Sleep Training Part 1: Weaning from Night Feedings

Sleep Training Part 1: Night Weaning“Awww, how cute. Is she sleeping through the night?” Seems like I got this question 1 out of every 3 strangers we met. For me, I didn’t mind it too much. That’s because when she was little, she wasn’t expected to (not yet) and when she was older, she slept for about 5 hours at a time so I wasn’t complaining. However, it doesn’t help me from feeling like I’m jinxing ourselves for that night. If you’re a new parent, I’m sure you have gotten this question a fair number of times. 

This post is mostly for new parents who have heard about “sleep training,” but don’t know the details, parents who are having restless nights, those sleeping in few-hour increments, those who have babies who cry a lot when put to bed, and those who are anticipating the need to sleep train to get those delicious-sounding 12-hour stretches with baby sleeping soundly. 

So what’s “Sleep Training”?

The term “sleep training” is generally used to refer to a method to teach a baby how to self soothe in order to learn how to sleep through the night (STTN). This is often referred to as the Cry It Out (CIO) or Ferber Method, named after Dr. Richard Ferber, who developed the style/method. There are other ways that parents use to help babies sleep, like sharing the bed to help parents learn the baby’s natural sleep rhythm, or attachment methods which means that parents tend to the baby right away and at any time they wake up through the night. This may or may not mean the baby will learn to STTN. Some parents are blessed with babies who are “good sleepers,” who didn’t require formal “cry it out” methods. They just learned to sleep longer stretches on their own. 

Sleep Training isn’t a new thing. The more structured guidelines are rather new, but I asked my mom what she did with my brother and me, and she said she didn’t “train us” to sleep. However, she had me in my nursery room, they didn’t have a monitor, and she closed my door and closed their bedroom door. She said “Yeah you probably cried, but you were fine.” ha!

Some parents choose not to formally sleep train and to let their baby grow into their own natural rhythms of sleeping and needing comfort through parental intervention. That’s completely fine and each and every family goes about the topic of sleeping at their own approach. After hearing some horror stories of non-sleep trained babies, we decided before Jia was born that we would read up, take notes, and train Jia. This was regardless if she seemed to be a “good sleeper” with 5-hour stretches at a couple months old. I didn’t want to chance it.

We waited to sleep train Jia until she was 5 months old, mainly because we were in the process of moving from our condo (where she slept in a crib next to our bed) to a house where she would have her own room. No sense in teaching her how to sleep only to disrupt her progress with a big move. I got a lot of input from friends about sleep training, and we didn’t follow the rules perfectly.  But, Jia now sleeps 11.5-12 hours straight once put her to bed at 7:30 PM.

To teach Jia to STTN, we followed the principles in the book, The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5. My friend Samantha swore by it, and her kid sleeps rock solid for 12 hours straight and started when he was 5 months old. She says she literally has to go and wake him up in the mornings. He is now over 2 years old. Mom friend Armita also sleep trained their son, and nowadays she usually has to bang around dresser drawers and pots and pans in the morning to stir up any sort of wakening response from him.

Anyhow, friends of Sam’s have also used The Sleepeasy Solution and have had great success. Also, friends of hers who opted not to sleep train are still dealing with sleepless nights with their toddlers (now 3 and 4 years old!). Not something we wanted to go through, so I ordered this book months before Jia was born so we could prep. My coworker Chris and his wife followed a different book, “Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old” for their twins, saying they didn’t want to mess around with TWO babies keeping them up all night forever. Similar methods but slight variations. 

Is it Recommended?

The authors of The Sleepeasy Solution, Jennifer Waldburger, MSW and Jill Spivack, LCSW are sleep consultants and social workers who have been featured all over mainstream media (like Good Morning America, The Today Show, The New York Times, etc.) and are very popular with assisting in sleep training for Hollywood’s babies (Ben Stiller and wife Christine Taylor, Greg Kinnear, etc). They have a section in the book dedicated to explaining why learning to “cry it out” does not harm babies and does not lead to psychological damage. “Crying it out” doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your baby or letting them cry all night long without any sort of calming intervention.

