Monday, April 1, 2013

Baby Sleep

If you want to annoy and unsettle new parents - or if you just want to underscore the fact that you have never had a baby - then you should go ahead and ask them that most inane of questions.... "Does your baby sleep through the night?"

Or if you want to annoy not-so-new parents of a 15 month-old, then go ahead and ask me and my husband, "Does he sleep through the night yet?"

Ha. Ha. Ha.

"No, thanks for asking! No, he absolutely does not."

At the moment, baby G goes into his crib around 7:30, and takes about a half hour to fall asleep. (Parental units must be present cribside, preferably touching his back and playing relaxing music, for this to happen.) Depending on whether or not he is teething (he seems these days to be constantly teething), he wakes up anywhere from an hour to three hours after falling asleep. Thereupon he wakes up every hour until he is taken into bed with parental units. Which is usually after the first waking, because, come on, who are we kidding? I like and NEED my sleep, and I get the most when baby G is in my bed.

The thing to understand about baby sleep is this. That sleep like a baby thing? Hm yah, most bedeviled saying ever invented, perhaps invented by the devil himself as a way to trick unsuspecting couples into thinking that babies are easy and no they shouldn't worry about condoms. Babies are not easy, and babies do not "sleep like a baby."

This is how baby sleep goes:

You get home from the hospital with an impossibly tiny, delicate, most-beautiful creature - your newborn baby. Baby sleeps!You think, oh this isn't so bad.

After baby has rested from the trauma of birth, he needs to eat! He eats constantly, throughout the night. It is UNSAFE for baby to go longer than 3 hours without eating because his tummy is the size of walnut. Therefore, even if he does manage to sleep a stretch, you are waking every hour to vouchsafe his continued existence. You are more sleep-deprived then the time you pulled two all-nighters in college.

After three months baby may have started to "sleep through the night." I mean that in the clinical sense of the phrase, which is sleeping for five hours straight. This seems like bliss.

Then baby hits the 3-month growth phrase, where - literally - they can grow an inch OVER NIGHT. (Not joking.) They wake up EVERY HOUR demanding to be feed. Your sanity is hanging perilously over the edge of a cliff.

At 6 months your baby is old enough to try more drastic (to me cruel) measures of "sleep training." Cry-it-out (in it's most extreme and mean form) is where you say good-night to your baby in its crib and don't go in the room again until morning, no matter what! I label this as cruel and unusual punishment. There are more moderate versions of this that may be better, but let's just leave it at that for now. I'll do a full critique on sleep training later. For us, at 6 months,  I started reading baby sleep books and continued napping when baby G did in the afternoon.

At 7 months baby G was sleeping with us but only waking once to feed.

At 9 months, baby G realized that he and his mommy were separate beings, and that I <shocking!> could LEAVE him. Otherwise known as separation anxiety, it is obviously an important and necessary mental milestone, but OMG, sleep regression is not even the word for it. He was waking EVERY hour to make sure I was still there. I felt like I was sleeping with a newborn again - and looked like it too. (By the way, at the time,  I didn't realize why he was waking. I thought it might be teething or a virus. It was only a few months later when I was reading about separation anxiety that I had that AHA! moment.)

At a year, baby G was waking about twice or thrice a night. Mommy's all-night open milk bar being the arousal cue. (Hey, if I had a warm container of hot chocolate sleeping next to me all night, I think I would wake a few times to take a sip too.)

At 13 months I tried to night-wean, and it was just too soon. And too much crying. And bah, I just couldn't be bothered.

Now, at 15 months, last night we had a break-through! I told him when putting him to bed that mommy's milk was going to be sleeping tonight and he would have to wait until the morning. I didn't nurse him once all night long. Was he super-pissed??? Oh hell yes. He screamed and screamed and was a right little tyrant. But he didn't get his way and he eventually went to sleep. (Although he did do lots of headbashing, as he would dive-bomb his little head towards my chest and end up hitting my head instead. Would have been amusing if it weren't at 1am, 2am, and 4am.) I think it will take a few nights and then he'll be accustomed.

