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!
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!!
Aiden has been in a big boy bed for about a month now. We purchased a convertible crib for Aiden which would turn from crib to toddler/daybed to double bed. I’m glad we did, as I believe it made the transition quite seamless.
Aiden has always been a sensitive sleeper, so we held off on this transition for some time. Though we had planned the switch before Damien was born, we were missing some parts that were originally supposed to come with the crib. Once that was solved, we waited for the new-baby transition to wear off.
As expected, Aiden came right out of his crib. Pretty much instantly. He discovered he could read his books, though it took him to night 2 before he realized he could also turn on his book light to do so. After the first hour in his new bed, going in and out to talk about it and look at his books, he thought he’d go see Daddy (I happened to be listening at the time). Well, that was a shock for him. Door closed!
After explaining that he had to stay in his room, and some tears, Aiden finally settled back down. The first few nights he would stay up for a long time reading or talking or examining his room. Now, he sometimes stays up a while, but more often than not simply reads for an hour and then turns off his light and goes to bed. Sometimes we remind him after an hour to stop reading (really, should we complain about this?). He talks, plays around in his bed, then eventually falls asleep.
I thought if he stopped napping this may stop, but he’s had 2 naps fails in the last month and still reads at night before sleeping. He just likes reading.
All in all, the transition has been great. Though sometimes Aiden still cries if he can’t fall asleep after a long time (sometimes he makes himself overtired, but we can’t control that), his stall tactics are far easier to manage – he can’t throw out his blanky or ask for water if he can retrieve both from his room!
So, for now, all is good! At least until we potty train at night (or at all) and he needs the door open to leave for that! :)
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 ;)
A few months ago, we purchased a new video monitor for Aiden’s bedroom. We had a sound-only monitor while he was young, but felt that with all his sleep regressions, it would be nice to know what he was up to in his crib. We were also looking ahead to a time when Aiden would be in a toddler bed and, quite likely, getting out of said toddler bed. It’s nice to know that when we’re downstairs, we can see what he’s up to. It’s also fun that we can watch the monitor from our iPhones.
Sometimes what Aiden is up to is definitely not sleep. His wind-down period can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours, sometimes requiring Ianiv to go in once (or a few times) to remind Aiden to sleep or to deal with one of his stalling tactics (water, throwing out blanky, etc). We knew, for example, when he had taken off his sleep sac – which he then refused to wear ever again.
And yet there are also both cute and funny moments. Moments when he’s draping his blanky over a stuffed animal or moments when he’s doing summersaults.
It’s funny, but this time around I had absolutely no nervousness around labour. It’s such a short span of time that any pain is really easy to forget about. I know I had a lot of incoherent-screaming-pain with Aiden, and yet I still felt completely ok with going through that again. Compared with months of pain during the pregnancy, it seemed like an “easy” end.
My Labour Story with Damien
As many of you know, I was scheduled to be induced on my due date (May 14) because of the pain the pregnancy was causing me (pelvis, back, neck, etc) – I couldn’t take care of Aiden, let alone myself. Our induction was pushed to May 15th initially, which was ok, but it all went messy from there.
Originally, I was told we would go straight to the pitocin to induce my labour, but the midwife on call thought my cervix could use some extra work and gave me cervidil instead. I was sent home, which was very confusing for me. Initially, we tried not to let Aiden know we were home, since he thought we were having the baby. However, we had to drop that plan eventually when the induction didn’t trigger my labour. I had about 30 hours of early labour contractions, but nothing after that.
With cervidil, the best plan is to return for a second dose the next day, often triggering labour with the back-to-back action. However, the hospital maternity ward was full and I was bumped off the schedule (as an “optional” induction, higher risk patients took priority). For the next 3 days, this continued to happen – at one point the entire hospital was on overflow and diverting patients. Meanwhile, I kept having on-and-off early labour and felt on edge all the time. I tried everything to trigger labour on my own, all to no avail (though it was nice to walk in our week of Spring sun!). It was the hardest week of waiting ever!
Finally, on Saturday night, I was invited back for a second cervidil. Early labour began instantly again and I was sent home. At 2am, my water broke; by 2:20am, I wanted to go to the hospital. Apparently, my labour is back-to-back contractions (the cervidil had been out for a couple of hours already) and that’s just not fun. Thankfully, they weren’t as intense as they were with Aiden, but I still wanted drugs.
When we got to the hospital, we had to wait for the midwife to arrive. My labour progressed very quickly and I was very ready for drugs by the time she got there. My waters gushed again and I was already 5cm dilated – soon after, I was started on the gas, which helped tremendously with the pain. The midwife was also amazing, really talking me through the pain (wow, midwives shine during labour!).
If my pelvis hadn’t been misaligned, I would have considered labour with just the gas. As it was, I was too worried about tearing and could barely lie down from the pain associated with my pelvis and back, so I got the epidural. I love the epidural, but I had an adverse reaction this time. I got sick, my blood pressure dropped and baby’s heart rate was fluctuating. They were concerned from time to time, making me change positions often, but thankfully when the midwife went to check me again an hour after her initial exam, she was pleased (and surprised) to see that I was ready to push. I could feel baby descending and rotating with each contraction (pretty neat).
After 20 minutes of pushing, Damien Grayson was born! The whole process, from when my water broke / active labour began to the birth, was 6 hours – not bad!
The only hiccup so far in our parenting journey has been the unfortunate resurgence of my milk supply issues. I was hoping, as is often the case, that it wouldn’t be a problem with Damien, as second babies often see more milk. On some days, I’m able to supplement with just 3oz of formula (total), though his demand increased and yesterday (and likely today) will be more like 9oz – that was a bit of a shock last night. However, looking back at what I had with Aiden, it’s about the same quantity (maybe a little bit more).
With Aiden, I dropped most bottles by 8 weeks and all bottles by 4 months. I’m hoping the journey is shorter this time, particularly as it’s more inconvenient to both breastfeed and bottle feed when taking care of a toddler. Not to mention trying to stick in cluster feeding and/or pumping. But, more than anything else, I find bottle feeding to be an emotionally discouraging process and look forward to one day stopping it altogether.
I actually credit my milk supply increasing to Aiden being colicky – although it was super stressful, it meant he essentially cluster fed all the time. Since Damien is a more placid baby, that hasn’t been the case. While I have the help at home, I’ve been delaying bottles and extending feeding to include at least one long cluster feeding session during the day. This won’t be possible when I am on my own.
Our nights are hit and miss, so I may end up breastfeeding more during some nights. When Damien sleeps, he sleeps really well; however, if he misses his bedtime window, his whole night goes off and he ends up waking up very frequently, which means more breastfeeding and more formula. I’m trying to be careful on the timing of his last nap to ensure his bedtime is easier, but you never can account for things like explosive diapers. Those just happen. Ah, newborns.
I hate each and every bottle I have to give Damien, though I know in the end I’m doing what’s right. Sometimes self doubt crops up, particularly as people (online and off) can be so incredibly polarized on the breastfeeding issue, particularly stigmatizing those of us who need to supplement or criticizing how we choose to supplement. There are many opinions about what will affect your breast milk production and it’s all a very confusing situation – even with the help of the lactation consultant. I doubt myself often.
So, wish me luck! I will need all the support I can get to soldier through the next few weeks.