Though I didn’t need much convincing about sleep training, what really convinced me was the packet of information we were given by our pediatrician when Jia was a few months old. It was about sleeping. They actually recommended some form of sleep training through learning to self-soothe and cry for a bit, to “learn” how to settle themselves back to sleep. They did recognize attachment styles for sleep training, but encouraged parents to allow their babies the chance to self-soothe by crying some. Now, they didn’t recommend a specific book or method, but they did acknowledge that self-soothing was an important part of a baby’s development in learning to sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study in October 2012 to determine harms or benefits of sleep training with five-year follow ups of sleep-trained and non-sleep trained groups of babies. All participants of the study reported before the study that they were experiencing sleep problems at 7 months. The intervention group was one in which parents allowed their babies to self-settle through “controlled comforting” at specified time intervals (methods similar to Sleepeasy and described in Part 2 of this post) and non-intervention groups did not employ sleep training methods. At a five-year follow up, there was no significant difference (positive or negative) in the effects (stress regulation, psychosocial functioning, child mental health, sleep, the child-parent relationship, or maternal mental health) of controlled comforting. Given that there were not significant changes in either group, the short-term benefits of infant sleep and improved rates of maternal depression would justify self-settle methods. You can read the entire research article here. In the article are TONS of references that support that no harm comes from using self-soothe techniques.

Whichever way you decide to approach your baby’s sleep is your decision, and every baby is different. Research indicates that there is no “best” approach to sleep training; some babies require super strict methods or no method at all.

But this post is more about what we did to get Jia to STTN. Continue reading

What’s She Doing Wednesday: My Little Chatterbox

WSDW1.21cover photoIn the past week, this is what Jia has been up to:

  • She now knows how to say her name (through mimicry). It sounds more like “Zshee-ya” but we’re working on it!
  • She eats yogurt now! Yay! It took us about 5 attempts, and the success came from her eyeing me enjoying my regular yogurt. I would give her TEENSY tastes of my yogurt (like the size of a grain of rice) and then my mother-in-law came up with the idea to have her try her plain yogurt in between tastes of mine. No scrunched up face, nothing! She flat out started sucking it down without needing to try mine again! Win!
  • Mimics lots of word sounds and faces, still amused by sticking out tongues. :-P 
  • Stands alone for anywhere from a few seconds to 20 seconds and once she realizes she’s doing it, she sloooooowly squats back to a seated position.
  • She’s starting to subtly learn right from wrong by doing “bad” things slowly. For example – I think it’s so adorable – when she has found, say, a Christmas tree needle (yes because there are still hundreds of them hiding away in the crevice between the carpet and wall), I’ll say “Jia, whatcha doing??” and she’ll look at me, and put it up for me to see so I can take it. But she has had it in her hand for a long time, so that I can “catch her.”
  • Has learned how a rocking chair works. She shook the rocking chair and watched it move Mei Mei who was seated on it. She was belly laughing over this!
  • Doors open and close, and she really likes closing them and giggles when we say “Open!” “Close!”
  • Look away from the hungry beast! Looking away from Jia helps her concentrate on eating. This is counterintuitive, but it’s something I think a lot of us moms are learning as our kids enter this similar phase in life – if you stare at them and hand-feed each bite to a toddler who refuses to look in your direction and open their mouths, they (maybe) won’t eat. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But, as of late, if I am looking at this computer as she’s seated in front of her new food, I see out of the corner of my eye a daughter who is devouring her zucchini/spinach/apple pancakes. (recipe below) That being said…
  • She knows what we mean when we sayIn your mouth,” when she threatens to drop the food morsel on the floor. Does she always follow? Well, “60% of the time it works every time…”

Continue reading

Spice Up Your Sprout’s Meals!

Blog Post Spice Up Your SproutI’ve gotten questions from a couple of moms asking when it’s safe to add herbs and spices to their infant’s foods, which ones are baby-friendly, and if/how adding herbs and spices can make a positive influence on their babys’ food preferences down the line. I was actually pretty curious about this myself, since it’s challenging (at least for me) to be super creative when I cook Jia’s meals and have been tempted to toss in some seasonings. It can be especially hard if you’re not really skilled in the kitchen, to stray away from the norm, the routine, your repertoire. 

As I was conducting my research for this topic, I actually couldn’t find any resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics or any empirical research saying that incorporating herbs and spices weren’t recommended for babies and at what definitive age to begin introducing them. I am taking this to mean that since there’s no formal policy or recommendation against herbs and spices being introduced, then it’s not of great concern. What I did find was encouraging – the AAP recommended that in place of salt, parents should be encouraged to cook with herbs, spices, and lemon juice. So there ya go, the AAP says herbs and spices should be used! 

