January 17, 2014

Don't trust this baby!

Gosh, he's cute.

Look how coyly he's chewing on that washcloth.

The sparkle in his eyes.

Then he pooped in the bathtub. Don't trust this baby.

January 15, 2014

"sleep training" II

On second thought, I realized that our approach didn't feel so much like the dreaded "training". After reading so many articles and books on infant sleep, things to consider, and knowing that we weren't comfortable with straight cry it out (CIO), we had to find something that would work with our little.

As much as he loves us, he gets too amped up when he sees us in the same room. So us sitting next to the crib wasn't going to work. Co-sleeping was alright when he was sick, but then neither one of us could get rest. It turned out, all the strategies in all the books didn't mean squat when dealing with our real-life baby.

I just felt in my gut that James was ready for some sleep "encouragement". He's just over 9 months, and to be frank - I don't know that I would have been ready to tackle this if he was younger (especially with the crazy move). Anyways. I just wanted to throw my thoughts in - I continue to be very anti-CIO. "But wait, Alex! You let your baby cry!" Well... yes. But he was already crying, no matter what we did or tried. So this approach was a way of gently reminding/encouraging him that he was safe and cared for by mommy and daddy... while he slept safe and sound in his crib. We built a relationship of trust with him that I wasn't willing to bust - and he knew he could rely on us.

Okay. Let's get to the good stuff. A couple of my fabulous mama friends asked a great question around the concept of nursing during our approach. GREAT question!

Prior to tackling this, as James was co-sleeping, we nursed 3-5 times a night. Whew. I am kind of split on this - I was pretty sure that James didn't "need" to nurse for calories that frequently at night, but I also feel that nursing is often more than straight nutrition (comfort, reassurance, love, cuddles, etc.). When we tackled this approach, my thought was to be prepared to nurse as needed, but as a last resort. This way, neither of us were stressed about not being "allowed" to nurse. (Turns out, this is your deal - you can do what you want!) 

As it happened, James dropped the night nursing on his own. When we went in at our scheduled intervals, we picked him up, gave kisses and reassurances and he quickly calmed down - zero request or indication that he wanted to nurse. (The second night, we nursed because he ate dinner SO early... so I actually offered at midnight.) It surprised me that he went from so many night feeds to none (again, other babies may not respond quite like him!) so easily. MY opinion would be: nurse if requested, but give your little a chance to show you if he's ready to drop any feeds by trying other soothing strategies first. (Tina - what do you think?)
Notes: Since the beginning, I've made an effort to separate eating from sleeping with James, so to be fair - I'm not sure how this might be adjusted when nursing a kiddo to sleep. In addition, James has taken a pacifier from pretty early on (not every babe does). 
My hunch is: with some gentle practice and encouragement, any kiddo can rely on the relationship of trust and love you've worked on from day 1, regardless of being nursed to sleep or using a paci. I say this because James dropped the night feeds instantly in favor of sleeping... as well as not caring a bit about the paci, again in favor of sleeping. But again, every kiddo is different and this might not be the right fit for you. Take a deep breath, and know that you're doing the right thing. Hugs to you!

What other questions do you have?

Recently... The James edition

January 14, 2014

"sleep training"

sleeping baby.

I'd like to write about our experiences with "sleep training". If you search the web, you'll find approximately 126 million hits on this topic. It's a big deal. And after celebrating 9 wonderful months with my baby boy, of course it's a big topic. We're all very tender around this topic... by "we", I think I'm referring to mamas. It continues to baffle me that the VERY FIRST question you hear when someone finds out that you have a wee little one is "How is he/she sleeping?" 


He's sleeping crappily, all right? I'm exhausted, okay? That doesn't have any bearing on how good my kiddo is, or what we're doing right or wrong. It's just that we haven't figured out what works for us yet. Let's be gentle with each other, and be gentle with ourselves. 

So this is why I think this post is important to me. To talk through our successes and failures, and to encourage anyone reading this: you can find something that works for you. It might not look the same as what we do, or be what the books say, or what your best friend does. Be confident. Listen to your heart, your gut, your baby. And if you need to vent or have a friend in exhaustion - sister, I'm there with you. 

We've been pretty lucky overall - James has been a great babe and a fairly good sleeper from the beginning. After the original newborn-wake-every-two-hours phase, I saw progress as he dropped some of the non-essential night feeds and slept a bit longer at night. He was waking maybe two times a night - awesome. Right about this time, we decided to move to CO. This meant a lot of chaos, and while Alan went north ahead of us, James, Zoey and I moved in with my dad. (He's a saint.) This craziness naturally impeded our progress with good sleep habits. James was in a pack 'n play instead of a crib, or was in bed with me. Luckily, our nanny was willing to work with our cuckoo-nanas situation. (Cassie is also a saint.)

Once we got up to CO, there was continued wackiness as we tried to get unpacked... followed by a bout of croup, a trip to the ER for the croup (super scary) and then a recovery. He was absolutely in bed with me during this time so I could keep an eye on him. And things were okay. We were surviving. Sure, it was a bit annoying that "our" room was not really ours anymore, and getting ready for work in the morning was a bit more challenging. But we weren't ready to lob James into the crib and just let him cry it out. I just knew it wasn't the solution for us... but the problem was that we didn't know WHAT to do. I've read the articles. Read the books. But just couldn't figure out what to do. 

Then, things got a bit worse... Kind of deteriorating. It seemed like James was waking up during the night and didn't WANT to be awake. He didn't need/want to nurse, didn't want to play, didn't want anything except to be back asleep. I think we were waking each other up by being crammed together, and none of us were happy or comfortable. 

Enter our sign. A big, flashing, neon sign that I was waiting for, in the form of a coworker named Steve. He mentioned he had a 2 year old, and asked how we were doing with sleep (non-judgmentally). I explained that things weren't super great, we were all really tired and just not sure what to do next. Steve almost lit up with excitement, because it turned out... they had overcome the same obstacle. He explained what worked for them: a hybrid plan that would no doubt involve some crying, but also involved the parents to go in and reassure kiddo so he wouldn't feel abandoned (my concern). 

The amazing thing? My fabulous friend Tina had outlined pretty much the same plan that she used to help her daughter Arden a month or so earlier. I think hearing it from one more person was enough to tip the scales. 

I went home, told Alan and we decided to tackle it on the weekend. This would give us a couple of days to get the worst out of the way before going back to work. Here's how it works: 
  • Complete your normal bedtime routine. Ours includes a bath, lotion, pajamas, good night kisses and maybe a story. 
  • Tell baby how much you love him, and that you'll be right outside to keep him safe. Give as many kisses as needed, and lay him in the crib. Turn off the lights, and leave the room. Crying will happen. In James' case, he was pissed
  • Set your timer for 3 minutes. If you're like me, you'll be shocked how long 3 minutes feels with a screaming baby. This is why the timer is important, as screaming-baby-time warps like taffy and you can't make rational judgments. 
  • If baby is still screaming, go into the nursery, pick him up, soothe him by swaying/rubbing back, kisses, comforting words. You love him, you're right there to keep him safe, and he'll sleep so well. Once calm and quiet, lay him back in the crib. More crying and screaming are to be expected, but leave the room. 
  • Set your timer for 5 minutes. Same thing - if baby is screaming, go back into nursery and soothe. 
  • Set your timer for 7 or 10 minutes. (Use your judgment here.) In our case, if James decelerated to just general whimpering or whining but not crying/screaming I refrained from going in. Seeing me seemed to wind him up. 

What happens if he wakes up during the middle of the night? Do the same thing. Exactly the same thing. What do you do for daytime naps? Exactly the same thing. 

So here's how our experience went. 

