Did the title make you cringe? Or roll your eyes?
Right about when Alba hit the 6 month mark, we noticed that our sleep had gone from awesome to as bad as we could imagine. After being near tears, holding a wide-awake baby at 10:00 pm, and her waking several times through the night, we knew it was time for some serious help.
We sought the advice from our family doctor, who had a wealth of knowledge on the topic. Before talking with her, we had never even read a book or article about baby’s and sleep. She provided us with so many little tools that would hopefully help Alba self-soothe, go down to bed happily, and stay asleep. The most important part, I think, was pointing us in the direction of sleep scheduling.
For us, the cry it out method wasn’t an option we wanted to explore. I didn’t think she should have to go through this alone. We all needed to learn about sleep, and we wanted to be there to help her through it. At the same time, we knew we needed a new way of getting her to sleep. We were unable to enjoy time as husband and wife in the evenings, because our entire night was spent trying to put her down to bed.
Here’s what worked for us:
- Separating food from bedtime: This was a huge issue. She had no tools to fall asleep on her own. Since we would give her a bottle before putting her down, she needed it to fall asleep. And, this means she was always falling asleep in our arms before we’d transfer her to her co-sleeper. It was her crutch. Most of the time, she’d wake a few hours after bedtime, and be panicky. We had to start the whole bedtime thing over again. We slowly separated food from nap and bedtimes. We are now giving bottles or breastfeeding when she wakes up. In the evenings, we give a bottle before she’s showing signs of being tired. After that, we start our bedtime routine (more on this in a sec).
- Learning about awake/sleep times: Depending on a baby’s age, they should be getting a certain amount of sleep each day. There are also resources which explain the max awake time, the length of naps, and when the last nap of the day should end … All of this to ensure a nice, long night of sleep.
- Getting on a schedule: Our sweet girl had been sleeping through the night since 6 weeks old. (Okay, that’s relative … she would wake to nurse, but then go right back down.) We were very well rested, and so thankful. Around 5.5 months, it was starting to change. We were letting Al dictate her own schedule … 3 hour long naps (or sometimes only 30 min.), waking up at 10 am, not going to sleep until 11 pm, etc. For her age, we knew we wanted her to sleep roughly 11 hours at night, and 2-5 hours during the day. Our new schedule meant we were setting alarms to wake up in the morning, not letting her stay up for more than 2.5 hours a time, not letting naps go past 2 hours, and being sure she was up from her last nap by 5:00 pm.
- Recognizing signs of sleepiness: We used to think it was so cute when she rubbed her eyes. Now we know that’s her way of telling us she’s on the verge of a meltdown. We’ve learned to recognize these cues, and it lets us know we need to start our nap or bedtime routine. So, things like fussiness, eye rubbing, putting face on the floor, etc. are our “it’s time to get this party started” cues.
- Creating a bedtime routine: As soon as she was showing signs of sleepiness, or reached the 2.5 hour awake threshold, we start her routine. At night it’s bath, jammies, reading (and/or some singing), white noise, paci, lay down in her bed. For naps, it’s diaper change, reading, noise machine, paci, and lay down. For nighttime, it’s about 30 minutes, and for naps, it’s about 15 minutes. Now, instead of the bottle putting her to sleep, our routine preps her for sleep, and she puts herself to sleep once she’s laying down.
- Transitioning to a new bed: The first week, she was still in her co-sleeper. This is when she was getting more mobile, and we decided to get her into the pack and play next to our bed. She’s still using the bassinet setting, but will be going to the bottom soon. This allowed us to each have our own space, but she’s still close while we sleep. We’re planning to continue co-sleeping indefinitely. <- Maybe a better way to say it is that we plan to co-sleep until all of us are ready for her to be in her own room, and as of now, we don’t have a timeframe for that.
- Understanding the a little crying is okay: We didn’t want to do “cry it out” because we honestly don’t think it’s a way to foster trust or show your baby you’re there for them. It didn’t feel right to leave her alone to cry. I know it works for some people, but for us, it wasn’t an option. With that said, the first night with our new routine was rough. I decided that I’d accompany her each night until she fell asleep. The first night, it took nearly 3 hours (!!!!) for her to fall asleep. She would cry for a second, I’d pat her back and comfort her, she’d nod off, and then she’d pop back up and start all over again. The first nights were hard. If she got really worked up (beyond just a soothing cry (the only way I can describe it), I’d pick her up to comfort her, then we’d go back down. Usually, that was all it took. Sometimes, it was short. Sometimes it was long. But, we were consistent in our routine, and our comfort, and eventually it got better.
