Tag Archives: Babies

Nightweaning a Co-sleeping Toddler

Oh, sleep.

I’ve missed you.

Beginning with my fantasies of being able to press pause and take a nap during labor, my relationship with sleep transformed into something I desired without any real promise of attainment. I craved it. I daydreamed about it. I practically salivated over it.

Until recently.

After twenty months of co-sleeping and nursing on demand, I finally decided I’d reached my limit. I was fine continuing to share a bed as long as I could sleep without having to nurse every hour or two. While E had gone through stretches where she slept a few hours or more at a time without needing me, she was suddenly becoming more and more demanding again and my body couldn’t take it. Just as I always figured would happen eventually, I knew I was done.

Then, I hurt my shoulder and I was really done. Like there was no other option. I couldn’t lie on my side for hours upon hours. She was going to have to learn how to put herself back to sleep.

Now here’s the point in the story where I pause for a moment to tell you every baby and family is different. While we decided not to cry-it-out early on, I now have a new appreciation for the idea that maybe some moms need the separation earlier than others. Co-sleeping and night comforting was something that worked for us for a long time. I enjoyed the closeness. And, honestly, it was just easiest for me. We had shared a body, so it felt natural to share a bed. She was right there next to me, easy to put back to sleep. No need to climb out of bed in the middle of the night. You get the idea.

Even within the same family, moms report different techniques working for different kids. This worked for us. I’m not looking for approval or to suggest what we did was right. It was right for us until it wasn’t anymore. Of course, many people in our lives warned us it would be hard to get her out of our bed, but it was also hard for me to get out of our bed in those early months. To me, it has been worth the trade-off, even if it isn’t easy to transition her to her own space.

What we have done after two long months is get her to sleep for about 8 hours (on average) without needing anything from me. I still nurse her around 5 or 6AM and then she goes back to sleep for a few more hours. When you consider we were nursing hourly at some points in the last few months, this is a HUGE victory. However, it was hard-earned.

I’ve had a couple of moms recount their cry-it-out experiences as gentle fussing in the crib. This was never an option with E. For awhile she’d start her night in her own little Montessori bed on the floor, but as soon as you’d try to put her down in a crib she’d scream to the point of gagging. I’ve heard her gently fuss. This wasn’t it and we couldn’t take it for more than a few minutes. She would hyperventilate. She would freak out. It was too much for us so we didn’t push it.

Accordingly, I scoured the web for a “gentle” approach to night weaning. I knew putting her in a crib and walking away wasn’t an option for us, even if I’d tried it a couple times just to see what would happen, (and, as I described, could only take for a couple minutes!). So, I figured the first step was to get rid of nursing during the night and then worry about the bed-sharing afterward. Fortunately, my husband stumbled across this video and sent it to me:

Basically, the plan went as follows:

  1. Pick a 6-7 hour window to withhold milk as the source of sleep
  2. Nights 1-3 use any comforting you’d like to get her to sleep, nursing may be used to comfort but not put to sleep during the 6-7 hour window
  3. Nights 4-6 no milk during the 6-7 hour window, any other comforting okay
  4. Nights 7-9 no milk, no comforting

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to withhold her favorite source of nighttime comfort, but I had no other choice. It was time. And, it was terrible. She fought back, hard. She screamed, and screamed, and screamed, even though I was lying there next to her.

I tried everything. I sang songs, I ignored her. Nothing helped but time. While the plan in the video suggested 9 days, it really took us about 5 weeks with the first 2 being the most intense. Although the plan transitions to no comforting by night 7, it took us longer to get there as simply rolling over to “hold you” became her favorite trick.

Even now, I have to make sure I pack her full of as much food as possible during the day because she was clearly relying on night nursing for some of her caloric needs. Below are my journal entries from the first few nights to illustrate what a challenge it was:

Night One: Went to bed at 9, nursed but she fell asleep without nursing around 10, withheld nursing 5 or 6 times throughout the night, threw short fits then went back to sleep (still challenging), nursed once around 4 to relieve pressure, and again at daylight, slept in until 9:30+ and put herself back to sleep once after I got out of bed (heard her cry, but didn’t go to her)

Night Two: Ouch. We were off to an awesome start. I nursed her then used other methods to get her to sleep, (sing, cuddle, etc). She fell asleep after about 30 minutes without any fits around 10PM and slept soundly until 1AM when she woke up in a torrent. Nothing would get her back to sleep.

Unlike the fits the previous night, her screaming just kept escalating. A sippy cup helped calm her a little. Walking her around calmed her until my arms felt like they were going to fall off, (well, my right arm since I sprained my left shoulder and couldn’t put much weight on it).

Still, I kept refusing to nurse. I sang songs, tried to cuddle, until finally the screaming became too much. I asked her dad for help, (he was sleeping downstairs so he could face his workday). She just got angrier until the screaming became so intense that I felt like I was going to throw up.

At that point, I deferred back to the rules for the first three nights– nursing is okay to calm, just not to put to sleep. I calmed her with milk and then she went to sleep easily after I stopped nursing her. She slept without fits the rest of the night. I nursed her at 5AM since it was past the 7 hour milk-free mark (starting at 10PM). I just couldn’t handle another fit. She nursed again around 8AM and is still in bed now, (9AM).

Difficult night.

Night three: Repeat of night 2 but took 2 hours to get her back to sleep around 2, minimal additional waking, just one monstrous fit around 2 and a refusal to go back to sleep. Getting harder to want to keep going.

***

We basically repeated this for weeks. Some nights were fine and then we’d start all the way over again. It sucked, but I was determined. And, little by little, it paid off. We started to sleep through the night here and there. It was the encouragement I needed to keep going through the hard nights.

As she began to soothe herself back to sleep more consistently, it was amazing to see the shift. She’d cry for just long enough for me to question whether I should intervene and then magically put herself back to sleep. It made me appreciate the concept of self-soothing in a whole new way.

Eventually, she stopped night waking pretty much altogether. Now she’ll wake maybe once or twice, and put herself back to sleep quickly, as long as I’ve fed her adequately throughout the day. The other magical improvement is naps. She used to wake up in the middle of her nap and want to nurse. Now she generally puts herself back to sleep during her naps as well.

Parenting is such a personal journey. What works and has worked for us is definitely not for everyone. But, this is exactly the kind of blog entry I wish I’d read a couple months ago. It would’ve helped to hear that these plans don’t always work in a week or two. Sometimes they take months. Sometimes they take a lot of (comforted) tears. Our sleep plan is a work in progress. She’s a night owl. She’s still in our bed. But, one step at a time. I’m just grateful to be sleeping on my own clock again.

Welcome back, old friend.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month

I will remember the night we spent in the pediatric wing of our local hospital for the rest of my life. E was just 4 days old and her jaundice had reached the highest level her pediatrician had ever treated. Not the best thing to tell first-time parents.

Even though we were reassured everything would be alright, my heart was ripped open. Here I was a mess of post-partum hormones being told I wouldn’t be able to hold my newborn baby while she cried in the glow of an artificial blue light. The nurses must have thought I was crazy. My tears just wouldn’t stop.

As I tried to settle into my fold-out chair for the night, my body still cramping in post-delivery discomfort, the sound of an emergency chime kept ringing in the hallway. Children in much worse states than my little girl needed immediate help. Quick footsteps and rushed voices repeated throughout the night. The urgency was palpable.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, worried about E’s persistence in peeling off her protective eye wear, I stumbled into the hallway in search of tape. The corridor was empty. Determined to find what I needed, I headed for the nurse’s station, but open doors caught my eye.

One stuck with me. The sock-covered feet of a mother who lay beside a crib, the room decorated with all kinds of items from home. These people lived in the hospital. A long-time patient, something seriously wrong. Suddenly my night of not being able to hold my baby became trivial.

It’s hard to think about sick kids but they’ve been on my mind a lot this week. A friend is raising money for a volunteer-run organization that directly funds innovative pediatric cancer research. Her friend lost her six-year-old daughter to a brain tumor.

After watching the video below, I couldn’t get the girl out of my thoughts. Her smiling, happy face. Her dancing in the midst of such darkness. Her mom wishing for just a couple more normal days filled with simple time together around the house.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Four days left. If you’d like to donate to the organization my friend volunteers for, click here. I already did and am also giving 10 busy bags to our local hospital. If you’d like to send me with more bags to keep sick kids busy, click here.

And, if nothing else, take this post as a reminder to appreciate the people you care about. Laugh and play. Love and gratitude. Simple enough.

Busy, busy, busy bags for busy, busy, busy people!

Our beta bag is now available on our website: www.wandertots.com
Our beta bag is now available on our website: www.wandertots.com

I feel like it’s obligatory to apologize for being MIA from this blog for awhile. Between my new part-time job as a games (read PE) teacher, starting my own home-based business, and, well, being a mom, life is very, very busy. However, this writing part of myself and everything it encompasses is still at the core of who I am, so I feel I must share these new and exciting parts of my life here as well.

When I started this blog, I was moving into a space where I was giving up my regular teaching job to stay home with my daughter and write. As it turns out, I’m still home most of the time, but I’m doing a lot less writing than I envisioned. Not because I don’t love it, but because creativity comes in waves for me, and I had to put my middle grade fiction manuscript aside for awhile to let it simmer. Someday, I’ll return to it, but right now isn’t the time.

Instead, I’ve committed to some new ventures. For starters, I’m teaching PE in a Waldorf environment a couple days a week and it’s actually really fun. I get to play games with kids and give them the freedom to be inventive while also getting my own exercise alongside with them. Major win!

And, then, there’s my new business. WanderTots. While waiting for E to wake up from one of her marathon naps this summer in Hawaii, it hit me, I could try and market the same busy bags that were making our trip a success. Soon my husband had me ordering toys wholesale so we’d have an inventory waiting when I got home and I’d have no excuse but to leap head first into the world of entrepreneurship. (Thanks, honey!)

The name WanderTots camefrom my love of the word wanderlust. Travel has always been one of my passions and the opportunity to combine it with motherhood was too good to pass up. Thanks to the wonderful advice (and inspiration!) from friends before we left, I had carefully wrapped a collection of novelty items for E to take on our flight. The excitement of unfamiliar goodies kept her occupied almost the entire trip.

Then, to my great surprise, once we got home, that same bag was following us everywhere, to restaurants, family photo sessions, the grandparents’ house. You name it. Suddenly I was able to sit and enjoy a meal again instead of having to chase E around a restaurant. Busy bags literally changed my perspective on taking a toddler out in public.

Amazing how exciting wrapped goodies are for little people.
Amazing how exciting wrapped goodies are for little people.

One of the downsides of creating a busy bag is the time involved in tracking down unfamiliar items and then wrapping them individually. While I had fun in the process, I also recognized that for moms who work full-time or are caught up in other endeavors (like multiple children perhaps!), making a busy bag is a luxury. Likewise, while there are some crafty busy bag options available out there, more commercial-ready choices don’t seem to exist…

So, voila! WanderTots now offers busy bags for busy people! As with any good work in progress, expect more options as time progresses. But, for now, like us across multiple platforms (FB, Twitter, Instagram) and keep us in mind next time you’re out and about and need to occupy your little ones.

Deleting Apps: Being Present in a Busy World

Realizing more and more that life is what's happening in front of me, not on my phone.
Realizing life is what’s happening in front of me, not on my phone.

Life is full. Between guest teaching part-time, polishing up my manuscript, and chasing a toddler, I’ve been busy. Fitting in time for exercise, cleaning the house, socializing, and just plain relaxing has gotten trickier.

As I lay on my yoga mat yesterday, it hit me that one of the biggest drains on my brain power is Facebook. While I have a limited amount of time to sit on the computer, time spent holding my cell phone is an entirely different matter. I manage to scroll through my Facebook feed while doing all sorts of things. Standing in line at the grocery store, riding as a passenger in the car, waiting for my lunch to be ready, the list goes on. It seems like I’ve managed to fit phone surfing into every cranny of my life, which got me thinking about brain patterns and the ability to just be still and present in any given moment.

I have the urge to check my phone multiple times an hour, and mostly it’s for Facebook notifications so I can see when people have posted to groups or respond to something I put up. Information I definitely don’t need in the middle of spending time with my daughter or going about daily life. Watching a mom peruse Facebook while pushing her child in a swing the other day really drove this point home.

Add in the possible health effects of cell phone usage and it seems obvious it’s just not worth the risk. So, this morning, after checking my phone three times in less than hour, I deleted Facebook. I’ll still use it on my computer (because, let’s face it, I also think it’s great for connecting with people), but my goal is to no longer pattern my thoughts around needing to check my phone for updates.

I’m hopeful life will feel more relaxing with extra moments in the day. So far, so good.

Coming Home

Among the many pictures sent to me throughout the day. Hard to miss them too much when they're having this much fun together.
Hard to feel bad about leaving when she’s having this much fun with her dad. The picture updates also help.

At first I just wanted to get my feet wet, to see what it felt like to work again. Then I found myself to my ankles, and now I am up to my knees. Sometimes I open doors without thinking. Now the question remains, do I dive the rest of the way or continue to enjoy the ability to step back out, should the mood strike.

“For two years, no one wanted me.”

Those words from a child repeat in my mind. This week I met my match. The first kid in four years I could not crack in two solid days. Games of Horse followed by games of hiding. Maybe more days together would do the trick. I may never know. It all depends on decisions. A little deeper, a plunge perhaps, or the safety of the shallow end.

Last night, I needed a working family’s dinner, no dishes and no cooking. We invited friends to join us at a restaurant down the street. They have a brand new baby and as my friend described the feeling of leaving her son for the first time to go to a doctor’s appointment, the memory of intense attachment flooded back.

In the beginning, I could not leave her. I would get in my car and cry before I left the driveway. Still, I would go, for an hour or two, until the feeling became too intense and I had to be home again with her in my arms. As the months went on, I could go a little longer, an evening date perhaps or an afternoon of yoga and grocery shopping. Still that feeling would usually return and leave me desperate to be home again.

Did I mention they made it all the way to Coloma just so E would take a nap in the car?
Did I mention they made it all the way to Coloma just so E would take a nap in the car?

The first day I subbed I cried. It was in a friend’s classroom at a sister school for just four hours. To my great relief, I hadn’t forgotten how to be a teacher. The kids were great but I missed my girl. Then I subbed five hours with a gigantic smile on my face, homecoming to my old campus with my old friends and students. This week, a test. Two nine hour days back-to-back at the other school.

I missed her, but I was all right. Tired, but all right. Time after work was condensed to the essentials. Food, rest, time together. Each afternoon, when I arrived home, she and her dad were waiting for me in the driveway. Sweaty, covered in a little dirt, with gigantic smiles. They were better than all right. They had days packed with new adventures, happy to be together and happy to welcome me home.

Watching the kids play at recess, my thoughts returned to E. One day she won’t want me to hold her and squish her with so many kisses. I’m not ready to let go of our closeness, of our sweet time together. Still, maybe a couple days a week isn’t so bad. Maybe I need to let her dad have his turn. Maybe going away makes me better when I return.

This is the first Saturday in a long while where a weekend has taken on the familiar texture of time ticking, ticking, ticking. I used to hate the sensation of never having enough time, but there is also something powerful about making the most of each minute.

Maybe I’m in deeper than I thought.