Yep, that's our combo grocery list/sleep training log. We're high tech like that. 
First night was the worst, but we were expecting that. Alan and I alternated going into the nursery, supported each other when tired or when James was crying. That was crazy helpful. (and just reinforces what badasses you are, Steph and Tina!) We put James down at 7:10PM, and we had to go in 4 times following the schedule before he fell asleep around 7:52PM. He woke up again at 8:30, but we only went in one time before he fell asleep again. He woke at 11:13PM, and this was the tough one. We went in 6 times and he just wouldn't settle again - was super upset. Finally, my uber-tired brain realized that he had a really wet diaper. Seriously, I changed the diaper and he was asleep in less than 3 minutes... then he slept through until 5:45AM. He cooed a bit, then put himself back to sleep until 7AM.  
What. The. Heck.  
Second night was even easier. I laid him in his crib at 7:15PM, and he didn't cry. Not one tear. He woke up at 12:25AM and we nursed. Fell right back asleep. Woke up again at 3AM, and had to change a really wet diaper. He fussed a bit around 3:30, but put himself back down around 3:45AM. This was a case where he wasn't crying/screaming - I didn't go into the nursery to "rescue" him because he didn't need me. I would have just upset him. He then slept through until 7:10AM!  
Third night was the best yet. Laid him down again with not a single tear or fuss. He woke up one or two times that night, but when Alan or I went in, we just gave him a quick reassurance-snuggle, laid him down and after an initial cry (pretty much just "wah!") he immediately fell back asleep and slept through until 7AM. Who is this kid?! 

So within the span of a weekend, we went from waking 4-5 times a night with grumpiness, restlessness and general hopelessness to a kiddo sleeping totally on his own. He's not freaking out. He's not without us - if he needs us, we're there. But we're not rushing in at the first cry - we're taking a moment to evaluate the situation. For example, the last two nights he has squawked at 9PM but hasn't actually woken up. If I had rushed in, I totally would have wrecked his process. 

It's absolutely mind-boggling. 

Here's what I think worked so well for us: Having a plan. Giving ourselves a reasonable timeframe to see results. Supporting each other. Listening to our hearts/guts. And I think a small part is that James was a bit older. It's almost like HE gave a sigh of relief that we did this. Whew. Thanks, guys. I really needed to get some sleep, but wasn't sure how to do that crammed in your bed. He took to it SO fast, and with SUCH good results... I can't imagine that every kiddo would go through this so quickly, but I know the structure was helpful for all of us involved. Even stubborn-girl Arden turned around in 7-10 days. ;)

Anyhow. I owe so much to my husband, for being our stalwart supporter during our co-sleeping as well as the "sleep training". And I am so thankful for the continued support and success stories of my mama friends and parent friends... I needed some time to talk through the options and figure out what direction I wanted to take us. Thank you all for sharing your wins and being patient with us as we fumbled through. 

If you have any questions, or if there's something I didn't address - please ask! Leave me a comment and I can fill in the blanks. 

You got this, mama. (or dada.)

January 13, 2014


I totally thought garlic was delicious. Powerful, yes. Especially in an ill-fated batch of mashed potatoes that Alan and I made one time. Turns out, you DO need to cook it a bit to take some of the crazy garlicky ness out of the taste.

Fast forward to tonight, when I nonchalantly pop a clove of raw garlic in my mouth. What was I thinking? Yum, I like garlic. EXCEPT WHEN IT STARTS BURNING LIKE HOLY HELL in my mouth... and throat... and esophagus... and stomach. Seriously... I almost threw up. And not in the sense of the taste... because my body nearly said, "Nope, too strong, you're asking a bit much of me, lady." (Sometimes my body pops an attitude.)

I'm sure the question of WHY I'm eating raw garlic has occurred to you. Turns out, I have a plugged duct in one of my lovely lady humps. (Dad, I wrote that just for you. You're welcome. ;)) Anyhow, there are a ton of remedies to try, including warm compress, Epsom salt soak, massage, and of course the fabulous antibiotic properties of raw garlic.

All I have to say is that this HAS to work, because it's seriously intense. Nothing can burn that much without clearing out some stuff.


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week, in 2014."
james and daddy clowning around during one of mama's impromptu photo shoots. love. that. smile. 

January 5, 2014


I was inspired by a blog I follow to create a year-long photography project. Watching her photos all year in 2013 was fun, and seeing the difference a year makes... reminds me that it's even more important to thoughtfully document our lives and little James growing up. Plus, this photo project is simple and non-intimidating. Definitely appreciated.

So here we go. "a portrait of my son, once a week, every week, in 2013."

james: watching his "dada" during bath time... so in love he can hardly stand it.