Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The One Where Henry is 7 Months Old

Month seven was a big one for Henry. We worked through and resolved some sleep troubles (see below). He got his first real cold, and that was sad. He started eating solid food and loves beans and rice and scrambled eggs and well, anything you put in front of him. He decided he likes to pretend to be a dog and carry things around in his mouth while scooting after the cat as quickly as possible. He listened intently as Ellie taught him about princesses at her "Princess School." He took his first big trip: a flight to the Bay Area, three days with friends and then a 10 hour road trip home with me and Mallory. We packed him around San Francisco and the Redwood Forest and at his first pumpkin patch and in an apple orchard. It was very fun. 

Photo by Mallory Phelan
He has been such a good sport on all the adventures this past month. He is very sweet and playful and likes to snuggle with anyone who will have him. He's pretty great that way. Of course, he only snuggles for a little bit before he wants to be hanging upside down or crawling off to find something to put in his mouth. He's been dubbed "the dust mop" this month because he is always filthy from scooting around on his belly everywhere. I try to keep our house clean, but apparently I just can't keep it clean to his standards. Also, I won't be too sad when he starts to walk.

In the meantime, however, I'm content to soak up his baby-ness. He may be wiggly and even a bit whiny these days, but I know that before long he'll be so big and talkative and on-the-go. And while I look forward to that day, I'm relishing in these ones while they're here.

One of my very favorite things about a baby is starting the day by cuddling in bed with him. He wants to wake up earlier than I want to, and as we lay chest to chest I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping for a few more winks. But I can feel him looking at me, so I open my eyes and see that thousand-watt smile, that drunken ear-to-ear grin that says, "I just can't get enough of you." And then he laughs at me. A deep, gutteral laugh that only comes from complete contentment and ultimate satisfaction. Is there anything so wonderful as the blissful adoration of your baby? He doesn't know yet that sometimes I lose my temper or that I won't always be able to keep him safe. He doesn't know yet that sometimes we'll have disagreements and frustrations with each other. All he knows is that he loves me. That I am there with him in that moment. And that is enough.

Henry at the airport about to take his first flight. Apparently I thought we
should  be wearing coordinating striped outfits for this momentous occasion. 
Henry with Cara, Kaycie and Mallory in the Redwood Forest.

P.S. The sleep issues that we were having last month have been mostly resolved. Yay! We are still working on naps, which are a little difficult because we can't always be home for nap time, and that makes working into a good routine difficult. He is, however, getting to be very good at sleeping whenever I put him down in his bed, the only trick still to master is linking some short sleep cycles into longer ones. That will come around more as he gets older.

I found it helpful to know what other moms had tried when they needed to sleep train their baby, so for anyone curious, I thought I'd share my two cents on the topic just for fun. First of all, I really like the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth. Some of his ideas may seem a little old school, but there are a lot of things he says that just make a lot of sense. Ellie was a horribly unhappy baby for her first few months and reading and applying the principles in that book worked miracles for our little sleep-deprived family. Since then, we've been able to establish the good foundations from his principles, such as consistent sleep routines and paying attention to your baby's sleep cycles to know when they need to sleep. Very helpful stuff! I would recommend starting there if you are having trouble. And if you are pregnant and haven't given birth yet, do yourself a huge favor and read it now. That way you can start off with good sleep habits and maybe not have any problems whatsoever! (If only...)

Henry was a wonderful little sleeper for the first few months of his life because of the aforementioned sleep foundation. And then around five months old, something changed. He started waking up all the time. And I did what I had done before - go into his room, keep everything dark, nurse him, put him back to bed. But when he started waking up every hour for multiple nights in a row, I knew this wasn't just a growth spurt. He had lost the ability to connect his sleep cycles and wanted to be nursed back to sleep every time his body came out of deep sleep. Our pediatrician recommended the No-Cry Sleep Solution and we thought we'd give it a whirl. In case you're wondering, the No-Cry Sleep Solution is basically this: Do everything your baby wants until he/she stops wanting it. Ha! I think this method could also be called "Try not to become insane due to lack of sleep while waiting years for your baby to magically outgrow sleep problems." This may work for some people. And if you have the good nature and patience to follow the guidelines therein, I bow to you. You have much more sacrificial love and resilience than I have.

