my love/hate relationship with Cry It Out

Oh good! Another post about baby sleep.

Sorry folks, it's endlessly exasperating/fascinating to me so I'm just going to keep posting about it.

My mom once told me that as soon as she began to notice any sort of pattern or routine with any of her babies' sleep, it would change. We have found that to be true with Johnny.

We had just fallen into good bedtime routine, Johnny was weened, the floor bed was working like a dream, Alex was getting him to sleep in about 15 minutes- short for us. And he was sleeping well. We started to notice a change when the days started getting longer. It was taking longer and longer to get Johnny to bed. 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes, and then it was taking us almost an hour to get him to sleep. We'd take 20 minute shifts lying down with him, which always turned into a wrestling match of trying to get him to stay in his bed.

One night after and hour and a half of this tag-teaming, Alex said in exasperation, "I won't be able to spend this much time putting him to bed once school starts." I knew he was right. That meant we'd have to figure out a way to get Johnny to go to sleep faster, or I'd be doing it all on my own.

The next night when it became apparent we were in for another bedtime marathon, I knew something different was needed.  So I tucked Johnny in his covers, gave him his water glass, kissed his forehead and left the room, closing the door behind me. He started crying immediately, but I told myself to give it 3 minutes.  I stared at my phone in agony the whole time. When I went back in after the 3 minutes were up I was surprised to see that Johnny had stayed in bed exactly where I had put him. I laid down with him to soothe his crying, and when he started climbing on me and jumping up and down I tucked him in and left again.

3 more minutes of crying, I needed Alex to wait with me by his door this time because I couldn't stand it by myself. After 3 minutes Alex went in to soothe him, and then left again. This time we decided to wait five minutes, and before the 5 minutes were up he had fallen asleep.

I felt conflicted the remainder of the evening, I was relieved that we had gotten him to sleep in less than 30 minutes, but I also felt guilty for letting him cry, and like a failure of an attached-parent for having to resort to this heartless method of sleep training.

The next night, after a few minutes of snuggle-wrestling we reluctantly decided to try crying it out again.  And he fell asleep after only a few minutes. After being accustomed to hour and half battles over bedtime this felt way too easy. More feelings of guilt. Shouldn't I be working harder and earning some glorious parenting battle scars? This isn't how we parent!

After my 50 hour labor and almost c-section delivery of Johnny, where nothing had gone according to my "birth plan" I learned that the best birth plan is a to have no birth plan.

Now I'm learning the same thing about parenting. There is no best and perfect parenting method. Flexibility is more important than ideology. And the way you parent often changes with a child's development.

I never let Johnny cry it out as an infant. I personally wouldn't let an infant cry it out. An infant's needs are immediate, and they don't understand why you're gone.  I'm glad I chose to do it that way and I plan to do it that way with baby #2. But a two year old is so different than a 6 month old who has no idea why you're gone and feels like you will never come back. Johnny knows when it's bedtime, and he tries to put it off. Instead of my presence being helpful and soothing, it was distracting him and keeping him awake.

Some nights Johnny falls asleep right away with one of us lying down with him.  I love when that happens and wish it was like that every night. But most nights he fidgets and talks and won't close his eyes, and so after a few minutes of snugging, I leave. I still don't like doing it, even though he hardly cries at all. But I love that he goes to sleep within 5 minutes. Some nights I tuck Johnny in his bed, he asks for his water cup, then pushes me away and says "bye bye". Then I'm a puddle of emotions as my heartstrings go SNAP! My baby doesn't need me to fall asleep any more! It's a little sad, but mostly it's a good thing.


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He's Weaned, and I'm Processing

And just like that, my baby is weaned.

Our breastfeeding relationship, which had a rocky start in the NICU, was so strong and beautiful, and at many times intense. I had mixed emotions as I thought about what it would be like to have Johnny weaned. Some days feelings of exhaustion and being touched-out had me yearning for the day when my body could be my own again, and when I didn't have to be the human pacifier for the baby who would take no other form of comfort. Others days I craved the still moments nursing gave me with my otherwise constantly-in-motion tot.

Throughout breastfeeding Johnny I have always used my instincts. I knew it was time to begin night weaning him when sleep deprivation had me constantly melting down in tears. I knew it was the right thing to do when night weaning resulted in Johnny sleeping through the night for the first time ever.

