Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Getting Axton to Sleep

*This is super long, and probably super boring for anyone who 1)Doesn't have a baby or 2) has an angel baby who has always slept through the night. But alas, here it is.....

Ah, the dreaded sleep question. So many nights of frustration, tears, exhaustion - from all three of us. Sleep deprivation is known to cause stress, impaired judgment, weight gain, depression, and poor quality of life. In short - not getting enough sleep makes Moms crazy. Eight long months I suffered through sleep deprivation, waking up anywhere from 2 - 12 times a night. Here is how we finally got Axton to sleep for 11-13 hours at night - it worked for us, and it may not work for you but just thought I would share!

Why I don't like Cry-It-Out
I read so much about getting your baby to sleep - I read online articles, Babywise, Baby Whisperer, No-Cry Sleep Solution, and countless other books, blogs, and articles. 

A friend asked me why I don't just let Axton "cry it out." I want to share with you my answer to that question, but before I do I want to clarify what I mean by 'crying it out'. There are certainly different levels to CIO - I'm not going to trick myself into thinking there won't be any tears at all, because I know there will be. And I don't think some crying is necessarily bad - all kids throw tantrums when they aren't getting their way, it's just life. But I disagree with the philosophy of Babywise, which suggests you simply put them down and walk away and don't come back for a certain time period. I've had a friend tell me her pediatrician told her "There's no reason you should check on her at night. Even if she [cries so much she] throws up - she won't remember it and it's good for her." 

...Say what? That is what I do not agree with. Here was my response to my friend's question:

That's a great question and I'm glad you asked - it was good for me to reflect on my reasons for this choice. Even my husband has suggested from time to time, when we both are exhausted, "When are you just going to let him cry it out?" And everytime my answer is "Not tonight..." and that will be my answer every night.
Here's why Cry-It-Out bothers me --
It is a lie to call crying it out "sleep training." When you are training someone how to do something, you are teaching them, guiding them. Teaching means you show them the way, give them another chance when they mess up, and you have love and patience for them. Crying it out is none of that. Crying it out is, in my mind, impatience and selfishness. If I've answered my baby's cries every night, and then suddenly, one night, I decide to just let him cry it out, what is he going to think? He's going to be terrified. There's no way we can explain to them what's going on - in his little mind all he knows is that Mommy isn't answering his cries when she normally does - so something must be wrong. So he cries louder. And harder. And this continues for hours until, exhausted, baby gives in to sleep because that's all he has energy left for. There's nothing else he can do. In essence, I've BROKEN baby into sleeping, not taught him. I just don't think that's the right way to teach ANY human being how to do something, and especially not my baby.
A quote from No-Cry Sleep Solution:
"Babies who are subjected to cry-it-out sleep training do sometimes seem to sleep deeply after they finally drop off. This is because babies and young children frequently sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. This deep sleep shouldn't be viewed as proof of the efficacy of the cry-it-out method, but rather evidence of one of its many disturbing shortcomings."
It's not that I don't think independence is important, because I do. I'm just trying to teach it compassionately, rather than forcing it on him before he is ready. It's so hard, it's ridiculous. Sometimes I'm throwing F-Bombs around in my head when I just don't think I can take it anymore. And sometimes I do have to step out of the room and just take a few minutes to regroup myself, but it's never more than ten minutes, and when I get back to his room and see how distraught he's gotten in the time I was away, I feel even worse and I just know crying-it-out cannot be the answer.

Anyway, so that's why I don't like the all-out cry-it-out method. I don't want to say I used one "method" or another to get Axton to sleep through the night, because I've really learned that "methods" in general don't work when it comes to babies! I was so obsessed with reading all the 'right' material before Axton, and now I just know that you really have to just feel it out with what works for not only your baby, but for you, too. For example, I want to be the Baby Whisperer. I want to, so bad. I want to have unlimited resources of patience and a resilience to frustration, and the ability to hide my ever-growing anger each time I have to lay Axton back down. But......I don't. As much I love the concept of what she teaches, I just. cannot. do it. It puts me in such a bad place. So, I don't do it. I don't follow one person's methods or another, but I do gather ideas from everywhere and I try and test and dibble and dabble until we find the perfect solution for us - and even that perfect solution doesn't work all the time, every time. That's just life with babies. However, if you must know, I used a lot of ideas from No-Cry Sleep Solution and the Baby Whisperer. 

