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Bedtime Routine Chart

24 May

etsy.me/2qcNvXY
my custom-designed chart for Emilia – in purple, naturally

Hallelujah, we’re sleeping again. I say we but really, I mean Emilia. After a months-long sleep battle saga, she is finally falling asleep on her own again without any drama or tears. We didn’t want to force the matter since we were transitioning from a crib to a “big girl bed” (a mattress on the floor) and also considering we’re expecting another baby in late spring, but this was a much needed development and I have one thing to thank: the bedtime routine chart.

But before I get into this saving grace, let me rewind and fill you in on the sleep struggle. A few months before E turned 2, she started to absolutely wail when we put her down awake in her crib at nap and bedtime. Now she’d been put down awake for months and sleeping soundly from 7-7 every day, so this was worrisome. I turned to friends and family and mom groups on Facebook for insight and heard from nearly everyone that this was totally normal as we approached age two and might be a cue to start the transition to a toddler bed.

If I’m being honest, we weren’t keen on this since the crib is such a comfort that she’s safe while she sleeps and we didn’t want her to feel ousted from her sleeping space once her baby sister arrives on the scene this summer. But then she started to throw her leg up over the side and the decision was made.

At first, the excitement of the bed helped her and we were able to rock her to sleep to the Moana soundtrack and then snuggle, sit with, or hold her until she fell asleep in the bed, and that worked OK for a few weeks. But then came the resistance and the requests to be rocked to sleep in her glider. The bedtime routine used to take 15 minutes tops and we’d have her down by 7 PM but for months in late winter, she wasn’t even remotely looking sleepy until about 8 PM and then we’d spend an hour to an hour and a half negotiating with her to lay in her bed. Often this required my husband to lay silently in her bed until she stopped yelling at him to get up and hold her, when she’d give up and snuggle up next to him and conk out after about 15-20 minutes of tossing and turning and flailing.

It was rough times to say the least.

After a lot of reading and research, the chart came into play along with a few environmental and behavioral changes I eased Emilia into thanks to a 2-week, daily sleep course I took through a fellow mom and sleep specialist. Environmental factors include things like: taking into consideration the sleep space — is it dark, cool, etc as well as things like making sure I’m feeding her sleep-inducing foods leading up to nap and bedtime. And behavioral ones — like ensuring we have had quality one-on-one time prior to sleep and utilizing comforting phrases and strategies to reassure her if she seems panicky about where we’re disappearing to once we leave the room.

First, I made sure her naps weren’t extending too late into the afternoon since this affects what’s called “sleep pressure.” I couldn’t expect her to be sleepy at 7 PM if she’s waking from a two hour nap at 4 0r 4:30 PM! Duh. It seems so obvious now. So keep in mind that you want your toddler to be awake for increasingly longer and longer chunks of the day as you approach bedtime.

We’re still working towards getting her back to our ideal schedule, which would be a 7PM-7AM schedule, but we’re making progress. The biggest hurdle was cutting out the nightly dance routine in which we’d throw the Moana soundtrack on the iPod and she’d “dance” with both my husband and I for a few songs and then be put down to sleep drowsy or actually already asleep. The bedtime routine chart helped SO much with this.

I also have Daniel Tiger to thank in part for the “grown-ups come back” song. I probably sing that song 4-5 times a day depending on what we have scheduled. I try to get to the gym a few times a week and bring Emilia with me to the play center so she gets some time to socialize with other kids her age and I can squeeze a workout in — or just get a break for an hour if pregnancy is totally wearing me out, which has been often as I’ve progressed through my third trimester. But I’ve found that in doing my drop-off, whispering to her “I’ll ALWAYS come back” and always requesting the same hug and kiss and then quickly exiting with a see you later has caused her to become the model drop off at my gym. There are no tears, no throwing herself against the glass door as she cries for me. It’s very respectful. I think that acknowledging that kids at this age do have fears about separation anxiety and reminding them regularly that you will come back, and then again, once you do come back that you did what you said you’d do is enormously reassuring for them. I’ve read so many articles about routine and the benefits of predictability with toddlers and can only speak from my own experience and I’ve found that it really does do wonders as far as easing the usual toddler tantrums we’ve come to expect from “the terrible twos.”

