Just another post about weaning from breastfeeding and #sleep.

Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.

It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.

The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).

We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.

This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.

So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.

Wish us luck…

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3 Things on a Wednesday 

  1. We were all sick, all weekend. My wife took a sick day on Monday and it allowed me to take 20 minutes to get some garden weeding done and another 20 minutes to have a BATH!! (it has been so long since I’ve soaked…). But it’s true what they say, mothers don’t get a sick day. My wife is a mother too, of course, but being a salaried, Mon-Fri employee means she’s entitled to actual sick days. I see it from both sides – fair, because she has to rest up to be able to function to earn a salary, but fucked up because I have to function to keep a tiny human alive 24/7. Oh, modern family dynamics, how isolating and unrealistic you are. Despite the fact that I don’t like people that much, I sometimes wish we were raising this baby in a commune of hippy women. 
  2. Avery has been chatting up a storm, mixing consonants and playing with new sounds. My favourite is “Gah”, which we are trying to associate with “cat” (that would so be our child to say “cat” as her first word), and “Fuh” which kind of sounds like she’s trying to swear. Interestingly she has said “dada” a bunch of times, but she hasn’t yet been exposed to that as a word, so it’s just a random connection of sounds for her. 
  3. We are re-assessing our sleep plan. WTF else is new. My wife and I have struggled to get on the same page about infant sleep from the beginning, and I have avoided having conversations about it because I don’t want to have to face doing something outside of my instincts. I’m an attachment parent, turns out. Never would have expected it of myself. My wife’s philosophy is to let her know that we will always be there for her if she needs us (so no CIO, thank god), but to also show her that she doesn’t need us (so let her figure out how to get herself to sleep through lots of picking up briefly and putting back down). I like this philosophy, in theory, but it makes me sad to put it into practice. It might be more an emotional barrier on my part than an actual concern for Avery. I love sleeping next to her, feeling her breath, smelling her baby smell, and feeling needed. I love it so much that when we agreed to stop bed sharing at 6 months, I accepted my fate for the next [upwards of] 2.5 years as sleeping in her nursery chair with her in my arms. So now the plan is I won’t wait until I’ve nursed/rocked her for 20+ minutes before transferring her back to the crib (trying to ensure a deep sleep and sound-asleep transfer). It’ll be a pick up to comfort (the hand on her chest just aggravates her more now) and right back down once she is calm. My wife is also going to take over the first shift of wake ups that happen after we go to bed around 9:30/10 and I will start my shift around 1am so my wife can get some back-to-back hours of sleep before work. Evening wakeups are on me because that’s a big guzzling nursing time for her, like she’s trying to stock up for the night. 

Gentle Sleep Methods: The Floor Bed

Catch the start of my Gentle Sleep Experiment here, and the summary of how my first attempt went, here.

After an unsuccessful attempt at getting Avery used to her crib using a combination of no-cry sleep training and Gentle Baby sleep methods, I reassessed our situation.

She sleeps like a log all night long while next to me in our bed. 

She wakes in a fret all night long when alone in her crib. 

I belong to the baby sleep camp that believes this is her way of telling me she legitimately needs me for comfort. And my parenting instincts are telling me to be there for her. I know there are sleep consultants and sleep trainers out there who would say that she just needs to get used to her crib and I need to allow her to protest and not give in. They would tell me that I’m not doing her any favours by forming “negative” sleep associations like nursing to sleep – how will she ever learn to fall asleep on her own?? I’ve tried to get on board with that perspective, but I’ve come to realize that those methods just don’t sit right with me. 

So I’ve started using a new gentle method for getting her to feel more comfortable in her own room and in her own bed: The Floor Bed. 

I now sleep next to Avery on her crib mattress on the floor beside her crib. She can nurse as much as she wants through the night, and she goes to sleep easily with a quick nurse and a cuddle after a good, solid, predictable bedtime routine with her Mo that lasts about 10 minutes. I try to leave her through the night when she’s deep in sleep, but I tend to fall asleep and not wake up until she needs milk again, so I haven’t been getting back to my own bed.

So, the big question.

Is it working?

Yes, almost as well as bed sharing in her moms’ bed. She sleeps anywhere from 2-4 hours at a time. When she wakes up hungry in the first half of the night she nurses back to sleep easily and neither of us have to move. When she wakes in the second half of the night (2-6am) she is less easily comforted. I need to get up and nurse her in the chair, but then I can put her down on the mattress and can usually leave the room for a bit. I’ve also been able to have a few evenings back where she sleeps in her room on her own between her bedtime and my bedtime. The only evenings where this hasn’t happened, I blame teething. She’s working on 3 new teeth and until that Tylenol kicks in she’s super clingy and upset. 

My favourite part of sleeping next to her still (or being able to lay down next to her when she calls me in the night) is the she has started to sometimes fall back to sleep by simply putting her hand on the breast as if to make sure it’s still there. Such a peaceful and easy way to make her content in the night. 

Its been 2 weeks. I’d like to start working on leaving her alone in her room on the floor mattress and sleeping in my own bed. The challenge will be consistency when I am tired as f***. How am I supposed to just get her to sleep by laying next to her and NOT fall asleep myself? It takes 20 minutes for her to enter deep sleep, and it seems pretty instantaneous for me. By the time she’s ready to be left, I’m out cold. 

I miss my wife and I really want to make my own transition back to our bed work. It’s a slow but steady process. 

Wish me luck…

A Gentle Baby Sleep Experiment: The Conclusion

I used gentle baby sleep methods to try to get my bed-sharing baby used to sleeping in the crib. Did I make it till the end of the 10 days I challenged us to? Are we sleeping peacefully with baby in the crib using only gentle methods? Here’s a re-cap of our 10 night challenge. 
NIGHT ONE

Asleep in our bed by 7, woke 4 times before 10pm. Transferred to crib at 10. Woke every hour until 5am. Putting my hand on her chest only worked once to get her back to sleep. Brought her into our bed at 5am, slept until 6:30.

NIGHT TWO

Passed out immediately upon nursing at about 6:40, slept in our bed until 10, moved her to her crib. Woke every 2 hours and I nursed her back to sleep. 6:30 wide awake and ready for the day. 

NIGHT THREE

Not a good night. It took 3 hours to get her to fall asleep and she nursed and kicked and punched me the whole time. Transferred to crib at 10, woke and demanded the boob every 45 -90 minutes.  Up for the day at 6:30.

NIGHT FOUR

I caved. Typical evening, only woke once before 10 pm crib transfer. Once in the crib, woke every 15 god damn minutes for 3 and a half hours. I had to pick her up and hug her for just a second to calm her and then she would go happily back into the crib, for 15 minutes. By 1:30am I caved and brought her into bed with us where she slept beautifully until 6:30am. 

NIGHT FIVE

Another terrible night. Went to sleep well in our bed and transfered well at 10. Then she woke every 15 min again. At 3:15 she went to sleep and stayed asleep until 5, brought her into bed with us, slept till 6:30. She woke underslept and cranky. 

NIGHT SIX

She was super tired so we let her go to bed early, asleep by 6. Crib transfer at 10 – she protested being put down in the crib for 2 hours. Lots of crying and rocking. Finally at 12:30 I got her to stay sleeping and she woke every hour until 5am, brought her into our bed,  slept till 7am. 

NIGHT SEVEN

Daylight savings time change. We adjusted her bedtime to 7:30 instead of 6:30 so she wouldn’t feel it. Transfer to crib took 3 hours (10:30-1:30). Any time I put her down, awake, drowsy or asleep, she immediately cried. Brought her into bed with me at 2am. I felt like it was cruel to deprive her of any more sleep that night. Woke at 7:30.

NIGHT EIGHT

Oops, I fell asleep during bedtime routine and neither baby nor I woke up again until 7:30am. Bed shared all night. 

NIGHT NINE

Transfer to crib took half an hour. Woke every 30 to 90 minutes. Woke for the day at 7:30 (loving the time change). 

