Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Naps, nursing, and new plans

Let's talk naps, before the last few weeks disappear into a sleepy fog.

At some point, I read that a repetitive movement of approximately ten centimetres per second will lull a baby to sleep, and this is the principle behind rockers and swings. Well, it works with exercise balls, too (the big bouncy kind, not the heavy weight-training kind), and for a little while, I was getting Oliver to sleep with a moderate to vigorous bounce for five to ten minutes. It worked like a charm, although I worried sometimes that I was bouncing him a little too vigorously—besides the strain it was placing on my back! Anyway, it doesn't seem to have done him any physical harm.

According to Dana Obleman (The Sleep Sense Program), up to three months, a newborn shouldn't really be awake for more than an hour at a time. This makes sense, since babies of that age are supposed to sleep sixteen to twenty hours a day. Of course, Oliver had (and perhaps has) very seldom met that standard, but he does generally show the signs of tiredness after being awake for forty-five minutes to an hour: rubbing his eyes, yawning, saying "owh", droopy eyes, distant stares. (But he'd never just, you know, fall asleep.) So we were trying that out. Danijela would nurse him, he'd have a bit of play time, and then I'd bounce him to sleep and put him down in the swing. It was working fairly well, although we didn't make any record of how well or how long he napped at that time.

Like most other sleep consultants, Obleman also recommends making sure babies are awake when you put them down to sleep, which we had achieved at night, but attempted only accidentally during the day. Also, eliminating sleep props. So that was our next step. After our success at night, we figured the same strategy would work for naps. But we would implement it gradually. We moved the ball from the living room into the nursery, and gradually reduced the bouncing from Colombian mountain road to average Toronto road to calm lake. Around this time, we also found some experts believe sleep in motion or not fully reclined (i.e., in a swing, car seat, carrier, &c.) doesn't offer the same restfulness as regular sleep, so we decided to stop putting him in the swing right away. Instead, we brought his bassinet up from our room each day for naps. I also sang to him and patted his back. Then I would put him down in his bassinet when I saw he was having trouble keeping his eyes open, and usually he would go to sleep.

A few times, I had the very great pleasure of just watching him as he slowly nodded off. He lay there peacefully, lightly stirring, like he just knew what to do. That felt good. Other times were not so pleasant. Despite being clearly tired, he would often fight sleep, and soon, he started crying directly I put him down, if not before, despite my concerted efforts to calm him with gentle rubs and pats and song. Oof. Our plan wasn't working.

I could go into greater detail, but I'm starting to bore myself, especially when there is so much more exciting stuff going on! I almost feel like I shouldn't even be mentioning all of this stuff, like it makes us seem hyper-(re)active and hyper-stressed. Is this how kids get hyperactive? But let me just get round to the end of this tale. It gets better.

Danijela has found a local sleep consultant, Debbie Fazio, who holds regular free "clinics" on Facebook where parents can ask questions about their kids' difficulties. Around eight weeks, after Oliver had had a week-long growth spurt, he would no longer sleep at night for more than three hours at a time (when he had for the previous two weeks been doing well with regular six-hour stretches). So our first question was about why this might be happening and what we could do about it. The consultant suggested that such growth often ends with the baby needing more food, so we did. We must have just tried to feed him more often, although I don't remember exactly. Things improved a little, but were definitely spotty. We kept following the clinics and got some more good information from others' questions.

The sleep consultant had recommended to friends that they feed their daughter not just after waking, but also before naps (but still put her down awake), and we decided that we would give it a try. I mean, we knew it would work, because when he's tired, nursing will certainly put him to sleep, but we thought he would learn to use nursing as a prop and need it to get to sleep. I guess there are different opinions about this practice, but for now whatever, it did work. So, for the past week or so, we've had no trouble putting him down for naps. He's even started to nap in his crib instead of the bassinet, which is decidedly too small for him now. I was starting to feel bad for him when he woke up during his naps and I'd check on him; even though we are still swaddling him, he looked uncomfortable, like he was struggling to move around.

