Dear Dahlia, Month 5

Dearest Dahlia,

Another month has passed us by. This has been a tough one for both of us. This was the month that we decided to allow you to fall asleep on your own. Dahlia, I’m not sure if this topic will be so loaded when you get around to reading these letters, but people have made enemies and fought battles over how to manage the sleep patterns of their children. There are two large theories: “Attachment Parenting” and “Cry it Out”. Now, just from the names, you know which theory is best, right? I mean, who wants to allow their child to cry, and be identified as a “detached parent”? However, there is more to this issue than what appears on the surface labels. From what I have learned in books and by observing the parenting of others, It seems these two camps pan out this way: either you soothe your child to sleep (usually in your own bed) for the rest of their childhood, or you allow your child to cry at some point as they learn to fall asleep on their own. There are excellent parents on both sides of the argument. I tell you all this only to let you know how Daddy and I have agonized over this decision. No parent wants to let their child cry for any reason — this is instinctual. However, despite this very strong reflex, we decided that we would begin to let you cry so that you can learn how to soothe yourself to sleep.

There are several things that helped us with this decision. It has become very clear to us what certain cries mean: shrill screaming is pain or fear, cough-like insistent crying is hunger, wailing and moaning is tiredness or boredom, sporadic bouts of crying at varying levels is protest, etc. Based on this, it was clear to us that you did not need anything, other than sleep, when we put you down to sleep, but instead you wanted us to hang around and soothe or play with you. As one book I read described it, “This may be the first time you ignore protest crying, but it won’t be the last time.”

Also, knowing that learning how to put yourself to sleep is a crucial skill, and since you would have to learn it sooner or later, we figured now was as good a time as any. You are old enough to be comfortable alone, but you aren’t old enough to be able to stand up or move around which I think would have given you more opportunities to protest instead of just fall asleep. I know that I am grateful to my parents for teaching me this skill every time I am able to lay down and fall asleep so easily. I hope to provide that for you, my sweet baby.

Even with all these reasons and more staring me in the face, I still felt it nearly unbearable to take this step and let you cry until you fell asleep. I kept putting it off: after this growth spurt, after vacation, after this teething episode (no teeth yet, by the way), etc. Finally, the necessary impetus forced the decision: YOU. When we returned from vacation, you began to have more and more trouble falling asleep despite our best efforts at soothing you. You became crankier and crankier as it took longer for us to get you to sleep and you woke up more frequently. You started clawing at your head and ears and screaming like a banshee a lot of the time during the day. Monday night it took 3 hours to put you to sleep. Finally, Wednesday night, you began screaming after I started soothing you to sleep by our usual pattern: nursing and rocking. The screaming only became more insistent and loud as Daddy and I alternatively tried to calm you down. You were flailing and wild, out of control. Finally, we decided that we weren’t helping things, and we hesitantly put you in your crib. As we stood there in the dark, you screamed like someone was pulling your toenails out. Of course, that’s how you were screaming when we were holding you, too, so that wasn’t because we put you down. Although it was difficult, it wasn’t as hard as I thought because you were screaming, not crying. You were having a full blown temper tantrum, and I couldn’t help you solve it. You needed to work it out on your own. We huddled quietly in the corner, just waiting and making sure you didn’t hurt yourself! Finally, after 26 long minutes you lay there quietly, kicking the mattress pensively, and then you just fell asleep! You slept through the night, which is something you had stopped doing a while ago, and we all woke up VERY happy!

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So, to make a long story longer, it only took about a week of crying until you stopped crying when we put you in your crib to sleep at night. Amazing, but true. You are sleeping much better and your mood is so improved. You are taking better, more consolidated naps during the day. It also makes it much easier to leave you with babysitters so Daddy and I can enjoy some time alone and miss you the whole evening we are away from you! It is so wonderful that you are able to calm yourself now. Sometimes when you are napping, I go in when you are making noises, and you are just hanging out playing with your blankie! So cool.