After the first week, things were much better. Four days into it, her first tooth popped through, and a week later, the other one joined the party. That explained a lot. Poor baby! Now that we are four weeks into this, she goes to sleep almost immediately after she gets into her bed (!!!!). She’s sleeping from 7:00 or 7:30 pm until 5:00 am. She wakes at 5:00, needs to nurse, and will go back to sleep until 7:00. Gentle sleep training is a thing. I never felt like I was doing her a disservice, and I think she felt loved and guided through the process. I understand that this method won’t work for everyone, so if that’s the case, there are tons of other resources. For those of you who want to reclaim your sleep (in a gentle way), I hope this can help you!
Mama and papa are much happier now that Alba is sleeping. We are swamp creatures no more.
Today was one of those days I just needed to document. It was tiring, rewarding, and absolutely ridiculous.
- I woke up at 3 or 4 to my little bird chirping in her co-sleeper. Early mornings are a new thing around here. Sleep is going soooo much better, so I’m not going to complain. Usually, she just needs the boobs, and she’ll fall back asleep for an hour or so. Today, she was up until 5:30ish, I nursed her (she’s like a piranha), and she slept until 7:45. Usually, we get out of bed by 7:00 (lately, it’s been 5:30), but I didn’t feel like majorly sticking to the schedule today. I just couldn’t find the energy to care.
- I ate a cookie for breakfast. I veganized the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I’ve eaten so. many. cookies.
- At 10:00, I was hungry, so I heated up a leftover burrito. So sad.
- When I walked back in the room, Alba had crawled (??) over to the wall, and was playing with multiple cords. Oh my gosh. THIS KID!!! I guess our house isn’t that baby proof. Oy!
- We got to hang out with my friend Heather today. It was so wonderful to see her … we took a walk around Mt. Tabor. Alba decided she hated her stroller when we were walking, so I ended up carrying a 20 lb. sleeping baby in my arms for 45 minutes. I was a hot, sweaty mess when we got back to Heather’s house. Oh, and I brought them 6 of the cookies, because I would have eaten all of them, and that’s just not acceptable!
- On the way home, we decided to take a trip across the river to pick up a (creepy) tricycle from Jim’s office. A co-worker gifted it to us. Of course, the Morrison Bridge malfunctioned during a planned raise, and got stuck. OH JOY!!! I love traffic. Better yet … I love traffic with a SCREAMING child. Since traffic was stopped, I had to run back to the back of the Jeep, grab a bottle, and handed it back to little miss. After finding my way to the Burnside bridge, we FINALLY made it to J’s work. It took us two hours to get home.
- She fell asleep 2 minutes before we got home. Joy!
- She woke up as soon as I stopped the car. THIS GIRL!
- We got home, and I was starving. I made myself a pizza roll up. It’s one of my vegan white trash food creations. Take a tortilla, spread some marinara on it, sprinkle some vegan cheese on it, and microwave for a minute. After I rolled it up, Alba promptly put a death grip on it. Her little fingers went through the tortilla, there was sauce everywhere, and she was laughing as I was trying to pry her tiny clenched fist off of my “lunch”.
- Soon after, she put a death grip on the cat, ripped out a bunch of his hair, and quickly shoved it in her mouth. I didn’t think I’d ever say, “No! We don’t eat cat hair!”. This child is a total freak. And I LOVE HER!
- Jim finally got home, got a hair cut, baby girl went down to bed, and he made me an amazing dinner.
- There’s no alcohol in the house (really not sure how that happened), so I’m currently eating another cookie and drinking some water. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be up super early to head south for Jim’s second Tough Mudder. Let’s hope for a great (less ridiculous) day.
Parenting is the best adventure! But man, I am so tired.
Our sweet Al … This month, you turned six months old. Your month started in Indiana. You had just aced your first flight, and we were gearing up for a couple more. Thinking back to the days between five and six months, my head spins to think of how much you changed. On the 4th of July, you turned six months old. You are our little firecracker, for sure!
It’s hard to believe that you just learned how to roll over the month before. Now, there’s no stopping you. I’ll put you on the floor to play, and within a matter of minutes, you’ve scooted 12 feet across the room … usually under the table or TV stand. You aren’t crawling, but you are pushing and pulling yourself around on your belly.
You still love your jumper, and now that you can sit up a little better, you love floor time. Your stacking toys are some of your favorites.
If given the choice, you’d get rid of all of your toys if it meant you could hang out with the dogs and cat all of the time. You love when they give you attention, but we’re still working on being gentle.
This month, we introduced your first food … We let you try some avocado, and you really didn’t make much of it. We decided to wait a little longer, and let you work through Baby Led Weaning as you wish.
Breastfeeding was a bit more challenging for my soul. You are so interested in everything around you that you were starting to refuse the breast. We worked through it though … I pumped and fed you with a bottle, and eventually we found our groove again. You still love to eat … baby girl, you are not tiny. You weighed in at 17 lb. 10 oz. at your six month appointment, and you are 27″ long.
You still aren’t a big laugher, but you love to smile. I know I’ve said it before, but people can’t believe how mellow you are. We constantly get asked if you’re real, because you always smile, and rarely make a peep.
Bedtime has been a little challenging. I know you love your papa, but there’s not much he can do for you before bed. You’re all about the boobies and mama. We know it’s just a phase. Soon, he’ll be everything to you!
It’s so hard for us to believe that you are six months old. Soon, you’ll be earth side as long as you were in my belly. It’s pretty crazy to think about. I still love remembering the morning you were born, and our first few weeks together. Every day with you has been a gift, and we are so lucky to have you. Thank you for being the best baby for us. You are exactly what we needed.
Here you are … in all of your six month glory!
Keeping it real.
As promised in this post, I wanted to share a typical grocery haul with you. We try to do meal planning each week, and for the most part we stick with it. There are definitely nights where I beg Jimmy to run to Chipotle or El Nutritaco (…oh-emmm-geee, the best vegan Mexican food in Portland), but for the most part, we do meal planning once per week and a big grocery run.
For the most part, we eat organic. We buy everything organic that we can, and then choose the healthiest conventional options for everything else. The only dairy we buy is for Jim, and is usually cream cheese for bagels and eggs for his breakfast. We don’t ever buy meat, as we have a vegetarian household. Ideally, I’ be eating way less gluten, and buying less packages food. For now, it’s about making the healthiest choices, while realizing I have a 7 month old and I need to set myself up to make homemade meals. (How’s that for an excuse?)
On the menu this week was:
This haul included:
- 2 cans organic black beans
- 1 can organic chickpeas
- organic polenta
- sprouted grain english muffins
- taco seasoning
- Gardein crispy chick’n
- Daiya mozzarella shreads
- 2 boxes of organic pasta
- tube of vegan sausage
- organic pasta sauce
- pure maple syrup
- bakers chocolate
- a bottle of rosé
(produce, all organic)
- 2 ears of sweet corn
- head of broccoli
- head of lettuce (first lettuce we’ve bought in months, since our garden went crazy)
- 1 cucumber
- broccoli slaw
- 4 potatoes
- a lime
- red onion
- 3 peaches
The total from Fred Meyer was $86.31, but I forgot white beans, a pineapple, and Vegenaise (I always forget things, even with a list). So, add $10.86 from New Seasons. I bought pure maple syrup this week (I hate syrup week … so expensive), and it was $20, which increased my total quite a bit. That’s a once-every-5-months purchase.
I was most excited to try these sprouted grain english muffins, and this vegan sausage. I love to make a batch of breakfast sandwiches for the freezer, then reheat in the mornings.
Personally, I love getting meal ideas (like above), and winging it in my own kitchen. But, if people are interested, I’m happy to share recipes. And, our pantry already includes things like spices, nutritional yeast, cashews, and other vegan staples, which makes weekly shopping much easier.
My goal for the next grocery haul is to have way more produce, and way less packaged food. With a baby, it’s easy to steer towards easy food, but I think I could figure out super-easy meals with less packaged food.
“A portrait of our daughter, once a week, every week, in 2014″ – A photo project …
Hiking is so exhausting.
See the other photos in this series.
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