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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
We left off yesterday with my friend Jennifer’s saga to sleep train her daughter. Eleanor is 2 1/2-years old and Cece is 4-years old. Both have been good sleepers. They share a room. But a few months ago Eleanor began to fuss. And Jennifer began to go in. Before she knew it, they were playing musical beds in the night, no one was sleeping, she and her husband were fighting, and everyone was miserable. Something had to give.
So they hired a sleep consultant, Renee Wasserman, from SleepHeadSolutions, to give them a plan that would work. For more on all this, and all the drama it entailed to reach this point, you can refer to Part 1.
Now it’s the second night and Jennifer is hoping it will be better than last night’s fiasco. So here she is again, with the play-by-play:
We get a late start to bedtime.
As usual, Cece falls asleep right away.
As usual, Eleanor starts screaming under the door immediately.
I realize we forgot to give Eleanor her antibiotics. Yes – we’re sleep training this poor child while she’s on antibiotics for an ear infection. In our defense, we’re halfway through the prescription and she hasn’t complained about her ear in a week. And we’ve found that there’s always, always a good reason to put off sleep training…
I bring in the pink medicine (this kid loves taking it) and then since I’m in there, I give in to her screaming potty request. She pees in the big potty in the bathroom, which is probably one less pee I’ll have to clean up off the floor in the morning.
We return to the girls’ bedroom and Eleanor wants to get into her sister’s bed. I let her sleep with Cece since I figure she’ll most likely end up there during the night anyway. Night two is around the same as night one but Eleanor cries for shorter periods of time. And she keeps her pajamas and diaper on all night. Huge progress!
We celebrate in the morning.
Eleanor is up twice during the night but not for long. Again she keeps her pajamas and diaper on. She sleeps in her big sister’s bed all night. It feels like we’ve moved a mountain! I know it’s not ideal for the girls to be sleeping together in a twin bed. Cece complains about Eleanor sleeping on her hair and rolling on top of her, and, as our sleep consultant points out, she might just be replacing me with her sister.
In a perfect world Eleanor would be capable of sleeping through the night in her own bed but I gave up on a perfect world a long time ago. And I know we’re headed in the right direction.
Eleanor sleeps through the night without waking up! She snuggles with her sister but now they both seem pretty comfortable together.
Eleanor has another successful night. This is changing our life. We realize we didn’t have evenings before this – I used to tip toe out of the girls’ room at 11pm, trying not to wake them and then it would be musical beds all night. Having kids that sleep feels amazing! The next day after school/work we go for a celebratory dinner and then to Pinkberry for dessert.
We have a bit of a relapse tonight. Maybe from the Pinkberry sugar? Eleanor is up a few times crying in the night. It’s still a whole new world though. I just look at her on the monitor and don’t go in. Now I can say with confidence she will figure it out. And sure enough, just a few tired tears and then right back to sleep.
Now the question is: do we allow them to keep sleeping together in one twin bed or do we try to nip that in the bud too?
Per our sleep consultant’s advice we talk to the girls about having more space for their bodies to stretch and grow if they stay in their own beds. Eleanor is going to try to sleep on her own tonight. Their snuggling is so damn cute though. And I’m very proud of Eleanor’s progress and I feel bad enforcing another difficult challenge so quickly.
In an effort to get Eleanor to stay in her own bed, we decide to push the girls’ two twin beds together. This way the girls can be in their own beds and also beside each other. So far so good - 10pm and not a peep. Maybe pushing the beds together is the answer? Nope – Eleanor ends up in her sister’s bed again. We think about it and decide we’re ok with this arrangement for now. Hopefully they’ll outgrow sleeping together when they’re ready and if they don’t, we now have the tools to make another change when we’re ready.
It’s been less than a week of sleep training and life has already changed so much! The improved sleeping has made a huge impact on all of our lives. The girls seem more rested, we’re all happier people, my marriage feels easier, I’m more productive at work… I can’t believe It took us this long to finally fix the problem. We should have done this many, many months ago. Getting outside help was key for us – we were too tired to think straight and our repeated attempts weren’t working. I realize now that Eleanor’s job was to test us and she was doing great. We just needed to set the limits for her. When I think about it, Renee really sleep trained us.
