Sleep, Baby, Sleep – Part Two

Are you ready for the longest post ever? For those of you without a baby, it’ll probably also be the most boring post ever, so feel free to skip. But, if you’re anything like me right now, you can’t get enough of reading about baby sleep – I want to know how everyone’s babies are sleeping, how they got them to do it, and how I can improve what we’re doing. We recently decided to nap train Jackson, and I’m pretty adamant that it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It’s totally changed the way we do things around here, and we’re all sleeping better as a result. So, let’s talk!

First I want to talk a little about why we chose to nap train, because I think it’s important to carefully consider what you’re doing with naps. Since about 6 weeks, Jackson has (had!) refused to nap in his crib at all. He’d sleep on me or Corey, he’d sleep in the Moby, and he’d sleep in a bouncer or swing at daycare (but never at home), he just wouldn’t sleep in the crib. We tried a lot of different things, but when I went back to work at 7 weeks it just wasn’t a priority. I hated being away from him all day long, so when we got home I was happy to let him snuggle up with me. And on the weekends, I felt like I needed to catch up on time spent with him, so it was no problem to spend half my day chained to the couch while he slept.

This worked for us for a couple of months, but towards the end of the school year I got really tired of it. I loved the cuddles, don’t get me wrong, but it was reaching a point where I had zero time that wasn’t being taken up by Jackson in some way, and Corey couldn’t ever get him to sleep as easily as I could so nap duty generally fell to me. I kept telling Corey we needed to do something about it, and we tried a few times, but he would just scream in the crib and I didn’t have the heart to let him cry (plus he was still so young, he definitely wasn’t ready to cry it out). Corey and I kept agreeing that we would wait until school got out to tackle it, because we were afraid that if we pushed the crib naps he wouldn’t sleep as well, which would affect night time sleep, which would affect our ability to function at work each day. Plus, if I sat down on the couch with him he would almost immediately snuggle up into me and fall asleep, so we didn’t want to mess with such an easy way to get him to nap.

One day, a couple of weeks before school got out, I was frustrated with being stuck on the couch with him, and he was about 4 months old (which some people say is a good time to start sleep training), so we decided to try and let him cry. It was a disaster. We lasted about 30 minutes (with frequent checks) before we decided it just wasn’t for us, ran in, and grabbed him. He immediately fell asleep in my arms, and was clearly upset. We both agreed we were never doing that again.

And then…

The weekend after school got out, Jackson’s naps went to hell. He suddenly wouldn’t sleep at all in my arms. I’d settle in on the couch like we had always done, and he would start arching his back and screaming. If I tried to rock him (which he usually loved), he would try to push his body as far away from mine as possible, crying the whole time. The only time he was calm? If I plopped him down in the crib.

The only problem was, he still couldn’t fall asleep very well in the crib. If we stayed in the room with him he was okay, but he just wanted to talk to us and give us smiles. But if we left, he cried. We tried the swing (nope), the bouncer (no way) and the Moby (fell asleep while Corey was walking outside with him, woke up as soon as they walked back in the door). One day that weekend he spent 7 hours with no more than a 15 minute catnap because we just could not figure out what to do.

At this point, we knew we had to revisit sleep training. He was giving us very clear cues that he was ready to nap in the crib, he just needed some help figuring out how to fall asleep. He was also showing us that if we were in the room, he couldn’t sleep because we were too distracting – and he was starting to fuss a bit before falling asleep no matter what, which gave us the idea that maybe he was a tension releaser, not a tension increaser like we originally thought.

So, after lots of thought and talking it over, we decided to re-visit crying it out. We gave ourselves one week and said we would stick to it for that long, but if it wasn’t improving we would ditch it and go for something else. I took notes on my phone and even made a graph (because I’m a data nerd!) of how his naps went over the course of the week, and we were pretty shocked at the results. I’ll share that in a minute, but first let’s talk about nap routines because, as I’ve said before, I think sleep routines and cues are vital!

Our nap routine is as follows:

- As soon as he starts to slow down/act tired (which was an hour and a half or so after his last nap when we first started, but is quickly moving towards two hours) we head upstairs. I close his blackout blinds and turn on his music.

- I change his diaper if it needs to be changed and put him in his sleep sack (we’ve officially transitioned over to this instead of the swaddle for all sleeping). We do this on the changing table and a use the same little phrases and games that Corey always uses with him at night. I think this helps him know it’s time to sleep, and it always gets a giggle out of him, which I can’t resist.

- I pick him up snuggle him for as long as he lets me. Usually this isn’t more than 10-15 seconds, then he starts arching his back and fussing until I lay him in the crib.