I'm hoping to have him out of our bed by his second birthday -  mostly to make room for a possible sibling more than anything else. I love sleeping next to my little snuggle puppy. I think the most important things to remember when you think you're going crazy with lack of sleep is to:

1) follow your gut, not what some "sleep expert" says, it is your baby and only you can really know what is best for your family
2) remember that your baby will be sleeping through the night by age four at least - that may seem like an eternity of sleep-deprivation but instead of seeing the negative, treasure their little-baby-ness - it is so fleeting! When they are a teenager and sleeping till noon, you will remember baby sleep fondly.

That last point brings me to co-sleeping. Which I also will do a whole seperate post on, but just now to say, if you end up co-sleeping - embrace it! Even my husband who was SO against it at first, and even now is only a tolerant practicer - says that waking up to baby G's smile is the "best feeling in the world."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy 15-month birthday baby Gage

Dear Gage,

At 15 months you are still the happiest of babies. You laugh and smile all the time! You still also babble up a storm, now complete with elaborate hand and shoulder gestures. We know when you are saying: mama, daddy, dog, cat, duck, tea, shoes, bye, owl..... But everything else is still in baby code. You also do the signs for "light", "milk", and "home." (and you made up your own sign for "butterfly.")

You know how to wave bye-bye (although you prefer to wave bye-bye to cars trains and buses), how to high-five, how to cheers, how to dance (you are an amazing dancer!), and how to run (almost). You love to push things around. Especially your toy stroller and toy shopping cart - plus other kids' scooters at the playground!

Your favorite sound to dance to is the song "Mykonos" by Fleet Foxes and the noise of the washing machine. I carry you around on my shoulders in the house when you are bored but not ready to go outside yet - you are easy to entertain and that is a good thing! Your favorite book is Little Blue Truck in the city; I read it to you at least three times a day and then go to bed reciting the words in my head.

You love dogs and whenever you see a dog, or a picture of a dog, or even something that even remotely resembles a dog, you point and say "dog! dog!" you are gentle with other babies and your favorite playmates are Charlotte and Sebastian. You still are not the best sleeper and you still sleep in our bed but we don't mind. You are our little snuggle puppy.

You are really not a baby anymore - you are a toddler with an opinion, an engaging personality and infectious smile. But you will always be my sweet baby Gage. I can't believe how fast the past 15 months have gone and I can't wait to see what you have in store for your daddy and me over the next few months (and years!)


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Baby books

Since a few friends and acquaintances are currently preggo, and since I am just now starting to find the idea of being pregnant again slightly palatable, I thought I'd do a quick list of the books that have been most helpful to me over the past year. I know I've done a book list before, but that was a shot in the dark. The ones listed below are tried & tested winners.

The MUST-Reads

The Happiest Baby on the Block - I've sung this books praises before, buy it and read it well before you deliver!

The No-Cry Sleep Solution - I have yet to do the post on baby sleep that I keep telling myself I must do, but let me just say that this book has been so helpful to me so many times. Every other sleep book out there will espouse some version of crying it out. (Hello, It works! But at what psychological cost?) And, if you missed my facebook posts about it, or were fortunate enough to not have been privy to some opinion-blasting group emails, then you'll know that I am NOT a fan of letting your baby cry alone in a dark room. Particularly before 6 months of age, but really, not ever. Pantley is not a fan either and she has some practical, sound alternative advice.

Welcome to Your Child's Brain - This is a good one to read during the early month's hour-long breastfeeding sessions. It is so interesting and so refreshing to read because - unlike other books which blast you with unsubstantiated opinion - it offers scientific fact from which you can reach your own opinions.

What to Expect the First Year - A good basic reference book which I would check each month to see how baby boy compared to the "norm." I also received (and still receive) the daily emails from - which I highly recommend - but the book goes into more depth and is worth having.

And last, but certainly not least,

Baby Led Weaning and the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook - I can't remember who told me about baby led weaning for the first time but I cannot thank them enough. I had been all set to make my own purees, buy a fancy baby blender, and spoon feed my baby. And then I learned about BLW (weaning means introduction of solid food in British English) and I was intrigued. When baby boy starting showing an interest in food, and reaching for it himself (at about 5 and a half months old), I just let him have a go of it himself. And it has been one of the best decisions I have made. While he isn't always a champion eater (he is most of the time), and he goes through phases (like all babies), he DOES have the most amazing array of food preferences, and he can CHEW like nobody's business. Letting them only have solid food from the get-go means they actually learn to chew, and baby boy has been gumming down tough meats from 7 months! We went to sushi when he was 9 months old and the entire waitstaff was in awe of him as he sat gobbling down his california roll. Sure, it's messy, especially at the beginning, but so - apparently - are purees. For a good overview of weaning go here, and even if you're not convinced about the BLW thing, buy the cookbook. It has great recipes for babies and toddlers, and some really good ideas about how to make easy, varied breakfasts and lunches.

That's about all for now. This past year has gone by so fast. I'm off to go order What to Expect The Second Year.... and will let you know how it is ;)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Newborns are TOUGH

At about six weeks postpartum, I had missed an important deadline for the HWC newsletter. I wrote a short email on my ipad (while breastfeeding) explaining that I had just given birth a few weeks ago and sorry for the delay. The woman responded immediately, saying it wasn't a problem and, "good luck, newborns are tough!"

At the time I was very grateful for her understanding, and that, having three much older children, she remembered just how tough it is/was. Because it is easy to forget how hard those first three months were. Now, at 7 months, Gage is a cheerful, smiley, happy, easy-going bubs, who only whines when he's over-tired, sick, or has a poopy diaper. (Hey, I would whine too.) It's easy to forget that he spent a lot of his first three months of life - when awake and not feeding - crying. Yes, my happy go-lucky baby boy cried a lot. And even if you manage to give birth to an "easy" newborn, the toll of night-wakings, constant feedings, and constant attention do take their toll.

I remember thinking when I was pregnant - "bah, this whole waking every 3 hour thing during the night to feed - I can do this! I'll just sleep during the day when baby is napping!" Well sister, let me tell you, you just do NOT realize how important it is to have more than 3 hours of continuous sleep at night. I don't know rightly how to describe it except that there is no other point in my life where I have been as sleep-deprived. In college, or when working a very demanding job/jobs ( there was a point in my life where I was working 100 hour weeks), I still got to go home and sleep for at least 5 hours, uninterrupted, and then made it through the day with lots of caffeine. With a newborn baby you NEVER get more than 5 hours uninterrupted - in fact it's dangerous if they do go that long because their little tummies (smaller than a walnut at birth) can't take in enough milk to last them that long!) Also, you can't have caffeine when your baby is this young (caffeine in a newborn has a half-life of almost 90 days!!!)

Just to give you an idea of what days (and nights) with a newborn are like, here is a snapshot - taken from my handy breastfeeding app (which I wouldn't have survived without.)

Gage's feeding times on Friday January 20th 2012 (four weeks old):

1:00 am - 1:35 am
4:14 am - 4:20 am
5:12 am - 5:16 am
5:33 am - 6:45 am
7:35 am - 7:45 am
10:07 am - 10:22 am
10:30 am - 11:52 am
12:16 pm - 1:13 pm
2:40 pm - 3:49 pm
4:30 pm - 5:05 pm
8:15 pm - 9:10 pm
9:28 pm - 9:50 pm
1:17 am - 1:30 am

OMG I feel exhausted just reading the above. In case you fail to recognize the significance of the time table above.... at NO POINT in that 24 hour period did baby Gage go longer than 3 hours without eating, and in fact, he only gave me ONE stretch of 3 hours, and he did several HOUR LONG feedings. Yes, my pregnant, and soon to be maybe one day pregnant friends, please queue up some movies and TV shows on your ipad - you will not be cognizant enough for any serious reading, but you won't be able to sleep with baby on your boob either!

Baby Gage at 4 weeks, screaming his head off after a bath

As time progresses it gets gradually better...

By 8 weeks he was waking up to eat at 1am, 3am, and 5am (going to bed at 9pm and waking up for the day at 7am - not that there is really a huge difference at that age beween night and day! but still he did know that nighttime was for sleeping, not playing, which is more than can be said for some of my unlucky friends' babies!)  This 3x a night waking was totally do-able. I was still walking around like a heavy-lidded zombie most days, but at least I managed to get out of my pjs and make a trip to the grocery store or go to the cafe to meet friends (not both in the same day though!)

And then, at 3 months, he had a major growth spurt and he was waking up EVERY HOUR to eat. So, like any reasonable person who wants to get a maximum of sleep and keep insanity at bay, I just brought him to bed with me. He could eat as much as he wanted all night long, and I could sleep through most of it. Win, win. Except now we're trying to get him out of the bed so.... maybe not. But seriously don't know how I could have done it any other way!

I got kinda sidetracked there on the co-sleeping issue - which I will most definitely have to write more about - but the moral of the story is NEWBORNS ARE SO TOUGH!

Add to the constant eating, the constant poo-ing that goes with it (12 diapers in one day being about the norm - and night-time diaper changes too), oh and the CRYING, oh and then on your end the continuous bleeding, the still-looking-like-you're-7-months-pregnant for the first MONTH or so post-partum, and yah, it all adds up to some FUN. TIMES.

Forgive the sarcasm, but I like to hammer home a point.

And to end this post on a positive note, I'd like to add that, one of the reasons it's so hard caring for a newborn is because you care SO much about this new little being whom you have brought into this world - you would do anything on earth for them - and it is so overwhelming, and wonderful, and beautiful, but, like anything worth doing, it is a challenge.

My sleeping angel 11 days old

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baby Led Weaning - the beginnings

In four weeks of "weaning" (in British English this means the introduction of solid foods - NOT the reduction/elimination of breastmilk/formula), Gage has had (roughly in order of appearance on his tray):

- nectarine*
- mango
- yogurt
- papaya
- reduced-sugar rusks (a wheat/cornmeal dry biscuit thing)
- whole wheat toast
- carrot*
- parsnip*
- broccoli*
- avocado
- banana
- apple
- lamb shank*
- oatmeal
- asparagus*
- beets
- stir-fried beef
- noodles
- salmon*
- cheese
- home-made beef meatballs*
- peppers
- zucchini
- chicken breast
- tomato
- sardines
- apricot*
- pear

Some things he definitely didn't like. Yogurt, pear and oatmeal in particular. Some things - the ones with stars - he LOVES. He is for sure a carnivore.

On Sunday we went out for brunch/lunch. I had zucchini fritters with avocado and Chris had a chicken sandwich (made with freshly cooked, still warm chicken.) Gage had slices of avocado from my salad and a chunk of chicken and a slice of tomato from Chris' sandwich. He loved everything. He did ruin a cute pair of baby blue pants though by dropping huge chunks of avocado on them (avocado is a bit slippery and hard for him to handle) - but it was so fun to watch him. He clearly knows he's participating in the family meal.

It's also fun watching how he progresses. He's kind of figured out how to get at stuff that's in his fists... kinda. This morning he had lemon ricotta pancakes (Dad's birthday is a special day). He liked the apricot better though! And then we know he's done because he takes the food in his fist, holds it over the edge of the highchair... and let's it drop. Bye-bye food. I'm finished with you! And then we give him his cup of water, he takes a few sips, then tries to eat the cup, then spills the water, then tries to suck the water off the highchair tray. Haha. We should really get a video of this!

I am just loving baby-led weaning though. No stupid purees! He wouldn't let me spoon-fed him even if I tried. When I do try to put a spoon of something to his mouth, he purses his lips shut. (If I give him the spoon to feed himself, he will get it in his mouth - usually upside down though.) To watch him progress day by day in his ability to pick up food, get it to his mouth, and figure out how to chew and swallow - well it's just so fun! Like watching him try to figure out how to crawl. Except more enjoyable for everyone.

(Do you want to know how I know he is actually swallowing more and more food every day? Well I think you can figure it out.... hehe. But he is! It's so exciting! Who knew that when you became a mom poop became exciting? Go figure.)

On that note - baby led weaning rocks. That's all there is to it!

Friday, July 6, 2012

bam bam!

Gage at six months, two weeks.....

- can sit up completely unsupported
- has two front bottom teeth!
- has the most infectious smile
- laughs all the time
- protests going to sleep with various vocal acoustics (including a fake cough, and some funny consonant noises)
- will only fall asleep while being rocked in a dark room, walking in the ergo, or nursed in our bed
- has very inconveniently stopped falling asleep in the stroller
- will be woken up by ANY sudden noises (darn you, creaky floorboards!)
- loves nectarines and really devours them
- loves roasted carrot and steamed broccoli
- hates yogurt
- cannot pick up peas (stupid pincher grasp who needs you?)
- is supremely frustrated not to be able to pick up said peas (pincher grasp develop already!)
- is SO SO SO close to being able to crawl!
- by so so so close I mean that when put down on all fours he stays like that for a few seconds
- tries to scoot forward on his tummy but ends up scooting himself backwards
- has ended up in some pretty awkward scenarios because of said (in)ability
- like under the crib, under the coffee table (geez who's watching this baby?)
- loves to chew on EVERYTHING
- tries to eat my face
- tries to eat cords (baby proofing anyone?)
- thinks mommy's blackberry is the coolest thing around
- has almost developed a predictable nap schedule (almost, almost)
- loves when mommy blows raspberries on his tummy
- is totally over his old-hat (aka one-month old) trick of blowing raspberries himself (unless he's tired, or frustrated, or both)
- is the cutest baby on planet earth
- has developed a fun habit of banging his toys against the ground, and his fists on the highchair when he's done with food
- is our little Bam Bam now - bam bam! bam bam!
- is showing his mom and dad just how much of a handful he will be in a few months/years time
- is the best, most precious, loveable handful his mom and dad could ever ask for

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby essentials, first three months, Part 1

This is only Part 1 folks.... the main attractions, the ones that stand out most in my mind.

The Happiest Baby on the Block 

Buy this. Read this. BEFORE you go into labor! Even if you end up not using all his techniques it is very helpful to know his theory about the first three months of a baby's life being the "fourth trimester" because God help us all it is SO true. After three months it's like a light switch and these incomprehensible beings become human babies. 

Moby wrap

This baby carrier looks very complicated to put on... and the first few times you do it, it is. (DO practice and familiarize yourself with it when you're pregnant.) But after you get the hang of it, it is super easy and the best way on earth to calm a screaming newborn.  And then, once you've walked around with him in it and put him to sleep you can do some catching up on your email, or do an errand, or take him gently out, place him into a crib and you can get some sleep too!

For the first 3 months of Gage's life he always had an upset tummy so he spent an inordinate amount of his wakeful time screaming his head off. So I would head out with him in the stroller, he would fall asleep in the stroller, but the second he woke up he would start with the hysterical crying. I would put on the Moby, put him in it, and resume walking (with my diaper bag now in the stroller), and he would shut up! Needless to say, I never ever left the house without the Moby in those early months.

Baby Bjorn Babysitter Bouncer

This is probably the hands down best baby product ever invented. (Not that I'm prone to hyperbole or anything.) But seriously it's amazing. Of course it's got the price tag to match, but don't let that deter you... it is worth its weight in gold! Not that it weighs very much of course... it is super lightweight, and can even be easily moved and adjusted with one hand while holding a sleeping baby in the other. (Not that this is something I recommend doing. Have your man servant, er I mean husband, do it for you.)

Why is this product so great? First of all, it bounces when baby moves. So when you place sleeping baby in it when it is in the "sleep" position he stays asleep. (There are three tilt levels, sleep, rest and play - the latter being the most upright of course) Why does he stay asleep? Because any movements he makes merely make the seat bounce so his own movements rock him right back to sleep - brilliant! I don't know how I would have survived the first few months without this. Our routine was, breastfed him to sleep on the couch and then gently transfer him into the bouncer so mommy could actually get something done. (If placed in a cot he would immediately wake up. Like he had cot-dar or something - waaaaaaahhhh! I want a warm body next to mine! Pick me up! This cot does not remind me at all of being in the warm womb!) In fact, we were so dependent on this thing STILL at four months that we brought it back to the states with us. It folds up completely flat and fit perfectly in the bottom of our large duffel bag.

 Gage at five days old napping through the unwrapping of his presents from Santa on Christmas day.

Now that Gage has outgrown napping in this thing, I still use it almost every day. (Side note, he physically outgrew the weight limit for the sleep and rest settings very early - I still wish he would nap in it! Right now he is napping on my chest in the Ergo - another baby product must-have which will be in another posting.) But I still use the bouncer every day - he enjoys batting at the toy bar we now have on it, and I bring him into the kitchen when I'm cooking dinner and he will amuse himself in it for 20 minutes or so if I occasionally talk to him while I'm cooking. He'd much prefer to be sitting on the ground, but unfortunately, he can't quite keep himself up a reliable portion of the time - no precious noggins falling smack on the floor please!

Gage always fell asleep after feeding for the first two months. 

Quite simply, invaluable for the early weeks of breastfeeding. You won't need it once they have good head control and can hold themselves up better, but seriously for the first two months when they spend the majority of their waking hours on your boob, you will be very thankful for this supportive, comfortable pillow. And also for your ipad, TV and/or a good book. 

This is a fancy, expensive bucket. But it makes bathing a floppy-headed newborn 1,000x easier! They literally can't topple over - and they also apparently like it because it reminds them of being in the womb.Gage's first few baths were miserable for everyone involved until we figured out that we were making the water too hot! He likes it at 95 degrees (the "recommended" temperature we were using was 100.) Five degrees of wonderful difference - now Gage loves bath time.

I can't underscore enough how important swaddling is in those first few weeks. A properly done swaddle will calm almost any baby, and a tightly swaddled baby stays asleep longer. Newborns have a primitive reflex called the Moro reflex. It's a relic of our tree-swinging ancestors. Basically, if a newborn feels like she is falling (which happens when they are on their backs - which is the only way you should put a baby to sleep - NOT on their tummies or on their side) then she will fail out her arms.... all the better to catch passing branches with! It's kind of cute the first few times they wake themselves up this manner. And then its cuteness declines in rapid reverse proportion to how annoying it actually is. (There are no branches kid! We don't live in trees - go back to sleep!) So swaddling is a must, for that reason, and also because it reminds them of being tightly packed in the womb. Dr. Karp writes extensively on the wonders of the swaddle in The Happiest Baby and it is really worth reading it all. You should also master swaddling a teddy bear before you give birth. And make it really tight! A loose swaddle is a suffocation hazard. (Although the reason these blankets are amazing is that they are so light so if the swaddle were to come undone and the blanket to cover baby's nose, it probably would still be okay? STILL learn to swaddle RIGHT TIGHT!) 

These blankets are so useful in a myriad other ways. As stroller sun-shade, picnic blanket, floor blanket, stroller blanket, regular blanket (although never put loose blankets in a crib with an infant - more on that later), burp cloth, and nursing cover! I always have one of these in my diaper bag.

And in the department of baby-soothing... you should also keep a hairdryer handy... it makes the screaming stop immediately....

a quiet baby and the hairdryer magic wand