Sleep Training

From the first day my first son was born, I’ve asked myself daily If he died tomorrow, would I regret anything I did today?”  Up until he was four months old I couldn’t stand to hear him cry.  I could not “nap train” or let him cry it out – because if he had died I would never have forgiven myself.  I also could never have let someone else care for him.
The Contented Little Baby: The Simple Secrets of Calm, Confident Parenting by Gina Ford was hugely helpful in helping me train my son to sleep through the night at age four months.  Maybe it’s because I’m an older mother, but I cannot effectively function on less than 7 hours of sleep.  I thrive on 9, and try and always get it, and my husband also needs 8-9 hours.  While I am all for co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand if you can do it, I could not.
Our son slept in a cradle where I could hold his hand by our bed, and I fed him during the night until he was four months old.  By then I was desperate for more sleep and bought every sleep book on Amazon that I could find.  This one helped immensely.   He slept through the night by four months, within days of buying this book.  At around 6 months, I was able to easily move him into his crib for a 12-hour sleep.  I also bought black-out curtains like she recommended and they also helped, especially during naps.  Overnight diapers also cut out the need for changing diapers in the middle of the night. 

The negative was that my period resumed after I stopped the 2 a.m. feedings.  I think there are many great reasons to breastfeed at night, again, if you can do it, but I mainly hear mothers complaining about their lack of sleep, and their unhappy husbands who also awaken too often.  I did sleep the first few times with him in my arms, but I was extremely fearful of smothering him or having the covers come up over his head, so co-sleeping did not let me or my husband get into a deep sleep and was detrimental to our health.  The rocking cradle was wonderful. 

Gina Ford gives schedules for when the baby should nap and go to bed, and the schedules change every few weeks!  You really have to follow it closely.  But this is NOT a “forced” schedule, like some other books that I disliked and threw away.  All Gina Ford is laying out is a baby’s natural sleep schedule.  She knows babies – I did not.  I had never cared for an infant.  I didn’t know what was natural.  I had to read about it to learn it.   

Many people buy books and then don’t read them, or just say, “They will fall asleep when they are tired enough.” And go about their day meeting their own needs while expecting the child to pass out in the car.  Then of course, the child can’t sleep unless he is in a car.  Anyways, my point is that many parents just do what they want and expect the child to adapt.  All Gina Ford does is point out to YOU what a baby’s natural sleep schedule is, so that you can help accommodate it.  She didn’t just make up schedules arbitrarily.

Have you ever said, “He only sleeps 10-15 minutes before dad comes home, then someone wakes him up!”  Well, if you read this book, she'll tell you an 8-12 week old baby’s natural sleep schedule for the 3rd nap is only 15 minutes long!  Did we punish an older child for waking up the baby?  Did we yell at daddy to be quiet?  When all we had to do was put that darling child in our arms and rock him from 4:45 to 5:00 basking in the moment!  But most people will refuse to read this “scheduling” book; and most will not get peace.

Now to be honest, I did not follow every single thing she recommended.  I did not bathe him when she said to.  I just followed the sleep schedules and found that they worked.  I was giving my baby the sleep he needed.  That was all!  My life instantly changed to me being a “storybook” mother!  Happy baby, happy mommy!

I do not recall what she says about feeding schedules, so I am not going to go there.  However, I know that some other books advocate no feeding before nap, that your baby will associate food with naps.  That is absolutely ridiculous!  God made us to feed our babies before naps.  He put oxytocin in us to be released to help both baby and mom sleep during naps and at night.   Nancy Campbell of AboveRubies.org has an incredible mothering book that goes into all of this: The Power of Motherhood: What the Bible Says About Mothers.  Why let your baby cry before naptime and bedtime, when all you have to do is rock and feed him, then gently lie him down and drift into a peaceful sleep?  God designed our bodies to feed our babies and help put them to sleep….

I’ve also had to ask, “If he lived to be 100, would I regret anything I did today?”  In other words, if he didn't die tomorrow, and lived to be 100, would I regret letting him do what he wanted just so he wouldn't cry?  Of course I would...I didn't want to raise a tantrum-throwing, selfish brat.  Sometimes children need to cry.  One of those times might be before nap time or bedtime.

At 15 months of age my son was still only taking a half-hour nap instead of a two-hour one, even though I was following Gina Ford's advice.  He went down at night so easily that I was chagrined at how difficult putting him down for a nap was.  He would only sleep if I laid down next to him, and then, once asleep, I couldn't leave the room because he was on my bed.  I read, decluttered, and cleaned, but I really wanted him to nap in his room in a safe crib so that I could be freed to do other things.
The book that helped me solve my son's nap problem, and one which I highly recommend, was:

I finally re-created the same night-time routine for his nap time and let him cry for a few days.  But I also did really important things that she describes in full detail giving you the reasons behind it:  I stayed in his room for three days during the entire nap until he TRUSTED me to not abandon him.  I had never realized it before, but (either she or Gina Ford mentioned that) after about ten minutes of eyes closed, babies rouse themselves to see if you are still there – they open one eye – and if they don’t see or feel you, it’s WAAAAH time!  Just by waiting and watching by his crib for 10 minutes until that eye opened, and placing my hand on him or smiling, let him go into the next stage of sleep, secure in the knowledge that I was there, even while he slept.  I also chose a lovey for him (and had a back-up look-alike).  

Kim West goes into detail about where and why you should sit in the room, for how many days, etc., and whether or not you should touch him to help him sleep.  She covers newborn to 5 years old sleep strategies, how much sleep a child should get at what age, plus she discusses nightmares, medical problems, routine busters, etc.  She also discusses how to handle early risers, and how to cope with daylight savings time changes.  This is the most thorough sleep book I've read. 


Daily Plan of Attack – With a Toddler

Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne's Pooh Classics)When our son was about 13 months old, I finally hit on a plan that worked very well for us.  I had been home with my baby since his birth, and was loving it.  But things were still too chaotic for my taste.  Even though I felt I was doing well, I wanted things to be drastically better.  I finally came to the realization that even if I stayed up all night cleaning, it wasn’t going to be enough.  There was still too much stuff.

But I wanted 2007 to be so much better than 2006.  I wanted this house to become a home.  So I drew up a month-by-month plan (click here).  I also needed a daily plan, so that I wouldn’t be cleaning all day long, and would have time to cherish, hug and play with my child, while getting the meals cooked, diapers changed, teeth brushed, house cleaned, myself dressed, etc.

I had become a big grump because I couldn’t stand my falling apart house – and I don’t mean that it was just messy, but all the broken down items, unpainted walls, too much furniture, etc.  My house was 67 years old and showed it.

This is what worked for me.  You’ll need to tweak it for you, based on your lifestyle.  You’ll choose your own days of when to accomplish things based on your activities and how many family members you have, etc.  (Please note that I wrote this several years ago for another group, and I’m re-posting it now.  I’ve mentioned before that my son is now 5.  However, my schedule hasn't changed much.)

Daily Plan of Attack:

Breastfeeding is first on my agenda.  When we hear “Mommeeee…Daddeeeee” my DH gets the little buggar, cuddles him and hands him over to me.  Once breastfeeding is taken care of, off he trots to be with daddy. 

1)     I make the bed (unless it is Wednesday, then I strip the bed).
2)     I get myself ready for the day.  Daddy and baby “do the chores” (feed the cats). 
3)     I make a very simple breakfast for me and baby (oatmeal).  While I’m doing this, they are showering.
4)     We kiss daddy good-bye.
5)     I get baby fed (sometimes with only a diaper & bib on for easier clean-up), then wash his face/hands and get him dressed.

Then our morning cleaning routine begins.  I like to keep my child very close to me.  This is called “tomato staking” (see www.raisinggodlytomatoes.com) and he thrives on it.  I involve him in most everything I do, though he occasionally will watch a video he can dance to if he gets too bored with what I need to do.

1)     The bed is made, but I usually have to straighten the bedspread, then pick up my DH’s pj’s and the morning towels.  This used to really upset me, but then I realized that it is more important to me than to him, and it really isn’t that big a deal, once I included it as a “step” of keeping my home.  It takes about 30 seconds, plus, it blesses my husband.  If it is Wednesday then I put new sheets on the bed.  Of course, my babe wants to “help” by hiding under the blankets, and I oblige.  Five minutes of fun while trying to make the bed will be a lifetime of good memories for us both. (Don't forget to video these moments at least once!)
2)     I take a look around our bedroom and always notice that I’ve got my pj’s lying on the chair instead of put away, and usually last night’s clothes, too.  Oops!  I guess I’m no better than he is about putting things away, right away.  I take out any toys, dishes, etc.  I empty the trash if it needs it.  If the weather permits, I open the windows to air out the room.
3)     I check the baby’s room.  I put books away, close drawers, pick-up toys.  If it is Wednesday then I strip the crib and changing table, and make it up fresh.  During the morning’s chores I will sometimes put on a video so that I can move more quickly.  The baby comes in and out, wanting to be near me, but not enough to mess things up that I’m picking up.  We have a small home, so he is not on another floor or even really out of my sight, and definitely always within hearing.
4)     I check the bathrooms.  Hang up towels, empty trash, spray mirror, clean up water on sink.  I keep a small table with just a few large legos, or another toy, in there so he can be with me whenever I'm in there.  If it is Wednesday, I put out fresh towels and gather up all of the used towels from both bathrooms.
5)     I sort the laundry and start the first of two loads.  My DH will toss most of his clothes into a container, but he won’t sort them.  This absolutely drove me crazy when I worked, because I felt he was taking advantage of me and that I was wasting time sorting his laundry.  After all, he used up three times as many clothes as I did – he should be doing the laundry!  And he did, for awhile….   Once I was home full-time, I realized it wasn’t worth getting upset over – that by sorting the laundry, running the washer and dryer, folding his clothes, and even putting them away – I was blessing him, showering my love on him.  When I worked before baby there were days at the office when I would think, “I’d rather be at home doing laundry.”  And do you know what?  I really would rather be home doing the laundry and caring for my family, than being at a job that really doesn’t matter in the long run.  The laundry has to get done no matter what, and this way I can do it at my leisure, AND, even though I don’t have a beautiful laundry room, I do get to see the beautiful blue sky and white fluffy clouds when I walk out to the garage to get to the washer and dryer.  And I’m thankful.  My child adores playing in the laundry, “helping” me sort, and playing in his pen outside while I’m rebooting.  Sometimes when I’ve got laundry to fold we will stay out there and I’ll fold it outside.  Much nicer than running the copier machine while eating lunch at work.
6)     Time to unload the dishwasher!  Another of my child’s favorites.  It takes longer than the 3 minutes I used to take, but who cares?  My kid thinks it is fun and he is learning new words, “fork, spoon…,” and is learning to help.
7)     Reload the dishwasher.  I have to tell my child, “Dirty, icky” and usually send him into the front room to get this chore done.  Or he plays with clean pots and pans from "his" drawer.  Wipe down the counters.
8)     Straighten up the front room & dining room.
9)     PLAY!  I intensely play with him for at least 20 minutes, without getting sidetracked.  Outside, in his room, the front room, wherever.  If it is 10:30 or earlier, I may even take him to the park for 45 minutes.
10)  If there is time we may go for a walk.

Afternoon Routine
Noon is lunchtime for us.  If lunch isn’t leftovers and will take me awhile to make, I put on an audio book for us (our favorite is Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A. Milne's Pooh Classics with Peter Dennis acting out all voices.  Note there are 2 Volumes.)
Clean him up.
Naptime for 1.5 to 2 hours.  I usually use naptime to read and relax myself, though I may write, or declutter.  It is whatever I want to do. 
Wake-up time and a snack of fruit.
If it is not too hot we may go for a walk.

Evening Routine

4:30 – I begin to prepare for dinner.  If I need it, I put on an encouraging CD from AboveRubies.Org.  Nancy Campbell’s soothing voice calms my child and her encouragement keeps me going when I’m tired.  I may also put on her “Family Meal Table” DVD to help inspire me.  The Family Meal table(dvd)

6:00 – Dinner time.  If we are lucky, daddy will be home to eat with us, but usually he is late and eats way past our dinner time.

Many parents put their kids to bed at 8:00, because the entire family gets up early.  We are blessed to be able to sleep in until 7:30 am (or later if no one wakes up!).  We do not set alarms.  So our child doesn’t go to bed until 9:00 pm (IN BED asleep).  We get him ready around 8:00 and begin the routine of teeth, story, prayer and rocking at 8:30 p.m.

9:15 – I usually check my e-mail, do some work, pay bills, read about child-rearing from others.  If I can get to this earlier in the evening, I do.
10:00 – Clean up kitchen from DH’s meal, start dishwasher, pick-up toys in front room.
10:20 – If I’m cold, I take a shower to warm me up and make me sleepy.
10:30 – I like to read in bed.
11:00 – Lights out. 

What is missing from my day that many women do?  Phone calls, constant play dates, classes, and sports.  I really don’t think I’m depriving my child.  I do take phone calls, but I find that the phone takes me away from my child, so I often let the answering machine take the call.  I try not to turn on the computer until he goes to bed at night, or at least until dad is home and playing with him.  Otherwise, it is very easy for my time to get eaten up.  We do take different classes several times a year (tumbling, dance, music, nature, creative play), but we have plenty of time OFF between sessions.  If we have 4 weeks of ONE class, then we take 2 to 3 months off before we begin a new one.  And we do have short playdates occasionally, just not constantly.

