Category Archives: sleep

Confessions of a Cosleeper

Let me just set the record straight and say that I am not an advocate of cosleeping. Not only do I just not sleep well when baby’s in the bed with me, between him kicking me all night long and my worrying he’s going to roll off the bed, but I truly believe that parents and kids should have their own separate sleeping areas.

Some experts would argue that baby belongs in crib for the simple reason that it’s safer. That’s more than likely true, but I think it’s good for a number of other reasons:

  1. It’s undeniably better quality sleep for both baby and mom. Each can go through their normal sleep cycles undisturbed and without disturbing the other.
  2. A separate sleep area reinforces the idea of a bedtime, which naturally creates a much-needed schedule for both baby and parent.
  3. Babies need to learn to self soothe. In other words, they need to be comfortable putting themselves back to sleep if they wake up at night.
  4. Babies need to learn to be independent. That means not only sleeping independently but also figuring out how to amuse themselves in their cribs for a little bit so mom can press the snooze button once every so often.
  5. It’s a heck of a lot less messy. Between the drool and the wetting through the diapers, I’d rather change a crib sheet over my bed sheets any day.

But even I have to give into temptation every once in awhile. (There’s picture evidence to prove it.) Because let’s face it, it does feel awesome to have this sweet, sleepy baby curled up in the crook of your arm.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However, this summer there was an inordinate amount of cosleeping going on. Way more than I’d like to admit, actually. So what was driving me to nearly do a 180? Here are the factors that I trace to that sudden uptick in baby-in-the-bed nights:

  1. I was missing my husband. Plain and simple. And being close to baby was like having a little piece of him next to me even when he couldn’t be. I guess it made me feel a little less lonely.
  2. It was nice to feel needed. This was probably a consequence of #1, but there is something gratifying when you can quiet a crying baby just by pulling him close.
  3. We were sleeping in the same room. We spent most of the summer at my mom’s, so baby and I were bunked into the same room. Although he went to sleep in his pack’n’play without a problem, if I started to get ready for bed at just the wrong point in his sleep cycle, it was all over. He was standing in his crib, wailing for me.
  4. We weren’t exactly alone. Throughout the summer, we had a number of guests slumbering in the room next door. So when #3 would happen, I felt obligated to find the fastest way to quiet baby down so his crying wouldn’t keep them up.

This combination of factors was like kryptonite to my cosleeper resistance. I found myself having a baby sleep-over, -on top of, -next to, and -under at least a couple nights a week. And I was exhausted each and every morning that it happened.

While this whole exercise made me appreciate the space and routine that I have in my own home, it also underlined for me just how important it really is that baby have his own digs. There’s less fussing and what little waking (if any) there is during the night is extremely short lived. Moreover, he’s sleeping sounder. When we were in the same room I could barely open the door before he was awake; now that he’s in his own room again, I can walk in with the dog trotting behind me, adjust his blanket, and even put a hand on him and he barely stirs.

In the end, my stint as a cosleeper ended up proving to me that baby and mommy really were better off in their own beds. Even if I miss hearing those last little yawns in my ear before baby books it into the land of nod.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under babies, co-sleeping, daily life, first year, infants, naps, sleep

Happiness Is a Sleeping Baby

The newest baby book for parents

Funny that I was already working on a post on the topic of baby sleep habits when the book “Go the F— To Sleep” became the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.com yesterday. It’s essentially an R-rated parody of a children’s book that no doubt is hilarious to both those parents who have a problem and those parents who don’t admit that they have a problem when it comes to getting their kids to sleep. But really, it’s no coincidence. Among parents with young children, sleep is the topic du jour every jour.

Most of the time the topic comes because there’s something about their babies’ sleep habits that mommies (and daddies) are struggling with. The issues are all over the board–baby won’t sleep in the crib, baby wakes up super early, baby only falls asleep in mom’s arms or in bed with mom and dad, baby doesn’t nap, baby doesn’t sleep through the night, and on and on. Most of the time during these conversations I hear other mommies commiserating; rarely do you hear mommies talking about what’s working when it comes to sleeping babies.

It could be that the issue of sleep just gets totally marginalized in mommies’ brains once their wee ones start sleeping through the night; it’s like if it’s not a 4 am-problem, it doesn’t get bandwidth. (I totally get that.) Or it could be that mommies who are seeing some degree or another of sleep success are afraid to sound like either braggards or know-it-alls, if they talk about it. (I get this, too.)

The latter is in fact a little bit my fear in writing this post, but the possibility that something I write could help any one of my mommy friends currently struggling with a monster at bedtime is enough to take me out on this limb.