If anyone wants to contact Renee her info is:
Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H.
Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant
Pic of girl sleeping via Shutterstock
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CIO, cosleeping, crib sleeping, cry it out, family bed, Ferber, sharing a bedroom, sleep head solutions, sleep through the night, sleep training | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Monday, April 21st, 2014
I’m not talking about myself in the title, but rather my friend Jennifer and her husband Matt, whose battle to sleep train their daughter reached dramatic heights that involved urine, feces threats, and lots of screams. This 2-part blog post follows the story of how this family went to battle for one of the most crucial elements in life: sleep.
Here is some background: The girls both slept in cribs, then their own beds. But when the nighttime fussing began out of nowhere, both parents found themselves too bleary-eyed to be consistent with sleep rules. Jennifer began getting in bed with Eleanor or vice versa and everyone was waking up multiple times. There were tears, thrashing of limbs and feet in mouth (literally). They tried Ferber, various techniques, but nothing was changing. The whole family became walking zombie’s, unable to function during the day. I watched them all disintegrate into madness.
Eleanor is the cutest little girl, full of spunk. She’s also incredibly strong-willed. This is a girl who is either going to be President or the world’s best criminal (kidding of course–at least on the criminal part). She doesn’t back down. Even if it means sleeping in her own pee. Or worse.
Remember the best-selling book, Go The F-ck To Sleep? Well, here is Jen’s own version of her sleep training hell.
After many months of not sleeping (it’s been such a blur that I don’t even know how long it’s been since we’ve slept through the night) and many attempts at sleep training, we finally cave and hire an experienced sleep consultant to help us figure out what to do.
For an all-inclusive fee, Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H. from Sleepyheadsolutions talked to us on the phone for over an hour and e-mailed us a detailed plan to follow. She will be checking in with us every morning by phone for two weeks to advise us, encourage us to stay on course, and listen to my boring and very detailed sleep stories.
After a few weeks of procrastinating (we have friends in town, Eleanor is sick, we’re traveling…) my husband and I finally force ourselves to buckle up and start the sleep training process. Per our sleep consultant’s advice, we have a family meeting after dinner on the first night. We try to make it fun and pass around a toy microphone while we discuss the importance of sleep for our bodies, how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep, and the new sleep rules for everyone in the house.
We talk about how we all need to stay in our rooms and sleep in our own beds until morning. We tell the girls that we love them very much but won’t be coming into their (shared) room if they cry.
Our older daughter Cece (4 years) gets it and is up for the challenge but she’s a great sleeper and has been sleeping through the night since she was six months old.
Eleanor hears the plan and says, “Not Yet. How about tomorrow?”
Unfortunately they’re in this together. If we want them to successfully share a room, we have to sleep train them both. In other words, Eleanor’s problem is Cece’s problem too.
We tell Eleanor that we know she can do this. We’re all going to try our best.
Per Renee’s instructions:
- We hung up the blackout shades
- We set up our new light-up sleep clock and explain to the girls that the cow goes to sleep at bedtime and when she wakes up (at 7am) they can get up too.
- We unscrew the light bulb from the ceiling so Eleanor can’t switch the light on and off in the middle of the night (which she has been tormenting us with).
- We set up a potty and a roll of toilet paper on a towel on the floor so Eleanor can’t use the potty excuse all night long. If she has to go, she goes in her room, in the potty. (We hope.)
- We read our new books about sleep.
- We go through the sleep rules again: “We will sleep in our own beds all night. We will stay in our beds until the clock changes color. You can hug your bear and talk to each other but we won’t be coming in if you cry…”
We kiss them good night and close the door. There’s a child lock on the inside so they can’t get out.
It’s 7:00 pm. I’m scared of what the night will bring. I hate the thought of Eleanor screaming for us all night. And taking her clothes off and being cold. And peeing on the ground or in her bed. And waking up her sister who would otherwise be sleeping soundly through the night. But we all need more sleep and I feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. We need to do this.