For breastfeeding the rest of the time I felt strongly that Johnny should stop when he was ready to stop. When I became pregnant in January and Johnny showed no signs of wanting to stop I became a little nervous that I would end up tandem nursing. But I had seen women do it before, and if I had to do it, I figured I would.

But little by little, on his own terms, Johnny began asking for "milkies" less and less. Until it was only before nap and bed time.

Then this week, when it was time for nap, he laid down in his bed, held my hands, and then closed his eyes. And that was all he needed.

And just like that, my baby is weaned.


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Attachment Parenting and What I'd Do Differently


When I was pregnant with Johnny and when he was newly born I had this very specific vision of the attachment parenting mother I wanted to be. Her long, natural hair blowing in the wind as she bends over her back yard garden gathering greens for dinner, baby contently nursing in the sling, bare arms toned from constantly holding a child. This mom is un-phased by no sleep, looks great when not showered, always gives of herself without complaining, and is always gracious to her husband.

News flash: I am not that mom. And I am so painfully aware of that fact as I sink down on the floor next to Alex, crying big, fat, ugly tears. "If we ever have more babies, I'm going to make sure they take a pacifier."

It's not uncommon for moms to feel a little touched-out from time to time. It's happened to me for sure. But I reached a new level of touched-out during Johnny's recent bout of croup, cold, and ear infection when he would only sleep in our bed, attached to me. The very summit of this touched-out-ness happened during a nap that I couldn't sneak away from no matter how many times I tried to unlatch the baby and he bit me in his sleep and it hurt like something torturous. That's when the ugly crying happened.

Long before I was pregnant with Johnny I was aware of the parenting style known as attachment parenting. For those less familiar, this parenting philosophy is centered around the idea of forming a bond of trust with your baby by following your instincts and his cues, rather than relying on parenting fads, sleep training, or feeding schedules. Attachment parenting often manifests itself in the form of on-demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing. Of course there's more to it than that, but those three characteristics are the easiest to spot.   

My first successful baby-wearing attempt.  Johnny was 11 days old.
We felt very strongly about practicing attachment parenting. And for the most part we have had no regrets. Following my instincts about Johnny needs and keeping him close to me when he was a newborn felt so natural and gave me a great sense of peace as I got my bearings as a mother. I do however, have only two regrets.

1. I wish we had made some effort to get him to take a bottle and pacifier. Johnny is just about 20 months old, and he has never taken a pacifier and only took a bottle a handful of times when we were in the NICU with him. When we got home we didn't keep up bottle feeding and he hasn't taken one since. Everything I had read about attachment parenting and breastfeeding discouraged bottles and pacifiers until a good breastfeeding relationship was established. I just focused on breastfeeding, then when Johnny was older and I needed him to take a bottle it was too late. He just won't take them.

2. I wish we had tried harder to get Johnny to sleep on his own sooner. It didn't bother me that he wouldn't sleep unless he was being held or lying in bed with me when he weighed only 9 lbs. I could wear him for hours without throwing out my back, and I could co-sleep with him without getting a round-house kick the face every morning.  He was a little squishy baby, in the "4th trimester"; I was everything he needed, and I liked it that way. I never imagined I would want it any other way.

Johnny is now 20 months old. He will not go to sleep for for anyone other than Alex and myself, so we can't ever go on a date the goes past bedtime. Because he never took a bottle I couldn't be away from him longer than 3 hours until he finally started eating solids at around a year old. He doesn't take a pacifier or have a lovie, so when he is sick, or upset, I'm the pacifier. Up until we got his floor bed he was still nursing during the night, so we have never done a night away from him. It takes me about 45 minutes to put him down for a nap in our bed and the stealthy acrobatics I have to do to sneak away from him when he finally falls asleep look a little something like this.

The result is that I am sleep deprived and often feel very touched out. I feel like I'm not getting the kind of break I need to really be refreshed. I become short tempered. I start to resent people who are able to leave their kids for a little get away. I wish I had released myself from the expectation that I had to be the only one meeting Johnny's needs. I wish we had laid the ground work earlier that would have made it possible for someone other than me fulfill Johnny's needs. And I wish that I hadn't beat myself up and made myself feel guilty for the few times I did let other people fulfill Johnny's needs. 

