Monday, 27 August 2012

Watch Me Grow - Fourteen Weeks

What a happy face!

Kaitlin turned fourteen weeks old on Saturday - check out those chubby cheeks and rolls on her legs. I love it! Bring the paranoid first time mom that I am I took her to the pediatrician to get her weight checked last week. She weighed in at a whopping 11lb 7oz! She is gaining more than the recommended .5oz per day, so this worried mama can chill out now that she knows she is gaining enough weight. Her sleep has also gotten a bit better over the last week, at least a little bit more predictable/regular. We are still having a tough time getting her to go to sleep at the beginning of the night, she likes to wake up 30-45 minutes after falling asleep and then is wide awake. It has been taking a couple of hours to get her to finally go to sleep, so its a good thing we start to put her down around 6pm!

The pediatrician also thought she saw two little teeth buds on her bottom gums! I had a feeling she might be starting to teethe! She couldn't get a good look but she definitely saw something. Now every time Kaitlin opens her mouth I try to get a peak. I can feel two small bumps but honestly her whole mouth feels a bit bumpy.

We have been doing more practice sitting up and the other day Brian had her in the jumperoo and she was pushing off the the stack of books with her legs! Now she wants to practice "standing" (pushing off of everything with her legs) all the time! I have a feeling she's going to hit a lot of milestones within a really small time frame. She hasn't mastered rolling over yet but I'm not really complaining. We are still swaddling her during all naps and at night and once she starts to roll over we have to stop! Her newest way to self sooth is to stroke her face with her right hand, so I have been swaddling it close to her face. She still loves putting her hand in her mouth (another sign of teething??) but this seems to help calm her down instead of frustrate her. Hey - whatever works!

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Third Month

What a roller coaster of a month this has been! It has been full of really big highs (vacation! better naps! sleeping 7, 8, 9,10 hours at night!) and really big lows (sleeping only 2 hours at night! bad naps! frustration! tears!) Although I really need to remind myself - our lows are not that bad, at all. We have a (usually) happy and healthy baby girl, and really that's what matters.

But sometimes it's hard to remember that after waking up for the fifth time in as many hours after midnight ;)

There has been a lot of learning this past month - for all of us. Kaitlin learned that she has hands, and has been (even more) fascinated with them ever since. One thing she still hasn't learned though is how to suck her thumb/fingers. She is good at sucking on her fist, and she even likes to have her pointer finger in there a lot, but nothing solid yet so the pacifier remains in place. She is learning how to roll over (she's going to get there soon!) and is discovering her voice box more and more each day. I swear she learns how to make a new sound every day - much to her (and my) surprise! She follows her dad and I around the room with her eyes, staring intently at us taking it all in. We've discovered that she is quite the chatty Kathy, especially with her dad. We've also discovered that all this "talking" usually leads to crying if we don't get her to bed soon after the conversation begins.

Kaitlin has always loved to be held up against your shoulder, never really liking the traditional baby hold. Her neck and stomach muscles are getting super strong and she now regularly spends time in her Jumperoo and Bumbo. Even when she is propped up in the Boppy or the stroller she is constantly trying to sit up. Work that core, girl!

left: Brian 3-4 mos, right: Kaitlin 10 weeks. Twins, right?
the many faces of KLC, part 2
During our vacation this past month Kaitlin was very fortunate to meet her first set of great grandparents. My Nanny and Papa were over the moon to meet their great granddaughter, the first one on this side of the family! It was really special to have Kaitlin spend time with them, I realize how lucky she we are to have them both around. Hopefully during our next trip to NY she will get to meet her other set of great grandparents!

Four generations

While we were lucky to have Kaitlin meet lots of our extended family members during our vacation we also had to say goodbye to one very special one. Brians grandfather, Kaitlins great grandfather, passed away earlier this summer. He never got a chance to meet Kaitlin but we know that he loved her very much. We love and miss him every day and know that he is smiling down on us as we try and navigate this thing called parenting. He was a big part of Brians life and although she will never get a chance to meet him, she will know all about him.

Some things that I have learned this month:

This shit is hard
Like, really hard. Harder than any day job I ever had. Harder than any relationship I have ever been in. Harder than any physical or mental challenge that I have faced. It is just plain hard. I keep thinking it's going to get easier, but it doesn't. Sure, some things might get easier but then you have a whole new set of challenges to deal with. And I'm pretty sure this is the easy part. She is fairly immobile. She can't talk back yet. She doesn't have any siblings that I have to chase around. She can't drive, she can't date boys, she can't go to college. Yet. Yup, this shit is hard.

My life is completely different
This might seem like a "No, duh" type of thing for me to say (write?) but it really didn't hit me until this month. This isn't just because of Kaitlin - my whole life is completely different. Up until now I think I was so busy with the house, being pregnant, giving birth and taking care of an infant that it didn't really register. As we are coming up on a year ago that I first found out I was pregnant I am reflecting on how different my life is compared to this time last year. Last year we were jetting off to Southern France for a long weekend, I had a good job at a big name clothing company, we were living in London and making the most of it. Fast forward one year and we are living in Texas. We own a house, two cars and we have a three month old baby. Of course all of these changes are for the best - I don't regret and wouldn't change them for anything in the world - but seriously, that's a whole lotta change in one year.

Put the baby monitor down
I know my husband is going to like this point the most, he hates our video baby monitor. He hates that I have it at the dinner table, on the sofa and right next to our bed. I like to have it near me, on at all times when Kaitlin is in bed. Sometimes I just like to turn it on and see her sleeping peacefully in her crib. Sometimes I turn it on and my stomach is in knots wondering if she is asleep yet/is she going to wake up/why is she awake now?! While we were on vacation most of the places we stayed we didn't even need to use the monitor. We were always in the room right next door to her so we could hear her get up. I still liked to be able to see her at any given time but I hardly used it. And while at first it caused me a little anxiety, over time I was able to relax. Sometimes this even worked out for the best, which is why I'm trying (trying being the key word) to follow this lesson now that we are back home. A few times in the middle of the night I could hear her wake up. In my half awake stuppor I would say to myself "Just give me one minute, Kaitlin, I'll be right there" only to wake up an hour and a half later and find her peacefully sleeping. Since I didn't really look at the monitor to see her or to see those little green and red volume lights flash I didn't jump up every time I heard a noise. It taught her, and me, that I didn't have to rush in every time she woke up. We both slept a little better because of it. And trust me, if she really needed me she would have let me know. If she needed to be changed or be fed she made sure we (and the neighbors) knew it. 

I really need to relearn this lesson again now that we are back home. I find myself running in to soothe her and calm her down at the first noise she makes ever since we got back from vacation. Her sleep and eating habits have also been really wacky since we got back, so I'd like to think that it's not entirely me just being neurotic, but it definitely doesn't help.

I love her more than I ever thought I could
Sometimes I will look at her and feel overcome with love and emotion. Just this morning while I was making breakfast I looked at her laying down on our huge ottoman just staring at the ceiling fan with three fingers shoved in her mouth. When she noticed me looking at her she flashed me the biggest grin and I found myself melting into a puddle. My heart literally felt like it was going to burst. Or when I walk into her room after she wakes up from a nap and she is laying there (again, with her fingers/hand shoved in her mouth) and she looks at me and smiles like a crazy person while wiggling around, so excited to see me, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

And it makes her waking up numerous times in the middle of the night all worth it ;)

(But don't quote me on that at 3AM)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Watch Me Grow - Thirteen Weeks

Will this be lucky number thirteen? No rest for the weary this last week - her wacky sleep schedule continued on for most of the week. Just as it reached its worst (up every two-three hours starting at 11pm and WIDE awake at 4am wanting to play!) she surprised us with almost a full nights sleep.

Hooray! It's over! She's back to normal!


Her weirdo sleep antics were back in full force last night. Sometimes I think it's because the swaddle isn't tight enough, sometimes I think it's because there's too much light in her room (and seriously, how many lights does a baby monitor need?! Next time I'm getting the one with no lights on it). Sometimes I think maybe she's getting a tooth. And sometimes I think it's just because she's a three month old and her sleep habits are still changing - I should learn to expect the unexpected.

Unfortunately I think it might be that last one...

But it's hard to resist the little peanut when she looks up at me from her crib with a huge grin on her face (even at 4am when the last thing I want to do is play). It's hard not to smile and laugh when she is babbling like a crazy person and blowing bubbles (even if it is at 4am when I feel like a crazy person).

We tried out the jumperoo a couple more times and even got her in the Bumbo (I realise that they recalled, like, 4 million of these this week but seriously people - why would you think it's OK to leave your infant in a Bumbo on an elevated surface and then not watch them?? Oy vey). She's going to be sitting on her own in no time, I know it! She has always loved being held upright on your shoulder, and now anytime she can be in a sitting position she is happy as a clam. She gets really quiet and just looks and looks and looks, taking it all in.

We also went to our first playgroup for moms and babies this week. It was so nice to get out of the house during the day and meet other moms and their babies! It was a big group with babies from 0-12 months.  We are going to try and go as often as we can to these weekly meet ups, I think it will be a great resource for both of us. Especially this mom :)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Baby Bondage (aka The Swaddle)

If you have a baby (or a child that was once a baby), chances are you have a few of these hangin' around your house: the all important swaddle. Helping babies (and parents) sleep for the last millennia. Or, however long woven fabric has been around. A really long time, ok?

One of the first things that you hear about when you are registering for baby gear are swaddles. I know I heard dozens of people tell me about the wonders of swaddling. Heck, one of the 5 "S's" (Happiest Baby on the Block) is devoted to swaddling. It was the first thing we had the nurse teach us how to do once Miss Kaitlin arrived. Doctors actually recommend that you swaddle newborns for the first few months of their lives to help them sleep as it reduces the chance that they will wake themselves up accidentally (newborns have a huge startle reflex - twitching, jumping and scaring themselves for no reason other than the fact that they are in a big wide world now and not comfy cozy in their moms tummy).

Kaitlin has always been a mover and a shaker - especially with her arms. From the beginning we knew we were going to have to swaddle her for a while since not only did she startle herself a lot, she also liked to have her hands by her face which distracted her from going to sleep. We knew how to swaddle her, thanks to the nurses who gave us lessons, but no matter how tightly we swaddled her she always broke free. Sometimes it took her a couple minutes, sometimes an hour, sometime we wouldn't find her arms out until morning, but as sure as the sky is blue her arms were getting out of that swaddle.

nice tight swaddle thanks to the nurses
We started calling her Houdini because no matter how tightly we swaddled her or what type of swaddle we used those arms would always make it out. Sometimes it caused a problem - she woke herself up in the middle of the night or a nap - sometimes it didn't. Some babies love to be swaddled and will wear them for many, many months (provided they aren't rolling over in them) and some babies can sleep fine without them after the first few weeks.

After those first few days at home and her breaking out of every swaddle we put her in (using the swaddle blankets) we decided it was time to break out the big guns. The velcro swaddlers. These are the real deal, and basically like Swaddles for Dummies (the inside of one even has picture instructions, it doesn't get easier than that). Not only does it help if you don't know how to swaddle properly but it also gives a much tighter hold, making it even harder for babies to break out. The first time we put her in a velcro swaddle I kind of felt bad. I felt like I was putting my newborn child in a straight jacket. And then she broke out of it by the time she woke up for her middle of the night feeding and I didn't feel so bad anymore, clearly she was a woman on a mission.


We've tried a few different types and brands of swaddles - here are the ones I love the most:

These guys famous for their swaddles and are massively popular due to their swaddle blankets loose weave. They are lightweight and very breathable, which was important for us during this Texas summer. They are extra big, which makes it easier for newbie parents who aren't as well versed in swaddling as delivery room nurses. We don't really use these for swaddling very much any more since there is a 99.99% chance that Kaitlin is going to break out of them. Sometimes I use them for her naps, but thats about it. However these blankets are useful for a ton of other things! I use it as a blanket for when we go into air conditioned stores. I use it as a cover for her stroller/car seat to block out the sun and the outside world. I wrap her up in it when sitting her in the boppy so she doesn't slip down. I've used it as a burp cloth, a nursing cover and during one unfortunate accident on a recent plane ride back to Houston, as a diaper. I have a set of the classic muslin and the bamboo (which are ultra silky and soft...think I can use it as a scarf for me??). They are a must have for any new parent.

This was the first velcro swaddle we used on Kaitlin, and man do we love it. It is a sleep sack and a swaddle so you can use it in a variety of ways (swaddle arms in, swaddle arms out, swaddle one in and one out - you get the point). It also has a reverse zip closure which makes changing diapers once they are wrapped up easy as pie. Brian called this her baby burrito since she was wrapped up so snug and tight in this thing, just like a burrito! I am convinced that this swaddle helped her sleep so long at night so early. We have a few of these in 100% cotton (again, Houston summer) but they also make them in fleece for those of you with winter babies in cold climates.

About a month ago Kaitlin started to outgrow her HALO SleepSack and I was desperate for a replacement. Even though we use the 100% cotton HALO I was still concerned that it was a bit too thick and that she would over heat in it. I found the Summer Infant SwaddleMe collection at my local Right Start and decided to try them out. Brian wasn't a big fan of them but I liked them. They are made out of light jersey fabric and are very stretchy. They conformed to Kaitlin a little tighter but she could still stretch around in them. They are now getting a bit too small on her so I think we will be going back to the HALO, but I thought these were an excellent option.

Recently I had the thought that it might be a good time to start transitioning Kaitlin away from the swaddle. She is trying to roll over now and when she's in the swaddle it's that much easier for her. When we use the swaddle blankets chances are they come undone to some extent and I didn't like the idea of a loose blanket in the crib with her, especially if she starts to roll over. And then she discovered her hands. Like, really discovered them. Like, looks like she's tripping on acid discovered them. And that just caused more problems. I can see a big difference in the length and quality of sleep she gets when she's swaddled nice and tight, and I'm not ready to let that go yet. She fights the swaddle a lot more now when I'm wrapping her up, but after a few minutes she normally calms back down (except for this last week when, for a couple days, she was pushing furiously against the swaddle grunting really loudly).

(What a weird kid)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Book Review - On Becoming Babywise

This was the first, and for a while the only, sleep book that I read. An old friend had had great success with it when her little girl was born several years ago. I had heard a lot of other success stories from this sleep method as well so I gave it a good read while I was still pregnant and decided that it sounded like a great plan. I had no idea that sleep was going to be such a big issue once my baby was born and that it might be helpful to have a few different sleep books at my disposal.

The premise of the Babywise sleep plan is to set up a eat/play/sleep pattern to babys day (parent-directed feeding or PDF), rather than an on-demand schedule. Each cycle should occur every 2.5-3 hours for a newborn and 3-4 hours as the baby gets older, depending on how often your baby needs to eat. Your baby should eat as soon as she wakes up (from night time sleep and/or naps), then she should spend some time playing (length of time depends on babys age and tolerance for stiulation) and then go down for a nap. Based on this pattern a regular routine will naturally develop and you can plan out your days accordingly. Overtime, on this method, the middle of the night, late evening and early AM feedings would naturally go away as the baby got older. 

The book stresses having flexibility within the schedule/routine, especially during the first few weeks when the mothers supply needs to be properly developed and established and during growth spurts when your baby may need to eat more often. The book explains that by following a PDF plan you are making the baby a part of your family, instead of letting the baby rule your family. This sounded right up my alley.

Babywise also supports putting your baby to sleep while they are awake (but ready to sleep), which I have since found in a few other sleep books). It also mentions that you should learn your babies cry - ie how long they will cry for and what the cry sounds like when they are tired - more or less suggesting that you should let them cry it out (or CIT) until they fall asleep. I tried that a couple times but couldn't bear to hear her scream and cry for longer than 15 minutes (especially when she was still only a few weeks old), so I guess I never really "learned" her cry. Our pediatrician doesn't recommend using the CIT method until 3 or 4 months, so I had a hard time adapting this "rule". The book also discourages the use of a pacifier, rocking and nursing your baby to sleep (creating a "crutch" for the baby to lean on rather than learn how to put themselves to sleep). I didn't use a pacifier for the first two weeks and they were by far the worst of the worst. As soon as I started using a pacifier with Kaitlin our lives got a little bit easier. She still hasn't quite figured out how to self soothe but she's getting there (one of these days I swear her whole fist is going to end up inside of her mouth).

