Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sleep "Training"

Oh my. Sleep training is such an opinionated topic amongst the mommy hood. But, KNOCK ON EVERY PIECE OF WOOD IN AMERICA, Greyson is a great sleeper, so I figured, what the heck, I'll share what we did.

I put sleep “training” in quotes because honestly, I don’t think it was anything we did. I think we got lucky. Of course we tried methods, but I’ve talked to a ton of other moms who’ve tried the same thing and sleep is still just a tough concept for their little ones. I bet my second one is gonna really show me whose boss.

I hadn't read the first word about sleep training before Greyson was born. (Actually I didn't read any baby training books and had changed one diaper in my whole life. ) I know there are a ton out there and I certainly solicited lots of advice from friends who had gone before me in the  black hole joyful journey of sleep training.

Let's face it, no matter WHAT your hospital experience was like, I’m convinced everyone comes home utterly (no pun intended) exhausted.  Next time, I'll sign whatever it is to decline the hourly vitals checkups. I mean, I'm still alive people, leave me alone. And NO ONE is gonna pull the guilt card on me about sending my child to the nursery. I will physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually (and financially) pour over this child for the rest of my days, so the 48 hours that I spend in the hospital is not going to make or break our relationship.

I'll never forget the first night we brought Greyson home from the hospital. Of course I was nursing him every 3 hours. But I remember putting him into the bassinet and crawling into bed with Jeremie thinking we were all just gonna sleep like a happy little family until the next feeding. Lawd have mercy. We had two problems: 1) He wanted to "cluster feed"...aka....nurse ALL NIGHT LONG...(it's a thing, Google it), and 2) He freaked out when we tried to lay him in the bassinet because, think about it, he'd never laid on his back before. 

By 4:30 a.m., I had totally lost my mind and went upstairs sobbing and handed the child over to my mom and mother-in-law.

That day, we went on a mission and purchased these:

Summer Infant Swaddles. For those of you who think swaddling a baby is torture, consider this: they've been all snug and balled up in the womb for 9 months and now they've got these flailing little limbs. I've read that for them, it's like a falling sensation. Don't say you don't believe in something until you're sleep deprived and desperate. 

I know there are several brands of swaddles out there, but these seem to be the best fit for G. They were snug and didn't ride up over his face, so I didn't worry about him getting smothered. Greyson was 6 pounds when he was born so the Preemie size actually fit him perfectly. We used these all the way up until he was a year old. They even make kinds where their arms can be out when they start to roll over.

We also noticed that G seemed to be calm in the Rock 'N Play when the vibrator was on. I LOVE the Rock 'N Play, but of course was nervous about letting him sleep in it. (Can't say that didn't end up happening though several times...again...desperation).  Anyway, Jeremie found this Summer Infant  Vibrator on Amazon and it was the BEST $15 we spent. It vibrates for about 15 minutes and turns off but can easily be hit from the side of the bed of the baby begins to stir ; ).  It REALLY seemed to comfort G. It attached to the side of the bassinet perfectly.

Finally, Jeremie got an old iphone of ours and downloaded some soothing worship music. And listen....G would sleep with that phone right by his head and it really seemed to sooth him. It also served as some good comfort for mama in the tough moments. ; )

Here was our result after our Operation Sleepy Baby:

We decided to combat this back sleeping issue from the get go. So even though it was tempting for us (especially the grandmothers) to hold him while he napped, we swaddled him up and put him in the bassinet for most naps. Once we felt like he was getting used to his arms and legs, I was more casual about letting him nap in the Rock N Play since it's so easy to move from room to room. Plus I weaned off of swaddling him during naps so he’d start to learn that the swaddle meant “official bedtime” at night.

I want to be clear-even though we tried some strategies, the first two weeks are sheer survival mode. Days run into nights, there’s no differentiation, and quite honestly, it was depressing for me. And even though I knew Jeremie was exhausted too, and working so hard at his job, I would get frustrated watching him “get ready for bed”, for a full night’s sleep with me not knowing what my night would be like. 

About the time Greyson hit 9 pounds, which was around 3 weeks, the doctor gave me the green light to let him sleep however long he could stretch it at night...four..five….even six hours! I almost squealed with delight! She did encourage me to continue feedings every 3 hours during the day so his little tummy would be full for a longer stretch after the “night/last feeding”.  Whatever stretch G did during the night, it seemed like we always fell at 6:00, 9:00, 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 feedings. There was a short window where I was pumping and J would do the night time bottle, but at 8 weeks, G dropped the bottle like a hot potato, so it was back to all nursing for me. 

In regards to establishing the “night/last feeding”, I would literally set the stage. I laid out G’s pajamas, his swaddle, the books we’d read, turned on the lamp for soft light, turned off the big light, put MY pj’s on, etc. In my head, it was bedtime. Looking back I think this really helped to train G what bedtime looked liked.

Around 3 months, we started thinking about moving G into his crib. My sister-in-law had a super awesome suggestion of first moving him across the room, which I’m so glad we did. It was totally different just not having the bassinet right beside me. After about a month of that, we kicked him to the crib and he did great. (Of course, the monitor helped tremendously.) It seemed like we were in somewhat of a routine, and around 3 months, I remember having the thought: “I might live through this.”

THEN….4 MONTHS. The 4 month sleep regression. It’s a thing. Google it. In fact, I did. And when I started typing “4 month”…you know that predictive search…it immediately popped up “4 month sleep regression.” It was like newborn days ya’ll. And I don’t have any fairy tale advice, you just gotta get through it. I’m sure it’s something very scientific and medical, we’ll blame it on a growth spurt, because EVERYTHING can be blamed on a growth spurt, right? Or teething.

One piece of advice the pediatrician DID offer was to NOT nurse immediately before I put Greyson down. I was doing his pj’s, swaddle, nursing him, and literally putting him straight into bed. She said you have to break their need to nurse to go to sleep. So I switched the order to feeding, pjs, swaddling, stories/singing, THEN bed. (I mean think about it in adult terms, we don’t put our pj’s on, crawl into bed, and eat supper last, right? Even though that sounds perfectly heavenly.)

At 5 months, Greyson got better, but seemed to still be waking up OFTEN, so I knew he wasn’t hungry! Since it was suggested to wait until 6 months to do the Cry It Out Method, Jeremie did some research in the meantime. That research-loving man of mine.  He found this thing called the "Camp Out Method". I didn’t sit in a chair next to his crib, but essentially, it’s about soothing the baby as SOON as they start crying to help them sooth themselves back to sleep. This was a mental and physical dedication folks. As SOON as I would hear G, I’d book it upstairs into his room and rub his back or sing. After a couple weeks, I noticed I had to go in less and less.

At 6 months, the pediatrician gave me the green light to let Greyson cry it out.  When I asked her just how long I was supposed to let him cry, she said “Let’s just say I let my child cry for and hour and half." I respect her and her kid doesn’t seem emotionally damaged, so I figured we’d give it a shot. She also suggested giving him a “comfort item” in his crib, so we picked up a stuffed lamb (“Lambert”)  at Kroger that day.  Lambert has been a comfort ever since.

 And that night, I put him down, and immediately left the house to take Manny on a walk. Jeremie is stronger than me and could put up with the crying. Shockingly, G didn’t cry any longer than 20-30 minutes for about 3 days. And just like that, he was sleeping for 10-12 hours. Yes, Please, and Thank You. I understand that CIO isn’t for everyone, and doesn’t work for everyone. When that photo of the mom lying IN her little girl's crib started floating around Facebook, I felt a little guilty. For about half a second. Every baby is going to fight sleep. Heck, I still fight going to bed so I can watch just ONE more episode of Friday Night Lights. ; ) 

Of course Greyson has weird nights where he wakes up randomly for different reasons. But in general, he's a great all night sleeper, and he’s slept LOTS of places…..multiple hotels, walk in closets, offices, etc. Whatever method you do use, I can vouch for a routine……baby’s can feel it and wherever you are, they can trust the routine! 

I also WILL recommend the common advice of  "sleep when the baby sleeps". At first, I felt like I had to get all this junk "accomplished" during G's naps. After a couple weeks of sleep deprivation, I was like BUMP THIS. Listen girls. You're hubby will appreciate you 50 times more if you are well-rested than if the dishes are done. That's what paper plates and your closest girlfriends are for. It's a season and you will get back to all the things you used to do. In the early weeks, I would even go to bed at like 6:30 to make sure I caught a couple hours sleep before the next feeding.

GOOD LUCK if you’re in this season, and trust me that it doesn’t last forever. You WILL sleep again, Mama.

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