- I lay him down and sit down next to the crib. Then, (and you’ll laugh at me for this one…) I read him a few pages of Harry Potter. Sounds crazy, but it works. We realized early on that for naps he’s soothed by us talking to him or reading to him, but if we read one of his books he’s too stimulated by the pictures or the poetic rhythm. I grabbed Harry Potter one day when I knew he wanted to hear my voice but I didn’t have anything to say, and I read out loud to him for a while. It worked like a charm. So now, instead of a nap time book we read a few pages from Harry Potter.

- After I read, I give him a kiss, tell him I love him, and leave.

I have to admit, I miss this!

Once I leave, we’re basically doing a modified Ferber-style approach – when (if) he starts crying, I check the time, and I go peek in on him after about 5 minutes. I give him his pacifier back if necessary, pat him a few times, and kiss his forehead before leaving again. We’re not super consistent with the check-in times. Sometimes I’ll do a few 5 minute increments before going to 7 minutes, then 10, sometimes if he’s just fussing I go straight to 10 minute increments. It all depends on how hard he’s crying and if I think he’s about to fall asleep, but at this point he really only fusses if he loses the pacifier in the first few minutes, so I’ll pop it back in and he goes right to sleep.

Okay, let’s get to the fun part – the data. When we first started nap training I couldn’t get enough information on how this had worked for other people, so I’ll give a rundown of how things went for our first week. We were pretty surprised at how quickly it worked, which to us just confirmed that, as we suspected, Jackson was ready for this!

Here’s the graph that shows how long he cried for and how long he stayed asleep:

As of now (a little over two weeks in), he’s crying no more than 5 minutes when I put him down, and the vast majority of the time he doesn’t cry at all.

And here’s the graph that shows how long his naps lasted over the course of the week (again), along with the interval from waking up to going back to sleep.

The interesting part is that the nap length varied quite a bit for the first week, but by the second week (last week) naps were getting consistently longer and longer, and now it’s looking like he’s getting ready to consolidate down into three long naps a day. We’ll see what happens!

But, what was most interesting to me was the night sleep. Right before we started this we were having some really rough nights, so I took notes on how things looked once we were nap training. Here’s how it went down:

Night before we started:

- Was so tired we put him to bed at 6:00, much earlier than usual.
- Woke up three times for his pacifier between 6:00 and 10:00
- Up at 2:30 screaming. Obviously hungry, I was in there feeding him until about 3:30.
- Up again a few minutes after I got in bed. Corey spent about an hour in his room with him before he went back to sleep.
- Up for the day at 6:30.

Night One:

- Down at 7:30ish
- Woke up for pacifier three times between 9:45 and 11:30. One was my fault – was fussing in his sleep and I accidentally woke him up.
- Up for the day at 5:30.

Night Two:

- Down at 7:30
- Woke up for pacifier at 1:30 and 5:10.
- Up for the day at 5:30.

Night Three:

- Down at 6:45
- Up at 7:30 because he rolled into the side of his crib. Went right back to sleep after I moved him and gave back pacifier.
- Up for the day at 5:15.

You get the idea – nap training very quickly fixed the issues we were having with night sleep, and things are still going strong. I think he’s in a transitional time with sleep right now because it looks a little different every night, but now he’s going down between 6:30 and 7:00 every night, waking no more than 2 times throughout the night for his pacifier (and going straight back to sleep, so it takes us under a minute to actually deal with), and then getting up around 5, then eating and going straight back to sleep until 7 or so. A few times he’s slept straight through for the whole 12 hours, so I’m hoping that becomes the norm!

His new favorite way to sleep. Scares he hell out of Corey and me, but it’s kind of adorable. We try to move his head, but he just gets mad and moves it right back! 

Long story short? We nap trained, it was a fantastic decision, I have my life back, and everyone is happy. Until the next sleep regression hits us, but let’s not think about that yet.

Anyone else want to chat baby sleep? How are things going in your house? Anyone else have a baby that loves to sleep in ways that terrify you? If you don’t have a baby and are sleeping all night every night, tell me about that too…I want to live vicariously through you!

This entry was posted in Baby.

Cleaning House

Y’all, I’m so excited to share this. So! Excited!

Let’s just jump right in – because, really, I can’t wait any longer.

Mmmmm. Yeah, that’s my dining room. I’m in love.

But, let’s back up for a second.

We haven’t been doing much (or, anything) to the house lately. We’re trying to take care of some debt and get a few things in order before we take on any more house projects, so things have more or less been on hold around here. But. We had a few things brewing that added up to disaster. I’ll let you guess. We had…

- Decade-old (at least) carpet.
- Three dogs
- A doggy door
- A backyard. With dirt.
- Rain
- A baby who is getting ready to learn how to crawl.

Do you know what happens when you add all of those ingredients together? You know what, don’t guess, I’ll just tell you.

Yeah, that happens.

And I can tell you with certainty that it was much worse in person than it looks in these photos. It was awful. We’ve always dealt with this when it rains, because the dogs love to track in mud; but it’s never been more annoying than now, when we have a baby who loves to spend time hanging out on the floor. We’ve tried all sorts of things but nothing we could do really kept the carpet clean enough (and honestly, who has the energy to clean three sets of dog paws every single time they go outside?) and I finally reached the end of my rope. Corey and I talked about it and decided that there was really no good reason for us to wait.

We happened to have the money to take care of the floor (which doesn’t happen often!) so we decided to jump in and go for it. In the end, it’s totally worth it to delay getting rid of our debt by a few months if it means we get to enjoy this floor in the meantime.

This is the same flooring we used in Jackson’s room – just plain old vinyl plank flooring. Peel and stick, y’all. And I love it. It’s durable, it’s easy to lay down, and I don’t have to stress when the dogs scratch it up because it’s cheap. And it looks fantastic, to boot.

I won’t detail the process (because I already did that here), but I will add that it was slightly different than it was upstairs, since we have concrete subfloors down here. It just meant a little more cleaning/sanding and we had to fill in some holes from the carpet tacks, but other than that it was the same basic idea!

(Jack was a great helper!)

And now?

I don’t have to stress about nasty, stained, smelly carpet in my dining room. My living room, unfortunately, is still a carpeted mess, but we’ll be fixing that in the next few weeks! Getting the dining room done just made me that much more excited to get the living room done too, and I can’t wait to get started. And now, I don’t have to worry if I want to put Jackson down on the floor for a bit – it may not be quite as soft underneath him, but I’m actually able to keep it clean and we can always get a rug. It’s the best feeling ever to actually have my house look a little cleaner on a daily basis without any extra effort – that carpet just looked nasty!

Anyone else do any flooring updates lately? Please tell me we aren’t the only ones with completely nasty carpet!

First Father’s Day

It’s so funny to me how all of the holidays throughout the year that used to be no big deal are now so important and exciting for me. I mean, we’ve always celebrated Father’s Day with our families, but since we weren’t actually parents yet it wasn’t nearly as awesome as it is now. Now? I want to snap a million pictures, soak up all the memories, and enjoy every little holiday to the fullest.

I mean, this is the only first Father’s Day we’ll ever have!

We had a very relaxing Father’s Day this year and it was fabulous. We went out to eat with family, hung out, and just generally enjoyed our little family. I’m so blessed to have such an awesome partner in this crazy parenting adventure, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.

As a little Father’s Day tribute, here are the top 3 things I love about Corey as a dad…

-Jackson’s whole face lights up when he’s interacting with Corey. He looks at him with an admiration that he doesn’t look at anyone else with, and it melts my heart every time.

- I love seeing who Corey is as a father. I’ve always known he was a sweet and wonderful person, but watching how gentle, caring, and just generally awesome he is with Jackson makes me love him even more.

- I love how much Corey loves our son. He gets so excited when Jackson learns something new, and it’s so sweet to see how much he clearly loves him. I could sit and watch them play together all day long – and watching Corey walk around the house with Jackson and talking to him? One of my favorite things in the world.

How was your Father’s Day this year? Anyone else want to share a few things you love about your partner as a parent? Or, if you aren’t one yet, just what you love about your partner in general?

Sleep, Baby, Sleep!

I’ve had several requests for a post about sleep, so I figure it’s about time I get to it. I’ve been avoiding it because we are smack dab in the middle of a big sleep regression (hello, four months!) but I figure I can share what has been working for us so far, and what we’re still struggling with. I have a lot to say about sleep, and I believe that night sleep and day sleep are two totally different beasts, so we’ll talk about night sleep today and I’ll tackle a post about naps soon (we’re in the middle of nap training, so I want a bit of time to figure it all out first!)

First, let me tell you a bit about Jackson’s sleep so far at night – because we lucked out with a pretty awesome sleeper. By 5 weeks he was down to one wake-up per night (usually between 2:30 and 3:30), and by 12 weeks he was consistently sleeping through the night (9:00 PM to 5:30/6:00 AM). We slowly moved his bedtime forward as he showed us he needed it, and now most nights he sleeps from 7:00/7:30 PM to about 6:00 AM. The last couple of weeks he’s been waking up a few times a night, but we usually just give him the pacifier and he goes straight back to sleep. I honestly think his nighttime wake ups lately have been due to poor sleep during the day, so I’m hoping the nap training we are doing now will help with that!

So, what did we do to get him to sleep so well from such a young age?

I have no idea. Luck?

Just kidding. Kind of.

I do believe that all babies have completely different sleeping personalities, and some babies just sleep better than others. However, there are a few steps that we took that I think contributed to Jackson’s good sleeping habits.

1. We have a solid, consistent night time routine. By the time Jackson was about 3 weeks old we had settled on a routine and we do the exact same thing every. single. night. I don’t think it matters too much what the actual routine is, just as long as it works for you and your family and is something you can keep up with. For us, bedtime looks like this:

- Head upstairs and put pajamas on. Corey always does this, and they always play on the changing table a bit. Corey has specific little things he says and does every night that always make Jack giggle, and since they only do it at bedtime, it’s become a sort of sleep cue.

- Nurse on one side. While I’m nursing, Corey always turns the fan on and turns on our music (more on that in a second).

- Corey takes him and swaddles him in the crib, and gives him some gas drops. We’re in the process of ditching the swaddle, but we’re doing it very slowly because he’s very attached to it. We’re currently swaddling with both arms out, and our next step will be to move to a sleep sack – we’re waiting to do this until he has his naps sorted out!

- Corey gives him back to me, I nurse on the other side, and when he finishes I give him his pacifier, lay him down, and leave.

It’s a super simple routine and really doesn’t involve a lot of the “typical” bedtime stuff (like reading a book or bath time) but we have found that this is what works for Jackson. Most nights he goes straight to sleep – sometimes we have to go in once or twice to give him his pacifier back, but that’s more of a new thing in the last couple of weeks or so.

2. We found white noise that works for us. At first, we used a white noise machine with Jackson every night (we have this one). We liked it – and so did he – but it turns off after 45 minutes and we just never felt that it worked as well as it could. When he was a few weeks old, we discovered how much he loves music and how soothing it is to him. In particular, he really seemed to like Dashboard Confessional. It’s probably just because that’s my go-to music to sing to him when I’m trying to calm him down, but for whatever reason we felt like it was more soothing to him than anything else. So, we loaded up an old iPod with a few hours worth of their music and put it in the iPod dock we have in his room.

Now, he listens to Dashboard every single night (and during naps) and their music is a major sleep cue for him. It also can be a bit louder than the sleep sheep could, so it helps to drown out other noises (like our dogs) better than anything else. Corey and I have gotten tired of hearing the same songs over and over (and over and over) on the monitor, but it works for us and we’re all sleeping, so I’m not complaining!

3. We watched his cues, and adjusted bedtime accordingly. We used to start bedtime around 8:00 and put him down at 9:00ish (he always takes a while to eat!) but slowly over time we realized that the 30-45 minutes leading up to bedtime were always fussy. It seemed silly to insist on waiting until 8:00 to start the bedtime routine when he was getting grumpy around 7:30, so over the course of a couple of weeks we slowly moved bedtime up in 15 minute increments until we found a sweet spot. Now, we start the bedtime routine at about 6:15 or 6:30, and he’s down by 7:30 most nights – he’s much happier in the evenings, and we’ve got some time to ourselves again!

4. We made sure he was full during the day. I think one of the biggest keys for us in getting Jackson to sleep through the night was making sure he got all of his nutrition during the day, so he wasn’t starving at night. Some of this he did on his own, but I take credit for at least part of it!

When he first started sleeping through the night, I was making sure that he ate every 3 hours or so, regardless of whether or not he was fussy. I also wouldn’t ever let him nap more than 3 hours at a time (when he was really little he would often nap from feeding to feeding!). Now that he’s a bit older, we typically do 4 hour increments, but I don’t let them go any longer than that. He also naturally began to eat much more at his last feeding before bed and his first feeding after waking up in the morning – it’s like he’s fueling up to sleep all night!

5. I cluster feed right before bed.  Well, kind of – if two feedings really close together counts as a cluster feed. This really happened on accident, but it works well for us. Jackson seems to do best if he has 5 feedings a day (6 if it’s a daycare day, since two of them are from a bottle), and that usually means I have to squeeze in an extra feeding right before bed. So most days his eating schedule is 6:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 6:15 PM. Sometimes it varies a bit (when I’m at work, he adds a meal at noon since that’s when I can come up and feed him, so the 1:00 one is pushed back) but generally speaking, that’s when he’s eating. We don’t force these times on him (unless it’s been 4 hours and he isn’t requesting food, then I’ll usually go ahead and feed him anyways), but this is the routine he’s fallen into and it seems to help! The extra feeding right before bed is a great way to make sure he’s full heading into the night, and I think it’s played a part in helping him sleep all night.

And so far, that’s what we’ve done to help our little man sleep at night! I honestly think a lot of our sleep luck has just been because he’s a sleepy baby, but I do think what we have done has been beneficial in getting him to sleep better. As I said in the beginning of the post, we’re currently in the middle of the four month sleep regression and it’s been rough, but manageable. Right now, he’s still going to bed at the same time as usual but he’s waking up 3-4 times during the night crying. It doesn’t usually last very long (except one strange night when I had to do a middle of the night feeding and then Corey had to spend an hour in his room with him), but it’s not fun to be getting out of bed multiple times a night again. I feel pretty confident that once we get his naps sorted out (he’s been taking awful naps lately) he’ll go back to sleeping better – but I’ll keep you updated! Like I said, we’re in the middle of nap training right now, so hopefully in a week or two I’ll have a good update for you!

How do your kids sleep at night? Any tips on getting through this dang sleep regression?

This entry was posted in Baby.

Jackson: 4 Months

Stats: At his four month appointment, Jackson weighed 14 pounds, 3.5 ounces and was 25.5 inches long!

Clothing size: We moved into 3-6 month clothes this month! He was still in 0-3 pants for most of the month as he’s pretty lanky, but he’s officially in all 3-6 month clothing as of this week. Honestly, he’ll probably be able to fit into some of his smaller 6-9 month onesies in the next month or so, since his torso is so long.

Sleep: We’ve hit the 4-month sleep regression! So far, it hasn’t been as bad as I expected but I’m sure the worst is yet to come. As of right now, he’s still sleeping through the night most nights (we’ve had one night where he woke up once) but he’s needing some extra help to get to sleep. We’re hoping we won’t have to rock him to sleep for much longer, but we haven’t wanted to start on sleep training just yet as he’s had a pretty nasty cold for the last couple of weeks and it just doesn’t seem like the right time. Daytime naps are still rough – he’ll sleep on me or in the Moby and that’s about it. We’re hoping to tackle that this summer!

Eating: Breastfeeding is still going well! We aren’t planning on starting solids until closer to 6 months, as he just doesn’t seem ready to us yet. Plus, I’m not ready for my tiny boy to be eating solids yet!

Milestones: He’s rolling back to front now, but it’s still inconsistent. He’s done it a few times in his crib (which means we’re currently weaning him off his swaddle!) but has only done it once outside of the crib. He’s starting to show some early signs of teething, but we can’t see anything yet so I think we’ve still got a little while to go. He’s been giggling like crazy this month and has started to talk to us a lot more. This month, he also figured out how to grab his toys and has been constantly putting them all in his mouth!

Things we want to remember: I want to soak up these naps he loves to take in my arms – it won’t be much longer that he’ll be doing it, and I never want to forget how sweet it is! I want to remember how much he loves bath time and how adorable it was when he first figured out that he can splash in the bath, and how much fun it is now that he plays in there. I want to remember how much fun this age is and how special it is to watch him as he figures out how to do new things – I love watching his little brain work when he’s trying something new!

Special outings or adventures: We went out to my grandmother’s house for Memorial Day weekend and he got to meet some extended family – he did great! We went to see his big cousin in a play, a Special Olympics meet, a church picnic, and a staff softball game for my school. He does fantastic when we go out to events and we feel lucky to have such an easy-going baby! Oh, and this month was my first Mother’s Day!

Favorites: Bath time is still a big favorite, especially now that we’re playing with squirt-y toys and splashing! He loves to be held up in the air and you’re guaranteed a smile if you let him “stand” on your lap. He still loves being cozied up in the Moby and he’s such a big snuggler. He’s starting to become infatuated with the dogs – as of right now Cullen is his favorite dog to grab at and Ranger is his favorite to watch. Him and Hadley still ignore one another for the most part.

What we’ve learned: I feel like every day Corey and I get a little bit better at figuring Jackson out and learning how to keep him happy. These last four months have really taught us how to work as a team and I think it’s brought us so much closer together to have to figure this whole parenting thing out and rely on one another so much. We’re also continually reminded that we’re very lucky to have a happy, easy-going baby who already sleeps through the night – we’re going to be in trouble when we have baby #2, I imagine!