Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sleep Issues (and Calvin at 5 Months)

I can't believe Calvin is 5 months old. I think this is my favorite month so far. A lot of things have worked themselves out and he's overall a very happy baby. 

I want to go into his sleeping problems for a second because I want to offer up what has worked for me in case anyone else has a baby who just isn't a good sleeper. Calvin from the very beginning has fought sleep. He just is more interested in what is going on around him. It feels like it's been a battle from day one! We'd have some good days and then a lot of bad days. The latest issue was his waking after 45 minutes. This went on for over a month and I was losing my mind. Every nap, guaranteed, he would be up after 45 minutes. Sometimes I'd just watch the video monitor and see if he could get back to sleep. Sometimes he could, but most of the time he would just cry and fuss until I got him. He wasn't hungry enough to eat, so we'd play or I'd put him in the swing. Then he'd practically fall asleep nursing and want to go to bed shortly after. Then the vicious cycle started again. It was really frustrating. It seemed like no matter when I put him down (after a long waketime or a short waketime or in between) he would wake up after 45 minutes. He was also beginning to wake up earlier than normal - around 5 or 5:30 am. Sometimes he cried out at 3 am or 4 am. It was maddening! I thought we had gotten the sleeping through the night thing down already. What is this, regression? So frustrating. Then I started brainstorming. 

First, I noticed this trend started at the 4 month mark. I knew that I could start solid foods around 4 months. I thought that might help in case it was a calorie issue. He likes solids and is doing great with them, but I don't think that was it. I stopped solids for a while in case it was an upset tummy, but he still woke up. On to plan B... 

My intuition was telling me that Calvin rarely gets overtired. Maybe he just wasn't tired enough to take a full nap. In "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer", she suggests moving to a 4 hour routine at around 4 months. I didn't know if Calvin was ready for this, but I decided to give it a shot a week ago. It helped a ton! He had two full hours of awake time and then a 1 1/2 to 2 hour nap afterwards. Then, with his last waketime, I just skipped his 4th nap and fed him right before bed. He did much better this way. He still woke up early, but fussed for a little bit and then went back to bed. 

Another trick that helped a lot was "wake to sleep". What you do is you gently wake baby up a little bit about 25 minutes into the nap to help break the sleep cycle. You don't fully wake him up, but just enough for him to stir a little bit. Then you quickly leave. Sure enough, this worked like a charm. He sailed right through the 45 minute mark. This trick, combined with a 4 hour routine, has Calvin back to taking full naps and sleeping 11 hours at night. "Wake to sleep" also works for habitual night waking, except in that instance you go in and disturb baby's sleep 1 hour before he routinely wakes up. 

One more trick that was a miracle when it came to weaning Calvin from the swaddle - the Magic Sleep Suit. I was so nervous to wean him because he scratches his face at night (due to his allergies), but I knew he was SO ready to drop it. He fought it 100% every time I swaddled him. I even had to use 2 velcro swaddles to keep his little arms pinned down at night. Still, a couple nights a week, he would wake up in the middle of the night crying because his hand had escaped and he was scratching the living daylights out of his poor face. I had heard about the Magic Sleep Suit from friends and decided to give it a try myself. They were completely sold out on their website, so I found a friend who was willing to sell me her old one. What do you know - from day one this thing has been fantastic. He slept just as well if not better with the sleep suit. His arms are free, but the suit is too puffy for him to really get at his face. We put a pair of mittens on Calvin to keep him from scratching his face, and that combined with the suit means he is totally swaddle free. He loves it, too. He doesn't fight being zipped up in it like he would the swaddle. Plus, he's just too dang cute in it. He looks like the Michelin man. 

So, let me summarize. Again, I am probably the last person anyone wants to take advice from. However, I've gone through the ringer with this kid when it comes to sleep and just want to offer up what has worked for us in case anyone else is struggling like I was. It's so sad to see your baby upset because he needs sleep so desperately but can't quite seem to get himself there. So, here is what worked for us.

1. We use a Fisher Price Rock 'n Play sleeper for all his naps and at night. He loves it and slept much better in that than in his crib. I'm not too nervous about weaning him from it because I have read from others that it's not too hard. 

2. The Magic Sleep Suit. If your baby fights the swaddle or you are nervous about weaning him from the swaddle, get it! Seriously, he has done fantastic with it. 

3. White noise. I use an app on my Kindle Fire that plays rain sounds and keep it in Calvin's Rock 'n Play when he sleeps. He sleeps much better with it. I've done this since his birth. 

4. "Wake to sleep". This works best if you have a video monitor. If your baby habitually wakes at the 45 minute mark, or every night at 3 am and isn't hungry, try this. It worked great for us. Use your video monitor to see exactly when baby falls asleep. Then, at exactly 25 minutes, go in and stir baby a little bit. Not enough to fully wake up, but enough to annoy him. :) If it doesn't work for one nap, try it again with another and play around with the timing. Do this for every nap for a couple days and it should break the cycle.

5. If your baby can handle it, try moving to the 4 hour routine at some point in the 4th month, clustering the last two feedings together to squeeze 5 in. We have a goal wakeup time at 7 am and a goal bedtime at 8 with feedings every 4 hours or so. I'm not saying to be crazy about it, but I have noticed he does so much better on the days where we follow a routine. I think the worse a sleeper a baby is, the more rigid you  need to be with a routine. Just my opinion, though. :) 

Here are some pictures of our cute little man. I can't believe how fast he is growing! He's still a short guy, but to me, he's grown a lot. 

Other than sleep issues, he is one happy and content baby. He is so playful and laughs all the time. Dad likes to bite his legs and I think the 5 o'clock shadow tickles him enough to make him giggle. It's adorable! Five months has been my favorite month so far. He is much more interactive and can grasp and hold toys for long periods of time. He knows his mommy and daddy, too. We are so in love with him (sleep issues and all). 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our "Fun" New Diet

Pretty much since Calvin's birth, he's had dry, flaky, rashy skin. Below is an example. It was worst right around his forehead, neck, knees, ankles, and other fat folds. 

I've been able to mostly keep it under control until about a month ago. It just seemed like NOTHING I was doing was helping his poor skin - and I had tried everything. I would bathe him only in Cetaphil and then smother him in Aquaphor, Aveeno, Cetaphil moisturizer, and any other number of products that promised to help. Since he had begun to develop better use of his arms and hands, he was constantly scratching his face and head. We would put socks on his hands to try to stop the carnage, but still, he was rubbing his poor little eyes nonstop. Once, when TJ was holding him and pinning his arms down, Calvin tried rubbing his face against dad's 5 o'clock shadow to get some relief. It made me so sad! During our four-month-old checkup at the pediatrician's office, I of course asked about it. He prescribed some special lotion to help clear up the worst of the rashes, but told me it was likely a food allergy. He referred me to some allergists but told me that it's often difficult to test for allergies at Calvin's age because you get mixed results. He said the best way to figure out what his allergies are was to begin eliminating common allergens from my diet, namely: 

Tree nuts

I captured my reaction right after I heard the news.

Seriously, it was kind of traumatic. I was asked to give up ALL my favorite treats!! I left the appointment near tears. I wandered around Target looking at food labels and realized that almost every processed food product has one of the above ingredients in it. Still, if I was ever to help my little guy's skin, I had to do it. Luckily, I only went without wheat for a few days before adding it back in and realizing it had no effect on Calvin's skin. Whew!! That was a relief. I couldn't live on spelt bread and gluten-free cookies.

I think the biggest culprit was the peanuts/tree nuts. His skin is SO much better! I also think he may be pretty sensitive to soy. Diary is definitely a no-no for now - I tried adding in a piece of cheese to my sandwich the other day and Calvin was back to scratching. Eggs might be ok, but I haven't been willing to try those again. Seeing my son so much happier has made this diet a lot easier. To be honest, I was due for a diet upheaval. It feels good to eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, and lean meats. Just today, I made some yummy chicken and wild rice salad with celery, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. TJ's sister Jamie had to do the same thing with her son Easton, so she's been a fantastic resource for moral support and recipes. She truly knows what I am going through! Plus, maybe I won't feel like such a post-pregnancy heifer now.

As far as Calvin's development goes, he is a pretty small guy. He weighed in at 13.5 lbs, which is 25th percentile. His height is also 25th percentile, but that little noggin is in the 75th percentile! Holy moly. Lots of brains in there. :)

We also started solid foods! He is doing great and was so ready for it. He loves it. He is eating peas, bananas, pears, oatmeal, and rice cereal. I make all my own food (except for the rice) and he's doing great with it. I even eat it sometimes! Fresh baby food is so delicious! He only eats about a tablespoon or two three times a day.

I haven't taken any fancy pictures of Calvin lately, but here are a bunch from my phone. He's just such a doll.

Calvin LOVES his "mirror friend". He laughs and giggles every time. It's so dang cute.

Daddy time!

Check out that BOD! I could pinch those thighs all day. 

My little sweetie pie. 

All ready for a day out with mom! Thanks Julie for the cute hoodie!

His first taste of bananas. Success! He loves them.

He is so good at tummy time. He even rolled over for the first time yesterday. 

He smiles and talks and laughs a lot. Playing with him is just so fun. I have the best job!!

His sleep has been tricky this past month. He was having a hard time working through transitions during naps. He would wake up and then not be able to go back to sleep. Luckily, I think it was just a phase for a few weeks. I would let him fuss a little and generally he'd go back down. If he wouldn't, I would just move him to his swing until it was time to eat again. He also started waking at night again. AHH! That is the worst. You think you are beyond that once they are out of the newborn phase! I'm not sure what it was, but last night he slept great again. I dropped the dream feed, so he's now down to 5 feedings a day with 3 solid food feedings mixed in there. For a while, I thought his night waking might have been hunger, so I added the dream feed back in. No dice! It made him wake up MORE often! It's so true that an earlier bedtime helps babies sleep longer. Once I moved back his bedtime to 8:00pm, he started sleeping 11 hours. 

I told Calvin today that he's not allowed to get any bigger. He's just my sweet, cuddly little man! I could not possibly love him more.