Sleep, sleep, sleep

The babies’ sleep regression lasted a little less than three weeks. It was the same kind of regression they had earlier this year (the 4 month sleep regression that hit them around 5.5 months; this 9 month regression hit around 10 months). As far as these things go, it probably wasn’t too awful–an hour to an hour and a half awake in the middle of the night, waking anywhere from 3 to 430. (I hear that a lot of babies wake up every hour or every two hours! I can’t imagine how difficult that is!) We would give them an ounce or more of food as demanded, and after a few days of this, we just brought them downstairs to sit and play quietly in dim light. No point in trying to stand around their room for an hour, and they were not about to play nicely in their cribs–no way, they were to be held, or they were to play.

This would have been easy to alternate between the two of us grownups if there were one baby. But we have two babies who both needed hugging and cuddling, and who both wanted bottles, so we needed two sets of arms to help them. Which meant both of us being awake for half the night (since we are night owls and were going to bed at 12 or 1am) and being super tired all the time. It really hit me after the first week. I felt like a zombie, desperate to get some rest. (But not, apparently, desperate enough to actually go to bed at a decent time. Night owl all the way!)

We/they eventually had a few days of better sleep and so we thought, phew, we’re in the clear. But then for close to a week, there were more wakings again. Not as long, thank goodness, but still being wide awake. We think there was some teething going on–their top teeth are erupting–and maybe some growing. Occasionally only one would be awake; sometimes the other would sleep through, and sometimes the other would wake up and realize he was hungry and wanted to play also.

During this little mini sleep thing, we noticed that they were protesting their room. They would wake up crying, and we would hold them, and if we headed toward the door and set foot over the threshold out of their room–the crying stopped like magic. Step back inside their room, waaaaah. Aha, babies, you won’t outsmart me! 3am is not playtime! Back to sleep you will go! They also did a lot more crying when we put them down for naps, even when they were clearly extremely exhausted and needing to sleep, just lots more crying and protesting that really wasn’t indicative of a problem.

So we began to do a very basic sleep training. Just a 5 minute wait period. We would hug and kiss them, put them down in the crib, give them a pacifier and a lovey, say I love you, and walk out. We would watch the clock and after 5 minutes go back in and lay them back down again without saying much, and leave again. Usually after another 2-3 minutes they would quiet down and go back to sleep. I don’t think I ever needed to go in a second time.

I didn’t keep track of what day we started this, or track the length of the cryings and waiting times. But in less than a week, they didn’t even cry for a full five minutes. And now, after maybe 2ish? less than that? weeks, they cry for less than a minute when we put them down or leave after a waking.

It’s not fun to hear the crying, but it doesn’t break my heart or anything. I know that they need to sleep, that they aren’t hungry or in pain. They just want to be awake and play, even if their little bodies say otherwise. I’m not torturing them, I’m not with-holding affection. They get plenty of snuggles and love from us during their awake hours. We are teaching them some boundaries and how to self-soothe. They need to be able to go to sleep on their own. (Well, I guess you could say that *we* need them to be able to go to sleep on their own. And that’s fair. Mama needs her space. Parents are people too.)

So we are fortunately that this sleep training ‘lite’ is working for us–the babies can help themselves, they can get to sleep and go back to sleep, which means they’re getting good rest and that the parents will be more rested too.

Well…eventually. I guess. We have still not recovered from the regression sleep debt, and the babies still have a wake up or two, short ones, overnight or too early in the morning, and we’re still going to bed too late. Now I’m having trouble going back to sleep after some of these wakings, which means that even when I have the chance to get extra sleep, my mind won’t let me. Torture!

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Regression?

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Thanks to Ask Moxie, I learned about growth spurts and sleep regressions long before it would ever be time for our babies to go through them. I blame pretty much blame any weirdness on one or the other. However, as their four month ‘birthday’ came and went, I wondered if somehow we had escaped the four month sleep regression that I’d heard such terrible things about.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the babies had a hard time going to sleep. They cried for a good half-hour after we put them down, which is very unlike them. Wednesday and Thursday nights (I think?) they were up–WIDE AWAKE–for an hour and a half around 3am. We gave them snacks and tried to help them calm down, to no avail. Eventually we put them (or at least one of them) in a Rock n Play, and they must have fallen back asleep.

