Welp, there went summer. Between having a baby and all the family and friend visits - not to mention the no-sleeping - this was probably the lightening-flashiest of summers I've lived so far. And the blog is definitely long overdue for a recap!
The summer can be divided into two parts, really: Pre- and post-sleep training. It was pretty rock and roll for the first eight weeks of Benji's life. Not only were we trying to figure out what made the tiny screaming human calm down, we were doing this on a precarious schedule of Less Than Restorative Zzz's. The daily routine went more or less like this: 7 a.m. wake-up, nurse, bounce baby, maybe nurse some more, try to lull baby back to sleep. Repeat until sleeping. 9 a.m., do that again. 11 a.m.... 1 p.m.... 3 p.m.... (You get it.) But as I was stuck in this 24-hour cycle, Mat was Actually Sleeping in the other room and therefore able to pick up the slack everywhere else: cooking, cleaning, errand-running. And I have to admit, 7 a.m. was one of my favorite hours, not only because it meant Mat was coming to relieve me for a few minutes, but mostly because he would bring a glorious plate of fruit covered in maple syrup and it was heaven. He's a pretty good catch, if I do say so myself.
It was during this time that we had our first visits, from Mom and Jeff! Although in retrospect, I will admit that I believe we'd all have had a more enjoyable time if they'd come up Post-Sleep Training. Because in those first weeks I was so knocked out from exhaustion that I couldn't enjoy their visit, and at the same time, I probably wasn't the most agreeable host either (sorry, guys!). Most of our interaction took place in the baby's room while I had a little runt hanging from my boob and my eyes were half-open. FUN WITH THE FAM, indeed.
We were literally watching the clock waiting for the 8th week to arrive so we could start sleep training, and we soon found out that it's right up there with vaccinations as far as controversy is concerned (I'll talk about that, too. Oh, boy!) There are about three times as many approaches as there are ways to apply them and it's all very confusing unless you have some personal stories to go on. Controversial Element Numero Uno is at what age is it appropriate to begin. Some say 8 weeks or 12 pounds, others say that's way too early and you should wait until 4 months. Others still say sleep training is a form of torture... you get the idea, it's rough! I think what it all comes down to is your unique tolerance for sleep deprivation and/or spending several hours trying to lull a screaming, over-tired baby to sleep. Ours, as we found out, is effectively ZERO.
The technique we chose was one we got off some friends for whom it had worked great with their two kids. The best part of this approach, to me, was the 8 week start date: one of the earliest! (Or at 12 pounds, to assure they have enough fat reserves to sleep hours on-end without a feeding... though Benji had that down plenty early. He got to 12 pounds weeks before his 8th!) After reading about other approaches that consider this age too early, psychologically, for the baby, we did hmm and haw about it. Was he going to hate us forever, or feel abandoned, or just not understand? The author of the technique was very reassuring that 8 weeks was a perfectly suitable time to begin, and reinforced how important sleep is for baby's development. And also that falling asleep on one's own is a skill that must be learned and is not as inherent as one might think. Ultimately, sanity preservation won out and we decided to go for it. (Mat was at his wit's end spending hours trying to put Benji down in the evenings... he'd resorted to plugging in his headphones to play classical music to cut through the piercing cries!) He came out of the baby's room one night during my dad's visit and basically said he couldn't take it anymore (we had initially decided to wait until Dad had left so as to spare him the misery of a baby crying-it-out). And so it was time.
What it essentially came down to was sort of "organized" crying it out. Some more extreme approaches have you leave the baby in their bed, shut the door, and not come back until 12 hours later. Not even for a diaper change! (Yuck.) This seemed way too much even in our desperation. The technique we followed had us sit by his bed with a timer and, at intervals that increased by 15 seconds each time, we would take the baby and comfort him, and when he stopped crying, put him back in his bed. If he started crying again, we start the timer again, and so on, until he fell asleep. This way, we didn't leave him alone and we were there to give him comfort at times, but ultimately he was made to fall asleep on his own. It was pretty rough the first couple times as we all got used to it, but it was very soon that he was able to soothe himself to sleep, sucking his thumb!
After that, we had way more time to hear ourselves think and to enjoy visits. And do things like eat dinner or watch a complete movie or series. (Umm... Money Heist on Netflix, anyone? We knocked that out in an embarrassingly short amount of time...) However, it didn't fix EVERYTHING: he still wakes up once or twice a night (occasionally, three times...grrr) to nurse. Night-weaning is apparently sold separately. I'll be looking into that shortly, now that Mat is back to school and I don't have morning nap relief.
The thing that kind of took a hit from the sleep training, though, was his ability to "sleep anywhere." He's been trained to sleep in his own bed, under specific conditions: a dark, quiet room with the familiar smells of home. So when we went to visit friends, which often consisted of an overnighter since we live a bit outside the radius of comfortable daytrips, he would easily lose his good sleep patterns. But in our attempt to not become "Those Parents" whose kids' nap schedules keep them glued to home base, we ended up getting out quite a bit this summer. We even did a 3-night camping trip to Kamouraska!
The other big conversation of the summer was whether we would vaccinate Benji. Honestly, I had never really thought about it and considered myself pro-vax more or less by default. I'd heard the blips here and there about the anti-vaxers and had generally been swept up in the majority opinion that they were a bit nuts. Then, Mat had a biology professor this last year who is definitively anti-vax, and recommended a book that Mat found convincing enough to at least question the status quo. Being generally skeptical of one-size-fits-all capitalistic ideals, Mat found certain arguments concerning the profit interests of Big Pharma worthy of reflection. The book recounted some cases where vaccinations weren't as effective as originally thought, and/or had in fact done some harm in terms of secondary effects such as promoting autoimmune deficiencies and allergies. However, the book had its pitfalls that continued our questioning of the whole thing in general - mainly its somewhat outdated research.
Mat's questioning of it - and my lack of research on either side enough to shape an informed opinion of my own - had us miss our first vaccination appointment while we mulled things over. Then, a lively discussion with some friends turned the tide. Someone brought up a personal experience of whooping cough at daycare brought on by non-vaccinated kids. Others talked about the social contract of vaccinating.
Ultimately, for me, the fear of NOT vaccinating and the consequences thereof, such as being responsible for Benji falling ill, or another child falling ill because of Benji, made the decision. Mat, feeling conflicted about the lack of objective information on either side, conceded to my fears. It's still rough because neither of us are 100 percent convinced - we continue to hear and read stories of non-vaccinated adults who are perfectly healthy (we actually know some personally!), or who became vaccinated later in life when they wanted to travel - and there's still a very real possibility that not vaccinating Benji would have been just fine or perhaps better. But in the end, fear won out.
When I explained that to a friend, she replied, "Isn't fear what keeps humans alive?" Ha, I thought was pretty fitting.
In other news, these last 15 weeks have seen a lot in Benji's development and he's hitting all the milestones right on schedule. He's holding his head well, smiling, following our voices, gurgling and "singing", grabbing things - or, "raking" them really, toward his mouth - and getting really strong in his (assisted) seated position. The next big step (or so the e-newsletters say) is rolling over at 4 months. I'll be sure to send out the News Blast. ;)
And now for an assortment of photos from the summer (including Benji's passport snap!)
Next up: Honeymoon is over, Mat's back to school!