Gentle Sleep Methods: The Floor Bed

Catch the start of my Gentle Sleep Experiment here, and the summary of how my first attempt went, here.

After an unsuccessful attempt at getting Avery used to her crib using a combination of no-cry sleep training and Gentle Baby sleep methods, I reassessed our situation.

She sleeps like a log all night long while next to me in our bed. 

She wakes in a fret all night long when alone in her crib. 

I belong to the baby sleep camp that believes this is her way of telling me she legitimately needs me for comfort. And my parenting instincts are telling me to be there for her. I know there are sleep consultants and sleep trainers out there who would say that she just needs to get used to her crib and I need to allow her to protest and not give in. They would tell me that I’m not doing her any favours by forming “negative” sleep associations like nursing to sleep – how will she ever learn to fall asleep on her own?? I’ve tried to get on board with that perspective, but I’ve come to realize that those methods just don’t sit right with me. 

So I’ve started using a new gentle method for getting her to feel more comfortable in her own room and in her own bed: The Floor Bed. 

I now sleep next to Avery on her crib mattress on the floor beside her crib. She can nurse as much as she wants through the night, and she goes to sleep easily with a quick nurse and a cuddle after a good, solid, predictable bedtime routine with her Mo that lasts about 10 minutes. I try to leave her through the night when she’s deep in sleep, but I tend to fall asleep and not wake up until she needs milk again, so I haven’t been getting back to my own bed.

So, the big question.

Is it working?

Yes, almost as well as bed sharing in her moms’ bed. She sleeps anywhere from 2-4 hours at a time. When she wakes up hungry in the first half of the night she nurses back to sleep easily and neither of us have to move. When she wakes in the second half of the night (2-6am) she is less easily comforted. I need to get up and nurse her in the chair, but then I can put her down on the mattress and can usually leave the room for a bit. I’ve also been able to have a few evenings back where she sleeps in her room on her own between her bedtime and my bedtime. The only evenings where this hasn’t happened, I blame teething. She’s working on 3 new teeth and until that Tylenol kicks in she’s super clingy and upset. 

My favourite part of sleeping next to her still (or being able to lay down next to her when she calls me in the night) is the she has started to sometimes fall back to sleep by simply putting her hand on the breast as if to make sure it’s still there. Such a peaceful and easy way to make her content in the night. 

Its been 2 weeks. I’d like to start working on leaving her alone in her room on the floor mattress and sleeping in my own bed. The challenge will be consistency when I am tired as f***. How am I supposed to just get her to sleep by laying next to her and NOT fall asleep myself? It takes 20 minutes for her to enter deep sleep, and it seems pretty instantaneous for me. By the time she’s ready to be left, I’m out cold. 

I miss my wife and I really want to make my own transition back to our bed work. It’s a slow but steady process. 

Wish me luck…

Regrets 

I’m usually an eternal optimist who is really good at compartmentalizing and shoving under the rug any negativity. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about things I regret so far in my parenting experience. Maybe it’s because I’ve thought seriously about the fact that we may not have another child and I may not get a do-over. Whatever the reason, I’m going to treat these four negative thoughts like a meditation and let them come into focus and then hopefully pass on, out of my mind.  

The first regret is probably a common one: I regret decisions made that impacted my birth experience. Although I had a positive birth experience in the end, it wasn’t what I wanted. I regret not fighting harder to naturally progress rather than be induced. I had in my head that if they pushed for syntocin/pitocin, I’d negotiate for more stretch and sweeps and go back for more acupuncture. But instead I gave in to pitocin at one of several non-stress-tests (that revealed baby was totally fine in there). I wish I’d held out. Having the baby in the hospital wasn’t even the part I regret – it was the IV. That was the worst part of the whole birth experience for me. Really and truly. 

Along the lines of how I ended up giving birth with pitocin in the hospital, I regret not taking blood pressure drugs near the end of my pregnancy when the consulting OB offered them. It could have enabled me to have a home birth, and it might have prevented my postpartum blood pressure scares and several trips to the walk in clinic with a brand new baby. I wish I could have done the lie-in where the new mom just lays in bed for days with the new baby. 

