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Sleep

The Reflection Post: What’s New, What’s Broken, and What’s to Love

The power went out around here at exactly five minutes past blog o’clock yesterday, so I missed you all, but hey – I’m here now! For this edition of what’s new Wednesday Thursday, I thought I’d take a look at some of the broader goings-on around here. We’re swiftly approaching miss Annabelle’s (one and a) half birthday, so I have been spending a lot of time looking at what works, what doesn’t, and what I’ve learned that I need to remember for next time. Perhaps my successes and missteps could be helpful to you, too?

I sort of went over breastfeeding last week, so feel free to refer to that post if you’re curious and missed it. If you want the Reader’s Digest version, it’s going well, but I’m sort of done with nursing to sleep. If there’s one breastfeeding related thing I’ll do differently next time, it’s finding loving ways to soothe my baby to sleep that don’t involve nursing.

Speaking of sleep…
Oh, goodness. Every time I think I have the beast that is infant/toddler sleep conquered, I am proven wrong. Very, very wrong. It’s hard. I have absolutely no idea how to do it “right.” Some advice leads me to believe that I should be putting Annabelle to bed at 6pm on the dot every evening, and other advice encourages me to wait for her cues and just go with it. No matter which option I choose, we have a frustrating (for me) dance of nursing, peeing, squirming, naming body parts, switching sides, and peeing again that lasts an absolute minimum of 40 minutes, but has gone on for as long as four (yes, 4) hours. Side note: It felt like a very cruel joke when I emerged from the four hour dance and could not for the life of me get my bottle of wine open.

I will say this: cosleeping works for us. When I go to sleep with Annabelle, it’s a breeze and we both awake rested. The trouble is, I need less sleep than she does, and there’s a good, long list of things I can only really accomplish when she’s sleeping. So, it only makes sense that I should help her get settled in for her first stretch of sleep and get me some mama time before she wakes to nurse and I take her into my bed for the night.

I have been trying different things and finally broke down and purchased some sleep books. The No Cry Sleep Solution has been mentioned to me many times, but Anna mentioned it at just the right time, and the toddler and preschooler version is now on its way to me, or more likely in my box. I also purchased a more mainstream book, which I may read a few more pages of before I toss it in the garbage. I think that may be a big enough topic for a post of its own, but feel free to add your sleep advice if you have it! We already have a consistent evening routine and fairly consistent waking and napping times, a bath at night, time outside each day, and all of that.

One thing that is going quite well is EC, or Elimination Communication. We are very rarely using diapers or waterproof trainers now, but opting for training underwear or bloomers instead, even for outings. I have tried to stick with a diaper at night, just to save the mattress in case there should be a miss, but Annabelle protests most of the time. She has been showing for preference for sleep au naturale, which is fine with me. She now lets me know that she needs to go by excitedly saying, “poot!” I think that came from poop, but you never do know. She names everything these days. (Other new words include beer and bra. I’m sure everyone who overhears our chats in public thinks I’m a fantastic mother).

I used to leave a little potty nearby at all times, so that Annabelle could go to it on her own when needed. She never did take advantage, however, so I stopped the practice. Today, there was one sitting out in the living room and while I was making coffee, Annabelle walked over to it and sat down. She sits on them frequently, but never uses them for their intended purpose without taking me with her, so I didn’t think anything of it and continued what I was doing. She then picked the potty up and brought it into the kitchen. This is another thing she does regularly, so again I thought nothing of it. Then I heard a splash. She had gone pee on her own – for the first time – but she had also poured it all over herself and the floor. Poor kid! I suppose I’ll be leaving a potty out all the time now, and watching a bit more closely when Annabelle sits on it.

I am definitely continually pleased with our decision to practice EC, and plan to do the same again if we add to our family. Of course our next will be a completely different child, so we may find that we do things in a slightly different way, but I can’t see myself going back to diapering!

I don’t have any recent babywearing photos, but here’s
Annabelle with the babywearing goddess’ cat :)

Babywearing, I should tell you, has changed. I’m surprised, and even a bit sad, to report that I have fallen out of love with my Beco. It just plain stopped fitting comfortably, no matter how I adjusted it. I asked a babywearing goddess friend of mine for help, as I was sure I just needed to adjust something differently – my favorite carrier ever couldn’t possibly fail me! Sadly, she confirmed what I feared – it just doesn’t work with my frame. She was kind of enough to let me borrow one of her Mei Tai carriers and I love it, so I have arranged to purchase a BabyHawk this weekend and I’m pretty excited about it. That will be my go-to for longer outings and hikes during which Annabelle may have long periods of wanting to snuggle up instead of walk. For short outings, I keep a pouch sling on hand so I can help her get comfortable quickly and easily while I do things like check out at the store, but for the most part, she prefers to be free and unfettered, so I’m not using any sort of carrier all that much these days.

If we have another baby, I think I will invest in a nice wrap for the early days. I was so intimidated by wrapping and tying before Annabelle was born, so I stuck with things that had more structure. I wish I had taken the plunge, however. My babywearing goddess friend has shown me a few different ways of tying wraps and they just seem like the most wonderful way of securely cuddling up to a wee one while keeping your hands free.

Overall, life with Annabelle is pretty fantastic. Yes, I’m exhausted some days and frustrated others, but this kid brings so much joy to my life that those feelings never stick around for long. When we go out, she chirps a friendly hello at every single person who walks past, and when she sees a dear friend she flails her arms and literally shakes with giggly excitement. Her curiosity forces me to notice things I never would if she weren’t around, and I’m regularly blown away and honored when I can learn new things about her. As her mother, it’s my duty to think she’s the bees knees, but seriously guys: she’s the bees knees.

What would you do differently with future children if given the chance? What are the best parenting choices you’ve made? What awesome things are your children doing?

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If you haven’t already, pop over to my facebook page and say hello. I’m giving away some tasty Guam-my treats to celebrate my first 100 blogger followers and 300 facebook “likers.” 

Ensuring Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This post is the fifth in a series examining the principles of Attachment Parenting. The goal is to explore what the principle is, why it’s important, and what it looks like in different families and different homes. That last bit is where you come in! I can share how these things play out in my home, but I would truly appreciate hearing wisdom from your journey as well.
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As with all of the principles of Attachment Parenting, there are a variety of different ways to “ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally.” Yet again, everything comes back to respecting the individual child’s needs. One child may sleep beautifully between both parents each night, and another may show their preference for a more well-defined space of their own. One may need an extremely specific bedtime routine in order to relax into sleep each night, and another may be happy to drift off after a book and a cuddle. There are no rules when it comes to listening to our children’s needs. For families practicing attachment parenting, ensuring safe sleep usually means two things: responding to the child’s needs no matter the hour, and choosing a sensitive sleep arrangement, whatever that may mean for the individual child. 



Responding to the child’s nighttime needs with sensitivity

According to Attachment Parenting International:

Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.”

The main goal of safe sleep emotionally is to remain responsive to our children, regardless of the time of day. Our children do not cease to need us simply because the sun goes down, and personally I don’t see a logical reason to be any less responsive during the nighttime hours than we would be during the day. This practice of responsiveness is often referred to as “Nighttime Parenting.”

To quote Pinky McKay, author of Sleeping Like a Baby:
Neuroscientists and clinicians have documented that loving interactions that are sensitive to a child’s needs influence the way the brain grows and can increase the number of connections between nerve cells. The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health advises: “Infants are more likely to form secure attachments when their distress is responded to promptly, consistently and appropriately. Secure attachments in infancy are the foundation for good adult mental health.” So, when you adopt the perspective that your baby’s night howls are the expression of a need, and she is not trying to “manipulate” you, and you respond appropriately (this will vary depending on your baby’s age and needs), you are not only making her smarter, but you will be hardwiring her brain for future mental health. (full article here)

Co-sleeping or choosing a sensitive sleeping arrangement

As for ensuring safe sleep physically, it’s interesting to note that even the mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics admits that, “the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep,” (link) and it’s true that one of the many benefits of sleeping in the same room with our babies is that it helps them to regulate their own breathing. For this reason, among others, many families choose to put their babies to sleep beside the parents’ own bed, or to bedshare, cosleeping with their child in the same bed. Great info on cosleeping herehere, and here. While this practice is common, not all attached parents find that it works for them, and that’s okay. Each family and each child is different.


As children get older, parents have to make their own individual decisions regarding sleep arrangements. From what I have seen, it appears that some children will never have trouble getting to sleep on their own and staying that way, while others will need parental support in establishing good sleep habits as they get older. What that looks like varies by family. It’s not uncommon for children to continue cosleeping well into childhood, and for those who feel comfortable with the practice, cosleeping beyond infancy has many benefits, as outlined in this fabulous, well-researched article by Dionna of Code Name: Mama, “Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy.” Since this is not practical for every family, some may start out cosleeping, but make the transition to separate sleep spaces during or after infancy. Suchada of Mama Eve talks about her own experience with creating a workable sleep solution in her post entitled, “Sleep, Crying, and Balancing Closeness with Boundaries.”


Different for everyone
In my ridiculous number of hours spent reading blogs, and my conversations with personal friends, I have seen many creative sleep arrangements among attached families. Some create a large space on the floor and everyone sleeps together, from the outest, regardless of age. Some families start out in the same bed and transition after a certain age, when night nursing stops, or simply when they feel it’s time. Others, like Shae of Yay for Home! and her family sleep across multiple beds in the same room. Some mothers sleep with their babies while the fathers sleep elsewhere and some fathers sleep with their babies while the mothers sleep elsewhere. Some families place their babies to sleep in a cosleeper, crib, or bassinet in their room, while others put their baby to sleep in another room entirely for their own reasons, and sensitively respond when they are needed.

Our sleep arrangement

On my daughter Annabelle’s first night of life, when we slept in the hospital, I kept her in my arms. She slept soundly on my chest and that was her preferred place to sleep for several days. During those early days, our family of three (the husband, the babe, and I) slept together in bed. I tried to place Annabelle in a “Close and Secure Sleeper” between us, but she wouldn’t have it. She wanted to snuggle.

As a new mother, I was a bit worried about having us all in one small space, but I quickly relaxed as I saw how incredibly aware both my husband and I were during the night. The three of us didn’t sleep together long, since my husband had to leave for the middle east when Annabelle was only ten days old. For the next seven months or so, it was just Annabelle and me. I slept on one side of her, and used a cosleeping pillow on the other. This worked wonderfully. When the husband returned, we all slept together for a month or two, but I was cramped and more awake at night from always trying to keep from waking him, and he was still being awoken. Eventually, he moved to the guest room and there he stays. This sounds awful, or at least it sounded awful to me, but with a nursing toddler, sleeping together is not the sweet, romantic act it once was and I’m okay with that. We keep different hours anyway: a night owl and a forced early riser, so we were waking one another up getting in and out of bed anyway. Everyone sleeps better this way, and the husband and I will be back to sharing a bed before we know it.

Nowadays, Annabelle goes down for her first stretch of sleep in her own bed. I work while she sleeps and depending on the time, usually take her and head to bed at her first night waking three hours or so later. This works as wonderfully as it did when she was a newborn, though she kicks my covers off now. We do our dance of nursing, stopping, rearranging, occasionally popping in to the bathroom, and so on. She is able to get all that she needs from me and I’m able to sleep mostly through the night, since she never needs to cry out for me. Currently our plan is to switch to a king size bed when we move back to the mainland, and go back to sleeping as a family then, but we’ll see. One of these nights, Annabelle just might keep on sleeping instead of waking and needing me. At that point, she’ll be in her own room, but always welcome to come to ours for anything she may need during the night.

My experience is by no means representative of all attachment parents, so please tell us: What does safe sleep look like in your house? 

