This page has moved to a new address.

<$BlogTitle$> <$BlogItemTitle$>

Candle in the Night

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Blessing of the Binkie

Binkies are controversial, I know.  Some take as strong a stance on binkies as they do breastfeeding or co-sleeping, but I have to say, I'm a huge fan of the binkie.  H started taking one at five months and it was a life saver.  She quit screaming on car rides and started falling back to sleep easily when she'd wake up at night.  She easily weaned from it for daytime use and we still let her have it at nighttime and naps and aren't too concerned about making her give it up.  We know it'll be tough when that time comes, but we'll get through it.
M also didn't take a binkie for the first four months of life, but in the past three days, she's taken one and loves  it.  Again, our car rides have been much more enjoyable and she's been able to fall asleep much more easily.  But it's even more of a blessing for M.

M has always been a fussy nurser.  If you've never had a fussy nurser, you might wonder what I'm talking about.  Well, it's pretty self-explanatory.  While M nurses, she fusses.  She acts like the milk is sour or hurting her tummy or something.  She pulls, twists, and squirms at the breast.  Nursing is almost never enjoyable.  It's improved since I've cut back on dairy, but it's nearly impossible for me to never have dairy (I love a nice tall glass of milk!), so there are still bad feedings.  Even her good feedings aren't like H's good feedings were.  She just doesn't relax.  She only falls asleep at the breast after a good, hard fight.  I'm constantly having to hold her tight so she doesn't pull off and tear me to shreds.  Nursing just isn't her thing.  I've accepted this and am stubborn (and cheap) enough that I am not going to switch to formula.  I wanted to nurse her to at least 18 months and plan to do so if she doesn't self-wean first.  But I will confess, I look forward to weaning her.  I can't wait for this hard phase to be over.

So what does all that have to do with the binkie?  This morning, M woke up at 5:00.  I went in, nursed her, and after she bit me three times (the biting is a new thing), I gave her her binkie and laid her in her crib.  Well, she tossed and turned and fussed and didn't seem to be able to fall back to sleep.  She lost the binkie at some point and wasn't happy about that either.  After about 15 minutes, she was starting to get pretty worked up, so I went over and scooped her up.  I gave her the binkie back and decided to just rock with her for a few minutes.  As I was holding her and she was sucking on her binkie, she did something she's rarely done since birth.  She snuggled down in my arms and just watched me until she fell asleep.  No fighting.  No squirming.  Just snuggles.

It does a mama's heart good to snuggle with her baby and I am so glad she finally has something that helps her relax so we can do that!


Friday, January 13, 2012

When Frustration Hits

I posted about a week ago about M's sleep training and how well that was going.  Well, over the course of the week, things have gone drastically downhill.  She had several good nights, but she's growing and with that growing, she's figured out how to wrestle her way out of her Miracle Blanket.  The past few nights, she has wakened with both arms out (I let her sleep with one arm free to self comfort) and she startles herself awake.  Last night, every couple hours, she'd be out of the swaddle completely and on her tummy crying helplessly.  And I'm tired.  I'm not just tired, I'm beat!

I could insert any one of the following words into how I've been feeling in the past few days, disappointed, frustrated, irritable, whiny, pooped.

These feelings aren't just about the lack of sleep.  They're about the things that don't get done when I'm feeling this way.  They're about me being at the end of my ropes.  I'm sure every mother has felt them.  When your child asks for something over and over and you finally burst and yell at them.  When your baby squirms awake in your arms...again...and you want to just tell them to go to sleep!  When your husband is late coming home from work and you haven't used the bathroom all day and you can't wait for him to get home so you can close the door and pee in peace.  When you just get one child down for a nap and the other one wakes up.  When you clean all the floors just to have someone track snow in on their shoes.

So what do we do when these feeling surface?  Maybe the better question is, how to we prevent them in the first place?

First and foremost, prayer.  I've found that if I start my morning with prayer and devotion, the whole day goes better, sleep deprived or not!  Then, throughout the day, whenever I start to feel frustrated, I pray.  "Lord, give me patience," and "Father, help me", are probably the most common prayers that are on my heart.

Be proactive.  When I know that I'm tired and irritable, I find I benefit greatly if I plan to relax during the day. Instead of cooking dinner, I plan to order pizza.  Instead of having dishes to do, I plan to use paper plates.  Instead of worrying about the house not getting clean, I plan to just clean one thing...or not clean at all.  I don't do ALL these things in one day (unless it's a really extreme case), but planning to not worry about things so much really helps my stress level throughout the day.

Take a nap.  Okay, so this one hasn't happened pretty much since M was born, but when I just had one baby, I was able to nap when she napped.  It was really great and really helped my energy.

Eat lots of healthy foods and have a little caffeine.  Now I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but when I need a burst of energy, I will have a cappuccino.  It gets me through the really bad days when a nap is not an option. The healthy foods help too and give me some energy.  I've found that I feel FAR better if I eat healthy than if I don't.

Eat!  Okay, this may sound redundant, but eating SOMETHING (healthy or not) is better than going hungry.  Today, I was heading home and both girls were fussing in the car.  I knew that when I got home, they would both need to be put down for naps and I would be incredibly hungry by the time I was able to eat something. So I drove through a fast food restaurant.  I knew that if I didn't eat then, I wouldn't be eating for a long time and I needed some food in my system to give me the energy I was going to need to take care of my girls.

But what if the feelings DO surface?  That's a little harder.  As much as I try, there are still times when feelings of frustration, anger, irritation, or disappointment bubble up inside of me.

The first answer is the same.  Prayer.  It's never too late to ask God for help.

Take a break from the situation.  This is easier said than done when the things you might be needing a break from are babies, but it can be done when necessary.  There are times when H is in her high chair and M is playing on the floor or in her jumper that I just go to my room, shut the door, and have a few minutes to recover.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes I scream into a pillow, sometimes I eat a snack, sometimes I just lay quietly with my eyes closed, but I always feel better (and am able to be a better mom) when I go back to my girls.  It's never a long time, but that little bit of time makes a big difference.

Go for a drive.  This can be done either with or without children.  If Brian is home, I can leave him with the girls and run up to the store.  When I come home, I feel like a new person.  Time doing something out of the house, alone, can make all the difference.  If Brian isn't home, I can load up the girls and just drive.  I can go get a snack somewhere, drop off library books, get gas, or just drive.  It just makes a difference to get out of the house sometimes.  (This only works if neither of the girls is crying.  I often have to play little kid music, but I can put it into the back speakers only.  M is getting better about riding in the car, so that helps!)

Call a friend.  I most commonly call my mom, but anyone you're close to who would at least sort of understand the situation will do.  Vent to them.  Often, once it's all out in the open, I realize that it all sounds pretty silly and I'm going to be okay after all.

Have your child spend some alone time.  One of the things that really gets my emotions fired up is when I'm nursing M, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, or any other number of things and H wants me to hold her.  I know that some mothers wear their children everywhere and more power to them, but I suffer from sensory overload at times and NEED to not be touched.  H will whine if I don't pick her up when she wants to be held and often that whining will turn into a full-fledged fit.  Thus, the fit spot.  If H is throwing a fit (one of the things that used to really upset me), she sits in her fit spot until she's done.  She knows that when she's ready to be "nice", or stop whining and crying, she can get up.  Sometimes it just takes her a minute and sometimes it takes her five minutes, but when she's done, she's done and I am not nearly as worn out as if she'd been throwing that same fit at my feet!

What are some things you do to "survive" when frustration hits?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Want to win an Apple iPad 2 or a Kindle Fire??  Just fill out the entry form below!  Entry is SUPER easy and fun!  :)  And who knows!  YOU could be the lucky winner!

Read more »


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sleep Training Round Two

You might recall my post when H was about six months old about sleep training and all the methods we'd tried.  Well, I can honestly say, her sleep training was a HUGE success.  She LOVES her bedtime routine and will usually ask for a nap when she's feeling tired.  How many toddlers do you know that do that??  I guess H was our guinea pig.  (That's the way it goes with first children...)  We tried several different things, a couple that didn't work for us, and found the one that worked.

So when the time came to sleep train M, I knew what book to pick up.  I guess before I go any further, I should tell you how I knew it was "time".  M has always slept either in a bassinet right next to our bed or in bed with us.  She had gotten to the point though where she couldn't sleep without being attached to the breast and although this works for some mommies, it doesn't work for me.  I don't sleep well when my babies are nursing.  It also didn't work well because M is a SQUIRMER!  She is the squirmiest baby I've ever seen!  That is not good for sleeping!  So because of the lack of sleep, I was watching for signs of readiness.  One sign I saw was that she was trying to self-soothe.  She'd suck her thumb or rub her hand on her cheek.  I knew the ability to do this was key to being able to put herself to sleep.  Another sign was that she started breaking free of the Miracle Blanket at night.  Unfortunately, this meant even more nighttime wakings and more reason to need sleep training.  The last sign was that nursing was no longer consistently putting her to sleep.  I would nurse and she'd still be awake when she was finished and she didn't know what to do.  She had always fallen asleep nursing and didn't know how to fall asleep without it.

Even though I knew the time had come, I still dreaded sleep training.  I don't like hearing my babies cry.  I really don't want to do it.  But I know it's important.  Here are the things that go through my mind when I'm trying to talk myself into beginning.

  • Babies need sleep.  If my sleep is getting interrupted, so is hers and that's not good for her.  
  • Self-soothing is an important skill.  It's something she needs to learn.  
  • Learning to sleep as babies can shape their sleep for the rest of their lives.  As with H, I see that liking sleep is important well into toddler-hood.  
There is also a story that goes through my head when I think about sleep training.  I believe it's in Ferber's book and it really made an impact on me.  It went something like this...

Imagine you're going to sleep.  You lay down in your bed, fluff your pillow just right, turn on the fan, and drift off into dream land.  When one of your natural, lighter sleep cycles comes around, instead of drifting back into deep sleep, you wake up fully to realize you're not in your bed, but in your living room.  Someone has carried you out onto the sofa while you were in deep sleep.  You get up and make your way back to your bed where you fall back asleep.  An hour or so later, you wake up again on the sofa.  You go back to your room again.  This happens again an hour later, but this time, your door is locked.  You're tired and frustrated.  You go find the person with the key, they unlock the door for you, and you go back to sleep.  This happens continuously all night long.  When you wake in the morning, you're anything but rested.  

This really made an impact on me.  What we do when we don't sleep train our babies is soothe them to sleep and then move them away from that source of soothing.  (Unless you're one of the moms who can nurse all night long.  If so, more power to you!)  They wake up, realize they've been "drug out to the living room", and want their bed back.  They HAVE to nurse back to sleep.  Or be rocked, or walked, or driven around in the car.  Whatever that is for your baby, it's a crutch, and it's not making it better for them, it's making nighttime harder on everyone.  When I realized this, I realized I needed to give my baby a chance to learn how to soothe herself back to sleep so that when she partially awakened in the night without me, she could drift back to dreamland instead of fully waking up and being upset that I wasn't there.  It's freeing for a baby (and for the mommy!) 

So now on to specifics.  The book I finally landed on with H was Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy.  Long title, excellent book.  I won't go into it all here, but the basic plan Kim West lays out is something she calls the "Sleep Lady Shuffle".  Basically, you lay your baby down in their bed DROWSY but AWAKE (this is key!) and the first three nights, you sit right by the crib, saying "shhhhh" once in a while and reaching in and patting them once in a while.  The next three nights, you move your chair to the middle of the room and still can say "shhhhh" once in a while, the next three, you're in the doorway and the last three nights, you're in the hall.  By this time, your child should be good at self soothing and falling asleep on their own.  If they wake up in the night, you return to your "shuffle position" and let them fall back to sleep on their own.  She has guides in her book as to how often a baby should nurse at night, etc., but that's the basics of it.  

I love this book because she NEVER suggests you just let your child wail in the dark.  In fact, if the child gets out of control in their crying, she suggests picking the child up, calming them down, and then laying them back in bed.  I love this aspect of the plan.  I don't do well leaving a crying child alone.  It's not something that works for me.  

I'm doing this a little differently with M because she's only five months instead of the six months suggested in the book.  The main differences are that I'm not moving the chair (I'll stay beside her until she falls asleep each night until I decide she's ready) and I'm nursing her twice in the night (West suggests that 5 month olds can go 11 hours without eating...M has NEVER done that and she's only gone 6 hours a couple times).  Six hours is the goal.  So far, we're only at five and I'm not too worried about it.  I feel that as her self-soothing gets better, she'll go back to sleep easier and won't need to eat as soon.  Hopefully I'm right.  

So we're on night four of this and I'll just share with you what it's looked like so far.  

Night 1:  Awful.  M went down at 7:30 and woke up every hour from then until 4:00.  I fed her at 10ish and again at 3:45 or so.  She only cried about 10 minutes each time which I really did think was good for the first night, but it was still hard on Momma.  Plus, I was exhausted the next day!

Night 2: Amazing!  M went down at 7:30, woke up at 8:15, 9:00, and 10:22.  I fed her at the 10:22 waking and then she slept until 2:56.  I tried to hold her off, but she would have none of it, so I went ahead and fed her.  She woke up at 5:00 (because Brian's alarm wouldn't shut off) and fussed for only a few minutes and then slept until 7:45.  The first three waking, she fussed for less than 10 minutes each.  

Night 3: Amazing again!  M went down at 7:35 and was asleep in three minutes.  She slept until 12:00 and I was going to go get her up and feed her, but she wasn't crying, she was just talking, so I left her.  She did that for about three minutes and then went back to sleep.  She woke back up at 12:40 and I fed her and again, she sang herself to sleep.  At 3:00, she woke up and I changed her diaper.  She wasn't thrilled to go back down, but since I'd just fed her a few hours before, I wasn't going to do it again so quickly.  She fussed on and off, but went to sleep in about 15 minutes. She woke up at 5:25, ate, and I laid her down at 5:45 awake and left the room to go back to bed.  I didn't hear a peep out of her until 7:35 when she woke up for the day.  

I just can't believe how well M has done with this.  I am confident that it was the right time for her and that this was the method for us.  I'm sleeping better, Brian is sleeping better, and M is sleeping better...and that's what it's all about!  

Another couple key things worth mentioning... 

  • Good sleep = more good sleep.  DO NOT keep your child up in the day just so they will sleep better at night.  It doesn't work that way.  In fact, I'm nursing M to sleep for her naps and not attempting to sleep train for them yet because I know it's important for her to get good daytime sleep so she's not overtired.  
  • Follow the rules lined out at the beginning of Kim West's book for baby sleep in the first few months. I didn't and wish I did.  I think it would make sleep training WORLDS easier.  The main one I'll mention is to let your child put him/herself to sleep on their own at least once every day.  I can see how this would really help them learn early on how to self-soothe.  I definitely plan to do this with my next baby.  
  • Relax.  If a sleep plan isn't working for you, stop and try something else.  Give it at least a few days, but if your baby isn't ready, it's not going to be better for anyone.  

I hope this has helped some of you who are struggling with your baby's sleep.  I know it's a hard thing to go through and am glad we have so many great resources to help guide us through.   

I'd love to hear from any of you regarding your sleep training experiences!  

Happy sleeping!!


New Years Resolution: Day 5...So Far So Good

I have never made a New Year's Resolution before.  I've always thought they were kind of silly and seem too easily broken.  I know most people don't even keep theirs through February.  So when I thought about making one this year, I hesitated...a lot.  When I decided I was going to do it, I hesitated to tell anyone because I didn't want to have to tell them later that I'd broken it.  Well, I decided to tell people...obviously.  I figure that's the best accountability I have.

When choosing a resolution, I thought about several different things.  There is really no shortage of things I need to do better.  I wanted it to be something realistic though.  Something easy enough to keep, but something I was not already doing.

So I decided on my "Make or Break".  I'm going to have the dishes done every night before I go to bed. It's important since it sets the tone for my next day, reduces my stress, and is totally doable.  Now I just need to keep doing it.  As I said in the title, so far so good!

Did you make a New Year's Resolution?  If so, how's it going?