Friday, September 5, 2008

Six-Month Checkup and Sleep-Training

Yesterday Alex had his six-month checkup. Checkups are always bittersweet. It's great to find out how Alex is progressing--how much he's grown in height and weightand such--but I don't look forward to the immunization shots. So yesterday morning kind of got away from me and I realized I only had 15 minutes before I needed to leave. So I was rushing a bit and totally didn't think to bring a bottle with me. Alex usually takes a bottle after he gets his shots to calm him down, since he won't take a pacifier. So I get to the doctor's office and realize this and I'm like great. So I ask if they have any samples; they do, but not in bottles (like they had at the hospital). So I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping Alex will be okay.

So when we were called back, the nurse weighed Alex and measured him. He's now 17 lb 3 oz (almost a 3-lb gain from two months ago) and he's now 27.5" long, which means he's in the 75% for height. Then the doctor came in and did the exam, asking questions about where he is developmentally. The doctor says he's right where he should be developmentally and is doing well. He did prescribe a vitamin supplement because Orem's water isn't fluoridated and because breast-fed babies usually lack vitamin D.

Then came the shots. I held Alex's hand while he got them and when it was over, I immediately picked him up. Expectedly, he started to wail after the first shot (of three), but within a minute of picking him up, he was fine. This to me was a miracle because I figured I'd have a wailing baby all the way home. But no, he was perfectly fine. He's a tough little guy! (I still remember when he was just first born and they gave him a shot of vitamin K, he hardly whimpered.) So I got home and got him fed.

Well, then I wondered how the night would go. The last two times he got his immunizations, he had hard nights, I'm assuming because of pain. Last night he didn't wake up more than usual, and hasn't acted like he's in much pain. When I rub his thighs, which helps the medicine to circulate faster and prevents a bump from forming where the shots were given, he shows in his face it hurts, but last time he would get very upset when I massaged his thighs.

So for whatever reason he's been waking up at 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. (instead of 12:30 and 4:30 a.m.) for the past couple night, but last night those were the only times he woke up; then he woke up at 6:30 a.m. So the shots didn't cause him to wake up more than usual or have any problems.

I'm so excited because tonight we start sleep-training him. Sure, I'm not excited about the process, but I'm really excited about the results. If it all works as planned, Alex will be weaned of his nightly feedings within 5 nights and should then be sleeping through the night. I think the training will go well. The whole idea is for Alex to learn how to get himself to sleep rather than relying on things like feeding, a swaddle, or being held to get him to sleep. Those things would be fine if he could control them, but when he wakes up in the middle of the night and those things aren't there, he cries because he doesn't know how to get himself back to sleep.

But the thing is, he really does know how, he just hasn't been shown by us that we expect him to do it. How do I know he knows how? Because we inconsistently make him get himself to sleep about half the time. Like last night, I tried feeding him before bed, but he wasn't hungry. I tried soothing him, but he wasn't to be soothed (I don't know if he was overtired or cranky from the shots or what). So I just put him in the crib. He fussed for 10 minutes and then was asleep. And last night after I fed him at 2:30 a.m., I just put him back in his crib. He fussed for a little while (not too long, but I was too sleepy to know how long), and he fell asleep. And we do that with him a lot--making him get himself to sleep after feeding him at night. So he does know how, but sometimes he falls asleep while eating or being held, so he's confused on when we'll make him get himself to sleep and when we'll help him.

That's what the sleep-training is all about: showing Alex that from now on we expect him to get himself to sleep and that we won't help him any longer. I think he'll do really well because he already has the skills to get himself to sleep. Now he just needs to learn that he'll be expected to do it every time. So whenever we go to put him down, we won't let him fall asleep until after he is in the crib. If he cries, we'll go in every 5, 10, and then 15 minutes and tell we know he can get to sleep, but we won't touch him (if we do, he'll think we're going to help him get to sleep, then he'll cry harder when we don't). We'll wean him from his nightly feedings by feeding him less and less each night. This should get him to eat more during the day to make up for it, so eventually he won't be hungry at night. Once he's weaned, he should sleep through the night. If he doesn't we still won't feed him because it would encourage him to wake up to eat.

So yeah, I'm pretty optimistic. And no, we didn't figure this out on our own; we got the plan from The Sleepeasy Solution. It sounds like the best way to teach a baby to sleep. It's not as harsh as the "cry it out" method and faster than the "no cry solution," which I think isn't realistic and takes way too much energy for the results. I'll keep you posted on how the training goes and how long it takes for Alex to start sleeping through the night. The funny thing is I didn't think I'd ever need to use this book (which I bought when Alex was a newborn) because at three months he was sleeping through the night, but then he hit a growth spurt at 4 months and started waking up. I encouraged it by going to him and feeding him, making it a habit for him to wake up. Then for whatever reason Alex started waking up two times a night while we were visiting family. There it was hard to ignore him (because we don't have fans and such to block the crying) and I didn't want him to disturb anyone else, so again I went to him. I think it was partly caused by us working on weaning him from the swaddle and he was having a hard time getting back to sleep without the swaddle comforting him.

So I'm really excited to break those bad habits and get Alex sleeping through the night. It will be bliss!

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