You seem so much more interactive in general lately. Your grabbing has become dangerous. We have to make sure that we keep a sufficient distance between your hands and anything we don’t want in your mouth. Basically, if it is a choking hazard, it is practically guaranteed that you will be reaching for it, eyes wide and mouth half open in an excited grin of expectation. “Oh what, oh what does that plastic bag taste like?!?”

You also have learned new and interesting ways to contort your body. You can lay down and crane your neck all the way backwards to see things behind you, while pushing with your feet. You accomplished rolling over from your back to your stomach at Grandma’s one day last week with those contortions. Sometimes when I’ve went to get you from your crib, you have turned sideways. I’m not sure how you do that! You are pushing up so much with your hands and feet when we put you on your belly, I practically expect you to crawl away! You haven’t done that yet, but you can hike your rear end up in the air by pushing with your feet. It’s pretty cute 🙂

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We went on our first family vacation together this month. We headed down to North Carolina on a 10-hour-long road trip. Since we left at 2AM, we were able to keep you asleep most of the way, and happy for the rest of the way. We are so proud of your traveling skills! Of course, the trip home in the daytime was a lot harder, so we stopped a lot more frequently. Everything is harder with a baby. We discovered that when we were trying to get from our house to the beach every morning. So many more things to think about and take with us. And then when you got there, you might not even be happy. Either it was too windy or hot or boring or wet, and you just got cranky. It’s hard to enjoy the beach when you have a cranky baby. But you started to enjoy the beach more as the week went on. You even took a nap on a towel one afternoon. I have to admit, the ocean provides the best white noise! Everyone in the family enjoyed passing you around. You were so amazingly cute in your little bathing suit!! We let you sit in the surf a bit and you enjoyed it. The pool was a bit chilly for you, though. Daddy thought I was crazy when I tried to think of ways to keep you from getting covered in sand. He was right, it’s impossible. But you sure enjoyed squishing it with your toes and grabbing handfuls of it (which were always quickly blocked by Mommy or Daddy before entering your mouth).

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You continue to grow at a rapid rate. You are now in size three diapers, which, by the way is the same size that your 16 month old cousin wears! We had to change you over to the convertible car seat this past week sine you have reached the height and weight limits on the infant seat. You now have a large cushy throne in the car. You are almost done with 6 month clothes too. You fit much better in the 6-9 month or 9 month. Daddy and I both think that you are growing into your baby fat well, though!

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Well, my little one, this has been a very long letter. Of course, I can go on indefinitely with interesting details of how you brighten our lives every day, but I should end this now. That way we can both get some sleep!

Love Always,
Mommy

5 thoughts on “Dear Dahlia, Month 5

  1. Sarah/Ken,

    I really love reading these letters every month. It’s amazing how much the little munchkin changes month to month. I’m so happy to hear that she is sleeping better and giving you two a chance to spend some time alone together. You gusy are such amazing parents. I can’t wait to see you all on Friday.

    All my love,
    Jaime

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  2. boy does that bring back memories! bet it does for every mom and dad, too. lovely letter, and you talk about love, just so well. personally, i’m still always surprised when the little ones can go to sleep by themselves … one small step toward independence, with many, many more to come.

    best wishes,
    yvette

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  3. Thank you for what your wrote to your daughter. I am a mother of 5, with my fifth one being 5 months old. He has been crying at night when we put him down and can not figure it out. He does fine during the day when we put him down for a nap, but at night in just the past month, he has started this horrible crying. When you put Dahlia down during the day, did she cry? Thank you again. I enjoyed that sweet letter to her.
    Rhonda

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  4. Rhonda,
    I’m so glad that this was an encouragement to you. I know other stories helped me along the way too! Dahlia cries during the day when we put her down for a nap sometimes. Sometimes she goes to sleep with me in the morning for her nap (a luxury I have since she is our first child). Other times I put her down when she seems tired. The morning nap is the first one that is consistent for us. The afternoon naps have been more sporadic, especially when I try to get errands done, but they are getting better. I think the more regular I can be with her schedule, the easier she will go to sleep. I wanted to start with the evenings, and now we are working on naps. It is a slow process, but worth it!!
    ~Sarah

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