February 8, 2009

Sleeping and Speaking Tales

Kerstin mentioned briefly that Alden is now sleeping through the night. This was a hard fought victory with many nights of tears, tantrums and bleary eyes. We got the ultimatum from our pediatrician at Alden's last check up that he wasn't getting enough sleep and we needed to get serious. The problem, she informed us, is that Alden associates nursing with sleep, so when he wakes at night and he finds himself in a different location than where he fell asleep, he doesn't know how to get himself back down again without another wee dram. While this fact is no doubt obvious to everyone who has ever listened to me grouse about Alden's crappy sleeping habits, what wasn't so obvious was how to break him of this habit. The pediatrician suggested putting him in his crib when he was groggy, but still awake and waiting for 15 minutes before going to comfort him when he cried. We'd tried this approach briefly at about 8 months and found it made the situation much worse, but she insisted we just didn't give it enough time. Fair enough. I was willing to try anything at this point. Going a full year without a good night of sleep is tantamount to a frontal lobotomy and I was willing to do anything to get my old self back.

We tried the new sleeping strategy for about 3 days and suffered terribly. I'll spare you the gory details, but trust me, it was horrible. Kerstin and I were pretty sure that Alden would never love us again after what we put him through, and fell into that overcompensating parent trap in the mornings afterward. You want chocolate for breakfast? Want to walk around and around and around the house until our arms fall off? Done and done! Who wants extra hugs?...

I think we made matters worse by moving Alden's crib back into his room before implementing the new policy. In retrospect, we probably should have gently eased him into this transition and will probably be sidled with years of child therapy because of our actions. After a few nights of hell and feeling like I was the worst mother in the world, I called Gillian, who had recently converted her fitful sleeper into an all-nighter, and begged for help. She graciously loaned me a book outlining a similar, but in my opinion, more humane method where the time between visits was much shorter than 15 minutes. Alden went down on his own after only 8 minutes of fussing and then slept for 10 glorious hours on the very first night we tried her method. I'm a total convert to Ferberism. 

Sleeping has been 95% better and most nights he's down for at least 8 hours at a time. We still suffer through the occasional ear infection and nap time swings wildly between uncomfortably long and epic battle to go down/stay down. Alden is not a particularly verbal baby yet and seems to prefer that we continue to communicate with him through mind-reading. He babbles a lot (with choice words like "bwap" - which I think might mean ball, "bots" "deethz" and "schepptj") but "mama" is still too tricky. He says "dada" all the time, but just whines when he wants me, which kind of crisps my cookies. This morning he said "nana" for banana, which was met with high praise and a whole banana in his face as a prize.
He isn't much better with the signs. He does the milk sign every once in a blue moon, but hasn't figured out any of the other daily signs we use (eat, light, diaper change), nor has he worked out how to wave or point. What he will do is raise his arm in the air, hand outstretched with open fingers and touch his shoulder to his ear. The first time he did it, we were puzzled by the gesture and didn't know how to properly respond.  It was the first day of Kwanzaa, so we responded with a boisterous "Harambe!" This has been a bit confusing, because now sometimes he raises his hand because he wants you to shout Harambe and other times I think he does it because that's his way of pointing at an object. We're still working this one out.
As far as mobility goes, he is very stable on his own two feet and can walk quite quickly, but still lacks the confidence to try it on his own and needs two grownup fingers for balance. He wants to walk everywhere and see everything however, and then he wants to do it again. And again. Our backs are killing us. Like his friend Ronin, he will stand on his own for a few shaky seconds if you let go of his hands, and then sink to his butt rather than trying to set forth on his own two feet. His solo mode of transportation is still the one-armed boot scoot, although it's rapidly becoming less interesting than the walk with mom or dad.

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