What happens to you when you’re sleep deprived? Do you turn into a zombie? Or become incredibly sensitive? For me, it’s a mix of things which came to a peak last week. When you have a baby, you expect to be really tired in the beginning and you are. New babies need round the clock care and a lot of that depends on mom if the babies are breastfed. I think in the beginning I was tired, but I must have been running on new mom adrenaline. The 2 hour feedings didn’t seem to bother me and I managed to get naps during the day when I was really exhausted. What I didn’t expect was to repeat that vicious cycle when we hit four months.
There is an evil called “sleep regressions” and they happen to a handful of babies. I only knew one friend who had a baby who had sleep troubles, the rest must have been angels (or maybe liars?), so I didn’t think much of it. Nolan was never a great sleeper. He had a crutch which was the exercise ball. He was addicted to bouncing and only fell asleep if bounced. We never intended to bounce him so much, but it was the only thing that soothed our fussy baby. Sleep deprivation makes my brain cloudy. Sometimes it’s hard to think straight and mostly I’m just unmotivated to add stress to my day (aka not going out if I don’t have to). With my cloudy head, I ruined some hard boiled eggs… twice. It’s hard to ruin a hard boiled egg since it involves only a few steps, but I forgot about one pan of them and let my water boil down to nothing, setting off the smoke alarm. The second time I set the kitchen timer but thought it was the annoying dishwasher beep and didn’t get to them immediately. Rubbery eggs = gross. Multi-tasking while sleep deprived is bad news for me apparently.
About a month ago, we lost patience with the bouncing. Our quads grew stronger and our back muscles ached. Around the three month mark, Nolan began to sleep in slightly longer stretches but showed no signs of dropping night feedings to give us a break. He was even making progress with naps longer than 30 minutes at a time, hallelujah! Jump to the four month mark and any sort of progress was tossed out the window and buried under a deep drift of snow. Coupled with a growth spurt, Nolan lost all abilities to sleep alone for more than one sleep cycle (30-40 minutes) without needing his crutch. For almost two weeks we tried repeatedly to get him to sleep in his crib and every night by around 2am he was in bed with us, sleeping on my chest. I’m pretty sure he was the only one getting good rest that way and Michael and I were going crazy. We needed this baby to sleep so that we could sleep again too! Can you tell we aren’t a co-sleeping family?
After a terrible night a week ago, we decided we had to do something. We didn’t want to project our frustrations onto each other and Nolan really needed way more sleep that he was getting. Average babies his age are supposed to sleep around 14 hours per day and he was nowhere close. Furthermore, I kept reading that kids who sleep longer have generally higher IQs and I feared that we would affect his intelligence! No joke. I read three books which all made me feel like a failure at parenting: Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child; Baby Wise; and The Baby Whisperer. We ended up using Ferber’s Progressive Waiting approach and are on day 6. Nolan is doing great and we are too! I’m still tired but I think my body is just catching up from lost sleep. We now have long stretches of sleep with minimal wake ups at night and he can soothe himself which is huge progress! I never thought we’d be able to lay him down awake in his crib to go to sleep but it is working! So if you’re out there struggling with the same sleep deprivation, please just try something. If it doesn’t work for you, try the next thing. If there is anything we can take away from this month, it’s that we aren’t alone. There are tons of other parents out there who’ve written the exact same blog posts and weaned from bouncing and swaddling and trained their kids to sleep the same way we are now. Thank goodness for the internet, and a husband who loves you when you’re cranky and want nothing more than to sit around in your sweatpants. And for progressive waiting and sleeping babies…
To celebrate all this recent sleep I’ve been much more alert during night feedings. I still have to keep myself occupied because, well, it’s the middle of the night and it’s dark and I’m holding a warm snuggly baby and sometimes I drift off with my head all crooked in the rocking chair… and even though I’ve got an oil for that, it’s important we don’t fall asleep because that might ruin our sleep training. Once I’ve exhausted facebook and instagram, I usually turn to pinterest. There are a lot of crafty Valentine images popping up in my feed. I’ve been thinking we deserve a Valentine’s Day reward for all this sleep deprivation which will come in the shape of Michael’s favorite cookie of all time, Springerles. It’s only fair because I often smell like a Springerle when i use my Fennel oil for lactation support. Hopefully the family doesn’t stage a revolt since I’m breaking a serious tradition of these cookies only being made at Christmas.
For now, please enjoy some stop-motion short films made by my lovely, and consider making some Strietzel (minus candied fruit) for your lovebird this Valentine’s Day. In a perfect world, I’d be making this for breakfast tomorrow too… maybe next year.
2 packages yeast or 14g by weight
1/4 C warm water
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour
Dissolve yeast in water in a small bowl. Add sugar and flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for one hour.
6 1/2 C flour
1 C butter melted
1 1/2 C milk scalded
3 egg yolks well beaten
1 tsp salt
2 C mixed candied fruits and raisins (alternately if you’re not using candied fruit, just use 1/2 to 3/4 C raisins that you plump in hot water) Candies fruit or “Citron” is easy to find around the holidays. It’s tradition to use red and green candied cherries too.
Scald the milk (185˚F) in a medium saucepan remove from heat. Stir in cold sticks of butter, set aside.
Measure about 3 C flour into a large bowl. Whisk in salt. When milk has cooled and butter is all melted, add this to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add in eggs and yeast starter and stir to combine. Continue adding flour one cup at a time into the bowl with the wooden spoon until you have 5-6 cups of flour incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until all the loose bits are incorporated into one ball. Lightly flour a worksurface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (not sticky), 5-8 minutes. I usually add all of the candied fruit or raisins towards the end of kneading so the fruit doesn’t escape as many times. Grease a bowl and add the dough ball, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 2 hours.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 15″ rope.
Braid 4 strands, then three strands, then twist the remaining two strands.
Stack the 3 braid onto the 4 braid and secure with toothpicks. When stacking, I rotate the braid 180˚ so the braid is going in the opposite direction of the one below. Stack the twist on top and add more toothpicks.
Grease a cookie sheet and place the loaf in the center. Cover and let it rise again for about 30 minutes (until doubled). Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat an egg yolk and brush top of loaf. Bake 1 hour covered with foil. I removed the foil in the last 10-15 minutes of baking. The loaf will be done when the top is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.