I lucked out and my wee one started sleeping through the night at seven weeks. He did it on his own (or so I thought at first), so for awhile I just enjoyed it. But I couldn’t stop wondering what what made him suddenly do it. I also wanted to be sure I didn’t do anything going forward that would mess it up. Sleep is good.

A number of parents I know swear by Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. In the interest of full disclosures, I’ve never read the book. My go-to guru on baby sleep habits was an old friend, Meg Casano, who had in the many years since we used to tear up the playground together gone on to become a nurse and then an infant sleep consultant with Baby Sleep Science. (You may remember that I’ve written about Meg before, when she launched a blog to illustrate successful sleep training techniques.) But I’m guessing, given that my friend completed a lot of her training and research with a woman who got her start with Dr. Weissbluth, that her sleep philosophy is of the same vein as Weissbluth’s.

There has been a lot of back and forth with Meg over the months to get me to the point where I understand what baby needs and can make adjustments as necessary. I don’t want to get bogged down in every detail, so I’m going to boil it all down to the five things I’ve learned about babies and sleep that have not only helped me ensure baby is getting healthy doses of Zzzzs but also allowed me gain a few hours of my life back every day. Both are priceless.

  1. Know the basics. I’m not someone who can really follow anything to the letter–my schedule is too erratic–so, just having someone give me a few rules of thumb to think about while I’m managing the rest of the chaos was really helpful.The big one I think about nearly every day (even now that baby’s almost a year old) is how much total sleep baby is getting in any given 24 hour period. It’s recommended that babies get, on average, between 10.5 and 12 hours at night and then around 3 hours during the day across typically two naps. That’s just a rule of thumb, so I’m not exacting on executing on it, but it definitely helps me gauge where baby is during the day.
  2. Bedtime is serious business.The one thing I’m really pretty anal about is baby’s bedtime. And it’s more out of necessity than anything else. Once he hits his wall, it’s meltdown city and, at the end of the day when I’m tired and my nerves are shot, honestly, I can’t deal. So, baby has a pretty strict routine.My friend recommends babies hit the crib sheets sometime between 6:30pm and 8:00pm. In our case, we head up to the nursery around 6:30-6:45pm. Baby gets a diaper change, put in his jammies, and then has a little time to play while I read stories. After about 15-20 minutes of play, I nurse (maybe 10-15 minutes at this stage of the game) and then it’s lights out by 7:30pm.
  3. Never underestimate the power of naps. I’ll be the first one to admit that baby and I are still working on getting him on a really good nap schedule. We’re doing better–he’s pretty consistent with a morning nap now–but the afternoons are still hit or miss. But knowing that baby needs three hours one way or another is helpful because even if he won’t rack out in his crib for a full-fledged nap, I can start to count his quick snoozes in the car or stroller toward the three hour goal. And I’ll tell you the days that he gets his full three hours of naptime, he is definitely a happier baby at the end of the day than the days he doesn’t quite squeeze it all in.But the one thing I have noticed about baby and his naps is that if I take the time to enhance his sleep environment, his chances for nap success are higher. I think at bedtime, he’s more tired, so he’s less distracted by everything and anything; but during the day, I have to try harder to work him down so he will get some good daytime Zzzs.

    My friend recommends room-darkening shades and a white-noise machine. I have neither, but I don’t turn on any lights and I’ve also started playing very soothing music–my favorite right now is Baby Einstein’s “Naptime Melodies”–and it really helps set the mood. I put it on about 10 minutes before I nurse and by the time I hear the whale sounds in song 6, nine times out of 10 baby is asleep.

  4. Routine is key.It pains me to say that, as I don’t like to characterize myself as someone who “schedules” everything. But life with baby is so much easier when there’s some predictability to it. You find yourself getting really efficient during naptime because you know how much time you have to check things off your list and the whole bedtime process goes so much quicker. (At this stage, if I’m entertaining at home, I can get it done in about 10 to 15 minutes.)So, in our house, baby gets up every day at roughly the same time (within a 30-minute window), I try to get him to nap (as best I can) at about the same time every day, and he most definitely goes to bed at pretty the same time every night.
  5. Take ten minutes.No one likes to hear their wee one wail, but it’s likely going to be part of the process. The good news is that once baby is in a routine, there’s less crying. But there’s still a little bit of crying, so don’t try to hold out for a perfect–and improbable–bedtime situation. Even now, there are days when my wee one is just really angry at me when I put him down in his crib. So, here’s what I do: tell him I love him and walk out.Babies need to learn to put themselves to sleep or they will be screaming and counting on you to do that every time they wake up during the night. And babies do go in and out of sleep during the night as part of their natural sleep rhythm.

