I’m Going to Miss the Dreamfeed

Once Damien was sleeping well, he gradually dropped all of his feeds on his own for the 12 hours of his night, keeping only the dreamfeed. By 4-5 months, Damien had dropped his remaining night feed at 3am all on his own, we only had to re-enforce the habit. Since then, I’ve held on to the dreamfeed and it has been my special time with him.

There have been times, for sure, when it would have been convenient to be able to stay out past 10:30, to go to bed early or to drink an extra glass of wine without having to worry about feeding a baby at a certain time. But, given all that, I couldn’t bear parting with my special time with my little baby – my last little baby.

Damien rarely wakes up early anticipating the feed, I almost always wake him up when I open the door or approach his crib. I hear him wake up and sometimes smack his lips waiting for his milk (he may also use his milk sign as well, as I get ready to feed him). I am always assaulted by the wonderful baby smell of his room and the warm perfection that it all is. It’s like my own little piece of paradise. 

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I pick up that sleepy baby and feed him for a few minutes – only 5-10 now, which isn’t very long. There’s no kicking, no fussing, no stretching or pulling of hair. No biting, no banging, no distractions, no preschooler to talk to. It’s just me and Damien and it’s perfect. 

After I feed him, I put Damien right back in his crib and he’s oh so relaxed. From time to time, the feed actually wakes him up for a while, but he’s such a content little sleeper that he just chills out and eventually falls back to sleep. He never progresses to fussing in the same way that Aiden did! He rolls over asking to go right into his crib when he’s finished his milk – no cuddles necessary. 

It’s an amazing experience, nursing a baby, and the dreamfeed has been my little oasis of calm before bed. I’m sure the oxytocin was a nice boost too!

Last night, I didn’t offer Damien milk at his usual time and he slept right through to morning, no problem. I’ve known for a while he probably wasn’t hungry, but he’s my baby and I was selfishly waking him up to spend time with him. I’m going to miss those special times. 

At least I know that he’ll probably still have some night wakings when he has a cold or is teething or whatever. Then again, he popped a tooth out during those 12 hours and didn’t make a peep!

Now, if only there was a sniff detector in his room, since he sometimes dirties his diaper while falling asleep and doesn’t cry, so we don’t know. ;)

Damien: Sleep Rockstar

PhotoI am proud to say that I have a baby who sleeps!! Damien has now slept 3 nights for at least 13 hours with only one feed!

Damien goes to bed at 6pm (sometimes earlier) and gets his dreamfeed at 10:30 (sometimes he wakes up a little earlier and I feed him then) then sleeps all the way until 7 or so!

Crazy! Amazing! Yay!

After sleep training Damien from 6-9:30pm, Damien has eliminated his night wakings all on his own; all we’ve done is re-enforce his habits. For example, after 2 nights of dropping his 3:30am feed, when Damien woke last night at around that time, I left him to quietly fuss and he was back to sleep in under 5 minutes. 

Sometimes babies wake up and need help going back to sleep; but sometimes, if you give them a chance, they can surprise you! Damien definitely did!

I am SO glad he decided to drop his feed on his own, I wasn’t looking forward to ‘forcing’ it (since keeping it may have caused him to regress & wake more often). I was still tired and the idea of staying up to watch him on the monitor with maybe some crying wasn’t appealing. We knew that 12-16 weeks is a time when babies often regress on sleep, so it was amazing that he did this on his own. 

Our sleep consultant, CheekyChops, says that once babies drop their night feed, they’re usually able to figure out longer naps too. We tried some nap extension training but it was more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’, so we’re waiting a couple more weeks before trying again – he did take one nap of nearly 2 hours by himself, so perhaps he’ll surprise us again and figure them out on his own. Stay tuned!

Parenting a 3.5 Month Old: Comparisons

Damien is about 3.5 months old right now. It seems like he’s been in our lives for a very long time, but it’s not very long at all. My experience as a mother the first time around has been very different this time. Thanks in part to less hectic hormones, better milk supply and more sleep, I’m feeling great! I don’t have postpartum depression this time around and feel like I’m handling things – and even enjoying them. Of course, I usually hit a slump in the late afternoon when I a) need more coffee and b) really just need some down time. 

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(Aiden / Damien)

When I look back and compare my life at 3.5 months with Aiden and how it is now, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. 

  • Aiden: waking up every 45mins – 2 hours all night. 
  • Damien: sleeps 13 hours with 1 dreamfeed before I go to sleep.
  • Aiden: going out multiple times a day, napping Aiden in a jiggle motion for his 20-minute catnaps. Went out to lunch, coffee and breastfeeding support groups. 
  • Damien: Go to Aiden’s playgroups, parks, coffee and sometimes lunch
  • Aiden: lots of walks for naps, mostly with the Ergo. Wouldn’t sleep in the Ergo if we were indoors.
  • Damien: walking not easy with 2, so he’s jiggled to sleep in the Ergo wherever we are.
  • Aiden: would only nap at home if nursed to sleep. Was a huge struggle.
  • Damien: prefers to sleep at home in his crib. Sleep is max 43 mins though.
  • Aiden: still developing relationships with other moms
  • Damien: have fantastic and supportive mom friends, many of whom also have 2nd children by now
  • Aiden: constant attention at home, library time, song groups, reading time several times a day
  • Damien: often just held while talking with Aiden, no specific groups of his own, his ‘reading’ time is when I read to Aiden
  • Aiden: no time to do anything, so bogged down by co-sleeping
  • Damien: back to working part time by 3 weeks, blogging here, going on date nights

To back all that up, there’s the obvious difference in our parenting: we know more and are far more confident. Although Damien is not a super laid-back baby, compared to some, he’s far more laid back than Aiden at this age (thanks to sleep!). 

Ah, to be a parent to 2!

Damien’s Sleep Journey

As many of you know, we began sleep training with Aiden when he was 4 months old. He wasn’t a great sleeper and we saw that Damien was going the same way. After a few weeks of early success coaching Damien to go to sleep on his own, he went through a period of purple crying / colic. It was taking 2-4 hours to put Damien to sleep at night: he wouldn’t sleep on his own, he wouldn’t stay asleep if breastfed (even for hours of constant trying, he would keep waking after dozing off), he wouldn’t sleep longer than 30 minutes in the sling or carseat. It was exhausting and usually resulted in me breaking down in tears. Imagine trying to parent a toddler with all that!

I brought our issues to the sleep consultant we worked with for Aiden, Dawnn of CheekyChops, who I’ve continued to work with over the past 2 years through my consulting business. Despite what I thought I knew about teaching a baby to sleep, I had still hit a wall. Dawnn had a lot of great things to teach me about sleep in younger babies (which obviously we didn’t know) and that you can teach a younger baby to sleep better!

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Within a very short time, Damien was falling asleep in his crib with little to no fuss – that’s him sleeping tonight in the image above. It took a week or two to get him to stay asleep; he had issues with his first sleep transition – he treated his night as a nap and would cry through his normal awake period, then resume his normal sleep. He struggled for a while to learn how to go back to sleep (which is a different skill from going to sleep – did you know that?).

Our first goal for our 8-week old was to improve his bedtime and the subsequent 3.5 hours – we let him do whatever he wanted for the rest of the night. For the first few nights, I brought him back to our bed towards morning (we were co-sleeping at the time). He was a reluctant co-sleeper (he doesn’t like side nursing), so that didn’t last long. After the first couple of nights, I committed to keeping him in his crib. There were a couple of nights where he got up frequently (every hour or two), but after that, it got better!

With no interference on our part, Damien began to extend his night feeds on his own. After 4 weeks, we’ve pushed his dreamfeed back to 10:30 and he wakes once at 3:30 to feed on his own – that’s it! We plan to try to coach him out of that early morning feed next month, though he seems to be pushing it back on his own. 

Damien now takes his first and third nap in his crib, though the most he’s ever slept in his crib is an hour. Right now, 4 short naps is not quite enough to get him to bedtime, but there’s no time for 5 naps in his day, so we’re struggling a little to keep him up before bed. Prior to this week, he was taking a long nap in the sling during the middle of the day, but he’s getting too big for it and showing an obvious desire to twist around and suck his thumb; to me, it seems clear he wants to be in his crib. He falls asleep there instantly! 

We’re trying to teach him to extend his nap, but that process could take several weeks. Still, for a 3 month old, Damien is sleeping really well! I’m very happy :)

Now… here’s hoping we can keep this kid from regressing all the time – Aiden is still super stubborn about sleep, despite our best efforts!!

Damien Falls Asleep

Since he was born, Damien has shown a distinct preference for sleeping on his back. Thanks in part to this, and to the ‘easy’ newborn period, we’ve been trying to teach him to fall asleep on his own. Generally speaking, if we keep his awake window short and put him down swaddled with white noise, he’ll fall asleep on his own.

Usually I give him a quick ‘bonus’ nurse if he seems fussy before he goes down, but I try at least once to put him down awake before scrapping the plan and moving to plan B, ‘nurse to sleep’.

I took the above video as Damien was falling asleep last night. At night, he is a little more fussy, so I employed the bassinet to help rock him to sleep. Downstairs, he sleeps in a pack & play and doesn’t use rocking (though I jiggle it for nap extensions). 

Since Aiden was colicky and not a great sleeper, we ended up sleep training him when he was four months. He’s had many regressions since then; it’s just his personality. As a result, we know a lot about sleep and are trying to employ some of our knowledge (and patience) to slowly teaching Damien the basics. Since he is so young, we don’t push it, but wherever possible we work on falling asleep unassisted and on extending his naps if they’ve been less than 1 hour (it works most of the time). 

Despite how awesome this all is, currently none of our little tricks work once Damien starts waking up at night. He hasn’t yet mastered the ‘going back to sleep’ skill at night and I don’t anticipate he will for many more weeks. Since night time there aren’t ‘awake times’ to get Damien tired again, we often are stuck with one big night chunk where he’s awake (day/night confusion) and the rest are easier to get him back down after a feed.

He will sleep in his bassinet if he’s having a good night, but most nights are not so good. His best chunks of sleep are snuggled very close to, or being semi-held in the lying down position by, either Mommy or Daddy ;)