Coping with a new born: Getting some ZZZs (Part 2)

Ok, I’m back from my meditation mountain of studying for my course exams! Back to the unfinished business of Sleep Training Part 2! Part 1 was about the eat-play-sleep cycle in Babywise and how it helped small J sleep through the night. Part 2 is about how to get your kid to sleep on his or her own, according to Babywise.

The Babywise solution is essentially the Cry It Out (CIO) method and also having your kid sleep in his or her own room. Hold your horses! Don’t pelt me with stones! Don’t write hate mails to me! Remember, no judgment?! CIO method has received a lot of flak and is almost a taboo word these days but I’ve got to say it works wonders if applied correctly and consistently for a week. The results? Good sleep for yourself and the baby in 7 days! And a baby in a good mood during the daytime. Sounds suspiciously like a slimming ad? The small print is the same: results may vary and it really depends on your baby and your effort.

The CIO method in the book writes that during the sleep phase, you should  say a firm goodnight and leave the room so that the baby can learn to self soothe and sleep on his own. If he or she starts crying, allow him or her to cry – most babies will cry to sleep within 45 minutes. The assumption is that the baby sleeps in another room, which is what I practiced since I am so light a sleeper that I can’t sleep with the baby cot next to me even when my head is buried under pillows.

So that’s what I did! Almost really, but I made up my own rules and cheated.

  1. Firstly, as expounded by Babywise, observation is the key. We are not supposed to twiddle the thumbs or whistle when sleep training. (Reality: just like every mother, I feel like cringing at the corner and die when I hear my baby cry). So, a good way for me to cope was to record the type of cries and the length of time as well as whether the kid was well-fed and received enough stimulation before that. When I had something constructive to do like plotting trends, I felt less emotional. If the baby is well fed and stimulated at playtime, he should fall asleep quite quickly.
  2. Secondly, our rule is not to let the baby cry over 35 minutes. Why such a random time? Because by observation, small J usually doesn’t cry beyond this time to go to sleep.
  3. I face the baby’s bed such that the eyes of the baby faces 180 degrees away from the door, so I could effectively peep in and observe him without him seeing me. When I was able to see him and check on him, it was comforting.
  4. I noticed that if I consistently sleep train him for a week, he will cry for 5 minutes or less after that before falling asleep and after a few weeks there’ll be no more crying. For small J, consistency is key. I have to psycho myself that if I decide to sleep train, I cannot give up halfway; if not it’ll all be in vain and it’s better not to start in the first place. My secondary school discipline teacher used to tell us to raise our right fist into the air and shout ‘SHORT TERM SACRIFICE, LONG TERM GAIN!’ like a communist to rah-rah us for the exams. This was also my motto during sleep-training week.
  5. I cheated and he had a sleep prop – the pacifier that the confinement nanny used, despite my protests. I found it to be a necessary evil until I weaned him off cold turkey when he was 7 months old (another dramatic experience). I also used the sarong for 2 weeks to get him to switch from being a night baby (one that is awake most of the night and sleeps in the day) to a day baby in his 2nd month before starting sleep training.

Sidetrack: When I was preggie and idealistic, I vow never to do some things…

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I have not looked back since and am grateful that small J could sleep on his own without crying or waking up at night for most nights since about 3 months old and that was the most important factor for giving me some way to function normally at work and in life. As with fighting the flab, sleep training is a constant fight. It has to be done again and again and again (sigh!) after every transition since there’ll be sleep disruptions during transitions and I’ll try to be more understanding e.g. When I weaned him off the pacifier, when he transited schools, when he was ill…

However, I have regressed much. recently, after he transited schools, I was much less successful in sleep training him. When he changed schools, he felt insecure for two weeks, so I accompanied him to bed. And I found out that I enjoyed the experience now that he is older and can speak. Even though I will pretend to be asleep to dissuade him from playing in bed (like slapping his bear around), he will talk to me about his day e.g. friends in school, why mummy was angry, or that grandma came over. Sometimes he will sing too and accompanying him to bed is a really heartwarming experience. Who knows? I may give up sleep training after all since life is certainly more manageable at 30 months old as compared to 3 months old. It can only get better.

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Coping with a new born: Getting some ZZZs (Part 1)

Good news from Mummy A! Baby Z has come into this world! Mummy A is beaming with happiness and baby Z looks so kissable! I shall dedicate this post to her as she did not have time to reread her Baby Wise book!

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Having a new born is like an extreme sport, such as overnight rock climbing. You need endurance, resilience, and sleeping is like hanging off a cliff. Ok gross exaggeration but you get the idea. My cell group mate commented that during the first few months of having her baby, she really feared going to sleep only to be woken up 2 hours earlier. This interrupted sleep is so bad that she’d rather not sleep at all. Anyway, just like an extreme sport, gaining victory over challenges as a new mother is also exhilarating and sweet. So when I was pregnant with baby J and knowing that my pet peeve is not sleeping enough, the greatest cliff that I wanted to conquer when he was born was getting enough sleep.

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Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/8541224/Extreme-camping-and-rock-climbing-photographs-by-Gordon-Wiltsie.html

So I went about doing my usual, talking to others and reading. I read these:

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Articles from Blog 3.4

William Sears’ philosophy of attachment parenting,

hoping to find a good solution… but the more I read, the more worried I got, “Sounds like a gargantuan task!”, my mind spoke, “I won’t be able to endure it!”. Then I began talking to my colleagues, you know those mummy idols that you have, whose kids are well-behaved, and are able to sleep and eat well. I discovered that some of them followed the principles from this book, On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.

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I borrowed it, read it, was hooked on it and in short, it became my parenting bible. I read it at least 6 times over from cover to cover, and when baby J was born, I referred to it whenever I encountered problems, which was a funny sight, to be reading when baby J is inconsolable. I told Daddy J, “It’s like an open-book exam!”

These are the principles that I really love in that book:

1)      The book started off differently from many other baby books. It says “great marriages produce great parents” and that is the most important foundation to good parenting. Too often when the baby is born, he becomes so central to our lives such that it eclipses everything else. This is something that parents need to be conscious of so that parents do not burn out. Parents need to be in for the long haul, like a long distance race, not a burst in sprinting. Till today, I firmly believe that I need to take care of myself (and my spouse), so that the both of us can emotionally invest in our kid.

2)      It follows that the focus of the book is then to get your child to: A) sleep through the night and B) sleep on his own.

3)      The focus of this system is that you need to observe and listen to your child closely to know him well.

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A)     Getting your child to sleep through the night

1)      The definition of sleeping through the night is that your baby can consistently sleep for at least 6 hours straight at night, which was so precious to me.

2)      The system is to establish an EAT-PLAY-SLEEP cycle in a 3-4 hour schedule once the baby is born. This schedule is not a totally rigid one, but it definitely should not be a 1-2 hour cycle. How you determine the duration is through detailed observation: by consistently taking down the timing of EAT-PLAY-SLEEP in a schedule. The timing of one cycle starts when the baby wakes up to EAT and the timing of the cycle stops when the baby after PLAYing, goes to SLEEP and wakes up to eat for the next cycle. If you have read Bringing up Bebe (BUB) by Pamela Drukerman, a similar idea in French parenting is the concept that every child has a circadian rhythm, a schedule that we need to help the baby discover.

3)      The utmost important thing to do is to ensure your baby has FULL FEEDS during the EAT stage. This can be done by waking the baby if he sleeps while feeding by massaging his foot, tapping his leg…I have even used a towel dipped in ice water to ensure that he is awake. In essence, using whatever method to ensure he is awake and feeds for about 20 minutes at each breast.

4)      This cycle also advocates EAT-PLAY-SLEEP in this order, unlike other schedules, so that the baby does not form the habit of suckling to sleep, which may become an issue in training him to sleep on his own.

5)      The beauty of this cyclical approach is that if my baby is crying out of schedule e.g. my baby wakes early by crying or is crying immediately after feeding, I know what to do to make informed decisions through observation, rather than just assuming he needs to eat. Is he crying because he needs a diaper change? Or has he not been stimulated enough during play? Is it too hot/cold in the room? Did he have a full feed?  Does he need to go back to sleep? This is somewhat like the “pause” in BUB. By going through this thinking process nth times a day, I actually got to know “his pattern” better. The best part is, once the baby is nudged onto this cycle, I roughly knew what to expect throughout the day, and can plan to nap, do housework, go out with the kiddy and say Whew!.

6)      If there is a consistent attempt to establish a schedule, the book says that the child will be able to drop one feed in the middle-of-the-night (which means he doesn’t wake at all for the MOTN feed), hence, sleeping through the night by about 6-10 weeks old. My boy started dropping his night feeds at about week 9 and was consistent by about week 10. I seriously remembered singing Halleluiah! as I decided to go back to work after 2 months and really, really needed my sleep! Interestingly, my friends who had schedules for their babies also reported that their baby began to sleep through the night at around the same time, so based on anecdotal evidence, this works!

7)        Looking at your baby sleep soundly is seriously the most beautiful and peaceful experience in the world! You cannot help but smile from ear to ear! (Plus, you get some free time! haha!)

I would like clarify that by sharing this post, I am not advocating that one method is better for the baby or the mother, than another. My principle in child rearing is ‘Yes, by all means, do what’s good for the child, but also remember to take time to do what is good for yourself’. My belief is that whatever approach you choose, choose one that suits your lifestyle and personality. I knew I had to go back to work, we weren’t intending to get a helper, not getting enough sleep is really stressful for me and I am not the resilient type, so I knew that schedules and sleep training are vital for the long haul physically and emotionally. Whatever you and I choose to do – no guilt, no judgement, there is no right or wrong. WE ARE ALL GOOD PARENTS. YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT. Besides, if you look at Mummy A, Mummy M and I, we differ in so many ways in our parenting but out kids turned out just fine. At least, I would like to think! 🙂 Perhaps, Mummy M, you would like to share your parenting philosophy and your wonderful journey? Ok, look out for my next post on training the baby to sleep on his own!

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Family-with-young-kids travelling solution: Club Med Cherating

Things I miss doing after small J was born #72: Travelling in the most carefree way.

I.really.miss.travelling. More than I care to admit, and more than I dare to admit to others. And it is not that I didn’t try.

I tried travelling with my friends after small J was born, but it was sure tough on my other half. That’s why God made TWO parents – it is extremely difficult to cope for long periods of time if there is only one of you, with no extra help. It is difficult to go to the toilet, or bathe, or eat, or SMS, or sleep. And the parent has to work too.

Daddy J and I tried travelling together, leaving small J with my parents. Not a great option too. Nope, I am not worried for my kid cos’ he’ll survive. I worry for my parents, that they’ll be really tired out. Every weekend, I am tired out watching out for small J, I can’t imagine doing this 30 years down the road for my grandchildren, and a BOY, who is twice as active as a girl, according to books.

Random 5-minute snapshot of what small J does daily: climb up the sofa. jump on the sofa. get an earful from me for doing that. climb down the sofa. jump on the floor. run to the kitchen and touch the cabinets. run to his ‘car park’. ride his scooter forward. backward. 5 more times like this. send his scooter to the naughty corner cos’, according to him, his scooter was naughty… and it goes on! Sometimes I wish we can exchange bodies, surely, I can lose some weight, going around the house at a dizzying rate, like a disco strobe light gone mad. Anyway, as my mum exclaims in Cantonese, ‘it is so tiring just watching him go about like this!’ Welcome to the toddler world!

At that point in time when he was 1 yo, we didn’t even dare to think of travelling as a family cos’ this is what I envision (and I have a good imagination): packing a truckload full of diapers, milk powder, baby food. Getting stared down by others on the plane cos’ small J is hysterical. Spending the morning packing an army pack out of the hotel room just to eat breakfast, and then hurrying back for his nap. Carrying his pram up long flights of stairs. Still being cranky after his nap cos’ he didn’t sleep well in the new environment. Me in a bad mood outside cos’ he’s grouchy, which frustrates me. Quarreling with Daddy J. Returning to hotel after walking around aimlessly about 1 km from the hotel room. Hiding in the toilet to wait for small J to sleep (cos’ he sleeps in his own room at home). In short, paying a few thousand dollars for a trip just to hang around the hotel room and be frustrated. Super lose-lose situation.

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So I thought I will never travel until small J is 7 yo, which is what one of my colleagues did. I went into mourning. Until I talked to my colleagues during lunch about our perennial one-that-gives-us-hope-to-carry-on-working topic: ‘where will you be travelling during the school holidays’? And my colleague shared with me his experience at Club Med Cherating. I was bowled over! I can stop mourning! A quick research showed that they have a new Baby Club, which means that you can drop off your kid from 4 months to 2 yo from 8.30 am-5pm. And they have qualified pre-school teachers looking after the kids. And it is an all-inclusive package in the club – no need to travel out or pay for food or activities (except for day trips outward and their spa). And there is a new budget flight going there, which takes only 1 hour. And there is a 1-for-1 promo. I am sold! Sounds like a good solution to our travelling woes! That very night, I made my booking.

Money matters…

5D4N All-inclusive (accommodation, food, activities) at Club Med Cherating 12- 16 June 2013:

SGD1500, 2 Adults based on the 1-for-1 promo, child below 2 yo is free (Baby cot and toiletries included)

Baby Club: SGD75 per day x 4 days = SGD300

Two way transport from airport to hotel: SGD100

Firefly flights to and from Kuantan: SGD200 for 2 adults, SGD30 for child below 2 yo

Total: SGD2130

Here’s what we did at Club Med Cherating.

Things that made Small J happy and safe!

Baby Club Amenities (Small J was 22 months when he went there):

  1. The indoor play area is air-conditioned and very new, sorta like a smaller version of Hokey Pokey (an indoor playground at Millenia Walk). When Small J first saw that place, he ran in and zoomed in on the big cars that he could ride.
  2. It features a water play area that won Small J’s heart when he saw it! Slides, spout, merry-go-round and waterplay toys… They provide swim diapers too!
  3. An outdoor playground with sand.
  4. A separate nap area with proper cots.
  5. An eating area that you could dine with your child if you wish to.
  6. A good menu of fruit, yoghurt, pasta, rice.
  7. A daily schedule of activities is provided e.g. visit to the Turtle Sanctuary, Play Doh time, Waterplay
  8. And the most important thing for us as parents – great and experienced staff there who made me feel at ease about placing small J there! The manager is a Singaporean who was previously a Pat Schoolhouse teacher and they have a certified nurse as one of the teachers too. They also have proper procedures during registration where you have to pass them your kids’ medical and vaccination records.

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On the whole, I think Small J had a great time as he had so many things to play with! Even though his day would start out with crying due to separation anxiety, the teachers told me the duration that he cried e.g .10 min and what they did to distract him e.g. bring him to the water play area, showed him the refrigerator of snacks and food and got him to choose his own snacks (a sure-win with small J). We could also peep in anytime if we are worried. Most importantly, when we fetched him every day, he was all smiles and very pally with the teachers, which shows that he likes them.

One thing to note: Being kiasu, I booked Baby Club together with the accommodation, as there is limited availability for spaces at Baby Club, according to the website. As a result, they will automatically charge me based on the number of nights I am staying e.g. 4 nights. On hindsight, I should have booked Baby Club on a daily basis when I arrived. In this way, I would have placed him for 3 days only (SGD225), since the first and last day is basically travelling to and from the airport. Moreover, if Small J cannot adapt, I can draw him out of Baby Club for the rest of the days and bring him around.

Things that made Daddy J and me happy!

1. The best thing about Club Med is that there is no need to travel for all the activities! They are all within walking distance, or a 5-minute tram ride away! This is very important to us with a young kid as he cannot sit still for long, that is why we cannot imagine travelling with a tour group and we did not want to wander aimlessly around the hotel area. The best thing is that there are terribly many planned activities all day… Warning: This is not the place for you if you are a I-must-do-it-all! or I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! freak, which actually somewhat describes me, so I decided to take a deep breath and be zen about what I shall miss doing.

2. Things that we did:

  • My favourite is the Zen pool, and infinity pool, which can only be reached by tram! It is an M18 pool, and don’t get me wrong, it is not a nudist pool! Kids under 18 yo are not allowed there as it is supposed to be a very quiet pool. And free flow of alcoholic drinks, not that Daddy J and I like to drink but it sure appeals to those who have the I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! itch.

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  • Sailing (go by tram)

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  • Spa (had to pay for that)
  • Walking on trees
  • Karaoke

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  • Things that we did not do: acrobatics, archery, jungle walk, sports, party at night (only small J partied!)

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3. Good and abundant food:

  • The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet selection at the main restaurant is stunning and changes everyday. There’s steak, lamb chops, sashimi, salad, yoghurt, ice cream x 100 more things…There is also Gerber’s puree food and fresh fruit for babies below 1 yo. Sometimes, there are performances before dinner!

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  • There is a noodle snack bar if you feel hungry in between lunch and dinner, which is technically impossible, but the snack bar is crowded anyway.

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  • Free flow of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at the bar from cocktails, beers, mocktails, juices, hot chocolate, coffees. Small J had a field day drinking all the juice mocktails, while I had my lattes, cappuccinos and mochas.

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  • Surprise food parties throughout the day: Chefs teaching people how to cook a dish and food-tasting after that, popcorn and candy by the pool. I love the surprise element. We were swimming in the main pool when they suddenly set up tables by the poolside and they were popping popcorn, with soda, marshmallows, snacks and candy all there.

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  • Seriously good stuff for dinner at Rembulan restaurant, which you have to book at 8 am daily at the main restaurant. I had to run there in the morning cos’ it was booked rather quickly. It really is like fine dining!

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  • Seriously, by the second day, my I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! mentality waned and it was replaced by the I-could-get-really-fat-doing-this mentality.

Things that made our whole family happy!

1. Performances galore! Every night, there are amazing performances with costumes, lights, dancing and singing. What is more amazing is that they are all choreographed and performed by the staff, or better known as GOs (Gracious Organisers), in a very professional manner. Imagine the look on small J’s face when he saw his Baby Club teacher dancing an Indian Dance on one night and Michael Jackson on another. My favourite show is the Circus themed show, which features acrobatic stunts by the GOs themselves! On Saturday, those children attending the Kids Club (aged 4-7) will perform at night after only one day of preparation.

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2. Things that we did as a family:

  • Visit Turtle Sanctuary

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  • Watch fireworks together on Saturday

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  • Go on a night boat ride to watch fireflies (had to pay Ringgit 120 for 2 adults, free for kids under 3 yo). Small J loved this, when he came back to Singapore, he kept boasting to everyone about this.

3. The wonderful GOs! I am really amazed by them! They are really friendly and warm people, and they are so energetic! At first, I was kinda freaked out when my colleague told me that they are so friendly that they will join you for dinner, which is totally not my style since I am a private person, but after going there, it feels perfectly alright as only people whom you have come into contact with will join you, for us, it is small J’s teacher at the Baby Club. She told us that their official working hours is from 8 am-12 midnight (they are expected to party with the guests), and I was thinking, if they can work from 8 am-12 midnight, they obviously love what they do.

All I can say is that our very first trip as a family was an excellent one – no need to rush back to the room for his naps, no need to carry prams up long flight of steps, no need to travel from place-to-place for meals and activities and less grouchiness from small J cos’ he had things to do! And Daddy J and I managed to have a carefree trip, almost just like the old days! Except that we still had to hide in the toilet to wait for small J to sleep!

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Note: All these pictures are taken using an iPhone 4S. While they may not be stunning, it is a reflection of what-you-see-is-what-you-get-there.

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I ❤ talking!

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But nope, I am definitely no extrovert, people around me will tell you. Obviously, talking is a great way to build relationships for everyone. But very importantly, talking helps me on my secret quest! Nah… This is not a knight’s quest to pull out a sword stuck in a round table or anything noble like that… It is my personal quest to find win-win solutions to life, which is currently consumed by my son, small J. Sounds nerdy but that is why I really like to read… And talk.

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It is to my greatest delight that I found my 2 BFF serial talkers, A and M, by chance. After leaving school, all of us weren’t in close contact. Until one day at a gathering, while being 6-month preggie, I saw that A was preggie too! As you would know, preggies (especially first-timers) like to huddle at a corner and talk in a language with acronyms that no one else will understand… EDD, epidural, OSCAR (nope, not the movie awards)… “Whoop-dee-doo,” I thought, “Someone that speaks my language!” From our chats, I found out that M was preggie too! It is God’s blessing that our kiddies were born in the same season of the year. And this marked the start of our mummy friendship among J, A and M.

Please come and talk to me through this blog!

Credits: Thanks to meme generator for endless fun!

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