They also suddenly refused their naps, or at least their nap schedule (which had been 45 minute naps four times a day). Emmett would finally sleep for 1-1 1/2 hours, and Malcolm stayed up longer and crash for half an hour. They also got a lot more hungry, eating 7oz or more for at least half the feedings.

The morning after the second bad night, we were talking about it, and as I went through all the unusual things that had been happening, I was like, Dang, I am describing a sleep regression.

I was still a little hesitant to label it that in my mind, because I’d heard about babies waking up every 45 minutes or every 2 hours all night long.

I was also hesitant because I was scared that some terrible torture was about to befall us for weeks on end–some babies’ regressions can last up to SIX WEEKS. Ie, insanity time.

However! Over the weekend they were back to their normal nighttime routine–went down fine and had some overnight wakeups, with us making quick trips to replace pacifiers. The erratic naps and increased appetite have stuck around.

Also–I swear they’ve started rooting again!

Then! On Sunday and Monday nights this week, they had NO overnight wakings! It was amazing! We felt incredulous in the morning: “Did you wake up for anything?” “No, did you?” Rest for all of us–hallelujah! Maybe this was the shortest sleep regression on record!

Tuesday night, however, was another awake-for-an-hour-and-a-half at 2am. It suuucked. Naps Wednesday were even worse than they’ve been: They both took two half hour naps in the late morning and early afternoon. Then Malcolm was awake from 2pm until their dinner (630pm). Four and a half hours! He wasn’t happy, fussed from 5pm on, even when I was holding him. The swing calmed him but still no sleep. Poor baby. Emmett napped for less than half an hour somewhere during that time, so at least he was okay.

From Wednesday on, the babies have mostly napped back on their old schedule, and needed a little more to eat, but not a lot. No more long overnight awake time though, so far. Knock on wood. Friday, the 11am nap lasted an hour and a half–for both of them! At the same time! This is unprecedented! I’m sure it was a fluke–I won’t hold my breath that it’s a new pattern or anything.

However, the last few days, Emmett has occasionally been getting upset and extra fussy again. We think it could be related to pre-teething?

So it’s all a crapshoot at this point–especially remembering that there’s a six month growth spurt on the horizon. I guess we just need to be patient with the little babes and do our best to comfort them and keep them happy.

Schedule update v3: Current schedule (3.5 months)

Babies already seem to be transitioning themselves yet again, so I wanted to document our recent schedule.

It’s been a little over two weeks since the babies spontaneously slept through the night. It wasn’t a fluke–they are still sleeping well! (There have been two times when one baby woke up in the middle of the night and wanted a little extra to eat. We also think that one of them has had a bad dream a couple times–sudden loud crying that sounds different than normal, but the baby quieted right down when picked up and was actually still asleep.)

They sleep really well at the beginning of the night, but they do start stirring anytime around 6 or 7am. We usually get them up between 730 and 830, depending on how they’re doing. Since wakeup times vary, their daily feedings schedule also varies. However, we have started doing the bedtime ‘routine’ always around 9pm. We put on music (I have a playlist in iTunes and also a Rockabye Baby lullaby CD), turn off all the lights but one lamp, dress them in their swaddle blankets, and then feed them. They’re usually upstairs by 10pm.

They’re still on an every-three-hours schedule, though we usually do 2 1/2 hours for the last two feedings so we can start the last one at 9pm. They’ve been eating 5oz at each feeding, taking a total of 30oz or so.

Just lately they’ve been getting hungry every 2 to 2 1/2 hours all day, and wanting extra after finishing their bottles. So yesterday I gave them 5 1/2oz at a couple feedings, and today gave them 6oz at a couple feedings. They were still getting hungry before three hours were up! But they ate enough that the 9pm bedtime feeding was only 2oz.

However! The flipside of sleep awesomeness has been evening fussiness. They’ve been going a little crazy between 7-8pm. Lots of crying and screaming and unhappiness. After a couple nights of this, we finally brought out the swing I got last fall that we never used, and found that it lulled the babies out of their crying jags and occasionally to sleep. Phew. So we’ve been able to minimize the crazy by rotating babies between the swing, sling/Bjorn, bouncer or rocker. The last couple nights have been extra fussy and screamy, and we’ve pulled out the Baby Shusher app again, to some success.