NIGHT TEN 

Tried something new. Put her crib mattress on the floor in her room and I put her to sleep there at bedtime instead of in our bed. I stayed with her most of the night and she only woke when I went back to my own bed twice, briefly. Slept till 6, brought her back to our bed so I could get an hour or so of good sleep. Woke at 7:30.
So did it work? No. Not at all. But we did come out the other side of these rough 10 nights with a new plan, thanks to feedback I got on the No-Cry Sleep Solution Facebook group. We’ll try the crib mattress on the floor of her room for as long as I can hold out in discomfort. 

My original goal with this 10 day challenge was to get her used to sleeping in the crib. I hoped that if we just pushed through, she’d get used to it as a function of spending more time in it. We may have tried to bypass a necessary step: recreate the sense of safety/comfort that she currently gets from being next to me. The Lovie that we conditioned is not sufficient for her. 

The goal now is to make her room a safe and comfortable place to sleep, with me there at first to make this association. We realized that she generally slept well alone in our bed between her bedtime and our bedtime, so we know it’s possible for her to be left alone to sleep. 

Perhaps I’ll have another 10 days in me before caving… I know consistency is key, but it is very hard to be consistent with the things you do in the middle of the night when you’re exhausted. 

Wish me luck. 

My baby is sleeping through the night…

I know that a lot of parents will curse my name and stick pins in a voodoo doll of me for this blog title. Let me start off by admitting that I know the folly in making claims like this – once you let the words escape your mouth, your child is bound to stop doing whatever it was you bragged about them doing. Nevertheless, we’ve had a rough first 6 months of sleep and I really want to take this win and shout it from the rooftops. 
My baby has always been a high-needs baby when it comes to comfort. Laying her down in the crib was always met with screams that sounded like she honestly believed she was being abandoned behind a dumpster somewhere. We used the No-Cry Sleep Solution to guide our “sleep training” efforts, but I took what I wanted from the book and left the rest. We worked for months on positive sleep associations and a solid routine that worked for everyone, but I bed-shared and nursed to sleep because that’s what worked for my baby. I didn’t think of nursing or cuddling to sleep as a negative sleep “crutch”, because it felt so natural and so right. But there we were at 5 months old and my wife and I were starting to wonder if I’d ever be able to go to bed later than 6pm or if we’d ever have our marital bed back. I pushed for us to keep following the baby’s cues and wait until she seemed ready for more independence before pushing her out on her own.

Last week, one week before turning 6 months old, she started falling asleep after nursing (in my bed), and I could leave the room and she’d be fine. So one night I tried moving her – asleep – into her crib. She stirred, woke ever so slightly to see that she was in a new place, but was so sleepy and relaxed that she rolled over and conked out again as soon as I laid her down in the crib. She stayed like that for a couple of hours.

The most amazing part was that when I went into the room to tend to her wake-ups, all I had to do was put my hand on her chest and kiss her cheek and she fell asleep again. We didn’t teach her how to self-sooth; it seemed she had just developed the ability to self-sooth overnight – like that sleep regression had matured her brain and made her into a more mature sleeper. 

Now, a full week later, she has gone for longer and longer stretches. I still put her to sleep in my bed by nursing, and then I go downstairs for the evening and transfer her when my wife and I are ready to come up to bed. Last night she slept from 7pm-2am (I gave her a dream-feed and put her in her crib at 9:30), nursed at 2:30am, and slept (still in her crib) from 3-6:30am. 

I know it has only been a week. I know she could make a fool of me by tonight. I know 6 – 9 months is a common “happy place” for baby sleep and then you get hit with more sleep regressions. But right now I am revelling in the glory that is getting a good night of sleep.

“too accommodating” to my baby…? Sleep dilemma

My mom worries that Avery is too needy – that she wants to be held too much and needs too much assistance getting to sleep. I’ve used the “she’s a newborn baby, of course she needs to be held all the time!” excuse for as long as I could, but she’s going to be 4 months old in a couple of days and now I’m starting to get more judgment for the way I get her to sleep.
No-cry sleep training attempts were a bust. We tried for a month to take a morning nap in the crib and she would fuss for an hour before I’d take her out and let her sleep on me to salvage a half hour or so of the remaining nap time.

