Parenting an Irregular Baby in Five Easy Steps

According to What To Expect, some babies are just irregular. This was my saving grace with little D. Dr. Google was telling me that patterns were supposed to be emerging, that putting my baby on a schedule would be immensely helpful (and not incredibly painful), that her sleeping and eating schedule would gradually become consistent. Well with Delilah, that was all total (pardon my abbreviation) B.S. and when I finally realized it my life got a lot easier.

Did she nap for two hours today? Awesome! Is she going to do it tomorrow? Probably not. Did she take four naps today? She’ll probably take two tomorrow. Time between showing tired signs changed from day to day. Even when she did appear tired she would refuse to nap, and would nap when she didn’t look tired. When she woke up at night changed every night. I did everything I could including keeping a sleep chart and I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Naps too early? Too Late? Was she cold? Was she hot? Was it too light? Too dark? Is she sleeping too long at night? Not long enough? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? WHY AM I A FAILURE?!

I finally read in WTE that some babies are just irregular. Thank god someone finally told me. It took a lot (not all) of my guilt out of the equation. WTE comforted me and said not to expect regularity with my child. Just try for less chaos. And that leads me the steps. Is your kid irregular? Here’s help.

1. Accept irregularity and try for less chaos.

As one of my mom friends wisely told me, you can’t schedule a hurricane. Babywise is not for your child. 2-3-4 is not for your child. Eat Play Sleep is not for your child. Your child is going to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it and you’re just going to have to wing it. Trying to put an irregular baby on some kind of schedule is like pulling teeth. Honestly it’s easier to just go with the flow and accept it. That’s not to say you can’t make little things regular. I always feed Delilah before and after naps. She always goes to bed between 5:30 and 7 at night. She always has play-mat time after her morning feed. Her naps aren’t scheduled, her wake up time isn’t scheduled, and her bedtime is only roughly scheduled. With irregular babies it really is all about the little things.

2. For the love of god stay off the internet.

I know you’re not going to do this step. You can’t help yourself. I can’t either. But googling how to get your child to nap longer or more consistently or sleep more at night will only stress you out. You’ll try everything they suggest, despite the fact it is inconsistent and contradictory, and none of it will work, thus making you believe you are the worst parent who ever walked the earth. Internet bloggers and parent site forum frequenters will tell how their children were on a solid nap schedule at two months. Ignore those people. Those people suck.

3. Expect that your child will sometimes be tired and/or cranky.

This one was a hard one for me, but eventually after 3 failed naps some days I (mostly)stopped feeling guilty that Delilah was tired. She knows how to nap, she was napping fine yesterday and last week. If she’s refusing to take naps today that is not my fault. I’ve done everything I possibly can to get her to sleep at the right time(s), besides some type of witchcraft and or voodoo. If your child is irregular naps will be hard. Sometimes…ha…a lot of times they might refuse them. A failed nap everyday is normal. Your baby will sleep when they need to sleep and otherwise might be a bit cranky. If they are still getting plenty of time to practice skills and are growing and eating they are just fine. Hang in there.

4. Don’t compare your baby to other babies

Probably every child you know will be easier than your baby. That’s ok. But don’t kill yourself over it. Your baby is not your friend’s baby and never will be. Unless you want to secretly steal and or illegally “adopt” your friend’s child, worrying about what they do is pointless. Other babies may start napping on schedule for similar amounts of time from day to day. Yours won’t. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your baby, or that you’re doing anything wrong as a mom. It means your baby is destined to be a cardiac surgeon or airplane pilot working weird shifts and staying up for 36 hours at a time. Seriously. It’ll all work out. Plus they’ll be able to afford one of those super nice nursing homes for you. And when “that” mom at the play group starts bragging about how she had her son sleeping through the night at five weeks don’t kill her. You can’t be a good mom from prison.

5. Remember that you are a good mother.

Irregular children don’t come to everyone but they certainly don’t come only to bad moms. Doing the best you can is enough, and that makes you a fantastic mother.

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Reasons My Daughter is Taking Short Naps – According to Dr. Google

Delilah is almost five months old and is still taking 4-5 45 minute naps a day. Which isn’t really a problem in itself, however she seems to get overtired by the end of the day which makes bedtime hard because she’s cranky (read:screams). So I consulted Dr. Google for help and here’s what I found.

  •  Most babies at this age should be taking at least 2-3 90 minute naps a day. Babies at this age might still be taking cat naps and that’s normal and nothing to worry about. If your baby is taking cat naps you need to be working toward longer naps. Don’t worry about short naps your baby will start consolidating on her own
  • Scheduling is very important for babies. Start scheduling nap and bedtime at 3 months old. Scheduling really only benefits older children who are no longer napping and only at bedtime. Make sure bedtime is at the same time every day. Bedtime should be no more than 2 hours after the last nap and can be moved earlier if naps are short.
  • Her room is too hot. Her room is too cold. Put socks on her feet.
  • Follow a Sleep-Eat-Play routine. SEP routines won’t work because babies will wake up too early because they are hungry.
  • You will have to let your baby cry herself to sleep so she will learn to fall asleep on her own. Never let your child cry herself to sleep as it will cause lasting emotional damage.
  • Use white noise and a pacifier to help sooth babies to sleep. Don’t use white noise and a pacifier because babies become dependent on them.
  • Be there when baby wakes up to sooth her back to sleep for a longer nap. Let baby cry herself back to sleep without you if she wakes too early.
  • Gradually increase the time baby is awake so she won’t go into a nap under-tired and sleep less. Always put baby to sleep at the first sign of fatigue or she will become overtired and won’t sleep.

It was so obvious, I don’t know why I didn’t figure it out before.

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Moms are Crazy and Here are 5 Reasons Why

There’s a long running stereotype out there that women are crazy. While I’m not going to go into the falsehoods and sexism of that, I will admit that moms are crazy. You don’t really even understand how crazy until you become one, and then you look up one day and wonder why you aren’t in a straitjacket talking to a lamp. When you become a mother you should get an infinite prescription of Prozac, Vicodin, and an anti-psychotic and here’s why.

1. We think back fondly on labor.

I’m not saying this isn’t the best day of a new mothers life, but birth is an extremely painful and traumatic event. My own daughter was born naturally (see, CRAZY!) and I look back on it very fondly. When I say this my husband snorts and reminds me of “the dead eyes”, which were apparently the eyes I was looking at him with during my 7.5 hour labor. He describes them as “the look an animal gives you after you’ve hit it with a car and it’s lying on the side of the road wanting to die”. Sounds like fun right? I don’t remember any of that. And if we have another baby I’m planning on giving birth naturally again. You can hand me my straitjacket now.

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2. We’re reverse-hypochondriacs.

When my daughter got her first shots, she cried a lot that day. Understandably because her thighs hurt, she got jabbed with a needle three times. I, however, was convinced that she had gotten one of the crazy rare side effects and her bowels were backed up and about to explode. I made my husband take us to the ER, and about halfway there Baby D was smiling in her car seat, completely fine, and my husband convinced me that we should just go out to Mexican food instead. I took my daughter’s rectal temperature (fun for everyone!) regularly when she was a newborn because I feared (dun dun duuuun) THE FEVER. I would also sneak super close to her while she was sleeping and check to make sure she hadn’t spontaneously stopped breathing. These things might sound crazy to a non-mom, but for us it’s completely normal. Because we’re insane.

My kid licked the dog HE'S GOING TO DIE
My kid licked the dog HE’S GOING TO DIE

3. We’re obsessed with poop.

Color, consistency, frequency of, etc. And we’re happy to discuss it at length with complete strangers.

But Doc it was a little more yellow today and I'm super worried!
But Doc it was a little more yellow today and I’m super worried!

4. We have an unnatural fear of the baby monitor.

It’s not because we watched Insidious, it’s much much worse. It’s because our baby might wake up.

5. We have pathological guilt.

Raising kids is really hard. The little monsters don’t come with instructions and each one is its own bag of cats. That being said, sometimes moms make mistakes raising their kids. These are rarely life-defining. It’s more like…my kid found a tampon applicator in the trash and put it in her mouth. Or….I looked away for ONE SECOND while my kid was in the bath and she stuck her head underwater. I was even holding her up! HOW DID SHE DO THAT?! And, my kid cries a lot, I’m a bad mom. My kid doesn’t sleep enough, I’m a bad mom. My kid hates what I feed her, I’m a bad mom. My kid looked at me funny today, I’m a bad mom. The list goes on. Forever.

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9 Things Mothers Who Choose CIO Don’t Want to Hear

Cry it out is probably the most controversial sleep training method of all time. Some swear by it, others claim it can do lasting damage to your child and is the reason we are a “Prozac nation”. The arguments get heated because nobody wants to be called a bad parent and judged, despite the fact that judging other parents seems to be what many parents do best.

Anything your kid can do mine can do better.
Anything your kid can do mine can do better.

I will admit it, we sleep-trained my daughter. Delilah was born in early October and for the first two weeks everything was blissful. She slept like a champ, basically anywhere, and I remember talking to our pediatrician at her two-week appointment and saying how easy a baby she was. He chuckled knowingly and replied that in a few weeks she was going to get a lot more exciting.

He was right.

When Little D was about eight weeks old she started having sleep issues. No longer did she snooze for 4-6 hour blocks at night, now she wanted to stay up, and her sleep times dropped to less than an hour. Napping was even worse (though completely normal) she would only nap for about 20 minute periods. But she is a breastfed baby and newborns have weird sleep so we slogged through it with nary a complaint (OK so maybe nary isn’t the best word. Many might be a better choice). But by four months, things were getting overwhelming.

sleep-in

We tried putting her in a swing to sleep – She hated it

We tried co-sleeping – She hated it

We tried rocking her to sleep – Works great until mom falls asleep hanging over the side of the bed and the rocking stops

I tried the no-cry sleep solution – The parent who manages to put their baby down awake and the baby doesn’t cry sounds pretty rare to me. Like unicorn rare. And let me tell you, picking them back up and then putting them down again doesn’t change how they feel about being put down.

We tried swaddling and a pacifier – She liked them, but they wouldn’t put her to sleep on their own

We tried the Woombie and Swaddleme when she stopped wanting to be swaddled – She hated them too

We tried bouncing on my birthing ball – It worked! In like five minutes!! How fantastic was that?!! I was thrilled and proud of myself. I didn’t realize I was setting myself up for miserable failure down the road.

By the time Delilah was four months old she could ONLY fall asleep while being bounced on the ball, and the older she got the longer she needed us to bounce. I had unknowingly sleep trained her to need the ball, the pacifier, and the swaddle, although now she hated the swaddle so we would wrap her loosely – but not too loose by god or you’ll feel the wrath of little D! Even worse she would spit her pacifier out every 15 minutes and wake up and scream for mama and dada to replace it.

I pondered taping it to her face more than once.

Does this make me a bad mom?*
Does this make me a bad mom?*

Delilah had become completely dependent on me to put her asleep and keep her asleep. Suffice to say NONE of us were getting any sleep, and Delilah least of all. She was constantly cranky and overtired, and I was ill equipped to deal with her meltdowns because of my own fatigue. My husband walked into our bedroom one Saturday to find little D on the bed screaming and me on the floor sobbing. “What just happened?” He asked. I explained to him that on her third meltdown today I had felt regret. Regret for having my precious daughter. The daughter I loved more than anything else in this world. The immediate guilt was overwhelming and left me in a sobbing pile on the floor. This was not working, this was not me being the best mother I could be. Something had to change.

My husband had suggested cry it out more than once, but I was always resistant. Listening to Delilah cry made me want to blow my brains out. Any mother knows this. But at this point bedtime had become a three hour ordeal of Little D waking every fifteen minutes before finally having a meltdown in my arms because she was so tired and passing out late in the evening. So basically we were doing CIO already, just without her learning to fall asleep on her own. My husband said if she was going to cry anyway, she may as well do it in the crib and learn to sleep at the same time. Our pediatrician agreed.

If I really have to…I guess

I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard. There was a lot of crying the first couple days. Both by Delilah and myself. I drank a lot of wine and played a lot of video games with my headphones on and the sound turned up to hearing-damaging levels. But the amount she cried (before naps and at night) decreased by over an hour each day for the first three days. By day four she fussed 10 minutes before bed. By day nine she fussed for 2. It’s been almost two weeks and she still has her good and bad days. We’ve also encountered an extinction burst, which is apparently a thing I will be dealing with for years to come as a parent. But Baby D has learned to fall asleep by herself. Does she want me to put her in the crib at night? Not really. She WANTS me to hold her all night. But she’s learned to fall asleep after a small amount of grumbling. More often than not she wakes in the morning and burbles and coos instead of crying for fatigue. Sometimes before naps she’ll babble herself to sleep. She’s a more rested and happier baby, and I’m a more capable mother. Was all the crying worth it? Yes. Would I do it again with a second baby? Only if I ABSOLUTELY had to.

