Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

Tracking Baby’s Sleep, Feedings, and Other Exciting Events May 31, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 11:49 pm
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In my obsession with sleep, I can tell you exactly how much my baby is averaging per week. I have this data from the day he was born.  I can’t imagine how much I would guess he sleeps. It would either be more than what he actually gets, or less, depending on how stressed out I’m feeling. Tracking his sleep helps me keep it real, so to speak.

If you work and your baby is on a schedule, say waking up at the same time everyday and going to bed at the same time and sleeping on the day care nap schedule, then you probably have a pretty good idea of how much sleep he or she is getting. If you are home with your child/ren, then it might be more difficult to tell how much sleep he or she gets because the day is just not that cut and dry. Unless you have one of those babies who sleeps when you want them to, there has to be some way of keeping track of it all.

We tracked our daughter’s daily happenings for 18 months. Sounds a bit neurotic, perhaps. But we then understood her much better without having to impose our unreliable memories or stressed perspectives on her. It helped us to respect her natural sleepy times and active times. Most of all, it helped us make sure she was getting enough rest, something that is hard to come by for people of all ages these days.

When establishing a schedule for an infant, it is suggested by several sleep “experts” that you mark wake and sleep times for a few days so that a pattern can be seen. After 14 weeks of tracking Gabriel, we are still waiting for a pattern. Actually, there is a pattern: he falls back to sleep about an hour after waking. Great! So rather than fight his cries (“How can he be tired, he just woke up!”), I can head him off at the pass and put him down. I’m hoping to find some more patterns as he moves through the fourth month. Then we can begin shaping his patterns to ones that are better for him and us. This might be earlier bed times, regular naps, regular night feedings, and establishing a clear routine for these things.

More to come on how we will embark on the adventure of sleep training. And hopefully reap great rewards of sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time!


Book Review: Your Fussy Baby May 30, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 3:25 pm
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Book Review: Your Fussy Baby by Marc Weissbluth

I am so grateful for this book. It is the only book on parenting that has made me feel okay about my child. The author has raised four children, one of which happened to be “fussy.” He is also a pediatrician and has extensively studied sleep disorders / sleep issues in children. According to this book, about 20% of babies are considered “extremely fussy.” Using the term “fussy” sounds negative and we all know what happens when we label a child: they become the label. But let’s say that you could use the label because the individual fits the definition and the definition helps you feel more sane about what is going on. Weissbluth states  ad nauseam that all babies get fussy for no apparent reason. It is just that some babies fuss considerably more so than others and he calls these babies “extremely fussy” or the old-school label: “colicky.” Ewwww, no one wants to hear this when talking about babies. But the fact of the matter is our little boy fit right into this category.

How is the fussy baby defined? Extremely fussy / colicky babies cry (or fuss) for more than 3 hours per day, at least 3 days per week, for at least 3 weeks duration. That, to me, seems like a mild definition. But this is the criteria for an extremely fussy baby. Now, to the review:

This book, though quite small, is loaded with information about colic. The introduction really caught my attention with two sentences: that the book is “based on the belief that an informed parent is an effective parent” and “Parents are better able to soothe fussy babies when they understand why newborn babies fuss” (p. xxiii). And it is so true.

It opens by outlining several studies that try to uncover what causes such a condition. Basically, all studies on colic over the past 100 years simply show what does not cause extreme fussiness. The author’s wife shed some light on the subject when investigating the role of melatonin and seratonin in extremely fussy babies. This was the only study in the book that found any positive correlation between any variable and the fussy baby.

The idea that temperament might play a part is discussed and clearly explained. There are many variables and possibilities for how nature and nurture interact in this area. Weissbluth gives several examples of how the extremely fussy baby can be soothed, such as rhythmic rocking motions, swaddling, and lullabies.

The part of the book most helpful to me was the presentation of sleep patterns of extremely fussy babies and what the parent or caregiver can do about them. He gives clear advice of how to avoid sleep problems once the colic has ended at around three or four months.

The author presents the information in an objective way, and maintains consistency of his opinion regarding sleep and causes and treatment of colic throughout the book. He gives different options for people to choose to approach the extremely fussy baby based on lifestyle choices and what the research says is most effective. He gives examples of how to breastfeed or bottle feed and co-sleep or use a crib. These are generally the big issues that divide people on whether to use a certain technique or not. He also gives options for using gradual extinction or just extinction (let cry some vs no cry). I found this to be helpful, since one will often act out of character when faced with a desperate situation.

My take on the book:

I liked this book so much, I borrowed his other book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” from the library. I thought “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem” was the best book, but this one might be better in that it gives you options for how to approach sleep training. This book helped me to accept my fussy baby for who he was and that it isn’t something he can help doing. He isn’t “playing” me; babies don’t know how to do that when they are this young.

Our son has gotten better, aside from his sleep (which is basically horrible). He is happy, smiling and quite easy now at 3 months.


In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning May 8, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 8:32 am
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More Like the Really Long and Drawn Out Hours of the Morning…

It is natural for parents to go through a period of getting little to no sleep at all during the infant’s first few weeks. Some lucky parents get to experience this for the first few months.  A select few, I’m sure who are very honored, get to do this for a few years. But I’m talking about the hard-core sleep deprivation, when sleep lasts for only an hour or two at a time, twice per night and maybe snagging a few minutes here and there during the day (not always by choice…). It’s rough. Add to that a baby who is super hungry all the time and crying most of his or her waking time. Fortunately, the crying has lessened a bit as he moved into his tenth week.

I felt very desperate to solve the lack of sleep problem early on. Mostly because our first was sleepless (or so we thought) and we didn’t really do anything about it until she was eight or nine months old. I’ve read and re-read several books in the past few weeks. I am trying to make sense of infant sleeping and feeding problems so that I can solve the “problem” and get on with my life. And that, my friends, is exactly the problem.

Despite what all the “experts” say, there is no single way to approach how one cares for an infant. What I am finding out is that what we did for our first does not really apply to the second (so far). This also applies to what others have done for their children, will not necessarily work for mine. Others have some great ideas and I have tried many of them. Some work for us, some do not.

Child rearing is a process, not something that you just do and get it over with.  Even in the infancy stage. Sure, you want to do what is best for your child. But we parents really can’t control everything. This is a lesson I am still trying to accept. It can be very difficult to just be in the moment, especially when the moment seems to drag on, and on, and on. For months.

The most helpful intervention I have used with my infant has been talking about it to others. My husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my neighbor, other mothers in play groups, and even here in this post. We haven’t solved any of the “problems” by doing this, but I have gained much insight and valuable emotional strength to carry on. Infancy does not last long. And, if we did solve the crying/sleeping/feeding problem today, everything changes in the next week or month and what we do today will be completely irrelevant. Lovely.

The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t last forever and it makes you very tolerant of other things in the world, such as, well, I can’t even think of anything that bothers me right now because few things are as difficult to deal with as a screaming baby for six or eight hours. See? Instantly tolerant!

One of my favorite books for coping with a baby such as ours is Dr. Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  I’ll post a book review soon. I think this has been a help to us, as well as to our son (and daughter). Another book I wanted to write a review on, but fear I would unleash more anger than I care to deal with right now, is “Baby Wise.” What a nightmare! I read it simply out of interest, knowing that it would probably go against my beliefs, values, personality, and general approach to parenting. I had no idea it was so bad. So now I know and I can move on. (In all fairness, for those of you with babies inclined to take to an early schedule and sleep alot, here is a blog by a parent who implements this technique, though I tend to agree with this blog more, as my children are not “easy.”)

When it comes to actually solving a sleep problem (which I believe cannot be done in the first three or four months, contrary to some beliefs), Dr. Richard Ferber’s “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” has been an invaluable source. It’s not evil or verging on abusive (like “Baby Wise.” Oh, did I say that?) like it is made out to be by some people. I’ll post a review on that one, too.

What about you?

If you, dear reader, have had to deal with sleepless nights on account of a baby, what did you have to do to get through it? How did it change you? How do you look back on that time? Was there any advice others gave you that helped? Or advice that made things worse?