Cece is asleep in her bed and Eleanor gets out of bed and is crying at the door. She gets down on her belly and screams at the small crack above the floor. It sounds like she’s yelling through a megaphone. “I need to make a pee pee!” I stare at her on the monitor. “I need to go in the big toilet in the bathroom! Not the little potty in here!” I watch her expertly remove her pajamas and her diaper. “I need a new diaper!” She pees on the new wood floor. It’s going to be a long night. As hard as it is, we don’t go in.
Eleanor screams like crazy and tries to wake up her sister.
“Cece, you need to wake up and open the door for me!”
When that doesn’t work she yells, “I need to make a poop!” “The poop is coming out!”
This is when I would normally rush in. I would put Eleanor on the potty and move Cece into our bed so she can sleep. This time we stay strong.
Next she resorts to calling me by my name: “Jennifer! Jennifer!” she screams at the gap under the door. If I wasn’t so nervous, this name-calling would be kind of hilarious.
We watch the monitor. We don’t budge.
She leaves the frame and comes back holding a summer dress. We watch her pull it over her naked body – inside out and backwards. After more crying she goes to get pajama bottoms from her dresser, sits on Cece’s bed, and carefully puts them on. She climbs into bed with Cece and goes to bed. I know that since she is diaper-less she will pee in the bed tonight but I’m very relieved she stopped crying. It lasted around 45 minutes and now she’s asleep. Wearing a dress – but asleep!
I get into my own bed, holding my breath. I have no idea what the night will bring.
In the wee hours:
The screaming begins at 12am. It starts again at 2am, then 4am. Each bout lasts about 15 minutes. In between crying fits she’s in her sister’s bed. She stands up on top of Cece’s back to reach the light switch – click click. Nothing happens since we removed the bulb. She tries a few more times before giving up.
Cece wakes up and they scream at us together in harmony. We’re awake all night staring at the monitor but we don’t break and go into their room. At one point Eleanor rolls off the bed onto the carpet. Minutes later Cece gets poked in the eye. Everyone is yelling “Owwwiiieeee.” It’s impossibly hard but we stick to the plan and don’t go in…
I continue watching the monitor so I know they’re ok. And I know that if we walk in because Eleanor rolled off the bed, she’ll pretend to roll off the bed again. And if the eye poke gets us into the bedroom, she’ll fake-poke her sister in the eye next time. She’s that good.
We’re all exhausted in the morning but we (try to) celebrate that we stayed in our rooms. There’s plenty of pee on the floor and in the bed and lots of laundry to do before school/work. I find out later that an exhausted Cece falls asleep at her preschool while eating her lunch. Oy. I feel terrible.
–Tomorrow is Part 2 of Sleep Training Hell. Tune in to see if it gets better. Or worse.
Pic of family bed via Shutterstock
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blackout shades, CIO, crib, cry it out, family bed, Ferber, Go The Fuck To Sleep, light up sleep clock, sleep training, sleepy head solutions, toddler bed | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Every parent has an opinion on this. And it’s happened to all of us at least a dozen times. It’s 2:00 a.m. Your four-year-old daughter comes scampering into your bedroom unannounced. You can’t see or hear her, as she’s standing silently in the dark. Afraid it may be a ghost, you hold your breath and peer into the darkness. You finally see her, of course, when she’s within arm’s length, frighteningly staring at you with a blank expression, like that girl in The Ring. At this point, a ghost would’ve scared you less. So what do you do?
There are two camps, and they are quite distinct. You either welcome your terrifying child into the bed, a spot religiously left vacant for her where your sex life used to lay, or you send her packing, refusing to bend to your children and their ongoing, selfish quest to invade your pillow space.
Even if you don’t have kids, you likely know a parent who is one these two extreme types. Let’s break them down.
The first one, let’s call her “Clingy Parent,” sleeps next to her 6-year-old son every night. The boy, let’s call him “Tommy” sleeps between her and her husband. Every. Single. Night. Any half-hearted attempts to break the cycle have been quickly thwarted by Tommy, with little to no resistance by his over-accommodating parents. From what I understand, relations between mom and dad…they’re not so good.
The second type, which I’ll call “Stiff Arm Parent,” has never once let either of her children into the bed in which she and her husband (or boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, hey, I’m not judging here) sleep. I mean, maybe once or twice when they were babies and were teething and miserable, but certainly not once since they became toddlers, and full-fledged kids. They say no, and by God, they mean no.
