asphodellium

Posts Tagged ‘co-sleeping

I don’t feel strongly about “defining my parenting style.” (Natural parenting, gentle parenting, free-range parenting? What does that even mean?) However, I always chafe at being pigeonholed, and for some reason I’m especially resistant to the “attachment parent” label, even though – or maybe because? – I practice many of the things attachment parents advocate.

I had a natural homebirth. The “home” part was an accident, but it will forever make an awesome story. I was indeed crossing my fingers for a natural birth, but it was supposed to occur at the hospital. (I felt safer having my first at a hospital, you know, in case of complications. Plus the facilities at BC Women’s are wonderful.) But I held off too long and Ashelyn came too quickly. Strictly speaking, I had a freebirth, or unassisted birth.

I breastfeed. I’m fortunate and thankful to have encountered no hurdles here, so the boob it is. It’s convenient. It’s free. Ashelyn’s a fan. Actually she’s never tried formula; she’s never even used a bottle, because I’m crazy lazy. We’ll probably continue until Ashelyn wants to stop, unless she turns two and still doesn’t, in which case HELP. (I’m no elitist, though. If a mother who is perfectly capable of breastfeeding chooses to use formula just because, we can totally still be friends.)

We chose baby-led weaning. Because who wants to bother with separate food prep for munchkin? Certainly not I. We try to avoid processed foods and excess salt and sugar, although now that Ashelyn’s older I’m less likely to freak out if someone gives her a piece of croissant. I don’t care about buying organic or avoiding GMO; I’m not convinced the benefits justify the price.

I babywear more often than I use a stroller. We started with slings, but haven’t really looked back since acquiring an Ergo. It’s just that I’ve found a carrier to be more versatile, and more likely to result in peaceful cooperation. I’ve also done my fair share of toting Ashelyn around in my arms (and I’ve got the biceps to show for it).

We co-sleep. A while ago we sidecar-ed the crib, but Ashelyn doesn’t spend a ton of time sleeping in her space, preferring instead to cuddle with me. Which is sweet and all, but bedsharing is the one thing I’m not proud to admit, because ideologically I believe in the marital bed, not the family bed. Unfortunately Ashelyn was a sleepfighter from day one, and this is where the path of least resistance has led us. I still haven’t committed to any form of sleep training, not because I’m opposed to CIO, but because I doubt it’ll work on my girl without crossing a threshold of unpleasantness to which I am opposed.

We do EC and cloth diaper and use disposables. Ashelyn has pooped in the potty since she was five months old, because she is awesome. So is poop-free cloth diapering! Still, there’s no denying the convenience and absorption power of disposables; we use them, sparingly, for (longer) outings and overnight.

We vaccinate. On schedule. In all other matters I stand behind the decisions of well-meaning parents, even controversial ones like spanking or crying it out. But unless your child is immuno-compromised, if you don’t vaccinate, I say you’re doing it wrong, and I shake my fist at you for weakening herd immunity.

I’m a proud product of the public education system, and biased in its favour. Although there’s plenty of time for shifts of opinion on this front, presently I’m not very interested in private institutions, and I don’t intend to homeschool.

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I’m no expert on babies. I am, however, an expert on one baby. And that’s all the authority I need.

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The dream: Ashelyn sleeps in the crib from 9PM to 9AM.

The reality: Ashelyn sleeps with me. She has a penchant for nighttime snacking and is up 2-3 times … I think. I don’t keep count or check the time anymore, because I only half wake up. Bedtime is around 10-11PM and she’s up anywhere from 9-11AM.

This is progress because Ashelyn used to keep herself awake till 2AM. And because she nurses right back to sleep, instead of waking up OH HAI CAN WE PLAY NOW? at 5AM. And because she’s content to sleep beside me, not on me like the early weeks (although sometimes there is cuddling).

***

The dream: Ashelyn naps for 1-2 hours at a time, in her crib. Twice a day. Regular enough to maintain a loose schedule; not so tied to it that a departure would throw her off.

The reality: Ashelyn generally takes two naps a day, one in late morning or early afternoon and one in late afternoon or early evening. She seems to nap in half-hour increments – either half an hour, or an hour, or an hour and a half. She naps in the spare bed in the spare room. We usually hold her for naps when we aren’t at home. If the timing is right, she naps in her carseat while we’re on the road. I’m trying to avoid “dream feed” naps – where she breastfeeds to sleep but continues to suck – because (aside from reducing me to a human binky) I’m never sure if they count.

This is huge progress! I worked hard to get here. We’re seeing some semblance of predictability, and Ashelyn can nap by herself, as opposed to on our shoulders every time. I get breaks! It’s glorious!

***

The dream: Ashelyn self-soothes.

The reality: HA! In the evening, breastfeeding usually settles her down for the night. For naps, I lie down with her, read: force her to lie down with me. Otherwise she will not lie still, which means she will clamber about and keep herself awake forever. FOREVER. Ashelyn hates lying still, even for diaper changes. It’s clearly the worst conceivable thing in the known universe. So she’ll fuss – sometimes more, sometimes less – but gradually she nods off. And then I extricate myself and quietly leave.

This is progress because just a short while ago I feared Ashelyn was incapable of falling asleep from a horizontal position (unless she was on the boob). She would only fall asleep on my shoulder, and only when I walked her around for half an hour. (You see why I succumbed to dream-feed naps.) I finally put my foot down and cut the walking requirement. I replaced it with rocking in the glider. Not ideal, but at least my body got a break! Eventually I cut the rocking and took her to bed awake. Both transitions were met with fierce resistance, of course; there were days it took two hours to get Ashelyn to nap for twenty minutes. Seemed a waste of time and energy, but I pick my battles and this one was worth fighting. Now, I can expect the naps to be longer than the nodding-offs, so those pains have paid a huge dividend. Hallelujah!

***

So, baby steps. We’re still some distance from utopia, but at least things are heading in the right direction.

Whenever I begin to think Ashelyn’s sleep patterns might be settling into something like consistency, she switches it up on me. Lately she shows signs of sleepiness at a reasonable hour of the evening, so we wind down for bed, except then she either doesn’t sleep or doesn’t stay asleep.

Confession: Ashelyn breastfeeds to sleep. Not during the day, at least not always, but at night this is what has worked for us. I feed her, she zonks out, I roll her over beside my pillow and she sleeps until some ungodly wee hour of the morning.

But these days she only dozes at the boob before inexplicably waking up wanting to play.

We did finally get around to lowering the crib mattress, thank goodness, so I can plonk her inside without risking much more than a head bump. Her antics are still worth watching, though, because she’ll pull up and do this crazy dance comprised of

  1. hip thrusts
  2. vigorous shaking of the head
  3. exaggerated chewing of imaginary gum
  4. murmuring or squeaking

My strategy is to let her wear herself out, which eventually happens … around midnight or 1AM. At first I hoped exhaustion would translate into longer sleeps, but guess what? IT DOESN’T. I’m still up a handful of times. On a good night, once or twice. On a bad night, I lose count …

Kidding. Four or five times on a bad night.

Actually, Ashelyn occasionally pulls this trick of waking at 4AM all fired up to play, and that is the worst. It takes hours to get her back to sleep. She’ll even shimmy over and kiss my face, and then I feel bad for wanting to throw her out the window.

I’ve read that even previously good sleepers may have disturbed nights at around six months, due to (1) teething, (2) separation anxiety, or (3) developmental progress, as in they’re so excited about their new skills that they want to practice them upon waking. Ashelyn’s been drooling since her third month, but to date remains toothless. And she’s not unusually clingy; besides, at night I’m RIGHT THERE. She does, however, start clambering around deliriously even before she’s fully awake.

I haven’t yet committed to anything heavy-handed, because despite sporadic bad nights we’re still making progress. For one thing, Ashelyn is now able to nap on her own, often for half an hour but sometimes for an hour and a half. She falls asleep in the carseat or stroller without as much resistance as before. Now and then we’ll have a really good night, where she’s down before midnight and sleeps until late morning with only one feeding in between.

With future children I’ll probably be much more deliberate about fostering “good sleep habits,” but even if I’d taken a more textbook approach with Ashelyn I’m not wholly convinced that things would be different now. Left to her own devices, she never would settle herself down, only work herself up.

It’s an inconvenience I’m willing to live with.

In the first week of motherhood, I ventured to say that Ashelyn wasn’t a difficult baby. (Of course, prior to her birth I’d scared myself by reading about “high criers” who screamed for eight hours every day.)

I still can’t say that she’s a difficult baby. Ashelyn is sweet and supremely happy. However, she doesn’t sleep independently.

She sleeps on me. At night, when she’s not hugging my torso, she’s in bed beside me, because I’ve managed to flip her there without her waking.

We sleep okay. The pattern is one big chunk of sleep, then one or two smaller chunks. (Our best night was 8 hours, followed by another 2.5 hours.) I’m pro now at sleeping with a sleeping baby on my chest.

It’s not that Ashelyn dislikes her crib. She rolls around like a tumbleweed and kicks up a storm and delivers orations in there. What she doesnt do is sleep.

During the day, she naps best while being held. Sometimes I’ll use a sling. Sometimes I set her down, with mixed results. She’s napped fairly successfully in her pillow, swing, even highchair. But more often than not she’ll magically open her eyes as soon as she hits a foreign surface.

Yes, I’ve heard all about “putting her down drowsy but awake” so she can “self soothe.” Great concept. Sounds good. Makes sense.

Except … once I put her down, she is no longer drowsy.

I don’t want to stress over something that may not be all that important. Maybe Ashelyn isn’t ready to self soothe, but she will be, in time. Until then, we’ll carry on with what works for us. It’s at most an inconvenience to me, but hey, never once have I felt like crying when the baby cries. That’s how (relatively) well rested I’ve been.

The first two nights are hazy in my memory and probably involved more feeding than sleeping, but after that we figured out a tag-team arrangement that lasted for a number of weeks. It went something like this, all times being approximate:

10-11PM. I feed Ashelyn, hand her over to Kevin, and head to bed.

12-1AM. Ashelyn is hungry again. Kevin changes her diaper and brings her to me. Then he goes to sleep in the spare room.

3-4AM. Ashelyn is starting to wake and fuss. Out to the living room for a diaper change, back into the bedroom for noms. She drifts off without a fight and I keep her with me for a “double shift.”

6-7AM. After feeding her again, I pass Ashelyn off to Kevin in the guest room with the bassinet. If he’s up, he’ll come take her. I go back to sleep.

Eventually, as I got the hang of things and Kevin started getting back to work, we phased out his contribution to night-time care altogether. Lately our nights look more like this:

12-2AM. Ashelyn has been having a meltdown but finally falls asleep around this time.

5-7AM. And she’s stirring after a solid 4-6 hour chunk of slumber! I quickly change her diaper before settling back in bed to feed her. Ashelyn nurses amazingly well when she’s starving – all business. We both go back to sleep after, because it’s too early to be up, I say! Especially with a bedtime like that.

8-9AM. Another feed, and I may or may not try for another stretch of sleep, depending. Yes, I spoil myself.

The whole not co-sleeping thing hasn’t panned out as I’d hoped. I’m glad we only spent $50 on the crib, because Ashelyn much prefers to sleep on or beside me. Of course I’d rather not have to worry about SIDS, but when the choice is between 3-hour periods of rest or half-hour ones, there is my sanity to consider.

Even more lamentable is the fact that munchkin has deviously managed to kick her father out into the guest room. Usurper! But he needs a solid several hours of shut-eye in order to function with any measure of efficacy, and Ashelyn is quite a squirmy and noisy baby, even when she is sleeping.

So, at the end of the day (heh), we choose flexibility. We choose to work with whatever maximizes sleep for all parties. This is how we’ve avoided the sleep deprivation nightmare.

(Is that an oxymoron?)

I am thirty one weeks pregnant, and we still don’t have a crib. IKEA has one or two I have my eye on, though. Originally I was thinking more along the lines of a co-sleeper, but apparently babies outgrow those in six months, in which case, what’s the point? They aren’t even any cheaper. Our master bedroom is roomy enough for a crib to fit nicely beside the bed, so that’s what we’ve decided to do.

I’ve read about sleep sharing and “the family bed,” but no thanks. The bed is sacred. It’s for Kevin and me. I love you, munchkin, but I love your father more 🙂

We have begun collecting layette items, though, finally. Little onesies and sleepers and a bunting! They are so adorable MON DIEU I can’t stop looking at them. Not knowing whether we’re having a boy or a girl limits our selection slightly, but at the same time it’s nice to have the flagrantly stereotypical stuff out of contention.

In other news, I am snowman-shaped.

week 30

week 31

 

 

 

 

 

Although on Thursday, as I was crossing the street to get to my prenatal appointment, two guys in a truck whistled at me and said something crudely complimentary about my bum. This happens on occasion, but at almost eight months pregnant? How peculiar.

Anyway, I was right about munchkin being head down! I forgot to ask my midwife which direction s/he’s facing, though it’s probably early for that to be relevant. My belly button kind of pops in and out, but I’d say it’s 70% an outie most of the time, now.


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