Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The doughnut shop is now open

Okay, last time, I promise. I'm gonna talk about sleep again. We had a little breakthrough this week. I should say, I figured out a few things, just by taking a step out from all up in Zephyr's Kool-Aid, so to speak. Get this: if I leave him alone after he wakes up in the first half hour of his nap, HE FALLS BACK TO SLEEP ON HIS OWN. I know, right? If I just leave him the fuck alone, he sorts that shit out all by himself. My coddling and doting was just reinforcing his awakeness, and he seriously only fusses for like a minute or two (I timed it) and then quiets back down to sleep. And then he sleeps for two and half more hours. Brilliant. I suppose it's kinda like moms rushing to their kid's scraped knee is what really makes the kid cry, not the scrape.

We had his 4-month checkup on Friday, and he's still in the 95th centile for weight (at 18 lbs., slightly less than I thought) and 97th centile for length (at 26"). Dr. Martin is really laid back and thinks Zephyr is doing great, told us to ignore the books that say the babies are supposed to sleep through the night at his age. Of course, I can't. I decide she's just trying to make us feel better and take matters into my own hands.

So, last night I decide we're gonna try our hand at sleep training. I'm drunk on power, having discovered the secret to getting Zeph down for solid naps (and seriously, getting two 3-hour breaks a day is delicious), I think we can totally do this. I formulate a plan: when he starts crying, give him five minutes, then gently soothe him back to sleep by patting his back but not picking him up or feeding him. That's what the No Cry Sleep Solution book (err, the summary of it that I read online) said to do. So we give it a go.

We go through the bedtime ritual: rub him down with calendula cream and get him into a dry dipe and jimjams. Upstairs to the bedroom, snuggle in bed to read I'll See You in the Morning and then into his swaddle he goes. Then we lay down for a nurse, and I tuck him into the Arm's Reach sidecar co-sleeper thing, kiss his little head and say good night. Fifteen minutes later, he starts fussing. "Just let him fuss for a minute," I reinforce the plan to Scott. He stops fussing, and we clink our wine glasses and high five each other and enjoy an hour or two of grown-up time.

Scott and I settle into bed at around 11:00pm, and after a couple hours of blissful slumber, Zephyr starts fussing. I decide to firmly ride it out for five minutes, instead of just reactively bringing him to my breast like normal. His fussing escalates into full-blown crying. I pat his back, "it's okay, Zephyr, go back to sleep." No dice. I look at the clock. 12:50am. The crying isn't slowing down, and now Scott and I are both completely frazzled. Zephyr is starting to totally unravel. I try patting his back again, with no results. I look at the clock again. 1:11am. Sigh. This feels mean and neglectful and exactly like the cry-it-out method (which I'm pretty sure has never been attempted in a cosleeping situation), I'm at my wit's end and scoop up my baby to soothe him and fret for being such a disastrous mother, planting apologetic kisses all over his tiny, tear-damp head. He starts mouthing on my shoulder before I even get him to my breast, and then nurses frantically back to sleep. It takes me probably two hours to get back to sleep after the ordeal.

At 5:00am, same story. This time I figure out that four hours is about as long as he ever really goes between meals (and I already feel like a failure for having caved at the first attempt), but not before he cries for five loud minutes. I nurse him to sleep again and finally get back to sleep myself after Scott's alarm goes off at 6:00.

This afternoon, I read the Going Through the Night Without Being Fed section of Penelope Leach's Your Baby & Child and realize that I hadn't been doing anything wrong at all until I decided that we were going to try to fuck with Zephyr's sleep habits. The kid needs to eat a couple times at night, and this is completely normal! I feel renewed as a mother, have reinstilled faith in my pediatrician (whom I already trust and should've just listened to in the first place). One neat trick that Leach offers, though, is to wake the baby to nurse when I go to bed instead of waiting for him to wake up at the four-hour mark. I can reset his tummy-clock myself to get a full four hours of sleep for myself. Now that's sleep training I can get with.

