My Thoughts On “Sleep Training”

If the last three months of your life have been anything like mine, you’re probably looking at your screen through blood-shot eyes that are underlain with enormous, purple bags. You probably haven’t gotten more than a few hours of straight sleep in weeks, and those hours of “sleep” have most likely been on the recliner (or worse, the floor) of your child’s bedroom.

I have been putting off “sleep training” Cora for months for a few reasons. First, I’m a wuss and hate to hear her cry, and refuse to do so when it’s my fault. Second, I didn’t want to force anything when I knew she already wasn’t feeling well and we are still having a daily struggle with major digestive issues that no one can seem to find the answer to. Third, I wasn’t ready to give up my precious time with my sweet infant when she still liked to cuddle (Really, I’m still not). BUT, despite all of these items being continually true, my wish to mother my baby through the night was impeding my ability to mother her during the day. I have literally had days where, once finally in bed, I cannot remember what I did that day, what I wore, or what I ate. I felt like that if I was even being an acceptable mother, I was unaware of it. I was living in a fog. I needed some flipping sleep. After this realization, and a few more stubborn sleepless nights that would hopefully give a bit more time to get Cora’s tummy under control, I decided to attempt some version of sleep training (again).

My biggest holdback with sleep training, really, was that I always want Cora to know that I love her and am here for her, whenever and wherever but I felt like “sleep training” as I knew it would conflict with that goal and require me to  leave her in her crib for hours on end and create some catastrophic psychological issues down the road. Though, I have been told repeatedly that that is false. Though that method is the solution for some people, I couldn’t do it.  I really did want Cora to learn to sleep on her own and to feel comfortable in her bed without me, but I didn’t want her to feel totally abandoned either… After talking to a good friend and fellow new mom who told me what she had been doing with her daughter, I found a compromise. The goal was to do my usual bedtime routine, tell Cora that I love her and put her in bed, and leave for only one minute. After a minute of crying, I went in and reassured her however I felt was necessary. I sang, held her hand, rubbed her back, and even picked her up when she wouldn’t otherwise stop crying. I would stay in her room for thirty seconds, then leave again, this time waiting two minutes. I continued this, alternating comforting her then leaving for increasing amounts of time, until we reached five minutes of crying. I knew that this was an amount that we could both handle. After that, I went into her room and held her hand and sang to her until she fell asleep. We did the same thing for both of her naps the next day but only ever got up to one minute of crying. By that second night, she was falling asleep on her own without a tear and last night she slept completely through the night!

I want to say that this “method” is a miracle-worker but I know that it isn’t. I think that the key to our success this time around, (this most definitely was not our first attempt) was that Cora and I were both actually ready. I had read about this “being ready” bologna a few times before and never understood it. I thought maybe it just meant that both of us were sufficiently sleep-deprived but it turns out the opposite is true for a baby… My advice to anyone who has wondered at this same question is to take a guess and try to sleep train now. For me, more than one or two nights of hysterics was too much and meant I needed to wait a while longer. For others, a week or more may be the limit. You pick an amount of time, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, try again later. Sleep is just around the corner! Or a few… but you’ll get there.

 

Gardening for Newbies

I posted two weeks ago that I am starting a garden this spring! I also posted that I knew next-to-nothing about gardening and that I had a huge project ahead of me. I’m probably not the only aspiring gardener out there so I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning. And I’ll continue to update this post as I learn more both from my research and my own mistakes (and hopefully successes!) in my garden here.

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Steps to having a beautiful (and fruitful) garden:

  1. MAKE A PLAN!!! I cannot stress this enough. You have to know what kind of space you’re working with and what things you want to plant before you do any of the hard labor. Each type of plant requires different spacing, amount of light, or does particularly well next to other plants. In addition, some plants are better put in the ground after being started in a greenhouse or planter instead of being planted straight from seed (tomatoes are really hard to grow from seed, so those in particular I recommend buying plants). If you are starting from seed, you can see much of this information printed on the back of the packet as well as how long the seed takes to mature. Depending on where you live, you may be able to plant your garden sooner than later. Be sure to look up when the last freeze generally is in your area and plan around that. Bottom line: measure the space where you want to plant,
  2. Prepare the ground! The soil, if it could even be called soil, in the plot for my garden is especially terrible and I’m having to put a lot of time into this one. Begin by removing any rocks and weeds from the area you want to plant. If there are a lot of weeds, I recommend skimming off the very top layer of soil with a squared-off shovel and getting rid of it so the weeds are less likely to return and be a pest for you later. Once the rocks and weeds are gone, use a rake to turn the soil. Do this multiple times, adding in a conditioner (I was told Azomite, a trace mineral powder, is great) and maybe a top soil if you think the ground you’re working with is especially lacking in nutrients. If nothing has been done with your chosen area in some time and the ground is particularly hard, you may need to use a sprinkler to wet the ground before this step just to loosen things up.
  3. Plant!! Like I mentioned before, some plants take longer to mature than others, and some plants have a harder time surviving the cold. So make sure you pay attention,  if you’re planting seeds, to plant at the right time. It takes a lot of coordination and planning.  My recommendation, if this is your first garden, to buy all of your plants already started at your local nursery (or IFA, Home Depot, or even Walmart) and plant them all at once. This will make your life so much easier and, most likely, make your garden more successful.
  4. Water, weed, and repeat. This will be most of the rest of your life as far as your garden goes. Your little plants will require a lot of care and attention, but if you do a little bit every day, it will be much more manageable.
  5. HARVEST!! This is the most exciting part! Once your little garden starts producing, add harvesting to your watering/weeding routine and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Make sure you stay on top of this… If you don’t, you’ll have giant zucchini and mushy tomatoes.

Final tips: Make sure you have good tools, especially in the beginning when you really have to work the ground to get it ready. Take a class!  A lot of nurseries or farming stores host free classes that teach you what to plant and when, how to plot out your garden, and how to keep your plants healthy. Plant marigolds around the edges of your garden and in between your rows; they are great for keeping away bugs!

Like I said, I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more and I hope you’ll let me know in the comments how your own gardens are going!

How to Know if You Have the BEST Pediatrician

We found out that our pediatrician is moving last month and though I am totally crushed, I (initially) completely under-reacted. Here’s why: I first found out at Cora’s 6 month well-checkup and the nurse just casually mentioned it as I was trying to undress Cora to be weighed and avoid getting spit up on. It was simply thrown in there amongst “How’s Cora today? Is she still just taking —-? How’s she sleeping? Do you want to schedule your next appointment today?” She also asked, “Is there another doctor here you would like to switch to or do you want Cora’s records sent somewhere else?” I immediately answered with the name of another doctor in the office (one who had seen Cora when she was in the hospital and who I’d spoken to on the phone when Dr. W was unavailable). I hardly thought about it. It was just another answer to one of the nurse’s many “routine” questions. Even after Cora’s exam, when Dr. W asked if the nurse had mentioned to us that she was moving, I nonchalantly just said, “Yes”.

I know that this lack of reaction was only due to being distracted by the stress of the appointment and trying to remember all the things the doctor and I had discussed while wrangling a tired, squirming baby. And I know this because I most definitely reacted later. After Mr. F and I got Cora in bed that night and I was telling him about our day, it hit me. I panicked! Thoughts like “But Dr. W knowsCora!!… She actually cares!… She can’t leave! She’s the only doctor who doesn’t think I’m paranoid! What if our next doctor is a jerk?… Maybe we should just move to Michigan too…” were running through my head. I actually know our new doctor is an excellent physician and will take great care of Cora, but we are going to miss Dr. W so much!! She has been so good to us and has gone above and beyond to make sure Cora has been as healthy and happy as possible. There is also just something about knowing that your child’s doctor has known them since day one that makes you feel safe… Anyhow, I’ve started to feel really terrible for my complete lack of reaction at the office that day. Dr. W really has been excellent and has gone WAY out of her way to take care of my sweet girl and I feel like a simple “WHAT?! NO! you can’t leave!!!!” along with a slough of tears would have at least shown her we appreciated her… But in all seriousness, I wish that I would have taken a moment to really thank this wonderful woman for all that she has done for my daughter and I before she left. If you have an amazing pediatrician you should thank them now, before you find out they’re moving and it doesn’t even register until it’s way too late.pediatrician

Here are some things that I saw in Dr. W that I thought made her great, and things that will let you know if you have the best pediatrician (second to Dr. W)

  1. She greeted and interacted with both me and my daughter! It may seem silly for me to have expected this considering my daughter is only 6 months old and often oblivious to her surroundings, but I think this is essential to a good pediatrician. You aren’t there for you and neither is the doctor! You’re there for your kid and their doctor is {hopefully} going to interact with them and develop a relationship with them so that they feel more comfortable and cared for in what can sometimes be a scary environment.
  2. She took the time to answer all of my questions (and ask if I had any). As a new mom, I was quite overwhelmed by all of the things I had to remember about caring for my newborn baby but Dr. W was so helpful and so patient with my two million questions. This is so so so important! You are absolutely going to have questions, I imagine even if you’re a seasoned mom of six, and you need to feel comfortable asking them.
  3. She called to check on us!!! This obviously is not practical or needed all of the time. However, a couple of weeks after an appointment where Dr. W and I discussed some issues with baby Cora that were worrying me, a call from her to check on us meant the world! It was so comforting to know that she was not only giving meaningful and thought-out advice in the office, but she thought about us when we weren’t there.
  4. She genuinely loved my baby. I think every doctor has a few patients who they love in particular, or who are special to them, but I think a mark of an excellent doctor is that they genuinely love all of their patients! Dr. W treated Cora and I both with what I believe to be genuine love from the very beginning. We first met her when she visited Cora in the hospital and I could tell in that moment that she had a love for both me and my new baby. I could also feel at our last appointment (even amidst my lack of emotional response to her leaving) that she was sad to be leaving and was going to miss us.
  5. She remembered what we had discussed and how Cora had been doing at her last appointment. Yes, I know doctors take notes and probably review old ones quickly before each appointment but Dr. W went beyond that and the best pediatricians do. She would always bring up previous conversations that we had had and ask how things were going. Not only did she remember Cora’s reflux but that we had planned to go on a certain trip or that I had gotten a speeding ticket before our last appointment. Every time she recalled something from before, it reaffirmed to me that she really listened to the things I said and that Cora’s care meant more to her than just keeping someone alive and getting a check.
  6. This one is big… she listened to (and cared about) my personal wishes and goals as a parent!!! This is major!!!! Here’s an example of how Dr. W did this: Because of Cora’s extensive list of possible allergies and all of the foods I was having to cut out of my own diet while breastfeeding, Dr. W suggested maybe switching her to a hypoallergenic formula. I had, and still have, the goal to breastfeed for at least a year and expressed that to Dr. W. And she dropped it! Forever! Instead of bringing up the formula over and over, which sometimes would have probably been a better choice for us, she helped me find solutions and suggest ideas to help make breastfeeding work. Because that’s what I wanted. Because I’m the mom! How amazing it was to feel validated and supported! Dr. W could evaluate Cora’s health and provide for her in ways that I couldn’t (because I didn’t go to ten years of school!) but I always felt like she did that within the bounds of what I felt comfortable with.

Even though I’m totally sad Dr. W is leaving, I am so grateful that we got her while we did. Have any of you had awesome, amazing pediatricians? How did you pick them? (we got really lucky with Dr. W) What things about them really made them great? Tell me all about it!