Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Nap Time

 Here's part two of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep.


BB napping on PB

As a first time mom, I really struggled with getting my daughter to take regular naps of decent length. When she was very young, she would fall asleep on whoever was holding her at the moment. No one minded because she was new and everyone wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. When all of our help left, she still preferred to nap on people (usually me, because I was home all day) and often immediately after feeding (also me because I was breastfeeding). For a while it was fine because I would usually choose to fall asleep with her, during the exhausted phase of having a young child.

Eventually I decided that I’d like to be able to do other things while BB napped besides sit in a chair with her in my lap. I thought I’d try to transfer her from my arms to her crib. This was rarely successful. She would wake up within ten minutes of being laid down.

As she got older and stayed awake after nursing, I would rock her to sleep and then try to lay her down in her crib. Sometimes this ended in a 45 minute nap but I couldn’t get those 1.5-2 hour naps I had heard about from others. I chalked it up to her not being a good napper.

It’s been long enough that I do not remember much between then and when BB transitioned to a one-nap schedule around 18 months. I do know that eventually I put her down awake (probably because my arms were getting fatigued from all of the holding and rocking) and eventually she took a 1.5-2 hour nap in the early afternoon.

When she was close to two and a half, we moved BB into a big girl room with a regular bed and side rails. She did well at not getting out of bed, but she didn’t always fall asleep at nap time. Some days she would lay in bed and sing or talk. When it became apparent that she stayed awake more often than she napped, we turned the afternoon nap into “quiet room time” (fondly referred to as QRT among the adults). She was allowed to play with her toys but she could not leave her room. This has been a great mommy break, especially now with two children.

Armed with experience (and the knowledge that I couldn’t hold LB all day while he napped because I also have another child to care for), I started early on to lay LB down for naps in his crib (after our grandparent help left). I tried to lay him down awake as much as possible. When he was really little he slept hard, so it wasn’t always possible. When he was awake, I would let him soothe himself to sleep. In the beginning it was difficult to endure the ten to fifteen minutes it took him to fall asleep, but seeing him successfully go to sleep on his own kept me hanging in there. We used a white noise machine to help cancel out some of the noise of our then-two-year-old during the day.

LB’s nap schedule has changed as he’s gotten older. He is down to two naps each day. He still fusses for a few minutes before he falls asleep, but he has at least one nap of 1.5 hours or more. I think it helped that I used a schedule of sorts that dictated length of awake time. I paid attention to his tired cues (yawning, rubbing his eyes) as well and remained flexible. He's nine months now and his nap periods are generally at the same time each day.

With the addition of LB, the QRT has changed the time of commencement to coincide with one of LB’s nap times. For awhile, LB’s longest nap was his third one, so QRT was in the late afternoon. BB was taking naps at QRT but she was wired when bed time came because her nap had come too late and lasted too long. We are now in a decent rhythm with QRT being at LB’s second (and now final) nap which is early afternoon. Sometimes BB naps and sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, we all get some time alone to relax or be productive (I tend to alternate activities between days – exercising, writing, cleaning, reading).

Did you have any tried-and-true methods to get your kids to nap well?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

To Wait or Not to Wait: Is it a boy or a girl?

Proof that black really is slimming (7 months pregnant with BB).

When we found out we were pregnant with our first child, we had that debate of whether or not to find out. In truth, there really wasn’t a debate. My husband magnanimously deferred to the pregnant lady’s choice. I decided that I didn’t want to know until we met him or her in the delivery room (which turned out to be the OR, but that’s a different story).

I really enjoyed not knowing. I didn’t have my hopes set on either a boy or a girl. It seemed to bother other people more than me. I heard a lot of “I’m a planner so I would have to know.” Hey, I’m a planner, too. In fact, not knowing what we were having allowed me to create a gender-neutralish registry and nursery (I say neutralish because yellow and green tend to be more boyish than girlish) which worked out well as we have a boy and a girl now and have been able to use many things for both of them. (When I was pregnant the second time, we turned the guest room into a girly room for BB which freed up the green nursery with tree and bird decorations for LB.) The baby doesn’t care what color he or she is wearing anyway.

It really wasn’t hard not knowing throughout the first pregnancy. I was worried that we’d accidentally find out as we ended up having four ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy. My husband and I made a list of boy and girl names we liked. I didn’t think I wanted to have the baby named before it was born because I wanted to meet him or her first. I did feel a little sorry for my mother-in-law because my sister-in-law was also a wait-and-see person so she didn’t get to do any pre-birth shopping for anyone.

The big day arrived and we had our lists of names ready. We had a favorite among the boys’ names but were still fairly undecided on the girls’. When BB was born, the doctor held her up for PB to share the good news. He responded “It’s a girl…I think?” He was correct and we were both quite excited. I don’t think that we had planned for him to announce the gender, but I loved that it was how I found out. Because BB was a girl, we had to decide what she was going to be called. It took about an hour to decide and then we could call family and let them know that everyone was healthy and doing well. When PB called his mom, he said something to the effect of “The baby’s healthy – 6lb 4.5oz, 18.5inches” then stopped. His mom yelled “What is it?” through the phone and he happily shared that it was a girl and her name, her first granddaughter. One friend asked us how we spelled BB’s name and we had to deliberate on our two choices for spelling after that.

When we found out we were pregnant for the second time, I offered to let my husband decide, assuming he’d elect to find out. He knew that I would rather not find out and, being the considerate man he is, said it could be a surprise as well. I was excited!

Everything went about the same, though this time I was definitely more tempted to find out. Especially since LB went past his due date. I enjoyed answering all of the “Is it a boy or a girl?”, “Do you know what you’re having?”, etc questions. I once answered “Yes” to the “boy or girl” question and then heard, “Both?!” “No! I’m having a boy or a girl.” After that I went back to “We don’t know.” One person responded, “You’re never finding out?” to which I answered, “I don’t think that’s possible. We’ll find out when he or she is born.”

At LB’s birth, I requested to have PB tell me the gender. He wasn’t sure he wanted that pressure but complied for my benefit. This time, when the doctor told him to share the gender he said, “All I see is a butt.” So they turned LB around and he said, “It’s a boy!” Once again we had lists. This time we had a girl’s name we really liked. The doctor asked what his name was and I said, “I don’t know.” We decided on it much more quickly this time, which was good because our family was waiting in the hospital lobby. We did call and announce it over the phone to our daughter (and all of the other family members listening in) before they came to meet him.

I must now admit that the title of this post is slightly misleading because I can’t really give an argument for finding out the gender before the baby is born as I haven’t experienced it. Here are my guesses as to the pros for finding out: you can get all blue or pink things, you can have a distinctly girl or boy room, you can decide on a name with plenty of time to monogram every article of clothing and receiving blanket you receive at your shower. [HOWEVER I have a friend who was told at her ultrasound that she was having a girl. She had named her and had tons of pink and monogrammed things. At delivery, she learned she actually had a boy.]

Oh, and BB received loads of girl clothes and LB received loads of boy clothes through the mail and in person after they were born. They both even received monogrammed blankets, burp cloths, and bibs – so no worries about not being properly outfitted if you wait.

Did you find out the gender before your child was born? Were you told you were having a girl or boy at an ultrasound only to find out later that the technician was wrong?