Category Archives: Sleep

Long Term Effects of Crying It Out (CIO)

Crying it out (CIO) has become a popular tool among Western parents seeking to get their babies to sleep through the night. It ranges from controlled crying – leaving a baby to cry for a few minutes at a time before comforting him – to extinction – leaving a baby to cry until he stops, which can take hours.

CIO is naturally a very controversial topic, and the parental blogosphere is awash in opinions and scientific research on the matter. Having co-written a book on natural baby care, I can report that almost any mainstream practice has research to back it up and research to discount it. And we can find wonderful critiques of those scientific studies and their flaws.

Most parents choose the path that feels right to them, and then find the research to back up their choice. Personally, I’m comfortable with my practice of comforting my babies every time they cry.

As my intuitive life coaching practice has evolved, I’ve incorporated into it complimentary practices, including energy healing and shamanism. And my accompanying research led me to an interesting discovery.

Shamanic journeying is a practice by which a healer, or shaman, accesses an altered state of consciousness in order to retrieve lost parts of the soul. These lost parts have fled the body – or more aptly, the unified psyche – due to emotionally or physically traumatic events, leading to a psychological condition known as disassociation.

According to the American Psychiatrical Association (APA), “Dissociation has been defined in several different ways:

  • a disruption of and/or discontinuity in the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control, and behavior
  • a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment. The disruption may be sudden or gradual, transient or chronic.
  • an unconscious defense mechanism involving the segregation of any group of mental or behavioral processes from the rest of the person’s psychic activity; may entail the separation of an idea from its accompanying emotional tone, as seen in dissociative and conversion disorders.

Dissociation is often considered to exist on a spectrum or continuum, ranging from normal (normative dissociation) to pathological dissociation.”

Soul loss or disassociation may sound obscure, but it’s a self-protection tool that we all use at some point. When in trauma, we have the capacity to separate from the source of pain, lifting into another mental plane. We can do this whether the trauma is severe, like loss of a limb, or moderate, like an embarrassment. The defining factor in a dissociative event that leads to soul loss is that the part of us that left our body finds the experience so painful that it chooses to flee for good. The resultant experience of a person who experienced soul loss can range from mild – a lack of energy, or a sense of not being fully engaged in one’s life, to severe – depression or suicidal tendencies. It can often be recognized by a vacant look in one’s eyes.

In most cases soul loss can be reversed, but in Western cultures it usually goes undiagnosed, and shamanic techniques are not yet mainstream enough that the average sufferer would know how to find a remedy. Psychologists have many tools to treat disassociation over time, but it’s my understanding that these methods aren’t as effective as shamanic journeying, which can cure soul loss in one session.

Let’s circle back to our original topic – crying it out. Infants are hard wired to cry out in order to have their needs met, and their little bodies get increasingly stressed when those needs are ignored. Babies who are left to cry experience the distress of 1. having a need that isn’t being met, 2. being unable to meet that need themselves, and 3. being alone in the world with those problems. Adults have the capacity to view his tears in a larger context, but to babies that is the big picture.

Is crying-it-out a significant enough trauma to cause soul loss? That depends upon the circumstances and the baby. The baby’s temperament shapes his perspective regarding his situation. Soul loss is self-protective mechanism that kicks in when trauma is experienced, and a subjectively traumatic CIO circumstance could therefore cause soul loss.

My own life coach once referred to my nighttime parenting methods as “stepping in the line of fire to protect the baby.” Sure, I’m tired. But I also have enough experience to know that this will end, which my baby doesn’t. The tears may stop, but the impacts of his hurt would live on, whether in the form of soul loss or a lesser wounding of the spirit.

When soul loss and psychological wounding are at risk, it’s worth seriously considering alternative sleep practices.  Co-sleeping and night nursing are our tools to meet nighttime needs. Those long nights with waking babies are certainly trying, yet the adage “the days are long but the years are short” holds true. The more love we provide during a child’s formative years, the better we equip them to handle life’s inevitable challenges from a place of strength.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is a career and life coach whose passion is to help women realize their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

SleepBuddy Review and Giveaway

SleepBuddy

Sleep. It’s a perpetual challenge for parents of young children. We’ve had our own share of challenges, though as my daughter ages it’s been getting much better. And yet there’s still room for improvement.

I reached out to SleepBuddy for several reasons. Partly because I was interested in giving my almost 3-year-old a tool to help her regulate her own internal clock, as I can see her itching to become more self sufficient in so many ways.

My top goal in using a “toddler alarm clock” – of which SleepBuddy was the most visually appealing I’d found – was to gently help my toddler learn to delay her morning nursing session.

Newly 3, my girl is nursing an average of twice per day, going down to sleep at night and waking in the morning. She’s deeply attached to these sessions, so any attempts to cease them altogether have been fervently denied. Encouraging her to wait to nurse until sunrise worked well in the winter, but with the spring came earlier and earlier wake-ups.

Enter the SleepBuddy. We set it to be active (meaning that its blue light, which has replaced her nightlight, is on) from 7:30pm to 7:30am, which approximately matches her sleep schedule on a good day. Her early morning nursing schedule, on the other hand, typically began at 5:30 or 6. Could the clock help her learn to delay nursing by 2 hours each morning, bringing more restful sleep to her and her co-sleeping mama?

I have to say, I believe it really could have, had I not made a critical error in judgement. I began using the SleepBuddy two days before a trip away for a long weekend. For those first two nights, I witnessed an eagerness to integrate and master the new information provided by the SleepBuddy. By the second night, she was willingly waiting to nurse until the clock hit 7:30am, and I thought I was home free.

As any parent of young children knows, vacations and schedule interruptions can wreak havoc even on deep-seated routines. So it would have served me well to anticipate and delay use of the SleepBuddy until after our trip. I brought it along for the ride, then back home, and in the month since we began using it, it’s become a focal point in her room. The challenge is, it didn’t solve the problem I intended.

Here’s what the SleepBuddy has done for us. It’s given our girl a concrete sign that she (and we) can point to in order to validate our claims that it really is time for bed. This makes it easier to get upstairs and into our nighttime routine. It gives her some sense of ownership over her sleep schedule, knowing that she goes to sleep when the light goes on and gets up when it goes off, approximately.

Here’s what it could do, if I felt like it was worth the tears. It could be a marker of what time it is appropriate to nurse in the morning. Yet now that the SleepBuddy is helping motivate her to get into bed earlier, and with age her nighttime wakings are becoming fewer and fewer, I’m less motivated to initiate a struggle over an extra 1.5 hours of sleep. Also, she’s developed such fond feelings for her clock that I’m not eager to break her trust in it.

Do I appreciate the benefits the SleepBuddy has brought to our household and to my little girl? Absolutely.

Do I regret how I initiated its entry into our nighttime routine? Yes. I feel that I could have had a gentle, empowering sleep tool that would have maximized sleep by minimizing tears. But I know these years are short and the days of nursing will soon be behind us. I know that others can learn from our experience and reap benefits unique to their own families.

Altogether, I’ve found the SleepBuddy to be a positive experience and an empowering tool for my eager, independence-seeking child. I’m excited that we’re able to give one away to one lucky family out there. Interested? Read on for details.

The Other Baby Book fans: Want to win a SleepBuddy?

To enter, leave a comment below with the reason you’d like a SleepBuddy, and your email address, by June 16th at 11:59pm.

If you’d like additional entries, leave separate comments after completing each of the following:

1. Like SleepBuddy on Facebook

2. Like The Other Baby Book on FB. (Let us know if you already like us!)

3. Follow @otherbabybook on Twitter.

4. Subscribe to our blog.

5. Post a link to this giveaway on your FB or Twitter.

 

Also, check out Blog Giveaway Directory.

4 Things I’ll Do Differently – Preparing for Baby #2

img_6116I’m two weeks away from my due date, anticipating the birth of my second baby. Since becoming a mom, making my way through the first three mystifying years of parenthood, and sorting through mountains of research while co-authoring The Other Baby Book, my perspective has shifted. As a result, so have my decisions. I’ll give you a brief run down of what I plan to change this time around.

1. Birth. We’re preparing a natural home birth, a huge departure from the epidural hospital birth I planned the first time around. After sorting through the data, I found that home births were as safe or safer for healthy moms and babies, and I relish the thought of being surrounded by family and caring midwives who see birth as a empowering natural process. I also value being able to call the shots about how I labor and what happens to my baby immediately after birth.

2. Sleep. The first time around, I famously said that the baby would sleep in her crib, in her own room from day 1. I had all sorts of illegitimate fears about how bringing a baby into my bedroom might negatively impact my marriage, and misconceptions about healthy and appropriate sleep environments for newborns. This time we have a co-sleeper on hand, but we now know that the best way to optimize sleep and care for our baby will be to bring him/her safely into our bed from the start. (For a safe bed-sharing checklist, click here.)