Personally, I take issue with both of these approaches. Now, I don’t judge either parent, because I’m a big believer that there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is certainly more than one way to raise a happy child. But both methods are extremes, whereas I believe the healthy approach to anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.
When dealing with this issue, there are two clear, distinct goals, and to ignore either would be irresponsible.
- To ensure your child is given age-appropriate guidelines for when it is acceptable to come running to their parent’s bed and when it is not
- To ensure you’re getting enough sleep to deal with their nonsense and have enough space to sufficiently relax after a long day of dealing with their lovable, yet occasionally absurd behavior
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a believer in nurturing our children, giving them a neck to wrap their arms around when their alarm clock casts a menacing shadow on their dresser. However, I’m also a believer in setting boundaries so compassion doesn’t transform into a bad habit that becomes increasingly difficult to break.
Put simply, there’s a reason that “Tommy” in the “Clingy Parent” scenario is an only child. His poor parents are never alone to conceive another! If we allow our children access to our beds every night and never allow them to be nocturnally independent, they’ll take even longer to “let go of our legs,” so to speak, ultimately making it much harder for us to break them from the habit later on.
And the “Stiff Arm Parent” approach is a bit too cold for my liking. I see it as ultimately more beneficial to the child’s well being when compared to “Clingy Parent,” but seriously, how do you muster the will power to follow through on a child development plan at 3:00 in the morning? This, frankly, is where I crumble. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, operating at 35% mental capacity and my son crawls into my bed and starts snoring, guess who’s letting him stay there for the night? You got it. In fact, most of the time I’m not even aware he’s there until the next morning, when it’s far too late to put my foot down.
Ultimately, I’ve opted for positive reinforcement. My older son will go between 10 and 14 days without a nighttime visit, then suddenly starts popping in three or four days in a row. My wife (who, if it needs to be said, is the real brains behind this whole parenting thing) has implemented a rewards system. It just started this week. We put a magnetized “reward calendar” up in his room, and for every night he stays in his bed until morning, he gets to put a magnet of his choosing on the corresponding day. The kicker? He gets a surprise each time he’s successful. Not like a bike or anything, but something as simple as getting to pick out his dessert after dinner that night. It’s a little way to motivate him and to get him excited about doing something he wouldn’t normally be excited to do. Some people call it bribery. But those people would understand if they were parents.
So, while I firmly believe that our children’s needs override our own, I don’t think we’re being fair to ourselves (or potentially our significant other) by ignoring our needs completely either. It’s a delicate balance of instilling confidence and comfort in our kids while also maintaining a healthy “bedroom lifestyle” for ourselves as adults. In truth, splitting the atom was probably less complicated.
So, what tactic do you employ when approached mid-sleep by your child (if any at all)? Send me your feedback and thoughts by adding a comment below!
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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attachment parenting, bedtime, bribery, CIO, co sleeping, cry it out, Ferber, parenting, positive reinforcement, sex life, sleep training, The Ring, toddler bed | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Newborn Care
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
In New York City, kids almost always share a room. And not because everyone in New York believes in co-sleeping. It’s just that space is at a premium. In our building in Brooklyn, there was a family down the hall with a boy and a girl. They shared a room until they went to college. I’ll admit I was a bit aghast at teenagers of the opposite sex sharing a room. But that’s how life is for a lot of people. Whether it’s villages in Africa where entire families sleep in one room, or places like NYC. Space, money and necessity dictate that reality.
I grew up in the country, outside the small town of State College, Pennsylvania. We had a big farmhouse with 4 bedrooms. There were 4 kids. My two brothers shared a room, as did my sister and I. We had a guest room. When I was 12 though, my sister moved into the spare. I remember how elated I was to have my own space.
We are now living in LA and renting a house with three bedrooms all on the same floor. Fia and Emmett each have their own rooms. Thank god, because it’s been a challenge keeping them from waking each other up in the night. Only in the past couple months has Fia started to sleep through his cries. Which is obviously a point many people will make: kids adapt.
