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A Savvy Mom

What We’ve Learned about Sleep (10 months out)

Posted by camilla on July 18, 2011 in motherhood, musings, parenting, sleep with 2 Comments

I suppose it is true that one loses a lot of sleep during the first year of a child’s life (and for a few years to come in some cases). What people don’t tell you is that you might lose some hair, some sanity, and some patience in the process. But along the way, and after having read multiple books and websites on infant sleep, we have actually learned a thing or three. Here are the absolutely most helpful things that we’ve learned:

1. The most important thing — and I think I’ve mentioned this before — is to set an early bedtime. “Early” for some means 10PM, but what I mean is between 6PM and 8PM (at the very latest). We started this bedtime timing around when Sam started sleeping four to five hours at a time (around four months). Before then, Sam would just go to bed with us at 10PM or later. I noticed that he had started to take long late naps or have long periods of fussiness in the evening — and I had read in The No Cry Sleep Solution, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and on the Baby Sleep Website that a bedtime between 6PM and 7PM was the thing to shoot for. Any later gets into over-tired territory, and an over-tired baby is likely to sleep less soundly and for less time than one who is appropriately tired. (This is TRUE.) Setting an earlier bedtime did lead to a more rested child — and it also helped us tremendously in transferring Sam from the co-sleeper in our room to the crib in his room. Added bonus — we get to have a few hours to ourselves before going to bed.

2. For naps, remember the 2-3-4 rule. If you have a bad napper, this MAY CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Around four to six months of age, your bambino may start transitioning to two naps. (Before that they take three naps, which for us was mayhem and a guessing game.) Once this transition starts to happen, the 2-3-4 rule is key to remember. When we started instituting this rule, it took some persistence, but now it works without fail. Every. Time. Here it is: baby wakes up, is awake for 2 hours, naps, is awake for 3 hours, naps, is awake for 4 hours, and then goes to bed for the night. You can start instituting this schedule when your kiddo is still at three naps a day — just budget for a brief evening nap before bedtime. I’ve learned that this rule WORKS, that consistency is key, and man, infants love a schedule. And this one is simple, flexible, and easy to remember. (I don’t know where I first read about this rule, but I do know the Baby Sleep Website is a big fan of this, and the author really knows her stuff.)

3. Crying it out is not evil — nor should it be used in every case. I’ve heard tales of mothers and fathers letting newborn infants cry it out until passing out. I would absolutely never agree that this is a good idea. Newborns need warmth, security, and feedings on demand. They need their parents to always hold them when they are crying. Why? They don’t know anything. They don’t know you’re just in the next room. They don’t know that you’ll come back. (This isn’t just my view.) Crying it out, if used, should be started after four months. We did not do much of this until after five or six months, and for us — we always set a time limit. I did let Sam just cry for an hour one time, and he was really screaming (yeah I know, I am mother of the year for that one). He finally fell asleep, but when he woke up, he was scared and needed to be held for the rest of the afternoon. I’ve never let him cry past twenty minutes, and if I hear that scared cry — not just a tired cry — I figure it’s not time for him to sleep. For us, Sam rarely cries at bedtime, but at naps, he can fuss and groan for up to twenty minutes. I now know his pattern — first he talks, then cries a little (a tired cry) and then he talks to himself quietly or groans a little (not a bad groan, but I don’t know how else to describe it other than a groan — a sleepy quiet groan), and then he’s asleep. This took practice for us — and it had to be in combination with the 2-3-4 nap schedule to really work. This really only started to work for us around eight months (I’ll explain more about that later). What I’d recommend with crying it out is taking a middle-of-the-road stance. Read a lot about it, use it if it works, and keep an open mind about it. It can be totally effective, but it’s not going to work at every age for every baby.

4. Your baby may well go through a whole lot of phases of napping or nighttime sleep. For nighttime sleep, Sam went through a I-have-to-be-glued-to-mama’s-boob phase from one to three months, he went through a had-to-be-swaddled phase for the first month, and a wake-up-at-4AM phase FOR THE DAY for the whole of month eight and some of month nine, and he went through several phases of waking up every hour or two to eat. (And now he sleeps 11-12 hours a night and wakes up around 5:30AM.) For naps, he went through a sleep-all-the-time phase until about two months of age, an only-sleep-in-the-swing-for-naps phase from two to four months, and an I-WON’T-NAP-AT-ALL, MAMA phase from around four to six months, and a delightful I-will-only-nap-ON-you phase from six to eight months. Phase after phase after phase. Always evolving.

5. On that note — be consistent as much as possible, and make sleep time and sleep place as secure and happy as possible. It took us eight months to get Sam to nap with regularity (on the 2-3-4 routine). What did I do? Besides going nuts? I started consistently putting him in his bedroom for naps from around five months on — in the swing or in the crib. Sometimes I’d just sit in there with him napping on me, or I’d sit in our glider while he whined in his crib, just so he’d know I was there. I read to him and played with him in the nursery, and after that one awful day I let him cry for an hour, I didn’t let him get scared in the nursery. Finally, it paid off. The man naps now, and it’s beautiful. (FYI, I don’t want to ship my baby off to sleep land all the time — but he was just a holy terror with the crying and the fussing constantly when he didn’t nap properly. Napping is key to a happy baby, and happy parents.)

6. Your baby will eventually sleep through the night! He or she will also go through sleep regressions (typically around four months and again around nine months) where he or she wakes up multiple times a night. It may be at two months that he or she sleeps through the night, or it might be at seventeen months. Either way, don’t lord it over other parents whose babies don’t sleep through the night yet! (That’s rule #1!) Your baby sleeping through the night doesn’t have that much to do with your parenting — it has about 90% of everything to do with the personality of your baby.

7. You may get more sleep in the newborn phase than you will when your kid is ten months old. For us, this has been largely true. Sounds weird right? Well, since we fully believe in putting Sam to bed around 7PM, his wake up time tends to come really early. And we still like to go to bed around 10PM. I know, it’s silly, but it’s how we’re rolling. In the newborn phase, I slept whenever Sam slept, and he often would sleep in with me until 11AM or noon if I felt like it! Nowadays, that doesn’t happen. I try to nap sometimes when he naps, but that doesn’t always happen. So be grateful for your little sleeping tiny angel — he or she will turn into a crawling, bouncing, babbling, stair-climbing, person climbing, refrigerator opening Energizer Bunny. Sleep goes out the window.

8. The first sign that your kid is SICK (or teething) is poor sleep. Since Sam started having a more predictable nighttime sleep pattern (sleeping more than five hours at a stretch), it has become easy to tell when something is “up.” If he’s awake when he’s not supposed to be, or if his naps suddenly become shorter, it’s a sure sign that he is getting a new tooth, is constipated, has gas, or has an illness. This was one of the first signs of his epic month long ear infection, and it was certainly the sign that his fifth and sixth tooth were coming in. This is an important sign to read! It means — be vigilant and keep a wary eye — make sure your kid is okay over the next hours and days. Something might be up!

9. Speaking of signs, know your child’s tired signs. For Sam, he rubs his eyes, tugs on his ear, or sort of collapses in an extremely dramatic, ridiculous way on the floor (one second sitting up, the next second, collapsed over his crossed legs, face plant on carpet, mewling surely involved). He has always rubbed his eyes and gotten fussy — and at the first view of any of these signs, we’re usually headed towards putting him down to sleep. It’s a good thing to remember, especially when you are trying to adapt to a particular routine. (Often, if you wait until a child is fifteen or thirty minutes past these first signs, he or she might hit a second wind and/or become overtired. Overtired is BAD — it means either more of a fight when going to sleep, or no sleep at all!)

10. Be patient. And be thankful. A lot of parents have babies with colic or reflux, which is a huge hindrance in getting sleep schedules figured out. Even with these issues, babies will eventually sort themselves out. With more minor issues — like Sam’s refusal to nap for a few months — keep in mind that someday, all of that will change and get better. Be consistent, patient, loving, and persistent. Babies need security, and they need sleep. Make sure they have as much of those things as possible — and then release it. Be patient with the baby, the routine, your partner. Be flexible. Above all, be patient with yourself. If you’re trying — you’re there. You’re the best parent, and you’re who your baby needs.

Good luck!

