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Less than two months away from his first birthday this little cubbie is crawling everywhere and trying so hard to stand on his own two feet by himself. He’s also now able to take a couple steps when we hold his hands.

I’m so excited for these new developments but also trying hard to enjoy an savor every single moment we have with him now as it’s going by too quickly!

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Benji is spending day 2 at daycare and I hope everything’s going well! Having no real work to do yet (we had to enrol Benji earlier in daycare than needed to ‘secure’ a spot; crazy, I know, thankfully the Australian government subsidises some of this!), Bry and I seized the opportunity to go on a lunch date at this new Mexican joint, Fonda Mexican, located in a fun and energetic neighborhood called Richmond.

Fonda Mexican serves gluten and dairy free tacos – YAY! – and delicious fries with an amazingly tasty aioli sauce. Price was about $6 per 6″ size taco – not too bad considering we’re in Australia. Bry ordered a burrito which tasted healthy and good. There were some crispy corn chips sprinkled in there which made it quite unique in a good way. We’ll definitely go back there again.

Now, I’m enjoying some QT by myself at home, catching up on housework and reading, when, really, I should be catching some zees.

Hope your weekend’s going well. Here’s a paragraph I absolutely enjoyed from one of today’s articles on the NYTimes titled “Raising Successful Children.” I’m sure a few of you would’ve seen this, too.

“A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt. Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety. Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy.”

Something to ruminate over this weekend (or in my case, Monday!). Have a good one.

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That nasty, persistent flu I wrote about in my previous post took an even further downward spiral and eventually kept me mostly sequestered in my room for three whole days! But I’m finally over it and am now up and about again.

Whew! I’ve been meaning to write updates on lots that happened in the last week. It was a big one for little Benji! The first I’ll report on is that Benji is now sleeping through the night. He has also in the last couple days started taking his morning nap again without much struggle and without needing me to nurse him to sleep. 

We started on this sleep training journey almost two and a half weeks ago. I was diligent enough to record it on my blog the first day we started, on July 10. Although many friends and even research studies have reported success with this rather gnarly method of sleep training called “Controlled Comforting,” or, more popularly known as the “Ferber method,” I was a big skeptic. I was sure that my son who was once upon a time a pretty good sleeper but turned rather difficult at around months 5 and 6 (due to waking up to nurse often during his growth spurt and when we were traveling) was an outlier and would not succumb to any kind of training. Why was I so skeptical of this method? I think it’s because I kept talking myself out of it. When Benji was crying non-stop for hours on end (yes, HOURS; his record was 2 whole hours), doubt set in really deep in irrational parts of my brain and I managed to convinced myself that it was not going to work.

But it did. It eventually did. And begrudgingly, I’ll admit that Dr. Ferber’s method, painful as it was, WORKED for us. It was not easy and I don’t think it is for a lot of people. Most of our friends who (bless their hearts) wrote us about the method told us to stick it out and forewarned us to have a heart of steel before trying the method, but I did not realize it was going to be this difficult. I was really on the verge of giving up…and I would like to write out some pointers to hopefully provide a clearer picture to any parent who is thinking about trying this method and how you can make it work for you.

1. Set small goals. We tried Ferberizing Benji in the day AND night but quickly realized that this was too difficult for us and Benji. He was SO sleep deprived the first few days because he could not sleep in the day, and took forever to fall asleep in the night. An overtired baby will take even longer to fall asleep. So at around the 3rd day, we switched strategies and only Ferberized him in the night. Our first goal then was simply to have him fall asleep on his own in the night, and sleep through the night (for at least 10 hours).

2. Be PATIENT. Be prepared for days and days and days (and days and days) of crying and crankiness. When we first started the method, we were a bit too positive and thought Benji would “be Ferberized” quickly, possibly by day 3, as some people reported. But this turned out to be not true for us. Benji cried for probably a good 10 days straight. Some nights waking up at midnight and crying for an hour or so before settling himself to sleep. While we like to think our kids are the best, we have to be realistic and realize that our kid might really be the outlier and take a slightly longer time than others to be sleep trained. I was VERY impatient, and as mentioned earlier, kept thinking to myself “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” And after a few minutes, when I didn’t see any results, started doubting the method. When in actual fact, Benji needed more time and thank goodness, Bry, the believer, was there to prevent me from impulsively walking into the room several times and picking up my child to soothe him.

3. Expect fights with your partner. Bry and I were constantly bickering during the nights we sleep trained Benji. I kept wanting to soothe Benji but Bry kept talking me out of it. It was a difficult situation and we both wanted the best for Benji, but it was difficult to try to reason anything when your baby is screaming his lungs out for minutes and hours. 

4. Be strong. Between us, Bry was obviously the stronger one. He truly believed the method would work. And even when he started doubting the method, he realized there was no other better alternative and in a way had no choice but to continue with it. There were moments when I hated Bry’s stickler for this method, but boy, am I glad he fought hard with me to keep doing it!!

5. Have a supportive network. Look online or offline for people who have done this and who are able to support you through the sleep training. Online, I remember going to forums and reading people’s success stories with this method. My friends on FB would respond to my desperate pleas for comfort and encourage me to keep going with the method.

6. Read carefully about this method, and check your steps. I like this website that outlines the method systematically. This website also gives a great 10-day “what to expect” guide to the method.  It took us about 5 days to get the Ferber method right. Initially, out of habit, we were still making nursing the last activity before putting Benji to sleep. Which was not ideal since we want Benji to be able to soothe himself to sleep and not require my boob  to help him do that.

I was also very concerned at the start of this training, about psychological harm to Benji, if any, especially since he was going through a bad phase of separation anxiety when we started this sleep training. I read an onslaught of information online about cortisol levels in babies during sleep training.  One site that really broke down information into digestible bits for me, is scienceofmom.com. Written by a scientist-now-mom, the author wrote a series of articles about sleep training and I read up every single one of them. One of them, about “helping babies cope with stress and learn to sleep” was particularly interesting. As mentioned in a previous post, this article by Dr. Canapari, a doctor who specializes in childhood sleep problems, was also extremely helpful, especially his reminder about “extinction bursts.”

7. My child can do more than I think he can if given a chance. This is a bold statement to make for a 7 month old (now 8 months!) but it helped get me through some of the interminable nights. One of my friends wrote me and said she adopted a bit of the controversial Babywise mantra, which is that she is giving her child the confidence that s/he has what it takes to sleep independently. And sometimes, I adopted that mentality and ran with it. At times, when we went in to check in on Benji during those minute long intervals, Bry or I would say to Benji “it’s hard, I know, but you can find a way to soothe yourself to sleep. You are capable of it.”

8. Be consistent. Both parents need to be consistent with the approach. You also need to be mindful of the routines, and make sure at least for the duration of the training, that your baby is following the same routines everyday. It’s basically an experiment!

Later, I’ll also write about how we got him to nap without much struggle in the morning. We still have his afternoon nap which we haven’t quite worked out as yet, but we will get there eventually!

Both Benji and I caught the flu/cold bug a couple weeks ago. Things started getting better but after my first day at work, the bug attacked me again – this time even more debilitating than before. For the most part, Benji’s condition remains stable and I’m hoping it stays that way.

Staying healthy is so important especially when your little one depends so much on you to provide care, affection, and education. I haven’t been able to give Benji any hugs or kisses, or play with him for fear of getting him sick again. I’ve also been feeling bad headaches, body aches, and drowsiness, which impede me from properly looking after Benji.

Thankfully, Bry has a rather flexible work schedule and has been able to work from home and watch the little guy while I rest. The silver lining in all this is Bry gaining more experience taking care of him and get to know Benji’s habits better without me. You see, when I’m around, I tend to do most things and tell Bry what Benji wants, not giving him a real chance to discover his son for himself. This might ring true for lots of dads, who want to have a bigger role in their kids’ lives but get sidelined by the moms who, generally and stereotypically speaking, tend to be more sensitive to their kids’ needs and wants and therefore get to them first.

Bry has also stepped up to take care of business around the house like doing the laundry, dishes, and also grocery shopping (not that he didn’t do them before; he’s just doing a lot more now). Yesterday, he even took the little guy for his vaccinations, today, and brought him out for his daycare orientation.

I’m grateful to have a husband who enjoys being such a hands-on daddy. Now, can I get better already! 🙂

In your household, do both parents have an equal relationship with your kid? How difficult is child rearing when you’re not in tip-top condition yourself? 

A major milestone today: I went back to work. Just for one day a week (which will be the case for the next month and a half), but in my books, it still counts. It was the first day I was away from Benji for more than 4 hours in a row, and Bry’s induction to being a stay-at-home dad without me around.