I regret not having a photographer at the birth, or at least a good friend to take pictures. The only pictures we got from the first 24 hours of her life were a few I asked the nurses to snap when she had already been on my chest for a while, and a few my wife took of Avery swaddled in the plastic hospital bassinet later that morning. We were a little too preoccupied to think about taking pictures. 

And one that’s not birth related: I regret trying so hard to move Avery toward independent sleeping, from the nights we battled with putting her down in the bassinet when she was colicky (and it was the witching hour) to the arduous no-cry sleep training we attempted when she was 3 months old. I think it’s important for me to think about this regret now, as we continue the battle of moving her to her own room. We’re moving her so my wife and I can get alone time in bed, but I haven’t been in our bed for almost a month now, what with the phase of sleeping in the chair when she woke every 15 minutes, to now, as I sleep on the floor with her in her room. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying so hard. Maybe I should welcome her back into our bed… 

Maybe some regrets aren’t just “too lates.” Maybe they can be signs that you can do things differently moving forward… 

A Gentle Baby Sleep Experiment: The Conclusion

I used gentle baby sleep methods to try to get my bed-sharing baby used to sleeping in the crib. Did I make it till the end of the 10 days I challenged us to? Are we sleeping peacefully with baby in the crib using only gentle methods? Here’s a re-cap of our 10 night challenge. 
NIGHT ONE

Asleep in our bed by 7, woke 4 times before 10pm. Transferred to crib at 10. Woke every hour until 5am. Putting my hand on her chest only worked once to get her back to sleep. Brought her into our bed at 5am, slept until 6:30.

NIGHT TWO

Passed out immediately upon nursing at about 6:40, slept in our bed until 10, moved her to her crib. Woke every 2 hours and I nursed her back to sleep. 6:30 wide awake and ready for the day. 

NIGHT THREE

Not a good night. It took 3 hours to get her to fall asleep and she nursed and kicked and punched me the whole time. Transferred to crib at 10, woke and demanded the boob every 45 -90 minutes.  Up for the day at 6:30.

NIGHT FOUR

I caved. Typical evening, only woke once before 10 pm crib transfer. Once in the crib, woke every 15 god damn minutes for 3 and a half hours. I had to pick her up and hug her for just a second to calm her and then she would go happily back into the crib, for 15 minutes. By 1:30am I caved and brought her into bed with us where she slept beautifully until 6:30am. 

NIGHT FIVE

Another terrible night. Went to sleep well in our bed and transfered well at 10. Then she woke every 15 min again. At 3:15 she went to sleep and stayed asleep until 5, brought her into bed with us, slept till 6:30. She woke underslept and cranky. 

NIGHT SIX

She was super tired so we let her go to bed early, asleep by 6. Crib transfer at 10 – she protested being put down in the crib for 2 hours. Lots of crying and rocking. Finally at 12:30 I got her to stay sleeping and she woke every hour until 5am, brought her into our bed,  slept till 7am. 

NIGHT SEVEN

Daylight savings time change. We adjusted her bedtime to 7:30 instead of 6:30 so she wouldn’t feel it. Transfer to crib took 3 hours (10:30-1:30). Any time I put her down, awake, drowsy or asleep, she immediately cried. Brought her into bed with me at 2am. I felt like it was cruel to deprive her of any more sleep that night. Woke at 7:30.

NIGHT EIGHT

Oops, I fell asleep during bedtime routine and neither baby nor I woke up again until 7:30am. Bed shared all night. 

NIGHT NINE

Transfer to crib took half an hour. Woke every 30 to 90 minutes. Woke for the day at 7:30 (loving the time change). 

NIGHT TEN 

Tried something new. Put her crib mattress on the floor in her room and I put her to sleep there at bedtime instead of in our bed. I stayed with her most of the night and she only woke when I went back to my own bed twice, briefly. Slept till 6, brought her back to our bed so I could get an hour or so of good sleep. Woke at 7:30.
So did it work? No. Not at all. But we did come out the other side of these rough 10 nights with a new plan, thanks to feedback I got on the No-Cry Sleep Solution Facebook group. We’ll try the crib mattress on the floor of her room for as long as I can hold out in discomfort. 