Overall I liked the method of Babywise but in our reality it wasn't as simple following one method in order to get Kaitlin to sleep. We followed this pattern for a long time, and most days still do. The problem I had with Babywise was that I couldn't get Kaitlin down for her naps. When she didn't take a nap, our routine got messed up, and she got even crankier. In the end I couldn't really find any tangible solutions in the book to help with our specific problems, which lead me to seek out other books.

Kaitlins night time sleep has always been pretty good. Her middle of the night feedings fell away pretty fast and she was sleeping 7-8 hours at a stretch regularly by her two month check up (though as I type this she has begun waking up twice a night, oy vey). Maybe this is because we were following the Babywise routine during the day,  or maybe she is just a good night time sleeper. But my problem was getting her daytime naps down and unfortunately that is not something that Babywise really covered. 

Since so many other people have had great success with Babywise and I do really like the eat/play/sleep routine,  I am still inclined to recommend it. This book is heavily criticized for reasons I won't go into here (if you're interested google Becoming Babywise and you'll see a lot of negative responses). As always though you will need to decide what is right for your baby and your family.

You can buy On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam here.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Watch Me Grow - Twelve Weeks

Can we say growth spurt?!

I want to go back on vacation. 

She was a rockstar during vacation. She slept well, she traveled well, she was charming and lovable. The week between 11 and 12 was rough - for everyone. I'm hoping she's going through a growth spurt and this is a temporary change. Her eating has been all off - sometimes she eats every two hours other times she goes four hours between meals (mostly due to sleeping). For the most part she has been waking up twice a night, which she hasn't done in at least a month. She is constantly trying to eat her hands and always has her hands up by her face, which further delays her naps and falling asleep at night. She wants to be held all the time, which is so not typical for her (before she used to cry if she was held too much, now she cries whenever you put her down). She hates being in the swing and has a new eye for watching tv - not good!

Basically as soon as I thought her figured out she up and changed everything. She's really unpredictable right now in almost every way - eating, sleeping, mood, etc.

Such is life with a newborn though, right? Just as you get a little cocky and think you have it all figured out your world turns upside down and you have to start from scratch :)

She is definitely getting bigger though. I can barely lay her down on my lap like I used to without her trying to roll off or pushing her legs against me and launching herself off. Her torso and head now fit where her whole body used to! 

She held a rattle for the first time this week for a couple minutes. She didn't really know what it was for or what it was doing but it caught her attention when it was making noise. I also put her in the jumperoo for the first time! Her little legs don't reach the floor yet (we put some books under her so her feet touch something) but I think she liked it! We have the Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo which is kind of a head trip for even Brian and I (seriously, could there BE more stuff on this thing?!) so I don't leave her in there for too long, but she really likes being straight up and able to stretch her legs. Are we going to have an early walker?!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Art of Napping (part 2)

Before I start I wanted to clear Kaitlins name a little bit. I have reread some of my posts about her naps and I think I kind of made her sound like a nightmare. Oops. She really is a great baby - sure she has her off days but don't we all? In the grand scheme of things, and compared to other babies, she doesn't really cry that much. And more than half of the time when she is crying it's because I am doing something wrong. Or not fast enough. And that's ok. I'm still learning too. A lot of it also has to do with my inexperience as a mom...and sometimes I tend to be a bit dramatic *sheepish grin* So hopefully you don't think that she is a devil baby, she really is sweet :)

Well, it's been almost six weeks since I wrote my first post about napping and I thought it was time for a follow up. I got some amazing feedback from that post - friends and family offered their tips and tricks to try and get Kaitlin to take a nap. And when they didn't have any advise to offer many of them just gave me some words of encouragement (and a few told me to just relax) - which helped just as much.

i love her "sleeping in the car" face

Pretty much the day after I wrote that post I ordered two more sleep books (in addition to "Becoming Baby Wise" which I already had). These books were a tremendous help (I'll go into more detail for each one later). I had tried a couple more "sleep routines" each of which failed. In the end what I decided to do was relax. Kaitlin was getting bigger and older and was able to handle longer periods of awakeness (is that a word?) without loosing her shit. Also, I became better at reading her subtle cues that she was getting tired. And probably the most important (yet sometimes the hardest) was that I started to let Kaitlin fall asleep on her own.

Now, we still don't have napping down to a science, but boy has it improved. I still can't get her into a perfect rhythm of napping (ie, every nap is one hour long and she takes them exactly two hours after being awake) so our days are a little unpredictable but overall we are in a much better place. I have decided to let her nap wherever she can (sometimes that's on my chest, sometimes that's in the swing but most times it's in her crib). I also stopped waking her up to eat. She was gaining lots of weight and around the 7.5 week mark I decided to just let the girl sleep even if it was "time" for her to eat. She should be moving towards 3-4 hours in between feeds anyway, so I didn't feel like she was going hungry. Trust me, when she's hungry she will let you know. 

her favorite sleeping position

The other biggest change that I made was to let Kaitlin put herself to sleep. I read it in both new books that I got and countless places online. Now that I knew some more tired cues (who knew that putting her first in her mouth might actually mean that she was tired??) I could now put her down when she started showing me those signs rather than when she was already crying. More often than not she manages to put herself to sleep within a few minutes. Although as I type this she is upstairs squirming around in her crib 30 minutes after I initially put her down (and she was half asleep). Oh well, you win some and you loose some. I only go up and check on her when she is crying. Little whimpers and babbling don't count. Once, while we were on vacation, I put her down to nap and she wasn't even that sleepy. I think she yawned once or twice and I decided to put her in her travel crib awake to see what would happen. It took about ten minutes but she put herself to sleep! Brian and I were doing a happy dance in the living room. It hasn't happened since then, but at least I know it's possible. And sometimes when she is overtired and needs extra consoling I will stay in her room until she is almost completely asleep. But I have found that sometimes my being in the room right next to her keeps her awake rather than puts her to sleep.

The biggest challenge for me is being able to accurately read her tired cues and act on them when I see them. We have figured out that she "talks" a lot more when she is tired. Her talking slowly turns into whining and finally it turns into crying. So, in theory, I should start to put her to bed when she starts talking a lot. But it's just so fun! It is awesome hearing her babble back to me and engage in a "conversation". But sometimes I take it too far and before I know it she's crying. It's not long after that that she gets overtired and the cries are harder to console. And things like sneezing - apparently sneezing can mean that a baby is getting overstimulated and is tired. But, it can also mean that she has something in her nose. What to do?? Put her to bed the minute she sneezes? That's when I need to just relax and try not to over analyze things.

not sleeping when she is supposed to be...good thing Dad got in a nap though!

I've been more successful at hitting that "sweet spot" of tiredness and getting her to nap just at the right time, but it has been far from perfect. Being on vacation for a couple of weeks really pushed me, and her, to see how far we had come. And it turns out we have come pretty far. She was a stellar napper while we were away - sometimes she did a much better job than she normally does while at home! I'm trying to take some of those lessons I learned while on vacation and apply them here now that we are back. 

I have cherry picked some of the best tips from several sleep books to what works the best for us on that particular day. I wish it were as easy as following one method from one book, but unfortunately that isn't the case for us. I wanted so badly to have a perfect routine and be able to plan out our days. I love predictability and a routine and unfortunately we just aren't there yet. But slowly I am starting to learn that that's OK. She will be just fine and so will I. As long as I get a nap sometimes too :)

The sleep books that I have read and found really useful are:

I will be writing a separate book review post on each, check back for more details!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Watch Me Grow - Eleven Weeks

Better late than never - right? Holy moly she's getting so big!!

We are finally back from our summer vacation and man is it good to be home! Kaitlin did a STELLAR job on her first big vacation. She rocked a six hour drive from Syracuse to Long Island (and slept half the way!) and was such a superstar during our flight back to Houston (again - she slept half the way).

We really pushed her to the limit during our last few days of vacation - naps were cut short or missed and a couple times she went to bed a lot later than she usually does. But she took it all with stride and generally did a great job considering the circumstances. The only time she was cranky about it was during our last big party on Saturday, but honestly I think a lot of that was because of the heat.

As great of a job as she did I am happy to get back to our normal "routine" and get those naps and night time sleeps back to normal. Although as I type this she is going through a big growth spurt (at least that's what I hope it is!) so things will probably be off for a few more days.

We had a such great time seeing our friends and family - thank you to everyone who made the trip out to see us and meet Kaitlin!