Written Friday, January 10, 2014
This might have been, hands down, the best month yet! The girls are such happy babies. They smile – and giggle (or almost laugh – sort of a sucking-air sound) – all the time. They are healthy, too. They are so strong.
Anna and Elise continue to amaze and delight us every day. Christopher and I say to each other at least once a week, “Can you believe these are our girls?” or “Damn, we make some cute babies!”
(Elise in purple, Anna in pink)
Likes: Grabbing or holding onto things; sticking their fingers/hands in their mouths; chewing on mommy’s and daddy’s fingers; gumming or chewing on their Taggies elephant and hippo and Sophie the Giraffe; sitting in their swings; playing on the human teeter-totter (aka Dad); sitting up; being held in mommy’s or daddy’s lap.
Weights: Both girls are about 10 lbs, 10 oz, up about a pound from last month.
Lengths: Maybe 24 inches?
(Anna top, Elise bottom)
Milestones: The girls started taking all of their naps in their cribs just 2 days after they turned 4 months old; they still take all of their naps there, unless they fall asleep in their car seats.
Anna and Elise tried rice cereal for the first time Dec. 14.
Anna really mastered supported sitting and standing this month, while Elise graced us with her first laugh – while mama squirted her with water in the bathtub – just a few days before Christmas. Neither of the girls rolls over yet, although they both can get onto their sides just fine; they also can hold their heads up really well when they are on their tummies.
The girls also celebrated their first Christmas and New Year’s.
(Anna left, Elise right)
Nicknames: Anna Banana (Nanner, for short), Elisey Bean (Beanut, as an alternate), Peanut, Sweet Peanut, Sweet ‘n’ Salty Peanut, Nugget, P-Nuge, P-Nugent. (Seriously, I don’t know where we come up with some of these.)
The big theme of this month, and it only took until the last 10 days or s0, was sleep! The peanuts are sleeping better, therefore, Mommy and Daddy are sleeping better – thanks to three days of sleep training.
Christopher and I were growing tired (ha!) of being sleep deprived, irritable shells of ourselves. We needed to find a way to break the girls of their habit of waking up crying and needing to be rocked back to sleep every 45 minutes or so until we broke down and fed them between 11:30 and midnight. We also needed to find a way to get them back into the habit of dropping their midnight-ish feeding. (They slept through the night Dec. 4, only waking once, then hit the 4-month sleep regression hard.)
We read “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins” and, despite some criticisms of the book and some lingering questions, elected to try the cry-it-out method of sleep training. We knew it could work in as few as three days, so we buckled in Jan. 2, and we haven’t looked back since.
We maintained our bedtime routine but stopped short of rocking them completely to sleep, instead rocking them until they were very drowsy but still awake. Then, we set the timer for 45 minutes and let them cry until they got themselves to sleep. Christopher stayed home and watched the monitor, while I got out of the house, just to reinforce that their cries would not be met with nursing, at least not for comfort, per the recommendation in the book.
We also swaddled them with one arm out the first night and both arms out the second and subsequent nights, so they had their hands and fingers available for self-soothing. Oh, and we put them in separate cribs, too. Lots of changes all at once. We were sure that would all backfire!
The first night, both girls got themselves to sleep within the first 30 minutes. The second night, they were asleep even sooner. And the third night, Anna was out quickly, while Elise took 30-plus minutes.
The best part? They seemed to have figured out not only how to get to sleep but to stay asleep. The girls didn’t wake up until between 2 and 3:30 a.m. for a feeding those first three nights and every night since (except Jan. 7, when Elise had a major freakout at 11:30 p.m). Christopher and I have been crawling into bed about 10:45 or 11 p.m., so we’re coming away with 3 or more consecutive hours of sleep.
Sure, they still cry a little here and there in the night, but it (usually) lasts only a few minutes, if that.
The point is, Anna and Elise have learned – quickly! – how to fall asleep without crying and how to get back to sleep if they wake up for a reason other than hunger. It’s really amazing.
Sleep training – at least this very straightforward method, which isn’t for everyone – wasn’t nearly as hard as we thought it would be.
(Side note: We never thought we would be cry-it-out parents. We’re so much more attachment parents in most every other way. But we were desperate for a fix for our sleep troubles.)
I wasn’t wild about letting my babies cry for 45 minutes (so I was grateful that the book suggested the mother leave the house); my instinct is to tend to their every need. Christopher wasn’t crazy about it either, but he really took to heart the sentiment that this method is “cruel to be kind” – that is, we were letting them cry, so they would learn to soothe themselves to sleep, so they would get longer, deeper, healthier blocks of sleep.
And the way we knew we hadn’t jeopardized our relationship with our little girls (which often is a criticism of this method of sleep training – that it breaks the bond of trust between child and parent) was that they woke up smiling and giggling, wiggling and reaching up to be held the moment we walked into their room in the morning. That right there was validation enough.
Our days are so much better! We’re all happier and more well rested.
Now we just need to figure out the nap situation…
The girls go down for a nap about 2 hours after waking up for the day and then about 2 hours after waking up from a nap, for now, and they only nap for about a half-hour, for now. I say “for now,” because I am hopeful that as they get older, their naps will consolidate a bit more, but I fear our girls might just be catnappers. We tried a graduated cry-it-out method for naps on Day 2 and failed miserably, so we went back to our old method (of rocking them completely to sleep) to ensure they were at least getting some good sleep, even if it’s only 30 minutes right now.
Any tips on getting the peanuts to develop a set nap schedule and to nap for longer stretches? I’d welcome advice if anyone has some.
So that’s our big victory of late. And it’s a really big one, because this last week or so, we have really been at our absolute best as a family.
(Anna left, Elise right)
Happy 5 months, little ladies! We’re so proud to be your mommy and daddy, and we love you so much!