My original goal with this 10 day challenge was to get her used to sleeping in the crib. I hoped that if we just pushed through, she’d get used to it as a function of spending more time in it. We may have tried to bypass a necessary step: recreate the sense of safety/comfort that she currently gets from being next to me. The Lovie that we conditioned is not sufficient for her. 

The goal now is to make her room a safe and comfortable place to sleep, with me there at first to make this association. We realized that she generally slept well alone in our bed between her bedtime and our bedtime, so we know it’s possible for her to be left alone to sleep. 

Perhaps I’ll have another 10 days in me before caving… I know consistency is key, but it is very hard to be consistent with the things you do in the middle of the night when you’re exhausted. 

Wish me luck. 

A gentle baby sleep experiment

Last night was night 1 of 10 in a sleep “training” challenge for us. Avery sleeps perfectly through the night (11 hours) when she bed shares, but we’re ready to kick her out for the sake of my back and our intimacy as a couple. I’ve tried moving her to the crib a few times and it goes well for a night or two and then it goes downhill rapidly and I cave quickly because I know that bringing her into bed with me is a 100% effective, immediate solution that gets us all sleep. 
I started practicing elements of the No-Cry Sleep Solution when she was 3 months old. I thought I could prevent the 4 month sleep regression if I instilled good habits and deterred sleep “crutches”. That didn’t work. Three months was just too young for my baby – she wasn’t ready, developmentally, for such a push toward independence. 

Since then I’ve embraced nursing to sleep as a positive sleep association – it’s positive because it makes her and I feel good inside, it makes Avery feel comforted and safe, and it actually releases hormones that make her sleepy. My approach to sleep training is now a combination of tips from the No-Cry Sleep Solution and the Gentle Baby Sleep Book. I also don’t want to refer to it as sleep training, because that doesn’t really feel like what we’re doing here. This is my goal over the next 10 days:

Get Avery to sleep in her crib at night only waking up to nurse 3 times.

My rules are:

  • Stick with bedtime routine: Mo takes her up for diaper change, moisturize, PJs and sleep sack, and tooth brushing; Mommy takes over with a lullaby and nursing in our bed until asleep.
  • Continue conditioning her lovie and have it with her in her crib at night. We’ve conditioned it for about 2 months already so it should smell like mommy and milk and comfort and hopefully it should cue sleep.
  • Get her to sleep at night by nursing in our bed. I don’t feel the need to break this pattern yet as it gets her good and relaxed for a later transfer. I’m usually able to spend the evening downstairs with only one wake-up before it’s my bedtime and time to move her, hopefully in her sleep.
  • If she murmers or whimpers, wait it out to see if she’ll fall back to sleep. If it progresses to a cry, respond right away. 
  • Respond to cries by first putting my hand on her chest, shushing her, and kissing her cheek. If the cries escalate at all, pick her up and nurse her in the chair. Put her back in the crib when she unlatches herself. Put no limit on number of night feeds (but work toward a goal of no more than 3).
  • For wake-ups after 5am, I give myself permission to bring her into our bed for a morning cuddle and to hopefully extend sleep a little longer. 

Although the two sleep books I’ve referenced contradict each other in many ways (e.g., positive sleep cues in one are negative sleep crutches in the other), they can also work really well together if you’re flexible and want to follow your instinct with just a little guidance. 

NIGHT ONE

6:30pm we started the bedtime routine, asleep in our bed by 7. Woke up 4 times before 10pm (cuddled her back to sleep in our bed) when I moved her to her crib asleep. Woke every hour until 5am. Putting my hand on her chest only worked once to get her back to sleep. Nursed 6 times. Brought her into our bed at 5am, slept until 6:30 when the cats woke her up.

I’ll wait to document nights 2-10 until the end of this gentle baby sleep experiment. Will it work to achieve our goal? Will I give in again and bed share forever?? Wait to find out.. 