What’s New Wednesday: Wakefulness and the Parental Orchestra

So about that nap strike… It seems to have become a staying asleep at night strike as well. On Monday night in particular, we had a perfectly ordinary night and the bedtime routine was smooth as molasses. At 7:30pm on the dot, I put a very asleep thirteen month old down in her bed and headed off to the world of adults only relaxation. My stay was cut short, however, when not fifteen minutes later that same thirteen month old popped up with those big, bright eyes and enthusiastically squealed: “EEEE!” I went in to her room and it was quite obvious that she was not going to be sleeping any longer. She was ready to play, and play she did until 11:30 when she finally went back to sleep.
I’m glad to know that periods of increased wakefulness and activity are common in young children who are busily perfecting a new skill or reaching a major developmental milestone. I’m also thankful to have been reminded by a good friend today that “everything is a phase.” So, so true. There will undoubtedly be plenty of opportunities for adults only relaxation, and for uninterrupted sleep in the future, and so we embrace the place we’re in now … or at least do our best.
Aside from the minimal sleep, it has been a perfectly ordinary week around these parts. Annabelle, having learned the full power of her recently discovered signs, is now spending much of her day directing her very own parental orchestra. “Milk,” she begs. Then, moments later: “water!” Still not satisfied, she moves on to “food,” and of course no day is complete without a “book,” which of course must be read a few times to get the full effect, and so she asks for “more.” I won’t pretend I don’t find myself a bit worn out here and there, but it’s absolutely worth the trust and understanding we’re developing. I love that she knows that she can come to me for the things she needs and wants, and that I will respond. Naturally, I’m not always able to give her precisely what she wants at the exact moment that she wants it – milk while driving the car is particularly challenging – but that’s all part of the learning process, too. 
Speaking of books, my goodness does this child love them! She has gone from becoming bored by the third of fourth page of most any story, to asking to hear the same one half a dozen or more times in succession. She really seems to enjoy the flow of the words, often nodding her head in time with them, and she enthusiastically joins in with a bit of movement. She throws her arms in the air just before I get to the word, “up” in books, which is awesome not only because she has developed a connection with that word and the action that goes along with it, but because she has also clearly memorized portions of her books, since she does the motion before I reach the word. She also had her first visit to the children’s area in the library today, where she thoroughly enjoyed pulling every board book off the shelves (I replaced them in order, of course!) and gleefully throwing herself face-first onto the super neat cushions on the floor. I can’t believe I waited so long to take her there!
There have not been any truly large changes this week, but I am noticing subtle signs that my toddler is growing up. I seldom have to clean the floor along with the table after dinner, for example, and even the table is considerably less messy after a meal than it used to be. I am no longer permitted to remove snacks from containers, as that is now the job of the extremely independent girl who is to eat them. I’m still there spotting, but I rarely get to help Annabelle climb down off the couch, and she even gets out of our bed when she wishes now. I don’t apply soap to her skin in the bathtub anymore either; a squirt of foam onto the edge of the tub is enough for her to painstakingly apply to her entire torso, neck, and chin with one fingertip. 
Of course this new independence does not always mean less work for me. It also means a lot more squeals of frustration. A lot more throwing up of arms and squishing up of faces. It’s really tough when you know precisely what you want and how to communicate it clearly, yet still find that you’re unable to have it. I suppose every new stage comes with its own challenges as well as its own joys. I’m learning and growing right along with my girl.

What’s New Wednesday: Runny Noses, Sleep, and Special Friends

10 month old Annabelle at the park
with her bestie
It has been a mostly at home week for us, since Annabelle had her first stomach virus over the weekend. With all of the runny noses that have come along with being a family under the weather, the babe has begun to imitate nose blowing. You see, I’ve been using baby washcloths to wipe noses, including my own and now, when I give one to Annabelle in the bath, she immediately puts it to her face and makes a nose-blowing sound. It’s exciting to see her beginning to notice what things are for, and to imitate various actions. Instead of waving her hair brush around and hitting things with it, for example, she now actually puts it to her head as if to brush. I suppose this is the time to really start watching what I do in front of her, lest everyone learn of all my bad habits by observing Annabelle!
More and more, Annabelle is showing her love of one special friend. She will take an interest in anyone who shows an interest in her, but her buddy Hunter has really come to mean a lot to her lately. He is several months older than she, but they share similar interests (blocks, rifling around in kitchen cabinets, exploring new places, and milk, for example) and when we get together, both children grin the moment they catch sight of one another, wave, and eagerly approach to say a proper hello as soon as possible. 
We’ve been trying out a brand new and rather radical concept around here. Maybe you’re familiar with – I hear they call it a “schedule.” Until today, it was going quite well. It involves getting up earlier, however, and that has made this mama rather tired, so we crashed on the couch around 5pm today and as a result, Annabelle was up until after eleven o’clock. Of course it’s not hard and fast, because I’m just not the hard and fast schedule type, but we are trying to work toward a consistent routine that takes place at roughly the same time every day and hoping that will make for more peaceful sleep for all. The biggest change is that we’re trying to eat dinner by about six (instead of seven or eight) and then immediately start the bedtime routine so that Annabelle is down by sometime between seven and eight. It did seem to be going quite well until our extra nap threw it off today, so we’ll see!
The babe is also honing her skills in the climbing department. One of her favorite things to climb onto is the part of the bathtub that you can see behind her in the photo on the left – that, the dishwasher door (when it’s fully open), and the shelves that house her things are daily conquests. Next, I suspect she will learn how to climb down from these great heights.
Music continues to delight Annabelle, and calms many a storm during car rides. I am a bit embarrassed to publicly share the songs that have become her favorites, but I really do want to remember and be able to laugh about it with her later, so I’m going to do it anyway. One thing I have realized since becoming a mother is that a lot of the music I enjoy is much more objectionable than I thought. I think that words have only so much power as we give them, but at the same time, I don’t want to be the mom whose kid teaches all their friends four letter words at play group, so we may need to find some more kid friendly music soon. For now, however, the songs on the following list can soothe Annabelle in a matter of seconds, but only these particular songs. 
1. Rootbeer, “Pink Limousine
2. Tim and Eric Awesome, “Sit on You
3. Weezer, “Buddy Holly
4. Soulja Boy, “Turn My Swag On
5. Wiz Khalifa, “Black and Yellow
Yes, I’m serious. Yes, I know. Numbers 2, 4, and 5 are all her daddy. I try to get her to listen to public radio like a good nerd’s daughter, but it just does not have the same effect and sometimes you have to go with what works.
And that, my friends, is what’s new at our house, but that’s enough about us. Tell me, what’s new with you and yours this week?

Sweet Slumber, or Don’t Worry – It’s Normal

Goofing off late into the night
I have been fortunate enough to stay relatively well-rested during much of my first year as a mom. That’s not to say that I have not known exhaustion, because believe me — I have, but I know that it’s normal, and I do my best to push through it, knowing that rest will eventually come, and come it does.
This has definitely been a pushing through kind of week, however, which is why I have been absent from the blog world for a few days now. You see, life, or at least sleep, as we know it, has been turned upside down. Annabelle has yet to settle into the mythical “sleeping through the night” pattern, and really that’s okay with me. On an average night, she sleeps anywhere from one and a half to three and a half hours on a stretch. Thanks to bed sharing and nursing, this has never caused much of an issue for me. In fact, once I’m in bed, I hardly notice her waking. She lets me know she’s hungry, I help her get settled into nursing, and we both fade back into dreamland. No big deal. I don’t think her or my eyes even open most of the time.







Lately, however, our dear girl has little to no desire to ever go to bed! Instead of nursing herself to sleep sometime shortly after her bath, she nurses and then pops right back up again to play. And play. And play. For the past several nights, we have finally had to give up and take her to bed with us, rather than getting her down and having a bit of time to wind down before going to bed ourselves. I had come to rely on having a few hours after she goes to bed to write, read, and catch up on mom things before I join her. Of course I love time with my girl, but I also need a bit of time to regroup before I hop in bed at the end of the day and prepare to do it all over again. For the past week or so, I have had to find different ways of regrouping that do not involve being alone, because the lack of nighttime sleep has not been made up for at nap time. Quite the opposite actually.
I am so very thankful, as I have been many times in the past year and surely will be again, to know that this, as with many other perplexing infant behaviors, is normal. It’s funny to think that I spent twenty some odd years avoiding anything and everything that was considered “normal.” I considered the word itself an insult. Suddenly I, like many new parents before me, want nothing more than to hear, “it’s normal.” That simple phrase can put all our worries to rest. When it comes to sleep, one baby’s normal is not the same as another’s – there is a wide range of “normal” sleep patterns.
The issue at hand now seems to be that Annabelle has mastered walking and moved on to running, while at the same time refining her motor skills at a very impressive speed. As I am learning is often the case with children who are in such a stage of rapid development (within the already rapid stage of development that is childhood), Annabelle appears to be driven to practice these new skills as much as possible, and that drive has been overriding her need for sleep this week. I trust that she will settle in, yet again, to a more balanced routine in the next several days. Why? Because that’s what babies do. It’s normal. All routines are subject to change, as the infants themselves are constantly developing and changing. 
So I may be a bit sleepy and disjointed for a few days, but don’t worry: it’s normal. 

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