May 31, 2012

Good sleep comes to those who wait...Part II

Disclaimer: I'm not interested in Mommy Wars. Swaddle, no swaddle, pacifier, no pacifier, (six pacifiers), cry, no-cry, room-sharing, bed-sharing, Sears, Ferber, Spock... Everyone seems to have an opinion on ...everything... when it comes to babies and parenting. Every baby is a unique individual who has never before existed on this planet, and parenting is not a competition. I like to think we all share a common goal - wanting what's best for our kiddos. Yes, we have different means and strategies of achieving that goal, but we're all in this together. Your baby may grow up to be my baby's friend, spouse, pastor, colleague, senator, etc. I'll do the best I can with the knowledge I've got (and lots of prayer!), and hope you'll do the same.

Click here for Part I.

Part II

"Move me and I'll shoot."
The first night actually wasn't so bad! I went in to reassure him first after five, then 10, then 15 minutes of sporadic crying, and he fell asleep. He woke up about once an hour for the rest of the night, cried maybe 5-10 minutes, then fell back asleep before I even needed to go in there. I'd wake up, turn on my timer, turn down the audio, turn on the video, and watch, in and out of sleep. WOW - I thought. It can't really be that easy.

And it wasn't.

On the second night of our family sleep study, we took a surprise trip to Crazytown, the real city that never sleeps. While the first part of the evening went just fine (we graduated to 15-20-25), we did not sleep much between the hours of 1:00-5:00 am. Let's just say that Bryson is a very strong-willed little guy. He knew something was different, because for the past (almost) seven months, we had responded pretty immediately to his every peep by picking him up, rocking, singing, or some combination of those. That was right for us then, but this was right for us now. We needed to try something different.

I didn't read Dr. Ferber's book, so I won't say we used "the Ferber Method." I did read lots of articles, blogs, (sometimes embarrassingly judgmental) blog comments, and book excerpts on various methods, however. That's how I decided we'd try our own spin on progressive waiting, with some snuggly reassurance and a slew of binkies spread throughout the crib for easy access.


 Progressive waiting is just that: you progressively wait a bit longer each time before going in to reassure you're little one that he's okay, that you love him, and that he is not alone. You don't just leave them in there to cry all night (or in our case, longer than 30 minutes), as some people mistakenly assume. I went in to check on him every 20-30 minutes, but I wasn't sure if that was helping or hurting his efforts to doze off. I also wasn't sure how to count the minutes, since he would fall asleep for 5-10 minutes at a time before relaxing his arms, waking himself up again! He wasn't crying for 30 minutes straight, but he wasn't sleeping either.

It was just as miserable as "they" said it would be, if not more. I doubted everything. I was awake, in my bed, Googling my aching, sleepy heart out and texting my mom and sisters, my Texas support team. I knew we committed to try this for a week, but I also knew my baby needed sleep, and I did too.

Did all babies cry this long? Was I a bad mother for not giving in and holding him all night? Would this work, or does he have sleep problems that won't be addressed with this method? I feel hungry, but I'm normally asleep right now, so I shouldn't go downstairs to make a bowl of cereal...should I?

At this point it's worth noting that while I wanted Jeremy to be awake to commiserate, I also wanted to be the one to get the "reward" of comforting B at the proper interval. I was the one with my eyes glued to the monitor, after all. That meant the poor guy really didn't neeeeeed to be awake with me, so I quit bugging him around the 3:00 mark.

Sooo...yeah...about last night...
Somewhere around 5:00 am, I gave up for the night/morning/whatever it was, and asked Jerm to bring B into our room, where he slept rather peacefully for a few glorious hours. Night two of the sleep study was just about the same. We got most of our crazies out before midnight, but we were still awake for two hours that morning before I called it. I was afraid we'd spend a week doing this and see no improvement...then what?! But night three was even better. The crazies were out by midnight, and I didn't really remember what happened between then and 6:00 am, which was a good sign.

For the next four days and nights, Bryson and I were on our own. Jeremy had the midwatch, which meant he'd be working all night and sleeping during the day. It was time to see what we were made of...

.....

..........

......

...and we were made of AWESOMENESS!

Full disclosure: Writing this particular blog post has been a (lame?) mommy dream of mine. I've had the title in mind for months. (Feel free to make fun of me for that, BTW.) On one hand, I wanted to shout this news from the rooftops of my quiet, sleepy house, and other other hand, I didn't want to jinx us by sharing this before a full week was over. I also didn't want to rub it in to sleepy mama friends on Facebook, hence the spoiler alert on Part I.

A favorite pose, admiring his binky collection.
Now. I should mention that one big change that coincided with the better sleep was the switch from white noise to lullabies. White noise clearly wasn't working magic for us like it had in the early days, so I figured we had nothing to lose by trying something new. After our time in Crazytown, I remembered that I had an album of lullabies on my iPod. We used them when putting my niece to sleep as a baby, and in a mushy, sentimental Aunt Nikki mood one night, I saved them to my iTunes. Little did I know how valuable they would be!

There is such a remarkable difference in our sleep patterns it's redonkulous.


For the most part, each night keeps getting better. He used to wake up at least 3-5 times in the first couple of hours of being asleep, waking up and needing to be (fairly easily) settled every 2-4 hours from that point on. Now, he goes down around 8:00 and wakes up to nurse between 5:30-6:30, with a few barely noticeable peeps in between. If he wakes up, it's for less than five minutes, and he's back to sweet sleepy sleep.

In addition to having the nighttime sleeping down, his naps have improved dramatically! He will fall asleep within minutes of laying down, and he his new normal is now anywhere from 60-90 minutes. PEOPLE. Before this, his naps would last anywhere from 30-45 minutes, like clockwork. No kidding. I don't even know what to do with myself these days.

I'm not taking a minute of this for granted, since I feel like it could change at any time (like as soon as I click "publish"). I know we still have plenty of sleepless nights ahead of us between teething, growth spurts, colds, and all that other fun stuff. Still, if this is our new normal, I'll take it!

I realize some people will read this and think, "How could they let him cry? They must be heartless monsters!", etc. etc. To those people, I redirect you to my disclaimer. We did what was right for us, based on a lot of reading and careful consideration, and so far it seems to have worked for our family. Our little man is as happy as ever, and seems to love us just as much as before. His sleep habits have changed, but his charming personality has not :)

If you're struggling with severely interrupted sleep on a regular basis like we were, my advice is this: read all you can about your options, pray about it if you're the praying kind, and give it time to work before giving up. Don't let anyone tell you there's ONE right way. Even the "experts" don't agree. Nobody has ever had your baby before. You're the expert! Do what feels right for you.

And friends, let me tell you. This sleeping-for-more-than-three-hours-at-a-time-then-snuggling-with-a-happy-baby-by-morning business?


It. feels. so. right.



P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

May 30, 2012

Good sleep comes to those who wait...

...and BOY (named Bryson), have we waited!

Spoiler Alert: I realize that when it comes to babies, there is no "normal" for sleep. In fact, at one point, after seeing four-too-many Facebook posts by friends whose babies were "sleeping through the night" at the age of like, three hours, I kindly asked them to hide those special stories from my view. I wanted to be happy for them, and totally was, in theory. In reality, I was tired. And wondering why we weren't there yet. If you're in that stage at the moment, I feel you. If you decide to read on, I pray that these posts give you hope that there's a nightlight at the end of the tunnel :)

Part I:

We may be on the verge of something beautiful in the Brown household.

For the better part of the past seven months, our sweet little boo boo has slept in our room with us, in an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, right next to the bed. The first six weeks were spent on Jeremy's side, as I couldn't reach over to get him until I had fully healed from my c-section. The rest of the time, he's been my little sidekick, and I've loved it! For one, nighttime nursing is extremely convenient when I don't even have to get out of bed and for two (?), I have grown to love hearing the little noises he makes when he sleeps. From night one, we have never stopped marveling at his cuteness, sleepy as we may be.

Bryson's little man cave is a pretty cool little place, located about 20 feet from our bedroom. When we got back from our trip to Texas in February, we thought he might be ready for the move down the hall.

We were off to a promising start...
After the first couple of nights didn't go so well, we moved the cosleeper in there to see if the new (much larger) crib was the problem. When that didn't help, we moved ourselves in there. After a few nights of shacking up in a smaller space, smaller bed, yadda yadda, I realized...we might as well move this party back down the hall until we're ready to try this again. And so, while we started putting him down for his daytime naps in his room, we stuck to keeping him in our room at night. 

Well, Bryson kept growing, and the cosleeper stayed the same size (weird). He was running out of room in there. While I secretly considered moving his crib into our room, I knew that we had to get serious about moving him into his room. I'd avoided it before by saying I needed one more night to know it would be the last night. I needed to, uh, make sure all the sound machines and monitors were charged and in working order. What I really needed was at least 24 hours' notice to mentally prepare, so that I could soak up that last night (of interrupted sleep?!). [I realize how ridiculous I am. And knowing what I know now, just confessing these things makes me want to cry with laughter.]

I figuratively slapped myself in the face and decided it was time to rip the bandaid. It was never going to be easy, but it had to be done. He was literally too big for his current sleeping situation. He wasn't moving out of the house (yet...Lord, give me strength when that day comes!). He was moving to his room, a few steps down the hall. It was time to figure out if he could sleep better under different conditions. 

Before this stage of our lives, I didn't want to let him cry or fuss more than just a few minutes of time. (And most "experts" don't seem to recommend that before six months of age anyway.) Then, when he was just over six months old, I started to realize he only "needed" one feeding between bedtime and waketime.The rest of his wakeups were, more or less, just for kicks. Over a few days, I moved that one feeding from between 12:00 and 2:00 am to between 4:00 and 6:00 am, and the stage was set. He was developmentally old enough not to NEED me during the night, and I was chronically tired enough to deal with a few tears for the greater good.

After the first eventful  night in his room, I told Jeremy that we needed a strategy. Neither of us had to go into work for a few days, so now was the perfect time. I dusted off my Eat, Sleep, Poop book and reread the part about the 5-10-15 method of sleep training, inspired by the Ferber method. I debriefed him on the progressive waiting approach (where you let the baby cry for brief intervals, waiting for progressively longer stretches before going in to pat and reassure him), and we were ready. Sort of. I had flashbacks to our first week home with B as a newborn, when the only thing progressing was my anxiety as bedtime approached. I prayed a lot and gave my sweet baby lots of smooches and snuggles, to try and build up some love currency for the long night we had ahead of us.

Click here for Part II.




P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

May 18, 2012

Tiny Bubbles: Fun at Gymboree


I'm a bit of a clutter-phobe. Okay, "phobe" may be a bit hyperbolic. But I certainly like every thing to have a place in our home.

By the time Bryson's first Christmas rolled around, he was only two months old. He wasn't playing with toys yet, and we had plenty waiting in the wings.

Knowing these two facts, coupled with the knowledge that I wasn't getting out (of my pajamas) much, my thoughtful sisters gave us a perfect gift: a gift card to be spent on two months of classes at our local Gymboree.

Gymboree is a fun place where you can take your kiddos (whether they're five weeks old or five years old) to play work on their cognitive, physical, and social skills. You can learn more about it on their website.

I wanted to wait until Bryson was about four months old before we started, and so that's what I did. One Sunday night I decided to go for it, signing us up for the next day's "Level 1" class.

I have to admit, it was nice to actually have a dedicated time and place to be! Up to this point, Bryson and I pretty much stayed home most days, with the exception of our daily walks. We were both going a bit shacky. While I was a bit nervous to make sure I timed his nursing sessions and naps strategically, it worked out just fine. I dressed him in his sportiest outfit (this was gym, after all...), and we were off!

Lots of songs are sung at Gymboree, and many of them involve Gymbo the clown. The teachers use him as a demo of sorts, to show the grown-ups what we're supposed to do with our babies. Admittedly, that can be weird. Nonetheless, save for the odd tear or age-appropriate outburst here and there, everybody has fun at Gymboree.

The one main rule there is that no shoes (or bare feet, besides tiny bare feet) are allowed on the floor. You must wear socks. After the first trip, unsuccessfully trying to balance holding Bryson and the diaper bag while signing in, creating name tags, and donning my Hanes no-shows, I made a mental note: Next time, think like a fashion criminal (and select Hawaii tourists) and wear socks with flip-flops for max efficiency. 

Once the logistics were handled, it was time for the fun stuff.
 
At this point, the suggestion was for them to look at "that baby in the mirror," according to the song. Bryson never once looked down. He was too captivated by the six-month-old cougar across the way.


This was the brainstorming session for the getaway. "I'll be the decoy, you grab Gymbo and as many bubbles as you can, then we'll roll right out of here..."


Apparently Gymboree bubbles are made with a special sugar recipe so that they don't burst as easily as your average bubbles. I didn't realize that when I sat, amazed at the shelf-life of this one in particular:


A major plus to classes at Gymboree is the opportunity to meet new people (this goes for both babies and their grown-ups). It's nice to swap stories with other parents going through many of the same things you are. I think the babies like to swap stories too. Here's Bryson with two of his Gym buddies. (He's the big handsome baldish one in the middle, if you couldn't tell...)


After a month of Level 1 and a month-long hiatus, we recently graduated to Level 2, which is for ages 6-10 months (or when they can crawl, whichever comes first). New teacher, new activities, new songs, new friends, and of COURSE...new photos.

As demonstrated below, he sat up on his own for quite a good while during this class! Probably because he felt more mature (this was Level 2, after all...).





As you can see, we like our time there. It's a Christmas gift that keeps on giving. After a month of Level 2, we will probably take another break until it's time for Level 3, then we'll take it from there. In the meantime, it's fun to have a special weekly date with my little man. He has a great time watching everyone play, and that makes it all worth it to me!

....And by "all", I mean the silent ridicule I would've surely endured at my local Target store, had I not realized I had been sporting my Gymboree socks + flip-flop combo on my long walk through the parking garage. Thankfully I was able to remedy the situation before making it to the entrance, where I otherwise may have been arrested by the fashion police.

Note to self, part II: take the socks off immediately once class is over.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


May 15, 2012

Oh BOY :)

Blue means BOY: The official announcement photo.
Every pregnant woman is subject to a set of standard pregnancy FAQs. One of my least favorites questions is, "What are you hoping for?"

I feel weird when people ask that question. And I feel weird when people answer that question. Who wants to go on record saying they have a preference for the sex of their baby? At best, you're right, at worst, you're wrong, and you've put it out there that you didn't really want your child to be the way s/he is.

My diplomatic response was always "ten fingers, ten toes!"....until the week of my first ultrasound.



One of my favorite peeks at his tiny, tiny toes.
I had a dream that we went in for the ultrasound, and our baby had some ...unique... digits. I can't remember the exact breakdown, but it was something like eight total fingers, and ten total toes, with a four-six distribution. Stacey, my sister who was actually going to be there for our first ultrasound, said in the dream, "Well at least they add up to ten!" So true, Dream Stace. So true.

And so, my answer changed. I would love my baby, boy or girl, ten fingers or eight, ten toes or twelve. My baby's my baby, a dream come true regardless of the metatarsal count.

Long before I was ever pregnant, my mom predicted my first baby would be a boy. On the day we found out we were pregnant, Jeremy predicted we would have "at least one boy." (True story.) I didn't have any inklings of my own for the first few weeks, so I deferred to the predictions of those who knew me best.

After a while, though, I started to feel like I'd be surprised if this Brownie was a girl, which meant I thought he was a he. I carefully joined Team Boy, not wanting to hurt the hypothetical girl's feelings. While I think it'd be a great surprise to wait until the actual delivery to find out, I'm just not that cool. People say they want it to be a surprise, but the way I see it: It's a surprise whenever you find out, aaaand I'd rather be surprised and find out with plenty of time to stock the closet :)


We thought we wouldn't find out until June, but a surprise peek in late April gave us a bit more certainty, much sooner than we expected.

While in a "bonus" ultrasound on April 26th (11 weeks, 5 days along), enjoying the view of the tiniest crossed feet we'd ever seen (see above), the doctor stopped suddenly and looked at us.

Aerial view. That's no umbilical cord, folks.

"Do you want to know the sex?"

Was she really asking this? "Ummmmm...YES!"

"It does look like those are boy parts....but this is really early to say, so don't hold me to it..."

Cue Proud Papa: "Oh, I'm holdin' you to it."

HA! One point for Team Blue.

The final verdict came in on June 3 at our actual gender ultrasound. We took a photo to capture the last moment of wondering if we had a hypothetical baby girl, and then it was time to confirm what we'd seen in April. I sported blue nails and my favorite turquoise necklace to demonstrate my hypothesis.

Within just seconds, his goodies were on display. He's a HE! (Of course he is!) We were so excited. Not because we were right, but because he looked great. Perfectly healthy and growing like a champ. We had a son on the way. So unreal.



After the ultrasound, Courtney and I went shopping for his first boy outfits, and she snapped the official announcement photo with her phone (in front of a Party City window display, no less!). The wait was over. It was confirmed. My little dream guy was on his way, and the name game could officially commence.

Now we just have to wait about 13 more years to find out how he feels about me posting his boy parts for all of our friends and family to see.




P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


cupcake photo credit: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) via photopin cc