But, you live and learn, right? I don't think anyone figures out what kind of parenting works best on the first try. Johnny is finally sleeping well at night, Praise The Lord! He does really well with babysitters. I don't see any end to his nursing yet, but most days he's only nursing before bed and naps, so the touched-out feelings are becoming less and less. I know he won't be little forever and that I need to soak up his babyhood while I still can. 

But any future babies will take bottles and pacifiers!

What about you? How has your vision of parenting changed?  Have you had to rethink any philosophies or game plans? I'd love to know!


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//N I G H T W E A N I N G//


I know it's what you all want to hear about.

So here goes:

Anyone who knows us knows that Johnny is not a great sleeper. He is 15 months old and has yet to sleep through the night, and he's always been a terrible napper. He sleeps great when he's nursing but aside from bueno. This past winter we started putting Johnny in his crib for the first time ever.  And this summer we finally fell into a good napping routine, but our progress in the sleep department has been slow.

We practice a more attached style of parenting, which for us can be summed up in these 3 rules:

    1.We try to observe Johnny's needs and give him what he needs when he needs it.
    2.We believe that babies cannot be spoiled. 
    3.We follow our parental instincts.

I believe in attachment parenting. I believe it's multifaceted, and looks different from family to family. I also believe it's not for everyone, and I respect your decision to use more main stream methods of child-rearing. 

We, however, practice an attached style of parenting that has lead to do crazy things like co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. Johnny has never "cried it out" and I often sit in my bed with him while he naps to get him to sleep longer. I believe that we are giving him what he needs, and I'm so thankful for all of the bonding we've been able to do. But after 15 months (more if you count the end of my pregnancy) of sleep deprivation, after having my face poked and bladder kicked all night long, after not having time to myself, not even while sleeping for over a year, after feeling so over-touched that I snap at my husband when he tries to kiss me (sorry honey!) I'm beginning to feel that my co-sleeping days are numbered.

We decided that when we got back from vacation, and before Alex starts classes again would be the perfect time to try to night-wean Johnny. Alex doesn't have to stay up late studying, so he can get up to get Johnny back to sleep when he wakes up, and eventually he'll realize he doesn't need milkies during the night and sleep like to proverbial baby that must exist somewhere (ahem....Nell). Right?

Well, it's been one week of Alex doing night times and the latest we've made it before Johnny is in bed nursing away is 4:00 am. Are we doing sometime wrong? Are we just weak? Do we just need to muscle through one truly miserable night  of "cry it out" and then he'll be sleeping like a champ?

I so want to Johnny to be able to sleep on his own, but when I stop and consult my mothering heart I just know that I can't let him "cry it out." He's not ready for it, and I'm not ready for it! Someday I might need to cut him off, but now is not the time. I have to stick to my mama instincts.

But I would love to hear from other parents out there. I have read that attachment parenting can be very hard in the early years but pays back manifold when children get older. Has anyone had this happen yet? I believe we're doing what Johnny needs, but it's really hard right now. Someone please say that it gets easier? And if you have and good tips on how to get a major mama's boy to night-wean, I am all ears!

Now, I will spam you with pictures from the last leg of our vacation.  We made an overnight stop in Chicago to see some of my cousins and ran into down town just long enough to see the bean and get our feet wet in the fountains of Millennium Park. Next time we do Chi-Town, we'll do it right.

T H E /B E A S T/ C A L L E D/ S L E E P

If you are a parent you know that one of the most fascinating subjects on earth is your child's sleep patterns. (Or lack thereof).  If all goes well, it can make the day, but more often it breaks the day. Alex and I have had entire phone conversations just about Johnny's sleep. And now I'm doing an entire blog post about Johnny's sleep.

I know that sleep and sleep training methods are hot button topics. I think you just have to do what works best for you and your baby.  I didn't intend to co-sleep, but co-sleeping just made sense. (If you are interested in co-sleeping but feel uneasy about it, Dr. Sears' safe co-sleeping tips were really helpful for me.) I also never intended to do any sort of sleep training. I thought if we let Johnny lead the way, everything would just fall into place. But now, to a degree, we are doing some sleep training. It's was needed to be done

When Johnny was a brand new infant and we were just home from the hospital I really felt like co-sleeping helped us make up for all the hours Johnny was confined to an incubator. And being able to nurse him so easily helped all three of us to get more sleep at night. When Johnny was around 4 months old he started sleeping longer stretches through the night, only waking up once or twice to eat. That was co-sleeping heaven,  I had my baby near me and still felt well rested in the morning. Then around six month, when he started getting some major teeth and started sitting up, he started waking up more and more.  The past month he has been waking up almost every hour.  I have been so sleep deprived I knew something had to change.

