Nap Diaries Part 2

Eli_ThanksgivingSweaterIt seemed by the end of the first week of nap training that things were looking up. His crying was less and he was sleeping longer consistently. But then he learned to roll over.

He was rolling over from back to front and front to back when he was on the floor. Although, he was having a harder time rolling from front to back, even though this is supposed to be easier for them. But in his crib he would roll over on his stomach and become stuck. So for the next few days I would go in and roll him back over, only to have him do it again, as soon as I left. Basically, all the sleep training I had done was wasted. The rolling became like the pacifier, and I constantly flipped him.

I was also worried that once he was on his stomach he would suffocate. All the SIDS warnings peeled loudly as I watched the monitor. But then after talking to other moms, the help of Mr. Google and my pediatrician, I slowly came around to the idea that he’s not going to suffocate himself. Now that he’s physically able to flip over this won’t happen.

So I began sleep training all over again with the same guidelines as before. Except this time I stopped turning him over. The naps became shorter again and he would wake up after 15 minutes and start screaming. He had to learn to sleep on his stomach again. Thankfully, his nighttime sleep wasn’t affected by flipping over problem.

I have to tell you, starting sleep training again for the third time about killed my heart and soul. But I persevered. It took about 2 weeks for the first 2 naps to fall into place and now I can place him in his crib, give him a little kiss, sing a song a leave. There are still some tears but rarely over a minute. Most of the time he would either go right to sleep or roll around for a 5-10 minutes then fall on his own. I learned that the first nap needed to be at least 45 minutes to 1 hour and the second one 1.5 – 2 hours, otherwise he would become grumpy.

The third nap, however, made me want to pull my hair out . . . again. The ever shifting nap schedule for a baby makes me crazy. I don’t know if you’ve guessed this yet, but I’m not one of those free spirited moms in terms of daily planning. I’m a teacher, and I value consistency and schedules. I know my students do. And Eli does too. When he doesn’t sleep he’s grumpy all day and doesn’t sleep well at night.  But despite my best efforts the third nap proved to be difficult. He wouldn’t go to sleep, no matter how tired he was. All the books said that if your baby resists the third nap consistently they’re in the process of letting it go. Weissbluth’s book states that only 16% of infants past 6 months keep that last nap. I’ve also read that this statistic is only based off of one pool of infants and doesn’t reflect the reality. But in either case, Eli’s second nap would end by 1:30 or 2:00 and there was no way he could make it to a 7 pm bedtime without another nap. Not even a 6 pm bedtime.

So, I ended up doing what everyone says not to . . . I stroll(ed) him. Yep, I put him in the car seat, snapped him into the stroller and off we went. I decided to make it part of my exercise routine. The first day I had to stroll for 1.5 hours (he slept 30 minutes) but then I learned to time it better and now, he can be asleep within 10-15 minutes. My husband is against it but I figure that it’s the last nap AND the one he’ll drop next. That 30 minutes he gets is enough to get him to bedtime without a nuclear meltdown.

I know sleep training is controversial and isn’t possible for some families. I often think of families with twins or more than one child and how sleep training might be nearly impossible but for me and my family it was a necessity. However, it was an emotional roller coaster.

It still is some days. And I know it will be an ongoing process as Eli grows and goes through momentous changes. Some days I think about my little guy and how he has to learn how to crawl, to eat, to talk, and yes to sleep. There’s so much going on for him and for us. Some days I’m filled with so much love for him that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear him cry. But then I remember, crying is not the enemy. Not sleeping is.









Nap Training Diaries Part 1

Eli_asleep_jumperI had no idea before I had a baby that ‘sleep’ would be the most important subject of my life postpartum. But I’m sure that it comes to no surprise to most moms and dads. And from the other blogs I follow a very common topic. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

I first wanted to title this entry as sleep training because I have been working on day and night sleep for awhile now, but when I was going through a particular bad month of torturous naps, I couldn’t find a lot of information on the web about this area. The one blog that I did find from a mom in the battlefield on nap training really helped me, so this is what I’ll focus on here, in hopes that I can provide a beacon of hope for a sleep-deprived mom or dad.

I had no idea that I would ever be nap training. From about 6 to 13 weeks, Eli was sleeping pretty easily, anywhere, and would take long naps without much soothing from me. I would wrap, plop the pacifier in, and place him. I didn’t worry about light, sound, or the  room. I even took him on a 3 week road trip around the southwest without too many issues. And he was only waking up once a night.

But all that changed. 

Suddenly, he was waking up every 5 minutes fighting the wrap or wanting his pacifier put back in. So I began to unwrap him, but he would startle himself awake instead. Then began the patting and singing to him after I wrapped him so he’d fall asleep and not fight the wrap. This sometimes took as long as the nap itself. And if woke up after going to sleep and the pacifier had fallen out, he’d scream for his pacifier. I would run in and plop it back in his searching mouth. His eyes would be closed, his face a bright tomato with his sucking lips clamoring for the nipple.

I then researched pacifiers that didn’t fall out so easily. I purchased a few. They all fell out. After this came the Merlin suit that claimed to ease the transition from being wrapped to using a blanket. I attended a sleep seminar on how to create healthy soothing habits in babies. I ordered numerous books and devoured them. In a nutshell, most books recommend the following.

1.Place sleepy but awake
2. Invest in blackout curtains
3. Buy a sound machine
4. Create a sleep ritual, even for naps
5. Soothe only as much as needed, nothing more
6. Optimal room temperature at 68-72
7. Put on a nap schedule based on wake up time
8. Keep a nap log
9. Nap in the same place
10. Be consistent

The list goes on and on. Place sleepy but awake always got me. What was that exactly? Some books stated that if the kid is yawning or showing fussiness you’ve missed the magical window. Others relied more on watching the clock and putting down during the sleep window for the babies age. In fact, the awake window varied so much between books that I felt like I needed to be a mathematician to calculate the correct amount of sleep my child needed and how long they could comfortably be awake. To be honest I had no idea this kind of information existed. But I would try. I’d watch Eli and the clock. As soon as I saw what I viewed as a sleepy signal I’d move towards the bedroom. I slowly learned his signals but even when all of them were in place this did not guarantee a long nap or even at the same time every day. The heck with a schedule!  I had no idea how these well-respected pediatricians and sleep experts expected this to just fall in place. Don’t give up, I would read. Give it time. So I did. We suffered.

And then his night sleep began to follow the naps. He would wake up every 1-2 hours to have his pacifier put back in, fight the wrap or wake-up because he wasn’t wrapped. I was exhausted. I was alone in this reality and was at a loss as what to do. I asked all my mommy friends for advice and what consistently came up was that most of the moms I knew whose babies slept healthily used Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. I had heard of this book but hadn’t read it and was tired of reading about sleep. So I ignored the advice for the moment.

I then began what I think of as the dark month of agony and sleeplessness. I intuitively knew that I had to take away his pacifier and teach him how to self-soothe but I was scared. I didn’t want to take his pacifier at 4.5 months because he was so little and what if he really needed this support. I also never let him cry more than absolutely necessary. Yes, that’s right, he hardly ever cried. Sure, if he was hungry or in the car, but it wasn’t for very long, if I could help it. If he began a whimper I was there with a pat, a song, a love, anything to make him happy. I think I even viewed the ability to keep him happy as one of my best mommy qualities.

I was one of those mommies who did not believe in letting their baby cry it out. 

I was one of those mommies not sleeping. 

I was one of those mommies with a grumpy baby. 

So, I decided to try timed checks. I knew it would involve some crying but would also allow me to train slowly. Basically, for those who don’t know, is that you put your baby down to sleep with the above 10 in place and then decide that if your baby cries you check back in timed intervals. For example, after 2 minutes of crying, you check on your baby, soothe and leave. If he/she begins to cry again, you wait 5 minutes before going back in. Then 10 minutes, etc., until your baby falls asleep. On day 2 you start with 5 minutes rather than 2. OR you can repeat the same times for 3 days before increasing them.  But whatever ‘times’ you choose the goal is for your baby to fall asleep without you there and without having to have his/her normal soothing elements. In my case, a pacifier. If the pacifier fell out then I wouldn’t put it back in until I did a check, if needed, at a specific time. Don’t worry, if you’re tired or confused by reading this. It’s exhausting.

The first day was the worst. Eli cried for 40 minutes. I cried for 40 minutes. The second day wasn’t any better. But according to the all the books I read, you shouldn’t give up. But by the end of the week, I knew it wasn’t going to work. The timed checks only helped Eli to know that if he cried long enough I would eventually come. And there was still the problem of the pacifier. It wasn’t the method for us.

Another mom friend recommended Weisbluth’s book. Her son was now seven and she told me it saved her life. She reassured me that her son is a normal, active seven-year-old who loves his mommy. She hadn’t ruined him by teaching him how to sleep. 

The book arrived. At first I resisted reading it. It weighed five pounds and the typing seemed small. I couldn’t dive into another book about babies and sleep when I was too tired to actually read. So, I read it while pumping. And only the pages I needed. He has different methods in the book but the one I knew was the best method for my son after failing at everything else was the extinction method. Basically, the Ferber CIO. In the past, I was so sure that this wasn’t an option for my son. He’s a crier, I used to tell people. He’ll cry for hours. I can’t torture him like that. I had also read articles on how crying creates serotonin in babies and other articles discussed how crying kills brain cells. I was horrified. There is also the judgment from other mothers who practice attachment parenting or who just don’t believe in crying of any kind. It really is amazing how people assert that you should be able raise your child anyway you want but judge and give advice constantly about how you should really do it.

It wasn’t until one day, after a week of constant day and night wake ups, that I was driving back from Target with Eli and had a breakthrough. He’d been crying for what seemed like hours but was in fact only about a mile when he stopped. Just like that. I realized that when I couldn’t soothe him (I’m trapped behind a wheel in heavy traffic) that he will actually stop crying on his own. Yep, with all his brain cells. Now, I know hearing your child cry is hard. Hearing any baby cry can be annoying, aggravating, melancholy, and downright nails on a chalkboard but your own baby that you nurture and love with everything you have is a whole other enchilada.

But it was time. Time to teach Eli to self-soothe more.

So I got everything in order. I needed to feel 100% confident in this endeavor. My previous failure fueled me and the certainty that I was doing the right thing. I ordered a baby monitoring system and put it in place. We didn’t have one – long story. I then spoke to my pediatrician about taking away the pacifier and how long she thought it was okay to let Eli cry. I then came up with a nap system based on Weissbluth’s book and advice. AND based on my baby.

The Modified Extinction System

  1. Make sure all the right elements are in place. Baby is tired, fed, and dry. The room is dark, the sound system is on, and he’s dressed appropriately. Now, all of these are for the baby but also for me.  I need to know that if and when he cries it’s not because of any of these things. This will give me strength.
  2. Once all of these elements are close to perfect, I sing a lullaby and put him in his crib. I leave.
  3. I keep a sleep tracking log. This helps my poor memory and gives me a sense of control. I also have a timer ready, to time the cries. 1 minute of your baby crying can feel like 1o, so it helps give me perspective and accuracy for the log.
  4. Once he’s in the crib, I let him cry until he goes asleep.
  5. If he goes to sleep but wakes up before 30 minutes, I let him cry himself back to sleep.
  6. If he sleeps over 30 minutes but under 45 I will try to quickly soothe him back to sleep. If this doesn’t work, I will get him up and try for a longer nap next time.
  7. If he sleeps longer than 45 minutes, I will get him up.
  8. I never let him cry more than 40 minutes. This is my threshold. Weissbluth recommends up to 60 minutes.
  9. No pacifier. For my baby, this was necessary because it was the heart of the wake-ups.
  10. I make sure I have support in place – a friend to call or text.Or better yet, have them with you.Or have your partner do the training.

I also made  a promise to be consistent and not give up. Since I had tried everything else and failed, this was my last resort, so I needed it to work. Also, what else really resonated with me was that in Weissbluth’s book he mentions that children are going to cry. That’s what they do. When they don’t like something or want something. They’ll cry when you try to brush their teeth or force them to eat carrots or any of the myriad things that mothers and fathers ask their child to do help them grow healthy and strong. So if your kid cries, are you going to let them not brush their teeth? No, you’re not. Crying is part of the journey.

Yes, right now Eli is little but I’m here to guide him and this means guiding him to good sleep. There’s so much evidence that shows that children who sleep well are more successful in school, experience life with more joy, and that parents who sleep more are better parents.

The Sleep Training Began

The first day I took away the pacifier for the first nap and began the extinction method.

During the days of desperately trying to find information on nap training, I came across a blog that used the Extinction Method and posted her sleep log. This really gave me comfort and an idea of what I was in for.  So, I have mine below.

Sleep Log for Day 1 – (Eli was about 5 Months)

Nap 1- 8:09 am
Cried-5 minutes (light crying then he did his sleepy sounds)
Woke at 9:00
Sleep Total: 46 minutes

Nap 2- 10:57 am
Cried-2 minutes
Woke at 11:10
Cried 11 minutes
Woke at 12:54
Sleep Total: 1 hour 44 minutes

Nap 3 – 2:56 pm
Cried 17 minutes
Woke at 4:00 pm
Sleep Total: 47 minutes

Bed – 6:45 am
No crying. He went right to sleep
Woke at 2:45 am – Fed 5 oz
Woke at 5:45 am – he soothed himself & went back to sleep
Official wake up at 6:30 am

How did I feel? Well, to be honest I knew I’d done the right thing by taking away the pacifier. First of all, it would sometimes take me 45 minutes to get him to sleep, almost as long as the nap, only to have him wake up because of the missing pacifier. Also, at night he was waking up 6-8 times. I have my logs from those nights as proof. Now, he was back down to 1. However, hearing him cry at all was awful. It would take days before I learned to accept that it would always be that way for me.

Day 2 

Nap 1 – 8:30 am
Cried 2 minutes
Woke at 9:20 am
Sleep Total: 48 minutes

Nap 2 – 11:22 am
Cried for 5 minutes
Woke at 11:32
Cried for 10 minutes
Woke at 12:19
Cried for 6 minutes – Decided to scrap the nap
Sleep Total: 37 minutes

Nap 3 – 1:00 pm (really grumpy & tired)
Cried for 15 minutes
Woke at 2:11
Sleep Total: 56 minutes

Nap 4 -4:21 pm
Cried for 40 minutes
Decided to scrap the nap

Bed at 6:30 pm (pushed an earlier bedtime)
No crying. Fell right to sleep
Woke at 3:00 (fed 5 oz)
Official wake up at 6:45 am

How did I feel? Well, the napping had gone terrible, especially that last nap. I would soon discover that this last nap would prove to be really difficult. This nap is the one that gets dropped between 6-9 months. But the night sleep was excellent. I’ve always read that the day sleep affects the night sleep and vice a versa but in this case it didn’t. The crying was still a wound on my soul but I knew that it had to be done.

Day 3

Nap 1 – 8:53 am
Cried 5 minutes
Woke at 10:21
Sleep Total: 1 hour 23 minutes

Nap 2 – 12:23 pm
Cried 1 minute
Woke at 1:19
Sleep Total: 54 minutes

Nap 3 – 3:18
Cried 3 minutes
Woke at 4:11
Sleep Total: 5o minutes

Bed – 6:45 pm
Woke at 2:00 (fed 5 oz)
Woke at 5:00 but self-soothed/fell asleep
Official wake up at 6:30 am

How did I feel? Much better after day 2. His cries were becoming less and even the sound of them were more grumbling than deep crying like he had done before when I did the timed checks. It did occur to me that my previous attempt at training might have really helped this second effort. But removing the pacifier as a sleep crutch seemed to help a lot.

But then day 4 happened and that is a whole other blog. . .






Thoughts on Motherhood

Eli_Dressed UpMama Looks NiceEli_So Cute Face

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. My only excuse is that I had a baby and suddenly there was a new boss in town. Elijah George Troncoso was born on September 1st after 26 hours of labor, followed by a cesarean. Needless to say the physical recovery took longer than expected, coupled with the reality of taking care of a newborn. I spent my entire high-risk pregnancy being worried every day that something would take this little guy from me that I never planned for how I would take actually care of him. I don’t come from a big family with lots of children, nor had I ever been around any longer than a few hours, so my skills in this area were pretty comical. I’m also have an obsessive and perfectionist personality and as most people know this does not mix well with a brand new little human.

The learning curve the first few months was huge. I think I must have cried almost every day. Of course the raging hormones didn’t help and the huge struggle I had with breast feeding fed the fire and not to mention the not sleeping part – I was a hot mess. I remember the first day I was going to be completely alone with him was the scariest day of my life. I practically begged my husband not to leave me. I seriously did not know how the population continued to increase after the stark realization of being a mom became clear to me. Sure, I adored the little guy, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And yes, as many have reminded me, it’s worth it (a phrase I’ve learned to loathe) and yes, after many years of trying I should not complain, and I’m not; I’m only pointing out that being a mom is emotionally hard. I really had no idea! 

But my husband did go to work and there we were – just the two of us. By the end of the day, I thought, well, that wasn’t so bad. Perhaps, I could do this. That one day was followed by two then three, and then I realized that I needed to leave the house to buy food. Leaving the house seemed like a daunting task. We live on the second floor and the stairs alone intimidated me. How was I supposed to carry the car seat with a baby and a diaper bag stuffed with every possible thing you might need (I was a new mom, okay!) all the way to my car through the courtyard and then around to my garage. I did manage to do this. I got to the store and realized that the stroller would have to be the cart. Eli has never liked carriers, so I could only buy what could actually fit in the space below the stroller. Surprisingly, you can fit quite a lot.

Once home I had to carry the groceries, along with Eli in the car seat, and stuffed bag at the same time. I did this in stages, taking long pauses along the way. By the time I did get everything back home the kid was screaming for hunger and for a poopy diaper. Baby screams, especially when they’re your kid are unbearable. I always became frantic. Now, I’m better at tolerating his cries but as a new mother it was literally the worst sound of my life.

But we survived! 

I suppose that is the point of the phrase, ‘It’s worth it, right?’ The reminder that despite the tears and fears, this little human is yours. And you’re his. Rubbing the baby soft skin and kissing those wet lips make it all worth it. So it’s true, it’s worth it.

But this Facebook, idealized version of motherhood that’s propagated on posting the cutest baby pictures everywhere (have you seen the ones I just posted of Eli. Egads, he’s cute) and making every non-mother believe that new motherhood is this land of baby bliss is false.  And by saying this, doesn’t make me a bad mother. It makes me a real one.