Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Declan's First Visit to the Chiropractor

I took Declan to his first appointment with Dr. Adams, a local chiropractor who also has a degree in Pediatrics, this morning.  I got a lot of encouragement from my friends for looking into alternate treatment for him.  Some people were confused.  I think that, despite how awesome and practical the work that chiropractors do, it is really, really misunderstood.  Somebody needs to promote them.  I'm doing my part!

The reason I am having Declan see a chiropractor is mostly for treatment of his acid reflux, but I also know that keeping his spine in alignment will "fix" or prevent other problems that we may never even know about.  The list of ailments that preventing vertebral sublaxation can prevent is extensive.  Common things that you might take your child (or yourself) to the doctor for, like ear infections, unexplained crying, growing pains, poor concentration, allergic reactions, digestive problems, etc. are very successfully treated by a chiropractor.  I learned a new term today... (did you see me use it in a sentence? (c;)

vertebral sublaxation

"A lesion or dysfunction in a joint or motion segment in which alignment, movement integrity and/or physiological function are altered, although contact between joint surfaces remains intact. It is essentially a functional entity, which may influence biomechanical and neural integrity."

Thanks, Wikipedia.

So I learned a lot.  I wish I had taken notes!  He asked me a lot of questions, then examined him with a thermo-sensor thingie.  Declan wiggled too much to get a good shot, but he got a good look at his neck vertebra and could see some sublaxation there, including a big bad one up by his head.  He adjusted him.  Declan cried a little on the first adjustment.  Dr. Adams said it wasn't supposed to hurt, but it must have been a pretty sore spot. 

He showed me on a model how Declan's esophagus might be being squeezed when his head is turned to one side.  That explains why Declan prefers nursing from one side as opposed to the other.  He also held him upside down by his feet (!!!) and then let go of one leg.  He said he was checking to see if Declan's head would turn the opposite way.  He tested both legs and it only worked on one side.  So there must have been something else out. 

He also told me that the Prevacid that Declan is on (which neutralizes the stomach acid) might be causing more harm than good.  I told him about how sometimes Declan was still spitting up when it was time for his next feeding, sometimes 3 or 4 hours after his last meal.  This confused me a lot because I know that babies' stomachs should be empty 2 hours after their last meal, especially with breast milk (it is very quickly and easily digested).  The Prevacid might actually be causing that problem because it is inhibiting the acid from digesting the food.  (A while back our pediatrician wanted to put Declan on a medicine that would speed digestion.  I didn't do it because I read on the Internet that it was a dangerous medicine.  Black-labeled by the FDA!).  So he would have been on 2 medicines and one of them would just be to "fix" the problem that the other one was causing!

Dr. Adams could not tell me to take Declan off of the Prevacid, but he did say that it might be hard to tell if the adjustments were working if his symptoms were masked.  It's my goal to get him off of the medicine, anyway, so I'm going for it! 

Before our visit was over, he had the receptionist take a picture of him and Declan.  This is cute and sentimental and all, but he also does it to track visual progress of his patients.  He actually asked me to bring in 50-100 pictures of Declan from birth to present in order to examine trends in his posture and how he holds his head.  He said he might be able to decipher if his sublaxation is a result of birth trauma.  So I have a fun project ahead for Thursday!  Dr. Adams also had me bring in Declan's carseat and he showed me some problem areas on it and told me what I can do to make it better for Declan's spine.  Awesome!

After the adjustments, the doctor said it's not uncommon for babies to take a 4-5 hour nap, or have a big diaper, haha.  Well, he just woke up from his 45 minute nap, so much for that.  Anyway, we have a follow-up on Thursday and he might get examined and adjusted again.  I should add that the examinations and consultation on kids is free, so if you're in the area and are curious about seeing if your child might benefit from a chiropractor (I tend to believe it's great for overall wellness, not just for treating problems), it couldn't hurt to check it out!  The adjustment cost was $50.  Financially, it was an easy decision for us (his Prevacid costs $60 a month!).  A small price to pay for my son's health, especially when it's medicine-free (no negative side affects!), and it allows for his body to heal itself.  I'll be making appointments for Ryan and I, too (c:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

STTN: The Loaded Question

"How is your little one sleeping?"

Is it just me, or when this question is asked amongst new moms it's almost like a test.  Sleeping through the night (STTN).  It's like the ultimate trophy for new moms.  If you've got it, you must be some kind of awesome (in other words, some kind of heartless woman who can let their baby cry it out -- aka I'm jealous of you now).  If you don't, you must be exhausted, you poor thing!

I avoid asking the question because I am afraid of my tendency to spew advice before it is asked for.  I'm in an awkward place where I don't have credentials or experience -- let alone a perfectly sleeping baby --  to give me any right to go telling other moms what they could be doing better.  I just have a passion, an awesome book, some reading I've done on the Internet, and a bunch of experiments I've run on my own kid.

Anyway, that's my disclaimer, and this is just my opinion.  I think it's awesome if your baby sleeps through the night.  I wouldn't mind it if Declan decided to start doing it tonight.  He used to for 11 blessed weeks.  I took them for granted... but that's beside the point.  I was very thankful to learn from Weissbluth that it's perfectly healthy and normal for babies 6 weeks - 9 months to have 1 or 2 night feedings.  What a load off!  That made me kinda realize that there is a lot of pressure from the American culture to get your baby sleeping through the night as soon as possible.  It's a big challenge.  Sure, I'd prefer that he slept 10-12 hours straight instead of waking up about 7hrs in to eat, but knowing that he's not "behind" really makes it not so bad.  At least for me.

Hoping it takes the pressure off of you.  If your baby is waking once or twice to eat and going right back to sleep, you've got it good.  Realize that the pressure you might feel is coming from our demanding, competitive culture, don't let it bother you if your baby isn't sleeping through the night.  Just my two cents (c:

When Declan was about 9 months and 1 week old, I used extinction to eliminate the night feeding.  It took about 4 nights of consistently not going to him, or having Ryan go in to check on him if he was really worked up), and he then started sleeping 11-13 hours straight through pretty consistently.  Every so often he'll fuss in the night - sometimes all-out cry.  This is usually because he is overtired from a couple of non-routine days.  Other times I have no idea why he does it.  Usually if I wait 10 minutes before going to him, he goes back to sleep for the rest of the night.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Napping Window

This info is for a baby 4-8 months old.

If your baby isn't sleeping as well or as much as you think he or she should, then you're probably always searching for something else to try.  You're clinging to hope that maybe this is the key.  If you're like me, you optimistically go ahead and make yourself a to-do list for next week because you just know you're going to have all of this free time to kill while your baby sleeps.

In case you don't know, my Declan (7 months old) is was a serial cat napper.  He would take four to five 30-45 minute naps a day.  Not only was this frustrating because I'm supposed to be working from home, but I knew deep down that it wasn't healthy.  I know that consolidated sleep is best (did you know that?) and that 30 minutes is like 1 sleep cycle... no bueno. 

The past couple of days I learned some more.  Short naps can be an indicator of over tiredness.  How did I miss that one?  I guess I didn't think that falling short of the recommended 14 hours minimum of sleep for his age by just an hour (he was getting about 13 hours in a 24 hour period... on good days) would still have him being so overtired that it would affect him this way.  But I'm here to say that almost enough sleep is not good enough!  The deficit, no matter how tiny you may think it is, can still cause sleep problems (like short naps, or night wakings... check, check).

So now I have something for you to try!  (Get your to-do lists ready (c;)

If your routine is loose, like, your baby is napping at different times every day (outside of a 30 minute flex range), then you may feel like you don't have a good idea of when your baby naturally grows tired.  Or maybe you feel like you do.  Either way, consider this:  very common nap windows occur at 9am and 1pm.  If your baby sleeps past 7-7:30am-ish, you might want to consider waking him or her at 7 each day in order to maintain a routine.  I know, I know, it hurts if you are accustomed to sleeping in.  But if your little one is having sleep problems, think of it as part of the solution.  Feed, play with, change your baby, etc.  But at about 8:45am, start soothing your baby down for the first nap.  Your baby probably won't seem tired at this time, but understand that you are trying to catch them before they get too tired.  When a baby gets too far into the "tired zone," their bodies release hormones to keep them awake.  That's why they fight sleep if they're overtired. "It's not logical, it's biological."  Whenever Declan fights his naps, I know it's because I waited too long to put him down.  So, the goal is to get them to sleep as close to 9am as possible. 