3. Diapers. The first time around, I was afraid of the stigma and workload involved in cloth diapering. We used disposables for the first 4-5 months, though we pottied our baby beginning in her first week of life. This time around, I plan to use cloth from the beginning, and to be a bit more pro-active about pottying the baby both at night and when out on the town. With a 3 year old who’s very nurturing and attuned, I’m hoping that my little helper can help me keep our baby attuned to his/her pottying needs.

4. Baby Wearing. The first time around, I was terrified of putting my newborn in a carrier, and spent many hours holding her and sitting. With an active toddler to care for, this time around I’m planning to make a lightweight cotton wrap that I can use to tote the baby to all our activities. I’ve learned that there’s little cause for shlepping those heavy carseats everywhere, that the freer my hands are and the closer my baby is to me and to milk, the happier we all will be.

Top Cosleeping Myths, Busted.

Cosleeping Myths Turned Upside-Down
Cosleeping Myths Turned Upside-Down

“I have a secret,” a new mom pulled me aside and whispered. “My baby sleeps in my bed. I’m worried I’m putting her at risk.”

Sadly, these types of secrets are shared with moms like me all the time. By moms like me, I mean modern moms who openly embrace traditional parenting practices like bed-sharing. While normally a private person, I’ve outed myself to help fill a huge information gap for new parents.

If infant sleep is such a vital issue for new parents, and new babies have been sleeping in their mothers’ arms since time began, then why is bed-sharing such a taboo subject?

A 1999 CPSC Safety Alert warned the public not to bring babies into adult beds after recording 515 bed-sharing deaths over an eight-year period. The medical community took decisive action, creating poster campaigns and educating new parents about the dangers of bed-sharing.

If you compare these 515 bed-sharing losses to the number of SIDS deaths (AKA crib deaths) across the same eight-year period, you’ll find 33,837. So why the uproar over just 1.5% of sleep-related infant deaths over a decade? The answer lies beyond the scope of this post, but I believe our cultural ideas about early independence have shaped our authorities’ attitudes toward bed-sharing.

The fact is, the vast majority of these tragic bed-sharing deaths were preventable – caused by major risk factors like drug or alcohol use by a caretaker, bulky bedding, sofa-sleeping, or bed frames with gaps that entrapped babies. A safe-sleeping checklist could have literally made the difference between life and death.

Today, most new parents leave the hospital armed with actionable tips to prevent SIDS. Such education efforts have successfully halved annual SIDS deaths over the past 20 years. Yet we still lose over 2,000 babies a year to SIDS! Compare this to about 60 bed-sharing deaths per year, most of which could be prevented by a shift in the “abstinence” policy embraced by U.S. authorities. Pretending that bed-sharing is not an option is a major disservice to the more than 13% of Americans who openly bed-share, and the many thousands of families who do so privately.

Sadly, parents who respond to their babies’ needs by sharing sleep are swimming against the mainstream. While some speak out confidently, many keep quiet and treat their sleeping arrangement as a shameful secret. This despite bed-sharing being statistically safer than crib-sleeping. It’s kind of like hiding the fact that you strap your baby into a carseat when going for a drive.

Keeping our babies alive is our #1 responsibility as new parents, but the numbers are just one side of the co-sleeping story.

Hands down, bringing my baby into bed was the single most transformative tool that allowed our whole family to sleep peacefully during those crucial first months together.

New babies have tiny stomachs, and they require frequent feedings for physical and emotional nourishment. By keeping babies close in the nighttime hours, parents can maximize sleep time for the whole family.

Babies are also nourished by touch, a key element to their survival and sense of security in those early months. A baby needs frequent loving touch to anchor himself in his new world, to form a secure attachment to his caregivers, and to facilitate strong brain development and emotional regulation skills.

And yes, we’ve all heard the popular refrain about how you can “spoil” your baby by holding him too much, or meeting his needs too regularly. Not only has science disproven this sad notion, it also defies common sense. How did you feel when you were little and your parents didn’t soothe your tears? Angry? Resentful? Alone? How did you feel when they comforted you? Loved? Cherished? Valued? Spoiling comes from overindulging wants, like toys, candy and television. Not from meeting needs. And definitely not from loving your baby.

