Monday, February 20, 2012

Nursing to Sleep

For a long time anything regarding bedtime routines/nap time routines or sleep schedules would stress me out.

As a first time parent, I'm already a little hesitant to assert that I'm doing things right every time. In fact, despite my many hours of research and advice from others, it takes little for me to suddenly doubt what I've been working hard on and seen small successes with. A part of this is my own self-doubt, which I am overcoming as I am learning more about my capabilities and my son. I may not fully get over this until I have a second (or third?) child grown, healthy and capable of themself.

But enough of that side step. I stressed over sleepytime routines for the first 2 months - I had none whatsoever, other than that my son nursed to sleep. The only surefire way to get him to sleep was to nurse him, and this has continued on up to and including these days at 21 weeks. From (what seemed like) every direction, I was told "Don't nurse your baby to sleep". The reasons given were that I would hate to be tethered to my child every night, every nap; or that I would begin to feel like a human pacifier. This has never been my experience. Sure, once in a while I might grow impatient and want to be doing something else. That's normal. However, 95% of the time I love it. The closeness, the bonding. It's just a special, quiet time for me and my son.

Despite my own feelings on nursing him to sleep, I remained convicted that I was doing something wrong. I thought that I would regret it, down the line somewhere.

I thought that time came a few weeks ago, when suddenly my baby was waking up more than 6 times each night, and of course he needed to be nursed back to sleep each time. Out of nowhere, instead of waking only 3 times a night, it more than doubled. And this, this was my "proof" that nursing him to sleep had been a mistake.

After a few days of less than an hour of consecutive sleep, I was desperate. Anything to get more sleep, for my child and for myself. I asked for advice, and posted in one of my favorite forums r/breastfeeding.

I received several bits of advice that included sleep training guides (both cry-it-out and no-cry training), and a couple that advised me to have daddy pick up Nathan and soothe him to sleep at night, so he doesn't expect a feeding every time he's roused from sleep. However, I didn't expect the numerous people who told me that nursing to sleep wasn't doing any damage, and unless I personally disliked doing it, there is no reason not to at this age. They even pointed out what I had missed, which was that this sleepytime change came on suddenly, and was likely a temporary situation that I had to just power through. My choosing to nurse him to sleep had certainly not caused it, and I shouldn't feel guilty for something that is healthy and comforting for my child, and something that I enjoy immensely.

Even as adults we enjoy being comforted to sleep. Do any of you sleep better with the television on, or with your significant other sleeping beside you? Or perhaps you like to read a good book to settle down and fall asleep? These are all methods of soothing - similar in many ways to a baby nursing to sleep.

Update: 10/30/12 -

So, around 8 months later and I am still nursing the little guy to sleep. I have Jason put Nathan down to sleep on the weekends and some weekdays, and on those nights Nathan does not nurse to sleep. He is sleeping better at night (wakes around two times each night) and typically can fall back asleep immediately without requiring me to nurse him back down.  In my opinion, nursing to sleep has possibly encouraged Nathan to wake up at night - only because there is the likelihood of getting to breastfeed if he does. If I ever decide that I am done nursing him to sleep I will get to test that theory. For now, I love spending this time with him, and the ease of which he falls asleep with me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daddy and Baby

Recently, in my free time (this amounts to when I'm sitting on my butt waiting for Nathan to fall deep enough asleep for me to set him down) I have been looking up other mommy blogs on my phone. Reading through others' experiences, especially those who've gone through similar struggles as myself, has inspired me somewhat.

Of course I know that it gets easier, and then more challenging, and then easier, and that this rollercoaster will dip and dive for a great number of years before plateauing into parent retirement (yep, just made that up). Right now my baby's new sleep pattern of waking 6+ times each night is really grating on my patience.

Unfortunately, my husband tends to receive the butt end of my impatience. I know he's a fantastic father and a wonderful husband. Despite this I cannot seem to stop micromanaging him when he's taking care of our baby. He knows what to do, but what really drives me crazy is that he doesn't do it my way. Of course this doesn't mean he's doing it wrong. As the main caretaker of Nathan, I'm the one who's spent the most time with him. I've figured out little shortcuts and tricks that seem to work really well for him. I am trying to simply share my knowledge with him, but it doesn't help.

I tend to nag and remind him "do it this way, no don't do that," blah blah blah. Something about hearing my baby cry just tears at my heartstrings and turns off my censor. The original intention is to make it easier on my husband. It really does not help though. He can do things his own way, I know he won't mess up our kid. He loves Nathan just as much as I do. Though if he asks, I'll be more than willing to help.

