Thursday, July 31, 2008


This past Sunday afternoon, we stopped in at the American book store to look for some books on baby feeding. I never really understood what to feed Ellie when she was a baby, and now she is one of the most difficult eaters conceivable. Although I attribute a lot of that to (yet another) battle of the wills, I think at least part of it had to do with how and when I introduced her to foods (or failed to). Having no desire to repeat that with baby Stephanie, I was in search of some good material. Baby Stephanie has recently shown serious interest in what we are eating and drinking. She is READY. She lunges for our plates, cups, utensils... Water bottles have become her favorite chew toys when she can get her hands on them. This girl wants to expand her culinary horizons. So, being the dutiful mama I fantasize about being, I bought a whiz-bang baby food machine that steams and purees and reheats frozen food and does everything short of actually adding the ingredients in the first place. Now, what to add? Off to the store we went. I did find a book or two, and I'll let you know how the feeding thing goes (we're going to wait until after the move, now that our date is August 17th. To Perth, Lee. PERTH!). The extra find that caught my eye just as Ellie's patience wore out was a baby sleep book by Polly Moore, PhD called "The 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program". It was small and seemed approachable on a brief perusal, so I added it to the book pile and brought it home.

Sleep is another tricky area in our household. We had a devil of a time with Ellie's sleep as a baby and toddler. I assumed that mostly had to do with how spectacularly we mucked up her routine during her first year of life. While we were in Houston as "displaced Americans" post-Katrina, she was sleeping through the night with nary an issue. But once we moved to help my dad and then to Qatar and then back to my dad's and then to Qatar and to The Netherlands and back to Mississippi AGAIN, forget it. I think I cried more in the night than she did. I didn't know what to do and I just couldn't take it. All the advice I read and received from well-meaning people were a variety of parenting philosophies that just didn't work for us or mesh with our instincts. People who were concerned and loved us would say, "You and Ellie need more sleep! Stop going going going and just sleep." That just wasn't helpful. We had too much to do (see number of moves above) and we couldn't rest well even when we did stop. Ironically, overtired babies sleep poorly, so we quickly got into a vicious cycle and I didn't know how to help it. Putting her down to nap at the same times every day in the same place every day didn't always work, even when we weren't moving. The "cry it out" technique was just not for our family. We couldn't take it. I still can't take it. We needed something better and something less imposing. Many of the techniques became more about how to parent "correctly" than helping solve a problem, and I hated the condescending tone. Eventually, I surrendered to subsisting on little to no sleep. Ellie sleeps now, right? We're okay. Except...Stephanie has started having trouble sleeping now too. Enter Polly Moore, PhD, and her N.A.P.S. program.

On Tuesday evening, I just about drove my poor husband crazy raving on and on about N.A.P.S. and how its discovery qualified me (that day) for Mother of the Year. Dr. Moore is not telling me how to parent (and her writing style is conversational, not condescending). She is a sleep expert (works as Director of Sleep Research in California)! She noticed with her own baby that a 90 minute Basic Rest and Activity Cycle (BRAC) on the internal clock applies to babies. During the 90 minutes of alertness, it is virtually impossible for baby to fall asleep, no matter how exhausted he/she is. At the end of that cycle, the body is naturally primed for sleep; all that is required is recognizing the baby's sleep signals and helping soothe him/her to sleep at that magic time. It is so natural, simple, and straight-forward...and it works! Like a charm.

No wonder poor Ellie couldn't sleep. I was trying at the wrong times. I knew she was tired and I tried to help, but I wasn't helping when her body was ready. And even when I was, I was too exhausted myself to soothe her well. I started N.A.P.S. with Stephanie before I was even 30 pages into the book, and I have been amazed.

Just yesterday, I received a monthly email update on "Your Baby's Development", and it contained a link to advice for sleep problems. The advice was all the stuff that failed with Ellie, and N.A.P.S. was nowhere to be found. I knew then that I had to blog about it, in hopes some other desperate parent will see this and give the approach a try. I don't want to go into more detail on the how, because Dr. Moore deserves to profit from her book. I cannot say enough good things about this program.

I really must write that woman a thank you note.

Of course, now it's HOT in The Netherlands. Hotter than it has been since we moved here. And neither of my children is sleeping. Oh how I miss air conditioning! Both of them hate the breeze of a fan, and they can't rest in the heat. Poor Stephanie is completely miserable, and I can't even nurse her down because being held so close to me makes her sweaty and unhappy too. Praying for a cool spell...


Lee said...

Australia!! WOW :)

azure said...

Oh jennifer how I wish you would've known about the n.a.p.s. program while you were here in Ms as I witnessed first hand the misery both you and Ellie felt due to lack of sleeping. I would also say here that given the circumstances you were facing I think you've done a pretty good job and think you could easily profit from a book of your own based on all of the experiences you had. I do hope this works wonders for you and the girls. Personally I'm a big fan of allowing the natural sleep cycle to occur as I'm watching the nieces become more opinionated about their rigid nap and bedtime schedules. Adults have different sleep personalities, so what makes one think babies don't have the same type of situation, but I digress. Well again I hope all goes well and that while parenting books are useful tools, the best parenting guide you have is you. I think that you and markus are better parents that you give yourselves credit for. I look forward to hearing about the move. As always take care.

Nerida said...

Your blog caught my attention as I'm very interested in children and sleep.

It's fantastic that you've found some advice that works for you.

Babies and children thrive on routine and stability so life will disrupted everytime you move. I read somewhere that a move when babies are between 6 and 10 months of age can have long term effects on sleep patterns (no idea why - but it's certainly true of my own daughter).

Persevere with the fan for your kids. Try pointing it at a wall or the ceiling to 'bounce' the breeze back on them.

It gets to 42 celcius in summer here and my daughter hated the fan at first. Hopefully we'll have AC this summer!