When we tried this, picking Henry up and rocking him, nursing him, anything to soothe him, he cried. And cried and cried and cried. It was horrible. And then he would fall asleep in my arms and I would try to lay him down and he would wake back up and cry. And cry. And cry. You get the picture. Basically, so much crying. And this coincided with Steve beginning his 6+ months of traveling during the week. I can't be the only parent to three kids and take being screamed at for multiple hours a night. So on a weekend he was home we tried having Steve go in to his room and try to soothe him back to sleep. Enter: more crying. And then Steve left again and I had to fend for myself. So I decided it was time. Time to do the dreaded "Cry It Out." That thing that makes all mothers hide in shame to say they have resorted to doing so they could be sane, fully functioning humans once again. I didn't want to be the cry-it-out mother. I wanted to be the no-cry mother. But that wasn't working. Because apparently no-cry is actually still a lot of crying.

The important thing to remember with Cry-It-Out, I realized, is that it is incorrectly named. It should actually be called "Progressive Waiting." You don't just let your child scream endlessly into the night. Dr. Ferber, who invented this, has a very specific regimen for helping your baby learn to put himself back to sleep and link those sleep cycles on his own. This blog post by the Noob Mommy helped me understand the technique. She makes it sound a little dramatic, and it does seem daunting. But when I put him to bed that first night I told him, "I love you and I want you to get all the sleep you need. So if you wake up again before midnight, I am not going to feed you. I am going to help you fall back to sleep on your own." (Maybe it doesn't help your baby to actually hear this, but I think it helped me to know exactly what my plan of attack was, what my rationale for doing it was and what my expectations were.) After our bedtime routine (changing into pajamas, reading a story, nursing while singing a lullaby), I laid him down in his crib while he was still awake. He cried for a few minutes. I went back in after 3 and then again after 5 more minutes. After that he fell asleep on his own. He woke up and started crying about an hour later and I waited 3 minutes before going in and re-wrapping him in his blankets, stroking his cheek and then leaving. He cried. I waited 5 minutes and went in again, letting him know I was there and that I loved him, but not picking him up. And then he fell asleep. Yay! Henry took to this method of sleep-training like Ron Burgandy to a Dodge Durango's glovebox. (In case you don't watch TV or Hulu, I'll just say this: he got right on board.) He cried so much less with Progressive Waiting than with No-Cry. And within three nights (yes, three!) he was sleeping through the night again, waking up only once or twice to nurse and then going right back to sleep. And he doesn't try to wake up for the day at 5 am anymore. And that is a very, very good thing.

Now sometimes he still wakes up at night. Maybe we are on the road and he is sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Maybe there is a loud noise that wakes him. Whatever. He wakes up and whines a little bit in his bed. And I wait. Usually I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes. And almost always, he has already gone back to sleep and I've forgotten the whole thing by the time those ten minutes are up. Sometimes he is still whining or crying and I go in to soothe him and then he stops and is okay and goes to sleep. We are working on doing this during the day right now and he is getting better and better, although not totally there.

And guess what? He still loves me. Even after I didn't give in to what he thought he wanted (i.e. so much food all night long). Even after I let him cry a little. He still loves me. In fact, I daresay he loves me more. Because he is well-rested, secure, and he knows he is always safe and I will always, always come back to him. And I'm well-rested and much more patient and agreeable during the day. It's pretty great for everyone involved. Even Steve noticed an immediate difference the moment he returned home from his business trip. Week One: "No-Cry" = no dinner, house a huge mess, mom irritable, older children frazzled and desperate for attention. Week Two: "Progressive Waiting" = dinner ready, clean house, happy mom, happy older children, peaceful home (and also a much happier daddy).

So if you are having sleep troubles with your baby and have been afraid of trying any method of sleep-training, remember that the ability to get good sleep is one of the most precious gifts you can give your child. It will make their whole life (and yours) much, much better if they learn to sleep well early on. And if you are having sleep troubles with your baby and nothing seems to help, call me and I will bring you some dinner. Because that is no fun. Also, my friends Melissa and Meeka dealt with sleepless children and their stories may inspire you to survive. (Also, I know them and their children now, and all of them are very nice people... so there is still hope that you will make it through this sleepless time and return to normalcy once again.)

P.P.S. A special thanks to Jo, Cara, Mallory, Kaycie and Erich for helping me pack Henry around on all our adventures. I am immensely grateful that you make it possible for me to bring my kids and still have fun with you guys! Love you all!


  1. Ha! I didn't even realize I was going to be referenced in this post, and I was actually going to comment on how nicely I think you talked about sleep training even before I saw my name so nicely highlighted. :) I liked that Healthy Sleep Habits book, too, and now I also need to go read the article you linked!

  2. I feel so famous now! And I'm very pleased, especially since my claim to fame is "surviving my sleepless child." I'm so happy Henry is sleeping and you found something that worked for everyone. You are right, sleeping families are happy families.


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