Part 2: we have a plan

I went ahead and bought Elizabeth Pantley’s other book too, “The No Cry Nap Solution”.

The books are quite dense, which wouldn’t suit everyone – they present a smorgasbord of sleep suggestions to experiment with based on the family’s circumstances and sleep goals. This means you have to trawl through the entire book and develop your own plan. It suits us, two nerdy lawyers who like reading and put wanky stuff like “can analyse complex information” on our CVs.

Reading online message boards, it sounds like our sleep situation is very common. In the interests of “you are not alone” internet solidarity, I’ll describe our plan. I’ll let you know later whether it works.

Starting point: a baby who falls asleep being rocked, nursed, pushed in a buggy, worn in a baby carrier, or bounced on an exercise ball, but not by himself in bed. A baby who wakes up when we try to transfer him from one place (arms) to another (cot), unless we are very careful; and even then might only nap for 20 minutes. A baby who never naps for more than 45 minutes except in our arms or lying in bed next to us, where we can soothe him when he stirs. A baby who wakes every couple of hours through the night.

The goal: he falls asleep in his cot after being soothed in our arms or nursed, has two day naps of at least an hour and a half each, and sleeps for five or six hours in a row overnight (with a view to sleeping longer eventually).

The plan:

1) Make the days predictable. Regular wake time in the morning, regular meal times (solids, breastfeeding is still on demand), and regular nap times. Do everything we can to make sure he naps for at least an hour and a half, even if it means lying in bed with him every nap for a week. An under-napped baby is an overtired baby and won’t be receptive to new bedtime techniques. Keep the hour before bedtime quiet, relaxed, and dimly-lit.
2) Create pre-bed wind down rituals. Use positive associations as he’s falling asleep in our arms – shhh noises, lullabies, a particular soft toy. Try and slowly reduce the length of the soothing, e.g. rocking until almost asleep and then just holding him.
3) Once a routine is established and naps are long and regular, his body clock will be in sync with a 24 hour day. We’re down to one problem: he needs our help to fall asleep, including getting back to sleep after periods of light sleep through the night. This is when we start to teach him to fall asleep by himself, using the positive associations we’ve established in 2. First we put him in his cot almost asleep and keep hushing and shushing until he drops off, then once this works we put him down more and more awake until he can fall asleep by himself if he is calm and sleepy and relaxed and we’ve done our wind-down ritual.

It sounds simple, but step 3 can apparently take weeks to pull off, we’re still at step 2. Baby steps and all 😉

(Written while lying next to a sleeping baby.)

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Running on empty

I’m looking forward to going back to work next January.

It breaks my heart that I’m so depleted at the end of the day, because I know my parenting suffers. It’s not harder now, it’s easier now, but the exhaustion is cumulative. The sleep deprivation keeps adding up (I so hope the little dude sleeps better tonight, but if he doesn’t, well, have to keep on keeping on). But the sleep deprivation is nothing compared to the depletion of emotional reserves from needing to constantly constantly engage, play, entertain, change nappies, feed, put to bed, and repeat.

My parents give us a break sometimes, and my husband has one-on-one dad time for a few hours on Saturday morning, but it’s not enough. It can’t be enough because all that time comes out of the same allotment: the weekend. Even if I had a whole weekend off – which I don’t want, anyway – I have a whole week on. Best case scenario, I get a couple of hours during the week when my mum takes a long lunch break one day.

On the other hand, I also feel like the little dude is still too young for long days at daycare. A few hours would be ideal. But, how?

It’s not the work per se that I look forward to, it’s the idea of going to a place that is not my house where I can step out of mummy-mode and interact with adults without having half my brain preoccupied with what the little dude is up to. Plus the flipside – coming back to the little dude ready to engage with enthusiasm because I’ve given myself a chance to miss him and remember how much fun he is. I’m really looking forward to that.

Eilu d’varim (revised edition for parents)

These are the obligations without measure:

To respect the child as a person.
To treat him with tenderness always.
To talk with him gently, morning and evening.
To welcome his friends.
To tend to him when he is sick.
To support him into independent adulthood.
To teach him that he is part of a connected world made up of those living, dead, and yet to be born.
To let him lead you to new insights.
To make the world a better place.

And mindfulness that each of us is born with a pure soul encompasses them all.

Part 1: we have a book

Welcome to the first installment of a live review of the No-Cry Sleep Solution

At five months, bubs was a pretty decent sleeper – often settling himself for his naps, regularly going more than five hours at a stretch, we felt cautiously smug. Then his teeth started giving him grief and we went on holiday and we never really got back into a good pattern. And then he started being really distracted about breastfeeding in public, so I was happy to let him feed at night to make sure he was getting everything he needed. I googled a lot about baby sleep, and we set up a nice bedtime ritual, but didn’t go any further than that because I found the advice off-putting. All the info suggested that you can’t have everything: a baby who goes to sleep in his pushchair a lot and who nurses to sleep while out and about can’t be expected to self-settle when at home and sleep “through the night”. I decided there was more to lose than there was to gain. I really didn’t want to be bound to a routine that meant I was always at home for nap time. I could cope with broken sleep; I couldn’t cope with further limiting the scope for socialising and outings. I also didn’t want to make sleep the benchmark of parenting so I just did whatever worked on a given day, and figured we’d deal with it later if we needed to. 

I like that No-Cry recognises it’s ok to have other priorities, and isn’t judgmental about parents who think broken sleep is the least bad option, given other constraints. If anything, it’s affirming of this, which is encouraging, because so much of the sleep advice has a really urgent tone – “you must get your baby to self-settle now, or they never will!!!” etc etc. 

So why change now? Mainly because now he wakes sometimes and doesn’t want to feed, and won’t go back to sleep easily. UGH! The worst! Last night he was awake from midnight to 1.30am, today I bought the book (bless you, kindle). It’s one thing to feed a hungry baby in the middle of the night, it’s a completely different scenario when he’s clearly just overtired and unable to settle from a brief waking. That requires doing something different. 

Also he’s down to two naps a day (rocked or nursed to sleep, usually). He’s awake for longer stretches, and interested in coming on excursions with me, so it’d be ok to be home for naps most of the time. If we establish a nap time routine now, it’ll be our guide for several months – in eight months he’s gone from too many naps to keep track of, to five naps, to four naps, to three, to two: but it’ll be a long time before he drops down to one.

Basically the No Cry method is to use a transition plan, teaching the baby to fall asleep by himself through gradually creating positive sleepy associations with a pre-bed wind down and the sleep environment. Then you keep a log for ten days, and revise the plan.

So far we’ve both read the book and are developing our transition plan. I’ll do an update blog in ten days once we’ve given it a go. Wish us luck. 

A bit of a moan and also a review, this time of a maternity bra

I usually love living in New Zealand, but other times I’m like “WHY DOES BENDON HAVE SUCH A LIMITED RANGE OF MATERNITY BRAS? WHY DO I HAVE TO SHOP ONLINE AND RISK A POOR FIT?”

That yelling was me for about the last eight months. 

But now, well, now I have the Bravado Original nursing bra! It’s for sleeping/round the house, so my quest for the perfect out and about bra doth continue. Though, I’m increasingly wearing it out because it’s so comfortable, but it’s not really supportive enough. 

I love:

  • It comes on like a sports bra, so no back clips to dig in while sleeping. 
  • Cotton, breathable fabric.
  • Really wide band for comfort and support. 
  • Full drop away cup.
  • The sizing – they have four options for band size and three for cup size with stretch built into the fabric and adjustable shoulder straps, which makes it pretty safe to buy without trying on. 

10/10. 

I got it from blestbras.com.au, which seemed the best option for antipodean delivery. Good service! 

The new old conservativism

We put a bid in on a house on Wednesday. We didn’t get it. Our bid was forty-five grand above council valuation, it sold for eighty grand above. I’d read an article the day before talking about how young people can afford to buy property if we put our mind to it, hilariously clueless in tone. I’m not that bothered about our own situation, we’ll find a place eventually, just have to wait and save more.  I am bothered, though, by the suggestion that delayed childbearing is the solution to every financial conundrum (so, um, Facebook and Apple are now covering the costs of employees freezing their eggs). Graduate high school, get a tertiary education, get a job, work long hours, pay off your student debt, save furiously, buy a house, pay your mortgage down to a manageable level, and only then may you responsibly bring new life into the world. Children are luxury goods!

My grandmother had two kids by age 24. It was 1962, this wasn’t considered unduly young, it was the norm, regardless of social class. That’s not true anymore. Everyone gossips when someone who went to a high decile school has a baby at 21. There is a whopping great class difference here. On average, educated women are having babies much later; but the teen pregnancy rate has stayed pretty much the same for the past four decades (source: MSD). There is research which suggests absence of economic opportunities leads to teen pregnancy, not the other way round. If you don’t think you’ll ever have a stable job, you’ve got no reason to delay having children. 

So then I read a piece on Slate about how feminists should be more enthusiastically pro-choice. It included reference to another article, on responsible parenthood and contraception:

Sawhill wants the left to pick up a “new ethic of responsible parenthood.” That means urging women to wait until they are a little more settled and can sustain a stable relationship before they have children. “The old social norm was: ‘Don’t have a child outside marriage,’ ” she writes in her New York Times op-ed. The new one needs to be: “Don’t have a child until you and your partner are ready to be parents.”

Ready to be parents – lol! You can’t be serious, ain’t nobody ready for that ever. Ready to be pushed off a cliff? “Ready” could theoretically mean anything, but we know it’s code for a stable job and savings in the bank. I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that abortion (and even contraception) is a social good because there’s a universal right time to have a baby and a universal wrong time, and the wrong time is when you’re short of money (this link is amusing though). Abortion is a social good because women deserve bodily autonomy. That’s a watertight case right there, we don’t need extra reasons. If abortion is available, some unplanned pregnancies will be terminated, for reasons wholly personal to the pregnant woman; but it is not a pro-choice argument to think this should be the default. There will still be people who have babies before they have savings. Intimate relationships are warm and cosy. Sex is fun. Contraception is a hassle (even the much touted long acting reversible contraceptives have side effects, and won’t suit everyone). Besides, babies are lovely – even if they’re hard work too.  

The right blames the parents, the left wants to give them more money but still tut tuts about teen pregnancy. Both wring their hands about families trapped in “inter-generational poverty”. This grates on my nerves – you just never hear the opposite, you never hear about “inter-generational wealth”. Poverty is an absence, so there must be something missing: money. 

Our slowly growing house deposit is a mixture of money I got from scholarships while at uni, money we’ve saved while working, money to be withdrawn from KiwiSaver, money from my husband’s parents (it was meant to be for his student loan but we put it in a savings account instead), and money from my parents. On my Facebook feed, friends are starting to buy houses, and every time I see an announcement, I wonder how much money came from parents or a family trust. I know talking about money is considered gauche, but complying with that rule means privilege is invisible. Bad enough that society is stacked against the poor, we should at least be honest. Honest about how our parents are trying to mitigate inequality between the boomers and the millennials by giving us money for our education and home ownership. Honest about what this means for people whose parents are not in a position to provide the same. Honest about the non-financial assistance we receive as well, right into adulthood, in an array of different forms. I don’t mean godawful helicopter parenting, I mean things that friends might also do for each other – but your parents are friends with extra wisdom and life experience, and that counts for a lot. Damn straight my mum looked over my first job application; damn straight I’m sure her feedback helped me get the job. 

Most of all, we need to be honest about what would have happened if we – middle class people who had jobs first, babies second – had fallen accidentally pregnant before being financially set up, and decided to keep the baby. Our parents would have bailed us out. Life would have been tough, really tough, but it wouldn’t have been a permanent setback. Our parents would have made sure that we finished our education, they would have supported us financially. It’s a given, that’s just what every parent would do if they could. I’d do anything for the little dude, even when he’s a big dude. 

People who have kids early and lack parental support aren’t a different breed of human being, they’re not a anomaly or a puzzle, and we shouldn’t treat them as such.  To put children first, start with the parents – what do they need in order to be good parents? Conversely, what sort of parenting do you expect someone to provide if social assistance tacitly assumes that they won’t do a very good job? Children can be a catalyst for getting your life together, but they also make it harder to plan long term, because their needs change quickly. I don’t want to suggest glib solutions, as the problem goes to the core of how society is structured, and the way we view babies as hobbies or liabilities for their parents, rather than the most important people in the world. The way we expect young adults to be independent from the state, but dependent on their parents. The way we talk about social mobility in glowing terms, but don’t really mean it, because we would never countenance the possibility of our own kids swapping places with someone further down the ladder. Which brings us back to the real problem: inequality.