Spring has sprung

Spring seems to have sprung… finally! And we’ve had a lovely few days. I think this is my favourite time of the year. As I remarked to a friend this week, “it is not until spring arrives that I realise how truly miserable I have been all winter”.

We have enjoyed several excursions. On Saturday we revisited Oakington Garden Centre with Daddy. Yesterday we enjoyed a walk around Milton Country Park in the sunshine (for a change!) and today we have crossed the border into Suffolk to visit a friend in the little village of Exning.

I love the fact that now I can occupy the both of us for an entire morning or afternoon by pottering to the park or walking through the woods. In the dark depths of winter I have felt obliged to attend countless baby groups, attempting to keep myself entertained whilst cooped up in a dingy hall. And leaving the house has been a breeze: no coats or brollies required. This morning I was able to meet a friend at the park with just a few minutes notice. We popped some light clothes on and I strapped Little Piglet securely to my back in the Ergo.

However the light sunny evenings are playing havoc with Little Piglet’s bedtime routine. And the blackout blind that we purchased in anticipation of this event is too small. But at least he is allowing me to get a lie in every morning (although it means that leaving the house before midday is near impossible at present!).

Below: “Sometimes I fall asleep in the swing”

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Sleep, imperfect sleep. Part 2

Another sleep-related post! Parents of babies and young children spend a lot of their waking hours worrying about and discussing their offspring’s sleeping habits. In “Sleep, imperfect sleep. Part 1” I introduced the Great Porridge Plan designed to encourage Little Piglet to sleep for more hours during the night without needing a feed. Unfortunately, he has spent recent nights feeding from me for a large part of the night, and has refused all solids during the day (who needs solids when there’s milk on offer ALL night?!).

We were fortunate in that Little Piglet slept incredibly well for the first few months, regularly sleeping through the night or waking once, at most. We credited his super sleeping to the faithful swaddle blanket. Little Piglet was just a couple of days old when I discovered the art of swaddling and it was immediately effective, soothing him and and allowing him to sleep for hours. The purpose of swaddling is to prevent the newborn’s startle reflex from awakening them. Swaddling was so effective that we swaddled Little Piglet until he turned 10 months. But little piglet is not so little anymore, and swaddling effectively is almost impossible. For various reasons, his sleep has become very erratic in recent months. He has recently reached a number of developmental milestones, including crawling and cruising, and I suspect he is teething too.

Despite initial concerns about co-sleeping, for us it has been a blessing. Usually Little Piglet spends the first part of the night in his own cot, and on waking transfers into bed with me. This arrangement worked very well when he was sleeping with us for the first 6 months. However we found that we often woke him when we stirred during the night, so we moved him into a neighbouring room with a spare bed for me. Thankfully during our antenatal NCT classes we were taught the fundamentals of safe co-sleeping and in the majority of countries around the world it is standard practice.  I quickly mastered feeding on my side, and regularly drifted off during those sleepy night-feeding sessions. Initially I felt very guilty about this and worried about creating “bad habits” but in time I considered it a very practical and beautiful arrangement.

When Little Piglet was waking 1-2 times per night these arrangements worked extremely well, providing the whole family with adequate rest. But recently, he has been waking up to hourly. At a La Leche League meeting I was reassured that this is entirely normal and healthy behaviour. Nonetheless, I felt like like every day was becoming more and more of a struggle. Because his suck has become so strong, now I rarely fall asleep whilst he feeds and once he has fallen asleep, his snoring can keep me awake! Therefore I needed a plan. Little Piglet will not settle at night with my husband, so for now it is in my hands. We align ourselves with gentle parenting techniques so a cry-it-out approach was not for us. Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-cry sleep solution” has some helpful suggestions as does Dr Jay Gordon (although he suggests that his techniques are used for babies >1 year). Both emphasise the importance of the baby learning to fall asleep without the need to suck on the mother’s breast, but ensuring that they are always comforted by a parent during this process.

Ideally I would like to night-wean little piglet and I hope that by encouraging him to fall asleep without sucking we will achieve this. Eventually I would like my husband to be able to settle him too. But it is a gradual process. At times I feel very demoralised. For example, last week we spent the afternoon with Jake the super sleeper. Jake sleep 13 hours at night! But his parents have worked hard to achieve this, and until recently we have been fairly content with our arrangement. We hope that over the coming months we can gently encourage Little Piglet to sleep better.

Sleep, imperfect sleep. Part 1

Little Piglet slept really well for the first 6 months. Whilst other new mums were complaining of wake up calls every 1-2 hours, we enjoyed nights that were broken only once, if that. We had simply been blessed with a baby that slept relatively well. But from 6 months, things went downhill. At the time of writing, Little Piglet is almost 10 months. Last night he woke three times before 2.30am (although the first I blame on my husband making far too much noise outside his bedroom door). For the rest of the night he slept with me (hubby refuses to sleep in the same room as LP) and still woke me several times for a quick snack.

Whilst some mummy friends have been stressing about creating and storing stashes of purees in their freezers for the little ones, I’ve been a staunch advocate of baby led weaning. Ethan would not touch a spoon until he turned 8.5 months so my research on blw (comprising Gill Rapley‘s bible) paid off. Little Piglet did not really show interest in any food until around 8 months so I continued to offer breastmilk on demand and LP continued to thrive. Now Little Piglet is very interested in food: if he sees it, he wants it! But he doesn’t really want to eat it. He puts it in his mouth, chews it, perhaps swallows a small amount then spits it out. Basically, I gave birth to a little milk monster. Too busy to feed from me during the day, he makes up for it at night. However, I have noticed that if I offer mushy food on a spoon during the day, he does eat more, and he sleeps better! Favourites are porridge and yoghurt.

Strictly speaking, spoon feeding does not constitute baby led weaning. And I am not in a rush to wean my little piglet from the breast. I realise that co-sleeping for the whole night would ease the situation, but I now value some time sleeping alone or with my husband. And being woken once or even twice a night would be ok, but three times or more is a struggle. So I have been experimenting with the amounts of solids I offer on a spoon during the day, and generally speaking, on days when LP has consumed more solids (either from a spoon or as finger food), he sleeps better. I have stuck by my “no purees” principle and I offer Little Piglet the same food as us, but if appropriate I mash some to put on a spoon. But there are still days when LP will choose milk over and above any solid food I offer to him. Perhaps yesterday was simply one of those days. I offered him chips, peas and baked beans (favourites) for dinner and porridge before bed, but my milk loving piglet preferred the comfort and yumminess of mummy’s milk last night.

Below: Sleeping beauty

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