Posts Tagged ‘anti cio’

Sleep, part two: Daytime sleep.

December 22, 2010

None of the following is as straightforward and simple as it appears. That is my warning. Establishing good sleep seems to be a circular process at times, and is certainly affected by sickness, teething, growth/developmental spurts, and growing up.

The other thing that affects baby sleep is YOUR mood. No lie. It affects them in general, I think, especially when very little. Having twins, I learned some valuable skills that I still use now – such as consciously relaxing my entire body when they were both tiny and screaming. This would inevitably calm and relax them….whereas on the occasions I was tense, the screaming would notch up a level.

End of disclaimer.

Daytime sleep – the wonderful, all powerful nap. This was something I knew would be important from the get go. With two babies, you want tandem sleep. I thought.

I don’t honestly remember much of the first few weeks, but sleep was a near constant thing. I think Coconut may have dropped a sleep between feeds first? We just totally followed their lead. Around six weeks I bought a bunch of sleep books which have since been discarded.

I don’t remember if it was eat, play, sleep or play, eat, sleep – I suspect the second, though again, we just followed all hunger and sleep cues.

That continued as the babies aged, and certain (slow) patterns began to emerge. We are now at one good long nap a day, though we had two jolly nice naps for months before they outgrew it.

How did I do it? I didn’t. Not really. The babies did. (And no matter all the tips in the world below, none will work till your baby/toddler is developmentally ready!)

First rule: never put a wide awake baby down for a nap just because you need a break, you think they should be sleeping, or the clock says they should be sleeping. If we tried sleep and it didn’t work, back on the floor they went to play and we tried again five minutes later. This saved a lot of wailing on their parts, and stress on mine.

Second rule: You need to be pretty cued into your baby in terms of knowing how they show if they are sleepy, happy, hurting, etc.

Each baby got what they needed to sleep – be it babywearing (TMD and myself are both experts at wearing a baby to sleep and then getting them down safely onto the sofa – soft structured carriers, ringslings, wraps. They are all doable. Or, of course, you can let the baby sleep on/with you!), cuddles, bouncing, etc etc.

Gradually certain sleep cues were built in. This was a special toy for Coconut (Pooh, which evolved into her much beloved transitional object and best friend Bunny) and a muslin to suck and hold for Snort. It also involved contact with me, and singing. They do have milk before most sleeping, but milk does not really function as a sleep cue for them, a thing I am very very glad about!

I very consistently sang the same song for every nap (and nighttimes, but you’ll read about that later). I very consistently made sure they had their special thing-a-ma-jig to cuddle. I very consistently would pick them up to calm and cuddle if they got upset…which was rare, as I tried to respond to their needs, made changes very slowly, etc….consequently, they’ve generally been happy during going-to-sleep times. Generally.

I guess you could say the sleeping rules came into effect. They knew what to expect, and so did I….to a point, anyway.

Gradually holding them while rocking switched to rocking till they were dozy, then holding them still. This morphed into just holding them still, which in turn led to putting them down on the couch, me sitting between them with a hand on each tummy/back (and, of course, the endless fucking singing and cuddle toys).

Eventually I would lift my hand away before they were totally asleep…. I then stopped sitting on the couch and began to sit on the floor…which morphed, in time, to putting them straight onto the couch to sleep and them smiling up at me, grabbing their toy, and curling up like little cats.There was even a blissful period where me beginning to sing cued them to run around and grab their toys, and then come up to the couch all ready to sleep.

All of these changes happened slowly and naturally, with no conscious planning.

Third rule: If you try to make a change and it doesn’t work with your baby/toddler, it could be because it’s not suited to you. Or, it could be that you are changing too much, too fast – or, as was often the case in our house, your baby/toddler just isn’t ready.

My contact with them has changed over the course of their sleeptimes – at this point, I keep my face quite neutral, I don’t initiate picking up (but if they ask I will always do so), I don’t make a lot of eye contact. This used to sound heartless to me and I wouldn’t use this approach with baby babies, but I know I am their best love and plaything, so I provide physical warmth and closeness without trying to engage them too much intellectually. Of course there are always times I hold eye contact as one or the other drifts off to sleep, and that’s lovely, too.

This also is not something I made a conscious decision to do, but once we moved into the time when both babies would sleep on either side of me while I sat in the middle, it was impossible to look at/engage with them both at the same time, anyway. The hand on the back is still how I offer them some love and reassurance if they need it. I find that certain patterns of shhing that they are used to also work wonders.

At this point in time, I can sing the sleep song while walking around (though I try not to as I think I’m a distraction) or sitting on the other couch, and they’ll go to sleep by ‘themselves.’ I’m currently morphing the singing into humming the song as they get sleepy, which will eventually phase the song out – not that I’m in any hurry to do so. I like it.

Sounds easy, hey?

