In which we 'ferberize' the baby

Anselm has sort of an odd sleep history. From newborn to about three months he slept very well (or at least as well as newborns do): I could easily nurse or bounce him down to sleep, and then he would sleep wherever he was put — generally in the bassinet.

The bassinet was great, until it wasn’t. At three months, we hit teething and a cold and a growth spurt all at once, and he became very hard to get to sleep — so we brought him into our bed. He lay beside me and I could nurse him when he needed it without having to wake up much myself. And it was reassuring to the baby to have us right there (and vice-versa). We all got more sleep.

Co-sleeping was great, until it wasn’t. Anselm got bigger; he started kicking and rolling. He started crawling on top of us when he woke up in the morning. And our queen bed got progressively smaller and smaller as he forced us out to the edges. So about a month ago we transitioned him to a crib mattress beside our bed. It was easy for me to get in and out of his bed to nurse him. It was a bigger space for him to sleep.

Sleeping beside our bed was great, until it wasn’t. I hadn’t realised when we were co-sleeping how often he was waking up in the night to nurse — much, much more than he needed to. My back was starting to hurt every morning from lying on his mattress to feed him. And nursing him to sleep was getting progressively more difficult — he was canny to the fact that I would eventually sneak away, and started trying to keep himself awake to prevent it. Some nights I would accidentally fall asleep in his bed instead of my own for a couple of hours.

Something had to give. I wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t sleeping — things just were not working out.

Enter Dr. Richard Ferber, and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. “Ferberizing” is probably the most controversial sleep-training method out there — and by “controversial” I mean “vilified” — but honestly, if you actually read the book and not random internet posts for/against it, what he says makes a lot of sense. We were able to quickly identify the source of Anselm’s sleep problems: he had a sleep association with nursing to sleep, he was (naturally) upset to fall asleep beside me and wake up with me gone, and he was eating way too much at night. So I read all the relevant chapters, we decided on a plan, and sleep-training started last night — after a mass text to all my pray-ers!

We decided to go whole-hog and address everything at once, instead of by piecemeal — reasoning that if it was too hard on the baby we could always scale back. But our goal for last night was that Anselm would sleep (a) in his crib, (b) in the nursery, (c) without nursing to sleep, and (d) without nursing in the night. It was a tall order: all of those things were new. But we were pretty sure that with our support, he could do it.

It went… shockingly, amazingly well. We pushed his bedtime back until he was truly sleepy, and then moved to our new bedtime routine. I gave him a bath, Stan read him some stories, I nursed him in the rocking chair, and then I put him in his crib. He cried, of course — we followed the plan to check him first after one minute of crying, then after three, then five, then seven, and then at ten minute intervals if he wasn’t asleep yet. We would reassure and comfort him but would not pick him up out of the crib. After about thirteen minutes of crying, he fell fast asleep and stayed that way for about six hours. He cried then for less than five minutes before falling asleep again. He roused about two hours later and fussed for less than a minute before going back to sleep until morning.

And now we’re thinking: why didn’t we do this a month ago?

I know that this was only the first night and that we may still run into all sorts of snags — like we have no idea how naps are going to go today (which we are also going to have him do in the crib, alone in his room, etc. etc.) But it’s so encouraging how well he did last night. Better sleep is well in sight for all of us.

And to those who worry about the crying: well, babies cry. It’s not fun for them (or to put them through it) but… babies cry. I’m not worried that we’re going to give him some sort of lasting psychological harm: after all, being better rested ourselves means that he’s going to get more consistent daytime attention and affection. And frankly, I was so tired that some days I was afraid to drive. I’ll take some sadness and anger from the baby in exchange for not accidentally running off the road. You know how it is.

Road trip with an infant: achievement unlocked

As I write this, the baby is upstairs asleep, Stan is watching the Canada-England soccer match, and the rain is falling steadily as it has done all day. We are all various degrees of exhausted, but also pleased with our accomplishment: three days and two nights in a hotel, just a few hours away, with fair success and no disasters. We’re even unpacked.

This mini-roadtrip was the perfect practice for a longer trip we’ll be taking this summer (and one that’s probably going to be even longer sometime in the fall) — so special thanks to my cousins A and K for getting married. Anselm coped with the hotel / disturbed nap schedule / extended family hoopla / etc. a lot better than we had anticipated, which is encouraging.

Some things for me to remember for next time (because I need to write them down somewhere … and I can’t lose a blog post):

1. Hotel rooms are cold. Bring socks for the baby!

2. Our car gets about five, five-and-a-half hours’ of highway driving on a half tank of gas.

3. Sleeping: at home, Anselm sleeps on a mattress next to our bed. We didn’t bring it with us because the hotel would provide a crib & we figured on using that mattress. We did so; but it was small and hard, and next time it might be easier to just bring the crib mattress. Bringing Anselm’s sheet so that his bed smelled the same was probably helpful.

4. Next time, more snack food. Always more snack food.

5. I’m pretty sure it’s true what they say: Ohio drivers are just the worst.

6. The best time to leave looks like immediately after breakfast. Pack as much as possible the night before, get up, shower and eat, feed the baby, nurse the baby, and go. He should sleep for a good hour or two if you get on the road soon enough. Otherwise he’ll only fall asleep in the ten minutes before the next rest stop, leading to the eternal conundrum: wake the baby or pee one’s pants? Both terrible options.

7. Don’t forget to update the GPS. And be thankful for friendly park rangers.

8. You will feel bad because your baby cries in the night and hotel walls are thin. But then your bed will start shaking in sync with your next door neighbour’s… athletic… activities, and you will shrug and call it even. In hotel living, nobody wins.

Six months: a snapshot

I don’t know that anyone ever sets out to be a “mom blogger” on purpose — I didn’t — but it seems to happen to most once the little ones alive — might as well embrace it, eh? 

Anselm turned six months old recently — I’ve been meaning to write down a few things about how life is right now — the blog will do until I can get things down somewhere more permanent (which is to say, on paper).

At six months old, Anselm’s favourite toys are his own feet (especially now that he can suck his toes!), the tin lid of one of my jewellery boxes, Mr. Blue Bun, and Sophie Giraffe (who is requisite and necessary, as well for the hands as for the gums). His favourite activities include rolling from his back to his front, and then to his back, and then to his front, and then to his back… He is also into hair pulling and grabbing Mama’s glasses (we are working hard on dissuading him from these activities). He is very close to crawling and likes to stand up with support. He likes music and people. Nobody can make him laugh like Daddy can, especially when playing with Crazy Horse (now that he’s outgrown being scared of it). When he gets excited — which happens often — he kicks his legs and flails his arms, often punching himself in the face.

Anselm goes to bed at around 7 pm (+/- 30 minutes) and sleeps until 6-7 am, with a few feedings in between. He is a haphazard napper. He still nurses well but is highly distractable, so if we’re going out he’ll drink expressed milk from a sippy cup, with some assistance. His favourite people are Mama, Daddy, and his little buddy E, whom we babysit once a week. For some unfathomable reason, he is also completely and utterly enamoured with the curtain that hangs in our stairwell — but only when he’s being carried up the stairs.

In the past week or so we have also introduced solids! He was fairly bamboozled at the beginning but seems to be getting the hang of it, and eats about 1 oz. at a meal. So far he likes applesauce, and sweet potato with spinach, but is not keen on banana. He prefers to hold the spoon himself, which is why I generally use three — one for each of his hands, and one for me. Anselm has not suffered for the lack of solids up to this point, and weighs 21 lbs… or likely rather more, since it’s been about a month since we last measured. He loves “ups” in our baby carriers (a wrap, a mei-tai, and a ring sling) and can usually be bounced to sleep while being worn.

We feel very blessed that he is an easy baby — he has a very sweet inner nature and we hope that it will not grow jaded as he gets older. Though there are moments when he’s an absolute turd — as all babies sometimes are — by and large he is very easy-going, and doesn’t get upset without reason. He is quite sociable, and will turn his mouth up towards us when we cue him with “kiss-kiss”. At church he likes to look at other children and at the stained glass, and is always happily surprised by the sanctus bells.

His latest trick is to do a little fake cough in order to fart (gotta engage those abs somehow, I guess!). What a little weirdo. We love him to bits.

Week of finals and firsts

It’s Sunday, which means that we have officially made it through finals week — all exams taken, all papers both written and submitted, commencement attended (Stan marhsalled and I did childcare) — and our second year of seminary is done. Done! It’s not been long enough that we feel done… probably that won’t happen until we graduate, since we’ll both still be doing school through the summer, but it’s a milestone nonetheless.

Speaking of milestones:

1. Stan and I had an oral exam on Tuesday, which meant that Anselm got left with a babysitter for the first time. The baby did great; I was a little weepy, but rallied for the exam. We left him with another family whose son I’ve been watching one afternoon a week through the semester — the boys get a kick out of each other, which helps a lot. We’re hoping to work out some sort of child-sharing arrangement through the summer (each of us taking both boys for one afternoon a week, or similar) so that we can get some guaranteed free time / couple time / nap time / whatever on a regular basis.

2. And speaking of leaving the baby, he’s now going to bed at a relatively reliable hour and staying asleep for a good long chunk afterwards — and so one night last week I put him to bed and then went out! with my friends! without the baby! for… yup, the first time as far as I can recall. I was so excited I was pretty much vibrating (yes: there was some teasing). We went out to the new pub in town — it’s quite nice, and gets a million bonus points for being the only non-smoking bar around these parts (since the last one, ah, burned down) — and confirmed our drinking status as moms and other lightweights. Fortunately someone’s husband showed up after his shift ended to finish all our beers for us. Ha.

3. We’ve been trying the baby on solids, since he’s old enough to start and is showing a lot of interest in food. I’m not sure that he’s actually swallowed anything we’ve offered yet, but the faces he makes are pretty amazing.

One thing that does feel summery — now that we’ve finished and can turn our attention to other things — is the start of summer projects. First on the list is completing our librarything catalogue; both Stan and I are book-buyers and our to-be-catalogued piles were taking over the office. We crested 1,000 books catalogued yesterday — with still a good chunk left to go! After that’s done, my next project is probably going to be finishing making Anselm’s Christmas stocking, which has been on the hooks since last November. Ah, well, some you win…

TL;DR 2013/14

Oh, right, I haven’t posted in like a year and a half. Let’s catch up, shall we?

In 2013 and 2014, I retired a major debt, left my jobs, moved to small-town America, took up ukulele, dressed up as a Settlers of Catan wheat tile for Hallowe’en, drove to St. Louis for American Thanksgiving, drove back to Ontario for Christmas, started a master’s degree program, got pregnant, finished the semester, drove to Ohio for a family reunion, spent a month cat/house sitting in the fancy town up the road, made half a rag rug, painted three rooms, drove back to Ontario for a family visit, made curtains and generally nested, started the fall semester, figured I’d be pregnant forever, finally had the baby (41+6 weeks gestation), finished the semester, hosted family for Christmas for the first time, and read 354 books.

That about covers it.