Wednesday, July 31, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Sleeping Through the Night

[Every parent has things they’d like to share with other parents, especially those just starting out on the journey. We have been through the trenches and have success and failures that we believe can help others. I do know, however, that no matter how wise or useful advice may be, sometimes it can only truly be appreciated standing on the other side. So, if you’re a first-time parent, I completely understand if you choose to ignore what others (including myself) are trying to tell you. However, perhaps this will help you to remember that you’re not alone in your struggle.]

LB, swaddled and sleeping
Once you become a parent, you truly appreciate (and miss) all of that good sleep you got before your beautiful newest member of the family arrived. You are now willing to do just about anything it takes to get some more precious slumber. There are mountains of books you could read about helping your child sleep. I think having a consistent routine and schedule could help, but I also think that it also depends on your child.

Our first child “slept through the night” at eight weeks. To me, this means sleeping for a decent stretch of time without needing milk. In our house, this meant that she nursed at 10 pm and then slept until 6 am when she wanted to nurse again. She probably didn’t get put down into her crib until closer to 11 and I think she still woke up a couple of times, but I didn’t have to feed her, just soothe her to sleep. The time interval slowly increased until it was 7:30 p.m. for the last feeding and then sleeping until about 7 a.m.

We would still get up once or twice per night to soothe BB when she’d wake up. I hated hearing her cry so we tended to rock her until she fell asleep again and then lay her back down. One night, sometime in the ninth or tenth month, my husband and I had both taken turns in the middle of the night trying to soothe our daughter. Nothing worked. Finally we were both so tired that we just let her cry and laid in our bed listening to her. The only other thing I remember is waking up the next morning and realizing that she had finally soothed herself to sleep and we had gotten some sleep as well. After that, she became proficient at soothing herself back to sleep when she woke up at night and we finally got real, unbroken sleep.

With our second child I had high hopes of him following in his sister’s footsteps and “sleeping” early on. This time around, I decided that I wanted to put him down for bed at the same time as his sister and risk waking up for an early morning feeding so that my husband and I could get some down time in the evening. [Otherwise we’d be dealing with kids until our bedtime and then as soon as we got up and that sounded too overwhelming for me.]

For a while LB would wake up as we were heading to bed so I thought that perhaps we could kind of do the same schedule we had with BB. Not quite. The overnight pattern with LB was soooo unpredictable. He’d have several weeks with two feedings and then a night with only one feeding followed by a night with three. There were a couple of sporadic no-feeding nights which were awesome (followed by complete disappointment when he went back to multiple feedings the following night).

As we stumbled through his fifth and six months of life, the schedule slowly improved and leveled out to one or two feedings at night. Shortly before his half-birthday, he started sleeping from his 7:30 p.m. feeding until about 6:30 a.m. Praise the Lord! We’ve only had a handful of rough nights since then that I can recall and they were due to pain from cutting teeth and/or being in a new sleeping place on vacation. While it took longer to cut out the night feedings, LB was almost six months ahead of his sister on length of night sleep. And we don’t go into his room to soothe him like we did BB as we have laid him down awake and allowed him to soothe himself to sleep from the beginning.

I share my experiences to let you know that it is possible to do many of the same things and still get different results. Both kids were breastfed on set intervals throughout the day. Both kids were swaddled to sleep for at least the first couple of months. Neither child started solids until six months. I think LB has gotten more and better naps than BB did (which may have helped some), but that is out of experience and necessity and is probably a topic for a different day.

How long until your kids slept through the night without feeding? Did you put them down awake? Do you have any tips that worked for your family that might help others?

Monday, July 22, 2013

You're Doing It Right

Hurray for an empty seat!

I am a Stay-At-Home Mom to two wonderful kids. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be at home with them, teaching them and witnessing all of their milestones. There are many moments of joy in my chosen profession. Of course, as any parent knows, it's not all sunshine and butterflies. Some days are REALLY HARD! Days when the three year old seems to only have a high-pitched, whiny voice. Days when the baby decides he'd rather fuss than nap. Thankfully, all of the little joys - like when the baby gives a big belly laugh and squeal, and when the three year old plays tenderly with her younger brother and tells you she loves you - are able to erase some of the moments of frustration.

During those tough days, I can take these normal occurrences with small children and blame myself. I'm not being patient enough. I'm not spending enough individual time with the kids. I'm not teaching them how to properly deal with frustration. These are they days when I really need encouragement and hope. Days when I need to know that this part of life is a phase - both the good parts and the not so good ones. I need to know that my kids will turn out just fine and know that I love them. I need to know that I'm not alone in my struggle. I need someone to tell me that I am a good mom and am doing a good job. Thankfully, the Lord tends to provide these at just the right time. Sometimes a friend emails me someone else's blog post about motherhood. Other times I find a link on Facebook.  The most precious to me are when someone close to me speaks affirming words directly to me.

My husband is amazing. I have learned a lot more about his character since we've become parents together. He is so considerate of me, especially in my role as the primary caregiver of our children. Last week I was traveling home with the children via airplane. It was my first time trying to wrangle both kids on my own (quite an experience, but you'll hear more about that another time). It was going fairly well until lunch time. Here is the text conversation with my husband.

Me: Having lunch with [family]. So far not too bad [the trip - tempting fate, perhaps?].

PB: Nice. Have fun, tell them hello for me. Your flight is still showing on time according to the interweb.

Me (an hour later): BB chugged a bunch of water at lunch and threw up some of it. She's fine. I got a little wet.

PB: Funnn. On the bright side you might not have to go to the bathroom as much on the plane.

Me: I think I may smell a little. :-/

PB: If anyone asks, tell them it's the smell of the world's greatest mom.

I'm sure you can imagine how greatly that improved my mood and supported me for the remainder of our trip. Words are so powerful. I hope that you are aware of this and will strive to encourage others, especially moms. I know none of us who are already receiving too many kudos on the job we are doing.

What was the last encouraging thing someone said to you?