Well, I went through a very bad period when Coconut dropped down to one nap and Snort was not ready. I am entering a new bad period where Coco takes much shorter naps than Snort. Responding to each babies’ needs has consistently meant that Coconut’s sleep needs changed before Snort’s did. And even now, there are days where a baby (or two) needs some kissing, cuddling, rocking. Usually, though, it’s some milk, some singing, and then sleep.

If they are obviously tired and just messing around, I am very consistent in lovingly saying, ‘It’s time for sleeping now,’ then firmly putting them back on their spot. (Though on occasion I’ve practically thrown Snort back onto the couch as he acrobatically rolled off the couch!) They now know ‘It’s time for sleeping now’ means no more playing, they need to lie down, etc.

We have found that naps set the tone for bedtimes and night sleep in our house, but that post will be coming next. No doubt TMD will be much funnier than I am, and I believe I have some awesome pictures (*ahem* videos, too!) of her tandem babywearing while marching up and down the lounge singing….and her head all wrapped up in a pashmina so no one can pull her hair. It’s hot.

I can’t stress enough that if you choose to be baby led in terms of letting them gradually develop a schedule that perfectly suits their little bodies and minds (and only possible, I guess, if you are a stay at home mum?) it requires a lot of patience, trust, and long sightedness. We decided early on to never do controlled crying or crying it out with the babies – and TMD has been the one to religiously stick to this, even when I am tempted to let them howl from here to kingdom come.

This post obviously is aimed at people who want a sort of sleep time like we have, though many, many people are content to have their babies sleep all naps in slings, or they crawl into the family bed with their baby and nap too! All a-okay and super deluxe fine in my book.

As things stand, both Snort and Coconut nap on our big couch, while I hang out on the other couch. It’s important I get a chance to physically rest while they do – my days of babywearing all naptime or staying frozen in one position while babies nap all over my lap and boobs are over, as these all aggravate my SPD/PGP. Nighttime sleeping is also on the couch, with TMD co-sleeping beside them on a mattress on the floor.

We have been working hard at clearing out their room (read: dismantling cots, putting mattresses on the floor, and twin proofing), and our next steps will be moving them into their room for all daytime and nighttime sleeps. I think they are developmentally ready, though this (as all things are in our house) will be a slow transition and TMD will probably sleep in their room for awhile till they are used to it.

Reading over this, I can see from a wider perspective that we have tried to keep Snort and Coconut feeling safe and loved. We have done this however we needed to, and would never dream of stripping away all their reassurance in one go – like crying it out does. This means we genuinely have never had either baby cry to sleep.

I think the thing that has served us the best has been trying not to get too caught up in the stress of sleeping. If a nap gets screwed up, it gets screwed up. It’s not the end of the world, though it can feel like it at times. I have a pretty relaxed parenting style and tend to laugh rather than cry (mostly!) when things go pear shaped, and I think this is reflected in the kids….both are relaxed, happy babies. Thank god.

Any questions, please do ask. I probably forgot a lot of stuff, but I hope there is at least one nugget of goodness that the ladies who asked for help can use!

Much love and good sleep vibes to you all.

*The process focused on in this blog only happened once Snort and Coco were ‘older babies.’ I think the move to more independent sleeping only happened as they approached a year old, if memory serves me.

Sleep: the disclaimer. (post one of three)

December 10, 2010

I am not an expert on baby sleep. On your baby’s sleep, anyway. Hell, I’m only an expert on my own babies’ sleep most of the time; I’m not batting 100%. I just wanted to get that out there, lest you think I am all hopped up on myself. I’m writing about sleep because a few people have asked me to, and I’m writing as I watch my two bubsies cough and sneeze their way through naptime.

I guess I am specifically writing about ‘baby led sleep.’ This is in contrast to ‘parent led sleep’, where the goal is to make a baby fit in with an adult’s schedule, usually long before that baby may be developmentally ready to do so. I’m not judging you if you’ve got your kid on a routine – heck, mine are both on a routine now, but it is one that developed over a long period of time and was baby led all the way.

When we brought the babies home from the hospital, it was never in our minds to let them cry. I think whatever your views on babies and sleep are, most people agree that newborns need to be attended to whatever time of day or night it may be. The thing is, TMD and myself believe this extends beyond the newborn period.

During the day, a baby might cry because it is hungry, windy, hurting, etc. I don’t think that just because the clock ticks over to 7 pm that suddenly those cries are just whining, begging to be spoiled, or without reason. We made the decision to not let either baby cry – and while there were times when they were younger that I was sorely tempted to change my mind, those were usually occasions where I was trying to force my own agenda on Snort and Coconut.

In reality, it is easier on me – and them – to meet their needs. Even at midnight. Or four am. (Though TMD will write about the whole 4 am business!)

Every stage of the way, I have let the babies determine their sleep. This is in line with our feeding philosophies. We have trusted the babies, and by choosing to trust them, it has made our household a (mostly) peaceful, contented, good eater & sleeper house.

