Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

There are so many differences in the raising of a second child.  I will agree with most that parents, myself included, are a bit more relaxed with the second child.  With Alex and Ethan being pretty close together, I'm hyper aware of when I may be too tough on the big guy and too easy on the baby.  That being said, personality plays a big role in how I'm raising them.  Alex is a tough nut.  He has a very strong personality:  He seems to have always known who he is and what he wants.  He's pretty driven for a 2.75 year old.  Ethan on the other hand, is a seriously laid back dude.  He'll wander into his and Alex's room and play blocks by himself.  If I wasn't a frequent checker, I'd be paranoid that he'd climbed out of the window and was halfway to California.  He DOES have a wicked temper though.  It takes a while to fire, but if he gets too frustrated at something his scream can shatter glass.  With the two disperate personalities I have to take two approaches.  Alex requires a good bit of nudging to keep him on a non destructive path, whereas Ethan just needs a single course correction and he's of in the suggested direction.

Their sleeping patterns ended up wildly different as well.  Alex never learned to latch and was stuck to wires and IVs for the first week of his existence.  I think it had a major impact on his need for comfort at bedtime.  The driven part of his nature is in direct opposition of this however, and makes him fight sleep with full force.  The result has been a baby that HAD to have mama, but would headbutt me in the teeth at every opportunity in order to stay awake.  He would flip and he would flop and he would rear back with every ounce of strength to come back at me at full force.  Every single time I needed to get him back to sleep it would be a fight for a minium of 30 minutes, but more likely upwards of an hour.  My glider has a permanent bum mark from the many, many, manymanymany hours I rocked him.  When I finally hit breaking point, he was a year and half old and I was growing bigger with my pregnancy by the minute.  I reached out to a core group of fantastic mama friends to help me with sleep training.  I wanted to do it "gently" in my heart but knew that Alex would simply not respond.  He'd be sucking me back into the rocking routine in a hot minute.  I couldn't wait any longer.  My need for sleep and my shrinking lap simply weren't going to last another week.  So, following some sage advice from "the mom of A" I did the 5-10-15 method.  You put the baby in his bed and soothe him a bit, then let him know you are going and he needs to go to sleep.  Then after the inevitable 5 minutes of freaking out (yup, the mom and the kid) you go in, settle the baby back down and leave.  You cannot pick him up or it just won't work.  Then repeat 10 minutes later then 15 after that.  After the 15 minute mark you have to just let it go.  It's a tough road.  It's not for every parent and certainly not for every kid.  It really worked for Alex though.  It was 2 nights of Alex crying, mommy pacing the floor, and daddy blissfully working lates.  I HAD to do it when D wasn't home because the first time he looked at me while Alex was screaming would have cracked me.  He could look at me to ask me the time, but all of the self doubt and worry that I was irrevocably "breaking" my baby would have bubbled to the surface like Vesuvius on a bad day.  After the 2 bad nights, Alex went to bed with little to no fight and finally slept through the night until 6 am.  We've had small setbacks along the way, but all in all he's pretty good about bedtime.

Ethan has been a different story entirely.  Born a mere 2.5 hours from the onset of labor, you'd think he was the one with unstoppable drive.  But birth was the only thing that Ethan has been in hurry for thus far.  His bed was set up by mine in the hospital but he spent most if his time in mine.  He latched like a barracuda and loved snuggling, but was totally cool with being put in his bassinet when we arrived back home.  And in that bassinet he stayed until his legs had to be slightly bent to lay in it.  He was simply not interested in sleeping anywhere else and put up a little fuss at any alternative.  Finally, in an effort to pry him out of his bassinet-haven, I took the basket off it's stand (it was starting to feel a bit dangerous anyway!) and set it in the bottom of the pack and play.  The coup de grace to the bassinet was at the end of a nap when I heard him giggling to himself.  He had just learned to roll over the day before and had rolled himself out of the basket.  The basket had righted itself so he ended up laying on his tummy next to it.  To Ethan, it was the funniest darned thing that he'd ever done.  To me, it was a close call.  If he'd done that a mere 5 days earlier he'd have flipped his basket off the stand.  I put the "bassinet attachment" in the top of the pack and play so I wouldn't have to reach down 3 feet in the middle of the night to grab him.  That only lasted a month until he was too heavy, but he was pretty content with it.  I then had to make a big decision.  He'd been in our room longer than Alex ever had.  Do I move him into the spare room?  Do I risk putting him in the room he would ultimately share with Alex knowing that fussing may wake up my big guy?  Do I move the crib into our room?  I didn't want to alienate my husband by keeping the baby in the room, but when I mentioned it to D, he seemed pretty okay with the idea.  So I dismantled the crib (it was literally a half inch too big to go in and out of our door frames.  sigh.) and reassembled it in our room.  It even matched the furniture.  Alex got his "big boy bed" with Toy Story on it and hasn't looked back.

Now Ethan is approaching one and it's time to consider what to do to get him through the night and move him in with Alex.  A good friend, "mom of H" is currently sleep training her son very successfully with a gentle night weaning method.  I am considering this, but my little dude is already doing the work for me.  He's been breast fed his whole infancy and I'm starting to wean him under the care of our pediatrician.  Now that he's drinking cow's milk along with mama milk at night, he's sleeping longer and longer without interruptions.  In addition to that he's now a walker.  This new trick has exhausted him in an altogether different way which has consolidated his naps to one long snooze rather than two shorties.  He is the one leading this, because his personality allows for it.  He's not a "baby jerk" when he gets exhausted.  He just gets a bit fussy.  He also will not allow himself to be overtired.  He'll sit himself down or pull on your pant leg and rub his eyes.  When it's time to put him down, he doesn't want a bottle or breast in his mouth to fall asleep.  He'll drink, then push it away and snuggle in.  He does have occasions where he will fight sleep, but they are few and far between.  He just wants to lay on his side with me facing him and look at my face until his eyelids droop.  If he wakes slightly when I put him in his bed, he sees where he is, sighs, and fades back to sleep.  Who knows if I'll even have to intervene.

And after the work I've done with Alex to calm the inner monster at bedtime, he's very content with a bit of cuddling, a cup of milk and a good made-up story about himself, Ethan, and his neighbor buddy Shay.
(Alex sleeping with his Puppy on the cruise)


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