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Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category

How to Sleep Like a Baby

We’re in the middle of “sleep training” Milo, which means we’ve been letting him cry it out during bedtime.  If this seems horrible and cruel, believe me, it feels that way too.

We had tried some sleep training when Milo was younger, about 5 months old, at which point he cried for maybe 10 minutes before falling asleep.  It still felt horrible and cruel.  But we felt lucky that he was crying for only 10 minutes and believed we had an angel child.  Unfortunately, Milo’s weight gain had stalled around that time and we felt like he still needed his night feedings, so we went back to soothing/feeding him whenever he cried at night.

Since Milo’s birth, we’ve been co-sleeping with Milo in our family bed.  This decision came about mostly out of necessity.  It was too taxing for me and my 41-year-old body to get up to feed Milo 3-5 times in the middle of the night.  By co-sleeping, Milo sleeps next to me.  When he’s hungry, I can offer him my breast and rest or even fall back asleep as he feeds.  Co-sleeping has saved my sanity.  I am not someone who does well without good sleep.

We’ve been putting Milo in his own crib at his bedtime (around 7:00 pm) and feeding him when he cries.  When he cries around 1 or 2 am, I would go get him and bring him into our family bed for the rest of the night.  This arrangement worked fairly well for several months, but we found it was impossible to leave him with a babysitter even after he goes to sleep because he wakes up expecting Mommy’s breast and fails to be comforted without it.  We also started witnessing instances of night waking, in which Milo, without waking, would roll and flail around restlessly in our family bed.  On one occasion, he did this almost an hour.  We have a king-size bed, but nobody was getting much sleep with a flailing baby.

There are some philosophies of parenting that encourage co-sleeping and going to comfort your baby every time he cries.  As a liberal Californian, I could see the value of such “attachment parenting” and a lot of it made sense to me.  But Milo often seemed tired.  He has never been that great a napper; his naps are typically 30 – 45 minutes long and he usually wakes up tired and cranky.  Once he started night waking, we knew something had to change.

I decided Milo needed some more structure  and discipline to his sleep schedule.  So I got a book out of the library and set out to “sleep train” my baby.  The idea behind sleep training is to train/allow/force your baby to self-soothe himself to sleep.  All babies (and humans) sleep in cycles, meaning we fall in and out of sleep throughout the night, so a baby will wake in the middle of the night.  If he is accustomed to Mommy coming in and giving him a boob every time he wakes up, he will learn that this is the only way he can fall asleep.  By not going in to soothe him, he is trained/allowed/forced to fall asleep himself and this, eventually, should lead to deeper, more quality sleep.  The problem is, for the baby who is accustomed to getting the breast when he wakes, withdrawing the breast means there will be some complaining, i.e. crying.

So the first night, I prepared myself with a bottle of wine.  Daddy put Milo down to sleep around 7:30pm and he slept until almost 10:00.  Then he cried.  At first, it was a quiet whimpering for 10 minutes or so.  Then the crying got louder, like he was asking, “Hello?  Hello?  Yoohoo?”  He didn’t sound like he was in pain, but it felt bad not responding.  What kind of Mommy doesn’t answer when her baby asks, “Hello?  Hello?”  He went on like this for 15 minutes or so.  And then he started complaining.  It was a higher-pitched cry, as if he were yelling, “Where are you, Mommy?”  This went on for another 10 minutes.  And then he started getting mad.  Shrieks now.  “I want the boob!  I want the boob!  Where’s my f$%#king boob?!”

Meanwhile, Mommy is sitting in the hallway outside the nursery door with her glass of wine, quietly weeping.

Ten minutes or so of shrieking tires him out.  He’s starting to losing some steam and the shrieks become less intense, slightly more spaced out.  But a full hour of crying and Mommy can’t take the guilt much more.  I go into his room, pick him up, and offer him my breast.  Milo sucks weakly a few times and falls asleep.  That night, he wakes up one more time, at 2:00am.  I go in and feed him almost immediately.  He feeds normally and falls asleep.  He stays asleep until 6:00am.