Meanwhile, I may have to leave when he takes over to avoid hearing the extra little cries while he works out his own way into fatherhood.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Breastfeeding Aversion

For the past six weeks I've been dealing with some form of breastfeeding aversion from my (now) 20-week-old. I had been stressing out a great deal, researching websites like KellyMom and more recently Reddit/r/breastfeeding to try and find out why Nathan was suddenly uninterested in eating.

My sweet little baby, who has always been in the 98th percentile in growth for height and weight, who was constantly eating day or night; suddenly refused to breastfeed during the day. Often he would even scream as I would lay him into his typical cradle-hold. The weirdest part was at night, or directly before or after a nap, he would nurse as if nothing had changed. Any chance I got, I researched what could be causing this.

 The possible causes of such behavior included:

  • He was teething, and sucking hurts his gums
  • Showing a preference for bottle, because of improper bottle-feeding
  • Ear infection causing pain when he lays down
  • Because of his age he's suddenly aware of a lot more, thus distracting him from eating
  • Gassy baby from my diet, or in general

Because of the number of different possible causes, I felt a bit overwhelmed with trying to resolve the issue. The first thing my husband and I did was remove all bottles and pacifiers from baby's daily diet. We have continued to do this, and have only rarely given bottles in the last week or so, after having finally decided (after no improvement for 4 weeks) that the bottle preference is not the cause. 

I have also introduced a lot of teething toys and frozen washcloths to him to try and soothe any sore gums, if that is the cause. This seemed to help his mood a few times, but not always. 

We had a pediatrician visit, and there was no ear infection, so that ruled this reason out.

He seems fussier these days, but not really gassy.

So that leaves me with my conclusion that Nathan refuses to breastfeed during the day simply because he is too busy seeing and learning new things! I have been taking him into a dark, quiet room to nurse, and sometimes using a cover even in my own house. This has helped quite a bit! It isn't back to how we were feeding before, but I believe this is the new norm. If he still refuses to eat, he must not actually be hungry enough to prioritize eating. That's what I think, anyway.

I believe around 4 months is when babies start being more aware of their surroundings and are a lot more interested in the world. Whether you have this problem or not, you may want to start nursing him in a quieter, dimmer environment.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Kai and Kabuki with Nathan

While still pregnant, I worried my baby would arrive and end up being allergic to cats. That would figure, since I have absolutely loved cats my entire life. Luckily, that was not the case!

I have two of the sweetest cats. My husband's cat Kai is the ultimate lap kitty. He will jump into your lap and headbutt your chin until you pay attention to him. And even after that, usually. Kai will purr if you even so much as look at him. He is also a big chicken, and jumps at nothing at all. Kabuki is my kitty, and he has the cutest little mew ever. He will also cuddle up, but in short bursts throughout the day, rather than staying for a while like Kai. He is also prone to spreading out and showing off his belly to be rubbed.

Whenever I feed Nathan in my bed, Kai or Kabuki will typically come in for a visit. Since my arms are both holding Nathan, I can't really pet them. They will rub their heads up against Nathan's, and it is the cutest thing!

I'm not certain if Nathan is really aware of them just yet. I'm also convinced that Kai and Kabuki think Nathan is an extension of me rather than a separate person. I am curious to see how their relationship unfolds as Nathan grows.

Finding time for me

The one thing that I haven't really considered in quite some time is actually going off and spending some quality time with myself.

Since I found out I was pregnant I was excited for the bundle of joy I would soon hold in my arms. Once he arrived all I could think about was him. His cute little yawns and hands. Whether he was doing something abnormal or if it was just one of those things babies go through. When he was awake I was trying to interact with him, cuddle with him, feed him, comfort him. When he was asleep I would research different things he had done, or what to expect at certain ages, or random parenting articles. The only time to myself I ever took was at night when I got some sleep.

Now, he is almost 20 weeks old, and I realized the reason I am always stressed out over the tiniest of things is because I don't take any time to myself. Not really, anyway. If he's taking a nap I might check my email or something. If my husband is taking care of him on a certain day, I typically will stay home with them and still feed him throughout the day and night. I exclusively breastfeed, so it's either I stay home or I have to bring a pump with me.

What I really need to prioritize, is to take some time off somewhere else and be by myself.