Monday, April 23, 2012

Not losing any sleep over it

Isn't it always the case that when something that was very stressful stops being stressful, you just sort of stop talking about it? Sometimes I wonder if the 2-3 people who actually read this blog stay up at night, dying to know how the whole "Jack Sleeping Situation" has been going in the - eegads - 6-9 months that it's been since I last wrote about it.

Don't worry, I don't lose any sleep about this either. Because guess what? My child is now the BEST sleeper that ever existed!

He sleeps for 11 hours every single night! He takes a 3 hour nap every single day! Three HOURS every day, at 21 months old. We can put him down anywhere and with minimal fuss and he'll fall asleep! He ASKS us to put him in bed ("Go bed now").

Yup, I've got it good. Part of me feels guilty - I know plenty of parents who are still dealing with sleepless babies well into their second or third year - and then the other part of me tells the first part to be quiet and enjoy it while it lasts.

So, how did all of this happen? Well, I hate to admit it. I weaned Jack. I weaned Jack at 16 months because I was pregnant with baby #2 and my fertility doctor told me to do it to reduce the risk of miscarriage. I knew ahead of time that the doctor would recommend it. I knew it was a bullshit opinion based on nothing but old-school bias. But I was pregnant naturally, we were nearing time to wean anyway, and I decided I would not have been able to cope with miscarriage if I chose to continue nursing Jack.

It would take me a bit of time to completely eliminate daytime nursing, but I weaned him from night-nursing cold-turkey. We decided that completely stopping my nighttime parenting would be less stressful than a slow withdrawal of comfort. When Jack cried, Greg went to him. And Jack continued to sob hysterically. He called my name. He used the new word I taught him: "Cuddle mommy cuddle cuddle please". He was not to be consoled. It was terrible, just terrible for everybody. But it was over in a week, and he never looked back. He went from waking 1-3 times per night to sleeping from 7:30pm-7:30am, straight through.

And I truly, honestly believe he is a happier child for this extra sleep. I would never - ever - recommend weaning for sleep issues before a year of age. But at 15 months, it was clear to all of us that Jack no longer needed the milk OR the comfort. He was hardly opening his eyes, much less actually nursing. It was just routine at that point. And once we broke the routine, he did just fine on his own.

Here are our nighttime routines.

Pre-weaning: bath, cuddling, nursing, rocking, ~40 minutes total time, down to sleep, back up every 3 hours or so with about 20 minutes of nursing and rocking to get him back down again

Post-weaning: bath, books, lights off, cuddling, singing, rocking, ~40 minutes total time, down to sleep by 8pm, up around 7:30am.

Post-weaning + pregnant belly: shower with mamma, books, lights off, a quick hug, wait for Jack to say "go bed now", ~20 minutes total time, down to sleep by 8:30pm, up around 7:30am.

Jack doesn't like to cuddle and sing anymore because my belly is too big for him to get comfy. That makes me sad, but I can't help it. Once I put him in his crib, he spends the next 10-60 minutes talking to himself. He likes to do this. He doesn't want us back in the room. And then he finally falls asleep. And then he tells us to "go away" and "turn light off" when we try to get him up in the morning.

Greg repeats the book/cuddling routine for naptime, which is generally from 1:30-4:30pm. I don't know what we would do if Jack was in daycare and they forced him to take a shorter nap. He definitely needs that time to sleep, and if we wake him up too soon (uhm, yeah, so often we actually have to wake him up at the end of three hours), he will be upset and cranky for the rest of the evening. We are actually that family that works their whole day around their child's nap schedule, but I don't regret it for a moment. He is one un-cranky kid.

So do I think anything we did had anything to do with this? Not really. I need loads of sleep - loads of sleep - and I was a terrible sleeper as a baby, too (up every 2 hours for the first year, just like Jack). Do I think we did some things that were consistent in letting him learn good sleep habits? Absolutely. Here are a few things I will definitely do again:

1) Co-sleeping. Co-sleeping did not cause our problems, and it was the only thing that gave me any relief. Let me repeat: co-sleeping was the only solution to dealing with a child that was up every 1-2 hours in the worst of it. It got both of us - me AND Jack - more sleep. He told ME when he was ready to leave the bed (at about 9 months), by simply refusing to sleep there anymore. He was sleeping in his crib full time at 10 months and has been ever since.

2) Night-nursing. If there's one message I wanted to send to my child, it was that nighttime was for comfort and calmness. I believe that nursing helps teach a baby that. He was never left to cry, and so when the time came for him to be on his own at night, he had the skills to calm himself. He knew that it was a time to calm himself and settle.

3) More on calming ourselves at night. When Jack woke up at night, we only ever nursed or gave him a bottle. Night time was not for books, lights, talking, or playing. Night time was and is for sleeping, and only sleeping.

4) We never wavered from our nap routine. Jack naps every single day. He has only not-napped once, and it was a disaster of a day, and it took him two full days to recover his good sleeping pattern after that. I am a big believer in the "sleep begets sleep" theory. It's worth rearranging our daytime schedule to make sure he has a consistent place to lay his head at the same time every day, and I see plenty of evidence that this routine helps him sleep through the night.

Let me reiterate that I take zero claim for Jack's propensity to sleep a lot. I have little doubt that is genetic. The children that I know that sleep poorly have parents that are light sleepers, too. But I do think if we had treated Jack differently - if we had let him cry, if we had denied him comfort, if we had not shown him a consistent night time and nap routine - he wouldn't have learned good sleep habits. Clearly our choice to co-sleep and not let him cry in his first year of life did not prevent him from being a wonderful sleeper later on. I do not know what kind of baby Baby #2 will be, but I will try to be consistent in nurturing that baby back to sleep.

5 months into this whole "sleeping through the night" business, and I think I could do it forever.

Baby #2? Please sleep. Please sleep. Please sleep a lot, OK?

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Jack loves giving hugs, which is part of the reason that I don't want him to get a single day, a single minute, a single second older than he is right now. I'll take this age forever :)

For some reason, he often adds "a" before the object of his hug: "Hug a mommy", "Hug a daddy", "Hug a baby" (and he is very into hugging the baby, i.e., my belly). "Hug a baba" (stuffed bear). "Hug leg" when I'm cooking. "Hug arm" when I'm sitting next to him in his car seat. "Hug family" now that we taught him what "Family" means.

Here, he is hugging Tori: