Ready to Land? Handling Baby Jet Lag

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? -

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? –

This summer I traveled back from Asia with my husband. Like the other trips, this involved a long total flight time of about 16 hours with an additional 2 hour layover in Japan. This time though, I traveled with two children, one being just four months, and the other being three and a half years old. That was a challenge in itself, but I was preparing myself for the bigger challenge: that of adjusting my four month old to the time zone changes, and readjusting my infant’s bio-clock. In a previous post, I had described the excruciating process (involving nearly 2 weeks) of converting my oldest daughter (then 4 months of age) to Eastern Standard Time (EST) after we returned from Singapore in 2013. What my husband and I ended up doing was to move our child’s bedtime half an hour to one hour later every night, so that her long stretch of night-time sleep could be preserved each night. Eventually after about 12 days we got her bedtime to where we wanted it (see post Baby Jet Lag…It’s Real). However this method meant that we as an entire family had to follow her schedule, down to eating our meals at night and having black out curtains.

This time, traveling back with our second daughter to the western hemisphere, I was open to trying a different method. The baby would be sleeping in a crib in the master bedroom and the idea of the whole family following our infant’s pace of time adjustment just didn’t seem feible with a toddler. The toddler would be used to playing in daylight hours, so would be very noisy and may interrupt the baby’s sleep during daytime. It is also likely that the toddler won’t be able to sleep with a baby crying several times at night. So I decided to try a different method: going cold turkey.

So what happened? The first day we arrived home, as our baby ended up staying awake most of the daytime hours. Then that first night she woke up at least 4-5 times at night, about once an hour. Each time she started to cry I had to quickly scoop her up out of the crib and then shush her by feeding her, as I was afraid to wake up my toddler. She would feed a little bit each time and then go back to sleep. In the end I put her in the same bed as me, as it was easier to breastfeed that way since I felt so exhausted from the day’s traveling. In the morning the baby passed some gas so I suspected she was waking up and crying at night more from gas in her tummy, and was really feeding more for comfort since she didn’t feed for long each time she woke up.

The second night she woke up about 3 times. Once it was about an hour after she had slept and seemed to be more from gas or an unresolved burp. I was able to quickly pat her back to sleep. Then she woke up again about 2 hours later. This time I made sure she drank at least 10 minutes on both sides in the breastfeeding session before putting her down, in the hopes that this would settle her the rest of the night. However, I really felt I needed a place to put baby without having to worry about the baby’s crying waking up our toddler. I ended up using a spare room that was away from our toddler’s room and putting an infant bath tub with a pillow for the ‘mattress’ cushion at the bottom. When the baby then woke up a few hours later, I was able to then scoop her up quickly and take her to this other room. I could then close the door. Even though I still fed her via my breast, I noticed she didn’t seem as hungry. The spare room (in this case we used a storeroom) provided some insulation of her crying from our toddler and other neighbors in the surrounding apartments.

The 3rd night, baby woke up about 2 times. The moment the baby awoke and started crying, I took her to the spare room. There I breastfed her only 5 minutes on each side as I wanted to slowly wean her off of being fed breastmilk at night. This seemed to satisfy baby and baby went back to sleep for 3 more hours.

The fourth night was when I went cold turkey. I decided she needed to cut out feeding altogether. I made sure I fed her a lot during the day (about every 2 hours and offered both breasts each session). The baby ended up sleeping quite well, though she did wake up with brief crying spells twice in the night. When she did wake up, I put her in the bed in the storeroom, and closed the door. She cried about 10 minutes the first time and then went back to sleep. Then she awoke briefly an hour later but was able to put herself back to sleep with only a few cries before waking up another hour later this time wide awake and hungry. So by the 4th night, our infant managed to sleep a 7 hour stretch relatively well, and was able to put herself back to sleep without much intervention on my part. In the end our infant got over her jet lag in just 4-5 nights…truly a miracle! The dark storeroom and the white background noise I created likely also helped.

The rest of the family survived relatively unscathed. My eldest daughter managed to get over her jet lag within 3 days. This involved some intentional steps of not allowing her to have an afternoon nap or a minimal one at best, lots of physical activity and waking her up in the mornings at the desired time. I think she would have gotten over it faster if her sister didn’t wake up wailing at certain times in the night the first few nights causing her to wake up and then have difficulty falling back asleep. My husband had broken sleep the first few nights but was able to sleep well by the 4th night, and quickly resumed his working during the daytime. As for me, I ended up just having a few sleepless nights!

I am writing this post to share my experience. Of course every baby is different and the age of the baby as well as the traveling circumstances (e.g., how long the flights are and the duration of travel) will also affect how quickly he/she gets over jet lag. Hopefully as you travel during this winter season, your baby will be able to adjust smoothly to each location and time change! Merry Christmas!


Saying Goodbye to that Last Overnight Diaper (Part 3) – The Experience

Having described my background fears and the process of weaning off that last nighttime diaper (see previous posts 1 and 2 in this series), what was my experience? Not knowing what would happen, I decided to try just one potty waking at night first, before adding in a second one. The initial goal I had was really just to get her used to getting up 1-2 times at night to pee and then to learn to put herself back to sleep. It was not so much to achieve a dry diaper every night. Here’s my experience:

First Potty Waking (each night I put my toddler to bed before 9pm):
Night 1
I went in about 6 hours after her bedtime. This was too late as her diaper was already wet. I woke her up gently, but she told me she didn’t need to go. I still carried her and put her on the potty briefly.

Night 2
I went in 3 ½ hours after she was put to bed, and found her diaper already a little bit wet. She let me pull her pants and diaper down, but I had to carry her to the potty. Once there though, she sat down and automatically took a piece of toilet paper and wiped herself. I asked her in a whisper, “Did you go?” (as I didn’t hear anything). She whispered back,” Yes.” Then she let me pull her pants/diaper back up and walk her back to bed. I gave her a kiss and left the room quickly!

Night 3
I went into her room at about 2 ¾ hours after she was put to bed. Her diaper was already wet and she didn’t have anything on the potty.

Night 4 & 5
I went in each of these nights at 2 ½ hours after her bedtime and found her diaper still dry! Each time I carried her to the potty (after pulling her pants/diaper down), helped her pee, and then helped her back to bed. She almost immediately went back to sleep!

After a few successful nights of waking her up at night about 1.5- 2.5 hours after her final potty break before bed, I decided to add in a 2nd potty waking. Here is what happened the first few nights:

Second Potty Waking
Night 1
I tried the first night to go in about 5 hours after the 1st potty waking. Her diaper was still dry! So I quickly pulled down her diaper and pants and carried her to the potty. She went, but I had to help her pull up her pants and get her back to bed. The next morning though, she had a REALLY hard time getting up (even though she awoke at a usual time), and didn’t want to get out of bed though she was awake, saying she was tired… Her diaper was still dry in the morning, and she didn’t feel the need to go to the potty until much later after she woke up!

Night 2
I went in again about 4-5 hours after the 1st potty waking, but I made the mistake of not taking away her security pillow from her hand, before waking her up and pulling the diaper/pants down. So when I carried her to the potty, she yelped as she was afraid her security pillow would get wet! Although I quickly took the pillow away, she had woken up a bit more by this point. So after I got her back to bed (after having her pull up her own diaper and pants), she didn’t want me to leave the room. I told her I would stay with her for ‘2 minutes’ and did this, and then she let me leave the room. The next morning, she was again didn’t want to leave her bed and lay in it for half an hour more, despite having woken up already!

Night 3
I went in for the first potty waking and while she went on the potty, I could tell she was EXTREMELY tired, and so I had to pull up her diaper/pants and help her back to bed. I decided to let her stay asleep the rest of the night and not wake her up for the 2nd potty waking.

After a few more nights of trying this method, I found that really only one potty waking a night was needed to maintain a dry diaper throughout the night, especially if the first potty waking was timed right at about 1.5-2 hours after her last potty break before bed. The key was to make sure my toddler went quickly to the potty the moment she woke up in the morning. Within a few weeks, my toddler started to wake up with a dry diaper consistently, and she also became more adept at going to the potty at night if she needed to and going back to sleep afterwards. In fact, after about 2 months of this process, she only had 1-2 nighttime accidents in terms of wetting her bed, and I even stopped having to go in to wake her up for the first potty waking at night!

So at the end of this process, I am glad to say, my worst fears were unfounded! I was so afraid my toddler would be screaming at being woken up, and would be extra clingy to me, take forever to put back to sleep, and no longer sleep well at night…but thankfully none of that happened. I was actually very surprised how smooth the process was, and how quickly my toddler got the concept of going to the potty herself at night!

As Toddlers Mature: Sleep Needs Change

sleeping-babyNo, I’m not talking here about the amount of sleep an older toddler needs and gets (this is likely another topic and post by itself). I’m talking about what I’ve noticed has changed in terms of what our toddler demands of us – the parents. Before this, the usual modified “cry it out” method seemed to work pretty well. We would let the young toddler cry for about 10 minutes or so, turn off all the lights outside the room, and the toddler will usually go back to sleep herself shortly afterwards. Back then, it seemed to be easier to slip out of her room in the dark as long as the door made no noise at the end of the bedtime routine, and she could usually put herself to sleep quickly soon after.

However, after our toddler turned 27 months, I noticed a change. It has become quite a paradox. On one hand, she has become more adept at being able to put herself to sleep for afternoon naps and at night, so that we do not need to be in there and wait until she falls asleep before leaving the room. On the other hand, she’s now more anxious in the sense that she wants us to be “ready and available”  and to respond ASAP. This means that if she calls out in the middle of the night, she wants us to respond immediately and attend to her needs. She is less willing to “cry it out”; instead she continues to wail LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY until someone comes. Once we do though, and attend to her needs (like going to the potty, patting her for 5 minutes, or giving her a backrub and hug), she is fine with us saying good night and then returning to our beds. The same thing happens at bedtime. If I try to slip out of her room in the dark 5 to 10 minutes after putting her to sleep, she somehow senses that I have left the room, and then immediately starts wailing until I come back. However, strangely enough, if I bid her good night after staying with her for 5 minutes, she usually just lets me leave the room. Or she’ll chase me out the room after a couple of minutes by asking me to leave!

In the morning, if she wakes up in the morning and starts to fuss and we don’t respond quickly enough, she goes into tantrum and then doesn’t want to get up. But if we respond quickly before she gets into a rut, she is usually more cooperative. I think her wailing is now more prolonged and louder because she has not only bigger lungs, but greater awareness and knowledge that we are around – we’re just not responding in a timely manner or choosing to respond her. That probably makes her more upset and determined to get us to come to her room!

Case in point: One night recently our toddler awoke at 6:56am screaming at the top of her lungs, with no sign of abating, and screaming, ”I want to pee!”. When I went to her and put her on potty, nothing came out of course. I then changed her diaper, and put her back in bed. I sat near her bed for 2 or 3 minutes before getting up and saying, “Mommy is going back to bed, because mommy and daddy need to sleep. See it is still dark outside!” She was lying down at this point in the bed, but she lifted up her little hand and waved ‘goodbye’ to me. So I left the room. And there was no crying since. It was actually already 7:20am, and the sky was starting to lighten up. I’m thankful for black out curtains and that she didn’t realize it was morning already! I ended up going back in about 45 minutes later, thinking she was asleep. However, she later told me when I came in that she didn’t sleep. I’m thankful she was still well behaved though (either that or she likes her crib too much)!

This is such a strange turn of events: on one hand, she seems more needy and dependent and wants us to respond immediately to her. On the other hand, after we respond to her, she is fine to put herself to sleep. I guess she now only wants us for comfort, but less so to physically help her to sleep. I guess it’s good that she’s now more independent and doesn’t need us to be near her all the time, but I’m not sure how I feel about having to be perpetually “on call”!

Special Pre-2 Milestones

Children looking at birthday cakeOur toddler will be turning 2 in about a week. While that is exciting in itself (more so for us the parents so we can celebrate the survival of another year of parenting!), two things happened this week that I consider to be the true “icing on the cake”. The first was somewhat expected, but the other truly threw my husband and I!

The 1st – we have nearly come to the end of potty training! For some, potty training is a mere 3 day process and carried out when the toddler is much older. But for us, we began this process much earlier at about 9 months of age because of the many benefits of early potty training (see post on Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes You Can!). It has been a good process overall but a long one. We began with working on “number 2’s” and then starting at 20 months of age more intentionally working on “number 1’s”. In these last two weeks, she seemed to be finally getting the concept of telling us when she needs to go and holding it in time to get to the potty seat, but there were still a few accidents. For a while I would get excited that it would be an “accident-free day” but then the accident on the floor would happen, sometimes right in front of my eyes. Eventually I stopped expecting and looking for that perfect success day, and pretty much forgot about it. Then two days ago, I suddenly realized at my toddler’s bedtime that there had been no accidents and no wet diapers to change that day! And yesterday was the same! Our toddler is finally almost potty trained! (Of course, she still wears a diaper at night sleeping, and who knows when or how she will transition out of that…)

The 2nd – this came totally unexpected. That same “accident free” day, we were putting our toddler down for the routine afternoon nap. Usually one of us would stay by her side until she fell asleep or in rare cases if she didn’t obey and at least lie down on the bed, we would leave the room and let her “cry it out” for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. However, that day she refused to lie down, and when my husband told her that he was leaving the room, instead of putting up a fuss, she just simply said,”Okay.” So then my husband left the room and closed the door. And there was no fuss, no screaming or crying! She just put herself to sleep and slept until we woke her up!

The same thing happened that night. Again I would put her down at bedtime and usually stay by her side until she was asleep or close to being asleep before I slipped out the door. However, she again refused to lie down and just sat in the crib. When I said I was going to leave the room, she simply remained calm and nodded. I then said, “Good night.” And she said, “Good night” back to me. So I kissed her head, then left the room and closed the door. And she just went ahead and put herself to sleep that night. No fuss, no crying, no whining. My husband and I both couldn’t believe it. We wanted to run out and pop champagne that instant! Now, let’s just hope these  two new habits will continue…

Sleep Training or Re-Training?

For some reason, I thought sleep training was over, especially since my baby was now a toddler. How wrong I was. 

My little one had been sleeping well from 3 -15 months of age, averaging 10-12 hours with almost no night wakings. Then suddenly at 15 ½ months, she started to wake up more frequently, wailing and screaming until a parent came in to soothe her and pat her back to sleep. At the peak, this was 6 wakings at night but then dropped to an average of 2-4 night wakings. The worst part was that it would take anywhere from 15 minutes to at least an hour or more (occasionally 2 hours!) to pat her back to sleep. Of course after 2 weeks of this, my husband and I were pretty fed up, exhausted and sleep-deprived. It didn’t help that the entire household had succumbed to a cold in this dismal winter weather.

At first we thought the frequent wakings were due to a developmental phase or to an invisible molar rearing its head (though I couldn’t see any at the time) at the back of her mouth and causing teething pains. However, there was no indication that she was really in discomfort or pain. Aside from this, we did notice she was not quite the same chirpy self (could be those night wakings), a little bit of a runny nose starting, and that her intake and appetite had dropped by half.

Since 5 months of age, we have been implementing the ‘pat-and-shush-stay-by-your-side-until-you-fall-asleep’ method.  This method worked well, with baby falling asleep from 5-30 minutes the first time we put her down for the evening. And even at night, if she woke up, we found that if we rushed in to pat her quickly before she got too awake, she could often go back to sleep within 5-10 minutes. But now this method was just taking way too long to get our toddler back to sleep.

Finally after 2 weeks, we realized we needed to change tactics and let her ‘cry it out’ a bit more. We decided on a plan of going in only after 10 minutes of crying the first night, then 15-20 minutes the next night and so on. So what happened? Well, the first night, we let her put herself back to sleep once in the night (took 30 minutes), and patted her down the other two times. Then the 2nd night, she woke up screaming loudly once. We let her wail and after exactly 6 minutes, it abruptly stopped as quickly as it started. She had put herself back to sleep! The next morning I had to wake up her at 8am! Then the following nights she woke up 1-2 times at night but for the most part was able to settle herself back to sleep. What a relief!

Is this sleep training or sleep re-training? I’m not certain. It’s sleep training because it’s a new skill she’s learning (putting herself back to sleep). But, I also know that towards the end of the 2 week period, she seemed to be waking up at roughly the same times and was not really crying out as much. So perhaps this was getting to be more of a habit and she needed to be taught to settle back into a good sleeping pattern? This makes sense when you think about adults who have had a period of disrupted sleep (for instance, all you newborn moms out there!). It does take time to get used to having good stretches of sleep again. For example, the 2nd night that we implemented our new sleep strategy with our toddler, it took only took her 6 minutes to fall back asleep but it took me over an hour to get back to sleep!

Sleep Baby Sleep…Tips to Help Sleepy Parents

An Early Bedtime
This is one of the best things I’ve done with baby! Since 4-5 months of age (when she was getting out of the evening cluster breastfeeding phase) I started to put her down at 7 or 7:30 pm in the evening, and she is now used to this routine. I think it actually helps her get used to a long stretch at night. At this young age though, the key I find is to feed her plenty during the day (every 2 hours or so) so that she is ‘tanked up’ to sleep better through the night without waking up for a feed.

Months 5-6
By about 5 months of age is a good time to begin sleep training because this is when most babies have developed the ability to self-soothe. So start that ‘pat and shush’ method! It can take about 2-3 weeks though after consistently implementing this method, so be prepared.

Day and Night: A Fine Balance
It’s true, if baby sleeps too much in the daytime, or too close to bedtime, then he/she can be less tired and ready for bedtime later in the evening. It all depends on when you want baby to go to sleep. For me, I’ve found that when baby was younger if I woke her up from her afternoon nap no later than 3:30 pm, she was able to sleep at 7 pm. As baby grew older, eventually dropping her morning nap and waking up later in the morning, I’ve also had to adjust her afternoon nap times. But the principle still stands: too much daytime sleeping can make it harder for baby to go down for the night. Of course, it also depends on how much physical activity you give your little one that day!

Number of Hours
I remember doing research online about the total number of hours of sleep babies should get by months of age, and then getting worried when my baby didn’t meet this ‘quota’. Over time, however, I learned that the total number of hours a baby sleeps (daytime and night time added up) can really vary day to day or  even every few days! And that’s ok! On average though, you may find your baby will generally sleep a set number of hours. I noticed my baby tends to go through a cycle of sleeping longer or more hours for a few days, and then sleeping less for the next few days. So if your baby sleeps less for a few days, don’t worry, he or she will likely make it up sometime in the following days/nights.

5 Things to Get Your Baby Started On Early

Here are 5 things you may want to get your baby started on early in the first few months of life (not in order of priority!) and the reasons why:

1. Taking Water
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e., no other food or drink, not even water) for the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Personally I think a little bit of water really won’t hurt, as long as it is not in a sufficient amount to interfere with breastfeeding. The confinement lady that helped me strongly encouraged me to start giving my then 2 week old baby a little water when she started hiccupping, and to begin getting her used to taking water. While I’m not sure giving water that early really made a difference to her accepting water later on as a drink, it has proven extremely useful in those hiccupping moments (see post titled ‘An Easy Cure for Hiccups’)!

2. Mouth Cleaning
Getting started early with mouth cleaning will get the baby used to the sensation of having something scrubbing in the mouth, and can pave the way to eventually transitioning over to a toothbrush. With a very young infant, simply use a small thin piece of sterile cotton gauze and wet it with cool boiled water. Wrap this cotton gauze around your little finger before gently cleaning baby’s gums top and bottom, then softly scrub the top part of the tongue. When you bring the wet gauze near baby’s mouth, you can open your own mouth to encourage baby to mimic you, and lots of praise when she cooperates always helps! As baby gets older, you can gradually move on to using a larger piece of soft cloth wet with water.
I began this practice daily as part of a bedtime routine when my baby was about 2 months of age. She didn’t really know what was going on then, but it certainly got me into the habit of cleaning her mouth. By 4-5 months of age, she had gotten so used to having her mouth cleaned before bed that she opens her mouth when I bring the wet cloth near her face and never complains when I do it!

3. Baths
The advice I got while in Singapore was that it was important to get baby into the water as soon as possible (we gave the baby her first bath at 10 days of age) to get the baby used to this quickly. It was also believed that this would help the baby sleep better afterwards. In a way, it makes sense to get the baby back into an aqueous environment partly to remind the baby that she came from a wet womb environment not so long ago. I could also see the difference: a screaming unhappy baby turning into a calmer and happier baby about a month later from daily baths. So it may be best to get some sort of routine going with your baby earlier rather than later. This can be as simple as a few minutes in a warm bath 2-3 times a week.

4. Difference Between ‘Day’ and ‘Night’
‘Day’ and ‘night’ are new concepts for your baby since he or she has just spent the last 9 months in a dark cozy womb. Helping your baby see a difference between ‘day’ and ‘night’ can help with sleep training later on. At night, keep lights low and voices quiet with minimal distractions, even during breastfeeding. In the daytime, turn up the lights and sounds! Have more noise, play some music, talk more loudly, interact and play lots with baby. Along with these cues (i.e., dark is for sleeping so no playing, versus daytime is more noisy and bright with music, people and interaction), it might also help to darken a room slightly during daytime naps too. Dark curtains or black ‘blackout’ cloths over a window in the baby’s room can come in handy at times like this.

5. A Noisier Environment While Sleeping
It is often said the womb environment is a noisy one, so at the beginning babies may be used to sleeping through a great deal of noise. One of the best things you can do is to get your baby to continue to be used to sleeping in a somewhat noisy environment especially during daytime naps. You can use music or some white noise to help create a level of background noise, or carry on with some household chores so baby gets used to sleeping through that. For music, start by putting on some soothing music while baby is awake and about to fall asleep (music with singing often works well) and this can help ease the transition to sleep. If you prefer, you can choose different soundtracks, types of music, or use the radio. If you consistently play certain songs during baby’s sleep time that may also help send a cue to your baby that naptime is coming up. The backdrop of noise will help drown out extraneous or sudden noises, so baby will be less likely to wake up, and you get to do more around the house without having to tiptoe about!