Google This

Posted by camilla on July 10, 2011 in attachment parenting, car seats, diapering, motherhood, pregnancy, Products, saving money with No Comments

I was just randomly playing around with my Google Analytics — a very cool tool for a blogger. Obviously, I don’t produce a whole lot of entries since I pour my heart and soul into a lot of entries, and I usually wait for a spark to write more emotional posts. However, what I can do, is check out some of the ways people have found this site on the internet — what did people search for to find my humble blog? And can I answer some of the things they were searching for? Yes, I can perhaps give some help on those queries. I’ll select a few each week and write a bit about those. I’ll go ahead and address some of the more popular queries.

1. “Best natural disposable diapers” has brought a lot of people to my site. I did address this before, but I’ll definitely address it again. The best for fit and absorbency are Earth’s Best, hands down. The best (in a reasonable price range) that are the best for the environment are Nature BabyCare diapers. They have great absorbency (same as Earth’s Best as far as I can tell), and they are better for the environment than EB. Since they less plastic, they do tear occasionally, but it’s not very often. They use biodegradable packaging, soy ink, and have a reduced amount of absorbent polymers compared to other disposables. The best thing about so-called “natural” disposables is that they don’t SMELL like regular disposables — which to me have an awful chemical smell and something in them makes pee smell even more rank when it enters the diaper. I wouldn’t bother with Huggies Naturals — there isn’t much natural at all about them. They’re just regular Huggies without fragrance, and some of the exterior is made with organic cotton. Earth’s Best, Seventh Generation and Nature BabyCare are chlorine bleach free, which is awesome. This keeps harmful dioxin away from baby’s sensitive bottom. (I don’t like Seventh Gen as well simply because the fit is less generous, and the tabs aren’t as nice as either EB or NBC.) I don’t bother with the GDiaper hybrid diapers, since they always leak and are just a pain to deal with in general! Hope this helps, searchers! (And buy everything on Amazon — get the Amazon mom and subscribe and save discounts, and the fancy natural diapers come down to the price — or lower than the price — of “regular diapers” in the grocery store.)

2. “Safe paint for pregnant women” brings folks around too. Of course, it directs them to my previous post, but I’ll just say it again. Go for no-VOC brands of paint like FreshAire (available at Home Despot). Lowe’s, Ace, McCormick, Sherwin Williams — all of those stores should have their own no-VOC brands. And at the specialty paint stores, they can usually mix up whatever color you want in no-VOC. (The no-VOC was important for me because I just didn’t want to breathe in the smell of the regular paint. It made me just super sick and headachy after using regular, cheaper paint. The no-VOC was worth it! And it’s supposed to be better for the bambinos — born and unborn!)

3. “Best extended rear-facing car seat” brought a few folks by as well. For that, with my lovely penchant for excessive research, I would highly recommend the Britax series. Most all of them rear face til 40 lbs, front face til 55-70 lbs, and they are really high quality and come in cute prints. I have the Boulevard in cowmooflouge and we love it. They are a little tougher to buckle than infant seats, but I can deal with that for safety. Of course, the Britax are ridiculously expensive. This Evenflo Triumph is almost just the same as the Boulevard and costs a hundred bucks less. (My parents have it for my son, and the only difference I can see is that it doesn’t have soft shoulder pads. Otherwise, it appears to be exactly the same. The weight limit for the seat is 65 lbs, and the Boulevard is 70. Only other difference.) Lots of other people love the Sunshine Radian XTSL — I considered it because it goes to 80 pounds and 45 rear facing, but it is very tall, and as the back seats of the Element are raised, I didn’t want it interfering with my driving vision. It is THINNER than other seats, which is an advantage for those with multiple kiddos. Overall, those are the three I considered — and we all love the Boulevard and Triumph. The XTSL will have to wait for our imaginary next kiddo. Happy shopping!

Other answers to brief random questions that sent more than one person to my site:

1. Q: “Does formula make babies feel fuller?” A: Yes, I believe it does. They can take more of it at a time, and it is also thicker than breast milk. This is a plus, because Sam sleeps longer now than he ever did when he was breastfeeding. This is a negative, because it sends little babies (0-3 months or so) into a deeper sleep than they need to be in, increasing the risk of SIDS. That’s my short answer!

2. Q: “What are the best bras during pregnancy?” A: Bras from A Pea in the Pod, like this one, and sports bras from Target (if you can find ones that go nicely under your clothes). Skip Victoria’s Secret. If you’re super rich, go to Intimacy. Don’t wear your old bras — they can compress your breasts and cause pain and possibly damage to your breast tissue.

3. Q: “Are Medela bras at Target the same as the bras at A Pea in the Pod?” A: NO. NO. NO! My Medela bra literally fell apart after a few months of wear. The used and abuse APIP bras are still going strong.

4. Q: “Attachment parenting mom with Babywise friend?” A: There is no true answer to this. I do believe that moms with opposing viewpoints can and SHOULD be friends. My friend did Babywise, and it has worked out beautifully for her and her daughter. She doesn’t let her little girl cry, but the schedule was an awesome fit for both her and her little one’s personalities. It didn’t resonate with me. But I don’t believe crying it out or scheduling are really harmful to babies — Sam is on somewhat of a schedule, and nowadays, we have to let him fuss it out in his crib when he’s tired once in a while. Then he falls beautifully asleep. Point is — short of actually beating on a kid, withholding food from them, feeding them Big Macs every day, or calling them “idiot” instead of their given name — I am trying to be cool with how other people parent. And that would be my absolutely honest recommendation to a lady with an opposing viewpoint from her other lady friend. Friendships are important, and they are worth more than getting upset over a trifling matter like scheduling naps.

That’s all for today! We’ll see what comes up in the next week on my Google Analytics!

Primal Parenting? Really?

Posted by camilla on July 6, 2011 in attachment parenting, motherhood, musings, nursing, parenting with 3 Comments

Dr. Momma recently posted this article by Patricia Törngren on something called primal parenting. I generally enjoy the articles on Dr. Momma’s site, but this one made me pretty angry. There are a lot of people all over the internet spreading crazy generalizations about parenting, but this one was pretty nut-tastic in my opinion.

I would urge you to read the article — it is really some interesting reading. The author’s overall point is that because her mother did not feed her on demand and let her cry (to be fair, the mother seemed to have gotten some gross misinformation from her pediatrician) that she was a damaged adult who hoarded food. She also makes noises about “being forced to sleep alone” from birth and not being picked up enough to suit her needs. This of course supports the attachment parenting practices of co-sleeping and babywearing. She refers to the style of parenting in which she believes as “primal parenting — the primal is related primal therapy. (I can’t see how her concepts differ from Sears’ attachment parenting, but I suppose that is beside the point.)

She talks a bit about a book her therapist gave her, which connects long-term breastfeeding with self-worth and autonomy in hunter-gatherer societies, and withholding colostrum and crying it out or sleep training practices with anger issues. In a meandering way, she links crying it out, sleeping in a crib and early weaning (before one year, I’m guessing) with — get ready for it — the development of clinical depression in adults. Just so you believe me, here’s some juicy quotes that show her line of thinking:

[Timothy Taylor] says that for early weaning to be forced onto the child, the child must be made to sleep alone, and its crying ignored…. The outcome of this is very serious. Taylor links it to classical conditioning and Martin Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness… The child has learned from the beginning that trying to get its needs met, or asserting itself in any way, is futile. Tragically, learned helplessness is often the forerunner of clinical depression.

See what she does here? If you wean your child early, he or she must be sleeping in his or her own bed (the horror!). If your child is sleeping independently in his or her own bed, his or her crying is ignored. If the crying is ignored, your child learns that he or she is helpless and no aid will come. Tragic, indeed. BAM! You end up with a depressed adult.

Wow. So that is why there are so many depressed men and women out there. They slept in CRIBS! And cried! My gosh. Finally, an explanation.

Of course she links all of this to her own depression, as I mentioned before. She does let us know that she is now in therapy, recovering from her childhood and her mother not holding her enough or letting her eat as she was crying. (Her experience as an infant does seem to be a uniquely bleak one, which certainly could have something to do with depression. Is it the singular cause? Likely not.)

Of course she ends up telling us how terrible our futures will all be if we do not parent in the way she has laid out:

Hopefully, this nurturing and loving style of caring for children will become the parenting of the future, as it was in our distant past. If it doesn’t, our future as humanity is bleak indeed.

Bleak. Indeed.

Certainly as someone who formula feeds, “forces” her child to sleep in a crib, and occasionally prefers the stroller to the Ergo carrier, I take issue with many of Törngren’s claims. It seems like she isn’t just putting it out there that primal parenting is one way of doing things that could provide good results — it seems that she believes it is the ONLY way to do things. As I said, I do dig Dr. Momma, but I feel like this is a harmful article. It reinforces, and may even create in some new mothers, the belief that there is only one right way of parenting.

As I write, I am reminded of an article I read by Erica Jong (the noted author of Fear of Flying). The article is called “On the Madness of Motherhood,” and it got me pretty angry at the time I read it — just as Törngren’s article did. (And just like Törngren, Jong comes out with some over generalization and more than her share of acrimony against the “other” way of parenting.) Jong comes roaring out against attachment parenting and the insanity of this new wave of parenting practices:

Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breastfeed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.

Whoa! Over generalization after over generalization after over generalization. Yikes! (She also talks about how her own daughter “hated” breastfeeding, without any back story. Totally bizarre.) But, after getting all riled up against Törngren, it did make me think back to reading Jong. There are so many people — especially women, and golly do I hate to stereotype — who really think, who really BELIEVE that parenting a certain way (the “attached” way) is the ONLY right way to raise a little person.

In the midst of her own ridiculosity, Jong makes some salient points. Says Jong, “So it seems we have devised a new torture for mothers—a set of expectations that makes them feel inadequate no matter how passionately they attend to their children.” Yes indeed. I see it over and over. I hear so many mothers ask, in different words and in different ways, “Am I doing it right?” I’m one of those mothers of course. And I ask myself this every day. Certainly, this isn’t an uncommon way of thinking — in fact, I would say it’s probably a way of thinking that dates back to when Homo Sapiens first stepped away from the primate world.

But in today’s world, worry is yet another addiction. The world expands rapidly before us, its threats and dangers brought to us over and over, on repeat, on our television and computer screens. “Toxins!” we hear. “Pesticides! Trans fats! Disease! Vaccines! Infected water!”

Despite her undeniable nuttiness “On the Madness of Motherhood,” I now strongly resonate with Jong’s final point:

What is so troubling about these theories of parenting—both pre- and postnatal—is that they seem like attempts to exert control in a world that is increasingly out of control. We can’t get rid of the carcinogens in the environment, but we can make sure that our kids arrive at school each day with a reusable lunch bag full of produce from the farmers’ market. We can’t do anything about loose nukes falling into the hands of terrorists, but we can make sure that our progeny’s every waking hour is tightly scheduled with edifying activities.

Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.

I think a lot about babies these days. The more I get to know my own little person, I realize that that is exactly what he is — a little person. He’s not some mythical creature that will be damaged without the exact right kind of care — he’s a tiny human. Just as all human beings vary infinitely, so do babies, and so do parents for that matter.

The kind of parenting I support is parenting that responds to the needs of the baby and the needs of the parent, weighing each in kind. This takes into account that a parent must be well and happy with his or her decisions in order to provide the best care for his or her baby. Of course, I don’t support the decisions of doing truly harmful things to children like beating or verbally abusing them. Beyond that, I try to believe that each parent is doing the best for his or her child — as he or she sees fit. Most parenting decisions shouldn’t fall under attack as much as they do from a certain group of parents (particularly mothers) on the internet.

The internet ends up being an extension of that “small world” that we create for our perfectly reared children. And with the anonymity that the internet provides, we can criticize whatever parenting practice we like (cribs are cages! formula is poison!) and over generalize until our faces turn blue. We can extend our control by “informing” and “supporting” and “educating” other mothers about what we KNOW is right. And that way, we can crusade against what we see as a bleak and unloving way of parenting — just as Törngren would have us do.

“Do the best you can,” says Jong at the very end of her article. “There are no rules.”

On that point, Ms. Jong, I agree with you. I won’t be coming out in support of any one way of parenting. Because there isn’t any one way.


Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space

I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.

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