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MoxieTopics

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« Q&A: 4 1/2-month-old not sleeping | Main | Q&A: 4-year-old holding food in mouth »

Comments

Kelly

I don't know if this falls under the realm of actual wisdom, but I remember when my second daughter was really little, like 3-4 months, and still waking a good 4-5 times a night to nurse. I had a really hard time resettling her. She didn't even like co-sleeping; she just wanted to be held, and I couldn't do that all night, of course. I'd try to transfer her back to her crib, or pop her off the nipple and keep her next to me in bed, but ultimately, she'd wake and need to be picked up and rocked.

When I'd walk her around her nursery at 2:00am, I'd feel so dreadfully lonely. You know, just at the bottom, physically and emotionally. I know that's an awful way to feel about caring for one's child, but it was the constant sleep deprivation and the inability to relax that got to me over the months, all continually adding up.

So, I eventually started leaving my daughter's blinds open. I could sometimes see lights on in my neighbors' houses; I could sometimes see the glow of a car go by; sometimes the only light was from the moon, and believe me, I grew to think of the moon as a friend. It helped me, in the dark of the night, to feel not-so-alone. It gave me something else to look at and concentrate on as I nursed and paced and bounced and hummed.

J

I like Kelly's coping methods. I've also found that when I can look outside while endlessly rocking and walking with my baby, somehow I don't feel so alone. The things that I've learned that help me cope are:
1. not discussing baby with people who claim to have the "perfect baby". This includes my mother (parental amnesia once again).
2. talking with other mommies who are going through the same thing as I am. I'm blessed to have a great friend, Z, whose baby is exactly the same age as mine. We commiserate on a regular basis over the phone and try to get together at least once a week.
3. reading Moxie's blog. Seriously. It has helped me gain so much perspective on motherhood and babies.
4. if my baby lets me sit down in our rocker, I always have a book ready next to the rocker so I can read while I rock her to sleep.
5. I will let her nap in a wrap on my body sometimes when I have no energy to rock her to sleep.
6. I should say something about how I take regular breaks while my husband tends to our little one....long baths with lavender scented candles and champagne, soft music...yeah, well, that's not true. Not because my husband wouldn't let me do that, but our house is way too small for me to tune out baby's cries. And then I'd feel like I have to do something. And that would be the end of the peaceful bath.
7. Throwing my mail at the wall...Well, it actually does help channel the frustration sometimes. I don't recommend it on a regular basis because gathering up shreds of paper after the explosion can be pretty cumbersome. Plus you may be destroying some important piece of mail in the process.
I also liked Moxie's earlier recommendations about doing at least one errand a day. My baby hates the car seat most of the time, but sometimes if the stars are aligned, I can get us out of the house for a 30 minute errand.
A daily walk can be good too, but I have found this to be tough at times especially after a night of not sleeping. Oh, yeah, my baby also dislikes the stroller so I have to put her in a wrap or a Baby Bjorn. Sometimes I just simply can't find the energy to walk with her on my body. She's only 16 Lbs., but when you haven't slept in weeks, those extra 16 pounds can feel like you're carrying the refrigerator on your chest.
Looking forward to other posts even if they are semi-serious like mine!!

Sarah

Not so much about sleep regressions BUT that Calm Forte 4 Kids works with my son. I use it to help calm him down & get him to sleep on cross country and overseas flights. He's 18 months. We've also had success with the Teething Tablets as well.

Melissa

I have one of those babies that likes to cry before she goes to sleep. We think she's going to be one of those kids that just HATES missing out on anything. She certainly seems to resent being sleepy sometimes! In fact I am always in a state of disbelief when my husband (who is the stay at home parent right now) tells me that she nodded off BY HERSELF that day, either in her arms or (shock of all shocks) in her high chair while he was doing the dishes. She's 6 months old by the way.

Anyway, sometimes when she is in the mood to NOT be put down for anything, including a nap (obvious signs of exhaustion but wakes up the moment her bottom touches a surface that isn't my arms; oh and I should also mention that once I'm home from work dad becomes a pile of dog poo in her opinion), when she gets in that mood I'll just pop her on my back or front in the Ergo carrier and just let her fuss until she falls asleep. Then viola! freedom! She sleeps much longer when she is attached to me.

Thankfully she doesn't need to be attached for every nap, but I find it helps during those developmental leap weeks.

And I'll say it again - thank goodness for this blog. It helps so much to read other's similar experiences. It reminds me that whatever current hardship we are experiencing is totally normal, others have gone through it, and it will end at some point!

liphovela

I am a completely unreligious person. However, I must admit that one of the two times in my adult life when I have felt Grace taking hold of me was when my child was very young and being a complete PITA w.r.t. not sleeping at around 2 a.m. even with a full belly of milk. Feeling so frustrated with him, I was getting ready to leave the room and give into a bout of crying-- for all the wrong reasons, mostly my own lack of patience.

Then, literally, I remember feeling a wash of compassion flow through me. It was really as though God helped me to find reserves of patience that I did not know I had left untapped. Perhaps religious people have this sort of experience often, but heathen that I am, I certainly don't.

At any rate, I recalled that experience and continue to recall it whenever I feel adversarial. I completely agree that we have to feel like the baby is a co-conspirator, not the "enemy."

That said-- I have a 20 month old who cannot get to sleep on his own at night. Needs rocking etc. So I still have lots to learn from the wisdom of Moxie and comments here!

hedra

Popping in - I got a break from my change in work situation (no more going online for breaks, changed to a group that just doesn't have that kind of leeway)... yeah, got a call from school, Rowan's down with diarrhea. So, I'm able to check in today, between skanky diaper changes... sigh.

The things that help me most:

1) Reminding myself that "How I feel is how baby feels." That's a normal part of neurological processing - they do things that get your brain to express their feelings. It is the basis of communication. It also means that when I'm feeling like screaming, feeling powerless, frustrated, confused, helpless, and alone, chances are good my child is feeling that way, too. And even if they're not, I can apply a little compassion more easily if I assume they're closer to that end than I'd otherwise be led to believe.

2) Looking at life as a spectrum of answers, not black-white, either-or answers, and never making the logical error of assuming that expertise equals Truth or Answers. I learned that with breastfeeding, too - there's answers that don't involve going all the way to the opposite position. There are many many variations, and I just have to find the one that works for me, my child, this situation, this time. Millions of answers might seem overwhelming, but seeing them as a spectrum means I can shift through different types of answers, see what seems to have *some* impact, and then refine it from there.

3) Something another mom told me when my oldest was a few weeks old: "Everything is a phase, even the good stuff." In further discussion, she added, "a phase lasts about 2 weeks"... which means that if you want to catch them doing something oh-so-cute, don't wait until you get a new camera. By then, it will be gone. That cute lip-sucking smile? Gone. I caught that one the day before it vanished forever. I can survive two weeks. In two weeks, it will be different. In some way, two weeks from now, everything will have changed.

4) Same rule applies in the short-run, too. We determined that in our family, 20 minutes is the margin. No matter how much my kids can be driving me batty, no matter what is going on, in 20 minutes, it will be different. The sibling-sniping will have ceased, or escalated prior to ceasing. The meltdown over mommy helping someone get their coat on will be over. The behavior, whatever it was, will be done, gone, a memory, and some new behavior will be there instead. I can jump up and down and get my panties in a wad over what is happening this moment, or I can put the minimum gentle tweak into it, or I can (depending on the situation) do nothing. It will *still* all be different in 20 minutes.

The whole approach reminds me somewhat of something my sister reported to me from her Vet School days. One of the profs said, "80% of the time, no matter *what* you do or do not do, the animal will recover. 10% of the time, no matter what you do, the animal will get worse or die. Your only true impact is in that 10% in-between." It doesn't mean they don't try all the time, it just means they don't get themselves deeply personally involved in the solution's meaning. It is humbling to know that that solution you devised might not have made the difference this time (or maybe it *was* one of those 10% that made all the difference - don't know!). It is equally humbling, and also freeing, to know that some situations cannot be salvaged, no matter how hard you try. You still try, but there's just that hint of professional dispassion possible when you know it isn't possible to either fix or ruin how the animal proceeds most of the time.

The same for kids - I have watched my kids grow, and grow out of behaviors I'd been trying to 'extinct' for ages, and had given up on. I've also seen them start up behaviors that I swore I'd laid groundwork to prevent, only to discover that this behavior is age-appropriate, and it was coming no matter what I did.

I don't stop trying just because I know that most of this is JUST age-appropriate behavior. Most of it will go away on its own. I am here to make sure they stay safe while it goes away, and to lay some general frameworks to catch the weak points and issues that I *can* affect. That Safe, Respectful, Kind thing is a big part of that. I'm putting in hard hours and lots of thought on my responses... but I don't take too much blame for my kids being age-appropriate. I also can't take much credit for them being astonishing, joyful, wonderful, kind, empathetic people (when they're being like that)... that's them, not me. I don't get to take the credit for the 80%. I think avoiding the sense that I (cue god-like voice) *make* them who they are helps me not to feel so crushed when something about who they are isn't all that thrilling at any given time. I'm responsible for guiding them, feeding and caring for and providing for their needs. I'm giving them tools, and teaching them how to use them. But the successes aren't mine, they're theirs. I'm not powerful enough to MAKE them be something they are not, already, themselves. Nor are my mistakes usually enormous and devestating enough to MAKE them be something they are not, in a bad way.

