Monday, October 27, 2014

My Experience with CIO: A Week-Long Journal

Go ahead and get your coffee and have a seat. This post is a looooong one.

Cry it Out is a very controversial sleep training method that I was TOTALLY against doing in the beginning. It didn't feel natural to me, and plus Ava was still so small that I felt she truly still needed me and her brain hadn't matured enough to have the skills to do it. I kept pushing it out of my mind, even though it would make things easier.

I have read that CIO should not be used because babies need you to help them fall asleep, and making them do it on their own creates a break of trust, a feeling of abandonment, and can "scar them for life". I read a study that claimed to have discovered that just because a baby stops crying does not mean the child is not still in distress, just that they have learned to be silent about it after CIO training.

I have also read that when used properly and at the right time, CIO is teaching your child a necessary skill, just like any other life lesson they will need to be taught in life. If you and your child are suffering from lack of sleep, it is necessary that you teach your child how to self-soothe and settle themselves to sleep. It is no different than teaching your child to feed themselves, use a (sippy) cup, or stop using a pacifier, or how to use a toilet.

I believe that there are definitely times when CIO is NOT appropriate. Try to do it not when you want your life to be easier, but when you really feel like baby needs additional help. But I also believe that for some babies, it is necessary, like Ava. You wouldn't not teach them any other "growing up" skill simply because it was hard, would you? CIO is not abandoning your child. There are several ways in which CIO can be done. There is the "cold turkey" method in which you let your baby cry alone in their crib, the Ferber method in which you let your baby cry for short times and then pick them up to settle them and put them back down, and there is the graduated method in which you let them cry in the crib and stay by the crib and after awhile gradually remove yourself from the room until they can go to sleep without you there.

I also read that any type of sleep training can be very successful, as long as you are 100% consistent with it. Makes sense to me. Then baby knows what to expect.

*****

Let me give you a little back story on Ava and her sleeping habits.

IN THE BEGINNING, there was day, and there was night (hahaha I'm so funny). Ava didn't really have any day/night confusion as a newborn, so I didn't really have to work to get her to figure it out. She slept swaddled in a Rock and Play next to my side of the bed at night, and was swaddled and held for most of her naps. Because this girl liked to kick her legs around from the very beginning, she would eventually "settle" in the Rock and Play, and her swaddle blankets would creep up, sometimes so high it would cover her nose. This made me very uneasy, and I was having to fix her blankets multiple times in the night. I was not sleeping well because I was so worried about her airways getting blocked. So because of this, I transitioned her to her crib in her room between 2 and 3 weeks old. I was happy to do it - I wanted my baby to be a crib sleeper as soon as possible. I gradually added more naps in the crib as well. The transition was seamless, although once she was asleep I had to be careful not to wake her when I put her in the crib. AND I TRIED laying her down "drowsy but awake"...FAIL EVERY TIME. Whoever preaches that should be punched in the throat. Just kidding. It probably works for some babies! Just not most!!!!

Ava has never really been that "milk drunk" baby. She wakes up while being transferred from the car to the shopping cart/house (while still in the carseat), and WON'T go back down. Ava was that newborn who wasn't passed out far enough to be posed during her newborn photo shoot. It took so long, in fact, that the photographer asked me to come back for a THIRD day to get the rest of the shots. I decided it wasn't necessary because I was doubtful Ava would cooperate.

So Ava was a happy, swaddled, crib-sleeping baby 100% of the time from about 4 weeks on. BUT, she only napped for about 20-45 minutes. 30 is the average. 45 is a treat! She would sleep longer if she was held, so sometimes I did. She has only fallen asleep in her swing twice, and those were complete flukes. Often times she would wake in her crib just a few minutes after putting her down. During bad naps, I had to put her back down up to 4 times. Sometimes I couldn't get her back to sleep. There were times when she would only sleep 20 minutes.

She eventually lengthened the time she would sleep at night. I could get her to go 5 hour stretches, but she'd spend the first 3 in her crib, then wake up, and I would hold her to get the extra 2 out of her. Lots of nights sleeping semi-upright in the recliner in her room (after we bought the recliner, we realized it was the kind that the back doesn't stay reclined - you have to keep it pushed back with your body). My body ached in all sorts of weird places from my c-section and this type of sleeping. I hated it. But it was temporary, and soon she could get to 4-5 hours on her own. She had a couple of random nights where she would sleep 7-8 consecutive hours.

Things were going well with her sleep habits, except for her last nap of the day, which was happening around 6:00-7:00. Bedtime was around 9:00-9:30 on most nights. After several nights of struggle, I decided to try moving up her bedtime to 7:30 to absorb that last nap. The first night, she woke up like an hour later. The next night, she slept until 5!!!! And then after that she would usually wake up between 3-4 and then again around 6. Sometimes she'd throw in a 1:00 just to keep me on my toes. So I sacrificed sleeping through the night, but with an earlier bedtime, there was no more fussy last nap and I had some baby-free time in the evenings!

I had messed with her awake time a bit. All these things I was reading had me terrified of an overtired baby. It took me many weeks to realize that Ava's slight fussiness at 50 minutes of awake time is NOT her sleepy sign. The girl can almost always make it a full 2 hours before I see yawning AND glazed over eyes AND slightly red eyelids AND withdrawn, quiet behavior. It goes with her personality - she doesn't want to miss anything and wants to be awake. Whatever happens at 50 minutes is just her transition to the last part of her awake time, I guess.

Then little girl decided that she wanted to start trying to roll over. And her little toesies were at the end of her velcro swaddle blanket. And her arms would wiggle out of her swaddle by the end of her nap.

So I knew it was time to get rid of the swaddle!

I started by taking both arms out of the swaddle at nap time. Everything else stayed the same - she was rocked to sleep in the recliner in her room. Things went well for the first day and a half or so, until something came unhinged. She was now having crying fits when being put to sleep. I'm still not sure exactly what happened. Usually a change makes things worse in the beginning and then they get better - in this case, the opposite was happening! I was beside myself. Was she in the 4-month sleep regression already? Nighttime was unaffected. Did she have reflux? Got her checked out (I had been wondering if she had it for awhile); the doctor said she was too happy for reflux, and I agreed.

After a few days, she was out of the swaddle completely, and we now use a sleep sack. Once she was asleep she was fine. Her sleeping patterns were still normal for her. But she would scream and work herself into a fit when it was time to nap, and even a few times at bedtime! I tried rocking her, jiggling her, bouncing on a yoga ball with her, standing and swaying with her, standing and bouncing with her, even nursing her to sleep. I nailed blackout curtains to the wall and even resorted to bouncing her to sleep in our walk-in closet where it was pitch black. Nothing worked with consistency. What worked one time was not a guarantee that it would work the next. My back was starting to ache from all the bouncing, and deep down I knew this could not continue. I told myself I would only use the CIO method once both Ava and I were truly ready.

I realized that this was that time.

I wasn't able to comfort her in my arms, so what harm could there be in trying?

*****

So that's my Ava's sleep story. It kinda turned into a small novel. Sorry!

So at 3 months and 2 weeks, I began graduated CIO with little Ava Mack.

I also want to make a note that I am NOT going to ignore her cries in the middle of the night for feedings. Even though she has slept through the night before, she still needs to eat in the night. I won't be doing any kind of sleep training to remove her night feedings until she is older, until her doctor says its okay. My primary goal was to help my baby fall asleep at nap time.


DAY 1:


9:00 nap
First nap of the day - this is what finally made me ready to try CIO. Ava fought this nap like the dickens. She had gone down for naps pretty easily the day before, and I finally thought, there's no way I can continue like this. She is not comforted by any thing I do, it's her first nap of the day...why not try it.
So I laid her down in the crib. Of course, she'd already been crying pretty good for about 5-10 minutes, so she was already upset. I stayed right by the side of the crib where she could easily see me. I told myself that if I heard that hysterical, breathless cry that I would pick her up and comfort her and then lay her down again. Other than that, I was ready to let her cry.
It was bad. Although, not as bad as I thought it would be.
I had previously let her CIO many weeks back, swaddled next to me on our bed. I was curious to see how she would react. She had a "medium" cry and fell asleep after 30 minutes. I decided not to try it again.
She never did reach the hysterical cry, and I was SO relieved when I finally saw signs of sleepiness - her head tossing. She's done that ever since I've had her in the crib when she's about to fall asleep. Or working on putting herself to sleep. I felt the tears well up in my eyes a few times, but I reminded myself that holding her and trying to get her to sleep does nothing for her. She still screams. I knew it had to be done. So I was able to keep the tears from falling because I had exhausted every other idea.
She finally began to settle, and she went from constant crying to crying for a bit, bringing her hand to her mouth, taking a few breaths, and then back to crying.
Then the crying turned into just fussing. More head tossing. Her eyes were shut.
Less fussing. Her arms would wiggle around. She'd toss her head.
A total of 25 minutes...and she was asleep.
She did it. I did it!
She only slept for 30 minutes (which is normal for her) and I was sooooooo excited to get her up! Lots of kisses, a quick diaper change, quick tummy time, (in which she played a tune for me on her musical caterpillar and then rolled over!!! Just what mommy needed to feel better!) and then some quality nursing time.
12:00 nap
I was dreading this nap. I thought, ok, here we go...I was sad. I determined what the new nap time routine would be: put her in the sleep sack, carry her around the room with me as I closed the blinds, pulled the curtain, turned on the sound machine, closed the door,  swayed with her real quick up on my shoulder while I told her I loved her and gave her kisses, and then I laid her down in her crib and stood next to it.
This time, the crying was less intense. Of course, she wasn't already worked up like she was last time, but it never got to the level of last time. I made an effort to look at the clock, but apparently it didn't register because I don't remember what it said. I know I took her upstairs around 10 til, so I'm thinking it was about 11:55 when I laid her down. Her sleepy signs came on a lot quicker this time.
Head tossing. Arms flopping.
Her eyes weren't closed, though, until she was pretty much all the way asleep.
15 minutes later...she was asleep!
She slept for 40 minutes.
Now I know that it takes 3 points on a graph to show a directional trend (I remember this from college) so I can't say that the next nap will be even better, because it could still get worse. I've learned not to get my hopes up - that's how ALL of last week was with her - I'd find a way to get her to sleep and the next time it failed!
But I'm still hopeful!
3:00 nap
Ava was very tired about 30 minutes before her nap. To keep her happy I was holding her a lot and I had her in the swing for a bit. I went up to her room to start her nap time routine a few minutes before 3:00. I did the nap time routine and laid her down.
She was tossing her head within 5 minutes and didn't fuss very much. She'd get close to drifting off, and then she'd fuss herself awake.
She brought her hand to her mouth a few times. More head tossing.
11 minutes later...she was asleep.
I watched her on the monitor and she tossed her head around for a few more minutes before settling her body.
She slept for 35 minutes.
5:00 nap
Soooo....complete failure on my part.
But not in the way you'd think!
Time got away from me and Ava and I were outside playing with the dog. I came inside and realized it was already 5:05! I hurried to get her upstairs. I did her nap time routine and laid her in the crib. She was quiet for the first few minutes, but my eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark and I couldn't tell what she was doing.
Then the crying began. As I was standing there, I realized I skipped winding her down before her nap. I was so concerned with being "late" for her nap that I didn't really do it. She was sitting in my lap outside, but for her I don't think that was sufficient. And then, as she continued to cry, I was thinking about the timing of this nap, and even though she had been awake for about 2 hours, this nap was scheduled an hour sooner than all of her other naps had been. She had been really hit or miss with this nap in the last week or so, but she could never make the stretch all the way to bedtime.
I should have thought ahead about this and planned a little better. Poor Ava cried and cried and cried. And it was too late - my hands were tied. If I picked her up, I would undo ALL my hard work from the day. I had to let her cry until she fell asleep.
She cried for an hour. She'd calm herself down, toss her head and get quiet, and then it would start up again, so at least it wasn't constant crying, but she was pretty upset. She managed to wriggle her way to the far left side of her crib, even with the sleep sack on, to the point where her head was going to hit the rails. I knew it was coming...I had to drag her back to the middle of the crib. I did it with minimal touching. She cried more. I could not stop my tears. I felt like such a bad mom. By the time she fell asleep, it was 6:11. My shirt sleeves were soaked with my silent tears and from wiping my nose that would not quit running.
I silently crumpled to the floor and laid there with the smell of stinky diapers in her trash can, which happened to be right next to my face. I was too afraid I would wake her up if I tried to creep out of the room. Obviously, this nap is too early. I will have to move it to 6:00 and then bump her bedtime to 8 and see how that goes.
And then something else occurred to me...I have to decide if I still want nursing to be the last part of her bedtime routine. CIO websites say to nurse 20 minutes before sleep time to avoid "falling asleep while nursing". So I probably need to adjust her bedtime routine to nurse first, then bath/lotion/jammies/story. That way my husband can put her to bed too, instead of it always having to be me. Am I ready for that?!
She slept for...well, she thought it was bedtime and didn't wake.
Right when I was getting in bed I saw her stirring on the monitor and her eyes popped open. I decided to go in and quickly change her into jammies and nurse her. She hadn't eaten in 5 hours. I laid her in her crib and she went right back to sleep.
I was worried about what time she would wake. I was prepared for a rough night!
She woke again at just before 1:00, 2:15, 4:45, and was up for the day at 6:00.
I chose to basically nurse her to sleep for all of those times. The waking in the 2:00 hour was tricky, though, because she was acting wide awake. So I stayed crib side for a bit while she jabbered and played with her hands in the dark. I was about to fall over from being so tired, so I sat in her recliner, dreading when the crying would start. I was already begging for it to be dawn so we could be up for the day, despite me feeling so tired already. I just wanted to try things again, but this time WAKE her from her last nap and keep her on schedule.
And amidst all those thoughts, I suddenly realized there were no noises coming from the crib. I stared hard across the room in the darkness, trying to see what she was doing. And she was asleep. It had been 20 minutes. Thank goodness! I crept back to bed, but I barely slept until her next waking. My mind was racing. What if I can't get her back to sleep the next time?!
I fell asleep while nursing her at the 4:00 waking, so she slept in my arms until 6. And even though her schedule is based on a 7:00 waking, reaching 6 was good enough for me. Let's get this day going!

Day 2

8:00 nap
Ava was pretty tired by about 7:30, so I ended up laying her down at about 7:40. I stood about a foot away from the crib, but where I was still in her line of vision. She cried/fussed for 6 minutes and settled down. I thought she was asleep so I left to go lay in bed. I watched her on the monitor and she was still awake, just tossing her head and babbling a bit. She was finally still by just before 8. 
She slept for 30 minutes. And so did I.
11:00 nap
Since Ava woke at 8:30, I knew making it to 11 would be a stretch. So I had her in her crib by 10:40. Again, I was a foot away from the crib. She mostly just fussed and at one point it built up to a cry. But 6 minutes later, she was quiet, and 5 minutes after that, she was asleep. So 11 minutes total.
She slept for 40 minutes.
2:00 nap
I'd been having such luck with putting Ava down at 20 minutes til the hour that I thought I'd continue with it, despite not seeing many sleepy signs from her. She was actually playing quite nicely by herself, allowing me to go clean the half bath! But I knew not to push her. 
She mildly fussed (no crying at all this time!) for a few minutes off and on, and she was out in 10 minutes flat.
She slept for 30 minutes.
5:00 nap
Ava only made it to a hair before 4:30. Her signs were making it very clear - she was even a bit fussy. I tried to push her just a little by laying her down on my bed with me while I sang to her. And guess what? She started tossing her head. A clear sign! Poor girl was too sleepy! 
She made some loud, random vocalizations resembling crying and fussing for about 5 minutes after laying her down. And again...out in 10!
She slept for 30 minutes.
7:30 Bedtime
Her bedtime routine starts a half hour before her official bed "time", although this really can vary depending on if we give her a full bath or not (I wash her hair nightly to combat mild cradle cap; it's hard to see under all her hair, but it's there!) and also how long she nurses.
First, she gets her vitamin D in the kitchen (I'll be honest...some nights I forget! I probably just need to start doing it in her bathroom). Then she either gets a full bath or just a quick shampoo (full bath is on Wednesdays and Saturdays or Sundays). Next is lotion and jammies, followed by a few moments at the hair salon (her hair is OUT OF CONTROL if it is not brushed down when wet!). Then she is put in her sleep sack and then reads a story in the recliner with mom or dad. Then the sound machine goes on and she is nursed until full or she is sleepy and starts tossing her head back and forth. I have always just laid her down in her crib after just a few minutes of rocking. It was never very hard to get her to sleep at bedtime.
I kinda feel like I don't want to change the routine. If I put nursing at the beginning of the routine, then it's too close to her last feeding. And since she is breastfed, she'll stay asleep longer if it's the last thing before she's asleep. I'm kinda not ready to give that up yet. If I discover it is interfering with sleep training, then I guess I will do it. But for now, I'm going to leave it how it is. Maybe once she drops her 4th nap it will make more sense to feed her first.
She was really tired tonite, so I sat her in her bumbo seat and put coconut oil on her flaky scalp at about 6:30 to let it sit for 10 minutes or so. I started her bedtime routine at 6:45.
By 7:15 she was at the end of nursing and was whipping her head back and forth. I usually have to decide when she is done because she can't decide when to stop nursing, and she will just latch and unlatch repeatedly. I carried her upright to her crib, told her I loved her and gave her kisses and laid her down. She was definitely drowsy, but still awake.
She silently threw her head around for 10 minutes and then was asleep.
Ahhhh.
I am so encouraged by what a great day she had! And I'm surprised I was able to survive quite well with just one half-hour nap!