My child NEEDS meMy time in my home.  He doesn’t NEED to play soccer or piano, or take tumbling or dance.  These things are the occasional fun class.  These things really do not matter in life, in the end scheme.  My child loves to dance, and classes are fun, but they are not what is most important.  I want my child to play piano, but not at the expense of our family time, sanity, nutrition, rest, and state of the house.  If it fits into our relaxed schedule, we do it.  If it doesn't, we don't.  This is the only way I can keep my home running smoothly.  I realize that if you have older children, so much time at home may not be realistic, but it sure does make life easier to take care of people and the home when you are AT HOME .


Learning to Love and Clean a Small House

A little house, a little room,
To keep it swept, a little broom,
A little carpet on the floor,
A little curtain at the door,
A little bed, a little chest,
A little chair, to muse and rest,
A little larder, snug and tight,
A little lamp, when it is night,
A little table, and oh please!
A little bread and a little cheese.
            From the book Hickory, by Palmer Brown   

I used to dislike my husband's home.  I felt trapped.  It was small, dark and ugly.  Crowded with inherited furniture and lots of junk.  Even though it was similar to the home I had bought 7 miles away, it was in sad shape and did not get enough natural sunlight.  I was totally depressed…again.

I’ve now been home with my son for five years and I can finally say that my house stays cleaner longer than three hours and that I love my home!  I have finally accepted this house and my attitude change has opened new doors in my imagination on how to solve many of the small and incessant problems that had plagued me.

I had prayed for quite a few years about wanting to love my house, but it wasn’t until I asked a friend to pray for me about it that something in me finally changed.  I prayed for acceptance, and with acceptance came a better attitude.  With attitude came imagination, and with imagination came elbow grease.  With elbow grease, came peace. (You can alter your life by altering your attitude.  ~Unknown)

I needed more than decluttering.  I needed grime removal.  The house overwhelmed me – it had been abandoned for six years with a window open…everything was filthy, even after many scrubbings.  The floors have been replaced, carpet pulled up to reveal hardwood (still in need of polishing) and while we need to repaint again, the first coat did much to boost our spirits.

Things also happened that we never dreamed possible – the neighbors pruned their light-blocking trees, and another painted his home yellow.  When he did this, suddenly I could see sunshine yellow out MY window – I hadn’t realized how his prior dingy brown had affected my mood.

This grime removal has taken seven years so far, and we still have several problem spots to go!  Before grime removal, we had to declutter the home, which was floor to ceiling junk in most rooms, and each drawer was stuffed with twist ties, candles, jars, cleaning products from each decade (I kept the glass Windex bottles).

The day I came home from our honeymoon, my hubby went to Home Depot, and I sat down and cried.  I was so overwhelmed!  Where to start?  The kitchen sink, of course.  (Sink Reflections)  I began with FlyLady, but in this house, FlyLady wasn’t enough.  I had never done more than dust and vacuum.  I had so much to learn.  FlyLady kept saying that we all knew how to clean, we just needed to do it.  I needed more instruction on how to clean and “keep house,” and a book called Home Comforts helped quite a bit, as well as a book called Keeping House

Keeping House is by Cindy Harris and is a beautifully bound book with inspiring pictures. It is filled with lists and I had many aha! moments on how to run my house.  This book goes further than FlyLady (though no one can beat FlyLady’s enthusiasm!).  It also has pockets at each chapter to hold your notes.  I would feel inspired to start just by picking up the book.

Home Comforts covers just about everything in the house and how to clean it, and it was written by one woman – Cheryl Mendelson.  Her dedication shines through in this book making it an enjoyable read.  I don’t recommend Martha’s huge cleaning book because that was written by many people and the book is only helpful if you have a mansion and your staff needs instruction.  Home Comforts is about creating a HOME. 
 Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping HouseKeeping House: Hints and Tips for a Beautifully Clean HomeSink Reflections
I believe that much of what you need to know about cleaning and running a home are found in these books.

A small home means less to clean!  Fewer bedrooms, bathrooms, windows and floor space.  Less furniture to dust.  Fewer places to store excess, clutter and outgrown clothes.  Lower property taxes!  Lower mortgage payments!  Smaller insurance payments!

Now I am able to look upon my small home as a bungalow.  I don’t have any woodland animals to help me clean it, but people have remarked that I look as happy as Snow White.  And I feel like I’ve reached my happily ever after.

Picture of dream house (top):  http://retrorenovation.com/2008/10/20/1950-american-dream-houses-we-start-a-new-series/