Monthly Archives: October 2012

The moments we’re given

This afternoon my sweet baby love needed a nap, and I decided to go with what we’ve dubbed a “cuddle nap”. We both strip down to our bare necessities, snuggle up under the covers skin to skin, and fall asleep together side lying nursing. From the time my baby love was a newborn this was the only reliable way to get her a nap, and it had the added benefit of getting me a nap, too. It never failed that when we snuggled up she’d be out before long. As my baby has gotten older it’s begun to get more difficult to get her to sleep in a cuddle nap, but with some work I’m almost always able to. I felt a little guilty for the “crutch”, but mostly I just loved my sweet, warm baby snuggles. There is something amazingly close about sleeping together. This is, quite possibly, my most beloved way to spend time with my daughter and my most cherished memory of her thus far in her short life.

So today when she needed a nap and I was exhausted, I stripped her down and climbed into bed with her. She nursed and kicked her legs, pushing herself upwards while I held her in place. I’ve learned that if I try to relax and keep my eyes closed it helps her fall asleep now that she’s more resistant.

I lay there, eyes closed, willing my little love’s movements to slow so we could drift off together. And, as she nursed, they did.

Until they didn’t.

Her belly hit full before she was drifting off, and suddenly she was awake.

Very awake.

The kicking and squirming ramped up tenfold.

I lay there trying to keep my eyes closed and my limbs relaxed while holding her more or less in place and checking where she’d squirmed. I was unhappy. I had been looking forward to this nap, both because I was exhausted and because I cherished these times.

She was in a purely happy state only babies can be in when all their needs have been met and they are safe and loved.

As I opened my eyes to peek at her, she looked up at me and our eyes met.

And she broke out in the biggest toothless grin.

The smile lit up her whole face. Pure joy suffused her expression.

I was ready to be irritated she wouldn’t sleep. I wanted the moment I had envisioned, us cuddle napping together. But staring at the joy in her face I released the moment I wanted.

And instead I embraced the moment I had.

Snuggled up with my joyful baby, skin to skin, as she loved life to the fullest.

It was just as beautiful, just as meaningful, as the moment I’d been seeking. And I almost missed it, irritated it wasn’t the moment I had planned.

May I always embrace the moment I have, even if it isn’t the moment I was looking for.

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Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 3 — The No Cry Sleep Solution

After our one disastrous night of cry-it-out I woke up the next day and immediately finished reading The No Cry Sleep Solution, which I had half-heartedly begun days ago, months after my mom had sent it to me. I was determined to not repeat cry-it-out, but I also knew the status quo was not going to fly much longer. I was hoping The No Cry Sleep Solution had some answers.

And it did.

I LOVE this book. It doesn’t purport to be a guaranteed solution which, by the way, was the only thing that would ever work, as most other methods did. It talked about why infants sleep the way they do, and some things you can do to help them sleep better. It laid out many ideas, which the author, a mother, had come up with and tested and refined with a group of test-mommies. There were ideas for co-sleeping, ideas for moving a baby to a crib, and more. The author suggested picking out the things that sounded like they would work for you, and implementing them. She provided nap logs and sleep logs, and suggested you do them every 10 days to track improvement.

I picked out some things which made sense to me. The hardest thing for me was that my baby love would only fall asleep while nursing (with exceptions if the timing was right in the car, while being worn, or in the swing, but none of these were methods for getting her to bed as I then couldn’t transfer her). I LOVED nursing her to sleep, but it meant that when she would then have a brief awakening between REM cycles she couldn’t fall right back asleep since she was on her own. It also meant that being transferred out of my arms, like for a nap, would completely wake her, since she couldn’t put herself back to sleep from slight disturbances.

My sleep plan looked like this:

  1. I will quietly play with baby in her crib at least once per day.
  2. I will start our bedtime routine between 6:30 and 7:30 every night.
  3. I will follow this bedtime routine: a) Strip baby. b) Last potty. c) Put on PJs/blanket in crib. d) Read 3 books. e) Lights off, white noise on. f) Nurse.
  4. I will use the phrase, “‘Night ‘night, I love you,” as a sleep cue.
  5. I will use Pantley’s Gentle Removal Plan to end nighttime nursing-to-sleep.
  6. I will work on the stage I am on:
  • Nurse until almost asleep, let fall asleep in arms, transfer while asleep.
  • Nurse/soothe until almost asleep, transition to crib while almost asleep, use key words, continue to have arms around/on baby until asleep.
  • Nurse/soothe until settled and sleepy but not falling asleep, transition to crib, use key words, keep hands on baby until asleep.
  • Leave baby in crib, use key words, keep hands on baby until asleep.
  • Stand by crib, say key words, pat/touch sparingly until asleep.
  • Stay in doorway, say key words until asleep.
  • Stay outside room, say key words until asleep.