Day 3

9:00 nap
Ava woke just before midnight, 4:30, 6, and was up for the day just after 7. I debated on whether or not she was up for the day at 6. And that might just be something she is working towards. I decided to nurse her and put her back down. She did go down pretty quick. She used to only wake around 4 to nurse and then went back to sleep and then would wake at 6 or 7. I usually nursed her and let her snooze in my arms until 7 or 8, but I'm going to have to quit that now that I'm sleep training. So if she can just drop that midnight/1:00 waking, then we are golden! But I also realize she is adjusting to her new schedule and her feedings spaced at 3 hour intervals. During the 10 days of fussy naps, she was nursing more often but not for very long. Now she does full sessions on each side. So I figure it's normal for her to have an extra night waking or two until she adjusts.
Ava was acting fussy and tired at around 8:30. I had her laying in the crib at 8:45. I backed farther away from the crib this time, but still in her line of vision. I'm not really sure if she even knows I'm there or looks for me, but the goal is to stay consistent. She did more crying than fussing this time, for about 20 minutes. She was kind of restless for the first 10 minutes she was asleep, so it was a bit hard to determine when she was fully asleep.
She slept for 35 minutes.
I tried to nap too, but I could hear the dog getting into stuff downstairs, so I had to get up. I sometimes forget I have 3 other "children" with four legs that I have to keep track of, too!
12:00 nap
Again, Ava was showing pretty clear tired signs 30 minutes prior to nap time. I had her in her crib by 11:45. She spent 8 minutes fussing (there was one cry) and 2 minutes later, she was asleep.
She slept for 30 minutes.
3:00 nap
I had Ava in her crib by 2:30. She's acting pretty tired today. She mildly fussed for 8 minutes and was asleep 2 minutes later.
She slept for 20 minutes.
Upon waking, she began to fuss a bit. I was watching her on the monitor and as she was coming out of her sleep, she was tossing her head around. She was trying so hard to make that transition to deeper sleep. My poor girl just can't do it yet. So I left her in her crib for awhile to see if she'd go back to sleep. Because I put her down early, there was still a full hour before her scheduled feeding time.
She quietly sucked on her fingers with an occasional fuss thrown in. I watched for head tossing.
Then she started crying, but there was some really intense head tossing going on. She got really worked up, but there was still so much head tossing. When she would turn her head toward the camera, I could see that her eyes were getting droopy in the moments between her loud cries.
Lots of head tossing, lots of crying. This is the first time she has had to try to go back to sleep on her own after waking early from a nap. And she was pretty pissed about it.
But I knew I couldn't go to her. She was so tired today; there was no way 20 minutes of sleep was enough.
She would settle herself down, have her eyes almost shut, and then cry herself awake again.
After 30 minutes, she was quiet. Add in 10 more minutes of head tossing, and she was back asleep. 
But only for like a minute. She couldn't seem to keep her eyes closed.
She then brought her hands to her mouth, eyes wide open. I quickly went to her as she started to fuss. I knew she wouldn't go back to sleep.
Poor girl. Longer naps will just have to wait, I guess. 
6:00 nap
I really had to watch for tired signs for this last nap of the day since her last nap technically ended at just after 3:00.
Right as I was thinking of laying her down, she had a big blowout on daddy. So we had to strip her and give her a baby wipe bath. So I spent about 5 minutes holding her and quietly singing to her to get her back to a more calm state. I laid her down just after 5:15 and it took 8 minutes of fussing and 10 minutes total until she was asleep.
She slept 30 minutes.
7:30 Bedtime
The bedtime routine started right at 7. She was in her crib, awake, just before 7:30. She quietly talked to herself a time or two and kicked her legs around and was asleep in 10 minutes.

Day 4

8:00 nap
Ava woke at 11, 2:30, and just before 6. She took both sides at her 2:30 feeding, so she is clearly hungry and not just looking for comfort or a quick snack to get back to sleep. I am feeling very tired. These night wakings are wiping me out. According to the Wonder Weeks app, 3.5 to 4.5 months is just one giant developmental leap, so I'm not too concerned about these wakings. Hopefully it will improve as the weeks go by. 
I had Ava in her crib by 7:45. I decided to sit in the recliner. I really don't think she can see me, and she doesn't know to look for me yet, but I thought that maybe she could still smell me. Tomorrow I will leave the room completely. She barely made any noises at all and was asleep in about 8 minutes. It was kind of hard to see from across the room what she was doing, but I verified that she was asleep on the monitor once I left the room.
She slept for 30 minutes.
11:00 nap
I decided I was feeling brave and wanted to experiment a bit for this nap. Ava would hit the 2 hour awake mark at about 10:15. She wasn't showing a whole lot of tiredness, but I thought I should put her down instead of trying to push her for the sake of a schedule.
So at just after 10:15, she was in her crib, and I sat in the recliner. Unbelievably, she was quiet, and 4 minutes later, I found myself thinking, "is she asleep already?!"
She falls asleep with her head turned to her left, towards the wall and camera. So I crept out of the room to check on the monitor.
She. Was. Asleep.
She slept for 25 minutes.
I am beginning to lose hope that anything I do will affect how long she sleeps. I just keep hoping that one of these times she can make that transition into deeper sleep.
2:00 12:45 nap
So obviously the schedule is way off now. 2 hours of awake time puts nap time at 12:45 for her. I had her in her crib by 12:30. She was very fussy and wanted to be held for most of her awake time. She was asleep in 5 minutes with a little fussing.
I'm thinking I'm going to have to go back to a rolling schedule with her, instead of the 3 hour set schedule. If I'm doing the math right, she's going to end up with an extra nap and an extra feeding today, which maybe is exactly what she needs to get a better night's sleep.
She slept for 30 minutes.
I've been tracking the length of her naps on a little chart, and while she slept at this nap, I decided to fill in the times she fell asleep at as well.

Fancy, ain't it?!
I guess I didn't realize that she has technically been awake for 2 1/2 hours this whole time. In the beginning it was due to the time she spent getting to sleep, but I never really fixed it. It's interesting to me that now that I am back on a rolling schedule for her that she can fall asleep much quicker. We'll see how she does for the rest of the day.
...3:00 nap
She will for sure get an extra nap and feeding tonight.
She was fussy and ready for her nap. I had her in her crib at 2:45. She was asleep 5 minutes later.
She slept for 35 minutes.
5:30 nap
I had her in bed by 5:20. Little one wasn't as sleepy this time - it took just about 30 minutes for her to fall asleep. There was fussing and lots of kicking and head tossing. I guess I didn't stimulate her enough for this awake period.
She continued to sleep for 40 minutes when I had to go in and wake her up.
7:30 8:00 bedtime
I bumped bedtime back a half hour. She was still nursing at 7:00! She wasn't really interested in nursing as a part of her bedtime routine, probably because she had literally just eaten. I had her in bed just before 8 and she spent about 10-15 minutes kicking and talking to herself a bit before she fell asleep.

Day 5

8:30 nap
Ava only woke at 2:00 in the night, and she woke for the day at 6:30. Today is the day I begin laying her in her crib and then immediately leaving the room.
It took her 10 minutes to fall asleep, and she slept for 35 minutes.
11:00 nap
It's looking like Ava will be on a 2 1/2 hour schedule instead of a 3 hour one. It was just too much awake time for her since she only sleeps for half an hour.
It took her 20 minutes to fall asleep, and she slept for 30 minutes.
1:45 nap
It took her 5 minutes to fall asleep, and she slept for 90 minutes.
Yes, you read that correctly...I had to wake her at 1.5 hours to keep her on schedule!!
5:30 nap
It took her 10 minutes to fall asleep, and she slept for 40 minutes.
7:30 bedtime
It took her 10 minutes to fall asleep.

Day 6

8:30 nap
It took Ava 15 minutes to fall asleep and she slept 35 minutes.
11:00 nap
It took Ava 5 minutes to fall asleep and she slept 40 minutes.
1:45 nap
It took Ava 5 minutes to fall asleep and she slept 40 minutes.
4:30 nap
It took Ava 25 minutes to fall asleep and she slept 10 minutes.
Well, that was surprising.
What was even more surprising was her MASSIVE blowout she had 10 minutes after being out of her crib! Her belly was probably preventing her from sleeping well! I chose to keep her up and move up bedtime.
7:00 bedtime
Ava fell asleep while nursing and didn't wake for the transfer to the crib.

Day 7

8:00 nap
It took her 15 minutes to fall asleep. She was babbling the whole time...it was so cute to listen to over the monitor! She slept for 30 minutes.
10:30 nap
It took her 5 minutes to fall asleep and she slept for 35 minutes.
1:00 nap
It took her 10 minutes to fall asleep and she slept for 45 minutes.
3:45 nap
It took her 10 minutes to fall asleep and she slept for 55 minutes.
7:30 bedtime
Asleep at 7:30 on the dot. She talked herself to sleep.

...One Week Later:

Ok, so I was going to continue to log her sleeping, but this post is already out of control in length. I will update in later posts! 

*****
Ava responded so well to CIO. And I do not feel like Ava feels "abandoned" or "scarred for life". Was is hard? Of course. Am I glad I did it? YES!! No regrets...I'm not sure what I would have done without this training! Ava is now more well-rested (her overall daytime sleep increased by an average of 35 minutes each day, and she is having the occasional long nap!) and has a much less stressed out mommy who is better able to meet her needs and make her awake time that much more fun!

Ava has always had a very eager, "me do it" personality. She has surprised us with her early milestones: smiles, stable head control, laughs, bearing weight on her legs, rolling over, and attempts at "crawling". She can do so much for a 3 month old! So it is fitting that one day Ava just decided that she wants to put herself to sleep. I only wish I could have figured it out instead of going insane for 10 days!

I have probably made a lot of drastic changes for Ava - removing the swaddle AND doing sleep training within about a week of each other. Most of the time I'm pretty sure that's not recommended. But, it has worked pretty well for us and it is so worth the exhausting weeks that it took to be swaddle free, and now we have an independent sleeper!

Here's how to be the most successful at using a CIO method:


-Make sure your baby is at least 3 months old AND developmentally "ready" to be trained to put themselves to sleep. If it goes horribly after a week, make sure you are being consistent at every sleep. Or it could be that your child simply isn't ready. These are my opinions. 

-Make sure you know your child's sleep schedule and you can identify their sleep signs.

-Pick a week when you don't have much going on so you don't have to leave the house unneccesarily and you have the ability to forget about the chores so you can mentally, emotionally, and physically make it through your day.

-Make sure you have chocolate/wine/junk food to get you through these though days!

-If it doesn't feel right to you, then don't do it!! It will be hard no matter what, but only YOU can decide what is right for your child. Don't let anyone, any site, or any book dictate how you raise your baby. Always start with the guidance of your child's pediatrician.

**Remember, the goal of CIO is NOT for your baby to not cry or fuss at sleep times, but to be able to self-soothe! Just remember, no two babies are alike, and they all have their own preferences!

GOOD LUCK!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

No, Seriously...What You REALLY Need to Know About Having A Newborn

There are about 10 bajillion posts and articles that talk about what "they" don't tell you about having a newborn. And they all kinda say the same thing, but it's not really anything that you couldn't have already predicted...



"you will be tired"
"your lady parts will hurt"
"you won't have time to shower for days"
"you won't feel like yourself"

Duhhhhhh.

So I'm going to share what I've learned so far that has been shocking to me. Or at least things that I didn't think about.

Pregnancy was dreamland for me. I had a fabulous pregnancy and up until the last week before she was born (she was born at 40 weeks and 1 day), I wasn't too uncomfortable. I was so happy to finally be pregnant and I loved to sit and fantasize about our upcoming life with our little Ava.

And then the little bundle of joy arrived!!

But...where was the joy?!




1. It is not uncommon to not instantly "be in love" with your child. Now this is not to say that you don't love your child at all, but you have just gone through a very traumatic thing and you need time to recover, regardless of what type of delivery it was. I don't care who you are - delivery is a straight up MIRACLE and I still look at my body in amazement that it can grow and then "expel" a human child. And then go back to the way it was before. Sorta. ;)

And then your hormones are all a-whack and annoyingly don't normalize for months! You are distracted by your poor healing body that is so deservingly tired, and your mind tells you to be in love with your baby, but sometimes the hormones just aren't quite there yet.

Anyway, I did feel the initial love for my child. It was once we got home for a week or two and that feeling kinda faded. It was hard to connect with her because I simply didn't know her yet. We didn't know her sleeping preferences. Or her nursing habits. Or what her cries meant. We weren't sure what stationary equipment she'd like (swing, bouncy seat, rock and play). I had no idea what I was doing, even though I knew in general how to take care of a baby. There were no instructions or "babysitter's notes" to follow. Which leads me into my next topic...

2. Your baby has no idea what she's doing yet, either! Your baby has suddenly entered a world that is very different, and honestly it is quite scary for them. That's why they need you so much! You are the only thing that is familiar to them. I read a lot about the "fourth trimester" so I was prepared for this. Basically you need to do your best to recreate the womb experience for them. Loud (but not sudden) noises are soothing, so a sound machine is important. We had the tv on for background noise for like 2 weeks straight. 2 weeks, people!! I hated tv so much after that. But it helped Ava adjust! They need to be held close and swaddled. They don't know what it feels like to have their limbs flailing about and that is scary to them. And hunger...they don't know what that feels like, either! They are used to a steady stream of nourishment via the umbilical cord. Taking some time to research  the biology of a newborn can help you understand what a crazy thing she is going through and will help you to know how important your comforting is to her. She's learning all about this outside world, and she can't do it without you! 

I promise, in a few weeks she will have learned some new things, and so will you. It won't stay this confusing forever!

3. Not all newborns are great sleepers! I dumbly assumed that Ava would be able to just put herself to sleep when she was tired. As in, she would just pass out in my arms.

And sometimes she did.

Everyone talks about how sleepy newborns are, and while some babies do fall asleep anywhere, anytime, in any way, a lot of babies do not fall asleep this easily.

Ava is one of those babies.

I think that is the one thing I was the most surprised about. You have no idea what personality your baby will have, so don't assume anything! Seriously. Do some research before baby arrives about general feeding and sleeping issues and BOOKMARK or PIN the crap outta those websites...it is nice to have some resources on hand!

4. Buy blackout curtains. No, they are not the prettiest nor the most exciting curtain you can find, but they are essential. Basically, assume your baby will need all the help they can get sleeping. I read that sleeping for a baby is equally (if not more) important than eating! Babies NEED to sleep. Just like you...so forget the curtains that match the nursery. I had some that I had a feeling weren't going to block out enough light, and I was right. Ava's window faces east, so she gets the blaring morning sun. So I bought pink blackout curtains. 

But the light still came through the fabric!

So I bought a black set and put those behind the pink ones. 
(this can be done if you buy curtains with grommets)

And then I nailed the sides of the curtain to the wall.

And then I rolled up a towel to block the light on the top of the window.

So I have purchased 3 sets now. But it is helping! Once baby's vision improves, basically any light is stimulation! I had to unplug the nightlight in Ava's room. Then I had to turn the digital clock face-down. Then I had to get crazy with the window and get out the hammer and nails. Trust me...you will no longer care how things look as long as baby sleeps!

5. And can stores add mini refrigerators to baby registry options?! There were so many nights when I thought about this, and if Ava was fed bottles I would have seriously contemplated buying one for her room. I was the mommy who wanted my baby to be a crib sleeper and use her room to change her diaper and rock her in her chair. We are living room dwellers, so a walk to the refrigerator in the kitchen wasn't far, but I wanted her room to be a familiar, cozy place for her from the beginning. She was sleeping in her crib at night at about 2-3 weeks old and was in there for most of her naps a week or two later. So I was up in her room a lot! 

And I was always so dang thirsty in those first few weeks! And as a breastfeeding mommy, that is normal. It's important to hydrate and to eat. I sometimes wished I had a snack in her room, too. And then I was thinking, man, if she was formula fed, how would I do this? Go all the way downstairs to make her a bottle? Seriously...I would probably just have bottles made in the mini fridge and have a bottle warmer up there, too!

Am I the only person who has thought about this?! It would be SO handy! Snacks for me, snacks for baby...even teething rings could go in there!

You should consider it. Whatever makes your life easier with a newborn is what you should do!

6. It's going to appear that every other mother of a newborn has "it all together", making you feel like you are missing something. Trust me, just because you see a mother happily perusing the aisles at Target with her sleeping baby does not mean that is how her whole day is. That is simply a snippet of life with a newborn. It probably is the ONE time of day she can successfully get out of the house with a happy baby.

In public, you will appear to look good, seem rested, and be happy.

Notice I said "appear".

This is only because you want to act like you have it all together, because that's what you're supposed to do, right? Look awesome and know what to do all the time like your life hasn't changed at all??

NO, your life HAS CHANGED. Don't let it get you down if other mommies talk or act like their life is awesome every second. I promise you it's not! Having a newborn is not easy. And that is a fact. Behind closed doors, every mother struggles with her baby, her body, and her emotions. DON'T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL THAT WAY! It's completely normal to feel like a hot mess and wonder what in the world you have gotten yourself into.

And even if you have a "good" baby (rarely fusses and sleeps awesome) keep in mind that there are other babies who do not...so don't brag too much to other new mommies! It will only make them feel like they are doing something wrong with their own baby.

I feel like this topic is a bit taboo. Everyone talks about your sweet bundle of joy and how lucky you are (and you ARE lucky, even if you don't feel like it at the moment) and then when everyone leaves and you are alone with your sleeping (or screaming) sweetie, you wonder if you are really cut out for motherhood after all.

It's okay. The majority of us have been there!

7. Have a small stash of various infant medications before baby arrives.* Let me tell you, this was SO helpful for us because out of nowhere, our little tiny Ava was screaming in pain from the beginning stages of teething (did you know that their teeth move up and down in their gums before they cut through?! I didn't!) After some waiting it out and discussions between myself and my husband, we were able to give her some Tylenol to soothe her. And after her shots we gave her some too. It was nice to have some on hand to save us from having to run out to the store in the middle of the night. You won't be expecting it the first time baby needs medicine! It will help you to not feel so stressed out. I got my stash from one of my baby showers - I got baby Tylenol, Motrin, (only for after they are 6 months) gas drops, and a fast-read infant thermometer (for those dreaded rectal temperature-taking occasions!). I might also recommend getting a water-based lubricant to make rectal temperature taking more comfortable for baby! Vaseline will insulate the thermometer and give you a false reading, so it is not recommended.

*As always, consult your doctor before dispensing any medications to your newborn.

8. There is never, ever an easy answer to any parenting issue. Since no two babies are alike, you can google until your eyeballs fall out and you still won't have all the answers. Your baby will test your patience like you never imagined. But in such a cute, sweet, screaming way! 

Take a deep breath, and remember...they are helpless. They need you. And you are doing a FABULOUS job, even when you don't feel like it. All you can do is do your best. And your baby loves you for it.

I have experienced so many strangers see me out with Ava, and they smile and coo at her, and then their eyes meet mine and they say almost with a hint of sadness, "Enjoy her - she won't stay little forever!"

A lot of them have been middle-aged men. You can almost see the regret in their eyes, like they didn't enjoy that age enough or wish their kids could be in this "cuddling" age again.

So that's what keeps me grounded. In those moments, when I am on the verge of tears (or heck, I'm already crying) and I have a million thoughts in my head but not one idea works, I just try my best to remember to be grateful for this time I have with her at this age, and that she won't stay little forever. 

I can feel the time slipping between my fingers with her. So whatever this sleep regression craziness is that she's working on now, I just have to constantly remind myself that she won't be in this phase forever. It will be over soon.

Such a double-edged sword!

So, be prepared to love your sweet little baby, in the most selfless way you can imagine. And just know that whatever you are going through, it is verrrrrrrrry normal! And if deep down, you feel it's not normal, don't be afraid to speak up - talk to someone or talk to your doctor. There's no reason to be ashamed!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Pendulum of Motherhood

I've been asked by many people now what motherhood is like and if I'm just so happy and in love with it. 

Honestly, my answer starts with a big sigh, a half-smile, and I respond with something along the lines of "it's good, but..." and then I talk about the latest frustration or struggle. 

Most days there is a swinging pendulum of feelings. One moment, I'm overjoyed at the giggles and squeals I get out of Ava when we sing and dance, and the next thing I know, I'm feeling frustrated because she's fighting naptime and I have no idea why. And then after she wakes up from her 30 minute rest, she's kicking and smiling at me from the changing table. 

Highs and lows happen daily. Repeatedly. 

Ava has never been much of a crier, and for that I thank my lucky stars. She usually just has quiet whine and the occasional crying fit when she wants out of the car seat/is hungry and we aren't home yet. 

I'm currently in the process of attempting to wean her of the swaddle. This is my second attempt. She can roll from her belly to back, although she doesn't do it very often yet. She's also showing signs of being able to roll from her back to stomach soon. And once she does that, we have no choice but to get rid of the swaddle. It's so unfair that something so soothing to her has to be taken away! 

She was able to go both arms out overnight the other night. She woke 4 times, though...1,3,4, and 6:30! Each time she was hungry. I've read not to do any kind of sleep training during teething, illness, or growth spurt, but I feel like we are never going to get a clean shot since she always seems to be teething. And growing! So I decided, aw heck...she's waking a lot at night anyway, so let's just try both arms out and see how it goes! Even though she woke a lot, I was encouraged that she was able to sleep without fussing with her arms out. 

Her first nap of the day went well, too. I was able to swaddle her arms out, AND lay her in her crib awake after a few minutes of rocking. After 20 minutes of quietly laying in her crib, I had to go and help her get sleepy enough to fall asleep...but she did! She is normally rocked to sleep and then placed in her crib. So I was feeling pretty great! I thought cold turkey might work for her. 

But her next nap was nightmarish. I swaddled her arms out and began to rock her, and she immediately started crying. It's normal for her to fuss a bit before falling asleep, but this was full-blown crying. She's attempting to suck her thumb, but she's not very good at it yet...especially knowing what to do with her other 4 fingers. So they usually end up poking her in her eyes or grabbing her cheeks. She can't yet get her thumb in her mouth on the first try. So I thought, ok, she's frustrated that she can't get her thumb right. She'd get it in her mouth, stop crying and close her eyes. Then she'd pull it out in a few second and cry. And cry. Then she'd find her thumb and the cycle would repeat. 

This went on for about 10 minutes with no progress when I decided to swaddle her arms back in. That didn't help; she clearly still wanted her arms out.

Great.

So now we are stuck in between being swaddled and not. She wants to be out of it, I can tell, although she is still comforted by it, but she hasn't quite figured out what to do with her arms. 

She kept opening her mouth and crying like she wanted her thumb. I was so tempted to reach for that paci and see if that helped, but I didn't want her to have another crutch that I would later have to wean as well. She took her paci as a newborn, but she doesn't take it anymore. I am trying to teach her to use it as a teething tool - she will only munch on burp cloths for relief!

It occurred to me that she could be wanting to nurse, because that always calms her down, but I definitely didn't want to have that crutch to deal with. She simply is being taught to sleep without the swaddle and learn what to do with her arms, and I don't want to add nursing into her learning this new skill.

But then I felt terrible, because what if she was truly hungry? And I was not feeding her? I have a schedule that we loosely follow, but lately she'd been eating every 2 hours instead of 2.5-3 hours. So I sat there, rocking my crying/screaming baby, wondering what in the world to do. What decision to make? Give in, or continue the "sleep training"?

Those moments are so not fun. She rarely cries, so when she does, I feel so confused and helpless and frustrated when I can't soothe her.

I'd had so much success in getting her to sleep the last few times this way...what was different this time??

Fortunately I got her to sleep in the next few minutes. I held her for that nap and slept with her in the chair. I was too tired to attempt to get her in the crib without waking. 

I didn't bother attempting arms out the rest of the day. I was not feeling like trying it again.

I'm learning some days are just like that.

Some days are going to be harder than others and have setbacks. It doesn't mean its hopeless and you should give up, just that you can try again tomorrow. Babies need to be taught to do something new, and that takes multiple times to adjust.

I think I get the most confused and frustrated when I have raging success with something, and the next time I try it, it fails miserably. I literally go from feeling so, so elated to feeling quite the opposite. Sometimes multiple times in one day!! I keep reassuring myself that it's not a big deal...we can try again tomorrow...or next week. It's so hard to match up when a child is "ready" to learn a skill and when you are wanting to teach it to her.

I mostly struggle with finding her "window" of sleepiness. In my last post I touched on this - I was napping her too early, and she fought going to sleep. While she is now teething, I have to pay extra close attention to her sleepy signs. Her fussiness of teething makes me think she is tired early and napping doesn't go well. She can be distracted to stay awake too long...I've let that happen a few times and napping didn't go well then, either. Right at two hours of awake time is usually her sweet spot and she only wimpers and shuts her eyes within a minute or two of rocking.

So yes, I love being a mommy to Miss Ava. She is such joy! But motherhood itself is a challenge. People always say "it's so hard to be a parent", and it is very true. And it is so hard to put it into a simple sentence what "it's so hard" means. 

It's any situation where you are scared, confused, frustrated, tired, exhausted...more or less, you simply don't know what to do. With all my experience with babies, I do have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but there are times when I don't know what decision to make. The only person who can solve the problem is you. You are the mommy. And sometimes you can't solve it!

Parenthood is trial and error. Ups and downs. And sometimes things just have to suck for a little bit before time makes it all better. Give you baby a week and sometimes the very thing they hated suddenly becomes the thing they love.

I do spend a considerable amount of time googling things and reading other peoples' stories of their struggles and what worked for them. And while it's fine to adapt that to your baby, just remember that you do not have to hold yourself to anyone else's standard of raising a baby. Only you can decide the best way to raise your child. If it doesn't feel right to you after a few tries, abandon ship and try again another time...or maybe a different method all together!

I am hoping that the next time I post Ava will have successfully weaned from the swaddle. But I'm trying hard not to hold my breath about it. I guess if I don't have expectations then I can't be disappointed...it would just be so great if she can do it!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

3 Months: The End of the "Fourth Trimester"

Oh, my baby girl!!!

She has officially left the newborn phase, and is now an infant!

She has been changing so fast lately...I also noticed a lot of changes in her around 8 weeks. It must be those growth spurts!

So we didn't end up weaning her of her swaddle. I tried weaning at naps for 2 days with just one arm out, and I couldn't even get her to sleep while holding her. Her arm would just whack her in the face and wake her up once she was asleep. So I decided that it wasn't quite time. She has been busting out of her swaddle a lot lately, so I'm hoping she gets used to that feeling and will make the weaning process a bit easier the next time I try.

She has gotten really good at putting herself back to sleep during the night, though. I'll watch her on the monitor and she will have her eyes open and then whip her head back and forth and wiggle for a few minutes and then she's asleep again. I've been trying to lay her down for naps and bedtime before she is 100% asleep so that eventually I will be able to lay her down awake and she can just drift off. We are nowhere near close to that for naps, but I feel like it might be possible soon at bedtime. There have been a few nights where I lay her in her crib to swaddle her up at the end of the bedtime routine (fresh diaper, lotion, jammies, read a book, nurse) and I realize once I'm done wrapping her up that she's already asleep. The few times that has happened, I have just left her in her crib, thinking "ah man, I don't get to rock her to sleep?!" BUT, it makes me hopeful for her being able to put herself to sleep in the future. I read online that putting themselves to sleep at night is a different skill than at nap time during the day. I'm really not wanting to do the cry it out method. I'm hoping that she will continue to be easy to put down with just about 10 minutes of rocking, which is the case most of the time. That's not so bad!

I realized the other day that Ava was fussing at nap time because I was putting her down too early! Poor girl - she was crying because she wasn't done playing! She can handle around an hour and a half, sometime 2 hours, of awake time before she needs to sleep. Mornings she's more sleepy. We recently adjusted her bedtime from 9:00 to 7:30. Her last nap was always such a fight, so the change made sense. I was reluctant to do so because she had just started to consistently sleep from 9 to 5 in the morning...so glorious!! But the nights were becoming no fun and it was hard to find time to make dinner and keep her happy. The first night she woke several times. The second night she slept til almost 6!! But then a growth spurt popped up on us. The girl eats and eats at night! And it is showing in her chubby legs and arms. I tried to dress her in a size 3 month romper and it was too tight - in the thighs! She had red marks on her legs before her first nap time! So I've been getting much less quality sleep lately, but I'm learning to cope!

I noticed a remarkable difference in her tummy time since the start of this growth spurt. She has learned to prop her arms underneath her to bear weight, instead of bearing it on her belly. She now will chat with her toys while doing tummy time, and the other morning I had her on her belly on the changing table and she was laughing at her daddy!! I never thought we would reach that point! I have done a variety of methods with tummy time. In the beginning, we were mostly doing tummy time with her on our chest in the recliner. We had her on the floor like only once a day for a few minutes. Well, our pediatrician said that wasn't enough. I should have known better; I know how important tummy time is! I started using a propping pillow that came with her play gym (think mini boppy pillow) or I would lay her flat on the play gym. I would make her toys make noise and use mirrors and talk to her, and as much as I hated to make her lay there and cry, I saw that once she got frustrated that she was using her body differently and moving in ways she wasn't when she was calm. So I knew I had to let her get to that point to figure out how to work her body! Then I would mix in a few sessions with the boppy. She was still a bit small to use it for tummy time, but she seemed to like it a bit more. I put a big toy that played music and would light up to grab her attention. The bottom line? I tried to make tummy time different for her each time. I think what really helped was when I started doing sessions on the changing table. I'd change her after her nap, and then flip her over. She liked that she could see more since she was off the floor, and I was able to bend down and have some "FaceTime" with her. I think that kind of tummy time is still her favorite!

She has really been exploring her voice over the last month! Cooing, babbling...squealing...screeching...high-pitched screams (SO LOUD), and her latest: grunting repeatedly. So many noises! She sounds like a parrot most of the time!

It is so much easier now to do things that I want to do during the day when it's just me and Ava. She can handle staying awake longer. She actually enjoys car rides now that she can see everything and look out the window (I read that babies have full vision by 3-4 months). Now that she doesn't hate her car seat anymore, (although we discovered she hates being awake in the car when it's dark outside, probably because she can't see anything) I am taking her with me on my jog-walks more often (half jog, half walk, haha). When it comes to falling asleep, she prefers the motion of the stroller when I walk, not when I jog, so I have to walk when she's trying to fall asleep.

I have to say, even though I am getting up a few times a night recently, I have adjusted well to lack of sleep...without the use of caffeine! I really can't nap during the day because her naps are so short; by the time I fall asleep she wakes up 15 minutes later. Sometimes I snooze with her in the chair in her room, but it's not a very restful nap for me. It hasn't been as hard as I thought to get outside and exercise because she is content the whole time and I get one "free nap" - the stroller does all the work for me. So I look forward to our outings. I try to do it daily, depending on the weather and if we have errands to run. The busier I can stay during the day, the less I notice my sleepiness. Unfortunately, the nights that Ava sleeps well, I still wake up every few hours, wondering if she's awake too. She won't cry for me until she's been awake for a good 5 minutes, but I usually hear the rustling of her movement or her lip-smacking over the monitor before she cries. Unless I'm completely exhausted. It's like my body anticipates her waking up. So either way, I'm waking up at night!

She loves to hang out in her play gym and have conversations with the hanging animals and bat at them. She enjoys gnawing on her wrists and munching on her fingers. She's definitely teething, but fortunately it's not so bad that she is out of sorts, she's just drooling and putting everything she can [muster the coordination for] in her mouth. Only once in awhile does she fuss about it. It usually is right after a feeding, and she likes to grab the burp cloth while I burp her so she can chomp on it. She enjoys her baths and likes to sit in her bumbo seat and bop her toys on the tray. She discovered the tv a few weeks back, and I try to keep her angled away from it, but she manages to find it! I have used my phone for tummy time to get her to look in different directions! She will sit in our laps and scroll through Facebook with us! :) For some reason she is mesmerized by the back of my phone, too, which makes it so easy to get really good photos of her looking directly at the camera! I have to work to get her to smile, though. If I put my phone right next to my face, she prefers to look at the phone over my face, and she has a very serious look on her face while she studies it!

She's getting so big! She's almost outgrown her velcro swaddling blankets. Just in the last few days, I have noticed that she prefers to sit in her bumbo seat. She still likes her play gym, but I think she's getting used to being upright and likes it more. I can't wait for her to have the muscle control for the jumperoo...I think she's going to love it!!

It's great to finally be at a place where Ava is not so much constant work. She used to be so tricky to get down for a nap. Lots of rocking, no sudden movements or sounds (even with the sound machine), and if you couldn't get her in her crib without keeping her perfectly still, she'd start to squirm and then wake up. And of course, these military housing units are old and creaky, so on the way out of the room you could count on waking her up if you stepped on the wrong part of the floor. And I'd finally get her down, she would wake up in 20 minutes. She is still the queen of the short nap, but instead of a bajillion naps a day (which was so exhausting to have to go through all that each time) she is down to 4/5 naps a day. I'm really trying hard to keep her up for 2 hours between naps. It seems to be helping a lot - she's much easier to get to sleep (often times her eyes are shut within 30 seconds of rocking) and squirming in her crib is now her way of getting comfy and drifting off from light sleep into deeper sleep.

Since she doesn't take long naps, her awake time is usually when I get stuff done. I just sit on the floor with her in between chores. We got this play mat and I am in love with it! The price has been sneaking up on it - it was $73 and we waited too long to buy it and had to spend $94 on it. But it is HUGE; it is longer than our love seat! It is a gel mat, so it makes getting down on the hard floor to play with her so much more comfortable! Plus, you just wipe it down to clean it. And it's reversible...and has so many cute teachable things on it!! I can't wait for us to count the cows and find all the ducks together!

The newborn phase is over!! She wasn't a particularly fussy baby, in fact, she really didn't do a whole lot of crying. But it was such an adjustment and a steep learning curve! I felt like I would finally get to know her and then something would change (developmental leaps, growth spurts, teething, shots). I am thankful we had a small stash of infant medicines so we didn't have to run out in the middle of the night to buy it all.

We have figured out a few things that make her giggle! She likes to be bounced on the bed - her eyes get really big and she opens her mouth wide and laughs! She also likes it when you make her "dance" and bounce her while you hold her. Singing to her as well is what really gets the giggles going! The other day I was holding her in the backyard and sorta stomping around with Duke, and I realized she was laughing! What a goofy girl.

I sure did love little tiny baby Ava, but the newborn phase is just not for me. Some say that's their favorite phase...I was way too stressed and exhausted to enjoy it much! I couldn't get out of bed without help for 2 weeks. I didn't feel "normal" until 4 weeks postpartum. I couldn't drive until 6 weeks. I didn't feel the "okay, I have the hang of this" until about 8-10 weeks. And now I feel so much more joy and don't feel overwhelmed very often. 

I am so blessed to be able to stay at home with my baby. I try very hard not to take that for granted. My husband has made a lot of sacrifices to get to where he is today so that we can be a one-income household. I have dreamed of doing this very thing for my entire adult life, and now it has come to be my reality. That is what grounds me when I'm feeling frustrated when Ava is fussy or won't sleep like I want her to, or she doesn't just let me sit and do what I want (blogging!). I get one chance at this day with her. And then she's one day older, growing up before my eyes. 

I am happy I have the educational background that I do - I can't even begin to count the number of hours I have spent working in an infant classroom. Fall semester my senior year of college my practicum was in the infant room, which was 20 hours per week. PLUS I worked Tuesday and Thursday mornings in an infant room at a local preschool. So whenever I feel overwhelmed with Ava, a singular baby, I think back to my time working with 9 babies. All. Day. Long. I am excited to implement some of the things I have learned with Ava!

And yes, I plan on doing circle time with her! We will sing about the days of the week and look outside to check on the weather. I'm on the hunt for infant crayons (yes, they exist...they are the shape of a small egg for easy grasping) and I'm beginning to look up edible fingerpaint recipes on Pinterest. I'm going to teach her sign language. And Spanish. (Pull up your google app on your phone and say "ok google" and ask how to say a word in spanish...it will pronounce it for you!) Ahhh...I can't wait to finally do these things with my own baby!

And meanwhile there are dishes in the sink and dirty dog print floors and dust on every surface and an abundance of crockpot dinners.

SO what.

I have my Ava.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Reflection of The Newborn Phase: Adjusting to It All

So I went for my first run jog bouncy speed-walk with Ava in the jogging stroller.

It was a rude awakening.

I felt like I had a black hole was where my lower abdominals should have been.

My butt jiggled...out of control.

My legs burned. Probably because of poor form since I could hardly pick my feet up.

It got me thinking...when was the last time I went for a jog??

Probably about this time last year.

Well that certainly doesn't help.

Although I wouldn't exactly call my "run" a success, I know its a step in the right direction. I feel like 10 weeks after your belly is cut open and then you drop 40 pounds, being able to get out and jog at all is a pretty big deal.

As "not fun" as these walk/runs are, I know it will always make me feel better and help me stay active and restore function to my muscles. Plus, Ava is usually content and drifts off to sleep, allowing me to have a much needed mental break. Fresh air and exercise really is the best medicine! And it got me reflecting on these last 11ish weeks.

Birth is such a miraculous thing!

And then you come home with your newborn.

That is miraculous as well...miraculous in that you live to tell about it!!

Tell me how I had an emergency c-section and I only spent 48 hours in the hospital...and I didn't even get offered a wheelchair to the car!! (We loved the labor and delivery staff...the mother and baby nurses? Not so much.)

Walking was an interesting feeling. No more baby in my belly, but in her place was a giant basketball of jello. I felt like a stomping giant, unsure of how to move this new baby less body. It was like someone had taken gravity and rotated it a few degrees. 

So I guess it makes sense that running feels very odd right now. 

I'm just thankful that I have the energy to run at all! I'm getting around 8 hours total of sleep at night, so that's great! But with her short naps and inability to stay awake for more than 1.5 hours at a time, my fuel tank gets emptied quickly!

Here's what a day looked like in that first week (now that I have brainpower, time, and ability to reflect on it):

Feed your baby, which may or may not include any of the following:

-trying to figure out how to sit so little floppy baby can latch best
-use both hands for proper baby/breast positioning 
-look at the clock and record the time and which side baby is eating on
-help baby relatch
-adjust baby so she's not putting pressure on your incision; possibly switch to a different hold (cradle, football)
-wake baby after she falls asleep while eating (tickling toes, rustle the head, undress baby, change diaper, wet washcloth on the back)
-record end time for first side
-burp little floppy baby
-help baby latch on the second side
-adjust baby so you are comfortable 
-potentially wake baby again...
-record end time for that side 
-burp floppy baby again
-apply nipple cream
-put nursing pads in your bra
...and 45 minutes later, you're done feeding your baby! And that's only the first thing you've done since you have been home!!

And you get to do it again in another hour or so. (Round the clock, for the first 2-4 weeks.)

I spent so much time feeding her, and then holding her while she slept that I was barely getting off the couch during the day.

Except to pee. I was so filled with fluids from 9 months of 64 ounces of water a day, plus all the IV fluids from delivery, that I was leaking fluids everywhere. Ok, that sounds gross, but it is true! Going to the bathroom, sweating...those fluids were finding their way out of my body so fast that I'm pretty sure that the first 10-15 pounds I lost was strictly water weight! The first phase of recovery was so sweaty! One day I woke up and felt like I had just broken a week-long fever. And that was the end of the excessive urination and sweating. But I was also so thirsty...all the time...but mainly when I would feed Ava. It was like a reflex - milk lets down, insane thirst sets in! I learned to keep a bottle of water next to me while I nursed. Along with my nipple cream, cooling gel nursing pads (SUCH a lifesaver!!!), regular nursing pads, chapstick, and my collection of medication (percocet, motrin, colace, simethicone, vitamins).

I was also super gassy. During a c-section, your abdomen is cut open and your insides are exposed to air. Once you are closed up, a lot of air is trapped inside. I had pains in my back and shoulder - the nurse said it was pain from trapped gas! Some gets absorbed into the body and exits like you normally pass gas, and the rest migrates up your body, causing pain. So crazy! So I was on simethicone to help with that. So I was passing gas. all. the. time.

It was ridiculous. I was glad for the privacy after we got home - I needed it to walk around in my underwear, go unshowered, have my boobs out, and FART. I felt like a real beauty queen!

Speaking of underwear...you may as well buy underwear like 4 sizes up from your normal size. I didn't realize how much I had swelled in my last few weeks of pregnancy. My weight gain had plateaued, but I'm pretty sure I was retaining water. After I showered for the first time after delivery, I noticed stretch marks on my sides. Where did those come from?? I'm pretty sure I got them from the last few hours before Ava was delivered...I definitely didn't have them the last time I showered! I'm thinking the IV fluids were enough to stretch my skin over the edge. 

I took some mesh underwear from the hospital and continued to wear those for the first week at home. Then I tried to put on the underwear I bought for postpartum...and they were too small!!! Kind of depressing. So buy them wayyy up there. The looser, the more comfortable, especially for c-section recoveries! But here's what got me through...you're gonna laugh...

Depends.

That's right, I said it. And I wore them proudly. 

The husband texted me while he was out getting groceries and jokingly asked if I wanted some. I texted back "YES!!!!!!" and he asked if I was serious! I was so serious.

They were a perfect solution! Elastic everywhere, nice and large, went WAY over my incision so there was no rubbing, perfectly absorbent (and no leaking to worry about), and disposable! Best decision ever. 

So between keeping track of what Ava needed, and keeping track of my healing and taking meds on time, I had to remember to eat. There literally wasn't time for me to think about it. I am so so so thankful I had the freezer meals...I'm not sure how we would have survived without them!!

As soon as Ava was asleep, I could choose between one of three things to do. Eat, shower, or sleep. 

I usually picked eat. I had to make that a priority to make sure Ava got what she needed.

I was sleeping on the couch for the first couple of nights since it reclined and that worked best for my incision. But I really wanted to be in bed, so I took a few minutes each night to climb the stairs and get in bed. I had to do everything super slow, and I had to have help. Each time Ava woke up, Chris had to help me out of bed. Fortunately, by the time he had to go back to work (10 days after her birth) I was able to get my elbow underneath me and roll to my side and then I could get out of bed by myself.

I became so tired I usually had no idea what day of the week it was. I remember wanting to start pumping, but each time I would go to do it I would just stare at the unassembled pump and parts and I would end up walking away because I had zero energy or focus or brainpower to figure it out. Thankfully the husband figured it all out for me and even washed the parts and stored the milk after I was done. (It was a great way for him to help!!)

So many nights I would wake up in the dark in the recliner in her room, my chin had fallen to my chest, and Ava was peacefully sleeping in my arms. I couldn't get up to lay her down before I fell asleep too. So I spent a lot of hours in that chair. There were a few weeks where she would only sleep for that long while being held. I'm so glad we are past that! It was rough to not be able to get good sleep in a bed. Ava gradually slept for longer stretches at night, and was getting better at being able to sleep in the rock and play next to the bed. When I'd get her to bed at night (anywhere between 9:30 and 11) it was like a mad dash for me to hurry up and sleep. I usually managed to shower before her bedtime, but I didn't have much time between her feedings. Ava never really has been a long napper - unless she is being held. So her feedings come around very quickly!

Ava slept in the room with us for the first few weeks. It's true...you wake up at every rustle of the blanket and every audible sound that escapes from their mouth, no matter how quiet! She was swaddled, and the combination of her moving her arms and sliding down in the rock and play made her blankets come up onto her face, which made me so nervous. Of course, I would wake up at her movements, so her face was never covered without me waking up and noticing, but it was really bugging me. I knew I needed to get more uninterrupted sleep, and she needed to lay flat to prevent the blankets from creeping up her face. So I knew it was time for her to sleep in her crib. We started having her take naps in her crib so I could practice getting used to her sleeping in another room and to see what I could hear and see over the baby monitor. A day or two later I was ready for her to transition to the crib at night! Things went well - I didn't get a whole lot of sleep the first night because my eyes would flash open to check the monitor a lot. And I went to her as soon as she stirred. I later learned that I needed to wait until she was for sure awake and moving around - she wound up falling asleep while I was trying to nurse her if I didn't. 

Me waiting longer and longer to go to her when she woke up (she didn't cry when she woke in the night) was the best thing I taught myself to do...this led to her only waking twice to eat...and now she only wakes once at night...and now she has been consistently falling asleep between 9 and 9:45 and won't wake to eat until 5!!! So awesome!! But it took her about 9 or 10 weeks to get to that point. And that brings me to her dinky little naps...I'm hoping that here in a few weeks she will do better at taking longer naps! She currently naps for only 30-45 minutes, tops, no matter where she's sleeping (except for daddy's chest - she could sleep all day there!). So...she has to be napped about 6 times a day and eats every 2 hours. Kind of exhausting! But, she sleeps through the night...so I'm trying not to complain!!

It feels nice to be able to have reached a point where I can really enjoy having a baby to care for, instead of being super exhausted, stressed, scared, and worried. My emotions didn't settle down for several weeks. I felt like I had fully recovered at 4 weeks - my emotions were more in check and I noticed a sudden improvement in incision and belly tenderness. I was feeling more normal! 

Some days are definitely still stressful, still scary, and still make me tired, but those feelings are less dominant now. I can feel I am much more relaxed. The first week or so I would feel really anxious and tearful every evening between 7 and 9. It was like clockwork. I couldn't seem to shake it. I think everything was just so overwhelming and my hormones were trying to get back to normal and that was how it all worked out. Here's my tip for that: go outside. Regardless of the weather - even if it means opening the garage door and standing in the garage to catch a breeze...even if your baby is crying in your arms...just do it. Fresh air is good for the both of you. And remember, a week from now things will be much different, and probably for the better. And it is SO normal to feel so not normal! Be sure to reach out to people to help, even if it's just someone to cry your hormones out to! I was taken aback at how everyone talks about how hard it is to have a newborn, but once it is you going through it, it seems so much harder and confusing and scary. There were nights where I was in the midst of my tearful hours and I literally didn't know what to do for my baby or for myself. I am glad for Facebook - I was able to reach out to mommies for help and advice whose phone numbers I didn't have.

So in summary, to prepare for a new baby and postpartum-ness, here's what you really need:

-Depends. Just go get them. You'll be surprised that you will want to wear them.

-Cooling gel nursing pads. They help take the sting away. Buy a couple of boxes.

-Freezer meals!!! Or schedule people to bring you dinner. And lunch. And snacks.

-NIPPLE CREAM. I used motherlove because it's organic, but I'm sure any kind will do.

-Lots of toilet paper and tissues. You will use the crap out of both. (no pun intended...because you will be constipated, haha)

-A basket next to you at all times for water, meds, nursing accessories, and a little notebook and pen to track feedings and your medications. I went old-school - I preferred this over using an app so the husband could write things down too. That was another one of his jobs in that first week or two - he kept me on track with my medications and wrote down her feedings and diapers.

-Someone to clean up your house. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have help with this - it was beginning to bother me how dirty the house was getting, but cleaning was nowhere on my list of priorities. It was so nice to have that off my mind when family and friends would voluntarily clean!!

...and don't worry too much about painkillers and breastfeeding. I was on a morphine drip for about 36 hours and I was also on Percocet for about 2 weeks. I was worried about the affects it might have on Ava, but I quickly rationalized with myself: if I am in pain and am not recovering well, I cannot be helpful to anyone. I needed to be comfortable in order to be a good mommy. And that was that.

Whew. 

And there's probably more things about those first few exhausting, joyous, confusing weeks that I've already forgotten. 

Like backaches from the shifted weight of carrying baby in your belly to carrying baby in your arms. :)

Til next time!!