Cycles

•December 2, 2008 • 2 Comments

Thanks to Meg, I realized a useful little tip about sleep cycles that’s come in handy for naps.  By paying attention to times of awakenings, I realized that The Boy’s sleep cycle is about 90-120 minutes.  This means that about every 1.5-2 hours, he’s going to enter a light sleep phase.  During this phase, it’s not uncommon for him to wake up.  Think about when you’re sleeping at night, wake up for a moment, roll over or adjust the covers and go back to sleep.  It’s the same thing except babies don’t know what they want or can’t do it themselves or just don’t know that they can/are supposed to go back to sleep.

Our doctor actually confirmed this during a routine visit Q&A.  He said it was perfectly natural and most kids grow out of it pretty quickly.  The cry-it-out method is an attempt to force it and is successful for some.  As mentioned before, not for us.

But, my point is that knowing this is very useful for naptimes.  First, if nighttime is still tough, I recommend napping with your baby.  I found that when I slept with The Boy, I could add an extra 1-1.5 hours to his nap.  I am certain (because I saw him) that he would hit his light sleep mode, open his eyes (maybe even pop his head up) and, upon seeing me right there, get comfortable and go back to sleep.  This extra sleep makes for a happier kid.  When he wakes up, after a little cuddling, he’s ready to go.  Prior to this, I learned that placing him in his room and doing my own thing resulted in a 1-1.5 hour nap with a cranky wake up.

So, if you’re not going to nap, I’d recommend only planning on doing something for an hour.  Then, go read a book or surf the net on your laptop or something in his room.  When he wakes up, hopefully, he’ll spot you quickly and go back to sleep on his own.  If not, you’re right there to help soothe him back down.

Now, there were times when 1.5 hours was as good as it got.  I recognized those thanks to the cranky wake ups.  Cranky wake ups always meant he wanted more sleep.  The faster I got to him and the faster I helped him get back there, the better he slept.  Thus, the napping next to him really helped since I was right there to soothe him.  Soon after I started that, I stopped having to soothe… my presence seemed to be enough.

As for nighttime, this may be a useful tool to be prepared for the first wake up.  Depending on everyone’s bedtime preferences, you could plan on putting him down 1.5 hours before you go to bed yourself.  This almost guarantees freedom from the “Dang-it!-I-was-almost-asleep” wake up since you’ve got 1.5 hours to fall asleep.  For us, establishing an early bedtime was very important, so we didn’t consider this.  This resulted in a 7:30pm bedtime, a 9-9:30pm wake up, 10pm bedtime for us, and a 10:30-11pm wake up (which was an “I-was-almost-asleep” wake up).

A quick note on the early bedtime: Friends of ours have 8 and 10 y.o. girls that go to bed @ 7:30pm.  Now, they don’t go to sleep, but they do have to get ready and be in their bedrooms @ 7:30 and stay there.  This allows our friends to stay focused on their marriage, sit, talk, entertain, or just relax.  Meanwhile, the girls read or play by themselves.  Then, at different, but appropriate times for each, they get a lights out and tucked in.  When we inquired how they accomplished this, they said 7:30’s been their bedtimes since they were babies, they’ve only shifted sleeptime when it was age appropriate.  (Also, for us, we tried a later bed time to try to get a later morning wake up and it only resulted in a same time morning wake up and a crankier kid, so we figured we may as well establish a firm early bedtime.)

Storytime

•November 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I posted on my private blog an entry that I thought deserved to be here, too.  To connect the dots, per say, if you’re thinking about bedtime stories, this is a great idea.  As it stands, my son is very interested in reading before bed (mainly thanks to my amazing wife).  Though, we’ve recently come to believe he’s using some of his requests (“Book! Book!”) to delay bedtime.  For now, we’re happy to read a few little books to him, but His Story is going to be a new addition very soon.

This post is *not* an “adoption” post, but I tagged it as such to encourage adoptive parents to share parenting techniques with the friends who have birth children.  I’ve come to believe that the majority of adoptive parenting is just …parenting… but there are a lot of good ideas that have come out of adoptive parenting that parents can use.  that’s more or less the context of the post.

Here’s the original:
One suggestion for helping a child define themselves is to give them their story.  Now, again, I don’t think this is an adoptive-parent-only-thing.  I think every child should be told their story.  (grammatically, that should be His Story, huh? and I should speak in the singular…).  He should know that he was wanted and is wanted and will always be wanted.  He should know that his parents worked hard to prepare for his arrival and even harder to care for him once he arrived.  He should have stories of his life not only so that he knows the story of who he is, but that he knows that his parents know who he is.

So, that actually basically tells you how to “write” your child’s story.  The hard part is telling it.  There are a few things to keep in mind.  Any sound effects will be required EVERY time you tell the story, so make sure you’re willing to make the airplane sound or doctor’s voice EVERY time.  Secondly, you’ll probably tell it often and it will need to be the same (like his favorite book) every time.  Thirdly, as he gets older, it’ll get more interesting… it’ll have to… and there will be questions… so be prepared.  But, all of this is great for bonding and conversation and the chance to get inside his little heart to his fears, concerns, and worries and validate him, reassure him, protect him and care for him accordingly.

I suppose for adopted kids, the story has the opportunity to fill in what they might perceive as gaps in their life.  More importantly, I think it illustrates their life a one whole story and reminds them that their adoption is just a part in that story, not the whole thing.  Perhaps most importantly, for any kid, it reminds them that they are writing a story… that there’s a big picture… and you know where you’ve been, now where are you heading?

So, if you’re a parent or going to be, consider writing the story of your child(ren).  It’s never too late… Ok, well, maybe teenagers might be too late, but it’s still worth a shot.  I think any kid would want to hear the story where he’s the main character.  Heck, even as an adult, I wouldn’t mind hearing my parents tell my story from their perspective.  If my dad let his guard down by getting taken away in the story, I would expect to hear about emotions he felt and never expressed (or expressed properly)…

Anyway, I was saying: Consider writing your kid’s story and TELL him the story!  Let him see himself through your eyes… you might tell them something he didn’t know.  He may not realize just how proud you are of him or about how much you care about his hurts or how just deeply you really love him. You may be surprised that he might want to hear more… If you’re a relatively new or going to be a parent, start writing now…

Start a blog so your journal of his life is as accessible as the internet (and as easy to search!).  If you want it private, make it private and just don’t tell anyone about it or accept any users!  Or, better yet, you and your spouse could be the only ones who know about it and posting to it.  Draw or post pictures (what’s a story without pictures, right!?).  For soon-to-be parents, just record what’s going on and what you’re feeling so that in a couple of years, you can start telling him the simple, baby version of his story.  And, as the years go on, you’ve got all the reference material you need to indulge his curious questions and expand his story appropriately with his age.  For already parents, take the time to write it… it’ll become a love letter of sorts, filled with fond memories, and don’t forget to tell him his story after you’ve written it.

Tactics

•September 1, 2008 • 4 Comments

The Boy is now almost 2.  In a child rearing class we attended, we adopted (no pun intended) a technique to promote first time obedience.  It’s a simple one.  While he was still quite young, when we asked him or told him to do something, we followed it with “Yes, mommy” or “Yes, Daddy,” respectively.  We nodded our heads and, eventually, he started nodding along with us.  It wasn’t registering (he only obeyed maybe 50% of the time), but the habit was forming.

As he’s getting older, he’s getting the “game.”  When we say “Yes, daddy,” he nods.  Obedience is up to about 90% when he nods.  The idea is simple: We function on some basic principles even before we have morals to logic through.  Even a child has an innate sense of what we might call honor.  When they give their “yes” they feel something inside pushing them to do what they ssaid they would do.  I can’t really tell you why it’s there, but I can tell you that *it is.*

So, we’re using this technique for first time obedience for lots of things.  When we need to leave the room, we tell him that we’re leaving and what we’re doing and that we’re coming back.  We follow it with a “yes daddy,” he nods and occasionally says, “yesh,” and we do our thing with no crying about us leaving the room for a minute.  How does this relate to a sleepless baby?

Well, in my last post, I forgot to tell you how we ended up getting him to go to sleep initially.  We discovered that he only got upset if we left the room… very rarely over the fact that we put him in his crib.  Even if he did, we’d stand by and comfort him in the crib and let him know that we weren’t leaving.  We stood by his bedside for a while… weeks probably… until he fell asleep.  Eventually, I started pacing just in front of his crib and he was cool.  Then, I started pacing all around the room and he was cool.  Eventually, I paced over to the rocking chair and sat down.  He couldn’t see me over his mesh (like padding, but a fine mesh that just keeps arms and legs from going in between slats).  He’d pop his head up and see me and lie back down.  He’d repeat often, but eventually go to sleep.  This let me sit and read a book while he went to sleep.  The process typically took about 30 minutes.  Initially, I’d tell him to “ssshh” if he started babbling and definitely told him to lie down and go to sleep if he stood up.  Rarely, I’d actually go and lie him back down.  Sometimes he’d fuss or whine about being told what to do, but it wasn’t crying and it often resolved itself with just a little ignoring.

We put him to sleep like this for months.  I read a ton of books.  It was actually quite nice.  It dissolved down to 15 minutes most of the time.  It was easy, there was no crying and everyone was happy.  Eventually, I started tying the first time obedience technique into the already established plan.  “Give Daddy a hug ‘Good night!’, now you’re going to lay down in your bed and Daddy’s going to sit in the chair. ‘Yes, Daddy’,” and he’d lay down an rarely look up.  i continued this for weeks.  It came in handy a time or two when I acutally had evening plans and his grandma was watching him.  “Give Daddy a hug ‘Goodbye.’  Now Daddy’s going to leave and Grammie is going to put you to bed. ‘Yes, Daddy’,” and I’d leave without crying and Grammie said he’d go down easy while she sat in the chair.

Well, I had to try… So, I changed the instruction to “Daddy’s going to stand in the hall.”  I stood outside his door (a first without crying!).  There were a lot of head pops and a couple of stand ups, but I assured him I wasn’t going anywhere and to lie back down.  I only had to do this twice before the head pops almost stopped.  I moved further down the hallway, now out of sight.  Well, this brought about some more stand ups and some whining.  I quickly stepped into view, re-assured him I was there, he just couldn’t see me and to lie back down.  But, interestingly enough, from the hallway, I could now see and control the TV in our bedroom, thus, making the hallway wait slightly less excruciating.  Every 5 minutes, I’d go in to check on him.  I’d assure him I was just in the hallway and to not stand up.  I’d ask for “yes daddy’s” but didn’t care if he actually nodded since he was moving closer and closer towards sleep.  I’d step back out and into the hallway, just out of sight.  Time to sleep was back up to 30 minutes again, but I was out of the room for the first time.  I still tell him that I’m in the hallway, but I take just a few more steps to our bedroom .  We’re still at 30 minutes, but I’m free to fold laundry, straighten up, lie down, read or watch some TV.  I still go check on him and re-assure him that “I’m in the hallway, (he) just can’t see me, but I’m there,” but it’s down to every 10 minutes.

So, if you’re struggling now, I’d encourage you to try first time obedience training.  When your child gets old enough to understand (likely still months before he’s able to tell you why he can’t go to sleep), you can tell him what the plan is and come up with a plan that works for both of you.  Then, you slowly modify it to work in your favor.  The first time obedience training has obvious other advantages outside of sleep… it’s been tremendous learning just how much he comprehends even if he can’t vocalize it all himself.

In the end

•August 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

FYI, Dr. Hull’s method was a bust for us.  We returned the DVD.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog.  I’m sorry.  I simply was too exhausted for too long and when I finally had energy, I felt so far behind on everything we tried to play catch up.

Sometime around November, near Thanksgiving, we realized that our son is lactose intolerant.  It makes him gassy and constipated and is probably a major reason he never slept well.  After moving him to soy milk, things got better.  He didn’t start sleeping through the night instantly, but he did seem to sleep a little more than he used to.  He might have just been growing out of his restless sleep and it was just a coincidence, but if you’re using formula, it might be worth a shot to switch to a soy based formula for a can or two, especially if your doctor thinks it’s OK.  Of course, switching can bring about it’s own frustrations, but you never know and it might be worth a shot.

The truth is, we never got The Boy to sleep through the night.  He regularly wakes up after being down for about 1.5-2 hours initially and then, thanks to our final decisions, sleeps through the rest of the night.

But, let me cover one technique we used before we got to our final decisions.  We discovered that my “best sleep” is in the early morning from about 2am to 6am.  My wife’s best sleep is in the beginning of the night from about 10pm to 2am.  We split the night as best we could and it helped a lot to get the sleep when your body wants it most.  I worked out well for us, but I’m sure this won’t work for everyone.  However, one of the techniques we used was to “protect each other’s sleep.”  We set up a extra twin mattress we had on the floor of our bonus room, two floors away from our master bedroom.  If The Boy was having a restless night, we’d bring him to the bonus room and settle him and get him back to sleep on the twin mattress.  We’d let him sleep for 20-30 minutes, really get into a deep sleep and then bring him back to his room.  While we waited, we surfed the net and, generally, killed time on the computer in the bonus room.

This was still exhausting, but it did help us both have more energy since we got a better quality sleep and both of us got about a 4 hour chunk, at least, every night.  That helped *a lot.*

After some discussion about what all the books say and what we felt in our guts we ended up on this: Let’s just bring him into our bed and have him sleep with us.  At the end of the day, we’ll get more sleep.  It’s true.  We did.  When he wakes up, we don’t have to get up to console him.  Many times, he’ll wake up, see us sleeping and lie back down and go back to sleep on his own.  Our own sleep cycles we’re disturbed a whole lot less.  And that, ultimately, helped us be better parents and, generally, more functional people.

We figured that, in the end, all he wanted was to know mommy and daddy were near.  I think it’s hard for any parent to deny their child that.  For those who got the cry-it-out method to work, congrats.  For us, getting sleep today was more important than “teaching good sleep habits.”  We figured that as The Boy gets older, we’ll be able talk him out of sleeping with us.  There are many more books on how to modify a child’s behavior and the ability to actually gauge progress… unlike, it seems, with a sleepless baby.

One thing that should be noted: As The Boy got older and bigger (he’s now almost 2 and we probably started this around 15 months old), he enjoyed sleeping horizontally.  This didn’t work well in our bed, so we grabbed that spare twin mattress we had and made room in our bedroom for it on the floor.  We already knew he slept well there and he could still see us from it.  It only took about a week of picking him up from the side of our bed before he just stayed on his twin mattress.

So, here’s the sleep schedule:
7:30-8pm – Goes to sleep in his crib
9:30-10pm – Wakes up, gets moved to his twin mattress in our bedroom
5:30am – Wakes up and asks for food and milk

Since we go to bed @ 10pm, this works pretty well.  There is always the occasional bad night, but generally, we’re getting good sleep now.

So, specifically to Jeremy, I feel for you.  If it were me with what I’ve learned, I’d separate the boys.  Let the one who sleeps sleep in his crib.  Let the one who’s “feet are on fire” sleep with us, probably snuggled with mom for a while.  After 20-30 minutes, depending on how brave you are, you might consider moving him back to his crib.  You might consider moving a crib into your room… we would have, but it’s too big for the doorways and would have required disassembly and reassembly and I wasn’t willing.  For you, it has the added bonus of only one of them waking up at a time.  You can always put them back in the same room once they’re both sleeping better.

For everyone struggling with a sleepless baby, remember that they get older everyday.  And, everyday, they get a little closer to sleeping through the night all on their own.  The time really will seem like it went by in the blink of an eye when you look back on it, but I know it feels like it’s taking forever when you’re in the middle of it.  My only advice is to eat well, catch some spare zzz’s when you can (you *can* catch up on sleep), and power through the rest of it.  Try to agree to protect each others’ sleep and you’ll find some camaraderie and, really, that can only help a marriage.

I’ve got at keast one more post I’ll send up in a few days.  For now, good luck and go with what works to get everyone in the house more sleep.  Ignore the books and what they say is good.  You won’t ruin your kid by letting him sleep with you or letting him cry it out.  “Whatever works”… because you all need sleep and the more you get, the happier a family you’ll be… and *THAT’s* the most important thing.

Wanna fight?

•September 4, 2007 • 1 Comment

So, we’ve had a lot more sleep through the nights recently. In the past week, there have been a few… two of them were even back-to-back. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between anything we do during the day and how well he sleeps. We may as well flip a coin. However, we’ve seen a drastic improvement in his ability to stay asleep. He’s laughed, cried, and made lots of other noises in his sleep. We go to his room expecting to find a baby waking up or already awake, only to find him still sleeping quite nicely. This wonderful little advancement is a bit of joy. Now, we don’t run at every sound in an effort to get there before he gets too worked up. Now, we wait for multiple sounds and simply don’t have to get up and check on him as often.

So, again, I don’t claim that anything we’ve done is *the* answer, but I like to think that what we’re doing is helping our son learn better “sleep habits” and that’s why he’s sleeping better. It could just be nature as he continues to grow up and learn on his own.

However, even though we’re getting more rest and have more energy, we have stumbled across a new challenge. While our son seems to be learning how to sleep better, he is also learning our techniques. It seems, that unless he is *very* tired, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to lay him down in his or our bed without him knowing that we’re trying to put him to sleep. As soon as he realizes it, he starts getting pretty fussy.

As I mentioned before, our son likes to get up on all fours and, eventually, just sit up. It’s a great way for him to keep himself awake. At first, this didn’t pose much of a problem. His skills at getting to all fours and sitting weren’t all that great, especially when he was tired. We used to be able to give him a little nudge and he’d sort fall over on his side and be laying back down. After a little while of this, he’d waste too much energy to make any more tries and just go to sleep. These days, however, he is *quite* skilled at getting to all fours and sitting up. He can do it in about 2 seconds when he’s on his game. Additionally, it is significantly harder to push him over.

So, he is essentially fighting us and our attempts to teach him how to fall asleep. We don’t take offense, but it is a new challenge when we thought we were moving closer to more easiness surrounding his sleep. At present, we’re considering something new that we found. It’s Dr. Hull’s method.

We have no idea what the method is, but what intrigued us was how much he stood behind it. First, it’s a DVD set, not a book. Video is so much easier… heck, I can even watch some while carrying my son around the sofa! Second, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee. Well, that’s just putting your money where your mouth is, and I respect that. Third, one of his DVDs has an entire section on adoption. There’s not much mention about the details, but just by acknowledging this need, Dr. Hull gets an extra point in my book. Fourth, his method includes strategies from newborn to toddler. That means he realizes that once you get your kid to sleep well doesn’t mean he’s always going to sleep well for the rest of his life. Score another point for Dr. Hull… he’s actually living in the real world. Lastly, there’s 7 days a week support via Email. Sure, we don’t know the turn around, but it looks like you’re Emailing Dr. Hull directly. If that’s the case, I applaud this man who is *actually* trying to help sleep deprived parents EVERY day.

So, with a money back guarantee, we figure it’s pretty much risk-free (I bet shipping and handling is not refunded). Once we get it and watch it, I’ll let you know what I think. If it works, then you’ll know what to spend your money on…

No, really, just laying there

•September 1, 2007 • 1 Comment

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much.  I’m falling behind in the documentation, but my commitment to catalogue what we’re doing to try and get our son to sleep better is still there.  So, by the end, I hope there’ll be something helpful for any parents who stumble across this little blog o’ mine.

OK, so perhaps the last blog post was mis-named.  While it was about laying my son down, I was still patting him (and sneaking in a cuddle or two on occasion).  So, the next step seems to be a pretty obvious one.  It’s about stopping the patting.

To help with this, we start with a little bit of carrying.  I know this sounds like a step backwards.  But, this is actually about making a break between playing and sleeping.  I’ve observed that going from our normal day to sleep just isn’t easy.  The only decently calm time during the day is bottle feeding.  Even solid foods are pretty exciting.  So, spending a little time just hanging out in the carrier minimizes his movement and I usually get an extra yawn or two before his head starts getting heavy and I can tell he’s bought a ticket on the sleep train and, now, he just needs to get on.

So, as it’s getting closer to naptime or bedtime and I observe a baby who is slowing down a bit… maybe a yawn or an eye rub… usually less standing, more crawling… I pick him up and just carry him around.  Sometimes there’s a little patting, but it’s mostly because I don’t know what to do with my hands other than pat him.  Though. I try to and do some other stuff like clean up or straighten up a little bit.  Eventually, like I said, I might get a yawn and tired eyes and a heavy head.

Basically, he starts heading towards sleep.  At this point, I have to play it by ear.  Either I sit down and try to let him fall asleep on me or I try to get him into his crib and fall asleep there.  Usually, it depends on how tired he is.  If he’s not tired enough, he won’t fall asleep in his crib.  Thus, the best bet is to have him fall asleep on me.  However, I consider every successful crib laying a step in the right direction even if it’s intermixed with sleeps on me.

All in all, there seems to be more good nights than bad lately.  I still don’t know if it’s because of anything we’re doing or if my son is just growing up and learning how to sleep better no matter what we do.  Still, if I’m not trying, then I have to imagine the process would take longer than it might if I was just trying to let it happen “naturally.”

Just laying there

•August 24, 2007 • 1 Comment

To help reinforce the ability to fall asleep by himself, the next step is to stop carrying him around.  Again, this also helps save a lot of energy.

It started pretty simply.  Instead of putting him in the carrier and patting him.  I just went to our bed, blocked off one side while I layed on the other and layed him next to me.  Obviously, I didn’t expect him to fall right to sleep.  I began by laying him on his stomach and patting his back to help soothe him.  I tried to stop as he started moving towards sleep.  Of course, he moved towards being awake shortly after I stopped.

He would try to actually pull himself up either to all fours or to a sitting position.  Usually, just a little nudge was all it took to getting him lying back down.  At that was the goal, really.  I just wanted him to start falling asleep horizontally instead of vertically.  This accomplishment alone should really help out with him falling back to sleep on his own.

I still patted him lots to help soothe him and move him towards sleep.  For this reason, I found it important to keep him on his sides or his stomach.  At this point, I’m not too worried about SIDS.  First of all, I’m right there next to him watching him breathe and usually with my hand on him feeling it, too.  Secondly, my son’s older and capable of moving himself if he needs to.

He continued to try to roll over and specifically liked to be on his back.  Usually, if he managed to get on his back for more than a few seconds, he’d open his eyes and start moving back towards being awake.  So, it was a constant struggle to keep him off of his back.

Now, I’ve actually tried this for a few naps and nights now.  Sooner or later, he seemed to reach a point where he was too close to sleep to really pull himself back to being awake.  At this point, it stopped mattering whether or not I patted him or that he was on his back.

Now, I simply hope to minimize how much I pat him and how long it takes.  So, as far as I can tell, we’re moving towards learning to sleep on his own without making him cry until he just figures it out.  And, since I’m slowly reducing our dependence on us, I feel like we’re not really harming our attachment process.