The next night, we go through the same bedtime routine.  Daddy puts him to bed at 7:00pm.  He wakes around 10:00.  Mommy is ready with her glass of wine.  This time, Milo goes through the whole cycle–whimper, hello, complain, shriek–in 15 minutes.  And then silence.  The next night, he slept from 7:30pm to 4:30am with hardly a cry.  And the next night, he slept from 7:30 to 11:30pm, had a feeding, and then slept until 6:30am.

It’s been 2 weeks since we’ve started sleep training.  Milo is averaging 5-6 hour stretches of sleep, which is much better than the 2-hour stretches he had before.  He still needs at least one feeding to get him through the night; his weight gain is still on the low side and we want to keep his calorie count up.  In general, though, Milo is much better rested and happier when he’s awake.  His naps are even longer during the day.

I wish I could say this means Mommy is better rested, but that’s not the case.  It’s hard to wake up, drag myself out of bed, go into the nursery and feed Milo at 4:00am, and then get up at 6:30am when he wakes up.  For me, it was easier to have him in our bed, snuggled next to me, offer him my breast whenever he fussed and fall back asleep in our warm bed.  Maybe the verdict is still out on attachment parenting and my status as a California liberal.

To be fair, it would help if I went to sleep earlier.  So now the sleep training will be for Mommy and Daddy to go to bed at 10:00pm.  Time to put the whole family on baby time.

Milo gets his beauty rest

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Old Mommy

Well, my age finally caught up with me.  This morning, I was rolling around on the floor with Milo and something tweaked in my back.  My whole back cinched up and I couldn’t stand up or walk.  I had to crawl–literally– out of the room and into bed, flat on my back.  Milo is crawling better than his Mommy can right now.

Thankfully, Hubby and I are both working from home these days, so Hubby was on Milo duty most of the day.  He would just bring Milo in for nursings, which old Mommy would accommodate by rolling gingerly onto her side and pulling up her shirt.  Or Milo would accommodate Mommy by finding a new position to nurse, bellying up to the bar, if you will.  And then he would hang out with Mommy in bed, crawling over my supine body as if I were some obstacle course.  He seemed happy enough, even if Mommy couldn’t move.

Hubby didn’t get much work done today, but I did.  He brought me food and was at my beckon call.  I couldn’t move much, but I was pampered.  I think Hubby was kind of sick of it by the end of the day and he sure as hell hopes I feel better tomorrow.  Taking care of Milo full time isn’t any easy job, is it?

As pampered as I was, it was hard not being able to hold Milo or pick him up.  When he was crying, I just wanted to run out and comfort him, but I couldn’t.  And sometimes, only Mommy can comfort him.  It’s hard not to feel helpless when you can’t pick up your child.

As soon as I’m better, I’m getting back to my yoga routine.  Milo is only going to get heavier, so I’d better be ready.

Milo waves his magic wand over his sick Mommy.

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Today, Hubby got a card, chocolate cake for breakfast, and a baby backpack that should be arriving any day now.  And then he spent a couple hours composing the following poem for Milo:

Clever, eh?

Happy Father’s Day!  Through all the ups and downs and gaping chasms of imperfection that is marriage, Hubby is a great Daddy.  I’m very lucky to have him as my partner in parenthood.

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Baby Led Weaning

Food has always been an issue for Hubby.  When he was a child, there were very few foods he could actually stomach.  He has many food sensitivities and even as an adult, while he can now eat a larger variety, there are few foods that he actually enjoys. While he didn’t want Milo to inherit his food issues, Hubby said he could never force his child to eat anything he didn’t want to eat and he dreaded “force-feeding” with a spoon.

So when it came to feeding Milo solids, we were delighted to stumble across a concept called Baby-Led Weaning.  This feeding philosophy bypasses the pureed, spoon-fed baby food in favor of finger foods that the baby can feed him or herself.  The logic behind BLW is that purees are a product of an earlier generation that fed solids to babies when they were younger and could not feed themselves.  At six months old, the age recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to start solid foods, most babies can grasp items and bring it to their mouths.  We figured Milo was already putting everything in his mouth already, so why not food?

Milo concentrating on a banana w/peel

BLW advocates letting the baby feed himself so that he has control and choices about what he eats.  Hubby believes the lack of control leads to a lot of children’s fights over food and results in picky eaters.  BLW suggests placing finger foods in front of the baby and letting him choose and feed himself.  Breastfed babies, in particular, are accustomed to self-regulating their food intake and should, theoretically, be able to regulate their solid food intake.

It turns out Milo is the perfect baby for BLW.  He’s sitting up without support, curious about everything, and grasping items quite well.  And he loves the food!  He will quite contentedly suck on a slice of pear for 20 minutes.  In the three weeks he’s been on solids, he has tried bananas, avocados, apples, pears, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, cantaloupe, oatmeal, asparagus, beans, hummus, and broccoli.  He loved the broccoli.  He seemed to be fascinated by the differing textures in his mouth.

with sweet potato

Giving the baby control over his eating makes him less likely to choke.  Milo doesn’t have enough teeth to chew yet, but he can gum the appropriate foods very effectively.  He also gets a lot of good practice with his hand motor skills by grasping at the food.  It’s been great fun to watch him gnaw away.  We’re not as concerned about how much he’s actually eating at this point; he’s still getting the majority of his nutrition from breastmilk.  Mealtimes are like play for him, which will hopefully translate to a love for good food.

Still, as with any baby feeding, Milo needs to be closely observed when he eats.  And especially because, well, despite what the book says, he hasn’t figured out how to self-regulate his eating yet.  He gets so engrossed with gnawing at the food that he forgets to swallow and stores up the food in his mouth like a chipmunk.  Often, this food comes back out, sometimes as regurgitated spit-up.  Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem to bother him and he goes right back to gnawing at the pear or avocado without missing a beat.  Hopefully he’ll soon figure out how to stop eating when he’s full.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that BLW is very messy.  Baby is in charge, after all.

and the detritus of his meal.

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Separation Anxiety

Milo turned six months old today.  He is sitting up by himself and we’ve started experimenting with solid foods.  He is, however, still very attached to the boob and they say the longer we can breastfeed, the better it will be for Milo’s immune system, so that’s a good thing.  But breastfed babies also tend to go through separation anxiety around this age, particularly from Mommy, and Milo seems to be right on cue.

Hubby is a very involved Daddy and has been from Day One.  I hear from other moms that their husbands don’t know what to do with the baby and hold their babies like he or she were a sack of flour.  Hubby is not one of those daddies.  If he could, he would grow boobs and feed Milo himself.  Really.  Still, there are times when Milo will be inconsolable unless he is held by Mommy.

From my end, it’s a little odd to be so needed by another human being but, for now, it’s not a bad feeling.  I do feel bad when we leave him with my mother and he screams for two or three hours.  Amah (Taiwanese for grandmother) is usually so delighted with Milo she volunteers to babysit whenever she can.  But she says no more babysitting until Milo is past this phase.   Any tips on how to get Milo less attached to me?

The occasional babysitting aside, I admit that I get warm fuzzies that my baby is bonded with me.  It won’t always be this way, I know, so I’d better enjoy it while it lasts.

Consoling Mama's Boy on Mother's Day

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Sophie the Giraffe

I am not someone who particularly likes to shop.  I am not savvy to fashion trends and have never been very good about keeping up with the latest bling.  I like to say that I’m a poor capitalist.  So it is with some chagrin that I admit to spending $43.99 on three small baby items for Milo.

They are the following:

1.  Sophie the Giraffe, $19.99.   A natural rubber teething toy that squeaks when squeezed.  A classic since 1961.  Made in France.  Milo needed a teething toy and Sophie comes highly recommended, both as a teething toy and a development tool.  She’s easy for him to hold and gnaw on a leg or her neck, and the spots are supposed to help sight development.  Whether she’s worth $19.99 is another question.

Flapsi

2..  Flapsi, $12.00.  A wooden rattle shaped like a caterpillar, made by Haba toys in Germany.  It’s a pretty clever design.  It not only rattles, but is also convenient for sucking.  Hubby and I are not big fans of plastic and prefer natural materials like wood.  Haba makes some very nice wooden toys.  Unfortunately, they’re also pretty pricey.

Baby Legs

3.  Baby Legs, $12.00.  These are baby leg warmers.  At first I thought these were ridiculous; why in the world would Milo need leg warmers?  But then there would be times when I wish I had those stupid leg warmers—when we’re out and about and the weather suddenly turns chilly, for example.  And when I take Milo to his yoga class.  (Yes, we signed him up for a baby yoga class.  I’m from California.)  Hubby doesn’t like Milo to wear socks or footies because he loses the feeling from his feet, which are very important when you’re trying to figure out the world.  Hubby approves of the Baby Legs.  I found a pair with trains on them.

We were very fortunate to have inherited most of our baby gear from generous family and friends.  Milo outgrows clothes and gear so quickly that it seems a waste to buy anything brand new.  But when it comes to Milo, Mommy has suddenly become a consumer.  We can’t afford to do this too often, but hopefully we can splurge a little on Milo once in a while.  It’s kind of fun.

In the end, though, there is so much baby stuff out there and marketing to hip parents is very big business. You can buy a $900 stroller in the spirit of believing that nothing is too good for my baby.  But the baby won’t likely remember that his stroller was made of titanium alloy.  I don’t think I’m in danger of splurging on the $900 stroller, but lots of little Baby Legs or Haba toys could tempt me.  How much is too much?

I do confess that I was tempted by the $400 stroller (check this out: http://www.bobgear.com) and still occasionally drool over it, but we don’t live in a walking neighborhood and have managed just fine with our two very nice hand-me-down strollers, thank you very much.

Milo and his loot

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Wonder Food

You would think, since I haven’t updated my blog in over a month, that I would have something momentous to write about.  But no.  Only to report that Milo is pooping once every 7 days.  It might seem a little alarming, but our pediatrician tells us this is normal, especially for babies who are exclusively breastfed.  His gut is being lined with the stuff that will help aid his digestion for the rest of his life.  Plus, breast milk is so easily digestible that, as his digestive system becomes more mature, very little of what he eats will actually go to waste.

Breast milk is not only a miracle food, it is also a miracle salve and nasal decongestant.  One of my mommy friends has a baby with eczema.  She uses breast milk to help soothe the itching.  When your baby is congested, squirting a little breast milk up his nose will help dissolve the proteins in the mucous and relieve his congestion.  Who needs the pharmacy?

We have been fortunate that Milo has not gotten sick yet during his almost 5 months of life, even though a good chunk of his life has been during a cold New England winter.  Breast milk helps with a baby’s immunity system, so that’s yet another plus for breastfeeding.  And it’s free.

Given Milo’s current digestive disposition, the lack of poopy diapers has made clean up easier.  However, his farts have been extra stinky.  Phew!

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Crying Game

I let Milo cry it out to fall asleep for a nap today.  He cried for 4 minutes, but it felt like forever.  He was clearly very tired and needed a nap.  I’ve been trying different routines to get him to nap, including swaddling, rocking, bouncing, singing, darkening the room, white noise, etc.

The easiest way to get him to sleep is to nurse him, which I have resorted to too easily, and now he knows he can get the boob if he wants it.  But the problem with nursing him to sleep is that he associates eating with sleeping and, when he wakes up every 30-45 minutes after a sleep cycle, he doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep without the boob.  So, as long as he’s not actually hungry, I’ve been trying to get him to sleep without nursing.  There are challenges to this approach.

I’ve been reading the books and blogs about infant sleep and there’s a heated debate about whether or not to let your baby cry it out.  For the most part, we are reluctant to let Milo cry it out, but we are also learning that there are different kinds of crying.  If he’s tired and ready for a nap, he will usually stop crying after a few minutes and fall asleep.  If he’s really upset and overstimulated, he won’t be able to fall asleep by himself.  He’ll need some help and assurance he’s secure.

But there’s a fine line here—how long do you let him cry?  What constitutes a tired cry versus a screaming help-me cry?  Because to a mother, all the cries sound heartbreaking.  And you feel tremendous guilt, like you’re dooming your child to years of therapy because he felt abandoned when you didn’t pick him up because he was crying.

And yet, I recognize there’s a difference between rescuing and responding.  If Milo is crying for 4 minutes because he’s tired, he doesn’t need rescuing.  He just needs to know Mommy is there.  So I left the door to his nursery open and sat right in the next room to write my blog while I waited for him to quiet down.  And he did.

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Beer + Cookies = Milk

I know I should be blogging more!  Every few days, I think I come up with some brilliant or amusing insight and I should write it down.  And then I forget about it.  Bleah.

Mommyhood offers all sorts of opportunities for witty insight.  Today’s thought is about lactation.  I’ve had a few struggles with breastfeeding, particularly in the first few weeks after Milo’s birth.  He had some difficulty latching onto the breast and my milk supply was a little late coming in. . And to complicate things, Milo was jaundiced when he was born, which meant he needed to get calories in him and I wasn’t producing enough milk.  We had to supplement him with formula his first week of life, which made me feel horrible.  And since he wasn’t able to suckle very well, that affected my milk supply too.  Let’s just say I got very intimate with a hospital grade breast pump. As much as we think it should all be instinctive, breastfeeding is a learned skill, for both mother and baby.

Milo is fine now, thankfully, and a pretty good eater.  On his breast milk diet, he’s been gaining weight at a good clip, so my breasts have been producing enough.  Supply is delicate issue, however.  The more Milo feeds, the more my breasts will produce; it’s a delicate supply & demand balance.

About 10 days ago, I had my first girls’ night out since Milo has been born.  I drove down to Cambridge to meet up with my friends Grace and Ellen to go to a book reading for a friend visiting from San Francisco.  I was gone from Milo seven hours total.  I did bring my breast pump and managed to take a break to pump, otherwise my leaky boobs would have exploded.  Had I been with Milo, he probably would have fed three or four times during that seven hour period, which means I probably should have pumped that many times.

Since that outing, my breasts have been producing less milk when I pump.  Milo seems satisfied and is still gaining weight, however, my pumping sessions have been more scant.  So to increase my lactation, I have been eating oatmeal, drinking Guinness and eating lactation cookies (recipe here).  Evidently brewer’s yeast in the dark beers is supposed to help.  I have also been drinking Mother’s Milk tea, a tea with herbal supplements that supposedly boost milk production.  Beer, cookies, and tea.  Yum.

I should probably be getting more rest and exercising.  I’m sure that would do wonders for my milk production.  But really, Milo is doing fine, so maybe I should just relax.  That too would help my milk production.

Overachiever, even as a cow.

Milo, happy at the boob.

Milo, happy at the boob.

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Negative Capability

It would be good to have at least one blog entry for the month of February!

Parenthood is a mix of great joy, love, fear, insecurity, frustration, surprise, warm fuzzies, and the confusion that results from all the above all at once.  Keats once called this “negative capability.”  The depth of human experience is always both sweet and bitter in order to be true.

One thing everyone has been telling us is how quickly your baby will grow.  Milo is now 12 weeks old and approximately 11 pounds.  When you compare his photos of when he was first born to how he looks now, he’s almost doubled his size.  He’s very alert and interactive, smiling and cooing a lot, and endlessly curious about the world.  Hubby and I, of course, think our child is a genius.

I’ve been going to regular Mom’s groups in the area to learn more about raising a baby.  It’s good to get feedback and hear about the trials and travails of other moms.  I do have to say that I feel lucky. I keep hearing these horror stories of babies who never sleep, who cry forever, who insist on never being put down.  Milo is a relatively easy baby.  He’s not colicky, he’s not an inconsolable screamer, and he sleeps fairly well at night.  Plus, he’s a beautiful baby.

A few recent photos:

Milo at 8 weeks.

10 weeks. Milo's Jean-Luc Picard imitation.

For more photos, here is a link to my facebook album for Milo.

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