She’ll only sleep on me if I hold her against me and rock her to sleep, or next to me if I nurse her to sleep while lying down. This is the case for naps and nights. At night I transfer her to the bassinet once she has fallen asleep in our bed, but the bassinet sleep has gotten worse and worse and she ends up bed sharing more often than not. I get terrible sleep this way because there isn’t room for a spread-eagle wife, a spread-eagle baby, and me. However, I get worse sleep when I try putting her in her bassinet. Last night I held her hand in her bassinet for 2 hours to keep her asleep – everytime I let go she awoke.

I mentioned to my mom that I’m uncertain of how successful all 3 of our family Christmas dinners will be next week, because Avery gets fussy at 6:30 and the only way to appease her is to get her ready for bed and quiet down the house for the night. This is dinner time. This is why I usually eat dinner early, and then when my wife gets home later she eats separately. We have eaten dinner together, without a fussy baby in either of our arms, a total of 3 times since Avery was born.

I deal with the evening fussiness by laying in bed with the baby from 6:30 until she falls asleep – sometimes an hour, sometimes 3 hours. I put her to sleep in our bed because it’s the least exhausting for me and because I let her comfort nurse to sleep. If I get up to shower or something and Avery wakes up to my absence, she screams. If she wakes up and sees me there with her, she falls right back to sleep. I am kind of trapped.

Not really an ideal situation for holiday dinners. And this is why my mom said that maybe I am too accommodating to my baby.

I see my only other option as cry-it-out sleep training, which I really, really don’t want to use. But I’m torn as to whether this is inappropriate behaviour for an almost 4 month old at all, or if the problem lies with the social expectations of our fast-paced, independent culture where going to bed at 7 just because your baby goes to bed at 7 is unreasonable. I don’t have a problem with it – I like to unwind in the evening in bed, cuddling my baby.

Who is being unreasonable here? Avery and I, or our family?

Update on sleep training

I have been trying no-cry sleep training for morning naps only for 1 day short of 3 weeks now. I have chosen to do this because Avery is outgrowing her bassinet, her crib won’t fit in our room, and she needs to get used to spending sleeping times in her crib, in her room for necessity’s sake. Before we started this gentle form of sleep training, she cried and cried and cried when I put her down in her crib. 3 weeks later, er… she still cries and cries and cries when I put her down in her crib.

Now, it’s not been completely useless. There is some improvement to be seen. 3 times in the last 3 weeks she has put herself to sleep in her crib by sucking her thumb. We are doing the pick up – put down (PU/PD) no-cry method, so when she cries I shush her, if she still cries I put my hand on her chest, if she still cries I pick her up until she calms down (usually only takes 2 or 3 minutes), then I put her back down again when calm. Repeat until she either soothes herself to sleep or is tired enough to give up the fight and just passes out when her head hits the mattress. Its often an hour of this up and down, cry and sooth. It’s exhausting (for both of us), but supposedly this method gives them reassurance that you are there for them if they really need you without turning you into a sleep prop.

The challenge we are having is with consistency. Because she is so young still (some would argue too young for sleep training), I can’t be certain that she doesn’t legitimately have needs that are unmet when she cries in her crib. Sometimes I honestly believe that she is feeling really hungry, and I let her nurse during a pick up, and she falls asleep nursing. Or I have good reason to believe that she is gassy and lying on her back in the crib hurts, so I give in and let her sleep on me where my body heat and pressure on her abdomen helps her tummy. We are consistent with time of day, soft lullabies that she clearly associates with sleep (she starts yawning when she hears them), and with the fact that we try the first nap of the day in the crib every day. But the more I read (and contemplate back to my behavioural psychology classes on conditioning and subconscious associations), the more I wonder if we need to be consistent in that ALL sleep attempts need to be without me as a sleep prop. I can’t remember for sure where I read that starting with the morning nap is often easiest – maybe in The No-Cry Sleep Solution? – but if she is still enabled to nurse herself to sleep at bedtime and be rocked to sleep and spend all of her other naps sleeping on someone, will she really understand that the morning nap is consistent with itself each day?

I plan to keep trudging away with this until January when we plan to move her to her crib for nights (because the bassinet just won’t be an option anymore). In the meantime I worry that the hour of fussing and PU/PDs and severely compromised morning nap duration are all for nothing…