The point is, we wanted to feed Oliver more, but were still having problems. He was losing his latch, being fussy while nursing, and getting a bit cranky, like he was early on. Back to the breastfeeding clinic we went, where we found out that Danijela was taking only a third of the recommended dose of domperidone, the milk-producing drug. Double-oof! For some reason, the pharmacy had written the wrong instructions on the bottle. Despite the prescription clearly stating 30 mg, three times daily, the bottle said 10 mg. It's amazing that things went as well as they did for as long as they did. The dose Danijela was taking was barely better than a placebo. Unfortunately, the stuff can take up to two weeks to kick in, so now we're waiting.

Here's the better part. With our new routine and arrangement (feeding before naps, in the crib), Oliver goes down easily, often sleeps longer, and with our help he will go back to sleep when he wakes mid-nap. All except for the late-afternoon nap, which is usually a real trial. Sometimes, it just works, sometimes it's a struggle, and sometimes, it just doesn't work. But we're more relaxed about it. I don't know how or why! Probably because we're not fighting to get him to sleep as much. Besides, he's pretty great, and so much has been happening! Since I'm about two weeks behind with my posts these days, though, you'll have to wait to hear about it all.


I'm hearing things in the white noise.

Everyone has a new name now. Danijela and I are mommy and daddy; my parents are grandma and grandpa; Danijela's parent's are baka and deda; our sisters are aunties or tetkas; Pippin is big brother. Talk about identity crises!

Did I mention that he naps in his crib (in his nursery)!? I am unreasonably excited about this. I hope it means he won't have any trouble sleeping there at night.

He reached seven kilograms (fifteen pounds, seven ounces) two weeks ago and stayed there for about a week, but I'm sure he's grown since. I don't know when we'll weigh him again, but he'll probably surpass eight kg by then. I continually forget to ask his height. Read on..!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Babies for problem solvers: night and day are a world apart

It takes a lot of energy to fail to put a baby down for a nap. Sure, sometimes it takes a lot to succeed at it, too, but failing just drains me.

It's important to set limits. I imagine that's a lesson I'll learn again. It's probably the most generally applicable thing we've learned during this brief period of trying to teach Oliver to fall asleep (day and night) on his own, i.e., without nursing, bouncing, rocking, walking, soothing, and so on.

Everything started so well! We had a simple plan: make sure Oliver was awake when we put him down to sleep at night and after each nighttime feed. That meant making sure he didn't fall asleep while nursing. He didn't have to be very awake—besides being very difficult sometimes, that would be counterproductive—but definitely not asleep. If he whined or cried, I would pick him up, calm him, and put him down again, and repeat until he fell asleep. And it worked! The first night, I only had to pick him up maybe two or three times at each waking, the next night, less, and I think by the third night, he had figured it out—huzzah! He no longer complained when we put him down awake. He just went to sleep. We felt good. We had succeeded at adjusting Oliver's nighttime sleep habits!

How hard could it be to adjust his daytime habits? Ha ha ha ha.

As an aside, I think I have tried to add a bit of humour to my posts, but the air is not the only thing getting drier in our house as the weather gets colder. Humour is among the first senses to fail without deep sleep, and I haven't had any of that for some time. So, if you think I'm making a joke, I probably am. It just might not be very funny. Or it might not make sense.

Another thing that dries up with poor sleep is sympathy, which is unfortunate, since it's extremely important! That probably suggests something bad about how sympathetic I am regularly. But things are generally good. Oliver's been getting regular six-hour stretches of sleep at night, and we're sort of figuring out how to turn "regular" into "consistent". The key: feed him as much as possible during the day and before bed! That might sound obvious, particularly given our past issues, but I'll talk about it more next time.

I wonder sometimes whether we're fussing too much about this or that, trying to solve problems that aren't really problems at all. He's only twelve weeks old after all! But we must balance our needs and Oliver's, all while trying to figure out what the heck is happening.

Part of the reason we are taking these steps is so that we can all be in better shape by the time I return to work (January), and by the time Oliver is too big for his bassinet (December) and needs to move into his crib—in his nursery—on a different floor from our bedroom. We figure that if Oliver develops good sleeping habits asap—ideally, sleeping through the night—we might not have to come up with any interim crib measures. Well, it's a good thing we started when we did!

But I'll get into the daytime another time, or else this will turn into an endless post.


Over nine days, Oliver grew half a kilogram, around eighteen ounces, two ounces a day. That's twice the expected rate. After that growth spurt, he weighed six and a half kilos (fourteen pounds, five ounces), and that was a week ago. He's had another brief spurt and is surely closing in on seven kilos. Still, he hasn't gotten very chubby yet. He's growing long as well as wide.

It seems a bit absurd that we have to take care of these helpless animals for so long before they can really do anything. Parenthood—at least at the beginning—is a condition that does not fit into the modern desire for convenience, instant gratification, and "individualism". It's a giant reminder of our humanness and a true end to adolescence—if one takes the endeavour seriously, I guess. At the same time, it feels animal, even though most baby animals are considerably more competent than baby humans! Moreover, because I've been the homemaker since Oliver was born—with Danijela working and me on leave—it's really been non-stop baby with only very small windows for anything else. (I'll return to that thought later.) It's very exciting to get to guide this little human through the early stages of being, but I'm certainly still getting used to it.


In developmental news, Oliver has clearly found his hands, and will suck them when he can get them in his mouth, which is fairly often. So he's gaining control of his limbs, but he's certainly got some flailing left to do. He's also taken to tummy time, and is lifting his head and starting to hold himself up with his arms. He hasn't rolled over yet though, and he's got a way to go before he knows what he's doing on his tummy. He is more responsive, too, and talkative, cooing and gooing whenever he's in a good mood, whether someone is around to listen or not. These are great signs!

More later. Read on..!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Parenthood: a quick dispatch from the eleventh week

Hey fine friends and family! I haven't had a lot of time to put finger to key recently, and I don't know when I will again, so I just wanted to give a brief update.

First, the old news. (The fashion note everyone has been waiting for.) We were thrilled that Jane, Jean-Pierre (sounds funny ;), and my niece Raven came to Toronto from London, even for a whirlwind visit. Thanks to the The Shows for featuring Jean-Pierre Braganza again and again, so we have an additional opportunity to see the London family! Of course, this was the first time Jane or TJ got to meet Oliver, so it was extra special. Cousin Raven, on the other hand, was lucky enough to meet him within days of his birth.

The occasion of Toronto Fashion Week also provided Oliver the opportunity to make his society debut, besides the general excitement of viewing TJ's tremendous work first hand (and being social ourselves/leaving the house). So we dressed him up in some stylish pieces from aunt Jane and set off. Only when we arrived did we really consider what it meant to bring a still unpredictable babe to a crowded and unfamiliar venue for an indeterminate length of time, but we weren't about to turn back. Plus, we knew there were friends and family waiting to meet him, as well as an unsuspecting throng ready to be charmed. (Even the night's host Brian Bailey told Danijela we have a beautiful child! Jeremy Laing, another featured designer, was also suitably impressed.)

He was good and he charmed all his lady cousins, although to no one's surprise, he soiled his diaper just before the show started and fussed right through, until we rushed away to a bathroom unfit for two people and a baby to change him on the floor (on a changing mat, of course). Sadly, we didn't bring a backup outfit as fashionable as the first. Anyway, I'm sorry to all who didn't get the chance to hold him, squeeze him, or snatch a kiss! (It was lovely to see you all!) But not too sorry. We were (and are) still fresh and afraid of bugs and viruses and other stuff that passes from hand to hand. And he hasn't had any of his shots yet. (Coming soon—eep!)

After most everyone had left, we managed a brief visit with Jane, TJ, and Raven, and then we said our goodbyes. While they headed to the bar, we headed to bed. xo! I'd say let's talk soon, but soon will pass before we all know it. Instead, I'll think of you often.

Okay, only the old news.


He blinks!

I should clarify that mostly phone photos fail to capture the full finesse of Oliver's features. A proper lens (which of course we seldom use) does the job perfectly well.

Oh my knees!

There's a heck of a lot more to tell, but I don't know when it'll happen. Read on..!
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