One more thought before I dive in to what worked for us - one evening, in the midst of one of Axton's horrible sleeping phases, I asked a friend of mine if her nine-month-old was sleeping through the night yet. Her response?
"Yes, he is, but I worked really hard to get it that way."

I looked at her and slowly nodded. I understood, in that statement, that her baby sleeping through the night was not something that "just happened." He did not do it on his own, like I had foolishly been hoping would happen. It also meant that she did not just leave her child to cry it out for a week, but that instead, she was loving and patient, yet firm and consistent in her routine and eventually it clicked. I made a resolution that night to start working hard to get Axton and I on a schedule we could both be happy with.
Here's what worked for us.

Have a sleep log

Yes, friends, this is my real sleep log with Axton, starting on November 25 - the kid was six months old and waking up 6+ times a night, either to nurse or for his pacifier. No wonder I looked like walking death. It's amazing I even got anything done during the day besides sleep. This is when I realized I really needed to change something, and it gave me a starting point of what I could work towards. I started with a simple goal: I would be happy if he just slept solid from 12 - 6am.

Establish a good bedtime routine
Everyone knows this is an important step for nighttime success. On nights that our routine goes perfect, it looks like this:
5:30pm - Dinner
6pm  - Bath
6:30pm - Rocking Axton while we read a story, scriptures, say a prayer, and nurse. Play Brahm's Lullaby.
7pm - In crib, sleepy but awake. Falls asleep on his own

Sometimes it's a little later, sometimes I have to go back in to comfort him, but it's not a big deal and it's usually quick and easy. 

Determine how much crying you are okay with
Now that Axton is 9 months old, I can easily tell his cries apart. I also know when he's "faking" or just "whining." I separate Axton's cries into three levels - 
Level One - This a pout, a tantrum, it's for attention and generally he stops this on his own within minutes. 
Level Two - This is a real cry, but it's not heartbreaking. I allow him about 10 minutes of this before checking on him - I'd say it's about a 50/50 chance that he'll either calm himself down or escalate to - 
Level Three - This is the all-out screaming, I'm-going-to-die cry. He doesn't calm down on his own once he reaches this point, and I always go in as soon as I hear him reach this point.

Work in phases
This is my favorite concept from No-Cry Sleep Solution. You don't just completely cut off your baby from habits its been developing all its life, you gradually shorten the time you  comfort, eliminate one habit at a time, or replace it with something else. My phases looked something like this:
Phase one: No nursing from 12:30-6:30am. The first few weeks he still woke up, wanting to nurse. I went to him, comforted him, gave him a pacifier, rocked him, held him. 
Phase two: No nursing from 11:30 - 6:30am. He was already starting to wake up less often when he figured out he wasn't going to eat. Instead of picking him up, we comforted him while he was still in the crib. Laid him back down, held his hand, stroked his hair, etc. This was probably the worst phase because it took longer to calm him down this way and our arms and feet always fell asleep from standing and leaning over the crib for so long. 
Phase three: No nursing from 10:30-6:30am. Comfort without touch. Sing or soothe with voice only.

If at any point Axton reached a Level-Three cry, then we would back up a phase - holding his hand or even picking him up if necessary. We were firm while still being flexible when his crying escalated. We were in between Phase Two and Three for a looooong, long time. Weeks and weeks. I got so dang sick of leaning over that stupid uncomfortable crib, I finally said, okay, enough. We're done with that. Also, I found that I was waking up Axton to give him one last feeding at 10:30pm before I went to bed so I decided it was time to cut it out completely. And thus we moved on - 

Phase four: No nursing from 6:30pm - 6:30am. Put Axton down in bed while he is awake, leave the room. Let him cry for 10 minutes (as long as it is a Level Two or one, go in any time he reaches Level three), if he is still crying after 10 minutes, repeat the whole process: go in, pick him up, rock him until he is calm and sleepy again, and lay him down awake. I only had to do this a few times for a few nights before he got it. 
Like I said, it's not perfect every night - just tonight, for example, he wanted just a few more snuggles with Mommy than I gave him at first. I had to go in twice, pick him, rock him, put him back down. But each time, no matter what, I put him down to fall asleep on his own. 

And that's pretty much it.   And that's how much work it was. Really, it was a ton of work. And it took two months! Two months, people. I started my sleep log the end of November and we had our first night of success the end of January. It didn't happen in the so-called magical three-day-period that The Baby Whisperer says she can solve any problem in, it didn't even happen in a week or two weeks. It was, just like my friend said, something I had to work for, and with Axton. We both had to compromise until we found a solution we were happy with. I feel like I actually did "sleep train" my baby - in a loving way that I feel good about. So what if he won't remember it? I always will, and that's important to me. 

I know the issue of sleep and sleep training is a big one with parents - because it's so hard when you aren't sleeping. I hope I haven't offended anyone - I know everybody has their own way of doing things and I can only speak of what I've experienced with my own child. Everyone is different - I'm sure I will have to do something completely different with my next child. You learn as you go, right? If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I won't hesitate to tell you what little I know with what little experience I have! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Challenge: The Artist Way

I've been avoiding this blog of mine for quite some time now. I've got a bad case of writer's block. And photographer's block, and everything-else-block. I've been feeling like I'm in a bit of a rut, like my brain is foggy and clouded over and all I want to do in my spare time is eat cookies and watch Netflix. And, for awhile there, that's exactly what I did.

So, let me back up a bit, here. All the way back to, oh, let's say, Christmastime. We had a grand old trip to Arizona, I got to see Adam everyday, there were people all around to chat with and help out with Axton, I got to go on three runs in a week, I ate good food and jumped on the trampoline and ran around and played like with children. It was awesome. Then, January rolls around and we are back home and Adam's back to work. I'd decided long ago that, starting at the beginning of the year, I was going to switch up our routine with Axton and get him to sleep through the night - and, lo and behold, we were successful! (Yes, moment of grand silence and awe is suggested, here, folks). So now Axton is sleeping 12 hours at night (would you like to know how? I will write about it if you want, because it was quite the long process) --- but I'm not sleeping at all! For weeks, I couldn't fall asleep before midnight. Even when I would try to get myself in bed at a decent hour, I would just lay there, staring at the ceiling, stupidly awake. Finally, I gave in, and just started watching tv shows for hours on end in the evenings, because I assumed I'd be up that late anyway. And then, I'd be up early with Axton in the morning and, because I was exhausted, I would nap when he napped. This meant that a vicious cycle began: I wasn't tired at night because I'd nap during the day, so I went to bed late and got up early, so then I was tired during the day, on and on. This also meant that nothing ever got done - chores, dinner, crafts, writing, projects, goals. My To-Do list kept getting longer and longer and that just stressed me out more so what did I do? Watched more TV to calm me down.

Finally, one night in bed, I lay there, trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and how I could put an end to this boring haze I'd been living in.  I did what any other person would do: I googled "How to get more motivated."

At the top of the results was an article called, "16 Ways to Get Motivated When You're in a Slump." I went to it, wasn't that impressed, but it did lead me to another article: 6 Practical and Powerful Ways to Overcome DepressionMaybe I am depressed, I thought. So I clicked on it and I actually really liked their 6 tips and think everyone could benefit from them, depressed or not. They are -

1) Get outside
2) Exercise
3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids
4) Sleep
5) Socialize
6) Positive thinking

I realized I wasn't doing enough of any of the above things, and decided I would choose number 4 - Get better sleep - to work on first.

But how to do that? For one thing, I knew I needed to stop watching Netflix -

("But I have to find out if April and Andy hook up!" --- "No, Meghan, you don't. What's more important, real life or fiction?" ---- *Sniffle, sniffle* "Fine, can I at least Wikipedia it so I can have closure?" --- "Whatever. You're pathetic.")

I made a few other rules for myself - they included things like turning off the computer an hour before I wanted to be asleep, (this includes no more ipod in bed!) and no napping with Axton during the day (so I'd actually be tired at night). I saw a dramatic difference within the first week. Actually, the very first night I gave myself an hour of downtime (read: no computer) before bed, I fell asleep within minutes after shutting off the light. I couldn't believe it.

And my sleeping pattern slowly started to return to (almost) normal, pre-pregnancy bliss. Of course Axton still wakes up occasionally, but when he does it's nothing compared to what it used to be and it's way less often.

So, I had fixed my sleeping problem, but I'm still feeling very....blah. I'm so uninspired these days, so unmotivated. I have a huge list of blog posts I've been wanting to write but every time I've tried to sit down and write them, I get anxiety and just end up on Pinterest or Facebook. So unproductive. So lame. I think my To Do list is having the opposite effect on me than it was intended: it's scaring me away rather than hyping me up for all the cool things I want to do. I even thought, "Maybe I just need to have another baby right now so I feel busy again." Shame on me! Using a baby to get out of something I'm scared of facing! And then I tried to blame the weather: "It's just a bad case of the winter slumpies. I'll get over it when it's nicer outside." But then I realized I didn't want to wait around for spring to feel better.

As I've pondered how to get my spark back, one thing that's been on my mind lately is Julia Cameron's The Artist Way .  Julia Cameron is a writing teacher who proposes there are two vital tools to reigniting your creativity: 1) The Morning Pages, and 2) Artist Dates. I don't remember where I first learned about her theories (Heather, I think it was you?), but they've stuck with me over the past few years.

1) The Morning Pages -- The morning pages are three pages of handwritten word vomit. You write them every single morning, before you do anything else. They can be about anything - silly, stupid, serious, painful, boring - it doesn't matter, just get it out. Julia says in order to be a better writer (or photographer or cook or blogger or crafter or anything that requires creativity) you need to declog your brain of all the junk and fluff floating around in there. To quote her article:

All that angry, whiny, petty stuff you write down in the morning stands in the way of your creativity. Worrying about the job, the car, the laundry - this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.

2) An Artist Date - As I searched the web for the original article of Julia's, I found someone else's blog who summarized her theory on Artist Dates. She wrote:

You know when you have a really long to-do list, and it feels like there just isn’t enough time? (Yes!)
Or when you run across your art/craft/baking supplies and think “I used to enjoy doing that … but I just can’t get inspired to start it again.” (Yes, yes!)
Or when you start to feel worn down and the world is just seeming gray and routine? (Yes, yes, yes!)
That’s when you need an Artist’s Date with yourself.  

An artist date is a date you take with yourself - alone - no one else - (get it?) once a week. It's meant to be fun and playful, and it's meant to inspire and spark your imagination. You are trying to dig out your inner artist that's been buried under routine and daily life. "Your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to." An artist date could be a lone trip to the beach, a junk yard, or a botanical garden. It can be a trip to a museum, a fabric store, or watching an old movie by yourself.

Julia says of her two tactics:

Think of this combination of tools in terms of a radio receiver and transmitter.... Doing your morning pages you are sending - notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your Artist Date, you are receiving - opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance. 

I highly suggest reading Julia's entire article on these two theories, it's fascinating stuff. You can find it here.

I've decided I'm going to take her challenge for a month. Starting tomorrow (tomorrow? Really? Ugh, okay, fine. Tomorrow it is) I will write my Morning Pages every morning and I will also take a weekly artist date by myself.

Does anybody else want to join my in this challenge? Any one else ever feel uninspired or stuck?  What do you Moms do to find yourself again, away from the Mother Identity? What do you non-Moms do to get your wheels turning again?

ps - Jeanna, I'm counting this as my 50 words. Don't hate me. ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013