In terms of going down easily for a nap or bedtime – sure, my babies do that now. But we do think  that every child is different, and everyone will be developmentally ready to hit different stages at different ages.

This means that over the course of their lives, they have slept in arms, in slings, in cots, on the couch, in prams, in bouncers, in the family bed.  A lot has been trial and error. I have responded and adapted in line with their own developing and changing needs, and it has served me – and most importantly, them – well.

I know some people might think, ‘Yeah, but I’ve got a life.’ They want their kids eating and sleeping on a schedule, and I can understand that longing. I felt it myself before.

All I can say is that I have chosen to follow their own rhythms through the days. My babies turn sixteen months tomorrow, and we have been on an excellent routine for months now. Things are predictable, they make sense, they work for all of us. My babies are flexible as well, so if something is wonky it’s usually quickly resolved by the babies getting back into their natural rhythms.

Our typical day is:

playgroup/storytime/playing at home – snack included!
big ol’ nap
playing/etc – snack included
bedtime routine (TMD’s post will cover this)

On a normal day, these things tend to happen at the exact same time every day. This was not planned, it’s just the way things work out, especially once you have mealtimes as a sort of framework.

I know you didn’t ask about our whole daytime routine, so in the next posts on this topic (not promising they will be the NEXT posts in the blog, in you get what I mean!) I’ll talk about how we managed to have a household where we have survived having two babies sleeping with gusto – no crying needed.

A tale of two sleepers.

December 6, 2010

When the babies were very little, they often napped in their pushchair in the lounge – as MIL wouldn’t let me hold them. I know how crazy that sounds now. Since that point in time, they’ve gone through a variety of napping incarnations. Looking back, the one that now seems significant was the bouncy chair phase.

I don’t know if bouncy chairs are as important to those who have one baby at a time, but to us (and other twin peeps I know) they were invaluable. Next to ‘inventing’ tandem babywearing – and then discovering it already existed – those bouncy chairs were one of the best things ever.

We’d ‘nap’ by one baby being in a chair and being bounced and sung to, while I cuddled the other. I rotated every nap. So one nap in arms, the next nap in the chair.

Somehow this eventually morphed into Coconut being the in arms sleeper for every nap. I think it was because she just wouldn’t settle away from me, while Snort was a pro.

Months down the line, I am wondering about the impact this may have had on their sleep. Not to mention feeling a teensy bit guilty about all the extra cuddles Coconut got.

It’s very interesting, my friends. The ‘spoiled’ baby, the one who was held for every sleep? She sleeps through the night no freaking problem.

The one who ‘got himself to sleep’? He has been waking up. EVERY TWO HOURS.

Now, this is not the norm. Obviously something is going on. He sucks down milk like there’s no tomorrow when he wakes and then goes right back to sleep. We think he’s genuinely hungry, because neither baby will have more milk or solids than they want, if you get what I mean.

Still. I can’t help but wonder: is the baby who was more physically attached able to sleep through the night confidently for a reason? And was the one who was not cuddled as much needing more reassurance?

I don’t know. But it may bear thinking about.

Snort still gets himself to sleep better than Coconut. At naps – and bed – you put them both down and they’ll pass out within minutes, or even seconds. (Thank you, universe. It took a long time for us to get to this point – WITH NO CRYING – and if anyone wants us to elaborate on our ‘methods’ (ha!) leave a comment. I am happy to do so. – but we are here.)

Two kids who will happily go to sleep by themselves. It’s taken a good long while to get Coco to this point, and even now she might need a ten second hug (!) before popping off.

But lately? Snort isn’t settling very well. This last nap (they are sleeping, which is now the only time I can really get online. I found twin babies MUCH easier than toddlers!), he was all crazy and trying to eat baubles, so I pulled him onto my lap.

For the first time in what feels like years, I pulled him into a snuggly cradle hold on my lap/in my arms. He settled right in with his blankie.

Now, one of the ‘things’ we have as a sleep cue is a certain song I sing. When they hear it, they know it’s time to sleep. That is the last remaining ‘hold out’ for sleep cues, and I’m in no rush to stop singing my babies to sleep.

So I held him like I did when he was a baby, I rocked him, I sang to him. I watched his droopy eyes, I smiled internally at his Very Unfortunate Haircut #2, I remembered how I felt when the technician told us he was a boy.

(I’ve been overcome by these miracle moments lately, but again, probably best suited to another post.)

Then I popped him down, and now I have two napping kids.

But this nighttime waking….

There is truth that he is very tall, and very skinny. That he dropped down to about the 25% in weight and hasn’t come back up, so perhaps he needs the extra calories. That he has bizarre allergies and they could be contributing.

But all the guesswork in the world, and I have no answers. Both babies have been raised the same, are offered the same food, etc. The only difference is his significant allergies, and his lack of in arms sleeping for a couple of months. And, you know, that they are two different people. 😉

One twin sleeping solidly through the night, even through most of her brother’s screams. One twin waking and drinking enough milk to sustain an army.