Over a couple of days of trying this, you may find that your baby needs to take his/her naps earlier or (be careful with this one) later.  9am and 1pm are common nap windows, but it's up to you to tell if that needs some tailoring.  For Declan, 9am and 1pm happen to work great, although he has been fighting his 1pm nap for the past 2 days, I might try to put him down at 12:45 (start soothing at 12:35) today.

Focusing on these nap windows has Declan taking 1hr 15min (sometimes longer) naps at 9am and 1pm.  I also give him another nap at 4:30pm which is ideally an hour, but it is preferable that the baby has an early bedtime rather than a 3rd nap.  We have found, at least for now, that Dec won't go down for the night unless he goes to sleep at 8pm, not a minute earlier.  I suspect that he's too overtired to calm down by then, so my plan is to get him rested up through our new improved nap routine and then try an earlier bedtime in a week or two. 

As always with baby sleep, when you're trying something new give it 4 days.  After trying it consistently for 4 days, you'll know if it's working or not.  Don't be surprised (but you're welcome to be impressed) if better naps help nighttime sleep, too!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Giving Him the First Year, My Practice of Mothering

Sarah at Emerging Mummy asked her readers to share their practices of mothering.  She has a really awesome series on her own practices.  I loved the idea, but I didn't think I would submit anything myself.  It came to me today.  Ryan, my husband, was reminding me of a principle my great-grandmother talked to him about over Christmas: give them the first year.  My great-grandmother (My 7 1/2 month old son Declan's great-great at 89 years old!) was a little bit of an entrepreneur.  She had consignment shops, a house cleaning service, and she was involved at church over the years.  When she was a young mother, though, she put these things on hold to focus on her babies. 

I think about this principle whenever I feel outside pressure to compromise Declan's schedule.  For our family, giving him the first year translates to staying home a lot.  Babies need more sleep than most people (Americans?) think.  His feeding, nap, and bedtime routines are very important to me in order to maintain his comfort and sense of security.  I want to rock him in his nursery and for him to be able to sleep in his own bed, still and quiet and clean in a fresh diaper with his blanket and his white noise; I want him to know where he is when he wakes; I want him to know that I'll come to him with big smiles when he finishes a good nap.  These things are his to rely on and he can feel that all is safe and normal.

There are things that Ryan and I miss out on because of our dedication (some may call it obsession) to our son's routine.  We do make allowances for specific occasions and on Sundays for church (our service meets in the evening).  Although it would be nice to have more flexibility to run errands, have dinner parties with friends, or do other evening church functions, we believe we are doing something more important.  I don't know many other people with young babies that give up their pre-baby lifestyle.  I understand that decision and sadly I think it's a strong aspect of Western culture, but I can't honestly say I support it (even though it's none of my business).  My husband and I believe that through this temporary sacrifice (which, let's face it, is just the beginning -- you're a parent by the way!), he will grow into a healthier, happier, smarter, and self-controlled child.

7 Months Old: All But Crawl

We're 7 months into this deal.  In case you haven't noticed, I've been making an effort to note the developmental advances he's made and record some of the things I want to remember about him at each monthly milestone.  It's already fun and eye-opening to look back at how he has changed.  I don't have a real baby book, so I'm sure one day I'll find some way to preserve these entries.

At 7 months old, he's not quite crawling.  Since the week before Christmas he has been experimenting with getting up on his knees and rocking back and forth.  More recently he spends most of his tummy time like this, whereas before it was pretty infrequent.  As of last Friday, I saw him go from this position to sitting.  I wasn't expecting this to happen before crawling, but I'm so glad because most of the time he prefers to sit instead of be on his tummy.  So now he has the ability to do it without my help (c: 

In addition to that skill, he's shown a lot of interest in pulling up.  He tries to pull up on our dining room chairs, the couch, his crib, dresser, or changing table, and of course reaches for our kneecaps when we get close enough.  He's gaining strength and confidence to make his limbs do what he wants them to.

Vocally, he's still a chatterbox when he gets going.  He likes to repeat, "RaRaRaRaRa" among other things.  He has taken to squealing/screaming/screeching/chirping really loud.  So loud and repeatedly I sometimes want to apologize to our downstairs neighbors who have two babies.  Usually the outbursts are with joy, but he sometimes uses them to express frustration.  Like if he's sitting in his high chair while I get his food ready and he's getting impatient.  One of the funniest things he does is clench his gums, open his eyes really wide and raise his eyebrows, and hold his breath while he turns red and clenches his fists.  I have no idea what this is about... I think he just likes the look of bewilderment on my face when he does it.

