Friday, January 29, 2010

Sleeping Like A Baby

I have received quite a few comments and emails asking what kind of "sleep training" I gave Gracie to get her to sleep 11-12 hours a night. I thought I would share what very little wisdom I have on the subject in the off-chance that I might help someone else.

It is important to note that Todd and I agree we have gotten progressively dumber with each child we've had. When we brought Joey home from the hospital we had no clue what we were doing and yet it seems we had more common sense with him than we did with any of our other children. Perhaps each child has sucked a bit of sense out of us leaving us nearly empty. Or maybe we are just sleep deprived and exhausted in general. I do not know.

Here is what I do know:

The first night we brought Joey home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed Joey, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course he woke up the minute I laid him down but I went back downstairs and let him get himself back to sleep. I sat there and cried right along with him as I listened to his wails on the monitor. Todd and I reassured each other that he was been fed, he was dry, he was not cold or lonely, he just needed to sleep. And sure enough he got himself to sleep fairly quickly. Of course I still went to him every two or three hours when he woke up and needed to be fed. That was the pattern, and by 3 months old he was sleeping through the night. Probably because he had learned how to sooth himself.

The first night we brought Tommy home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed him, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course the minute I laid him in his crib he woke up and I promptly picked him up and started the whole process all over again. After all, I had a sleeping toddler in the next room and I certainly did not want my new baby to wake my sleeping Joey. Tommy never slept through the night. And he didn't nap either. When he was almost 5 months old he was getting up every 45 minutes to an hour at night and we were all exhausted. He was not hungry and wouldn't nurse. He didn't even really want to be held. When I would pick him up out of his crib he would arch his back and cry and cry. It was clear that the little boy just wanted to sleep, but he didn't know how.

In my desperation I bought a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. In the book the author, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, lists signs of an overtired baby like the arching of the back when being held and frequent wakings without wanting to be fed. Dr. Weissbluth then outlines three different methods of sleep training to help the overtired baby (and parents). The quickest method was the "let cry" method. Of course I was loathe to think of letting my poor little man cry up in his crib (and keep Joey awake too) but I was so exhausted I couldn't think of a better plan.

The night we began we warned Joey ahead of time that baby might cry for a while and that he was okay, he was just learning how to get himself to sleep. It was awful. Tommy is nothing if not persistent, and the little fart cried for about 3 hours. Then he slept for 2 hours, cried another half hour, slept for 4 hours, cried for 20 minutes, and then slept the rest of the night. The next night he cried for an hour and slept the whole night. The third night he cried for five minutes and slept the entire night. It was bliss. And ever since then (save for illnesses) the kid slept through the night.

Still, when Ben came along we seemed to make the same mistakes with him that we did with Tommy. I never let him cry it out for fear of waking the older kids. And because he wasn't a chunky baby as his brothers were I told myself he was waking often because he was hungry. When he began waking every hour and not wanting to eat I knew that wasn't the reason. So again, around five months I repeated the same "let cry" process. Ben was not as persistent as Tommy and there was far less crying. Thank the good Lord.

Now Grace. Well, she is just about the most mild mannered baby there is. She has been a good sleeper since she was born. I never had to let her cry it out because every time I would put her back to bed she would remain asleep. By two months old she was sleeping through the night. Then Christmas came and because of all the festivities, travel, parties, and activity her sleep schedule was all messed up. She got out of whack. When I would put her down in her crib at night she would immediately wake up and cry so I would promptly pick her up and sooth her again. Sometimes it took me two hours to get her to sleep. Put her down. Pick her up. Put her down. Pick her up. For two hours. Then she began getting up two or three times a night. My fabulous sleeper was having troubles. I figured she forgot how to sooth herself.

So, I decided that I would nurse her to sleep at night as I usually did, but if she would wake up when I laid her down then she would have to get herself back to sleep. The first night she cried for 40 minutes. And then on and off for an hour, but after that she slept the whole night. The next night she cried for 20 minutes and then slept the whole night. The third night she barely cried and slept the whole night. She has been doing so well ever since and her naps have become so much easier too. It is wonderful.

Now I know that the "let cry" method is not for everyone. It is heartbreaking to listen to your child cry. But it really is the fasted method to use. And after seeing how happy my babies were after finally getting a full nights sleep I knew it was the right decision. If you don't want to do that then Dr. Weissbluth outlines other methods for you to try. The book also outlines how much sleep a child should be getting at various ages and how to implement healthy sleep habits. It is definitely a great book to have on hand.

Before starting the training I always made sure my babies were ready for it. Meaning, they were at the higher end of the growth chart and had plenty of weight on them. That way I knew they wouldn't be hungry in the middle of the night. I also made sure they did not have colds or ear infections, because then all bets are off. On those nights my babies always slept on me and I just planned on getting very little sleep. Sometimes we had to do a bit of sleep training again when their colds were gone, or after holidays and travel, but it was usually very minimal.

So there you have it. I told you I don't know very much on the subject but I have realized that sometimes you need to teach your child how to sleep. As painful as it feels to let your child cry it is far less painful then having a sleep deprived baby.

(And no, I did not receive any compensation for my review of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. I just really loved the book and thought it might help another tired mom and dad. It is not just a "cry it out" book. Dr. Weissbluth teaches you to watch your child's sleep signals and gives you tons of helpful ideas on training your baby to sleep. Of course I did not agree with everything that was written but I just skipped over those parts and read the chapters that I needed. It was a huge help.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Peace and happiness have been restored.
After the disastrous morning on Friday I pulled each of my boys aside, one by one, and told them how sorry I was for my behavior. I told them that mommy was just being a mean grouch and that they did nothing wrong. I told them what wonderful boys they are and how sorry I was if I hurt their feelings. I asked them for forgiveness, and they gave it to me without hesitation.
When the boys woke up from their naps that afternoon it was a big love fest. Lots of hugs, and snuggles, and kisses, and "I love you"s. I think they appreciated my apology almost as much as I appreciated their forgiveness. And we were all happy to start our weekend with a clean slate.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Do Not Like Myself

Oh boys, I am so sorry.
You deserve better than this.
I have been awful, mean, horrible
and I don't know why.
You have not been bad.
I have been bad.
You have done nothing wrong.
I have done everything wrong.
I don't know why I act like this sometimes.
I don't know why I take a perfect day and ruin it completely.
I don't know why I have such a mean side to me.
I don't know why.
But I am stopping it right now.
I am stopping it before this bad morning turns into an even worse day.
I am stopping it because you certainly don't deserve my horrible behavior.
Please forgive me.
You are precious to me.
You are smart, and kind, and beautiful, and wonderful gifts.
I am so sorry if I hurt your feelings.
I am so sorry.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guess What I Did Last Night

I fell down the stairs.

Remember the spiral staircase in my new house that I just love? Yeah. Those. I fell down those stairs. With Grace in my arms.

I have always been super paranoid about going down those stairs because they are wide and each step is a different width because of the spiral turn. I am constantly reminding the boys to be super cautious going down the stairs and each time I go down the stairs I am careful to hit the middle of each step. While holding my precious baby I am even MORE careful.

So, how did this happen?

I was blinded by Grace's beauty. Seriously. I was love-drunk.

Grace woke up from her afternoon nap at about 5 o'clock and I went up to get her. I lifted her out of her crib and as usual she threw her chunky, little arms around my neck and immediately glombed onto my cheek and began kissing and hugging her momma. I started blowing raspberries on her beautiful little neck and we both were laughing and laughing. As we started down the stairs I shifted my concentration from her to the stairs. Halfway down Grace started kissing my cheek again and when I though I had reached the bottom of the stairs I started smooching on her neck and cheekies again. Only I wasn't to the bottom. I had two more stairs to go. Doggone long staircase.

It all happened in an instant and as I was falling I shifted Grace to my side and kept my hands and arms firmly around her, supporting her back and head, as I landed flat on my knees and my right elbow. Um. Pain. I froze in the position I landed in, trying to assess what injury hurt the most. My knees. My knees definitely hurt the most. My left knee in particular. Luckily, Todd was walking in the house at that exact moment and he was able to rush to us and pick up Grace so that I could lie very still on the tile floor while I fought back nauseousness.

Eventually I was able to hobble over to the couch and sit down. The nauseousness faded and now I am just left with two swollen knees and a pulled muscle in my shoulder and back. No big deal. I'm sure I will be fine in a couple of days. However, it did scare me quite a bit.

My biggest comfort is that Grace is completely fine. She was barely even jostled. She was probably wondering what kind of game mommy was playing, whooshing us to the ground like that. It is good to know that I was able to focus on keeping her safe in that split second. I have always wondered how I would fair in a situation like that, and I'm glad it had this outcome. Whew!

I guess I just feel very lucky. I hate to be fatalistic, but I know this could have ended very badly. Just last week Todd's uncle fell coming out of a restaurant, hit his head, got a massive subdural hematoma, and never woke up. We are going to his funeral tonight. As my prior post said, "be grateful for each new day". And I am.

So, ladies and gents, the moral of the story is this: Always love on your children when both of your feet are planted firmly on the ground. Lesson learned.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ice my knees again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

WW- A Gift

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use
usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high
a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 18, 2010

Growing Like Weeds

Yes, I know I've been missing from blogging for a long time now. But I've been busy watching my kids grow up right before my eyes. The last few weeks seemed to have caused some abnormally fast developments in all of my children. It is kind of freaking me out. My children are growing too fast.

Grace is five months already and the five months have flown by like the snap of my fingers. It is amazing all this little girl has done in just a short time. I know that babies grow and learn so much in the first year, but it always catches me by surprise. In this last month alone we have seen so many milestones reached.

After a bit of sleep training from her mommy, Grace is back to sleeping 11-12 hours a night. Hallelujah! Her naps are still a bit inconsistent but I'm sure that will all be straightened out with time.

Last week she tried out her highchair for the very first time. It was a success! She loved it! Now she can join us at the dinner table when we are all eating. She has also begun to roll over. Both from back to front and front to back. And as you can see, she is pretty proud of herself.
And she has also gotten much better at sitting up on her own. Though in this picture she is giving me her "I'm a stinky little girl who is tired of sitting up and just wants to go to bed" face. Somehow, she still managed to look adorable.
Grace has also taken to giving her mommy open-mouthed sucker fish kisses when she is feeling silly. She glombs onto my checks and sucks away and then laughs and laughs. She is a silly one, that Gracie. She leaves my check soaking wet but I love it.

Grace had become really interested in what we are eating, always trying to grab our food, so on Sunday we decided it was time to try her first food. She was so excited as her brothers gathered around her highchair and cheered her on. She just LOVED her rice cereal and gobbled it up. She is a natural! Just like her big brothers.
Yes, this little girl is growing up fast. Too fast. But she is not the only one.

Joey just lost his 6th tooth last night and has another wiggly one. He really looks like a jack o' lantern now, his face all holy. And he is a full blown reader. Once he got started he just took off. Now he wants to read all the time. I just love it. He has yet another reading to do in church in a couple of weeks and this time he isn't even nervous.

Tommy is not even five yet and he already has a loose tooth. Is that super early? I just can't believe it. And what a little artist my Tommy is becoming. The teacher has sent home quite a few of his drawings for us to see because they are just so advanced. He amazes me.

Ben recently decided that he does not want to wear his pull up to bed anymore. They have been dry every night for months and months so there really is no point to them anyway. AND, he has started to go potty ALL. BY. HIMSELF. It is a scary concept for me since I know that little boys' aim (especially a two year old) is really not the best, but he is very careful and tries so hard. He is doing great! Such a big boy now.

Yes. My kiddos are growing fast. I wish they would slow it down. Just a bit. I understand now why a close family friend always told me she wanted to put bricks on my head to keep me from growing so fast. It doesn't sound like a half bad idea.
So, I do apologize for my absence. I'll be back soon. But right now, I'm busy watching my kiddos. So, if you'll please excuse me, I have to go find some bricks.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Let Them Eat Snow

We are now one week into the new year and I'm feeling sluggish. Perhaps I'm suffering a hangover from all of last year's chaos. I'm not sure. I do know that all I want to do is sit around in front of the fire, snuggle up with a good book, and not talk much. As you can guess, that doesn't really happen around here. Still, it is a lovely thought.

Trying to get back into the swing of things after the hectic holiday and the school break always leaves me feeling a little lost. I feel like I am one step behind. It doesn't help that my little girl, who used to sleep for twelve hours straight at night, is now getting up twice a night and putting up a struggle when I try to put her to bed. Lack of sleep mixed with my chaos hangover is not a very good combination.

To combat my lack of ambition I am letting the boys run wild. Well. Not really. But I certainly am letting them get away with a whole lot more than I usually do. I just don't have the energy to scold right now. Probably a good thing.

This morning Tommy and Ben were being pretty sassy and instead of punishing them I sent them out into the snow. When I looked out the window I saw them doing this:
Why is it that the things I used to do regularly as a child now gross me out when I see my kids do them? All I can think about is how long those ice chunks have been sitting outside. How dirty they probably are. Ick. But. No matter. I let them eat the snow and ice until their hearts' content. I am choosing my battles and in doing so have found that there really are very few battles worth fighting. Especially when I am this tired.

Grace is sleeping up in her room. The boys are outside eating dirty snow. Joey is in school. And Todd is at work. Perhaps that book by the fire IS possible!


I think Grace just woke up.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson