Tag Archives: healthy sleep habits

Bedtime Redemption?

(Notice the question mark… after the past three months, I’m unlikely to be declarative about most things…)

As noted, the Pacifier Fairy (and some other things that are still being sorted out) had some unintended consequences in our house. Namely, Boopsie’s ability to fall and stay asleep disappeared. Gone.

At first, we tried to soldier on as we had… two books, potty and brush teeth, one book, go to sleep with some books in bed to look at. And it didn’t work. We tried putting her back in bed without talking to her (one night we did that 32 times). We tried doing bed checks (she would scream bloody murder and kick her closed door). In desperation, we began laying on her floor while she fell asleep, which could regularly take 75 minutes or more.

Reacting how I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma, I reached for my old standby — books. I re-read pertinent sections in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Family, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. I also hired a parenting coach, who suggested that Boopsie may have some sensory integration dysfunction.

In the interim, Daddy-o and I were having to stay in Boopsie’s room until she fell asleep and then we were often  called back in there in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor (in the middle of the winter, in the northland, as an alternative to having her end up in our bed). It. Was. Hell. This was all additionally complicated by travel and tantrums and being generally shell-shocked by the changes in our kid.

So we tried the “sleep shuffle” from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. And it took about three weeks. And it worked. Sort of.  But our kid still wouldn’t really nap and was waking still in the night. Oh, and she wasn’t actually falling asleep (usually) until close to 10 p.m. (Side note: Sleep deprived preschoolers and having one parent “booked up” with a kid until 10 p.m. every night are not great marital aids.)

Man and child outside Build A Bear Workshop

Daddy-o and Boopsie with the bunny.

We got a new night light. We got a new clock for her room. We tried letting her color in bed. We started playing music in her bedroom.We tried a reward chart. It took her 42 days to earn 15 stars. She earned a trip to Build A Bear workshop and was so overwhelmed by the crowds that she didn’t want to build a bear. So she picked a bunny she was thrilled about.

Then she got sick (and then we got sick).  And she needed more help falling asleep and we were back to sitting in the rocker in her room, trying to get her to stay quietly in bed, often threatening to leave and do checks (and sometimes leaving and doing checks). I felt like a hostage.

Finally, last week, with help from the parenting coach, I re-made bedtime again. The first two nights were tough, with tears and me having to prove to Boopsie that I would not come back to her until 9 minutes was up (she was gated in her room), no matter what she said. But then I made a little tweak and bedtime has gotten much better. In fact, one night my kid fell asleep on her own before 9 p.m. And she’s consistently falling asleep on her own (okay, is six days enough to say “consistently”?). Without tears. I won’t bore you with the details of her new bedtime routine because what works for one kid has no guarantee of working for another kid. I will say this: I cherish the time and mental energy I’ve gotten back. Getting 1-2 hours back into our evening has made Daddy-o and I much happier people. We can do little things around the house. We can have uninterrupted conversations. We can watch a TV show. We can work if we need to. We can just freaking be.

You may be wondering why we didn’t have her “cry it out.” I was actually very close to doing this in December. I queried other parents via Facebook and got a lot of support and tips. Here’s the thing: One thing that has been reinforced for us over the past three months is that Boopsie is an incredibly intense kid. And with the question of sensory issues still on the table, along with her the length and strength of her tantrums, we truly did not have any confidence that it would work. If anything, we figured she’d cry for hours until she passed out. And that wasn’t going to help her re-learn to relax and fall asleep. I don’t begrudge anyone who tries the “CIO” approach, but for our kid, it was a no-go.

So here I am… enjoying a whole hour of time I didn’t have this night a week ago, feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have found the bedtime promised land again. (As a superstitious person of Irish descent, I’m almost certain that by talking about this it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s hope not.)

Sweet dreams to you and yours…

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Pacifier Fairy, Part 2

Wow. I was supposed to write this post more than two months ago. In fact, I even drafted it. It was going to be about how we sent a couple of “prep notes” from the paci fairy, and how Boopsie helped pack up all the pacifiers into a plastic bag, and how she helped me set them in the yard. And how she cried some at that bedtime, but slept all night and went on to get over it really quickly.

But then something happened. On the day after I posted Pacifier Fairy Part One, all hell broke loose with our kid. What do I mean by all hell breaking loose? Well, let’s see:

  • She went on a sleep strike… bedtime became a multi-hour battle, naps were treacherous
  • She started having epic, violent tantrums including throwing things, hitting and kicking
  • Her personality changed into one I didn’t really recognize. Boopsie became much more anxious, whiny and angry.

I’m not sure how to convey the impact this had on our family, in part because we are still trying to find our way out. Our attempts to find our way out have included:

  • Scouring the interwebs
  • Hiring a parent coach
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Putting a lock on the outside of her door
  • Multiple trips to the pediatrician
  • Reading books… lots of books (more on those to come)

We’re still trying to figure out if we’re somewhere on the continuum of “normal” or if there’s something else going on with Boopsie that we need to address. But that’s what’s been happening in the silence — stress, fear, anger, exhaustion and worry. So much worry. Thankfully, there’s been joy, too, and fun. And I think (and hope and pray) that we’re getting back somewhere more familiar.

All that to say… hello, strangers. More soon.

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The Pacifier Fairy… Part I

Pacifiers

Our little junkie’s brand of choice. Oh, and despite what the label says, they can move kids’ teeth out of whack.Way back in July, we mentioned to our little paci-addict that the “Pacifier Fairy” would be coming to take her pacifiers and give them to little babies who needed them. In exchange, we explained, Boopsie would receive some fun surprises. This did not go over well.

Way back in July, after Boopsie’s first (disastrous) trip to the dentist, we started discussing a visit from the Pacifier Fairy. The Pacifier Fairy, I explained to Boo, would come and take all her pacifiers away and give them to little babies who need pacifiers. In exchange, the “Paci Fairy” would leave fun surprises behind.

My sister was visiting the first time this conversation came up. She put Boopsie to bed one night and they had a long conversation about the Paci Fairy. Boopsie was concerned about the PF coming in her room, and about having to give up her pacifiers… you name it. So we let it ride for a while.

We were prompted into all of this by Boopsie’s dentist, who noticed her teeth going out of alignment and recommended we ix-nay the pacifiers ASAP. We thought about it, but after her negative reaction in July, we basically wussed out and decided to let it ride for a while. I mean, the pacifiers were her COMFORT OBJECT(S). Boopsie liked to go to bed with one in her mouth and one in her hand. And when she was especially tired, she would rub the one in her hand along her cheek. She did not, however, use a pacifier at day care, so we knew we had this going for us. Unfortunately, her regular routine was that when we would pick her up at day care, Boopsie would dig through her bag until she found a pacifier and stuff it in her mouth. And when she’d do that, you could see the relief wash over her, like a smoker taking a long-overdue drag from a cigarette. Yes, we were in deep.

The months dragged on, and Boopsie transitioned to a big girl bed (well!) and started preschool (well!) and in October we realized we could literally see her front teeth starting to “buck” out a little. Ruh-roh. It was time to get serious. I over-thought the whole thing (as usual), plotting what “gifts” the Pacifier Fairy could bring and the deciding which weekends were possible targets for a visit. Finally, on the way back from a family trip to visit family and friends in Chicago, we asked Boopsie if she wanted the Pacifier Fairy to come and she said, “Yes.”

Yes? Really? Yes.

Gulp. We picked Friday, just a few days away and I upped my activity around frantic research on the interwebs. I looked up tips and tricks and things to say and e-mailed them to Daddy-o. We both committed to stay the course. I cleared our weekend schedule, shopped, and “discovered” a note from the Pacifier Fairy in the mail box Thursday morning that let Boopsie know she’d be coming the next night…cue the dread.

The dread was not Boopsie’s. It was mine. I couldn’t stop worrying. What if she wailed for hours straight? What if she started waking up at 5:30 a.m. again (that was a brief and crappy period this autumn)? What if she stopped sleeping through the night? Or napping? What if this was a huge mistake? My stress mounted.

To be continued…

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Winding down the weekend…

Daddy-o has been out of town (for work) since Thursday morning. Thursday evening I had to call in the cavalry as I got a migraine. Grampie came to the rescue and played with Boopsie while I went to bed with earplugs and a pillow over my face. Things went really well otherwise… until this morning.

This morning Boopsie drank a cup of milk and then coughed… and threw it up all over us. The rest of the day she kept saying she had to “cough” (aka barf), but didn’t. Interestingly enough, those moments seemed to happen as soon as I picked up the phone or said I needed to do something. Suspicious? I thought so.

Tonight at dinner she wouldn’t eat a thing, and talked the whole time about throwing up:

“I need da bucket.”

“Th yellow gonna come out.”

“I gonna cough again.”

I tried to play it very blase… and ended up just giving her a bath and putting her to bed, explaining (as usual) there wouldn’t be any food/milk until morning. Now she’s in there wailing for “milky.” Here’s a few recent pics to help me remember that I love being a mother. (I need the reminder right now.)

Toddler watering flowers

Watering plants in fuzzy polar bear footie pajamas, pink rain boots and her bike windbreaker.

toddler picking yellow dandelions

Picking dandelions…

Black goat with toddler running toward it

Chasing goats at the zoo… apparently Boopsie loves goats as much as I do.

There, I feel much better now. (And it helps that she’s fallen asleep.) Let’s face it, this could be worse: Daddy-o is currently stuck in an airport, where his flight is delayed three hours. Blech.

Now, say it with me… “Please don’t puke, please don’t puke, please don’t puke.”

 

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Who needs a life?

Apparently, I do. Outside of work. This type of stuff is taking a LOT of my attention. Daddy-o came to wake me from a nap yesterday and found me covered in a pile of books. These books:

Books on Bed

I need a life. Stat.

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Geeking Out Over the “Sleep Plan”

I’ve read a lot of books about baby sleep. A LOT of books. And Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber  just came in the mail tonight. He’s the godfather (as far as I can tell) of the somewhat controversial “Ferber Method” or “Ferberizing.” How would you like to have a verb made out of your last name? And what would you want that activity to be? Hmm… okay, anyway:

So “Ferberizing” is where you let your baby cry for increasing amounts of time — five minutes, then ten minutes, etc. — until they fall asleep when you are out of the room. It’s supposed to help a baby (6 months old, healthy, etc.) learn how to self-soothe. And that’s where we’re heading.

But being an over-wrought, over-read, over-tired mommy that I am, I needed to develop a little “project plan” to get Boopsie to sleep through the night. I’m worried because she drinks about 4 ounces at each of two feedings and don’t want to just suddenly take all that food away without allowing for some adjustment.

Without further adieu, here’s a draft:

Goals (Every good plan starts with goals!)

1)    Get rid of late-night feeding.

2)    Then, get rid of dream feed.

Now until Thursday, April 28:

1)    Switch to level three nipples on bottles (assuming she’ll eat more during the day before she gets bored). (done)

2)    Continue to dream feed, 6 oz. (yup)

3)    Start giving her breakfast. (just started today)

4)    Starting, Tuesday, April 26, begin reducing the amount in late night feeding (assuming she will learn to start taking in more food during the day)

5)    Early waking (before 7 a.m.) is not okay. (For the record, she’s only woken up before 7 a.m. like three times.)

  • Intervention (Per The Sleep Lady): Go in quickly, reposition. Put paci in hand. Leave the room. She may cry.
  • If she’s still crying at wake up time (7 a.m.), do a “dramatic wake-up” – open curtains and say hello brightly, to make it clear that it’s time to wake up now (as opposed to earlier).

6)    Begin giving her the paci in her hand, rather than putting it into her mouth.

  • Pacifier rules:  Only at bed time, nap time, or in the car seat.

7)    Daytime feeding: Less snacking, more eating. Try to feed every three hours. (The issue here is more with breastfeeding.)

Beginning Thursday, April 28 – Get rid of the late night feeding:

Options:

Two Weeks After the Late Night Feeding is Gone:

Wean her off of the dream feed, using whatever method we use to get rid of the late-night feeding.

So there it is… “The Sleep Plan.” Yes, a big part of this is just me trying to create order and clarity around something that freaks me out. We’re going to do this, and we’re going to hope it works. But really, we can’t know for sure, because Boopsie is her own being, with her own ideas… and we can only do so much. If I were Boopsie, I would be looking at me and looking at this “Sleep Plan”… and laughing.

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Sleep Story: Ursula, David and Anton

Family: Ursula, David and Anton (8 months)

Approach: Cry-it-out

The Background: We really reached the end of our rope about a month ago. Anton was going to sleep between 6 and 7 p.m., then often up crying at 11, 1, 4, etc. He would nurse and go back to sleep, but it didn’t really seem like he *needed* to nurse so many times! I tried nursing him before I went to bed, but it didn’t make any difference. We tried keeping him up a little later, but he would just run out of steam by 7 p.m. We were exhausted!

Anton

Anton!

The Change:

After some deliberation, we decided we had to try something, but we weren’t patient enough for a more gradual/soothing approach. We’ve been reading the “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” book, which talked about different ways to try to change the patterns, including letting them cry for an indefinite amount of time. So we tried it! It was torture! But it only lasted about two nights! And then he slept right through the 10/11 p.m. and 1/2 a.m. times.

It wasn’t possible for either of us to sleep through the crying. Listening to Anton cry for 30-45 min the first night and 20-30 min the second night was hard, and David and I were definitely grumpy with each other about it. The frustrating thing was knowing that if we just got up and nursed, it would all be over in 20 min or so. But once we decided we’d really give it a try, it made it easier.

Anton he really has been sleeping much better since then. I think this coincided with his developmental changes and crawling (he’s been scooting/rolling/proto-crawling for at least a month), so he is tuckered out after a lot of moving a LOT each day. But, I’d still say for us, it was worth doing. Now Anton pretty reliably sleeps from about 7 p.m. until 4 or 5 a.m., often 6 a.m. Some nights he wakes up around 2, but usually not.

To be honest, I don’t really see us as being “crying it out” people. From the outside, it feels sometimes like this label means a certain kind of coldness, or some ability to let your child suffer. For me, it felt more like helping Anton do something on his own (learn how to go back to sleep by himself), despite my own suffering at hearing him cry!, and also an approach that might keep my own, and my partner’s, limited sanity intact. We were entirely unsure it would work, or that it would be something we could even get through. When we did it, I think both of us felt like we were experimenting, and tried to have an open mind.

So although I still feel a little reluctant to say it, maybe we *are* cry it out people. We did use variations of the cry it out approach with naps, and it’s been working for us for nighttime, too (so far). You think of yourself as a particular kind of parent, but then your baby, your partner, the circumstances, exhaustion and exhilaration all intervene.

Takeaway Tips:

  • It was key that David and I were on the same page about what we were trying to do.
  • I’ve found it’s definitely NOT helpful to try to have conversations about this kind of thing in the middle of the night! Schedule a “sleep summit” or similar conversation for a time when both people are feeling cool and collected!
  • Editor’s Note: Be open to trying “crying it out.” It doesn’t mean you are cold or want your child to suffer

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