The evening fussiness, napping after 7pm, and quick falling asleep after 9pm make it pretty clear that they need to be asleep for the night closer to 7pm than 9pm. Which makes sense–babies this age are supposed to be getting 12-13 hours of nighttime sleep. We haven’t been sure how to feed them the last feeding if they were already ‘in bed.’

Well, it seems like the babies are once again solving their own problems: I think they’re working toward taking 6oz five times a day, instead of 5oz six times a day. From now on I’m going to offer 6oz at each feeding and see if we can get them down for the night around 7pm.

We also need to finally get them into their own room. (We’d still keep them in their Rock N Plays at first, then start transitioning to the crib.) We’ve been a bit lazy about it but I think we’re both reluctant for emotional reasons too. We’ve been saying we’re moving them for at least three weeks, I think. But we’ll do it soon for real, I mean it.

Is it really true??

The babies slept through the night last night!!!

Ready for our secret?

Well, too bad. We don’t have one. We didn’t do anything. The babies apparently sleep trained themselves and we just allowed it to happen.

Here’s the progression.

In January, they dropped one of the overnight feedings and started sleeping 5-6 hours. (It started the night they got their shots–they were so worn out that we just let them sleep and they just kept going.) We started feeding them extra at the last feeding to make up for the dropped one. So for this time they were sleeping from 1am-ish to 6am-ish. I would have to pump at both of those feedings. I stayed up and often did that last one on my own, while Andy went to bed to get more sleep, since he had to work.

Then about two weeks ago, they dropped another overnight feeding. They slept from about 10 to 2 or 3am, then we fed them and they slept until 8 or so. We weren’t waking them up; we went by when they woke up. I would pump around 10pm and then again when we fed them overnight. Since we were back to both of us doing the feeding, we kept them in our room for it, like we did for their first two weeks. It was actually kind of nice, that quiet, dark hour, the four of us together. (Between then and now they would have either stayed downstairs or been brought down, since only one of us was doing those feedings.) It also meant that both of us were getting about two three-hour stretches of sleep. This added up to more than we’d been getting previously (five or so hours), but it was even tougher to have that interruption instead of one solid block of rest. As for feedings, we continued to give them an extra ounce at the last evening feeding and the first morning feeding.

Over the last few days,we started attempting a bedtime routine. We put them in their swaddle sacks before they start eating (we’d been doing it after and it woke them up), turn all the lights off except one floor lamp, and put on music. One of them (it’s never consistently one in particular) usually falls asleep while eating, and the other will often finish eating and fall asleep later, after we put him down.

Also over the last couple days, they started waking up later overnight; the night before last they woke up at 430am. They woke up again around 930, which is the latest we’ve ever started the day.

So last night one of them made a bit of noise at 5am. Whichever baby it was quieted right back down, though. So we figured that we would just wait and see what would happen. I had to get up anyway to pump, so I left the three of them to go back to sleep. And they did! At 7 one of them started stirring and making more waking-up noise (the other was still asleep–that baby had eaten more at the last feeding). So we got them up! Malcolm was very antsy, clearly hungry, but he was also really happy and cheerful. It was so cute. No matter how tired I am when I pick them up or wake them up, I can’t help but smile at them and they are often smiling at me, and I instantly feel a little more awake.

I have no idea how we got so lucky even this far with their sleep, and of course we have no idea if this long stretch of sleep will continue. I sure hope so! We need to figure out how to keep their intake the same for the day, without feeding them too much at one time (they spit up). I’m hoping they’ll start being awake more during the day and napping more consistently–currently it’s kind of whenever. I also know there’s a sleep regression coming in about a month, so I hope that we can start recovering a bit and be more rested before that craziness happens.

Hurdles

A few of our recent challenges, along with some semi-related photos/video.

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I think last week we got through the six-week growth spurt! I didn’t know about growth spurts and what they involved until reading about it on my friend Ask Moxie’s knowledgeable site and facebook community. Our growth spurt–or what I assumed was the growth spurt–involved a little more late night fussing, but mostly increased eating. At the 1.30/2am feeding, they would just want more and more. (What does that mean? They kept crying and fussing until we fed them more.) One night Malcolm ate 7 ounces! (Their current ‘normal’ feeding amount is 3.5 to 4 ounces.) This meant that they wouldn’t want to sleep until around 4am. And that ‘fortunately’ coincided with Andy going back to work, so he got hardly any sleep for most of the week. He was miserable.

There were three bad nights of this, and then CUE ANGELS SINGING they had a night of sleeping like they did a couple weeks ago. (They’re so young yet that I wasn’t sure if we should count anything as ‘normal’, but I’m cautiously optimistic about this. It’s been about a week and they’ve been consistent again. Phew!)

The only thing I don’t have any clarity on is whether or not to count the babies as real six-week-olds. See, when babies are born early, one is supposed to adjust for that when anticipating or achieving milestones. Since these two were born at 36 weeks, technically they are four weeks younger gestationally. So that growth spurt could have been the three-week growth spurt. The issue is that they are twins, and aren’t expected to go to the full 40 weeks–biologically I believe they are considered full-term and developed at either 37 or 38 weeks. So do I count them as two weeks younger gestationally? I have a hunch, though, that they’re right on target. Their smiles started around 6 weeks, their digestion changed right at 6 weeks, etc. It really doesn’t matter at this stage because they have growth spurts every 2-3 weeks anyway, and of course actual occurrence and length varies for every baby.

When a baby is hungry, they do this. It’s called rooting (as in searching around for food) and it’s adorable and hilarious.

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They are getting so big! But their feet are still tiny at least.

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Wednesday was my first real day with the babies alone. We have a nanny that comes over Mondays and Fridays. Andy goes to an office space on those days, and has worked at home the other days. That means he’s been able to help with some of the midday feedings when he’s here. But I do want him to be able to be out of the house as much as he can. Three days a week is a fantastic compromise (on his part). Since last week was so sleep-deprived, this was the first week he actually will be gone for three days.

It actually wasn’t too bad. The morning feeding went like it always does, and the noon feeding went pretty smoothly too. In the early afternoon, I wanted to go to the mama’s group meetup so I had the additional challenge of getting both babies ready and out the door on my own.

ME: Ok guys, I’m going upstairs for a minute. Stay here.

BABIES: {pause.} WAHH!

ME, UPSTAIRS: Sigh. {continues getting dressed for a minute. go back downstairs and pick one up. he calms down. after a minute, put that one down and pick the other one up, who calms down.} I’m here! You’re okay!

I put them in their car seats, which usually makes at least one of them annoyed/upset. But this time they stayed calm and quiet. And they both slept the whole time I was at the meetup!

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Yesterday we took the babies for their two month well-baby appointment. This involved the standard weight and height check, and a physical exam. They’ve both gained a good amount of weight and are within two ounces of each other–they’re both just over 10 pounds!

kicking up a storm in the exam room

Then of course came the shots. They’d gotten a couple shots before, so it wasn’t totally new for us. I think they got three pokes and then an oral vaccine too. I felt more emotional about their discomfort this time, which kind of surprised me. I think it’s that it seems like such a painful surprise for them–‘hey, what was that!?’ We held their little hands and shushed them, which helped calm them. They fell asleep in the car, of course, and slept for awhile longer.

In the evening, Emmett started fussing. Soon it escalated to full-on screaming-crying. Louder and more pained than I’d ever heard–his little voice was sort of cracking at the top of his register. Holding and shushing and the pacifier–all which normally quiet him–didn’t work; he kept screaming. I put him in the sling I have (which I’ve started using occasionally lately because I’d forgotten about it until now), and he snuggled up and fell asleep. Poor baby!

After awhile, since he was still fast asleep, I figured I could take him out and take a nap myself. Approximately thirty seconds after I lay down on the couch, he woke up and started screaming again. Sigh. Back in the sling.

He fell back asleep and wasn’t disturbed by me making a smoothie. When it was time to pump, I had to take him out of the sling again. He woke up and started screaming again, but Andy managed to swaddle him and calm him down and he dozed off.

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Serious hair. Emmett dares you to start any funny business.