When they're waking at night, when they need me at inconvenient times, when they annoy me, when they pick on their siblings, when they throw food, or interrupt, or do things that seem *designed* to make me unhappy... I can let go of all the personal interpretations. It isn't personal. It's not about me. It just is, and it will change. That keeps me zen, lets me roll with rather a lot of things. Not that I don't get stuck, frustrated, lose my temper, or indulge in a little borrowed pride, depending on the conditions... I do get stuck. And then I unstick myself. I can hang onto the sense of power, take it personally, and fight it and be miserable, or I can let go, allow them their power, take it impersonally, still fight for what I'm aiming for, try out solutions, apply my brain, read enough 'experts' to see how varied and often non-applicable their knowledge is, try things, wait, try again, learn to trust myself and my child, become patient while I await the changes that will come in time, and be much happier about all of it, good, bad, and in-between.

Maria

I read this somewhere before Mio was born and it really stuck: of course you want to do what you think is good for your baby, but don't forget about yourself. I thought about that when Mio was in the 26 week sleep regression and waking up every night after 45 minutes (and again... and again...). I wanted to try Elizabeth Pantley's suggestion of going in just before he woke up and patting him back to sleep, but it made me miserable just sitting there, waiting. So I allowed myself to give up on that, and it felt like a huge relief. I'm sure I was better at comforting Mio, too, since I wasn't so frustrated any more.

Charisse

This is kind of a weird thing that helped me with these situations--like the time when Mouse was 18 1/2 months and starting a brand new care situation on Monday and I discovered on Saturday that 3 of her 4 first molars were starting to come through...and she's a weeks-long, rough teether--I don't think I got more than 3 hours total sleep, and certainly not more than 1 or 2 at a stretch in the next month and a half.

Here's the thing: the ability to rest when we need to, simply because we happen to be tired, is an enormous privilege in human terms. I don't say this as a guilt thing--those of us who've enjoyed this privilege most of our lives should just note that, no reason at all to feel bad. But to recognize that millions (heck, billions) of humans carry on every day without the option to rest when tired, well, that made me realize it was possible. I tried to connect with that strength in myself that really hadn't been tested before, and knowing that others could do it really helped me.

That and yoga. Not that I had time or energy to practice during those stages, but the experience of checking in with what is--"am I dying of this now?"--"what is causing the suffering? is it really the situation or the fear that the situation won't end?"--"ok, so I'm very tired but ambulatory and I'm scared that this kid is going to literally never go to sleep"--"can I breathe with those facts and see what else is there as well?". That helped me with this stuff as much as it helped me with labor.

It really helped me to talk to anyone who would say "wow, that sucks. you're doing great and you'll get through it" rather than "I bet you with you'd Ferberized her a year ago". I wish I'd known this blog back then.

Melissa

I have come up with a mindset that really helps me with my crazy crazy baby, who likes to go to sleep at night any time between 8:00 and midnight, and who needs to be soothed a different way every time, and who still (4 months) wakes up a minimum of three times a night. This is it.

I am the great and powerful MOTHER, and in my infinite and infallible wisdom, I know EXACTLY what my baby girl is going to do. She is going to change her mind.

Moxie

Melissa, would it make you feel any better if I told you that all those things (no consistent bed time, different kinds of soothing, and wakign three times) are all really common at her very young age (4 months)? 4-5 months is when sleep just barely starts to come together.

Melissa

Oh yeah, I know it's nothing unusual. It's just that I didn't sleep for more than about an hour at a time the last month and a half of pregnancy (I was ginormous - she was 10lb at birth), and since she was born I think I've slept about 4 hours in a row a handful of times. And my husband can't do anything with her even though he tries. She's not a bad sleeper, but it's all adding up to me getting a bit desperate sometimes. :)

(I'm addicted to this blog, o wonderful Moxie, and I wish I could keep some Moxie-dust in my pocket all the time.)

mollyball

You know, as I read all of these excellent posts, I come to realize that the biggest disservice those G%$#@! books have done me is to make me feel like an isolated freak-mom. There is something so lonely about being awake and exhausted at 3am, and sometimes I really feel like I must be the most tired person in the world at that moment. Sometimes at night I try to think of people who could be as tired as I am as a way of comforting myself, and all I could come up with is wartime soldiers, Jack Bauer, and Sydney Bristow, and those last 2 aren't even real. But it's those freakin' books that make me feel like that, and this blog is all that's good about the internet--a sense of community and a source of information, combined. Tonight it will be me, some soldiers, Sydney Bristow, Jack Bauer, and you guys!

caro

I've been meaning for a while to write an "everything I've learned about sleep in 21+ months with a difficult sleeper" post, and maybe I still will, but here are the points that come to mind right now:

Don't talk in detail about the sleep situation with anyone but other parents who are or have been similarly miserable.

Think about one night at a time. There is no sense in worrying about next month; you will have a whole other thing to worry about by then.

If there is endless soothing-to-sleep to be done, try to use that time for mental/spiritual good rather than bad. i.e. meditation or prayer or listmaking rather than fuming and worrying.

Read those damn books only in a very, very strong mood and very, very critically. Preferably, read them before the baby is born and then don't look at them again, ever, so that you have nice, foggy memories of helpful things in them rather than all the guilt-trippy dogma.

I've got more but my darling is waking up (at 4 pm after dozing off for 10 minutes in the car at 11:30 screwed up her nap and probably the next whole week).

I'm so glad this and the previous post are here. All the juxtapositions of "hell" and "sleep" are sure to make them pop up high on the google searches of parents who most need it.

Heidi

This will probably sound simplistic, and I don't have enough time right now to read the other comments and thus discover how TRULY simplistic it is. But my biggest piece of advice is merely to have faith that your child is doing what he/she needs to do and that, together, you'll end up at a place that you both will be able to live with (I stress the "together" on this, because both parties need to evolve).

I fought my son for so long on the sleep issue and began so many letters to Moxie that went unsent, mostly because I never had time or active brain cells to finish them due to his poor sleep. After months of fighting him, I broke about a year ago (he's just turned 2) and did whatever it took to get him to sleep. This meant napping with him EVERY day, getting up in the night multiple times, never sleeping away from home overnight because we were all just too miserable when we did it --I could go on but won't.

So what does he do three weeks ago but start, magically, sleeping through the night. Every night. From 7:30 until 6:00. In fact, he pulls away from me when I'm nursing him at bedtime (our nursing days appear to be numbered); I say, "Ready for bed?"; he says, "Bed"; and down he goes.

Believe me, I know it won't stay that way. But now I know he can do it, and I'm glad that I didn't try to push him to do something he wasn't ready for. I really believe it had to happen on its own.

Joline

First, I think it helps to remember that when a "sleep problem" arises, it is most often Mom's sleep and not baby's sleep that is the real problem! Also it helps to remember we can only change ourselves.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps" does not only correlate with the few weeks after birth. This should be law whenever mom is experiencing a sleep disturbance. And we fight it. We all do. We want our "me time" we want to put the baby down for one hour before we crawl into bed ourselves. WE cant nap when the sink is full of dishes. Well. It is easier to fix those things about yourself than to fix make your baby's sleep change.
I had to take a little trick from zen buddhism to train myself to nap. (to stop those interrupting thoughts which kept my mind too busy) I treated myself like a child and set at timer and told myself I was to lie on the couch wiht my eyes closed for an hour, or until a baby woke up, whether I wanted too or not. I wasnt "allowed" to get up until the timer went off. I eventually trained myself to nap.
And Weekend sleepathons can work a miracle on a sleep-deprived mom! What I do is tell my husband that I need sleep on Saturday. And in the morning I get up as usual, but as soon as everythign is settled. He gets the kids adn I go back to sleep, to sleep until I am DONE. Not for an hour. Not until 9 oclock. But until my body doesnt need any more sleep. Only to be disturbed by a baby who really needs to nurse. One sleepathon is usually enough to keep me going for another week or two of minimal sleep. I still do this now when my MIL takes the kids overnight.

My other sleep suggestion is actually about the baby. Some newborns have nights and days switched. Our body clocks, or circadian rhythms are set in the hypothalmus by exposure to sunlight. The earlier you can expose baby to sunlight in the morning, the sooner his body will recognize daytime for awake and nighttime for sleep. After a few nights of being up till 2 am then trying desparately to sleep in to catch up. I got my ds up at his first waking at about 7, and instead of tryign to get him back to sleep we got in the sunlight. I actually put him in his swing by a bright window while I had my mornign coffee. In two days he no longer had nights and days mixed.
Joline

Kate

Let's see...if you have a partner, get her/him on board with your general attitude towards sleep issues. If one of you is utterly averse to having the baby in bed, or if one of you can't stand to have the baby fuss, or if you disagree over what the crying could mean--talk about it and try to come to a consensus. Even if it is the nursing mom who is doing the bulk of the comforting, having someone to back you up emotionally is big.

Try to be consistent, but don't be afraid to drop anything that's not working. And something that might work for a while might suddenly NOT. (Your baby will know it, but it could take you a week to catch on.)You'll have to scramble to find something else.

I had a similar experience to Heidi, in that we just kind of gave in to my daughter's sleep horrors and did what we had to do get by. She slept through the night only after her brother arrived, after she turned 2, and after she was in her own room in a regular twin sized bed. But bedtime was and is never oppositional; now it's two minutes of nursing, 30 seconds of backrubbing, and she looks at books by herself for 10-15 minutes before asking for her light to be turned off. If you had told me that when she was 12 months I would have laughed you out of the room, but now it's allowed me to be a lot less stressed when it comes to my son (10 months). He sleeps better in my bed; he never slept in a crib; he rarely consents to have my husband comfort him at night--even sobbing when I have the gall to go to the bathroom....JUST LIKE HER. The difference is that now I know it's not forever!

Which isn't to say that I don't have my limits--after a particularly bad week of teething trouble, I passed him over at 3 am and said, "Enjoy, he's all yours. I MUST sleep. Must."

That relates to my last point, which is that stay-at-home-parents shouldn't shortchange themselves by thinking that they don't have a "job" to get up and go to. I mean, they don't--BECAUSE THEY SLEEP AT WORK. And eat at work. And shower at work. You get the idea. Just because there isn't a traditional "office" that you "commute" to...doesn't mean that you don't have hard (hard!) work, demanding (though cute) boss(es), and don't need/want/deserve rest, sleep, breaks, etc. It took me about 2 years to get over the guilt of "oh, my husband has to get up early and go to work, how can I make him get out of bed and comfort a screaming toddler/change a diaper/put both kids to sleep when I go out once a month." But now I am over it. Stay at home parents are working people! :-) (exit soapbox)

michaela

All afternoon I've been pondering what I have to add to these great comments (with, as exhibit A, baby with ear infection who refused to nap this afternoon). The only thing I can come up with is to know when you've hit your limit and ask for help. Ideally, of course, you'd see your limit coming and ask for help beforehand, but at least IME my limit is invisible until I'm far past it.

For good or ill, my daughter was introduced to bottles really early in the NICU; I pumped a lot more than she drank then and so have a pretty good freezer stash. So in really rough sleep periods, my husband and I alternate nights -- one of us in the guest room sleeping soundly, and the other one upstairs on baby duty (me with the boobs, him with bottles). It took a lot to convince me that a somewhat rested mother was a lot more important than the occasional nighttime bottle... makes no sense at all why I was so opposed to it. But understanding that I did not have to fix this problem -- which is how I was thinking about it at the time -- all by myself made a huge difference.

Amy

I completely to the comment above about writing so many emails to Moxie, only to delete them because I was too sleep deprived to make rational sense. In the desperate moments, reaching out across the internet in my flialing quest for The Answer, just knowing Moxie-wisdom was there has helped. I've read the posts on sleep regressions more times than I can count. As the mother of a 5.5 month old who resists naps as if they are reed-under-the-fingernail torture, I am slowly learning to let go of the idea that her "habits" are completely under my control. Ha! I can provide the opportunity for her to sleep, but I can't force her. And I haven't failed if she isn't able to do it. I keep reminding myself that responding to her needs right *now* is more important than worrying myself into craziness over whether I'm "starting her on a lifetime of poor sleep habits." In addition to repeating "this is a phase" over and over, I also chant the following: "I'm seeing her through this." To me, this means that I might not be able to make her sleep, but I can set the stage and deeply care. It means I'm present while she learns (even if I'm in the other room or on a plane to Majorca, I can be present in my active concern and awareness of what she's going through), and I'm part of a process. It's a continuum, not a moment. Sort of a Zen anti-Zen. Ommmmmmm ... (amazing how exhaustion can make the mysteries of the universe unfold!)

Evelyn

Most of the suggestions above are great. When Mr. Littleguy is up late and has spent more time awake than asleep, I count.
I count out a rhythm -- beats of 4, 8, 10 or 100 for those really long nights. I'm never keeping track -- sometimes I count to 100 four times to the beat of the rocker, other times I count in time to my hand patting his back. It is meditative and relaxing, and it keeps me from getting angry or more awake than I want to be.
ps. This really helped when I was in labor too.

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I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this in my search for something relating to this.

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Great post. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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