My baby is sleeping through the night…

I know that a lot of parents will curse my name and stick pins in a voodoo doll of me for this blog title. Let me start off by admitting that I know the folly in making claims like this – once you let the words escape your mouth, your child is bound to stop doing whatever it was you bragged about them doing. Nevertheless, we’ve had a rough first 6 months of sleep and I really want to take this win and shout it from the rooftops. 
My baby has always been a high-needs baby when it comes to comfort. Laying her down in the crib was always met with screams that sounded like she honestly believed she was being abandoned behind a dumpster somewhere. We used the No-Cry Sleep Solution to guide our “sleep training” efforts, but I took what I wanted from the book and left the rest. We worked for months on positive sleep associations and a solid routine that worked for everyone, but I bed-shared and nursed to sleep because that’s what worked for my baby. I didn’t think of nursing or cuddling to sleep as a negative sleep “crutch”, because it felt so natural and so right. But there we were at 5 months old and my wife and I were starting to wonder if I’d ever be able to go to bed later than 6pm or if we’d ever have our marital bed back. I pushed for us to keep following the baby’s cues and wait until she seemed ready for more independence before pushing her out on her own.

Last week, one week before turning 6 months old, she started falling asleep after nursing (in my bed), and I could leave the room and she’d be fine. So one night I tried moving her – asleep – into her crib. She stirred, woke ever so slightly to see that she was in a new place, but was so sleepy and relaxed that she rolled over and conked out again as soon as I laid her down in the crib. She stayed like that for a couple of hours.

The most amazing part was that when I went into the room to tend to her wake-ups, all I had to do was put my hand on her chest and kiss her cheek and she fell asleep again. We didn’t teach her how to self-sooth; it seemed she had just developed the ability to self-sooth overnight – like that sleep regression had matured her brain and made her into a more mature sleeper. 

Now, a full week later, she has gone for longer and longer stretches. I still put her to sleep in my bed by nursing, and then I go downstairs for the evening and transfer her when my wife and I are ready to come up to bed. Last night she slept from 7pm-2am (I gave her a dream-feed and put her in her crib at 9:30), nursed at 2:30am, and slept (still in her crib) from 3-6:30am. 

I know it has only been a week. I know she could make a fool of me by tonight. I know 6 – 9 months is a common “happy place” for baby sleep and then you get hit with more sleep regressions. But right now I am revelling in the glory that is getting a good night of sleep.

Sleep & Solids

I’m hopping aboard the sleep struggles train that seems to be going through blogville these days. 

Avery is going through the 4 month sleep regression and for 2 weeks now she has been waking up every 45 min to 2 hours. My wife offers to take a shift, but if she tries to rock her to sleep during her wake-ups she usually gets more upset and more awake with every passing second; versus, if I give her the boob she’s out like a light. 

I watch her on the monitor to make sure she isn’t going to get herself back to sleep before I get up (this happens a couple of times a night, usually she just needs to get herself rolled over and she’s fine), and if the whining intensifies I trudge down the hall to her cozy room and try to get as much enjoyment out of our middle of the night nurses as I can. She falls asleep within a minute of nursing, but the problem is, I usually do to. Even in the uncomfortable wooden arms of the IKEA chair. And then 45 minutes has passed by the time I get back to bed and it’s not long before the next wake-up. 

This too shall pass. This morning at 6 I brought Avery in our bed and she slept in until 9. I feel so refreshed thanks to that. But ask me again at 11:45pm tonight when I’ve already woken up twice …

The other thing that has been on my mind is starting Avery on solid food. I’d like to wait until she’s 6 months because I feel like she’s already so easily distracted during nursing and even though she has plenty of wet diapers she seems so thin to me… So I don’t want to worry about solid foods competing with my milk for her interest. 

HOWEVER, she is really interested in what I eat right now. She grabs for it and watches it disappear in my mouth with awe. I’ve been teaching her baby sign language and I sign “eat” when I’m eating something, with the hopes that she’ll be able to ask for solid food eventually, and keep it differentiated from the sign for “milk”. 

So I think at this point we’re just waiting for her to be 100% stable sitting up on her own and for the tongue protrusion reflex to go away and then we’ll start. We’re going to start with purées because she is high risk for food allergies, but we also like the idea of baby-led weaning/feeding so she can work on her fine motor skills. We’ll probably do a blend of both approaches. 

I had a dream that I was feeding her little bits of cucumber and sweet potato as her first taste of food and my wife wasn’t there. I woke up feeling extremely guilty… Solid foods are going to be my wife’s domain since the breastfeeding was mine. 

So many exciting new stages around the corner… Sleeping through the night, eating solid food… Looking forward to it.

“too accommodating” to my baby…? Sleep dilemma

My mom worries that Avery is too needy – that she wants to be held too much and needs too much assistance getting to sleep. I’ve used the “she’s a newborn baby, of course she needs to be held all the time!” excuse for as long as I could, but she’s going to be 4 months old in a couple of days and now I’m starting to get more judgment for the way I get her to sleep.
No-cry sleep training attempts were a bust. We tried for a month to take a morning nap in the crib and she would fuss for an hour before I’d take her out and let her sleep on me to salvage a half hour or so of the remaining nap time.

She’ll only sleep on me if I hold her against me and rock her to sleep, or next to me if I nurse her to sleep while lying down. This is the case for naps and nights. At night I transfer her to the bassinet once she has fallen asleep in our bed, but the bassinet sleep has gotten worse and worse and she ends up bed sharing more often than not. I get terrible sleep this way because there isn’t room for a spread-eagle wife, a spread-eagle baby, and me. However, I get worse sleep when I try putting her in her bassinet. Last night I held her hand in her bassinet for 2 hours to keep her asleep – everytime I let go she awoke.

I mentioned to my mom that I’m uncertain of how successful all 3 of our family Christmas dinners will be next week, because Avery gets fussy at 6:30 and the only way to appease her is to get her ready for bed and quiet down the house for the night. This is dinner time. This is why I usually eat dinner early, and then when my wife gets home later she eats separately. We have eaten dinner together, without a fussy baby in either of our arms, a total of 3 times since Avery was born.

I deal with the evening fussiness by laying in bed with the baby from 6:30 until she falls asleep – sometimes an hour, sometimes 3 hours. I put her to sleep in our bed because it’s the least exhausting for me and because I let her comfort nurse to sleep. If I get up to shower or something and Avery wakes up to my absence, she screams. If she wakes up and sees me there with her, she falls right back to sleep. I am kind of trapped.

Not really an ideal situation for holiday dinners. And this is why my mom said that maybe I am too accommodating to my baby.

I see my only other option as cry-it-out sleep training, which I really, really don’t want to use. But I’m torn as to whether this is inappropriate behaviour for an almost 4 month old at all, or if the problem lies with the social expectations of our fast-paced, independent culture where going to bed at 7 just because your baby goes to bed at 7 is unreasonable. I don’t have a problem with it – I like to unwind in the evening in bed, cuddling my baby.

Who is being unreasonable here? Avery and I, or our family?

Update on sleep training

I have been trying no-cry sleep training for morning naps only for 1 day short of 3 weeks now. I have chosen to do this because Avery is outgrowing her bassinet, her crib won’t fit in our room, and she needs to get used to spending sleeping times in her crib, in her room for necessity’s sake. Before we started this gentle form of sleep training, she cried and cried and cried when I put her down in her crib. 3 weeks later, er… she still cries and cries and cries when I put her down in her crib.

Now, it’s not been completely useless. There is some improvement to be seen. 3 times in the last 3 weeks she has put herself to sleep in her crib by sucking her thumb. We are doing the pick up – put down (PU/PD) no-cry method, so when she cries I shush her, if she still cries I put my hand on her chest, if she still cries I pick her up until she calms down (usually only takes 2 or 3 minutes), then I put her back down again when calm. Repeat until she either soothes herself to sleep or is tired enough to give up the fight and just passes out when her head hits the mattress. Its often an hour of this up and down, cry and sooth. It’s exhausting (for both of us), but supposedly this method gives them reassurance that you are there for them if they really need you without turning you into a sleep prop.