We just recently found a house to buy. It’s beautiful and big at 3100 square feet. However the layout is such that there are two bedrooms on one floor (a master and a second one), then on the bottom floor is a guest bedroom and bath. I really don’t want either kid separated from us at night. I like being on the same floor. Plus, the way I feel about having company, we have to have a guest room at all times. Especially one on a separate level. At least that way we have our own space. We are taking a contractor over today to see if there is a way to create two bedrooms out of one or perhaps turning the laundry room into a small bedroom. But I don’t want to get into a lot of construction. Nor do I really want my laundry room in the garage.
I got to thinking: at this age, as long as Emmett continues to progress on the sleeping front (as in not waking up multiple times), is there a reason for them NOT to share a room? I suspect we’d be in this house about 5 years, so we would be far away from the tween or teen years. Then the plan is to move back to New York, where we’d all probably share a room. With the cat. (Kidding.)
Part of me thinks it seems strange to have a big house and yet have the kids share a room. But then I think, maybe not. Maybe it’s a good thing. I guess I want the option to put them in their own rooms if they end up keeping each other–and us–up at night. What do you guys think?
Now if only I was a co-sleeper, and believed in family bed, this problem would be solved. But something tells me that my strong stance on teaching kids to sleep by themselves– and my feeling that parents need their own bedroom– won’t be swayed.
I await your insight.
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buying a house, CIO, cosleeping, family bed, Ferber, sharing a bedroom, sleep training, teenagers, Weisenbluth | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Emmett never stops. He is a tank, a brute of boundless energy. At his 1-year check-up the pediatrician, who has been with him since birth, reiterated again that my dude may need Occupational Therapy to find ways to Slow.Him.Down. He is the most active child she’s seen that’s not on the spectrum or that has any mental or health issues. Even changing his diaper has been a challenge since he was, oh, 5 months old. Thank god for his amazing temperament or I might consider selling him.
“You are going to have to run him twice a day. For at least an hour each time. He is the kind of kid who will need to be worn out. Every-single-day,” she said.
I pictured a horse let out to pasture. Or a dog during off-leash hours in the park. I then pictured Emmet’s face on both beasts. Yup. That’s my boy. I decided I needed to find an activity for us to do together. One that wasn’t awful. Or disastrous (like Fia’s ballet class).This time I was smarter. I decided on Toddler Gymnastics. I should have thought of it sooner, since Fia goes to the same gym. I know the coaches, the facility, the drill.
He was the youngest one but kept up with the best of them. He loved the trampoline the most. He giggled incessantly. Of course he wouldn’t sit still and wait his turn. I had to pull him away and run him (yes, my horse) until it was his time. He hated the balance beam. It took both me and the coach to try and hold him upright. He kept doing the “baby flop”–you know, when they go limp. I’m sure because it would take too much concentration to walk slowly. I had no time to stare at the clock or dream about my lunch like I did in other mommy and me classes. But that’s a good thing. I hate being bored.
I took him early and we left late. I really thought I “ran” him good. Then we came home and he slept for 30 minutes. Should I put up my For Sale sign yet? WTF??
Three nights this week he has shrieked off and on for 3 hours. Phil and I have taken turns going in when we can’t take it anymore. He’s not sick. He’s not teething. He just wants to be held. He is one strong-willed little dude. And he knows it. I think in a test of wills he will win. Actually he already has. But man, he’s so damn cute and snuggly at times. He knows just when to turn on the charm to keep that For Sale sign at bay.
You all know I am a sleep training guru, but even I know when to throw in the towel. Since he won in the cry-it-out category, last night we switched tactics. I went in on the first wail around midnight. In less than 20 seconds I put his paci back in and laid him down. I said in a fairly stern voice, “Emmett, it’s night time.” I closed the door. He didn’t peep until around 3 am. I did it again. He slept until 7:15.
I think he just needs reassurance that we are there. Even when he’s running he pauses and looks back to check that I’m still with him. I’m usually a few paces behind, sweating. I am soon going to need a cane. Boys. Men. It’s hard to keep up with them. They are needy little f–kers. But impossible to resist.
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active toddler, ballet class, CIO, cry it out, Ferber, gymnastics, hyperactive, mommy and me, music class, Occupational Therapy, Pediatrician, sleep training | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles