September 15, 2005

My Parenting Secret? My wife.

Since I have started to tell people that the twins are sleeping through the night, it has become apparent that this is an unusual thing. Apparently many people’s babies do not sleep through the night at 3 months of age. So, people have been asking me how we did it.

What’s our secret? First, I would never call myself an expert in anything but the art of the afternoon nap on a football Sunday. And, if truth be told, if I had been the only parent dealing with this issue, it’s very doubtful that both babies would be sleeping through the night right now. It was only after reaching a very high frustration level with Jonathan that Andrea did some research and we tried implementing a few things. So, for those of you dying to know how we managed to get two babies to sleep through the night, here it goes…

1) Luck. Swee’Pea is just one of those babies. She has been so easy to take care of it’s not even fair. She is the type that if she were my only child and I were in a parent group and started in on how Swee’Pea hardly ever cried, smiled all the time and slept through the night, parents would be either thinking “yeah, right” or “Bastard.” Well, it’s true. She really is that easy. Swee’Pea just one day missed a late night feeding. We decided to let her sleep. Then she missed the middle of the night feeding and we decided to let her sleep. Before we knew it, she was sleeping through the night. It should be noted that I was freaking out that we were starving her. I wanted to wake her up (after all, she is the smaller of the two) to feed her. Finally, Andrea and I agreed that if she was hungry, she’d tell us. So we let her sleep.

2) Swee’Pea gave us confidence that it could be done. Swee’Pea started sleeping through the night at about 11 weeks and I soon started having serious conversations with TheMonk about him possibly following his sister’s lead. He was still waking up at 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. for his feedings. Somewhere along the way, Andrea did some research that said, “Yes, babies can sleep through the night at this age.” The research also told us that we needed to feed them between 28 and 32 ounces of milk/formula a day (calming my “we’re starving them” fears). So, if Jonathan was getting his allotted amount during the day, there was no reason to think we couldn’t wean him off the night feedings.

3) Cluster feedings. We had been feeding them every three hours when they were getting their night time feedings. Since they would be missing a couple of feedings at night, we started feeding them every two hours or so during the day – especially as we neared bed time. The last feeding we gave them each five ounces which is currently the most they get at any one time. Swee’Pea had no problem with this change. And even Jonathan started sleeping through the 11:00 p.m. feeding.

4) Eliminate bad habits. Now, TheMonk was my Everest. I had to conquer this 3:00 a.m. waking. I had fallen into some bad habits when dealing with my crying screaming infant at 3:00 a.m. First, I would feed him. This seemed to appease him. Second, I would lie him face down on my belly and we’d fall asleep on the couch together. The problem was TheMonk was getting used to eating and falling asleep on Daddy. So, over a period of 3 very difficult nights, I would pick him up, comfort him and then put him back down to bed. I did this over and over again (one night it took me over 45 minutes) until he went back to sleep. In desperation, I also found that this was one of the few times he’d take the pacifier and it seemed to help.

5) Identify other reasons. While now he was going back to sleep easier, he was still waking up nightly which didn’t help me out in the sleep department since I still had to put him back down. During this time I had noticed that he sounded very congested when he woke up at 3:00 a.m. We get a very dense fog that rolls in early morning and it appears his little nose was not handling the change in humidity well. A friend of mine told me about Vicks Baby Rub and that it helped her infant sleep. So, off I went to the drug store. Once I was there I figured if this Rub was good, more menthol should be better. I bought a menthol plug-in that permeates the room with menthol. I also bought saline drops and medicated nose drops for baby. The first night we used the plug-in and the rub on TheMonk’s chest. When I walked in the next morning, it made my eyes water. So we got rid of the plug-in. But the Baby Rub worked! So, every night we rub a little dab on TheMonk’s chest and put him to bed. He breathes well enough to sleep through the night.

And that is how we did it. The only idea in this whole thing that wasn’t Andrea’s was the Baby Rub. She worked 8 strong innings to get the win. I just came on in the ninth inning to close out the game.

EDITORS NOTE: I forgot the first step! The bed-time ritual. Every night we change them into pj’s, feed them at about the same time and then we turn down the lights while listening to soft lullabies. Very soothing sleep environment!

September 14, 2005

Now, if only I could sleep through the night

I didn’t want to jinx it. So I didn’t say anything. But, after three nights in a row, I think it’s safe to say that…

Jonathan is sleeping through the night!!!!

Three months old and both twins are sleeping all night long. This Daddy has slept, in the past three nights, 7 hours, 7 hours and 8 hours. I am one rested dude! Now, not wanting to get greedy or anything, but the babies are still asleep at 6:15 a.m. I’ve been up for an hour anticipating them being awake. I have woken a couple of times the last few nights at the slightest sound from the baby room only to find them perfectly fine and sleeping. I need to have a talk with my brain and let it know it’s okay to sleep until the babies actually wake up.

September 8, 2005

Good News, Bad News

The Good News is that Jonathan finally slept through the night! We made him a little upright sleeping spot in his crib (basically it looked like he was sleeping in a little mini-recliner) in hopes that would help his congestion that seems to hit him in the middle of the night. It worked! We didn’t hear from him until 6:00 a.m. this morning.

So, did I get a full night of uninterrupted sleep?

Uh, no. That’s where the Bad News comes in.

The Bad News is that Swee’Pea, for the first time in weeks, woke up crying with the fullest, wettest diaper I have ever seen. Amazingly, her nightgown and her bedding were completely dry. (Let’s hear it for Huggies!) Nevertheless, Daddy was up at 4:00 a.m. changing Swee’Pea’s diaper while chuckling at the irony of Swee’Pea thwarting my chances of sleeping through the night.

I made it a quick change, however, and was back in bed within five minutes. I must have drifted off to sleep rather quickly because the next thing I know, I’m being awakened by something nipping at my hand. That “something” was Nutmeg the cat who must have been confused at the sudden change of schedule (she usually gets up with me when I deal with TheMonk’s early rising). I glance at the clock. It’s 5:15 a.m. I bury myself under the covers, forcing Nutmeg to find someone else to bug. I drift off to sleep once again.

30 minutes later the babies start to cry. It’s feeding time.

September 4, 2005

Sleep War

In the past I have written about just how painful operating on 3 to 4 hours a sleep a night can be. The first 6 to 8 weeks were the most difficult period of time I have ever encountered. On one hand I had these two beautiful babies that I loved with all of my heart. On the other hand, I was cranky, tired, and feeling disconnected from everything.

The good news is that things have been gradually getting better. It started about 3 weeks ago when Swee’Pea began sleeping through the night. One night, we were feeding her at 8:00 p.m. 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and the next night she skipped the 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. feedings and has never looked back.

Jonathan, however, has been a different story.

From the beginning, TheMonk has been difficult when it comes to eating and sleeping. He had a touch of reflux and he also does not handle changes in humidity well. He wakes up at night and has trouble breathing. Being the loving father (and the sleepy, wanting-to-go-back-to-sleep father) that I am, I would take TheMonk back to bed and let him sleep on my belly. Often, it was the only way to appease him. It certainly was the easiest. So, after waiting for TheMonk to catch up to Swee’Pea in the sleep through the night department, we noticed a pattern. While we finally got him to skip the 11:00 p.m. feeding, he was still waking up at 3:00 a.m. like clockwork. I would feed him but we started to reduce the amount. Even after feeding it would take having him on my belly to go back to sleep.

This had to stop.

So, two nights ago I got tough. When TheMonk awoke at 3:00 a.m. I picked him up, soothed him and them put him right back down. After 20 minutes of doing this I somehow stuck my finger in his mouth where he started sucking and calmed down considerably. Now TheMonk normally doesn’t like pacifiers. Swee’Pea uses them to sleep but that’s it. So after 15 minutes with my finger in TheMonk’s mouth I finally thought, “Okay, I can’t stand here all night.” So, I ran and got a pacifier from Swee’Pea, stuck it into TheMonk’s mouth and prayed. Well, what do you know? In about 5 minutes Jonathan was asleep with no feeding and no belly sleeping.

Last night, he again awoke at 3:00 a.m. This time, I didn’t pick him up. I placed the pacifier in this mouth. He spit it out. I put it in again. He spit it out again. I put it in and, this time, held it in his mouth. Seeing he was up against a man who really wanted to sleep and had no intention of playing “fetch” with the pacifier, Jonathan started sucking and sucked himself to sleep in about 5 minutes.

So, I am this close to getting a full night’s sleep. I can taste it! Will tonight be the night? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s coming folks. It’s coming.

August 11, 2005

Okay, what’s going on here?

Last week I wrote about the importance of keeping a schedule with the babies. The last couple of nights, however, have proven that we have to be flexible when it comes to these things.

Last night, for example, the babies ate at 6:30 p.m. We played with them for a while and they both fell asleep on my belly because we anticipated feeding them again around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. 9:00 p.m. came and went and we decided to put them to bed. They didn’t wake up until after midnight. We fed them, put them to bed and they slept until 4:30 a.m. after which I took them from their crib and brought them into bed with us where they slept for another hour.

Could this mean we are close to being able to sleep through the night I’m not sure. Just when I think I have this parenting thing figured out, they throw a curveball that I didn’t see coming. All I know is that I got almost seven hours of sleep last night. Wow.

August 3, 2005

One more story about how lack of sleep messes with your mind

When it comes to life with twins, schedules are good. Being off schedule BAAAAAAD. Imagine how it would be when you feed one baby, burp one baby, change one baby, put one baby to bed and then have to do it all over again with baby #2 after just a few moments of rest. After a while it seems that we are feeding, burping, changing babies all… day… long.

So, the rule around here is obey the schedule. When the schedule is followed, everyone is happy. Mom is happy, Dad is happy and, for the most part, babies are happy. The only problem with schedules is that TheMonk and Swee’Pea act like they didn’t get the memo about how important these schedules are. Every now and then, one of them insists they need to eat again after just an hour and a half when clearly the schedule says they shouldn’t be hungry for another two hours. Then, when it IS time for a dual feeding, one baby wants to sleep while the other is ravenous. This is how the ugly cycle of chaotic non-schedule begins. Needless to say, we try to avoid this.

So, with this in mind, the other night at around 2:00 a.m. TheMonk starts to cry, telling us “Hey guys, I’m feeling just a tad bit hungry over here.” Yeah, right. It’s more like “HEY YOU TWO, SHAKE YOUR TAIL OVER HERE AND FEED ME BECAUSE IT’S BEEN THREE WHOLE HOURS SINCE I’VE EATEN!!! ARE YOU TRYING TO STARVE ME AROUND HERE???!!! MOVE IT, MOVE IT, MOVE IT!!” Now, when this happens we usually grab the pre-measured, already prepared bottles and scoop up a baby and go to town. This night, however, Andrea wants to breast feed TheMonk to ease some discomfort in her breasts. She grabs TheMonk and heads out to the loft to feed him. Meanwhile, I glance down at Swee’Pea, marveling at the fact that TheMonk’s eardrum piercing scream didn’t wake her. I decide, since it will take a while for TheMonk to finish eating, I can let Swee’Pea sleep a bit longer and still feed her in time to keep up the ever important schedule. (Okay, okay, I wanted some more sleep, so sue me). So, anyway, I lay down and the next thing I know Andrea is in the room handing me a baby. She says something to me. I nod and take the baby while Andrea exits the room. Andrea’s words do not register with me. I hear “Mmphysm blmsksls, I nakdkdk ajaj ajajaja.” What she in fact said, I learned later, was “Take him and change him while I go pump.”

I do not take him and change him. Instead my mind tells me that I’m supposed to be feeding a baby. I figure there’s a baby in front of me, so I better get to work. Some time goes by and Andrea returns. She looks at me, sitting in bed, half asleep feeding a baby that has already been fed and asks the obvious question, “Why are you feeding TheMonk?”

My mind starts to whirl. I’m aware of conflict – what psychologists call congnitive dissonance – and struggle to reason why I’m feeding a baby that’s already been fed. Finally, I can come up with no other answer than a feeble, “I… don’t… know.”

I get up, change TheMonk and pick up a stirring Swee’Pea. I proceed to the loft to feed her while Andrea returns to bed. Swee’Pea is very hungry at this point and sucks down her bottle in record time.

I return her to her crib and slide into bed for a few hours of sleep before I go solo at the next feeding. When I awake at 5:30 a.m. they are both ready to feed.

For the moment, the schedule is saved.

August 2, 2005

Sleep is sooooo overrated

I received a call on my cell phone from the camp coordinator at my Y at 7:00 a.m. this morning. He called to discuss a transportation-related issue that needed immediate attention. As we were winding down our conversation, he ended the call by saying, “… and I’m sorry for calling so early. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

I laughed. “Wake me!” I said. “You forget, I have two seven-week old babies at home. I’ve been up for an hour and a half!”

His comment made me realize, however, that I don’t think I’ve slept past 6:15 a.m. on any given day since the day we brought the babies home. I keep waiting for the day that they sleep through the night. It seems like every parent I talk to has a child that slept through the night starting at one week old. I keep waiting. Each night I think, maybe tonight they’ll sleep five or six hours straight.

Uh, Yeah. That hasn’t happened.

July 9, 2005

Bedtime Stories

I have always taken sleep for granted. I mean, I could sleep pretty much whenever I wanted. I might stay up late one night to watch a movie knowing I could make up the sleep the next night or by taking a nap during the day. Now, the idea of sleep consumes me. Like a dieter obsessing about the food he cannot have, I have fixated on sleep and how lacking sleep affects my life on a daily basis.

I used to be very sympathetic to parents of a newborn baby when they would talk about tired they were. They would say things like, “I have the 3 to 7 a.m. shift so I’m really tired.” A “shift”? I dream about having a “shift” people. With two babies, there is no such thing. When it’s time to feed the babies, all hands are needed on deck – especially if we want to keep the feeding to under an hour and get back to sleep as soon as possible.

We have settled into a routine where we feed the babies between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. We then try and get some sleep, knowing we have to get up in just a couple hours. Before we go to bed, however, I have to wash the pump accessories and prepare the bottles for the next round (we hardly breast feed for the late night feedings right now – perhaps later when they get better at it) before heading to sleep. At 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. we get up to feed the babies (or they announce it’s time to feed them by wailing from the crib) after an hour or two nap. We feed them, change them, and put them to bed as quickly as possible. It never takes less than 45 minutes. If we’re lucky we can now get 2 to 3 hours sleep before they start to wake up hungry. Lately we have been trying to put off this second feeding for as long as possible. Once they start to fuss, we will pick them up, bring them to bed with us and let them sleep with a pacifier for as long as they’ll do it. Sometimes we can pick up another 45 minutes to an hour. So, now, we end up feeding them around 5:00 a.m. Again, this takes about 45 minutes or so and then we go back to sleep. I have to get up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work. That last 30 to 45 minutes of sleep are so short, it’s downright cruel. I stagger out of bed, shower (it’s amazing how much more awake I am after a shower), get a large cup of coffee and head upstairs to feed TheMonk first, then Swee’Pea while Andrea sleeps. I do this to pay pennance for the fact that I’m leaving my wife outnumbered two to one for the next 9 to 10 hours. I am out the door by 8:00 a.m. (or so) and hopefully at work by 8:30 a.m. Once at work, no one is allowed to tell me how tired they are.

So, I have been averaging about 4.5 hours of sleep a night. When I got home last night, the babies were calm and Andrea suggested I take a nap. I fell into one of those induced-coma-like sleeps with drool oozing onto my pillow only to awaken to the phone ringing. I stagger out to our loft area and Andrea tells me my cell phone rang while handing me our house phone. I try to shake the cobwebs out of my head as I instinctively head over to where my cell phone is. I pick it up, not sure yet what I plan on doing with the phone, when Andrea says “Matthew there’s someone on the house phone!” I look down at the other phone and slowly put it to my ear. “Hello” I mumble. It is my friend Jean-Luc Neptune (his real name, I couldn’t make that up) from New York, in town with his lovely wife Sarah. We have a conversation about seeing each other the next day. I’m not sure what is said. I cannot recall the conversation. I hang up with a sense that we made arrangements to see each other the next day. I’m sure he thought I was on drugs.

Now, all I want is more sleep – but then Andrea says it’s time to feed the babies. My help is needed. After feeding the babies we all go back to sleep. The twins sleep longer during this night and I’m rewarded with over three hours of continuous sleep. This is the first time since the babies were born almost four weeks ago that this has happened. I wake up this morning and I am as refreshed as I have been in a month. I do the math and calculate I got 6.5 hours of sleep.

This is what my life has become – thanking God for 6.5 hours of sleep.

June 17, 2005


Last night I partook in my new favorite pastime – watching the babies sleep. As I gazed at Swee’Pea, I told her how beautiful she is, how much I loved her and that she’ll always be Daddy’s little girl.

Only then did I realize I was talking to TheMonk.

I guess I do need more sleep.


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