I started that night.

We nursed until almost asleep, and I took her off my boob.

She woke up, groggy and searching.

I tried a few other things, but she kept searching, so I put her back on.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

After around 8 tries she fell asleep without being on the boob.


I tracked sleep that night. It ended up being a PHENOMENAL night, probably partially because she was still exhausted from the night before. Here’s a summary:

Nights using plan: 0
Asleep time: 8:35
Awake time: 8:55
Total number of awakenings: 4
Longest sleep span: 3:40
Total hours of sleep: 11:05

As I said, this was a phenomenal night. I didn’t want to measure against that and feel like I was making no progress, so a few days later I tracked again. On what ended up being a pretty horrible night. But pretty horrible nights were not uncommon. That night looked like this:

Nights using plan: 3
Asleep time: 8:05
Awake time: 8:00
Total number of awakenings: 7
Longest sleep span: 2:15
Total hours of sleep: 9:50

Just go ahead and think for a minute what a night is like broken up to 8 pieces with the longest of them being 2 hours and 15 minutes. Four of them were under 40 minutes. Yeah. Fun times. Not cool.

I kept using the plan. And I noticed changes. Baby girl could fall asleep more easily off the breast. She was napping more, because I was doing everything I could to help her nap. Then she was sleeping better. Then she was napping better. And so on, because sleep begets sleep.

Ten days in I charted again. And it was a pretty average night for the time.

Nights using plan: 10
Asleep time: 7:45
Awake time: 8:00
Total number of awakenings: 3
Longest sleep span: 3:25
Total hours of sleep: 10:40

As you can see, not much of an improvement on paper from the first day. But her total number of awakenings did go down. So while her longest sleep span wasn’t longer, her average sleep span was. And all of the changes above were occurring.

We kept going. Baby girl started to realize I was taking her off the breast and get more upset when I did. But she also started to let me transfer her to her crib less carefully and wake up a little and allow me to settle her without picking her back up. She napped better and better, able to fall asleep out of my arms more often. She would more often wake, fuss, and put herself back down in a few short minutes (only every few nights, but considering previously it had been every few weeks it was an improvement!). And then the panicked clinging to the breast began to taper off. Shortly into the next 10 days she only woke once in the night for four nights in a row. And then we began to back slide. By the time last night rolled around, 20 nights into our sleep plan, we were at a horrible place in our sleep. I was demoralized to be tracking her sleep on what was going to be a horrible night. The first one was fantastic. Ten days in was average. And now 20 days in was going to be horrible. It was going to look like I made no progress. I needed to see progress. But it was time, and I’m anal-retentive,so i did it. Here’s my night:

Nights using plan: 20
Asleep time: 7:35
Awake time: 8:35
Total number of awakenings: 5
Longest sleep span: 3:50
Total hours of sleep: 11:35

And there you have it. This was an absolutely awful night for us at this point. I was sure the paper would show no progress.

And yet, and yet…go back and compare it to that first FANTASTIC night. Sure, we woke up one more time. But our longest sleep span was longer. Our total hours of sleep was longer. And this was a bad night instead of a good night!


And if you want to see some major progress, go back and compare it to what was a bad night 3 nights in. Compared to that a bad night 20 nights in was nothing!

Today I took baby girl out with me to a meet up with other moms. She has refused to fall sleep while out since she was a few weeks old. The whole overtired thing. But today? I noticed she was tired. I closed the cover on her stroller and carseat so she was coccooned in darkness. And instead of fussing? She fell asleep. I cannot even describe how groundbreaking this is.

Things are getting better.

Sure, it’s happening slowly. But I can handle slow progress as long as there is progress. And quite frankly, if I was willing to try harder I am certain the progress could be faster. There are more things I could do. Work harder at the gentle removal plan to get her off the boob faster. Be on a stricter schedule and make more sure she is getting naps when she needs them. Have a longer bedtime routine so she is more prepared for night time. But, quite frankly, it’s not worth it to me. I’m OK with this pace. We’re slowly but surely improving. And I don’t feel like it’s requiring me to do anything even mildly unpleasant.

Our worst night now is better than our best night 3 weeks ago.

That’s good enough for me.

Sorry for the delay in part 3. Raising a child takes a surprising amount of time, especially when you are also going to school full time and running your first ever 5ks while your mom is in town for a weekend. When your computer dies a sudden, tragic death and you are sharing with your husband that doesn’t help either. Thanks for the patience!

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Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 2 – Crying It Out

That night we began her bedtime routine early. I had heard warm water was soothing, so I gave her a bath. We went through the routine I had begun establishing a week or so prior, and she was tired but happy. I nursed her, took her off before she was asleep, sung her a lullaby, laid her in her crib, and left.

For a few minutes, silence. But then, soon, crying. I tried picking her up and soothing her, but within a few repetitions she would start screaming as I went to lower her in the crib. I was afraid if I kept picking her up every time she cried and putting her down every time she was calm I would teach her the crib was a punishment. She used to cry in her carseat, and usually within 10 minutes of crying would fall asleep. I figured I needed to give her a chance.

I put her down.

I left.

I waited 3 minutes. The cries had risen to the level of screaming. I went in, picked her up, soothed her. She was confused and distraught. It took me a long time to comfort her as she clung to me and kept crying in my arms. Once she was calm I braced myself, lowered her in her crib, and left.

The screams began before I hit the door.

That time, I waited 5 minutes. The next, 10. Then 5 again, then 10. And so on.

For an hour and a half.

I thought I would be OK. I had left my baby to cry before. In her carseat, when I couldn’t pull over. In her bouncer, when I needed to shower. I am not a mother who feels her baby can never cry. Sometimes life is hard, and you have to learn to deal with it because the simple fact is it won’t always go your way.

But this was not crying. This was screaming.

This was not my baby being upset about something.

This was her feeling utterly confused. Hurt. Betrayed for reasons she couldn’t fathom. Her pain rang in her voice as she screamed herself hoarse.

She had never, ever cried like this. This was a level of pain far beyond anything she had ever expressed before.

I would go into her room and she would desperately grab on and cling to me, sniffling as she tried to choke down the sobs she no longer felt the need to let out but the pain of which had taken her over, making it hard to stop. She would bury her face in my neck and wrap her arms around me, taking hold of my hair in both her little fists and gripping desperately. While she loved being in my arms and I wore her regularly, she had never clung to me like this. I didn’t even have to do anything to quiet her anymore, the cries would stop as soon as she was in my arms. All she wanted was the comfort of my love and presence.

And after she was calm, I would go against every instinct my mommy brain was screaming at me, walk her back to the crib, lay her down, and leave.

The screaming would start as I would lower her in. She couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Why I was abandoning her. Why I wouldn’t respond to her cries, her only way to communicate, like I always had. Why I wouldn’t allow her the simple comfort of my arms, which I had always surrounded her with while she fell asleep before.

She was not manipulating me. She was not angry. She was not stubborn.

She was bewildered and betrayed and she screamed her confusion and her desperation to the world that had abandoned her.

Finally, finally, after more than an hour and a half, she slept.

And, in a sense, it “worked”.

She slept 3 hours. Then she woke, ate, went back down easily, and slept another 5 hours.

Of course, most people sleep hard and long after experiencing a trauma. So the fact that she slept so “well” wasn’t really remarkable. It wasn’t a sign that she had learned self-sufficiency. It was a sign of how hard the experience had been on her.

After those 8 hours she woke again, and, with more energy, began a repeat of the screaming as I lowered her into the crib. I took her into our room, tears running down both our faces as she cried at the idea of repeating the experience while awake enough to recognize it happening, and I cried at the thought of doing it, and said to my husband I didn’t know what to do. Could I have done it? Yes. The reason I was such a fantastic dog trainer is that I can out-stubborn anyone. My problem wasn’t that it was hard. My problem was that it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. He told me it was OK to nurse her to sleep in our room like we had been doing. We could work on it again the next night. We could just move her in the middle of the night, when she seemed to do better, for a week or so, and make the crib a not-horrible place to her again.

I crawled into bed and nursed my sweet baby to sleep.

Nothing had ever felt so right.

She went down easily and slept the several hours until morning.

Do I think she was permanently scarred by her hour and a half of screaming it out? No. But something doesn’t have to leave permanent scars to be wrong.

There had to be a way to teach my baby to sleep without causing her this much pain. The day wore on, and even though the crying it out had “worked”, I couldn’t stop feeling…wrong…about it. I refused to do it again.

I looked for other answers.

[Please note, I do not think CIO is wrong for every baby or every family, and I do not judge others who choose to use it. I simply mean it was wrong for ME and it was wrong for MY BABY. I think like most “negative” training techniques (as opposed to positive training techniques), it tends to have an extreme effect, either working very, very well, or working very, very poorly and causing negative side effects you then have to deal with. I have never been a fan of that kind of technique in most situations, and I decided this was one where I wasn’t willing to use it unless I had exhausted every other option.]

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Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 1

It seems like I have been obsessing about sleep for my whole adult life. Between my insomnia and chronic fatigue syndrome I spent the first part always thinking about my own sleep: timing, how activities will affect the sleep I can get and the energy I have, etc. Now that I have a baby, I think about her sleep.

When she was first born I didn’t too much. My husband is awesome and took her for half the nights so I was assured of getting several hours of continuous sleep no matter what. I taught her to sleep in her pack n play by the bed, and her time asleep slowly improved, and by 2 months old she consistently gave us a 4-5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night.

Then she hit a wonder week. And it all went to hell. Specifically, a hell of one month of one hour chunks of sleep with the occaisional two hour chunk thrown in. All the good sleep patterns we’d developed disappeared. And as she grew, she slept less hard. She woke extremely easily. Cutting her nails while she was asleep? Impossible. Moving her, even when she was in the deep part of a sleep cycle, out of your arms? You had maybe a 1/4 chance. She fought sleep like any baby, but what was really hard was how hard it was for her to STAY asleep. (And for the record, we did NOT coddle her. We were loud, we moved her, we did all the right things while she was young. And as she grew, despite constant exposure, those things began to wake her).

Finally, at 4 months, she would give me 2-3 hour stretches at night for the most part. This wasn’t ideal, but we could function on it. The real problem was that she wouldn’t nap most days, because as soon as she’d fall asleep something would wake her. She was grumpy and exhausted. I was getting exhausted. Something needed to change.

I heard from people who did cry it out and had it work fabulously. A few nights of hard, and then beautiful, happy sleep. I looked into it. I thought it would be good for her in the long run. She NEEDED to be able to put herself to sleep so she could nap, since she slept too lightly to be transferred. I saw one method which involved picking baby up and comforting her to calmness when she cried before putting her back down, and I thought maybe I could manage that.

One night a few nights ago I was up with her from 3:30-4:30 and she would. not. sleep. I was exhausted. I gave up and said, that’s it, we’re doing this. I took her into her room and laid her in her crib awake. She laid there a few minutes, then cried some. I picked her up, soothed her to calmness, and laid her down asleep again. I left and waited outside the door. She talked to herself a bit and then…nothing. Silence. I crept back in. She was asleep. It was so easy! I felt stupid for not doing it earlier. I went back to our room and cried to my husband that she didn’t need me. I really do love nursing her to sleep…I just needed her to be able to put herself back to sleep during the brief awakenings she has every hour.

She slept the rest of the night (until a little after 8) and woke up happy. I woke up happy. It was nice having our room back to ourselves. I had missed having her there in the night, but the little break made me happier to see her in the morning.

I figured we’d spend the whole night in her crib that night. I knew it might be harder starting the night there, but how hard could it be?

A lot harder.

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It’s baaaaack

Today I was feeling lonely. I didn’t feel like doing any work. I didn’t feel like doing anything. It kept getting stronger as the afternoon went on. I couldn’t figure out why nothing felt good.

And then I realized.

It’s depression.

It’s back.

Once during my pregnancy while in a REALLY stressful situation I had a short relapse. But once I left the trigger (which was big and understandable) the depression left.

Today? No trigger.

I didn’t sleep great. But not bad. I was kind of grumpy when I woke up. But normal, healthy grumpy. And then I took a nap snuggled up with my baby love and I felt great.

I had a little stress from school, but certainly no more than I’ve had for weeks.

I had a wonderful lunch with my hubby. I brought something up I felt a little bad about, but no big deal.

There was nothing to set me off. Not even a combination of things. This has been a better day than many of late. Nothing outstanding.

And yet…And yet…

I’m depressed.

I want to go crawl into bed and do nothing for the rest of the day. And the foreseeable future. I just can’t make myself care about doing…anything.

I had a mentally healthy pregnancy.

I had a mentally healthy first four months post partum.

I guess that’s all I get.

At least I knew what I had and enjoyed it while I had it.

And at least, even as it’s taking over, I want to snuggle my little love more, not harm or neglect her.

I’m grateful for the healthy time I got, even as I’m sad it’s apparently ending.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go hug my beautiful baby and hang onto her until I find my way back to me.

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