late wake-up (7:50a.m.) or the poor sleep we got last night. She had three wake-ups at 12:40a.m., 4:30a.m. and 5:30a.m. and we had a very difficult time getting her back to sleep.

We have our three-month appointment with the pediatrician tomorrow, so it should be interesting to see how her naps are affected by this disruption in the routine.

Not much time to blog tonight... one of the advantages of having a schedule is knowing that Juna will be asleep around seven. We are having a friend over for dinner!

Good morning! Mama and Juna in our PJs. 


Sleep Training: Day IV and Night V

We saw very similar patterns last night, with Juna still waking three times. I did a dreamfeed at 10:30p.m. followed by a very easy put down, but she still woke up at 1:10am and again at 4:30a.m. for snacks. She then woke at 5:30a.m. for no discernible reason, but put herself back to sleep until 7:30a.m. So, we had a late wake up this morning (Mama was happy about that!), which means our routine is pushed back by half an hour. Juna now lets me know she's awake by laughing out loud. What a beautiful way to start our day! I vowed today to be more relaxed with the 'schedule', and only watch the clock to make sure she was awake about 1.5 hours at a time. 

I have a confession to make: I cheated on our morning nap. Juna got a little fussy when I started swaddling her to go down, so I nursed her for five minutes. She calmed right down, and we still did the over the shoulder shush/pat. After minimal fussing, and no crying, she pretty much fell asleep on my shoulder. I put her down in the crib and she fell easily back to sleep. Of course, forty minutes later she started stirring, so I began working on the nap extension by doing shush/pat on her tummy until she fell back asleep. After about five minutes, I took my hand away and waited until she stirred again, and then repeated the process. The third time I took my hand away, she awoke and this time started crying. I picked her up, and started to soothe her by walking. Then over the shoulder. Then tried the pacifier. Then walking again. Then I remembered that I was doing exactly what I wasn't supposed to by being inconsistent! I bagged the nap, took her downstairs and vowed to keep it simpler next time. 

I am proud to announce that we have finally extended a nap to an hour-and-a-half! Her late morning nap, which was supposed to be about noon, started at 11:40a.m. today. Juna is just now starting to show drowsy signs, which makes it much easier to go with her routine rather than imposing a schedule. She got a little fussy, and again I gave her a five minute snack, shush/pat and down in about ten minutes total, no crying. I went in at thirty minutes to do a fake pick up/put down, but it didn't work, and she began to stir at forty minutes. I put my hand on her tummy and did the shush/pat like I did before, but I stayed for about fifteen minutes until she had fallen into a deep sleep. It worked! She slept for a little over an hour-and-a-half. 

We started our bedtime routine a little early tonight as she was fussy, and I experimented with putting her down awake and leaving the room. She chatted to herself for about twenty minutes and then started fussing and crying a little. I went back into the room and did the shush/pat on her tummy (without taking her out of the crib) for about five minutes, and she fell asleep. It's a miracle! If you had told me five days ago that we would have such an easy time getting this baby to sleep, I would've laughed at you. Bradford and I feel so relieved and relaxed. Our evenings alone together are so much more enjoyable now that we're not worried about getting Juna to stay asleep. I don't panic about our days anymore because I know exactly what our routine should be and how to give Juna the rest she needs. 

I am looking forward to a restful night and a great day tomorrow, with hopefully two nap extensions and more smiling, happy times with Juna! 


Sleep Training: Day III and Night IV

We took steps forward last night with a successful dreamfeed at 11:00p.m., and no wake up until 2:10a.m. I think Juna would've settled back to sleep, but our dog was pacing around and then scampered across the hardwood, which startled the baby. We briefly considered throwing the dog out the window.... It did remind me of our experience "sleep training" Huck when he was a puppy. We brought Huck home at the tender age of twelve weeks, and for the first six months, we were completely erratic in his training, especially at night. We tried crate training, but he cried so much I couldn't stand it and would take him out after a few minutes. We tried teaching him to sleep in his own little bed, but he wouldn't fall asleep, instead he'd run around the room and pee in the middle of the night. Every day we'd try something different, and the result was a very confused puppy. Sound familiar?

We eventually taught him to sleep in his own bed next to ours, but it was a long, drawn out process that took almost a year. Hopefully we will have more success with Juna, whose sleep is a priority for me for her health and well-being! She had an early wake up this morning (6:10a.m.). Baby Ninja managed to get a hand out of her swaddle (how?!). Because of the early wakeup, things have been rough today. I gave her a snack when she woke, then put her back in her crib for another half an hour while she babbled. We got her up at 7:00a.m. like usual and she ate again. She seemed pretty tired around 8:15a.m. so instead of waiting until 8:30, we put her down early. Getting her to sleep for that first nap was a struggle, taking about 15 minutes with lots of crying. Once again, she awoke at exactly 40 minutes (we forgot to do the fake pickup/putdown), and it took about fifteen minutes to get her back to sleep. I then let her sleep until 10:15 instead of 10:00. We kept her 11:30a.m. naptime on schedule, and that again was a big struggle, and again she awoke after a mere forty minutes and refused to go back to sleep.

I called Sasha for support and to inquire about the early wake up. I knew that we probably should've handled it differently, which is why today didn't go as well. She told me that we should have let Juna get up at 6:10 a.m. and then adjusted the schedule accordingly, so everything happened a bit earlier. We fought so hard to stay with her scheduled waking/eating times that we forgot to watch Juna and see what she needed (I believe there's a life lesson there...). She also said it's completely normal to feel like we've taken a step back, and that it often happens at this stage in the training. The important thing is to continue to be consistent and know that it WILL work. It takes time to learn a new skill, especially for a little baby!

Because of that, I put her down early for her 3:00 catnap. I started at 2:40, but she didn't fall asleep until 3:00. She cried and screamed and fought me, but I kept telling myself not to get worked up, to send her a lot of loving energy, and stay calm. Eventually, she gave up and melted into me, and I was able to put her down still a little bit awake. This nap is meant to last forty-five minutes only (it's in bold-faced type on our detailed schedule), and of course, this is the one time she jumped the forty-minute nap intruder! I watched her stir, open her eyes slightly, and settle herself right back down. What's a mom to do? Even though it goes against the rules, I decided to let her sleep awhile longer, hoping to reinforce this new skill. I knew I might regret it later, but from my reading I know that sleep begets sleep, and as my father says "never wake a sleeping baby"!

Juna woke up exactly an hour-and-a-half later, much happier than her earlier wake ups. We had a lovely afternoon walk, and it was once again time for her nighttime routine. We've found it works best if I take the nighttime put down, since I'm already holding her drowsy from nursing. Transferring her to Bradford seems to stimulate and upset her. She had a good long feed, and once swaddled, settled easily on my shoulder (no crying!). I didn't feel like I needed to do the shush/pat very long, since she was already relaxed, so I put her right in the crib. I patted her little belly for about a minute until her eyes closed, then turned off the light and sat in the chair next to her crib. She chatted and babbled for a good ten minutes, and gradually got quieter and quieter. Still no crying, but I didn't think she was completely asleep. I felt good about putting her down this awake. During the day, she screams practically the minute you set her down, so we have to get her almost asleep before putting her in the crib, and then we have to shush/pat for another ten minutes until she falls asleep. Tonight, I felt like I really did the technique the way we're supposed to, and though it actually takes quite a bit longer for her to fall asleep than her naps, she is really putting herself to sleep on her own. I'm hopeful that eventually, she will transfer this knowledge to her daytime rests!

Even though today was much harder than the previous couple days in terms of getting her to sleep, she is still sleeping more hours a day than before we started this program. She is now getting between twelve and fourteen hours a day, a marked improvement from her previous ten or eleven hours. We also can count on at least three forty-minute naps and an earlier bedtime, and that predictability is wonderful for all of us. Juna's temperament during the day remains happier, more relaxed and alert. We are now able to play with her more now that we aren't spending half of her awake time soothing her with pacing and bouncing. Bradford and I still feel great about our progress, despite the setbacks we experienced today.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's journey as I attempt to do this on my own while Bradford goes to work. Should be interesting....
happy, relaxed Juna! 


Sleep Training: Day II and Night III

What a difference three nights makes....

Today started off well, with a happy, smiling Juna, and equally happy, smiling parents! Her late morning nap required only twelve minutes of held crying, and one ten-minute intervention at the forty-minute mark by Bradford to get her back to sleep, for a total of one-and-a-half hours. She hasn't napped that long in weeks!

We determined I should again put her down for her afternoon catnap, and in the spirit of consistency, I ventured to use the new technique. I'll admit I was nervous, seeing as how my usual reaction to Juna's crying is utter and absolute panic and sadness, but I surprised myself. I held her as she writhed in her swaddle, lightly patted her back and whispered "shhhhh" over and over. She eventually relaxed into me after only ten minutes, and five minutes later I laid her down in her crib. I continued to pat her belly and whisper "shhhh", and watched as her little eyes fluttered and closed. It took a grand total of fifteen minutes! I stayed for an extra ten to make sure she was really asleep, and then tiptoed downstairs, victorious!  She again slept for only forty-five minutes, but that was the perfect length for a catnap.

We went to the park again today, and Juna was a doll the whole time. It felt so good to be out in the world and not be worried about her getting upset. One thing about this routine that works really well for us is the scheduled feeding. She eats with more intention at each feeding, because they're spaced out by an extra half hour (we used to feed approximately every two- to two-and-a-half hours, sometimes less, sometimes more). We are able to leave the house for a half an hour and know that she will not need to eat for that time. I am also able to pump more regularly, since I don't have to worry that pumping will interfere with her next feeding. This will enable me to get out every now and again.

Tonight, after Juna's last feeding, I made a last minute decision to put her down myself. She was already relaxed in my arms, so I swaddled her up and sat down ready for the fight. It only took about five minutes of her fussing, no crying, before she settled herself against my shoulder. I put her down in her crib, eyes wide open, continued to pat her tummy and shush her, and within two minutes she had closed her eyes. I sat down in the chair next to her crib and listened to her little sighs and rustling around, and then, miraculously, heard her breath become more even and shallow. I crept downstairs and she has been asleep ever since. That was almost three-and-a-half hours ago! I am going to try the dreamfeed again and see if we can lengthen her nighttime sleep.

Now, we are not out of the woods yet, but considering we have been executing our plan only two days and three nights, this is excellent progress! Juna seems much happier and more relaxed, though that could be because she is expending an incredible amount of energy to learn her new sleeping technique. The predictability of her day seems to agree with her; she doesn't seem panicked about when she'll be eating or resting next, and enjoys our little activities with clear, bright eyes and a calm demeanor. I'm actually looking forward to seeing how tonight goes!
Ready to go to the park! 

Sleep Training: Day I & Night II

Last night went really well. We are instructed to do a 'dreamfeed' (where you feed the baby without waking her) around 10:30pm. Juna was in such a deep sleep, she didn't take her dreamfeed. I didn't want to push it, so I put her back down in her crib without her stirring. Her first wake up was at 2:00am (a five-hour sleep period) for an easy 10-minute feeding, then back to bed until 5:30am for another 10-minute feeding, with a wake up time of 6:45am (dirty diaper). We had a lovely, playful morning, and then it was time for the morning nap.

My husband is taking over all sleep-related duties for the next four days, and has requested that I leave the house during his time getting her to sleep. It's easier to do his job without feeling like I'm looking over his shoulder, which I completely understand. I haven't been the best at sharing the baby care since Juna was born, so he's been taking care of me instead by making our meals and cleaning the house (what a guy!). I am realizing slowly that this isn't the healthiest choice for our family. While sleep training isn't the ideal bonding situation, at least Juna and her Daddy are getting some alone time.

I am shocked at how relaxed I feel heading to Starbucks for some much-needed quiet time. Reading Yoga Journal and sipping my soy chai latte, I am, for the first time, not panicked about being away from Juna. Bradford has this situation under control, and while following our new plan, she won't feed for another hour and a half. Juna refuses, absolutely refuses, to take a bottle or pacifier, so I always feel like I have to be home just in case. For awhile, I believed she could only be soothed by me, either through nursing or simply being in my arms. Due to Juna's sensitive temperament, I became pretty much completely housebound, which was not good for either of us. I am learning to trust Bradford, and relinquish a little control.

Upon my return, Juna has been sleeping for twenty minutes after a twenty minute crying/soothing period. But then, like usual, she wakes at the forty-minute mark. We've tried the "wake to sleep" technique by going in at the thirty-minute mark and rousing her slightly then helping her go back down. It hasn't worked yet, but we'll keep trying.

We continue on our three-hour schedule to the minute (we want to be extremely consistent to see how she responds), and while naps are a battle with 10-20 minutes of crying (again, she is held the entire time), the day is peaceful otherwise. I'm not sure if she's just tired from letting off so much steam before her naps, but she is completely happy during her awake time. No fussing, no crying, and no soothing needed! We have a great time playing on her activity mat, sitting in the backyard, practicing sitting up in her bumbo seat and singing (Juna's new favorite thing!). Smiles are plentiful, and I've never heard her laugh so much before.

For her afternoon catnap, we are instructed to let her sleep anywhere we like. Bradford and I decide that I will relieve him of his duties for this nap, and after pacing with her swaddled upstairs for about 5 minutes she is so drowsy she can barely keep her eyes open. I lay down with her on our bed, and she passes out. We nap together for forty-minutes before, of course, she wakes. Since this is a catnap, that's the perfect amount of time, so we get up, eat and head to the park.

In my fantasy, before I had Juna, I daydreamed about the long walks we would take in the park as a family. Walking has always been one of my favorite things to do, and I haven't had the opportunity to do much of that since Juna was born. She usually fusses so much in her stroller or the wrap, it's not even worth it to upset her. We decide to chance it, since it's been such a good day, and we have a full two hours before her bedtime wind down routine.

We drive to the park, Bradford, Huck the dog, Juna the Baby and I. I put her in the stroller, and we make it a full two laps around the park with Juna happy and quiet the entire time. This feels like a huge victory, and Bradford and I are both very encouraged. She relaxes in her carseat on the way home, no screaming, no fussing, and we have a delightful bathtime and evening wind down, and she's so tired I have a hard time keeping her awake while she nurses.

It's bedtime again, and I head to the grocery store while Bradford does the hard work. He later reports that it took twenty-five minutes for her to settle, but then he put her in the crib with her eyes open, and it took only five minutes for her to close her eyes and go to sleep ON HER OWN! He goes in at the forty-minute mark to do a fake pick up/put down (per Sasha's suggestion) and she doesn't stir. Bradford and I enjoy watching The Mentalist and eating dinner together. One benefit of this plan is I can now have a glass of wine with my meal, since we are no longer nursing her to sleep! (FYI: it takes about 90 minutes for alcohol to peak in your blood, so a good 2-3 hours is plenty of time for it to leave your system before breastfeeding). After a delicious merlot and a piece of dark chocolate (I'm on a no-dairy diet for Juna), I am ready to tackle the dreamfeed.

I head up at 10:30, and pick her up from her crib. Like last night, she doesn't latch on to feed, so after trying for two-to-three minutes, I put her back down. I hear her stirring and starting to awaken, so I quickly pick her up and give her a ten-minute snack, during which she falls right back to sleep. I plop her down in her crib asleep, and turn in myself. We don't hear from Juna until 1:40am. Our 'rules' state we should wait to feed her until between two and four a.m., so we try for just a minute or two to resettle her, but she is clearly mad. A dirty diaper has foiled our carefully constructed night! I feed her right after her diaper change, and she goes easily back to sleep. Awake again at 4:40am for a snack, and back to sleep until 6:45am. All in all, a good night, though I didn't see a discernible difference in doing a dreamfeed.

This morning, Juna has been extremely happy and easy to please. We played music for her and she 'danced' and that was the big morning activity. She is sleeping now, after a full fifteen minutes of held crying. I am still not comfortable with the amount of crying she is doing and a little confused about how this is teaching her to fall asleep on her own. Right now, it still feels a little bit like we are letting her cry herself to sleep, even though Bradford is holding and reassuring her. The dreamfeed doesn't seem to be doing its' job in helping Juna to sleep longer into the night. Both evenings, she has awoken earlier than the recommended 3:00a.m. feeding time, and it feels so weird to wake her up when we are working so hard to keep her asleep. Dr. Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child) recommends never waking a sleeping baby and refutes the claim that she needs to be 'tanked up' before sleeping. I am going to stick it out for a couple days though, and see what happens. Part of my issue before was inconsistency, so I am committed this time to give Juna at least a week of the same routine. We have had success in putting her down drowsy but awake and watching her fall asleep by herself, which is encouraging. I am also pleased that our awake time with her has been so pleasant and relaxed.

Bradford has just returned from his fake-out pickup/putdown, which is supposed to help trick her into thinking she's woken up and gone back to sleep. We'll see if she makes it past the forty-minute mark! Fingers crossed!


Sleep Training: Night I

Note to the Reader: Different parenting styles work for different families, and I ask that you reserve judgment about what we have chosen, remembering that our choices are not a reflection on yours. I want to be honest about this experience in hopes that it may help other families who have similar issues, or who may be considering sleep training and want to know what it's really like (you won't read these nitty gritty details in the books, folks!).

It's been a couple weeks since we decided to 'go with the flow'. Didn't work. Juna has become more and more overtired, as have my husband and I. Feedings are confusing, since they happen irregularly, and before and sometimes during a sleep period. Our usual tricks to get Juna to sleep aren't working, and it takes a good forty minutes to soothe her down, during which she cries, oftentimes awakening ten minutes later. When she does miraculously fall, and stay, asleep, Bradford and I hover over the video monitor, anxiously examining her little form, waiting for what we call those 'demon eyes' to show up on the screen. She doesn't sleep well in my arms or in our bed, she doesn't sleep in the stroller or in the car. We have tried literally everything. My stomach is in knots most of the day, and I am constantly nervous anticipating each sleep-time battle. I try very hard to enjoy the good moments between the marathon bouts of crying. Her little smiles delight me to the point of tears. When your precious little baby spends a lot of her day in pain or upset, you appreciate each gurgle and coo.

After careful consideration, Bradford and I decided we needed to get some help. My theory that Juna's 'colic' was really just overtiredness in disguise needed to be put to the test. We consulted with Sasha Hawkes, a family therapist and sleep expert, who is putting us on a plan to help teach Juna how to fall asleep on her own, without any crutches (like exercise balls and pacing). We are going to try a three-hour routine, to give Juna more structure and see how she responds. Since she's only 11 weeks, this will be a more gentle approach. No 'crying it out', though let me tell you, it's Night One and there is certainly crying involved. This little girl has an iron-will. Sasha has explained (and I agree) that children with this kind of perseverance need and crave boundaries. Juna, at all of eleven-and-a-half weeks, is looking for us, her parents, to structure her day.

Sasha has called upon Bradford to execute the first few days of our new plan. Juna won't get nursed to sleep anymore (thank goodness - nursing to sleep without burping often produces a very unhappy little girl later on), plus Mommy's hormones get in the way when Baby cries, making it hard to stay consistent, which is key. So here I sit, listening to Juna cry and cry in Bradford's arms, while he patiently shush's and gently talks to her.

We are well into our second hour, though the first hour produced some excellent results. Fifteen minutes of crying (she is held and reassured the entire time, by the way), followed by an easy put down (drowsy but awake) and eyes closed one minute later. Bradford and I congratulate each other on staying calm and consistent. I leave to get us a celebratory dinner from our favorite Italian restaurant, and forty-minutes later return to a very upset, crying baby.

Usually when Juna cries, so do I. Which is why, for the last two-and-a-half months, I haven't let my daughter make so much as a peep before rushing to her (much to the amusement of her wiser grandparents). No one likes to hear their baby cry, least of all me. My inner monologue screams during Juna's daily crying jags... "I'm a bad mother, I have no instincts, I'm not providing enough milk, her diaper's too tight, her clothes aren't comfortable, she's teething, she's gassy, she's hot, she's cold, why don't I know what's wrong with my own daughter?" and on and on. I try everything within my power to 'fix' the problem, going through ten or so 'solutions' until something works.

Today was a particularly challenging day. She seems to be teething (excessive drool, gnawing her fist, crying, smacking her tongue), which is early but possible according to her grandfather the dentist. There were many times she cried and I couldn't soothe her. No amount of bouncing, walking, shush'ing or singing worked. I slipped her into the wrap and went out for an early evening walk with my husband and dog, and Juna relaxed. She gazed around, wide-eyed and content, taking in the light that filtered through the trees, the cars on the street, the people we passed. And then she would turn her little head to look up at me, with a peaceful little smile.

Juna lives in the moment. She wasn't thinking about how hard her day was, or how much she cried, or how little she napped. She wasn't anticipating her next feeding, her bath, or her new nighttime sleep plan. And while part of me now wants to sob right along with her, and part of my heart feels like it's being ripped out of my body, I am comforted knowing that this will pass. My warrior baby is sad in this moment, and that's ok. The next moment, she might be peaceful. And the moment after that, happy. And the moment after that, mad. If I insist on Juna being happy and content all of the time, I am depriving her of experiencing the great spectrum of human emotions. And as Sasha reminded us, it's ok to hold her while she cries and tell her that we hear her without trying to 'fix it'. I look at this as practice for the later years, when a friend hurts her feelings, or she doesn't make the team, or gets her heart broken for the first time. I would never tell her not to cry in those situations. Life is sad sometimes. Life might be a little sad right now for Juna. It might be scary to have a tummy ache and not know why, or to have pain in her mouth and not be able to tell me. It might be frustrating to want to fall asleep and not know how. She's a brand new being, and it is my job to honor where she is and meet her there.

I'm not sure how the rest of the night will go, and I'm at peace not knowing. Right now, she is sleeping peacefully and has been for over an hour. She fell asleep in her crib, on her own. Not bad for our first attempt!


New Mommy Yoga

Do you hear that? ..... Neither do I, it's the sound of sleeping baby! Normally, Juna sleeps in 10-20 minute increments during the day. I use those short respites to quickly throw in a load of laundry, shove some food down my throat or do the dishes. Rarely is there time to do a yoga practice (and by rarely, I mean never). My achey body, still recovering from the marathon labor, doesn't get the attention it once did. I have developed new physical tension from tending to Juna, which manifest most acutely in my neck, shoulders and back. Sound familiar anyone? It's difficult to focus on good posture and exercise with a new little one in the house. Whenever possible, I am adding mini practice sessions into my day. You can do these poses anywhere, at any time, and without any gear. No mat? No time? No problem!

1. Sun Breaths: Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Sweep your arms out to the side and up towards the sky as you inhale. On the exhale, bring your palms together and down in front of your heart. Repeat as many times as necessary (excellent to re-center after a crying episode).

2. Modified Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): Stand at a countertop, table or crib side, once again with feet hip distance apart and parallel. Place your hands on the surface in front of you shoulder distance apart. Walk your feet back until you make an "L" shape with your body. If possible, have your back straight (if you cannot straighten your back, bend your knees until you can... if you are uber-flexible, draw your ribs into your body so you aren't dipping into your lower back). Take five deep breaths, spread your feet firmly into the floor, and draw your quadriceps muscles (the ones on the front of your thighs) up.

3. Prasarita Padotanasana A (Fan Pose): Stand with your feet wide apart and parallel. Interlace your hands behind your back and bend your elbows until your palms touch. Gently stretch your interlaced hands down and then away from your body to open the chest. Optional: fold forward from the waist with knees straight or bent, and a straight spine. Engage those pesky quadriceps again. Breathe! Slowly come up to standing, and repeat with the hands interlaced the other way (so the other thumb is on top).

4. Easy Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Stretch your arms up and overhead as you inhale, stretching long through both sides of the waist. As you exhale, twist to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee. Inhale and grow three inches taller, exhale and twist to the right a little deeper, taking care to keep your left sitting bone planted into the floor. Take four more breaths, and return to the center. Repeat to the left. This pose wrings out all the toxins that collect in the organs of the abdomen, and also prepares the back for this next pose...

5. Setu Bandha (bridge pose): Lay down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat and parallel, hip distance apart. Lift your hips away from the floor, and point your tailbone towards your knees so the lower back is long. Interlace your hands underneath you (like the fan pose), and then stretch your interlaced hands towards your feet. Breathe. This pose opens the chest and reverses the posture you probably take while feeding or changing Baby.

6. Pranayama: While soothing the wee babe, take a deep breath in and imagine all four sides of your ribcage expanding, front and back, side to side. Exhale slowly making a "shhhhhhh" sound. Excellent for calming a fussy baby, and a good reminder for Mommy (or Daddy...) to take some deep breaths!

Taking time for yourself every day is vital for new parents, but it's hard to schedule in a class or even a free hour at home. Doing a few simple exercises scattered throughout the day will help to recharge, and reconnect with, your physical self. Stay sane, new parents!

Sidenote: I intended to include pictures of all these poses, but really, who has time for photo shoots? If you need a visual of these poses, go to http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_index. This is a great resource for anyone looking to start, or refine, a yoga practice.

Cobra pose, behind bars