In other news, today Zephyr had his first poop in FIVE DAYS. I know it's normal and common for babies to go several days between poops at this age (particularly breastfed babies), but holy shit, it totally freaked me and Scott out! And then when he finally did poop, it went all the way up his shoulder blades and required a full bath. But lemme tell ya, he's been a much more pleasant kid since. Tummy time was thus extended with comfort and ease, offering me a chance to shoot him in his new pants. It's motherfucking doughnut time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Consistently persistent

It's been a tough few days for Zephyr (and me). The rough patches on his legs, arms and abdomen (that I'd heretofore been blithely treating with Burt's Bees after baths) is eczema. This isn't much of a surprise and I know it's pretty common, but something - possibly allergies inherited from Scott, or the recent addition of OxyClean to the laundry regimen - has triggered the rash to become so itchy that Zeph has begun scratching himself raw. We had to make a late-night call to the pediatrician's triage desk the other night because, after nearly three hours of trying to get him to sleep, he began sobbing inconsolably and was starting to break the skin with his scratching. Now he's on hydrocortisone and is wearing sock mitts to prevent scratching, but coupled with teething and a lack of good sleep, he's been kind of a Fussy McCrabberson. I just really hope he doesn't end up with allergies and asthma (the other two legs of the Nerd Trifecta).

At some point, I guess I can stop talking and thinking and fretting about sleep. There has to be more to parenting an infant than worrying about sleep, right? He used to be so good, even a week ago, at the onset of transitioning him out of our bed. Now? I'm lucky to get four hours. I usually get two (particularly if I succeed in getting him to bed at 9:00, in which case his first "long" stretch is overlapped by me and Scott trying desperately to relate to each other as friends and partners). Last night he never slept more than two hours at a stretch. He slept better as a newborn than he does as a "settled" infant, when he's supposed to be finally sleeping through the night. The main difference between my energy levels now versus when he was brand new is that now he weighs 20 pounds and it physically exhausts me just doing day-to-day tasks like diaper changing and lugging him from room to room.

I think I'm most frustrated by his inconsistency, when I'm working so hard to be persistent with his routines. I don't really know how to bounce back when he, say, naps for only 30 minutes instead of a couple hours. Am I supposed to try to get him right back down? And how long do I keep trying if I don't succeed? I usually give up after about an hour or two, and then try again in two hours. Sometimes he cues that he's sleepy right away, and then wakes up right after going down again. Repeat ad nauseum. What I'm most sick of, though, is talking about his fucking sleep problems.

Hey, though, on the plus side, I found some new camera apps for my iPhone, and have been thoroughly enjoying photographing Zephyr (as any of my Facebook friends can attest). One more way to obsess over this kid. Just what I need.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Puttin' along

Not a lot to report this week, not as far as new milestones go. His laughter now comes from the belly, and it's easy to get him going by giving his cheeks raspberries and then giggling at him. Zephyr is also really getting good at bringing his hands, and anything in them, to his mouth (or to each other, which always looks adorable).

Thank goodness for these $0.49 toys from Ikea. They're his favorite! He is particularly fond of the bunny (whom I have secretly names Ferdinand), whose ears and carrot he soggifies with great gusto. He also likes to nurse on the nose of the turquoise wolf, chomping his sore little gums into submission. Better the toys than my nipples.

His mirror is much more interesting to him these days too, and he'll often watch himself playing with toys. Sometimes he talks or shouts at his reflection, which cracks me up to no end. I know he still lacks a sense of Self, but I think his recent acknowledgment of other babies coincides with his newfound appreciation of the mirror. I think he thinks his reflection is another kid.

Sleep continues to be up and down, but I guess I don't really care anymore. If I really need a break, I just lay down with him. Otherwise, I try not to sweat it. We're in the process of transitioning him out of our bed and into his cosleeper adjacent to the bed, mostly because he's just so big now, but also because he's kind of a squirmy sleeper. This way he's also less disturbed by Scott's and my nighttime movements, and we all sleep better. We're also moving him to an earlier bedtime, but this is a little bit bumpy. Usually instead of going straight to bed at 9:00, we get him down for what ends up being an hour or two nap, then we go through the formal bedtime motions: change dipe and into PJs, swaddle and story, then nurse. Once his afternoon naps become more predictable, I think it'll be easier to start readying him for bed at around 8:30 or earlier, and really make a big production of it to cement the routine. We'll omit the swaddle step soon, once his routine becomes canon. It's starting to get a bit warm for it, and if he gets an arm out he becomes really distressed. He tends to nap better without any swaddling, so my swaddle-weaning process has involved simply tucking a light blanket tightly around him. He can easily squirm completely out of it with the kick of a leg, but I think it feels secure to him as he's drifting off.

His viselike grip on Ferdinand even while sleeping was worth taking another photo, even though the click woke him momentarily. He loves his bunny.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teething is a real pain

(Note: eyes definitely still hazel. My wish is coming true!)

