Working Mama Mondays: The Daily Grind

Monday comes, I go to work, tired from the fun of the weekend and depressed to start a new work week. Each day is marked mostly for being one day closer to the weekend. On Wednesday I might change my gmail status to Happy Hump Day. On Thursday I am relieved that the next day is Friday. On Friday I am excited for the holiday. On Saturday, sweet Saturday I soak up everything that makes my life worth living and by Sunday night I am dreading the work week once again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

How many people spend their life like this? Because I know I’m not the only one.

My week has always felt that way. It’s nothing new. But now that I’m a working mother, the reactions to each part of the cycle are magnified. On Sunday I’m that much more despondent to go to work the next day. On Saturday I’m that much more excited to be there when my daughter wakes up. The days in between tend to drag more than they did before.

Sometimes life feels like a series of these week, just stacked up indefinitely. Sometimes it feels like too much.

In some ways my week is shorter than it used to be. I don’t bring home papers to grade – at least not usually. I don’t have graduate school looming on the weekends. I leave work right on time and I don’t tutor after school which means I don’t get stuck in traffic most days.

In some ways the week is longer. There is so much more laundry to do. So much more work around the house. The time with Mi.Vida is always packed with cooking, cleaning or other chores or spent feeling guilty that we’re not doing them.

I’m trying to find joy in the little things. I’m trying to find meaning in the day to day. I don’t want my life to be a series of weeks wedged tight and thick between weekends. I want to revel in everything wonderful around me. I want to enjoy what is right there, instead of waiting for what will be.

I’m not quite sure how to do all of this. Teaching is an intense profession that requires immense amounts of energy and constant participation. It drains you. I know I need to get more sleep and spend more time on myself and my pursuits. I know I need to see friends and chat over dinner or drinks. I know I need to snuggle with Mi.Vida. I know this.

I think one problem is that I have so many things I want to do, that I become overwhelmed and none of them get done. I’ve noticed on my Goal Tracker that the one thing I’ve neglected the most is getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I can’t expect to revel in the day to day if I’m exhausted.

Starting this week I’m going to focus on one goal per week. This week’s goal? Getting in bed by 10pm. This will be very challenging for me, but I bet if I keep it up, I will be a happier person come Friday, and it won’t just be because Saturday is right around the corner.

And we’re here

Well, I was definitely worried about our day of travel but I have to say, what we experienced was 1,000 TIMES MORE HORRIFIC than anything I could have imagined. It just goes to show that there is no point in worrying, as you may have to deal with something far worse than you were worrying about in the first place.

And yesterday was far worse than anything I had imagined in the week prior to our trip. Yesterday was the worst travel day I’ve ever experienced.

It started with the storm hitting California and the fact that the first leg of our journey was from San Francisco to LA. We had purposefully chosen this layover as there are rarely winter weather problems in LA and we figured we’d be safe from any snow storms that might close midwestern airports. Of course we end up flying on one of three days of the year that southern California gets weather or any kind, let alone of the inclement variety.

Needless to say we realized pretty quickly we were not going to make our connecting flight. So we got booked on a much later flight to Dallas and then an early morning flight to St. Louis. The problem was that we had so little time in between when we landed in Dallas and had to be back at the airport the next morning that it made more sense to sleep in the airport.

Sleep in the airport. With a 6 month old.

Yeah, that was the plan. Lacking other options we took the new flights, requesting that our luggage go to Dallas with us so we’d have the checked car seat and baby bed with us for our overnight stay. We were told our checked bags would meet us there (anyone detect ominous foreshadowing?)

By the time we got booked on a new flight we’d already been in the airport for over three hours. We had two more until our Dallas flight was estimated to leave, but it had already been delayed several times. Isa was so overstimulated by the lights, people and announcements that she wouldn’t eat much of anything and she certainly couldn’t sleep. I kept trying to feed her but it only resulted in my milk letting down about four times and my daughter not actually eating anything, leaving me with very heavy, uncomfortable breasts.

When it had been five hours and Isa still hadn’t slep I decided to try some Benedryl which our pediatrician had said we could use to coax her into sleeping. The stuff had barely touched her lips before she vomited all over me. All the effort I’d spent trying to get some nourishment and hydration into her tiny body was totally ruined. Also, I was covered, literally covered, in vomit. I had no clothes and was about 7 hours from reaching my first destination.