So the strategy we used to get E to start to fall asleep on her own again involved really paying attention to the environment and behavioral changes I mentioned earlier for about a week or so, and then presenting her with a laminated routine chart that we refer to at nap and bedtime for week two. I didn’t create a separate chart for nap time, we just point her to the last two sections since we abbreviate the routine for daytime, and so far have had no issue.

Once she’s progressed through all the elements of the routine, which I prompt her through using a “one, two, three” and a finger snap if I find she’s dilly-dallying (usually during toy cleanup, when she rediscovers her favorites and wants to play) but it’s been a breeze to keep her focused just by continuing to refocus her attention on what’s next on the chart.

In true toddler fashion, she tries to negotiate at every step, but especially once we get to the story time piece. Since we keep a massive book library accessible in her room, this was a very quick fix.  Instead of continuing to negotiate back with her, I just removed all the books from the shelf and left the two we are loving right now — and that’s that. I’ll cycle through a few different ones but right now she is loving Waiting for Baby and Everywhere Babies, which — well, for obvious reasons, we want to encourage her with since we’re trying to prepare her to be a big sister soon.

But as far as her negotiating with us for other things, I just completely ignore the requests. If she mentions Moana, I refer to the chart. If it’s not on the chart, it’s not happening. Simple. By not even speaking to Moana, I think we’re eliminating any confusion over who is in charge, which we’d not realized months ago. The problem was, my husband and I both really liked the soundtrack and singing and dancing with our daughter before bed was such a sweet way to unwind. It wasn’t a problem until it was essentially. Any by then, Emilia was calling the shots and we were just too exhausted to put up a fight.

Another big one I still get is for me to snuggle with her once I put her down into her bed. It kills me not to dive in next to her because, I mean… she’s adorable and there’s nothing like having her hook her little arm around my neck and pull me in, nose-to-nose and feel her breath on my face, but I just remind myself that this is a skill she has to learn and it’s not helping her for me to be weak in this one moment. So I stick to the script and give her a kiss and a hug, tuck her blanket snuggly around her, remind her that “I’ll ALWAYS come back” and then finish with, “I’ll come back and check on you.” Plus, we get in plenty of daytime snuggles. Then the key in the beginning was to not wait for her to cry out, “MAMA COME BACK” before I burst back in the room to assess how she’s doing and give her another kiss, hug and repeat my sleep phrase — “I’ll always come back.” The next round is usually daddy and then we are done!

In the beginning, we’d listen at the door in between intervals (we’d do more than the two I described above) but we’d kill ourselves laughing at her faux-crying, “Mama, come baaaack.” It was 100% protesting and every time I went in, I’d confirm with chagrin that there were, in fact, no tears at all on her face. We was totally playing us.

I do think that there is something to be said for knowing your child though. If I didn’t know Emilia and have a very good handle on her temperament and what she requires as far as autonomy versus support and care, I might not feel as comfortable with this interval strategy.

All this to say (knock on wood) that I think we are out of the woods as far as the sleep drama and I have the sleep chart largely to thank. I’m going to share the one I created for Emilia for free on Pinterest, but am thinking of offering some customized ones on my Etsy shop as well if interested.

Let me know if you have had luck implementing a bedtime routine chart, I’d love to hear success stories.

23 Months of Breastfeeding

24 Feb

IMG_3766snuggled in nursing on our family trip to Acadia National Park

Today is kind of a sad day but I’m taking it in stride. After 23-months of exclusive breastfeeding, my toddler has self-weaned. Earlier this morning, she snuggled up next to me in bed like she does most mornings and tried to nurse but after a moment shook her head sadly and said, “this no working” while she signed “broken.” It was shattering. It’s the end of an era.

I still have some milk coming in actually but I think we’re closing the chapter on almost 2 years of exclusive breast feeding. As much as I’ve longed for a break and to have my body back before our second child arrives late this spring, I’m finding it bittersweet.

Weaning my toddler couldn’t have been easier since I let her take the lead and wasn’t in any rush. We were down to only morning nursing session as of December with occasional nursing during the day or in the evening on very rare occurrences. Only in the last month and a half or so have I gently encouraged stretching out nursing a bit if she didn’t really seem interested in the morning. It was often as easy as asking if she wanted to go make cinnamon toast for breakfast or build a castle with her blocks.

I will share that as we passed the year and few months and then the year and a half point, I did feel a little uncomfortable sharing that I was still breastfeeding my daughter. I often rolled my eyes or made a joke about it or made to sound exasperated if it came up in conversation among family or other moms but the truth is, I am really happy to have made it well past my goal of a year.

When I remember back to how much we struggled in the beginning and how often I wanted to give up; of the pain, the bleeding, the tears, the exhaustion, the toll on my spirit and body having to respond to the grueling routine of being the sole food source in those veery early months, it feels like such an accomplishment and one I’m incredibly proud of and want to celebrate. That those dark early days and physically demanding first few months gave way to so many beautiful moments snuggling, doting on and adoring my daughter, well… I can’t begin to express my gratitude for having been lucky enough to experience them.

 

Happy Halloween from Madeline

5 Nov

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I felt a little silly as we approached our neighbor’s house so Emilia could have her first trick-or-treating experience this year. For weeks, Brian and I worked on trying to get her to say just “treat” but the whole concept seemed a little over her head. There was also the Halloween candy she enjoyed for w-e-e-k-s ahead of time. I shudder to think of what her dentist will say. I figure, they’re just the baby teeth, right? But I think introducing the candy early was probably what saved the night.

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There was also the fact that she’d just been sewn into her Madeline costume which I slaved over for about a week and half prior to Halloween but finished as night fell, day-of. I winged the design, but based it on a similar style dress of Emilia’s that fit a little big so you can imagine the amount of cursing when the little shift dress I’d sewn barely fit over her head. The back had to be cut open a bit which I was able to conceal by cutting the cape a bit longer but the whole “homemade costume” fantasy I’d had was pretty much dust from the moment I used press-n-seal bonding glue as a shortcut to finish the red cape tie on Day 1 of Project-Homemade-Costume. Here’s hoping next year’s costume is easier to DIY than this one. I didn’t even attempt to track down a Madeline hat because I knew she probably wouldn’t want to wear it, which was smart in hindsight, though it would have been so cute for photos.

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Cut to the moment she saw the candy. Her eyes went wide as saucers and she basically dove into the candy bowl. We practically ran between houses with her after that. And if there was a family pet in the house, Emilia welcomed herself in for a meet and greet.

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We only toured our immediate neighborhood and met a few of the neighbors we’d not yet had a chance to connect with since we moved in, but it was such a fun time. Especially since Emilia’s Nana and her Aunt and godmother, Skylar, accompanied us.

5She was an absolute pro at knocking on doors and absolutely charming with everyone she met, smiling and waving and politely only taking ONE piece of candy despite absolutely barreling towards the candy like a maniac, and immediately depositing it into her little candy corn trick or treat bag from my mom. (She’s been obsessed with this bad since it first came into her hands — it’s been her near-constant accessory for the last month).
10So all in all, a really great night! The little munchkin enjoyed a few M&Ms but was in bed shortly after returning home for the night, a little after 7 PM. Then Brian and I watched the new Ghostbusters which was absolutely hilarious, before passing out in a sugar coma. I’m so excited for future years of trick-or-treating as she gets a little older and starts to have some sense of what it’s all about and what she wants to dress as.

I don’t imagine we’ll ever be totally into Halloween the way we are about Christmas and I can’t see us dressing up for a family costume, but I did toss around a Game of Thrones costume idea to Brian the other day with Emilia as the Khaleesi and some stuffed dragons, just for fun.