I read an article a while back about how photo apps with filters are influencing how we remember our memories. I don't actually think that is a bad thing. The filter I used on this photo is the way I remember this moment. It was a long day. I felt a little gritty from exhaustion. And I looked across the room at this scene, my heart went "ka-thunk" with a big jolt of happiness. Softly out of focus is exactly right.
She hasn't been looking like that much recently. More like a squirmy, whiney, wide-awake and exhausted toddler.
We have been weathering the dreaded 18-month sleep regression.
"Sleep regression" is the term generally applied when your normally well-rested baby suddenly refuses to nap, fights bedtime, regularly wakes up too early, or wakes up repeatedly all night for no apparent reason. The experts say they come at expected intervals - 4 months, 9 months, 13 months, 18 months and 24 months (give or take a month) - and last between 2-6 weeks.
Bean's 18-month regression hit early, right around 16 months. Which also happened to be when she started walking in earnest.
Naps were still mostly OK, but she started fighting me at bedtime. Wanting to nurse but squirming constantly, wanting to play and just taking forever to fall asleep. Some nights it was a two or three hour ordeal. Then she'd wake at midnight, at 3, at 5, at 6. We were both wiped out every day and I just coudn't seem to pull out of the downward spiral that is an overtired baby. And then my own exhaustion hit me like a brick wall.
That was about three weeks ago. I went into survival mode for a while but now that we have had a couple of nights of improved sleep I wanted to offer up what worked to get us through. If nothing else, so I can come back and read this post when she's in the next regression!
Do Whatever Works
I have a friend whose newborn only slept 20 minutes at at time for many months. She tried lots of things to change his sleep patterns, but eventually she just went with it and did whatever she could to keep him and herself as rested as possible. Eventually, thankfully, he grew out of it.
I think of her on our worst days, when none of the things that worked to soothe Bean last week are working at all. Think outside of your normal repoirtoire and pull in techniques for drastic situations. Here are some of the things that worked for us:
Long car rides on days when naps were elusive. For some reason she sleeps longer in the car than anywhere else, so I also resorted to this trick when she became way overtired.
Letting her play in her crib in the dark long past bedtime while I sat nearby and read a book on my phone. Eventually she would settle, even if it sometimes took hours. At least I got some reading time.
Bringing her into our bed when she woke in the wee hours and holding her firmly in my arms until she fell back asleep (after crying, but never for as long as I feared).
An solid bedtime routine. On really difficult days, a warm bath and then right into pajamas in a dim room helped her settle a little faster.
On days when she wasn't to tired to manage dinner, feeding her a meal with a mix of protein and carbs helped her sleep more soundly for the first part of the night, even if she still woke up early in the morning.
Trading off responsibilities with the partner. Bedtime had been my domain since the beginning, but I just couldn't handle it every night any more. Ask for help if you need it!
Drive through coffee for mommy while she slept in the backseat.
Protect Your Own Rest
I got into a really bad cycle of staying up too late on nights bedtime took extra long because I was so desperate for "adult time." Early morning waking and crying spells after those late nights were pure torture. I had to institute a strict bedtime for myself, even if it meant I was leaving my to-do list unfinished.
I also gave myself permission to do no housework during her nap. If she napped in the car I read a book. If she napped at home I got myself a cold drink and caught up on Facebook or blogs. We ran out of clean underwear a couple of times, but it kept me mostly sane.
Make sure to keep up on your exercise, your vitamins and eating a balanced diet. I slipped on all three of these and ended up sick in addtion to exhausted.
Don't throw in the towel
It is easy to let the routines go when you are just trying to keep it together every day. But I routines are important, even if you can't completely maintain them. I tried to keep naptime at about the same time every day, make dinner at the same time every night, and then move into the regular bedtime routine.
Just be willing adjust if that particular day the routine is not going to cut it. If she was too tired to manage her regular dinner I'd offer a yogurt squeeze pouch instead. Nap boycott today? Into the car we go. But tomorrow we will be back in the rocking chair at noon to try again.
Don't Doubt Yourself
At the beginning of this regression I tried really hard to figure out what was wrong so I could fix it. Was she teething? Was the room too light? Was she hungry? Did she need more activity during the day? Less? What did she need that I wasn't giving her?
It took a handful of days to realize this was just going to have to be endured. I wasn't doing anything wrong. But until then I gave myself a lot of grief about what a bad mom I was.
Don't do that. You're doing great. This is normal. It sucks, but it is normal.
Remember This Too Shall Pass
The biggest lesson I have learned about raising a child thus far it that everything changes.
That really cute way she would get so excited that she'd shake before a bath? She doesn't do it any more. That annoying way she'd try to bite me when she was frustrated? Doesn't do it any more.
Sleep regressions are like that, too. Hang in there. It will end. The baby will sleep again soon, and so will you.
I think I do a lot of things right as a mom, but I've totally TOTALLY failed on this front. I have blank baby books (two or three of them!) but none that have anything in them.
I feel terrible about this. My own baby book is a treasured posession. I love reading my mom's notes about what gifts people brought me as a newborn, and each of my firsts. I love the lock of hair she saved (almost the same color as my daughter's!). I love my mom's tiny tiny neat handwriting, which has changed so much over the length of my life. I love looking at my old report cards and school pictures.
It isn't that I haven't marked down any memories or milestones; I have. I also have stacks of important saved items, like the impossibly small hospital anklet with "Baby Girl Bumgarner" printed on it, the extra copy of her first passport photo, and a large stack of cards from her first birthday. I also have thousands of photos on my computer and almost-monthly letters that I wrote to her during the first year, and a digital calendar where I took note of all sorts of firsts.
But none of this stuff is in a book.
I don't know, maybe it doesn't need to be. There are so many ways of capturing memories these days. I think part of what's holding me back from starting an actual baby book is just not knowing what to put in and what to leave out. Do I print out all of my Facebook status updates from the first several months of her life? How do I wittle down the thousands of photos to one for each month? How do I include the letters, or do I want to keep those separate until she is older? What about all the precious videos of her from my iPhone? Should I include a DVD?
I'd love to hear from some of you other busy mamas. Do you have baby books for your babies? What form do they take? Do they have digital as well as physical components?
And those of you with older kids, what did you do? How do your kids feel about their books, or the lack thereof, as the case may be?
I read a study recently that showed a correlation between young children being exposed to TV (even in the background) and poor performance in cognitive and reading related tasks. The report said the researchers surveyed 1,450 households and found children between eight months and eight years old were exposed to an average of four hours of TV a day.
I find that slightly horrifying.
We err way in the other direction. I'm not sure I watch even four hours of TV in a week myself (and by TV I mean movies, because we don't have cable), and most weeks all of that is after Bean is in bed.
That isn't to say we don't have screen time, so don't think I'm getting all preachy Waldorf here. We love our computers and iDevices. Bean even has her own iPhone (without a service plan!) on which she plays Peekaboo Barn. Over and over.
But the biggest entertainment for the kid in this house is books. You know when your kid is quiet for just a beat too long and you have to go check to see what they have gotten into? Nine times out of ten I round the corner and find her with a book on her lap, flipping the pages and studying the pictures.
Here are her current favorites, at 15 months. Almost all of them I've read so often I have memorized them. And most of them I still like!
This story has simple, rhyming text and beautiful, detailed illustrations. This one has been a favorite for many months - what baby doesn't love looking at other babies? Recently we've been talking more about what's going on in the drawings. There are cats, dogs, balloons, and lots of colors to look for and talk about.
With similarly detailed drawings but very few words, this is a really fun bedtime book. It shows a little boy getting ready for bed with the help and accompanyment of a host of hamsters, who are doing all kinds of interesting things on each page. I love that on the storytime page, the kid is reading a copy of 10 Mintues Until Bedtime.
This book originally came into the house as a hand-me-down from Bean's babysitter's kids, inspired because Bean loves her blueberries. The story is singsong, with made-up berry words and fun illustrations. Iread this book every day at least once. I love that the illustration on each page hints at the story on the next page - it took me a while to notice that! There is a lot going on in each drawing and lots to talk about and point out. I've given this book as a gift already several times.
If you don't know Sandra Boynton's books, run, do not walk, to the bookstore and check her out. Her board books are fantastic for toddlers. Simple, silly stories, illustrated with funny animals (and not just the usual farm animals!). Several of her books are available in an interactive, narrated format in the iTunes store. Snuggle Puppy and Barnyard Dance require you, the reader, to be willing to sing a little, but your kid's grin will make the awkwardness of that totally worth it. Hearing my guy bust out his full-on southern twang for Barnyard Dance is awesome.
I've seen this book at all of my friend's houses recently. It is a classic, and a great showcase for Eric Carle's style. Very simple story, very repetitive. Bean tends to turn the pages faster than I can read so she can see each animal. She loves the page at the end that shows them all in one place and we have been practicing the signs for each animal as we look at that page together. I was delighted to find that the teacher in the story sports classes in a color very close to the color of Bean's frames.
This book is a recent addition. I found it before Easter and put it in Bean's basket. Although it always leaves me slightly out of breath to read it at her preferred speed, I love that the rhythm of the text makes her dance. yesterday she was drumming on the toilet lid while I was brushing my hair and I sang, "Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum dum dum!" to her. She rushed out of the room, pulled all the books off of the shelf until she found this one, and brought it over to me with a big grin on her face.
This book has a Seussian quality about it, so I always confuse it with Dr. Seuss books. It was a very early favorite, and has held its place in the lineup for many months. It is a nice small size, easy for her to hold and turn the pages herself. The last illustration, the dog party which is the destination of all the going, can hold her attention for a long time.
This one is not a board book, but Bean is surprisingly gentle with it. It is part of a series of books about a pigeon, in this case with aspirations to be a bus driver. The illustrations are graphic, large, with muted colors. It is really fun to read and would make a great story circle book. It can be really interactive if the reader asks the kids what they think: "Should we let the pigeon drive the bus?" Bean is a sweetie, though. She always says yes, we should.