Now the real fun begins.

We finally get on the plane. Isa still hasn’t slept and has barely eaten anything. It’s past her bedtime and she’s skipped her second nap entirely. Still, she’s being a great sport. On the plane though, things start to catch up with her. She’s tired but she can’t sleep. She cries a lot and blows out her diaper. The fasten seat belt sign NEVER turns off so we have to change her across Mi.Vida’s lap. Isa also throws up all over me again. The man next to us never once acknowledges our existence. I end up spending the only thirty minutes of the flight where she actually sleeps sitting sideways so her feet won’t hit his arm or rest in his lap. Mi.Vida is upset that we’re even attempting this insane overnight in Dallas. Isa cries or vocalizes loudly for much of the flight but rallies at the end and is all smiles. We wonder how in the hell she’s still standing.

We arrive in Dallas past midnight and promptly discover that our luggage was not detoured to Dallas but has checked straight through to St. Louis. The good news is it will beat us to the airport the next morning. The bad news is we don’t have a bed for Isa or a car seat to take her to the cheap motel we’ve decided to spring for. Luckily (I’m trying to find the silver lining here), airlines have car seats they loan out when the ones people check are lost (I guess this happens a lot) and they are able to wrangle one up for us if we can only walk a significant distance to another baggage claim. We do so and the cheap motel’s complimentary shuttle service picks us up. I have to speedily install this foreign car seat in time to stop the driver from speeding away with the trunk door open. It’s a scary two mile drive to the motel.

Once there we try to make the most of the 3 hours and 45 minutes we have to sleep. Isa throws up her fourth meal. Some of it lands in the bed but most of it makes it to the floor. We lay out a towel to keep from sleeping on the wet sheets. Isa sleeps between Mi.Vida and I with her Forest Rain sounds blasting from Mi.Vida’s iPod Touch at the head of the bed. It takes her about an hour to settle down and fall asleep. I make it through the entire Forest Rain track (55 minutes long) two times before I managed to put it on repeat and fall asleep. At 4:45am our alarms go off and we get back into yesterday’s clothes. I haven’t brushed my teeth and I’m still wearing the same pants and shirt that Isa has thrown up on multiple times. Throughout the trip I’m accompanied by a constant wafting of vomit smell from my shirt.

By the time we make it back to the Dallas airport Isa has only slept four of the 16 hours she’s accustomed to. She’s managed to keep only three meals down, none of them very big. She’s obviously EXHAUSTED but handling it like a real trooper. She is amazing.

Luckily our Dallas to St. Louis flight leaves right on time and is practically empty. Isa gets to lay down over two seats and sleeps for an hour of the short flight. She is also keeping down her considerably sized breakfast. Things are looking up.

At 8:40am we arrive in St. Louis. I realize that I haven’t once actually thought about making it here, I was totally focused on surviving the insane journey.

Today was very low key. Isa slept 5 hours during the day and then had a meltdown at around 6:30pm. By the time we got her home she was way too tired and it took her over an hour to get to sleep. As I’m typing this she finally seems to have nodded off. We’ll see what tonight brings.

I have to say, the almost 24 hours it took us to get here were harrowing, but we made it. I’m so tired and can’t wait to hit the sack myself. Of course, our bed is covered in luggage and clothes and we have to clean it off in the dark without waking our sleeping daughter, but after last night’s ordeal it seems very manageable.

I hope all of you have much easier travel experiences than we did this Christmas.

Happy Travels!

Useful Tuesdays: Sleep Solutions Seminar

I think I’ll shelve the working mama drama for today and finally relay the awesome sleep tips I got from the sleep solutions seminar I took a few weeks ago. I’m sorry it took so long for me to get this up, but as you know the Behemoth recently took over my life and I was only recently able to reclaim it, just days before I started work. Time has suddenly become… well incredibly sparse.

So, without further ado, the sleep solutions seminar tips! I want to preface them by saying that I really, really like the woman who present at the class. She is the mother of twins and her seminars are mainly times given to mothers of twins; us singleton mothers and our sleepless nights seemed like small potatoes for her. She gave us five major tips for getting our babies to sleep 10-12 hours a night (which she said that any baby who is 12 weeks old (adjusted) and 12 pounds was physiologically capable of doing) and take longer naps. She said that babies up to 18 months needed around 15 hours of sleep and could get that in 10-12 hours during the night and 3-5 hours during the day.

TANK ‘EM UP

Make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. A breastfed baby should be getting 2-2.5 ounces per pound. So a 12 ounce baby should be getting 24-30 ounces a day. If you’re breastfeeding and are not sure how much your baby is getting you might want to pump for a whole day to see how much you’re making. I did this and realized I was not making NEARLY as much as I thought. I started giving my daughter a dream-feed bottle before I went to bed and she started sleeping like she used to. Basically, if a baby is hungry, she is not going to sleep for 12 hours at a stretch.

CREATE THE ULTIMATE SLEEP SANCTUARY

A baby’s room needs to be her sleep sanctuary. To create a baby sleep sanctuary you need the following (this is especially important for naps):

Darkness. If 10 is pitch black, your baby’s room should be an 8 when she sleeps. Not almost an 8, but an 8. Darkness helps trigger a baby’s circadian rhythm letting them know it’s time to sleep.

Sound. Have a sound machine or some sort of white noise that stays on all night (or for the duration of the nap). Those stuffed lamb noise machines are great but they turn off after 45 minutes, exactly when babies are waking from their sleep cycle, so they aren’t really very helpful. We bought a 50 minute mp3 called Forest Rain and we play it on repeat all night. It’s worked miracles for our daughter. Fans are also good, as they are recommended by the AAP for circulating air and helping prevent SIDS.

Temperature: AAP recommends 65-68* to help prevent SIDS.

Non-stimulating Surroundings: Make sure the room is not over-stimulating. Black and white mobiles are a no-no, so are large posters or decals with contrasting colors. Make sure that everything around the crib is calming, not stimulating.

SLEEPY TIME ROUTINES

Before nap times and bedtimes there should be some kind of routine. It doesn’t have to be much, just something you do every time. The nap routine can be different from the bedtime routine (also, naps can take place in a different spot than bedtime sleep, as long as it’s a consistent spot), you just need to do the same thing each time. She actually recommended against baths because she said that they are stimulating and bright and full of toys and splashing and while they are warm and possibly relaxing, when you get the baby out it’s cold, which raises their cortisol levels (driving away sleep). She also urged us to make sure that books were not super stimulating (blacks, whites and reds make baby brains go boing). She recommended just changing the babies into PJs (or putting them in a sleep sack) and singing a song or telling them a quiet story. All of this should happen in the baby’s room (sleep sanctuary) and not in different rooms, as moving around gets them riled up, and the sleep sanctuary should be activated (lights down, sound on) before you go it. It should be like bringing the baby into a spa where all their senses are met with sleep triggers.

OTHER TIPS

Babies should not be up for more than 1.5-3 hours at a time. Movement-induced sleep (i.e. in a stroller, front carrier or car) is “junk sleep” (as in not nutritive – like junk food) and should be avoided. It’s important to be home for baby’s nap and to keep her to some kind of schedule. Don’t try “sleep training” unless you’re really ready, and you’ll know when you are really ready.

If you do want to do sleep training, start with the naps. Naps should be at least 1.5 hours long and “cry-it-out” timing is 45 minutes for naps. That is 45 minutes total. So if you baby cries for 15 minutes, then sleeps for 40 minutes, she still has 35 minutes to cry before you go get her. Hopefully she’ll fall back asleep and sleep for 40 minutes and you’ll be done. We slept trained Isa and she went from taking three 30-40 minute naps to two 1.5-2 hour naps. It’s been wonderful.

I hope all this was helpful. I’m sure there is stuff I’m forgetting, but feel free to comment or email with questions if you have them and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I pumped 9 ounces this morning and 6 ounces this afternoon. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding with my SIL and I had to pump a third time and it was only 5 ounces. My last pump of the night was a measly 4 ounces. I wonder if I make less milk throughout the day? I did start taking Fenugreek – I’ll let you know if it helps with my supply.

Mountains and Valleys

Saturday morning I wrote the following post:

Mi.Vida and I are fighting. Or we just fought. I don’t know. I’m too tired to discern the difference.