That baby definitely looks emotionally damaged and obviously hates her mother.
That baby definitely looks emotionally damaged and obviously hates her mother.

With all that being said, I’ve encountered my fair share (although honestly less than most) of judgement and criticism for choosing CIO for my daughter. Some people just don’t think before they speak. So I’ve included a helpful list here of things you should never say to a CIO mom. Ever. EH-VER!

1. You’re a bad parent.

Gee thanks, tell me how you really feel. Choosing CIO doesn’t make a parent bad anymore than rocking your baby to sleep at night makes a parent good. Parenting is not the sum of sleep training styles. Not to mention that every baby is different and what one set of parents chooses will not work for others. Also, CIO parents are not storybook villains who bring their babies home from the hospital gleefully giggling about how in X number of months they’re going to let them cry themselves to sleep. No parent has that plan. Parents who choose CIO do so because they realize that chronic sleep deprivation of the whole family is causing damage and that more gentle methods of sleep training are not working. That doesn’t make them bad parents, but you judging them does make you an asshole.

2. It doesn’t work.

I mentioned something about about how all babies are different so CIO will work for one and may not for another. But if a parent is at the end of their rope dealing with a chronically overtired infant, saying that their possible only hope to get some rest isn’t going to work isn’t exactly helpful, yanowadimean??

3. Have you tried…

Yes. I have tried it all. CIO was NOT on the top of my lets-try-this-to-get-baby-to-sleep list. It was in fact, at the bottom.

4. CIO damages your child.

You know I feel like maybe…possibly…parents would have consulted their pediatrician along with Dr. Google on whether CIO would irreparably damage their child BEFORE doing it. I just feel like maybe most parents actually care enough about their kids to make sure they are not irrevocably harming them by accident. Oh wait. They do. And the American Academy of Pediatrics has this to say.

5. There was this study on babies’ cortisol levels…

You mean the study with no control group where babies were taken from their mothers by a stranger and put down to sleep in a strange place? That cortisol study? The flaws with that study are many, read about it here.

6. And another one on rats…

Please explain to me how rat licking behavior applies to my human baby’s sleep problems.

7. Only lazy parents choose CIO, it’s the easy way out.

I would have happily gone through labor a second time (and Little D’s birth was un-medicated) to not have to do CIO. HAPPILY. Parents who choose CIO are choosing it because they have no other option. Listening to your child cry is not easy. In fact, it really fucking sucks! If CIO isn’t hard mode in your mind then you’re playing the wrong game.

8. CIO will destroy your relationship with your child.

Honestly this one is just awful. I admit, despite the overwhelming evidence that CIO does not emotionally damage babies, I was on alert for any sign from Baby D that she loved me less because of it. It was my greatest fear. But the truth is that you are your baby’s whole world, and you are teaching them that this is how we sleep at night. They don’t lie there thinking about how much they hate you for leaving them, that’s not how babies think. Yes, they want their mother to come back, but they learn that mom goes away at night and baby goes to sleep, and that’s how the world works. How they feel about mom doesn’t even come into the situation. Again, reference the AAP study above.

9. I’ve never done CIO and never will.

That is fantastic. I am legitimately happy for you and your baby that you have never had to do CIO. I’m really jealous too. I will also point out that if you’ve never even had to consider it, you have NO IDEA what i’m going through and therefore your opinion means absolutely zilch.

Did you face judgment on your sleep training choice, crying or not? Comment below! Please keep in mind rude and judgmental comments will be deleted, if you want to know why please refer to the list above.

Recommended articles:

http://www.troublesometots.com/is-sleep-training-child-abuse/

http://scienceofmom.com/2012/02/13/why-sleep-matters-to-babies-and-parents/

*Note, this is a photo from google, not Baby D. I promise.