Still no napping for this one. As I type this, he has just emptied both breasts, with attempts to lay him down after each one. I tried putting him down, completely out cold, into his pack-and-play. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, he's up. Walk around with him for a bit, then decide to try to nurse him in the darker upstairs, in his bedroom. Nurse again. His arms marionette floppy, I gently lay him down into his crib. Eyes pop open, and the little bastard starts grinning and laughing. Legs like little eggbeaters, kick kick kick kick. Mocking me. I've just snuck downstairs, leaving him alone up there, hoping he'll just, I don't know, forget about whatever's distracting him from sleep? Why does he want to be awake so badly? And what, exactly, does he find so fucking funny about it?

I can hear him whining a bit. "Enh. Enh. ENH."

I don't want to be one of those "cry it out" people, all ignoring their babies' needs, causing trust issues and brain damage. This is no slight at one good friend of mine (who tried this method for a spell), who had a VERY high-needs, colicky infant and actually had to regularly call those "please talk me out of strangling my baby" hotlines out of lack of sleep or peace. I don't have that baby, and neither do most people who think that you can spoil a baby by holding it too much, or that babies cry to manipulate people. Those people are completely insane, or at best misguided. And for what it's worth, I don't think it even worked for my friend, who found it gut-wrenching to hear her baby cry that much.

Fingers are fascinating

I mean, technically, he's not even crying or anything. I think he just knows that I always respond almost instantaneously to any slight fussing and is expecting my smiling face to pop up any second. And so it never really needs to escalate to full-blown crying (unless I say, clip off the tip of his thumb whilst attempting to trim his nails). Still, the annoyed (and annoying) whines are his cue that he's unhappy, and as his mother, I am supposed to be the Bringer Of Happy. But this time I'm ignoring them, just to see what happens. If he really starts crying, I'll go rescue him.

What's that I hear? Could it be...silence? He's either asleep, or he's staring at something quietly. I haven't figured out if I care which of those it might be. I know he needs sleep. "Sleep begets sleep!" chirp the helpful, childless doulas. And though I know this to be true from experience, I just can't force him to sleep. I can't wear him 24 hours a day, walking and nursing him into oblivion. But more importantly, I can't make my entire day focused on trying to get Zephyr to sleep. So what should I do?

Usually, I let him sleep on me after he falls asleep nursing. At least this way, he gets at least one good hour or two chunk. More often, though, I let him take several catnaps. I don't know if this is great for him, but I'm sure it's better than nothing. This time, I'm trying out the "leaving him alone in a dark, quiet place" technique to see if that yields results. At least this way I get a few minutes to myself.

...only a few minutes.


Milestones this week: rolled over from tummy to back, turned his head toward my voice when I said his name, and will laugh with me instead of just at me. Oh, and he is beginning to interact with other babies now instead of just staring at them like objects. With adorable results. Here he is with his bestie (and possible future soulmate) Sigga:

"Invisible Steering Wheel"

"Pshpshpsh I'm telling you a sekkrit!"

"Hugs", or "Attempted Carrot Theft"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Amuse Bouche

This is the face of a little boy who won't nap.

Zephyr is about to start teething. Any minute now.

At his 8 week checkup, Dr. Martin found his gums to be slightly swollen, and now, at 14 weeks (today) they're bugging him just enough that he has a hard time napping for more than 20 minutes (unless I let him linger at the breast) and has been emitting a high-pitched whine that sounds like a mosquito.

He won't use his pacifier anymore except as a chew toy. He really favors clothy items, though, and is usually trying to cram his blanket, a burp rag, the hood of his jacket, or his pant legs (quite the feat!) into his drooly maw. I picked up a couple of new toys for him that are rattly, crinkly and absorbent. On the plus side, I can start putting him in the adorable bibs I bought for him a month ago.

Tummy time is particularly exciting as his neck strength develops (despite his demeanor in this photo - sleepy, forced to perform for a demanding mother). Now he arches his body with his arms and legs extended like a tiny skydiver, his heading bobbing around to examine his surroundings.

Wearing him is more interesting too, now that I don't have to keep one hand on his head at all times. Springtime has done wonders for my motivation for park walks and errands on foot. Unfortunately, his 18 or so pounds of mass is doing my back no favors, so I've started carrying him in the Moby (actually the Sleepy Wrap brand) instead of the Maya for longer walks. When we circle the park (works great for getting him to sleep, when he's not gum-fussy), I sing a song about what I'm seeing in a soft, repetitive tone that he seems to like. "There's a Doug-las-fir. There's some green, green grass. There's some En-glish i-vy. There's a wes-tern larch!" Repeat ad nauseum. The park is big, and this is Portland. We sing about the green, green grass a lot.

"sup ladeez" (sorry, I couldn't help it)