Somehow I haven’t mentioned it much here but Isa’s sleeping has been really rough lately. Gone are the days of our amazing sleep trained baby. I don’t know what it is, but my baby girl is crying through long parts of the night. Never more than an hour at a time, but sometimes 40+ minutes, three times a night. It’s wearing on me. Making me sad, depressed even. It is sucking the joy out of my days, my last days with my daughter. It’s really, really hard.

The problem is I don’t know how to make it stop. Do I just start picking her up and comforting her, throwing away all the sleep training we did? Even if I did pick her up, would she stop crying? I don’t know what she wants, what she needs. Has she been thrown off by the time shift? Is she cold at night now that the temperature has dropped? Am I not producing enough milk? Is she napping too long? Not enough? Is she now used to sleeping next to me with her binki in the day and wants to do so during the night? Will simply rocking her be enough? There were so many nights when she screamed in my arms for hours on end and nothing I could do would help. Is this a similar situation? What is happening to my baby girl?

Mi.Vida and I are fighting because I feel like it’s my responsibility to solve this problem, or at least offer possible solutions and try them out. I spend so much of my day reading about sleep issues, trying to contact sleep consultants or enroll in sleep solution classes (which are all wait listed this month). I mull over possible problems and decide on how I might tackle them. I attempt different strategies and when they fail I return to the drawing board equipped with this new, and many times, unhelpful, information. Every once in a while I run my ideas past Mi.Vida and invariably receive an “okay” or “sounds good” or “that makes sense” in reply.

I didn’t get to finish that post but I was going to talk about how overwhelmed I feel and that I can’t handle being responsible for making all the important decisions about raising Isa. I know Mi.Vida has had much less experience with children and can’t spend as much time as I do researching these things but I need his help. I was going to talk about how resentful I was feeling. I was going to broach the subject of the rift I forming between us.

I was going to talk about how I was starting to worry that the stresses of parenthood might actually come between us, like really come between us, like cause irreparable damage. I was going to talk about how I worried that, eventually, I’d lose him to these challenges.

But then we had a really good day. Despite being exhausted and frustrated and unsure of how to proceed we picked ourselves up, dusted each other off and actually found it in ourselves to support one another. We made jokes about how the bottom felt like it was falling out. We scrambled to take the blame for both “covert and overt needling”. We laughed. We giggled. We doted over Isa and reflected on our incredible fortune. We assured each other that we’d make it through this.

And to my great relief, Mi.Vida showered me with affection and showed me that he had it in him to get through this, despite how hard it might be. By Saturday night I felt so much better.

Then Saturday night, despite a very difficult start to the evening, Isa allowed us 8 straight hours of sleep and we both woke up so well rested and refreshed. Literally the first thought through my head upon waking was, I don’t feel tired right now. It was regenerative.

Sunday was a busy day. Isa and I went to visit a family I used to babysit for while Ben headed to airport for a 24 hour business trip to Chicago. After visiting two girls who’s diaper I used to change but who are now almost in high school we rushed back to the city for a sleep solutions seminar. It was GREAT and I can’t wait to put all I learned into action. I promise I’ll tell you all the great stuff this Useful Tuesday.

To finish up the day, I dropped Isa off with my in-laws so I could turn in a paper that was due by 8pm.

Finally we headed home, I got Isa in bed (and asleep) by 7:30 and then I started the first of many loads of laundry.

All in all it was an eye-opening and ultimately endearing weekend.

What did you do this weekend? Anything fun?

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Mi.Vida took Friday off and we took Isa up to Sonoma for some wine tasting. Isa was a great sport and I got to wet my lips with many a wonderful vintage. I also took some great pictures of Isa, but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see them!

5 months

Dearest Isa,

I’ve never written you one of these letters but I wish I had, a small token of my love at the mark of each passing month. I would have loved to go back and read each one, see how you developed, how you progressed. And you could read them too some day, maybe when you have your own children (if you decide to do so). But alas, I did not, and I cannot change that fact. I guess all I can say is, better late than never.

You’re five months today and I can’t believe how you’ve changed. When I look through your pregnancy/baby book I can hardly recognize the dark haired, wrinkly-faced baby on the final pages. Now your light brown hair is long with little curls here and there (except for the bald spot you rub off when you sleep) and you have so much on top it perpetually looks like a faux hawk.

But the best thing about you now is your smile, and your laugh, Your smile lights me up inside, even from across the room. Nothing makes me smile the way you do. And it seems that very little (besides your daddy) makes you smile the way I do. When our eyes meet we both break out into the biggest, goofiest grins.

And then you laugh. Oh how you laugh. Your laugh is deep and from the soul. It bounces out of you like a brook over smooth stones. I love making you laugh and you return the favor countless times every day.

Laughing is not the only sound you make. You love to vocalize. Oh how I wish I could translate your oohs and ahhs. You seem so sure of what you’re saying and your father and I love to respond as if we were a part of the conversation. You also have a wonderful (insert sarcasm here) new screech that you make when you want your needs and wants expedited. This squeal is deafening and I’m also worried you’ll break glass with it one of these days. It’s obvious when you’re frustrated and even more obvious how much you dislike feeling that way. I think you are going to give me a run for my money when you get older and can better communicate your likes and dislikes.

You’re getting so big. You’re already well over 16 pounds (maybe 17?) and around 26 inches long. You just grew out of your first car seat and Grammy and Gramps bought you a new one yesterday. It’s so big! You can use it until you no longer need a car seat and that fact baffles me. Seeing you in it this morning, I couldn’t believe how much my little girl has grown up! Sitting up in her big girl car seat! No more taking your seat out and letting you finish your nap in the stroller attachment. Now I’m going to have to take you out every time and move you to the Ergo or  umbrella stroller.

Oh the umbrella stroller! How you love it! We took you to brunch in it yesterday and you seemed so proud, sitting up in your big girl stroller. I don’t know why you love it so much more than the running stroller, but you seem to. You were looking all around with the biggest smile on your face, flapping your arms and rubbing your feet together. You seemed so proud to be in the stroller and I loved it, even though I could not understand your fascination.

Speaking of your feet, you’re just barely discovering them. I’ve caught you gazing at them curiously and while you’ve always loved to rub them together (and your sock off as you do it) now you seem aware that your doing it. You’ve even reached for them once or twice, but I’m not convinced you know they are a part of you. When you lie on your back you hold them over your face, staring up at them intently.

You like to play on your back and you’ve finally learned to roll from your back to your stomach (you learned to roll from your stomach to your back over a month ago but you rarely do it). Today I walked away to make toast, leaving you to play on your back. When I came back you were on your tummy! Sadly, daddy missed it, despite being right there. Now that you can roll over both ways (though you still don’t do so much) I’ve taken your cute bumpers out of the crib and put in some breathable ones so you can’t hurt yourself in the night. I guess the days of morning naps on my bed are also coming to a close. This saddens me greatly, as laying with you in my bed, snuggled close to your body and watching you as you drift to sleep is one of my favorite things. Sometimes I fall asleep next to you, sometimes I stay and read or simply watch your breath rise and fall quickly in your chest. Sometimes I sneak away to get things done, like shower or eat breakfast.

You’re still not a great napper but man you sleep well at night. We had to do some sleep training (I’m sorry we let you cry!) but you learned so fast and now you fall asleep without the slightest peep, even though you don’t have your binki or your sound machine. I’m so proud of what a good sleeper you are. You never wake up before 4am and usually not until 6am. It’s been so nice for your father and I to get a good night’s sleep – we are very grateful.

You’re not only a good sleeper but also a good eater. We’ve had our problems with breastfeeding but we seem to have found our rhythm. Lately though, you’ve been eating so much that you rid yourself of a little afterward. It’s never very much but it warrants a change of clothes. That’s okay because you have SO MANY CLOTHES I could never run out.

You’ve still only had breast milk but the big plan is to feed you sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving with Grammy and Gramps. I can’t wait to see your face as you smush sweet potatoes in your fingers and then deposit them into your mouth. It will be a very fun Thanksgiving indeed.

And after Thanksgiving I go back to work. I’m so sad to leave behind these days with you, taking walks with our friends, going to Tick Tock at City College, taking naps together on my bed, just snuggling throughout the day, getting to see your face light up when you smile, tickling you until you you screech with laughter. Every minute of every day at work I will be thinking of you, wondering what you’re doing with Tia Molly. You’ve just started to get clingy, wanting me when someone else is holding you (except your daddy, you’re always happy with him). I’m worried you’ll be even more clingy right when I’m heading back to work, but hopefully it will be okay, as you’ll be waking up with your daddy and hanging out with him until your aunty comes. I promise to race home every day so we have a good three hours to hang out before it’s Bedtime Bears.

Oh Isa, I can’t tell you how much I love you, how much you mean to me. Motherhood involves so much sacrifice but the rewards are worth every bit of it and then some. I’ve waited for you my whole life and now you are here and you bring me such joy, such peace. Thank you for being you and teaching me what it means to be me. Thank you for everything.

Ramblings

Just want to start by saying that I voted today via absentee ballot. I LOVE absentee ballots. I cannot imagine standing in a cubby filling all those pages out! It took us like 30 minutes!

As you can imagine, it’s been craziness in San Francisco this week, culminating in absolute madness last night which is spilling over into today. This city is totally enamored of their baseball team even when it’s not that good, so of course right now they are head over heels in love. I’m not really a baseball person but I’ve been swept away by everyone’s enthusiasm. As you might remember, we got rid of our TV on Friday and so Mi.Vida has had to listen to games on the radio (he says baseball is better that way anyway). Last night he was listening in the living room (he brought veggies in there to chop for dinner – it was so cute!) and I was feeding Isa on my bed. Suddenly there was shouting, whistles and elated cries from every house on the street. Fireworks blossomed over head and helicopters took to the skies. Laying there, next to my daughter in my darkened room I thought, the Giants just won the World Series. I know a LOT of people who will be VERY happy about that. Mi.Vida plans on taking Isa to games when she is older – it will be fun to tell her the Giants won the year she was born.

My graduate school work is really ramping up. This is my last class and I have so very much to do. I finally finished my portfolio and plan on sending it off tomorrow morning. I’m very anxious to see if it will be excepted or not. If it is, all I have to do is get a B in my last class and I will be done with grad school. I’m not actually worried about getting a B in this class, I’m sure I can pull that off, but I don’t look forward to the work ahead of me. I’d much rather just hang out with my daughter and enjoy these final weeks at home with her, lazily hanging out. Oh course that is not in the cards and I need to accept that. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m finally done, it’s just too tantalizing a thought.

In at attempt to get my grad school work done without exhausting all my very gracious free child care providers, Mi.Vida and I are starting a morning routine that will get us (read: him) ready for my return to work. I am a teacher and I commute 30 – 45 minutes south to my school. Because the school day starts so early and because traffic gets bad after 7am I leave for work really early, around 6:45am. I’ve been waking up with my daughter at around 8am for the past four months and I need to get back on a work schedule again. I also won’t be here when Isa wakes up so Mi.Vida has to get used to being the alone with Isa every morning and still getting ready for work. So this month I’m waking up at 7am and leaving for a cafe for about an hour. I’ll be coming back around 8:30am, about the time we plan on having SIL come to start watching Isa. Hopefully, this way, if there are any problems we can work them out before I’m unreachable in the mornings, already on my way to work.

As far as work is concerned, I’m feeling better about going back. I’m starting to think about my classes (I have three new classes this year that I’ve never taught before) and I’ve ordered some materials to look over and hopefully use when I go back. I’ve been (and will be) on campus a lot this week and in the coming two weeks for my grad school class and I think that will help ease me into the idea of being there full time again. While I’m sad to miss so much of my daughter’s life, I look forward to teaching again and helping my students succeed during the difficult middle school years. I wonder if I will see as many similarities between a five month old and 11-13 year olds as I expect I will…

To wrap this up, things at home are okay. There has been a big improvement between Mi.Vida and I now that we’re getting more and better sleep. While we’re still tired and frustrated sometimes, mostly about the state of our house, we’re learning how to live this life and make it work. We still have a lot of work to do on the apartment, to make it more livable for both of us, but we’re approaching that with patience. Hopefully we’ll be able to make some big changes that will help us find comfort and peace at home, despite all the encroaching baby accoutrements. In the meantime, we’re trying to be accepting of the way things are while realizing that tomorrow everything might change!

I will leave you all today with a picture of Isa and I reading blogs (well I’m reading them, Isa is snoozing!)

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Our TV came today. It’s amazing – the screen is huge, the picture is super bright and clear and, most importantly, it takes up almost no space in our tiny living room!

Useful Tuesdays: Sleep Training

As you know, we’ve been struggling with sleep issues for many a night. Weeks really. Or is it months? I feel like I’ve been so wrapped up in sleep solutions I’ve hardly experienced the past month or so. I’ve spent so much time on it that now that I feel our sleep problems are solved, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Sleep problems solved you say? But how?!

Let me preface this post by saying that I read the No-Cry Sleep Solutions book from cover to cover. I tried many of their suggestions and was able to make minor changes in Isa’s sleep patterns. But after weeks of intensive work, we really hadn’t made much progress and I was starting to suffer for it. As my graduate class started and I the sleep nights started piling up, I realized I needed to make more significant changes. While I totally respect people who only use no-cry sleep solutions, I had to accept they were not the best for me and my family. And while you might not agree with the method we ultimately used, please don’t attack me for what I choose to do with my daughter. I absolutely believe that we made the right choice for our family and I’m very happy with how everything worked out.

We ultimately used the “progressive-waiting” approach from Richard Ferbers’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. The “progressive-waiting” approach could be considered “cry-it-out” and if you believe that, it’s fine. I’m not against calling it that, because my daughter did cry as she learned to self-sooth. But I do believe she learned to self-sooth and was not just “crying it out” aimlessly, tortuously. I believe she was learning because every night my daughter was better at falling asleep on her own, until tonight, the fourth night, she fussed for less than three minutes before she settled down for the night.

The system we used works like this. We put Isa down, drowsy but awake, in her crib with no pacifier and no noise machine; she had to be put down in the same way she’d wake up, so she could teach herself to fall asleep that way and would be able to fall back asleep that way when she woke up later in the night. Every night we put Isa to sleep that way.

On the first night we let Isa cry for three minutes then five minutes then ten minutes. At the end of each of these intervals one of us went in for about a minute, rubbed Isa’s tummy and told her we loved her and reassured her that she was okay. Then we kissed her on the forehead and gently left the room. If Isa had continued to cry past the first ten minutes, we would have gone in every ten minutes to comfort her briefly. We never did though, because she never continued to cry past the third interval, not once in three nights.

The next day we went in at five minutes, ten minutes and twelve minutes. Actually, we went in at five minutes because she was asleep by eight minutes. The reality is, she cried about 15 minutes twice on the first night, then 8 minutes and 25 minutes on the second night. The third night she cried less than five minutes both times she woke up.

The first two nights I fed Isa when she first woke up around 11pm, but did not feed her when she woke up at 2am or 3am. The third night I decided not to feed her at 11pm, opting to pump instead. If Isa had woken up any time after midnight I would have fed her, but the thing is, she didn’t. Isa went 11 hours last night without eating, she didn’t breastfeed until 6am! That means I got to sleep for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT, from midnight to 6am. And the only reason we went to sleep so late was because we were having important couple time (wink wink), which we never would have been able to do before the sleep training.

So far, I think sleep training has been a resounding success. My daughter can fall asleep all by herself, without her pacifier and best of all, she can STAY asleep throughout the night. Every morning she wakes up with the biggest, brightest smile on her face. During the day she’s happier and more alert. I truly believe she is benefitting as much, if not more, from the sleep training, than we are.

And boy, are we benefitting. I feel like a new person. I never knew how stressed out I was about nighttime until I stopped being stressed out about it. Now, when we put Isa down, she falls asleep and stays asleep. We can cook dinner, watch TV, have conversations without being interrupted by crying (or phantom crying, which was starting to drive me literally insane). I can feel the tension melting away from the two of us, from our relationship. It’s like having a restart button. It’s like having a life again.

I know that “crying-it-out” is not for everyone. For many weeks, I wasn’t sure if it was right for us. When we finally did choose to do it, I felt that it was absolutely the right move. I’m thankful to be able to look back on that decision and know it was the right one for me, Mi.Vida and Isa. I feel like this was my first “mom” mandate and I’m proud of how it turned out. I have more confidence in myself and in my partner. I feel like a more capable parent.

If you have any questions about our sleep training approach or what we plan to do in the future, please don’t hesitate to comment or email!

And now, a toast – to sleep!

UPDATE – Isa slept for 12 hours straight last night, without waking up once. Now I’m worried she’s not getting enough to eat with only five feedings during the day. Ah, a mother’s job is never done…