Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stella's Daily Routine: How ignoring some of the "rules" helped my baby sleep 12 hours at night by 8 weeks old!

Right now my blog is purely for fun.  I write mainly because I enjoy it and it serves as a sort of "memory journal" as my children grow up because sadly I know someday I will look back and forget so many of the little details.  This is by no means a source of income for me at the moment, and I am not trying to sell you anything or gain anything whatsoever from my posts.  I do share some on Pinterest just in case it peaks anyone's interest, but that's about the extent of it so far.  Therefore I was surprised by the amount of page views and comments this post has received.  I wrote it when my daughter was a baby (she is now 2 and a half) basically so I could remember what I did when my next baby arrived (which is any day now!) because our routine worked so well for Stella.  Even though I did say in the original post that I don't know if this will work for everyone, I have gotten so many negative comments criticizing my suggestions.  Lots of positive feedback too, more so than negative, but enough unfair comments that I felt the need to address a few things:  FIRST AND FOREMOST, I NEVER advocate to ignore your baby's basic needs.  If they are hungry and need fed by all means FEED THEM!  I thought this was common sense as adults and parents, but so many have proved me wrong.  I consulted with Stella's pediatrician every step of the way to make sure she was receiving the proper amounts of formula (second note:  I bottle fed after Month 1.  Breastfed babies will probably wake more often, consult your doctor to see how much/often your baby needs to feed as I am inexperienced on this).  I documented what she ate, when she pooped, etc for weeks.  To suggest I EVER neglected my baby's needs or advocate others to do so is unfair and should be obvious from the great extent I took to create a safe and fun routine for my daughter.  Again, it amazes me how common sense alludes some people.  So on that note, if they are sick HOLD THEM.  If they are hungry FEED THEM.  If they are cold SWADDLE THEM.  And so on and so forth.  My suggestions are purely for when your baby has their needs met and is simply trying to fall into the correct pattern of day/night sleep.  And they are just that.  SUGGESTIONS.  If you don't like them or don't believe in them that is perfectly OK, I've read lots of stuff that didn't work for us.  So if you want to offer up constructive criticism on any of my posts that is great I'm totally up for that!  You will see some posted below in the comments, several of which made me think and re-phrase things and I appreciate that, we are always growing as parents.  HOWEVER.  And I stress this so much.  If you write a shitty comment simply because you are a bored Internet troll (example:  Your post made me want to puke.  Yep, that was one comment I actually got) I WILL NOT POST IT!!  Right now I monitor all my comments.  I don't post the nasty ones that have no educational or parental thought put into them because I know you are just commenting to be an ass.  Sorry for the language, no other words do justice here.  I also apologize for the long disclaimer, and I hope you still stick around to read the actual post :-)  Best wishes mommies and daddies and remember the best routine is one that works for you and your little one and makes you all happy!!

I'm going to start this post by saying that Stella is my only baby (so far).  I don't know if these tips and tricks will get all my future kids to sleep through the night at such a young age.  Sleep patterns may fall victim to the old "nature vs. nurture" know, some kids might just be born to sleep through the night while others are destined to wake until they're toddlers.  I may follow the same routine for my next baby and still have a night-waker.  I don't know.  I'd like to admit that from the start.  However, with that being said, I did pay careful attention to Stella's routine by incorporating some "rules" and ignoring others in favor of what my "gut" (always hated that word) was telling me.  And I must say I've had tremendous success.  Stella started sleeping through the night (that is subjective, some consider this to be 6 hours...not enough for me...we're talking 12 HOURS at a time here!) at just 8 weeks old.  She is now almost 19 weeks old and has only woke in the night ONE TIME since that first glorious night.  Read on to find out what I did and didn't just might work for your next baby if "nurture" has anything to do with it...

The Routine:

Stella still sleeps in her bassinet in our bedroom.  It's about time to move her to the nursery, but I just can't do it yet.  She wakes up every morning between 7:00 and 8:00 am.  She never cries in the morning, just starts talking and kicking.  This is nice because it allows me a few minutes to gather myself before getting her out of bed.
After changing Stella's diaper, it's onto Tummy Time.  I either do this on her mat, a blanket, or across my legs.  Variety is the spice of life ;-)
After about 3-5 minutes of Tummy Time I feed Stella.  Then I place her in the rocking bed to let her tummy settle while I clean up.  During this time I also do any necessary grooming...file/trim her nails, put cream on her face, etc...  Next we have "school".  I know, that sounds ridiculous now, but I wanted to include a time when she's happy that we can work on her milestones.  This sets the stage for when she's older and we use this time for learning, crafts, reading, and so on.  Remember, I'm an elementary teacher.  But for now I just jot down the developmental milestones she should be reaching each month and we work on those, play, or I do a baby massage with lotion.  And some days I just place her on her play mat or a blanket surrounded by toys and let her play.  Gotta foster some independence!  (Remember, if your baby doesn't hit all the milestones in the suggested month it's not the end of the world.  I just use them as a guide.)
"School" lasts for about 20 minutes, and Stella usually plays by herself for another hour or so.  Then she's ready for a morning nap.  Here's the first rule I chose to break:  "Put your baby down to nap in her crib/bassinet each time".  I tried that once.  She screamed, and I freaked out thinking she'd hate her bed at nighttime if I forced naps in there.  So I trusted my gut.  Napping around the house in different seats worked fine for her.  She still slept at night.  Listen to your baby!  Find what works for you, even if it's against what literature tells you.  All babies are different.  My baby loves a morning nap in her rocking bed (that we are borrowing from a friend).  This nap usually runs about an hour long.
The rest of the day we follow a basic nap/eat/play cycle.  Her afternoon nap usually takes place in the swing and lasts about 1-2 hours.
Her evening nap usually occurs around 7:00 in her bouncy chair.
Upon waking up, I always change Stella, do some Tummy Time, and feed her.  After that, Stella likes to alternate between sitting in a seat (Bumbo, bouncy chair, swing, rocking bed) and laying flat to kick and get some exercise (either on her play mat or on a blanket surrounded by her toys).  By switching it up, I've greatly reduced her fussiness.  Between months 2-3 she was really fussy in the afternoons and evenings.  And then it just stopped.  By sticking to the routine she knew what to expect and it kept her happy!  She likes rest, but she also likes to kick, play and scream.  Again, just listen to your baby!  They can tell you a lot without saying a word.

Bedtime has it's own routine.  I do this every night, no matter how tired I am.  This signals to Stella that it is nighttime, not just a nap.  Around 8:00 (give or take half an hour) we wake her from her evening nap (I could just start bedtime around 6:30 and cut out the evening nap, but this works for now.  I'm sure I'll head that direction before long.).  We bathe her every other night, diaper her (I just use the next size up in diapers since they don't make overnights this small and I always put diaper rash cream on at night since she's in bed so long), massage her with lotion and face cream, and put her PJs on.  While I'm doing this Mark puts the tub away and makes her bottle.  Yes, my husband helps with EVERY SINGLE BATH.  Stella and I are so lucky.
Next it's time for her bottle.  I always feed her in the rocking chair at night in her nursery.  Then I use a wet washcloth to wipe the formula off her gums (something my dental hygienist recommended to help them adjust to teeth-brushing later on, and it keeps their gums healthy).
After her bottle we always read a story.  Everyone gave Stella a book at my baby shower, it's so fun to read them to her and tell her a little bit about who they're from.  Since we read every night we've gone through them all a few times...I need to dig out my books from teaching and get them put away!
My favorite part is after story time.  We always rock to 1 or 2 songs on her lullaby CD.  Lately she's started looking at me and smiling while we rock.  I cherish those moments.  After kissing her goodnight, I put Stella to sleep in her bassinet.  Awake.  I never rock her until she's asleep.  This has taught her how to get herself back to sleep when she wakes up in the night.  I hear her wake up anywhere from 2-5 times during the night.  She talks and kicks a bit and then goes right back to sleep.  I do feel that this has been crucial in getting her to sleep through the night.  After saying a prayer for her and turning her Angelcare monitor on, I close the door and she's out after a few minutes of kicking and thumb-sucking.  And we're free to do whatever we want until bedtime.  It's spectacular!  I need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to function.  I don't settle for less.  Creating a routine and getting Stella to sleep through the night was my number one New Year's Resolution.  Check!

Tips & Tricks:

 *Give yourself a month or two after your baby's born before you make any attempts at a routine.  Any earlier and you'll drive yourself crazy (plus your babe is just too little and requires food every few hours).

*Do your research!  There are tons of blogs and books on helping your child sleep through the night.  Pick 1 or 2 and read them.  No need to read them all! 

*Now throw out half of what you just read.  It's been filed in your memory should you need to access it later on.  You have some ideas, now try them out.  Listen to your baby, that's the only person who can tell you what's best for them!

*Don't be afraid to go against the grain.  If it works it works!

*Put your baby to sleep awake!  This is the one rule that I do think matters.  If your baby doesn't know how to fall back to sleep alone, she will always cry for your help.  Period.

*Don't be a sucker for guilt.  Tough love mommies and daddies!  If your baby is crying during the night, try to press the mobile, music box, or gently rock the bed.  Now, if Stella cried for a long time, sure she might legitimately need something and it's my job to provide it.  But if she's just routinely waking up for attention, it's OK to let her fuss a little.  If you always grab your baby out of guilt, they will expect it.  You will lose sleep and be super crab tomorrow.  This DOES NOT benefit your baby.  Or you.  Sleep is important!  Spend time throughout the day (or evening if you work) snuggling and rocking your baby.  Not at midnight.  (Unless they are sick.  I'd like to think we are all using common sense here.)

*Repetition and consistency are your friends.  A routine for baby allows for a--gasp!--routine for mommy.  You CAN get stuff done and have a baby.  It just takes patience, practice, and persistence.

We are going to move Stella to her crib soon.  This might throw off her routine.  I will adjust.  I'm not perfect, neither is she-although she's pretty dang close ;-).  I hope this gives other parents some ideas, and I hope you don't listen to everything I say...we're listening to our babies, remember?  Happy baby happy mama!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3 Month Update

It's been a while since I visited my blog, this terrible winter finally did us in.  We've had quite the mess with our septic to say things have been a little crazy around here!  I am lucky enough to have an extremely smart husband who was able to fix the issue himself, which saved us between $1,500 and $2,000.  I am hoping to have him "guest blog" on how he did it, because if this winter sets the pace for years to come you might run into the same problem!!  Stella and I stayed in town with my mom while Mark got things taken care of at our house.  Anyways, the problem is fixed and the mess inside is finally cleaned up.  Now that we have our house back, it's time to get caught up on some blog posts.  Let's start by checking in with Miss Stella.

In case it isn't obvious in the above paragraph, the winter weather hasn't left us.  Not even close.  March came in like a LION!  This past weekend we had lots more snow and record-breaking cold temperatures.  Fun.  So, we have still been pretty much captive to our house/my mom's house.  We did manage a few outings...Stella attended her first Super Bowl party and bridal shower this month!  She also celebrated her first Valentine's Day.
Resting up before the Super Bowl

We hung around the house on Valentine's Day...I just can't stand going out that night for some reason.  Stella and I hid hearts around the house telling daddy why we love him.  She's so clever ;)  Daddy surprised us with beautiful flowers and a sweet card.  Nothing like splurging with homemade chocolate-strawberry oatmeal and my fruit punch Spark in a wine glass for breakfast!! We took our first "date night" the next night and went to a cute Italian restaurant in Peoria while my parents watched Stella at our house.  Great weekend.

Ok, now it's time for a confession before I jump into Stella's growth this past month.  I kept telling everyone how I would never have another winter baby.  My mind was made up.  But the more I sat around cooped up in the house with Stella, the more I got to thinking...I can't image doing this with a baby who just learned to crawl!  All Stella can-and wants-to do now is lay around, snuggle, and play.  By the time nice weather arrives she'll be able to do more.  Plus, let's face it ladies, you need the winter to lose the weight and hide under sweatshirts until you do!  So, I've decided October/early November might be the best time for a baby.  Until I change my mind again :-)

The Routine:

What routine?  Ha, kidding...kind of.  I still let Stella take the lead this month.  She ate 5 oz every 3 hours...sometimes wanting to eat a little more often.  I tried to be a little flexible with this, but not by much.  I'm not big on shoving a bottle in her mouth every time she cries.  Now, before you think I'm mean mommy, if nothing else works I feed her.  But I'm going to try first to see what's really the matter (if she isn't due for a feeding, of course).  We are still using disposable diapers, the whole septic issue pushed back trying cloth again a bit.  Soon!  Big changes are coming next month.  Stella has regulated herself to only pooping once a day, every day.  She also moved up to a size 1 in diapers at 10 weeks.  We are lucky they don't often leak at night (only twice so far), because they don't make overnight diapers until size 3 or 4 (I can't remember which).  I know most babies don't sleep through the night yet, and I don't intend to complain at all that ours does, but I sure wish they started overnight diapers earlier!   But I wouldn't trade that wish for Stella's sleeping habits for a second!  She naps usually once in the morning, a longer nap in the afternoon, and another quick one before bed.  We've been putting her to bed anywhere from 8:30-10:30.  I hope to tighten up that bedtime next month.  She sleeps every morning until 7-7:30!  9-11 hours a sleep each night?  Heaven!  This started at only 9 weeks old!  Not saying it will continue her entire first year, but I'll take each night I can!  I do plan to do a post on her "routine" and some tips and tricks we used to get her into this sleep pattern, so watch for that soon!  This month she has been extremely fussy in the evenings though.  Once 5:00 hits the countdown begins until bedtime!!
Loves to snuggle with animals and blankies at nap time!
A few of Stella's favorite things:
  •  Playtime!  Stella loves to track objects with her eyes, play with her own hands (at 12 weeks), imitate sounds and sticking out her tongue (at 10 weeks), and grabbing onto the rings on her play mat (at 11 weeks).  She also tends to spit up when she's laying down and gets overly excited (mostly when I'm talking to her).
  • Talking!  Around 12 weeks she really "found her voice".  She loves to laugh, talk, squeal, and make razzing noises.  I have so many videos of her carrying on, it's just too cute!  She also turns to find me when she hears my voice-love that!
  • Tummy time...not quite a "favorite" yet but getting much better!  She makes it longer without fussing and can lift her head up a bit.  She's also learning to bear weight on her legs when pulled to a standing position, something we work on each day after tummy time.  
  • We don't even offer her the pacifier anymore.  However, she is addicted to her thumb (and thankfully better about not poking herself in the eye while she sucks it!)  Some people ask me if I'm going to try to stop it and the answer is no.  She is frantic without sucking when sleeping, and she didn't like the paci anymore.  Using her thumb instead allows her to self-soothe and get herself to sleep.  I'm all for that.  I know it could become a problem someday...Mark had to have his thumb cut open and drained because it got infected as a baby from sucking it so much!  Takes after Daddy here ;-)  But that is rare, and should she suck her thumb when she's too old I have all the faith we'll be able to discipline her and stop it then.  We aren't afraid of discipline, that's why our dog is so well behaved!  Before you go call DCFS on us, know that we do it safely, lovingly, and effectively.  If your pets/children/students respect you, they won't want to disobey.  And the only way they will respect you is by loving them and taking care of them.  But hey, that's just my opinion...but I can confidently say it worked with our German Shepherd and every single class I've ever taught.  Moving on.
Grabbing onto everything now!

Sucking her thumb at nap time...always!

Around the house:
  •  Things just keep getting better!  Despite the weather, this month has been one of settling down, snuggling, and watching motherhood become second nature to me.  I no longer "think" so much about being a mother, I just "do".  And it feels good!
  • Mark and I have talked a lot about our "roles" within our marriage and family.  Being a stay-at-home mom is wonderful, I wouldn't change it for the world.  But it is still a "job".  And no matter how much you love your job you don't want to do it 24/7.  Contrary to what some people think, taking breaks from your job actually makes you BETTER at it!  So, even though the working spouse goes to work everyday, the SAHM really does too.  Only she never goes off duty.  Therefore, the working spouse should take a turn at the SAHM's job once and a while.  Mark agreed to watch Stella every Tuesday and Thursday evening.  No, not so I can go party...or even leave every time...just so I can have a break.  Get groceries.  Go browse CVS (hey, don't take much to make me happy!).  Sit in my room with the door shut and do absolutely nothing.  Whatever.  Just time to be me.  Knowing I have a few nights "off" a week relieved a lot of stress.  Missing Stella makes me more patient, relaxed, and capable as a mom when I am taking care of her.  I strongly encourage all SAHMs to do the same.  Don't neglect yourself.  If there's no man in the picture, ask family or a friend.  It's really worth it!
    Crazy hair!!  Dark and lots of it!
    Still crazy hair...but getting lighter!  Thinking she's going to have blue eyes like her dad!