In researching, what I found interesting is that many other cultures actually start adding spices to infants’ diets as soon as they begin solid foods (South Asian, South American, East Asian, etc). This includes spicy seasonings, too. 

In the US; however, we are so overly conservative about adding herbs and spices into baby’s diet, that our babies are often stuck eating bland foods until they are toddlers. Get creative, mom (& dad!)

Though it’s up for debate on whether or not spicy seasonings should be added to baby’s diet (see first bullet below), one thing is pretty clear – parents are introducing a variety of flavors into their babies’ diets so that they are exposed to a wide range of tastes, which can positively influence preferences down the line. This translates to a less picky eater!

Through my research on this topic, I found some main pointers for when you are beginning to spice up your baby’s food:

  • Wait until your baby has reached about 6-8 months old to introduce herbs and spices. This is actually more or less up to you, mainly because you want to sort out any intolerances, sensitivities, and preferences in foods. In an article from Live Science, Dr. Anca Safta, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist recommends that the aromatic spices (cinnamon, cardamom, dill, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger) should be introduced first. She says that this is because the flavor of “hot” is not necessarily a taste, but an activation of pain receptors. This can lead to intestinal upset, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Because of a baby’s maturing gastric system, she recommends these be delayed a bit longer. Conversely, Dr. Stephen Borowitz, University of Virginia’s Professor of Pediatrics says that a baby’s digestive system is normal at birth and that spicy foods needn’t be avoided and that using such spices is both “reasonable and appropriate.” Pediatric and Adolescent Dietitian for the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Vanessa Kane-Alves RD says, “there is no list of spices to avoid.”  However you interpret the many views on the use of herbs and spices for your baby’s food, remember to: 
  • Keep with the 4-day rule! After introducing one type of spice, continue to do so for 4 days before introducing a new spice, so that an herb or spice can more easily be identified as the culprit of a sensitivity. 
  • Breastfeeding (and pumping) mamas rest assured! Herbs and spices are transmitted through breastmilk, so your little one is already being exposed to a variety of flavors as long as you are. And, if you are still breastfeeding by 6 months, good for you! Keep going! Remember, the World Health Organization recommends to breastfeed up to 2 years old and continue as long as possible. 

Fresh or dried, here’s a list of some baby-friendly herbs and spices to get started: Continue reading

What’s She Doing Wednesday: Tongue Twinsies!

WSDW1.14cover

I really enjoy writing these posts. They’re so much easier to write; stream of consciousness writing at its best. I mean, I see why there are so many moms out there in the blogosphere writing about their kids these days. It’s so easy to write about your fascinating child, sharing with the world how your day-to-day is changing, what s/he is doing now, what challenges you’re facing, etc. No research, no citations, not having to make sure what you’re saying is backed by legitimacy. And, judging by the numbers I’m seeing, you guys enjoy reading this type of post, too! So I think I’ll be able to keep up with this What’s She Doing Wednesdays thing! (I’m definitely NOT going to start shifting away from the health-topic posts for Sproutings Saturdays!)

  • I found out that not only does she love mimicking certain things we do, but she LOVES sticking out her tongue and watching me do it back. As we stand in front of the mirror, she sticks out her tongue. She looks at me (in the mirror), so I stick mine out. She smiles then turns to look at me face to face to make sure I was still doing it. She laughs and continues to stick her tongue out in all sorts of directions. So cute.
  • She’s discovered how doors open and close. I was in the bathroom and she was kneeling on the ground one hand on the door, moving it back and forth. She realized if she pushed it enough, she could close it completely.
  • We can self-feed pouches! The picture above is of her first time holding and sucking down a pouch on her own! Now, deciding to finish it is another story. She only wants to eat from the pouch if she’s holding it, because if I hold it (after she gets going) it’s just not as appealing ;)
  • Pacifier Pop” is what I’m calling this new game that Jia finds absolutely hilarious. Jia is the squirmiest most stubborn little booger during a diaper change, writhing and refusing to lay on her back while I remove sharp diaper pins, fold a diaper, or even take off her pants and socks. She turns on her belly and gets on all fours trying to grab at anything she can, whether or not that would cause her to fall off the changing table. She sometimes even cries because she doesn’t feel like getting changed. So, today she was crying, so I got her pacifier (Wubbanubb) from the crib and I brought it to her face then thought – I’ll put it in my mouth! So I did. She started reaching for it, lying down nicely on her back. I turned my head away dodging her hands and she starts laughing. Then once she grabs ahold of the frog, I refuse to let the pacifier go. Then I let her “POP” it out of my mouth with a loud pop. She CRACKS UP!!! I struck gold. At least, for today.

 Mom Thoughts:

  • My car needed maintenance done so I was driving Jeff’s car to Trader Joe’s. With the shopping cart cover in the back of my SUV, I realized she would have to sit in a shopping cart without a cover. It actually turned out even better than using it, because the seatbelt on the cart does a much better job at keeping a squirmy Jia well-seated. Thank you, Trader Joe’s (and Target!) for having sanitizing wipes. (I usually bring a ziplock of Lysol wipes in my mom-bag but didn’t take it with me to TJ’s since I thought I remembered them having a bucket of wipes near the carts) This is nice to learn since TJ’s and Target are my second and third homes. 
  • I finally took out the newborn insert from the Infant Car Seat. I’m probably really late on this one but my little girl is *sniffle* growing up so she doesn’t really need that head support anymore. Sad day. She is already 1.5″ away from the top of the seat, soon to be outgrown. 
  • I learned a lot about carseats in the past 7 days. I think a purchase of the Graco Milestone or Diono Radian 3-in-1 carseat is in the near future. Once Jia outgrows her infant car seat, she’ll need a seat to continue rear-facing until 2-4 years old. Two years is the absolute minimum the AAP recommends, four years is preferred. But, I want a seat that will be more-inclusive, meeting requirements for when she turns forward-facing in a harness (until 5 years old), and then with a normal seatbelt in the high-back booster (from 5-10) and then a backless booster (at least 10 years old). I had no idea before THIS WEEK (thanks to Car Seats For The Littles!) that you needed that many car seats. Am I the only one? My gosh. This also means my in-laws will need to get one for their car since the big seats aren’t meant to go in and out of cars all the time. Why can’t they make infant car seats slightly larger so that it can hold them til 2 years old? Like an Infa-Toddler Car Seat. Then we can bypass getting another rear-facing seat and just get one for front-facing? I know there’s the Graco 4ever and a few other types that go from infant seat to backless booster, but I’ve learned those are super bulky, really heavy, hard to install, or don’t allow for much room in the back for other carseats or people. 

Continue reading

Baby-proofing (for) My Sprout

Blog Post Babyproofing Your SproutStaci, one of my really good college friends had a baby a few months after Jia was born, so we exchange thoughts and ideas since her son, Benji, is not far behind Jia (in age, though developmentally they are neck-and-neck)! Anyway, Staci wanted me to write a post about baby proofing, so I wanted to list the changes we’ve made to our house. As a warning, I didn’t go and get every baby-proofing device out there. Baby-proofing gadgets are pricey and add up very quickly, so I am going about baby-proofing in sort of a “buy as we need” fashion. 

The Important Part

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) lists 12 must-have devices to childproof your home. The most important tip they stress is that in order for childproofing equipment to be effective, it must be installed correctly. Be sure to read instructions on all products that you purchase to ensure your child’s upmost safety. Also, they want you to remember that children are smart, crafty, and persistent. Even if you childproof your home, that doesn’t mean your child can’t figure out a way around it. Click here for the link.

Remember to ALWAYS lock away chemicals, medications (prescription and over-the-counter), alcohol, ammunition, knives, and other harmful products! This cannot be stressed enough!

The National Capital Poison Center states that in 2013, 44% of poison exposures were found in children under 6 years of age.

They identified the most common exposures for these children to be cosmetics, cleaners, pain medications, and foreign bodies. Others include vitamins, antihistamines (benadryl), batteries, plants/mushrooms, antimicrobials, pesticides, arts and crafts supplies, and “gastrointestinal preparations.” (I’m a nurse and I’m not sure what this refers to but it doesn’t sound appealing) Click here for other statistics from poison.org. 

All of the products I am listing (besides our safety gate and trashcan) were purchased at Buy Buy Baby, and the prices I list are pre-20% off-coupon. Remember, save those Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons, because if they are NOT expired, you can use them! (expired ones, unfortunately can’t be used) There are other products out there, these aren’t the only “good ones,” and there are others that look less obvious but I am just writing about what we have, in case it helps guide your choices! Continue reading

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