Most of us who have been through what I like to call “baby boot camp” – those first three months caring for a newborn – are familiar with the rhythm of sleepless nights. The baby cries, and is soothed to sleep in mom or dad’s arms. The baby is put down to sleep in his bassinette or crib, and promptly wakes up screaming. Repeat, ad infinitum.

Sleepless nights not only make us crazy, they also can make us resent our little ones. Why can’t they sleep like a “normal baby,” we wonder. It rarely occurs to us that normal babies don’t sleep in cribs.

Cribs were invented by entrepreneurs, not delivered by the stork. They are not the natural state of affairs for babies. Cribs don’t meet babies’ need for closeness to their caregivers, nor access to food sources. In fact, cribs block those two essential needs.

Leading sleep researcher Dr. James McKenna comments in The Other Baby Book, “Human infants are not designed to sleep alone, as they are born exceedingly neurologically immature. The best protection you can give your baby is to never let your baby sleep alone.”

Practicing safe bed-sharing was my “Aha” moment. My baby slept contentedly by my side, waking briefly to nurse throughout the night. The act of nursing released the blissful mothering hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which easily lulled me back to sleep. No more hauling my butt out of bed in the middle of the night for feedings; no more miserable hours wasted trying to keep us both awake to finish a feeding.

It’s no wonder so many moms do what comes naturally to bring peace to their babies. Bed-sharing is a miracle-drug for new mom and baby sleep.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is a career and life coach whose passion is to help women realize their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and daughter.

Why babies don’t “behave”

Have you ever had someone comment to you how “well-behaved” your baby is? If not, don’t worry, just read on.

This compliment reflects a pervasive Western misconception about how babies function. Have you ever met an under-one-year-old who understood what society expected of him and adjusted his behavior to accomodate those expectations? I haven’t.

I was among the lucky parents who was approached by strangers who commented on my baby’s “good behavior” (as opposed to those parents who received seething glares from fellow diners at a restaurant – although, believe me, we got those, too). But I deflected every compliment with a comment on my baby’s state of mind, like, “her tummy’s full and she’s satisfied” or “she’s well-rested.”

Every parent who’s been there knows that it’s impossible to control your baby’s behavior. The best effort we can make to ensure that our baby reflects the contentment and joy we associate with “good” behavior is to anticipate and meet his needs, as well as we can.

My baby was “well-behaved” because her needs were met. She had trouble sleeping alone, so I cuddled her to sleep. She often wanted to nurse, and I met her requests as quickly as possible. She preferred being held to sitting in a carseat, so we carried her in arms or in an ergo most of her first year and well into her second.

Was my baby responsible for regulating her internal state to please strangers in restaurants and supermarkets? No. Her parents were. And believe me, we weren’t thinking about those strangers when we were doing it.

We didn’t do a perfect job, if such a thing exists, but we did the best we could. And she let us know instantly how well we were doing. And so, I guess, did all those strangers.

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Miriam is a work from home mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old. Miriam’s other loves are her husband Misha, and escaping the Boston winters with friends and family in Israel. She loves reading parenting books, lunchtime yoga classes, crafting and helping others find their purpose through life coaching.

Mama Musings: Operation No More Night Boob, Part One (Or, Why We Night Weaned)

Some time around the beginning of my second trimester, once the disbelief about this second pregnancy had begun to settle, I came to the conclusion that it might be time to seriously reconsider the possibility night weaning my then 19 month old. I am open to and hopeful about tandem nursing, but the thought of tandem nursing at night? It made me want to weep big, hot tears.

You see, at 19 months, my kiddo had never slept through the night. He was still waking every two to four hours to nurse. There were times when this night-nursing frequency felt unbearable, but also times when it was decently manageable. We bedshare, and while I solidly credit this practice with strengthening our nursing relationship, I also quietly worried that our family bed set-up could be a giant stick in the spoke on our journey to ever sleeping through the night.

Sleep, oh, infinitely precious sleep! Like any new bleary-eyed parent, I’d done a fair share of reading about infant sleep, some of it instructive and insightful, and some of it…? Well, not so much. I remember one time taking a sleep book with me to a salon to read during some much-needed mama pampering , and it wasn’t until my stylist asked me, “Can you, um, relax your shoulders a bit?” that I realized how tensely I reacting to the dispiriting book I was reading. (Who does that? Reads about infant sleep while they’re supposed to be relaxing? A desperate and exhausted parent, that’s who.)