    I hate the wailing as much as the next mom, so I give myself the 10-minute test. I walk out of his room, shut the door, go downstairs, and without turning the monitor on, I do something like put in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, or set the table and then after 10 minutes or so, I flip the monitor on to see if he’s still crying. (A few of my friends set a timer, but I don’t bother.) I have yet to turn that thing on to him still crying. And if he was, then chances are something is wrong, like he’s still hungry or he’s not feeling well.Similarly, if I hear him start to make sounds during the night, the same rules apply. If he’s still crying after five or 10 minutes, I go in and check on him. Otherwise, I stay right in my bed. And you can sort of hear the whole self soothing process. There are a few cries, then some little grunts and wiggling around, and then sweet silence.

These tips probably don’t sound like much more than common sense, but sometimes that’s the first thing that goes when you’re dealing with your child, especially an overtired and (likely) unhappy one. For me, once my friend Meg articulated a lot of these things to me, I was like, “duh.” There were things I didn’t realize I was doing but I was and they were working unbeknownst to me and then there were other things that I had to really work on.

And the reality is that there are always things that I’ll have to work on when it comes to baby’s sleep habits. He’s going to keep growing and changing, so his needs may change, forcing me to adjust his schedule. But having a few basic rules or tips to help guide me has helped us get off to a good start. After all, this is the time when healthy, long-term sleep habits start to form.

But more selfishly than that, I really don’t want to have to buy the book to get some perspective and a sense of humor about why my baby won’t go the f— to sleep. I’d rather him just do it.

Leave a comment

Filed under babies, childrens books, daily life, first year, health, naps, sleep

Run, Momma, Run

Anyone who knew me in high school or college probably knew me, among other things, as a runner. I loved to run. Rain or shine, sleet or snow–and there was a lot of snow in Upstate New York–I would lace up my Nike trainers and hit the road to pound out some miles.

I kept up my running even out of college, logging miles in as wonderful places as Paris, London, and Washington, D.C., where I eventually made my home. Then something happened. One day I ran 11 miles–I was in training for a medium-distance event–and when I finished something had changed in me. It was the furthest I had ever run, and I should have been really proud of myself and confident that I was ready for my race. But I couldn’t shake this one thought: Where was I going so fast? Nowhere.

And that was it. I never really enjoyed running much after that. I still stayed active, but I never really ran again. I got into other things–kick boxing, yoga, weight training, etc.–but my daily run had turned into a trudge. I started to dread it and eventually hated it so much that I pretty much stopped running altogether.

I think I hit that point about six years ago. Hard to believe it’s been that long. But something happened a couple of weeks ago that may have flipped the switch back again.

I wasn’t able to get to the gym one morning, so I had missed the window of in-gym daycare. (I hate when that happens.) The dog was going nuts, as he’d been cooped up all day. And I was short on time. So, I had an idea. I’d throw the kid in the stroller, the dog on the leash and take off for the smart, newly rubberized track just down the block. I had 30 minutes, so I figured I could pound out 3 miles before I had to be back home.

Okay, so that was a bit optimistic. Between getting the stroller up and down the stairs to the track, keeping the dog from getting tangled up in the stroller, and stopping for doggy potty breaks–and if I’m perfectly honest, I’m a heck of a lot slower than I used to be–I only squeezed in two miles. But it was the most enjoyable two miles I’ve gone in a long, long time.

I think it was more fun than I was expecting it to be for a few reasons. First, I was under no self-inflicted pressure to go fast. I know I’m so out of running shape–and shape, in general–that I just wanted to get out and run around rather than reach a certain goal.

Second, I love my dog more when he’s tired. Remember I have a soon-to-be-six-months-old Dobie puppy that needs a lot (a lot!) of exercise or he’s a terror. And boy was he tired after our little jog. When we got home, he grabbed a few laps of water and went right to the living room to take a multi-hour snooze, leaving the house in order for a small moment in time.

But I think the reason I most enjoyed my run was this:

On your mark, get set, sleep!

See, my kid is not much of a napper, particularly in the afternoons, so anything I can do to get him to get some shuteye during the day, I will do. The alternative is a slow meltdown that begins in the late afternoon and crescendos around 6pm when he’s sobbing between bites of food and rubbing what food has missed his mouth into his eyes. But a few laps around the old track and goodnight; baby’s eyelids start sliding shut as soon as the stroller’s tires hit track.

So, while I don’t think I’ll ever be the runner I once was, the fact that I’m even remotely liking it again is a stride in the right direction in my book. I’m looking at running now as the ultimate multitasking tool–it gets me exercised while tiring both the baby and puppy out, making for a much more pleasant day all around. The fact that I’m able to accomplish these major tasks with in fell swoop or 12 around the track makes me appreciate running and dare I say enjoy it more than I have in a good long time.

Even the fact that I’m running on a track, which I used to absolutely hate, makes no difference to me anymore. In fact, it makes getting out and doing it that much easier. I don’t have to plan a route, I don’t have to negotiate uneven sidewalks and curbs, and I don’t have to stop for stoplights. The track is now efficient rather than boring.

About the only thing that’s been able to deflate my newly rekindled joy of running of late was that a man started yelling at me during my last run, telling me I couldn’t have the dog on the track. (For the record, my dog was running on the grass next to the track.) Given that there are no signs posted to that effect–in fact, there’s a sign at the entrance to the track area that says dogs must be leashed–I took a chance that whatever authority the man screaming at me had came with absolutely no power and just kept on running. Try and catch me, fat boy!

Leave a comment

Filed under babies, daily life, fitness, health, mommy care, moms, naps, pets, sleep

The Science Behind a Sleeping Baby

Sorry to have been out of the loop for a week plus; I’ve missed my cyber mommy friends. But my real job–you know, the one that keeps my cleaning lady and nanny employed–had me down in Orlando for the annual builders’ show. It was my first more-than-just-overnight trip away from baby. There’s lots to say about that experience, but that’s for another soon-to-come post.

So, before I digress totally, I just wanted to turn any mommy friends with infants, especially those who aren’t sleeping through the night, on to a project that a childhood friend of mine, Meg Casano, is working on. See, Meg is a nurse and mom of three, the last of which just arrived in September. She’s also an infant sleep consultant with her own firm, Baby Sleep Science.

Yes, an infant sleep consultant. Honestly, I didn’t even know such a job existed. How does someone even think of becoming one? It turns out that having just one colicky kid can illuminate a career path for the most desperate of moms. Here’s what she said:

As for how I go into this… Four years ago Ella was SUPER colicky from day 1, and I made myself literally crazy trying to get her to sleep. We were all exhausted and I realized there had to be a better way. I started doing my own research and was “apprenticed” by a woman who had her own sleep business and got her start with Dr. Weissbluth who wrote the book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.”   I say “apprenticed” because there is no official sleep certification so you want to be very careful who you read and who you talk to!

When we moved to Boston, I met a woman our age who had her PhD in sleep rhythms and works in the Harvard sleep lab. She and I clicked immediately and she taught me a TON about the science of sleep and I taught her a ton about the medical/psych/RN part of sleep and we created a program of PowerPoint, classroom instruction, and private consults for the Isis Maternity Centers in the Boston area.  Then we branched off to do our own business where we could cover more ground than what we were doing at Isis. So… that’s sort of how I got started in a nutshell!

At that, I was even more intrigued and eager to pick her brain, even though I was blessed to have a baby that started sleeping through the night at about week seven. I figured that the odds were pretty darn good that I could learn something from talking with her that would help me in someway I hadn’t yet considered–or at least some of the mommies I know who would give nearly anything for just one full night of sleep (and by full night, I mean 6 hours.)

For the record, Meg has been a wonderful resource to me over these past 8 months since Baby Pienik arrived on the scene. But before I get into the weeds of what she’s taught me (so far), I just have to highlight her newest project. (Not to worry, I’ll share her best tips soon.)

For this project, the sleep consultant is starting sleep training, as Meg

The Sleep Sage

described it. She’s started infant sleep training with her wee one and is keeping a log of it online with the Baby Sleep Science blog.

The blog doesn’t promise to be a how-to manual for all parents, but it does give a very detailed account of how a professional baby sleep sayer would handle a lot of the issues that arise in the natural course of raising a baby. I really love reading her blog because there’s this clinical, professional element to it and yet she’s super candid about the realities of being a mom and trying to execute on this stuff.

At any rate, if you’re a mom with a sleep angel or, well, the other kind, there’s a lot great info to be gleaned from Meg’s efforts. Happy reading!

1 Comment

Filed under babies, co-sleeping, daily life, feeding, infants, lactation, naps, newborns, nursing, sleep

Stroller Snooze

It’s amazing what moms will do to keep their sleeping beauties just that way–sleeping.

When my little bundle of boy falls asleep as we bump along the sidewalks during a walk around the neighborhood, I do everything possible to avoid waking him up once we reach home. That most often means wheeling the stroller right up the back deck, through the kitchen, and into the living room, where I don’t dare touch one thing on him or the stroller for fear of disturbing his slumber. I don’t even dare lift up the weather shield when we’re inside.

I love that strollers are seriously narcotic. Once he’s strapped in, baby seriously racks out.  The best part is he stays asleep in it even when it’s not moving. Today, for example, we’ve rounded the corner into a third hour of a nap. In that time, I’ve showered and dressed, taken the dog out, caught up on my e-mails, written a news story, and worked on scheduling meetings during a conference next week.

Needless to say, I’ve got him strapped into this thing at least three mornings a week.

Lights Out!

Leave a comment

Filed under babies, daily life, infants, moms, sleep, strollers, working mom

Is This Bad?

I am blessed to have what I would consider a good baby. He really only cries when one of two things are wrong: he’s hungry or he’s got a dirty diaper. And sometimes he doesn’t even bother crying over the latter unless it’s what I call a diaper blowout. Sure, he might get a little cranky if he’s tired but addressing one or both of the two aforementioned issues usually gives him enough time to settle down.

So, while I’m happy to avoid (at least for the current moment in time) bouts of unexplained crying, one thing I can say that he does that can frazzle some nerves is get super clingy–to the point where I’m wearing him as a living, breathing accessory for the day. Forget about trying to rock him to sleep with a few stories, putting him in his crib with the Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart-playing mobile, or sitting him in his vibrating bouncer chair to the soothing sounds of B-I-N-G-O! He’s not having any of it.

Moms love to hold their babies. I mean, really, who doesn’t love to snuggle with a wee one–except when they are crying, of course, in which case mom ends up holding the babe anyway. But when my baby turns into a creature from the planet Clingon, it can make it next to impossible to do something as basic as maintain hygiene.

This was my dilemma of the day recently.

I badly needed to shower, not only because I don’t feel human until I am lathered and rinsed but also fall in D.C. still means 80+ (and sometimes 90+) degree days, which equals sweat and more sweat. Plus, I figure I should at least be clean–make-up has fallen into the optional category these days–and out of my pajamas by the time the hubster gets home from work. I figure it’s the least I can do.

But as the morning turned into noon, and then into afternoon, and then late afternoon, my window for washing was closing and Velcro baby was showing no signs of unfastening. Now, I’m not opposed to letting my kid cry for a few minutes while I finish typing a quick e-mail, put something away, throw in a load of laundry, or what have you. He usually stops when he sees me again or finds a way to chill himself out. But I just can’t take that long, sustained wail that comes out when he’s in this mood, the one that can’t be quieted until he’s wrapped around my hip.

So after a few unsuccessful attempts (and admittedly naked ones since I had already turned the water on) at putting him in his crib, in his bouncer chair, and even the Boppy pillow on my bed so I could shower, I came up with an idea. What if I brought the play mat into the bathroom with me? I hadn’t tried that toy yet, so there was some hope the novelty might quiet him. He needed some tummy time anyway. Plus the cleaning lady just cleaned the bathroom top to bottom the day before. And maybe if I could poke my head out from behind the curtain every so often, he wouldn’t cry–or at least as hard. So, away me, baby, and the play mat went.

Well, he cried. And he cried. And he cried some more. And then nothing.

Silence is a bad thing at this stage of mommyhood. If I don’t hear a peep from him, I think he’s stopped breathing. So, I rip back the shower curtain only to find that baby has fallen asleep. He’d completely exhausted himself.

I think: “Cool. I guess that means I have time to shave my legs.”

I get out of the shower and decide I should leave him be while I get dressed and maybe rake a brush through my hair, or what’s left of it at the rate that it’s still falling out. I check back. He’s still soundly asleep. So, I run to the basement to throw a load of laundry in the washer. I check back. Still asleep.

At this point, I have a decision: I can either leave my infant lying on the floor and get dinner started or try to move him without waking him up. And I know that if he wakes up, it’s good times with Gorilla Glue baby.

I go for Option A. Dinner’s not going to make itself, I tell myself. And my mom always told me that what they say about dogs is also true of babies: Let sleeping babies lie.

But did she mean on the bathroom floor?

Probably not. And I sort of felt like a bad mom. I kept thinking every time I checked in on him, “Is this bad?” But he was sleeping so soundly–finally. In fact, he slept for a couple hours like that, believe it or not.

I actually couldn’t believe it, so I took this picture. Please, moms, tell me you’ve been here before.

Parenting at Its Best

6 Comments

Filed under babies, boys, daily life, infants, naps, newbie parents, newborns, parenting, sleep