The challenge we are having is with consistency. Because she is so young still (some would argue too young for sleep training), I can’t be certain that she doesn’t legitimately have needs that are unmet when she cries in her crib. Sometimes I honestly believe that she is feeling really hungry, and I let her nurse during a pick up, and she falls asleep nursing. Or I have good reason to believe that she is gassy and lying on her back in the crib hurts, so I give in and let her sleep on me where my body heat and pressure on her abdomen helps her tummy. We are consistent with time of day, soft lullabies that she clearly associates with sleep (she starts yawning when she hears them), and with the fact that we try the first nap of the day in the crib every day. But the more I read (and contemplate back to my behavioural psychology classes on conditioning and subconscious associations), the more I wonder if we need to be consistent in that ALL sleep attempts need to be without me as a sleep prop. I can’t remember for sure where I read that starting with the morning nap is often easiest – maybe in The No-Cry Sleep Solution? – but if she is still enabled to nurse herself to sleep at bedtime and be rocked to sleep and spend all of her other naps sleeping on someone, will she really understand that the morning nap is consistent with itself each day?

I plan to keep trudging away with this until January when we plan to move her to her crib for nights (because the bassinet just won’t be an option anymore). In the meantime I worry that the hour of fussing and PU/PDs and severely compromised morning nap duration are all for nothing…

The parenting myth I’ve finally stopped falling for (A Reblog)

Re blog from mom.me to follow up my sleep training post with the complete opposite message 😉

I hope this makes you feel better about yourself if you feel a lot of parenting pressure, like I do.

The Parenting Myth I’ve Finally Stopped Falling For

The other day on Facebook, a post popped up in my newsfeed from another mom who was seeking advice. She said that her 6-month-old baby will only finish his bottle if she sings to him while he drinks it. That made me smile. It seemed like a lovely, harmless little way for that bright boy to get his needs met. He wants his mama to sing to him, and since he can’t ask her with words, he’s come up with a creative and effective way to communicate with her. I was proud of the little guy.

But the rest of Songbird Mama’s post stated that her pediatrician advised her to stop singing to him when he’s taking his bottle because it might create a bad habit. She said that her husband agreed with the doctor. I think my mouth fell open.

Now, I will admit that I’m only getting part of the story here. I obviously wasn’t at the six-month well baby exam. But, come on—a bad habit? Wanting your mom to sing to you is a bad habit? I mean, the baby isn’t requiring his mama to feed him while turning cartwheels or holding her breath or embroidering a onesie with her free hand. Those might be bad habits. But singing? Sounds like normal, healthy, mom-baby stuff to me.

Here’s where the parenting myth comes in—the myth that I have fallen for and maybe even promoted a time or two: Your child’s current quirks, habits and preferences will likely go on forever if you don’t put your foot down ASAP.

Someday your child will wean. Someday he will sleep on his own. Someday she will be completely potty-trained. Someday he will eat an actual vegetable.

When you read it there in black and white, it sounds stupid, right? I mean, even just typing it out nearly made me scrap this entire post. But think about it—how often do we convince ourselves that if our children cosleep, they will never be able to sleep in their own beds without using us as their personal teddy bears? How often do we tell ourselves that if we give our toddler a piece of candy for using the toilet, she will demand post-bathroom break Skittles from her kindergarten teacher? How often does Grandma or Aunt Francine convince us that if we rock our baby to sleep every night, we are going to turn into that (slightly creepy) mom from “I’ll Love You Forever” rocking her man-son on her frail little lap?

We do it all the time, right? Something is working, but you get that twinge of anxiety, either from somebody else or from deep inside ourselves, telling us that our kid is going to create a “bad” habit, one that’s going to be nearly impossible to break. So we stop doing what’s working—for us and our child—to quench that fear and appease the masses.

So if you’re a new(ish) parent, let me speak directly into your worries: If it is working right now—for you and for your baby—keep doing it.

Keep cutting those sandwiches into shapes if that’s what it takes to get her to eat it. Keep patting that diapered butt to the tune of Old MacDonald if that’s what gets him to fall asleep. Keep the white noise as long as you need it. Keep buying blankie backups just in case your daughter leaves her most prized possession at daycare. Someday your child will wean. Someday he will sleep on his own. Someday she will be completely potty-trained. Someday he will eat an actual vegetable.

And despite Daddy and doctor’s fears to the contrary, someday that stubborn little music-loving baby will tell his mom to stop singing so he can concentrate on his video game.

So for now—sing, Mama, sing.



 

 

 

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