I don’t mean for this post to be about sleep, per se; you and I could probably sit down together over a pot of tea and talk all night about all of the sleep literature that’s out there and how it jives (or doesn’t) with our respective families’ needs.  After reading the good stuff and the garbage, these three tenets undergirded my personal philosophy about sleep: 1)Nighttime parenting is just as important as daytime parenting; 2)We share sleep  safely; and 3)Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other for my son, and he’ll get there at his own pace.

I’d tried to night wean my son in the past, and it was a pretty gnarly experience. I’d long held on to Dr. Jay Gordon’s approach for night weaning for bedsharing families, like a hopeful how-to manual  for balancing what felt like, to me, the competing goals of sleep and gentle nighttime parenting. This approach relies heavily on the non-nursing partner’s involvement, and the non-nursing partner in this house is much slower to rouse than me. By the time he awoke to parent our son back to sleep, our son was wider awake and more difficult to soothe than he would have been had I just simply popped a boob in his eager mouth. After a few nights of these shenanigans, I figured it was easier on everyone if I just kept on keepin’ on with the boob-poppin’. The kiddo relaxed back into sleep faster, the husband hardly stirred and was better rested for his work day, and I was better able to relax next to a toddler who wasn’t steadily ramping up to a full awakening.

I had hope for the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but it, too, was a stunning exercise in defeat for us. The Pantley Pull Off (the gentle removal method) was simply too confusing for my son: Wait, I get the boob, but then you take it away? And then I get it again, and you take it away again? WAAAHHHH!  And, similar to my experience with Dr. Gordon’s plan, I found that it was decidedly easier to just nurse him back down all the way. I came to slowly understand that it wasn’t that these approaches were unhelpful (I know peeps who’ve had good experiences), but rather it was that my son simply was not ready to be night weaned. I decided to table our night weaning efforts indefinitely.

Enter the unexpected, yet someday-hoped-for second pregnancy. Suddenly, sleep seemed like it would never recover from its endangered status anytime in the foreseeable future. More than six months after our last attempt at night weaning, I heaved a big, weary sigh and decided it was time to test the waters again. Thus commenced Operation No More Night Boob.

In the next week I’ll be sharing more detail about how we night weaned, but here’s a sneak preview: my approach wasn’t anything I’d read in book or on a website. My approach had everything to do with listening to my mothering gut and to my child. Stay tuned!

Rhianna composed the bulk of this post from her family bed in St. Louis, snuggled next to the cutest and snoring-est two dudes she knows. She is currently scratching her head over the best way to introduce a future night-nursing sibling to their shared sleep set-up.

Photo credit.

Babyhood for Sale!

It’s 2:50am, Dalia’s second week home from the hospital. I’m slouched in bed, my bedside lamp lit, reading The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. Misha paces the room with Dalia draped over his arm, a la The Happiest Baby on the Block, jostling her lightly and singing in her ear.

“I’ve found it!” I shout (in a whisper, of course – I don’t want to initiate another round of endless crying), “THE ANSWER! Here, let me read it to you.” “Just tell me what it says,” Misha whispers in frustration. “Okay, it says not to do anything else but pat her on the back—one pat per second, like a clock—and shush loudly in her ear. Not short shushes, but long, sustained shushes. We can’t do anything but that—no jostling, no singing, nothing. Or else she’ll never learn to go back to sleep quickly.” “But she likes the bouncing,” Misha protests. “No, stop bouncing her!” I panic. “It says here that bouncing stimulates her. Let’s try it this way.”

Fast forward three sleepless nights. The shush-pat is not working. Not only is it not working, we’re all miserable. This technique, billed as the answer to all our sleep problems, is a dud. This is when my faith in The Baby Whisperer takes a dive. In fact, this is when I begin to understand why there are SO MANY BABY BOOKS on the shelves. Because there are SO MANY BABIES! And so many parents. So many parents with different thoughts, opinions and beliefs about what would be right for them and for their babies.

 How does a parent find the right book with the right instructions for their individual baby? Before I had a baby, this seemed like the right question. But now that I’m further along in the trenches, I realize that the premise behind my question was flawed.

Does a parent need a book to tell them how to parent? I’ll start with a resounding “No.” Each of us has all the resources we need to parent without once setting foot in a bookstore. These resources can be collectively referred to as a parent’s instinct.

Okay, I’ll concede–“No, a parent does not need a book to tell them how to parent” seems like a strange answer coming from the co-author of The Other Baby Book. So why did we bother writing a book?

 The answer boils down to the society we live in—the types of societies that most modern Westerners live in. We’ve gotten so used to the lightening-speed pace of discovery that we’ve trained ourselves to go out and buy the next best thing in the market, and to quickly adapt to the comforts it provides us. We adapt so quickly, that we begin to forget how we lived before that invention, be it a crib, diapers or baby food.

Once we’ve come to accept, as most of us have, that a crib is where a baby should sleep, a diaper is where a baby should eliminate, and baby food is what a baby should eat, anything else begins to look crazy. We get so used to the adaptations that come along with our modern lifestyle—even the horrible parts like braving months of sleepless nights, dealing with a diaper blow-out, and ignoring our hunger while we spoon feed our babies their meals—that we believe these incidents are natural side-effects of parenthood, part of the package. It’s only when we get a taste of the other side, of parenting without these “essential” props, that we begin to understand that some of these conveniences are entirely inconvenient. While life without these props may require some adaptation, it’s much easier to hear our babies’ needs, and our own instincts, without all the stuff blocking our view.

We read about native peoples who have never heard of colic, who know intuitively when their child needs to use the bathroom, and among whom obesity is unheard of, and we think their secrets are inaccessible to us. They appear to be veiled in heredity, lifestyle and some mystical rites passed down from generation to generation. But, in truth, Western parents around the world are gaining access to those secrets every day, and applying them with increasing degrees of success. Maybe not to the extent that these native peoples do, but we still have the rest of the noise of our modern world to contend with. And the more “modern” people catch on, the more these secrets become accessible to everyone.

Back to our purpose in writing the book. When we strip away the noise of the marketing machines that surround our lives, we can devote our full attention to building a relationship with our babies. No more trying to figure out why the baby doesn’t want to sleep in the crib, and how to get him back in there. When we forget the idea that the baby is supposed to sleep in a crib—which is the message that crib manufacturers need us to believe, by the way—we can listen to our own instincts to keep our newborns close by. Also, since the “how to’s” of practices such as bed-sharing have been lost to us in the past few generations of parenting, our book shares vital safety guidelines that are built into other societies’ traditions around sleep.

Looking back, our first weeks as parents were the most difficult we’ve ever faced. Dalia had a really hard time falling asleep by herself (she still does, but we follow her lead on that front). Misha and I took turns, sleep deprived, trying every solution we could think of. Anything but bed sharing, which our hospital staff had warned us was dangerous, and so we didn’t even consider as an option.

Our perspective on bed sharing began to shift when we met some co-sleeping families. I vetted their stories of heavenly sleep and assurances of safety with research on the benefits and dangers of co-sleeping. Appeased, I compiled a safety checklist and we tried it the next night.

We were so nervous that first night, the only one of us who slept well was Dalia. I was terrified I’d roll over onto her, or that Misha would. I slept a bit better with each passing night until we had successfully slept a full night together, waking just briefly to nurse when Dalia got hungry. As an added bonus, soon after we started co-sleeping my milk supply rose to meet Dalia’s needs, and I stopped supplementing her feeds with formula.

 On our eight-year wedding anniversary, three days before Dalia’s first birthday, Dalia’s grandparents babysat while Misha and I ate dinner at our favorite restaurant. To mark the end of our first year as parents, we shared our favorite things about parenting. Surprisingly, co-sleeping was at the top of both of our lists. What began as a stopgap solution to sleepless nights has brought enormous joy to all of us.

I entered parenthood with very different ideas about how I would care for my baby. After meeting my baby and getting to know her needs and opinions, I jumped off my intended path, experimented, and found the practices that work the best for our family.

Just because the approach we’ve taken works for us doesn’t mean it will work for you. Part of it may, or none of it may. And that’s okay. More than okay, that’s real life. Just because someone says something is a “must-have” or “must-do”, doesn’t mean it is, if it doesn’t resonate with you or your baby.

The best job we can do as parents is to be conscious of which tools best fit our families—values, lifestyle, personalities and all. No matter what anyone else tries to sell us.

Q&A: The All Night Nurser

Q: Lily  just turned 8 months, and is still up several times during the night to comfort nurse (I think).  I am not great at letting her cry, so I just end up letting her use me as a pacifier, so I don’t really get much sleep.  I am used to it, but I am sure I would be better off with some extended sleep one of these days! Do you have any advice about how I can help her sleep on her own — I have been trying to up her solids during the day, but she is more interested in nursing still.
A, Mom of 2 boys, 1 girl
A:  Hi A!  I am so psyched that yours is my first question!
Firstly, hooray for breastfeeding for 8 months and wanting to continue.  Lily is a lucky gal.  And sorry to hear that your sleep is suffering.  I hope some of the following thoughts will help.
Your question says “comfort nursing” but she could very well be hungry, so let’s tackle that first. I bet she is increasingly interested in and distracted by her brothers and not concentrating on daytime feedings, right? Offering high-calorie, nutritious table foods is wonderful, but it is totally age appropriate that she continues to prefer breastmilk and she may until 12 months or later.  Sooooo, keep presenting solids while you nurse on demand.  Not at the same time, ha, you know what I mean. And if you can at all manage it see if you can arrange some nursing sessions with no competing stimuli.
I’d start offering a top-off when YOU go to bed, even if its 10 or 11pm and she’s been down for hours.  This can buy you 6 hours on a good night!
If you don’t already, I’d encourage you to cosleep and get good at feeding in the side lying position.  Wear a loose nightgown or t-shirt.  I hear all the time that once a child can help himself, Mom can nearly sleep through it.  And because sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone, most cosleeping babies do wake at least once a night until 12 months or later.
Keep yourself healthy so that interrupted sleep doesn’t completely wreck your days-  sunshine, good whole foods, probiotics, vitamins, water.  Don’t over commit or pack your calendar. Cut stress from your life whenever you can.  Accept family help with big kids or hire a cheap teenaged mother’s helper so you can occasionally nap with baby. Lastly and most important, hold on to your sense of humor and realize how quickly she will grow up.  Personally I think I’m going to like these bumpy nights more than I’ll like being awake and waiting for a 17 year old’s car in the driveway.
Will you let me know how it goes? And please, if Lily and her tired parents are looking for gentle night weaning thoughts down the road, email again!

Zzzzzzz

Join me, Mama!

I love naps! Who doesn’t, right? That’s a cheap applause line if I’ve ever written one.  It’s practically “It’s great to be here in Toledo, the best city in the world.”

But I do love ‘em. I used to doze in the passenger seat on the long drive from NY to Boston; doze on planes, doze on a lounge chair at the pool, doze at my desk.  Just kidding about that last one, former bosses.  Oh that reminds me – yesterday I was watching my 3 year old jump off the side of the pool about 40 times in a row and over his shoulder I could see this middle aged dude just snoozing the afternoon away, mouth agape. I was so jealous that I wished a wasp would fly into his mouth.  Somebody’s tired, eh?

Anywho, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so I happen to be extremely committed to awesome, consistent, gentle nighttime parenting.  My motto has always been “be the same parent 24 hours/day”.  And that, my friends, is a tall, tall order.  I’ve failed, but I keep trying because I think it’s a worthy goal and I like a good challenge.

For the first 2 years of motherhood a key component to being awesome was napping with my son.  Luckily my guy excelled at naps.  I was often the envy of playgroup with tales of his 3 hour zonk-out sessions which gave me ample opportunity to refill my tank with some shut eye by baby’s side if only for 30 minutes. Sometimes I’d be the best wife in the world and and get some household chores done to boot.
When I got pregnant with my 2nd son I was in denial that those days were over.  I fantasized about all three of us napping simultaneously.  Psych!

I’d also forgotten about the topsy-turvy day-is-night-is-day schedule of the first 60 days or so.  With #1 I remember complaining to a childless friend “I’m stuck nursing all day.”  Man, I didn’t know how great I had it “stuck” in a comfy club chair, living on Baby Time, snoozing when he did.  Just one tiny being relying on me.

My point is this and sorry for burying the lede here: Nap with your child if you are EVER offered the chance.  Just do it, okay?  Don’t think about the reasons not to, because when it comes down to it, you probably have the time or energy to cross, like, one lame thing off the To-Dos if you don’t nap.  And if you’re honest with yourself, when you don’t nap you’ll check Facebook and Perez Hilton and eat a sleeve of Thin Mints because you’re starving from breastfeeding.  So push out of your mind the dirty dishes and the last time you shaved your legs and climb in the nest. Of all the parenting choices you have in a day, that’s one decision you won’t regret.

Rebecca is Mom to one napper and one non-napper.  To quote Bill Cosby, she enjoys sleep like a good steak and is starting to “get” her grandparents 2 twin beds which she used to find hilarious.