Over Christmas I transitioned him back to 2 solids feedings a day.  I know that what time of day he eats what doesn't matter to him, but I like giving him fruit and cereal in the morning and veggies in the evening (c: The fruits he has tried are just bananas and plain applesauce.  He usually eats those with blended up oatmeal.  It has taken longer than I thought it would, but he has come to love these.  The veggies he has tried are carrots, green peas, green beans, acorn squash, broccoli, spinach, and most recently, avocado.  I have some yellow squash in the fridge that he'll try next.  When he tries something new, it's always with a grimace and a gag, at least on the first few bites.  The only exception has been spinach.  Surprisingly, he took to that like it was his everyday favorite from the first bite.  He'll eat it cold, too (ew!).

This month I have finally managed to make myself stick to a schedule (mostly, anyway) when it comes to his sleep.  I would have thought, knowing myself and how I like to make lists and schedules, that this would have happened on its own long ago.  The problem is that even if things are going good, I have to wonder if a change would make it even better, so I change it up.  And we get thrown off.  So the past few weeks this is the schedule I've been keeping.

6:30-7am - His wakeup.  If he wakes up earlier he has to stay in bed til then.  If he is still asleep past 7:15 or so I wake him up.  The vast majority of mornings he wakes around 7am though.  I give him his medicine first thing.

8:00am - Nurse

8:30am - Fruit and Cereal

9:00am - Nap#1.  Finally these are stretching out to be an hour or more.

11:30am - Nurse

1pm - Nap#2.  Ideally, an hour or more.  Unfortunately though this one is still often short (30min).  I have been letting him cry for up to an hour.  Once he went back to sleep for another 45 min.  It's really frustrating when this one is short because a third nap comes at a really awkward time and can interfere with his bedtime.

3:00pm - Nurse

4pm - Variable Nap#3

6:00pm - Medicine

6:30pm - Nurse

7:00pm - Veggies

7:15pm - Bath

7:45pm - Nurse

8:00pm - Bedtime

Then he'll usually wake up around 2 or 3am for another feeding.

There are still improvements to be made.  His naps are still too short, and his bedtime is still too late.  This isn't just my opinion - short naps are indicative of over tiredness.  His bedtime was earlier - we tried for over 2 weeks to get him to go to bed at 7.  The problem was not getting him to sleep, it was getting him to stay asleep.  But I know that those wakeups that came after the earlier bedtime are also an indication of not getting enough sleep.  I know it sounds crazy.  But babies his age need at least 14 hours of sleep, and he's only getting about 13 on good days.  It doesn't sound like a big gap, but that hour or more that he doesn't get every day is what is causing the problems that we're having.  Most people don't realize how much sleep babies actually need.

I found a Godsend, Weissbluth has a blog.  While he can't answer all of the questions himself, there are a lot of moms on there who are extremely helpful. 

Babies Declan's age who are successfully on the Weissbluth method go to bed before 6pm, have 1 or 2 wake ups for night feedings, sleep until 6-7am, and take 2-3 solid (1-2hr) naps per day.  The bedtime is early, and yes, it does limit what we can do in the evenings a lot.  Our church meets at night.  We had determined a long time ago that Sunday nights would be an exception, a night where he could stay up later.  But now I'm wanting to get back into doing the Women's Bible Study on Wednesday nights, as well as Zumba on Thursday nights.  So it is a conflict.

I am having to remember a few principles.  One is that it is important to protect the sleep schedule.  Now that he's older, I don't have to be home all the time.  The time between his 2nd nap (once he drops the 3rd nap) and bedtime will be a great time to get him out of the house, but we'll need to be back in time to get him in bed.  The second principle is one that my Great Grandmother taught me - to give them the first year.  As a mom, you really give them more than that, but it is helpful for staying strong and justifying your "strange behavior" to others when they don't understand why you don't want to go out after 6pm.  I have been accused of "not living."  That's not it at all.  It's just that I am giving Declan the first year.  I'm trying to set him up to be well-rested, comfortable, secure.  I'm trying to give him good sleeping and eating habits that he will hopefully carry for the rest of his life. 

Anyway, I have a small soapbox for this.  Maybe I'll express myself fully in another entry.  For now, my little boy is asleep and I should be too.  Goodnight (c: