Tag Archives: toddler

My Kids and Sleep

I bet you are wondering how my children slept when they were little. I have a 14-year-old daughter named Madeleine, and boy/girl twins Everett and Ashton who are 10 years old.  Just like all of my clients, getting my children on the right sleep schedule so that the entire family was well rested was a process that took work.

An older photo, but one of my favorites – it perfectly captures their personalities.

First Time Mommy:

When my oldest was born I was teaching kindergarten and nannying. She was one of those babies who took to a schedule easily. The first book I read when I was pregnant (and felt like I was racing full speed ahead into the black hole of motherhood) was The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. Her approach fit my personality and the ideas I had about how I wanted to parent. Her “Eat, Play, Sleep” plan worked for us. I remember sitting with the page open to the newborn body language descriptions and constantly studying it and making notes every time Madeleine cried or moved. I also followed the calming routine of Dr. Karp (Happiest Baby on the Block author) to the point that I felt like my uterus was going to fall out from swinging and my mouth was dry from shushing. Slowly, Madeleine picked up on the routine, and the swinging, shushing, sucking, and swaddling on your side motion became a 2 minute process instead of 35+.

At around 5 months, I felt our schedule was off. She was going to bed at 9 or 10, but she had started sleeping later and I felt our nursing schedule was thrown off. After one mommy friend reminded me that “babies can sleep 7-7,” and another shared Happy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD with me, I gradually backed up her bedtime. In three nights she was sleeping 7pm to 7am. She was nursing and eating solids during the day and was gaining weight, so she did not need to eat during the night. She loved the predictability during the day and I felt more in control because I knew when I was going to get a break.

Not all babies have Madeleine’s health or temperament and not all new moms are as relaxed as I was. Remember, I have been around little ones since I was a tween. I have babysat and nannyed countless families, studied child development, observed in lab schools, worked in homes with children with developmental delays, and taught kindergartners in an inner-city school. My background meant that most days, I was comfortable setting boundaries for my little one. Even so, I still had to sometimes step away and take a deep breath, have a cry in the shower, and dart out the door when my husband walked in. But I want to emphasize: we are all different, especially in how we handle parenthood, and that is a good thing.

The Twins:

I know you are wondering… what about the twins? It was a whole new ballgame with Everett and Ashton. To be honest, I can’t remember much of the first 4 months. I felt like all I did was feed babies. Pretty soon I was dealing with a milk intolerance for one and the other screaming because my let down wasn’t fast enough. One baby wanted to live in the swaddle because he was so tense and tightly wound, and the other one screamed and swirled her limbs so much we called her ‘The Tornado.’

I learned with my first that life was just easier for us with a routine. And now with 3 under 3.5, survival was all I could manage. I followed the same routine I did with Madeleine, though I quit nursing at 8 weeks. I ended up feeding my son homemade formula due to his milk intolerance, and my daughter was more content with a faster flow bottle nipple. This change allowed me to have more time for my oldest.

What stands out the most is that I kept my son sleeping longer (a little past 3 months) in a bouncy chair so that he could be upright because of his reflux. (Side note: our bouncy chair was not the fluffy papasan-like one, it was flatter without any stuffed areas and therefore had more room for air circulation). While we had help staying with us the first several weeks, my son slept in the room with us and my daughter was in the nursery/guest room.  They were both swaddled very snuggly for sleeping and they took pacifiers instead of sucking their thumbs like my oldest.  They were big, healthy babies so they did not eat during the night after about 3-4 months, but I replaced those pacifiers a whole bunch until they learned to replace them themselves. Survival. It helped that they napped well and ate well. But it was death to replace the paci. They began sleeping through the night at around 7 months. By 8 weeks, the twins were in the nursery together at night, which was much better for me.

As a toddler, my son was the play hard, sleep hard type. The transition from two naps to one was really hard for him. He wanted to nap at 11:30am for what seemed like forever (18-24 months). His twin was a more average sleeper, not as sensitive to the routine. Ashton is the kid who sleeps in, whereas Madeleine and Everett were always my early birds. My twins gave up their naps earlier than Madeleine did, but they still went to quiet time in separate rooms until they were over 5.

Where We are Today:

Fast-forward to now, my oldest is still my sleeper. She requires more sleep than the twins and has an earlier bedtime than her peers. Some of this I feel is due to her dyslexia diagnosis. She expends a lot of energy focusing at school. I have always thought that her healthy sleep habits paid off when she started school. She started each day rested with the energy to push through all the challenges that came at her through the day. What would 1st grade have looked like if she were exhausted on top of having a brain that worked differently? Today my twins have a later bedtime at age 10 than my oldest had when she was their age. Different kids, different needs.

Once my husband and I set boundaries for sleep and reinforced them at each new developmental level, nap and bedtime routines have never been a fight in our house. Yes, they ask to stay up late every now and then, but they understand the boundaries and follow the routine.

I thought you would enjoy seeing a glimpse into my time in the trenches with tiny humans. It was messy, it was not perfect, but throughout the years my husband and I worked hard to reinforce a consistent sleep routine that worked for our family.

This month I would like to feature former clients that would like to share their story. Would you be interested?

All in a Month’s Work

As always, I work with children across a wide range of ages in any given month.

This past month, I happened to work with two boys that were both 2.5—one locally and one in Connecticut. The two different families were comfortable with different methods, but both had the same goal: to build confidence in their toddlers so that they could self-soothe, go to sleep independently, and stay in their room all night.  Discerning which methods work best for different families is an important part of what I do.

I recently worked with a 6 and a 7-month-old, who each needed more time to adjust to new routines. Depending on their individual sleep associations, some infants need you to reinforce new sleep habits longer than you might think. This adjusting process can be a challenge for mom and dad.

Lots of phone consultations were also scheduled this month. I have the pleasure of speaking with many parents who truly love having a conversation focused on the individual needs of their child. Learning and tweaking sleep schedules, adjusting feeding, setting expectations, and staying consistent are all important parts of the process of working with clients.  I truly enjoy getting to know each family and creating a plan to help them become a well-rested household.  

 

Guest Post: Experience with Perinatal Mood Disorder

storm before calm

By Rachel O’Dwyer

 

Where to start? It’s hard to say, my symptoms came on gradually, then all of a sudden.

A perinatal mood disorder cannot be oversimplified. Sure, I now understand some of my main contributors, yet the disorder has a complexity of layers, and each person’s experience is layered differently.

Under the best care a mother could possibly have, my beautiful twins were born at 41 and 3, breech, vaginally. This was by no chance. I was under co-care of the best midwives in the country, who were also connected to a unique OB/GYN, whose beliefs about the capabilities of a woman’s body aligned with our family’s goals: to have as natural of a birth as possible and give my twins a full chance at a full-term gestation. I also have an extremely supportive husband and network of family and friends (and I didn’t discuss my preferences with those who were not supportive); oh yeah, and I’m determined as hell.

Looking back, my first symptoms started to show as early as 6 weeks, with their first growth spurt. It was blatant at their 3 month growth spurt, which lasted a week! I didn’t even really realize that what was going on with me was something I had heard of before. Luckily, I had a wonderful, accepting friend, who I first told of my intrusive thoughts and anxiety. I was so confused because I loved the babies so much and felt deep gratitude for them finally being in our lives. She calmly told me to reach out to our midwives. Upon reflection, I felt most comfortable reaching out to our birth class instructor. She had gone over challenges we might face, and I knew she would be a safe person, caring, to reach out to as a first step.

counseling

I immediately started going to a counselor* my instructor recommended. The first meetings were soaked in tears, fear, hurt, confusion, and fog. I was one of the lucky ones: I recognized the symptoms early, got help early, and was connected to the best network of support imaginable. So many suffer unknowingly, unnecessarily for years, and my heart aches for them.

Without ever getting a concrete diagnosis of what kind of mood disorder I had, the matter of the fact was that there was not one or two reasons I as struggling, there was a multitude. As Macolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, when something perceivably negative happens, there are not one or two factors that contribute to the outcome, there are at least 7. For me, I had had a miscarriage before getting pregnant with the twins, both through IVF. Not having time, or perhaps the capacity, to mourn our lost baby impacted me significantly. We had also been on quite a journey through infertility. I was back to work when the babies were 8 weeks. And then, we were adjusting to life with twins. As my counselor put it, the event is not actually the birth, but bringing a new family member (or two) home.

As we adjusted, I was breastfeeding both, and my son had to be supplemented, so I got about an hour and a half of sleep between feedings at night for the first 7 weeks. I was severely sleep deprived, and headed back to work. Despite the incredible help and support we received, I was still on my own at one point, and was trying to be super woman and clean and cook and take care of myself and my babies. I also was doing my best to be accommodating to my husband, okaying later work days often. This was the norm before. Please know my husband is one of the rare ones, the incredible ones, and at the same time he’s not psychic. He had no idea I was struggling so badly with the weight of everything, and at the beginning I was clueless as well.

My understanding of the relationship of cause and effect has also shifted. For example, one of the twins was fussier than the other, and her crying stirred my anxiety, but it was how she decompressed to go to sleep. Originally, I thought that the crying was causing the anxiety. Now, I have learned that my lack of sleep and healthy boundaries, and my previous experience, was causing an overall anxiety, and my threshold for stress was low. As a mother, hearing your child cry causes angst. During my toughest times, her crying caused me to suffer, my stomach would turn. Now, after months of being well rested and going to counseling, I realize that my anxiety was a symptom of the above mentioned, and my daughter’s crying was not the cause.

baby-feet

The main reasons I am at this point of healing and happiness is due to the support I received. The combination of counseling and as well consulting from a sleep consultant got me creating healthy boundaries in many aspects of my life. For example, my husband committed to being home during the few hours before bed when the babies were fussiest, or else he would find someone I was comfortable with to help me if he could not. Then, we worked on subtle shifts in eating and sleeping during the day, and after some work, my babies were sleeping 12 hours at night. After counseling and continued consulting, my mind and body started to recover. It was as though I had lost who I was, I had lost my personality, and it was coming back.

As Anita Moorjani says in Dying To Be Me, “I was experiencing a battle between my heart and my mind, and my heart was winning.” Thank god for expert support, and the power and wisdom of listening to your heart.

I share my story in hopes that others will read something that helps them. These experiences only help us to connect with others. I am so fortunate to say that I feel like I have never felt before now. And it is in many ways because of the darkness I experienced.

*The counselor who worked with Rachel O’Dwyer:
Jessica L. Shepard, MA, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor
817-715-9152

 

For more information on perinatal mood disorder, signs of depression and anxiety, as well as well as treatment options, visit: Moms’ Mental Health Matters by the National Child & Maternal Health Education Program.