Knowing how exhausting taking care of a little one could potentially be, I got very organized yesterday and made lunch and dinner in advance, cleaned up the house, emptied the dishwasher, etc., to lighten Bry’s load. I also gave him a huge list of schedules, reminders, so he knew when to do what.

All of us survived. WHEW! Bry was also kind enough to provide nearly hourly updates with visuals about how the day went so I could relax and focus on work.

It felt great to be back at work. It was also even more amazing after a day without Benji, to come home to him. 🙂

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This little man has not been very happy since we landed back in Melbourne. In an earlier post written a week ago (has it already been a week?!!!!!!), I had written about our bold move to sleep train Benji using the Ferber/Controlled Comforting method. Thanks to all who commented on the post and encouraged me to stick with it. Personal friends of mine and Bry’s also cheered us for trying out this technique, swearing by its efficacy.

We FINALLY saw *some* improvement tonight, on night number 6. Benji fell asleep after 30 minutes of crying, versus 50 to 60 minutes the last five nights. Okay, I *sorta* lied about us being on night 6 of this journey. Early on, we did not follow all the steps of this method to the tee. For the first couple days, we still made nursing the last activity before his bedtime, and I still had quite a bit of skin contact with Benji during the intervals I went in to comfort him (tho I was always able to resist the urge to carry him). We did not realize how stubborn this little guy could be, and how crucial it was to play by the rules! There were also a few early morning wake-ups before that went on for almost an hour that just broke me, and I caved and either fed him or held him to sleep.

Two days ago, we made the executive decision to really stick strictly to the steps and even in the early morning when he would wake up to cry for some comfort, we would still use this technique. So tonight really was night number three.

While we have seen *some* improvement in terms of sleeping through the night, for example, we have consistently cut out one night feed (he was waking up TWICE; once at around midnight and another at around 4am to seek comfort), Benji still wakes up during that time and cries for at least 30 minutes before finally sleeping.

I would love to think that my brave little trooper has what it takes to calm himself and go to bed like a big boy but everytime those cries and whines start, I start doubting his ability – and my decision to do this. The longer he cries, the more it breaks me.  Like it did multiple times in the wee hours, and even more so early this morning. He slept till past midnight but woke up at 215am and cried intermittently until 415am, that’s two whole hours! Both Bry and I were losing our minds; we were in such a quandry: if we pick him up and tap him to sleep, which is what he wanted, he will sleep for sure, but will that undo the hard work we’ve put in to this training? We were both beside ourselves and kept snapping at the other; I wanted to end it, but Bry challenged me and asked me for an alternative plan. Then he wanted to end it and I questioned if it would ruin everything. Not fun to be arguing with your spouse at 415am, half asleep.

I have to admit that I was furious at everyone who assured us that this technique was a sure winner. But the person I was most upset with at around 4am when my child was still not sleeping, was Dr Ferber. How is it that this technique is so popular and if it is so great, WHY IS MY CHILD NOT SLEEPING PROPERLY AND, WORSE, OVER TIRED IN THE DAY?!! Benji was a really happy baby until 2 weeks ago. His giggles have significantly decreased, his vocalizations a more subdued…and his alertness a little less sharp. I’ve been trying to elicit some babbles from him (yes, I’m an over anxious Speech-Language Pathologist parent to an infant who still has yet to produce any babbles. No consonants. It’s a *little* worrying.) and with his attention span and mood so low these days, I can hardly get him to do anything without him rubbing his eyes or pulling his ears.

We gave up after 2 hours. Screw Dr Ferber for now, I thought. I need my happy baby back. Benji has been really quite overtired the last few days from all the extended crying. His anxiety to nap during the day was also heightened. We had originally tried the same technique for daytime naps but that got too stressful for us and mostly for him, so we cut that out and are now solely concentrating on getting him to sleep properly in the night.

BUT. Tonight’s record of sleeping after 30 minutes of struggle gave us a slight glimmer of hope and reinstated a little – just a little – my faith that this technique could work with Benji. Was last night’s episode the much feared “extinction burst” (Thanks, Dr Craig Canapari, for your very helpful post that I read and re-read amongst many other posts about this technique!) and that we survived it means we are over the hump???

Another night to test out this method. I’m holding my breath on this one.