Last week we started working on transferring Johnny to his crib.  I've been putting him in his crib for naps for  a while now, knowing that some day we would be making the switch. It's been hard to get him used to it, but it's been harder to get me used to it. I love co-sleeping with him, even though it can be hard.  It's really special to do some much snuggling and it gives me a peace of mind to have him so close. I wasn't planning on transitioning him to his crib until he was a year old, but I know that now is the right time.

I have often felt how blessed I am to have had 6 of my friends have babies the same year I had Johnny.  I always have someone who is going through, or has just gone through, the same developmental stage Johnny is going through. There's always someone to commiserate with, and to share ideas with. Last week a friend was telling me about her strategy to get her baby into his crib, and it was just the push I needed.

That night Alex and I decided we would start Johnny in his crib when it was bedtime, and try to keep him in there for 2 hours before coming into our bed.  The plan being that if he woke up during those two hours Alex would go in and soothe him back to sleep. We want to slowly teach him to fall asleep without nursing. Well, Johnny slept for 3 HOURS STRAIGHT! He hasn't done that in bed with us for months! And he has done that every night since we started this. Sometimes after that first stretch of sleep I feed him and put him back in his crib and he'll do another 3 hours. Sometimes we bring him back into bed with us, and then we wakes up more often.

It's hard for me to not have him in bed.  I wake up often and have to check to make sure he's ok before I can go back to sleep. But I'm thankful that it has been so apparent that he's sleeping better by himself, otherwise this transition would be much harder.

This is what's been working for us.  What's been working for you?

Yoga Pants and Food Network

We are halfway through our first full day in the hospital, Alex is at work, Johnny is much more alert and happy, and I am completely bored.  Johnny's surgeon was just in and said the best kind of hospital stay is a boring one, so I guess that's good.

Johnny has resumed all his normal eating and pooping activity. In fact, at 5:30 this morning we had the most epic ostomy bag leak to date.  Poop all over Johnny and poop soaked through every layer of bedding on his crib. That was the second time I had been up for over an hour with Johnny that night. Needless to say we didn't get a lot of sleep.

I am realizing that attachment parenting, which I am all for, does not work very well in a hospital setting.  We are a co-sleeping family. It took about two nights after bringing Johnny home from the NICU to realize that we would all be happier and get more sleep if Johnny was in bed with us.  I am aware of his sleeping patterns better than he is and often have him nursed and settled back into a deep sleep before he ever cries or opens his eyes.  Alex is also able to sleep through  it all.  It does have it's down sides; our queen size bed is a little cramped with three, somehow Johnny manages to take up a lot of space. I usually have a stiff neck or shoulders from sleeping in only one position, on my side, facing Johnny. But I love having him in bed with us, hearing him breathe and getting to snuggle him. I never realized how much I love co-sleeping until just a few nights ago when Johnny was doing some major teething and wouldn't stay asleep in our bed.  The only way we could get him down for the night was in a little cradle that we use for naps, so we let him sleep in there.  I thought it would be a relief  having a little more space in the bed but ended up just crying myself to sleep. *Hormones*

Anyway, co-sleeping is not something they let you do in hospitals, especially when your baby has IV's and a catheter running from him. So needless to say Johnny did not sleep well last night.  I think part of it was that he was uncomfortable, but also that he's not used to sleeping by himself. So I spent half the night leaning over his crib trying to fool him into thinking that I was sleeping with him.

Johnny is doing well! He is no longer receiving IV fluids or antibiotics, and if he continues to eat well they will take the line out all together. Then he will just have the catheter, which, as I mentioned before, has to stay in for three days so his urethra can recover from being operated on.  It's kind of annoying that there is only one little thing keeping us here, but I'm thankful that there were no complications with surgery and that Johnny is back to his squirmy, hungry, happy self.

On the up side, we have cable here in the hospital.  And there's no pressure to get ready in the mornings, so I am enjoying me some Food Network whilst lounging in my yoga pants.  Now, if only someone would bring me a latte....

someone's having fun playing with toys!

Reading stories with Auntie Amy